Garrett County, April 2021

The Coronavirus pandemic is coming to an end in the United States. Most people I know have had at least their first vaccine (including myself). But Norma and I are still remaining vigilant by wearing our masks indoors and practicing social distancing around folks other than a limited few. We are also restricting travel other than where we can drive to.

Norma's mother, Hazel, stayed with us for a few months until she was fully vaccinated. Then Norma took her home. She had been home for about a month until our visit on April 3, 2021. We took this time to also explore parts of Garrett County, Maryland.

 Saturday, April 3, 2021

Rock MazeOpen accordion icon
Norma's sisters and their families also visited Hazel but we kept our distance from them indoors. Outdoors, however, we were closer.

We met Norma's brother-in-law, Jimmy, and three of his kids at the trailhead of the Rock Maze. There, we joined them for a short hike to the maze.

There was still a little snow in Garrett County but not much. The days are getting warm but the nights were still cold, resulting in a thaw and refreeze cycle that created ripply ice patterns on some of the rocks.
Ripply ice on rock

The maze is one of my favorite places in the county. Though the trailhead is not marked with any signs indicating what is there, it is still pretty popular. You can't hide something as awesome as this.

It had been awhile since I last saw Jimmy. I always enjoy talking to him. He's a manly man but not overly masculine, if that makes sense.

Some of the boulders in the maze create a very narrow which only a thin person can fit through.
Narrow passage between rocks

We posed for a group picture. From left to right: Daphne, Norma, the three kids, and Jimmy (in the back).
Group picture

The big rocks make for some scrambling, if one wants, though the kids generally preferred to stay at ground level.
Norma standing on a rock

Daphne found something to roll around in. Sometimes it is an interesting scent and other times, I think she just enjoys the tactile sensation.
Daphne rolling on the ground with Norma observing

For the more adventurous, one can climb up on top of the rocks and get a bird's eye view.
Looking down on Jimmy and the kids

Away from the maze, we found some logs that had fallen against boulders, creating a natural incline balance beam. Things like that remind me of the Confidence Course in boot camp.
Kids walking across a log

After the hike, the two older kids and I had a little race. It was about 60 yards with a slight incline. The eldest kid and I tied for the win. I don't like to race downhill. My joints are too old for that.

To distance ourselves from Norma's family, we stayed the night at The Garrett Inn. It is a nice place that allows dogs but it is a little expensive for that area.

 Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

Meschach BrowningOpen accordion icon
Early in 2020, Norma, Daphne, and I explored some trails near Negro Mountain for an article I wrote that was edited to remove mention of this mountain because some considered the name too offensive and controversial. There, we found a nice bog with colorful mosses, plants, and lichens. While researching, I read about another place I'm calling the Powerline Bog. I believe it resides somewhere around 39.574763, -79.289455.

The three of us spent the early part of the morning looking for a way to access this Powerline Bog. Unfortunately, it seemed everyplace one could access it was private property. So we gave up.

Our plan B was to hike on the Meschach Browning Trails at the Deep Creek Lions Club.
Norma and Daphne in front of statue of Meschach Browning

I had never heard of this great frontiersman but apparently he was very well respected by at least a few people in this area.
Cartoon drawing of Meschach Browning

The three of us started hiking. There were plenty of maps posted along the trail but they weren't very helpful because they never indicated where we were. So we followed the signs for the 5k run.

It was still early in the spring and because if its elevation, Garrett County is always a little behind Baltimore when it comes to trees sprouting leaves. This was nice because we had good visibility through the forest and some sunlight to help warm us up.
Sunlight through the bare trees lighting up the trail

I'm guessing the 5k run must not have too many people because the route was often very narrow. It would certainly be a scenic run. The trail took us over a few small streams.
Norma crossing a stream

We found an interesting plant growing in or near one of the streams, next to skunk cabbage. I posted a couple pictures of it on the Maryland Nature Lovers Facebook Page. People thought it might be Green False Hellebore (Veratrum viride).
Possible Green False Hellebore

Norma was looking for edible mushrooms and I was looking for interesting wildlife. Neither of us found what we wanted. But the place was definitely scenic. The closest thing I found to wildlife other than common birds was a deer (or demon) skull.
Skull of something with horns

We saw no other hikers but there were plenty of teenage boys and young men on dirt bikes and all terrain vehicles. Those things sure are loud.

Most of the 5k trail was well marked. But we came to a three way intersection where there were no signs. We ended up following one trail that petered out. Then we bushwhacked a little until we got back to some other trails. I had my GPS so I knew where we started but the route to get back was not direct. We ended up doing a forced march in the end. So if you hike here, give yourself plenty of time, bring a GPS, and be forewarned that the trails are a bit circuitous.
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Finzel SwampOpen accordion icon
We met Hazel for Easter lunch at MoonShadow. We were not so impressed with the place. The food was cold and mediocre in both taste and serving size.

Norma, Daphne, and I ended our visit with a hike at Finzel Swamp. This was truly the highlight of our visit. We only walked 1.3 miles but saw a plethora of wildlife...and only one other person. This is definitely a place worth stopping at, especially if you love amphibians.

Here's some of the stuff we saw.
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Colorful skunk cabbage
Skunk cabbage.
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Dry grass at the swamp
The swamp.
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Spotted salamander egg masses
Spotted salamander eggs.

Why are some egg masses opaque while others are almost clear?
Some Spotted Salamander egg masses are a grayish opaque color, which is caused by a genetic trait of the mother and is common in some areas.
- from The Orianne Society - Egg Mass Identification in the Great Northern Forests
Egg masses with different opacity

We saw Eastern newts mating...or practicing Jujitsu.
Two newts in a grappling hold

Click on the image below to start a video of two newts mating. Notice that a passerby tried to get in on the action.
Newts mating with passerby

More amphibians:
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Wood frog egg masses
Wood frog eggs.
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A closeup of wood frog eggs
Wood frog eggs closeup.

Here's Norma at a pond.
Norma standing by a pond

At the pond, we spotted a small whirlpool.
Whirlpools form when two opposing currents meet, causing water to rotate (like stirring liquid in a glass).
- from Business Insider - Locals are warning of whirlpools in the lake where Naya Rivera died...
Whirlpool on pond

More newts.
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Six newts
I count six of them.
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Two newts in opposite directions
Yin and Yang.
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Newt with bright orange spots
More orange spots.

Here are some non-amphibians we saw.
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Grassy beaver dam
Beaver dam.
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Skunk cabbage flowers
Skunk cabbage flowers.
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A small bird nest in a bush
Bird nest.

Near the parking lot, there was a small pond. Across from it was a Canada goose sitting on a nest of eggs.
Canada goose sitting on eggs

At this same pond was a log with a single egg sitting on it. Seems like an unlikely place for a bird to lay an egg. I wonder if a predator took it and then left it there when it heard me approach.
Single egg on log

Finzel Swamp is definitely a place we plan to return. Truly magical!

On the drive home, we saw some western Maryland wind turbines.
Wind turbines
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