St. Mary's Wilderness -- July 9, 2006

  Saint Mary's River trail starts out fairly placid. Evidence of damage from Hurricane Katrina (which apparently rerouted the river and destroyed much of the unblazed trail) was prominent. This led to a frequent dilemma -- both sides of the river typically had what appeared to be trails, but only one side was in working order for any particular stretch of the river. Crossings were frequently necessary. Unfortunately, since the trail was unmarked, unnecessary crossings were frequent. I used those fallen trees to cross here and that would end up being a bad idea (the crossing, not the trees -- they worked fine). Paging Alan Quartermain! In a colossal oversight I left my pith helmet and machete at home. But why turn back when it's clear that you're off the path? Eventually I would return to the path by way of this little landslide, no small part of which I managed to cause myself on the way down (although it's hard to tell in the snapshot).  
  Saint Mary's River trail starts out fairly placid. Evidence of damage from Hurricane Katrina (which apparently rerouted the river and destroyed much of the unblazed trail) was prominent. This led to a frequent dilemma -- both sides of the river typically had what appeared to be trails, but only one side was in working order for any particular stretch of the river. Crossings were frequently necessary. Unfortunately, since the trail was unmarked, unnecessary crossings were frequent. I used those fallen trees to cross here and that would end up being a bad idea (the crossing, not the trees -- they worked fine). Paging Alan Quartermain! In a colossal oversight I left my pith helmet and machete at home. But why turn back when it's clear that you're off the path? Eventually I would return to the path by way of this little landslide, no small part of which I managed to cause myself on the way down (although it's hard to tell in the snapshot).

  Saint Mary's River features a number of The primary waterfall marks the end of the hike for many, but if you can scale it or otherwise get around it, more await you beyond. I had lunch on the boulder shown in the top center of this shot. The pool here was surprisingly deep and would have made for a lovely (and, shall we say, On the way back I ran into people who were asking about this cliff -- apparently someone had told them that you could jump off of it into the water. Maybe when the water level is a bit higher. I decided to hike up to that ledge for the scenic overlook. Unfortunately, the intervening foliage was rather  
  Saint Mary's River features a number of "chutes" or "sliding rocks" in the spirit of Swallow Falls, Maryland. Sadly, I also forgot my bathing suit and water shoes. The primary waterfall marks the end of the hike for many, but if you can scale it or otherwise get around it, more await you beyond. I had lunch on the boulder shown in the top center of this shot. The pool here was surprisingly deep and would have made for a lovely (and, shall we say, "bracing") bit of swimming. On the way back I ran into people who were asking about this cliff -- apparently someone had told them that you could jump off of it into the water. Maybe when the water level is a bit higher. I decided to hike up to that ledge for the scenic overlook. Unfortunately, the intervening foliage was rather "dense".

  So dense, in fact, that a razory vine (of the sort pictured in the background) was able to pull the glasses right off my head.  The dazed and confused look I'm sporting is because I'm effectively blind in the middle of a jungle. After ten minutes of scrambling on my hands and knees I was able to find them in a nearby gulley. If you stray too far from the river (and apparently I didn't learn my lesson the first time), these thorns come out to greet you.  I was counting on my rather stiff jeans to save me, but it ended up at Getting to the top of that cliff was surprisingly difficult. ... but the view was worth it. Another nice overview shot. Much of the hike was like this, often with smaller rocks dotting the center of the waterway.  
  So dense, in fact, that a razory vine (of the sort pictured in the background) was able to pull the glasses right off my head. The dazed and confused look I'm sporting is because I'm effectively blind in the middle of a jungle. After ten minutes of scrambling on my hands and knees I was able to find them in a nearby gulley. If you stray too far from the river (and apparently I didn't learn my lesson the first time), these thorns come out to greet you. I was counting on my rather stiff jeans to save me, but it ended up at "Thorns: 1; Wes: 0" when the spikes created a breach in the breeches which will require me to get a new pair or keep my legs crossed if I go anywhere fancy in them. Getting to the top of that cliff was surprisingly difficult. ... but the view was worth it. Another nice overview shot. Much of the hike was like this, often with smaller rocks dotting the center of the waterway.

  Small cataracts abound. There were plenty of bouldering opportunities for those interested in such things. If you'd rather not scramble most of those challenges can be avoided by wearing water shoes or waterproof boots.  <p> Not pictured: miles and miles of rock-filled riverbends. Basically, I've made this look like the Hike of Doom and Despair but it was actually great fun and I quite recommend it.  
  Small cataracts abound. There were plenty of bouldering opportunities for those interested in such things. If you'd rather not scramble most of those challenges can be avoided by wearing water shoes or waterproof boots.

Not pictured: miles and miles of rock-filled riverbends. Basically, I've made this look like the Hike of Doom and Despair but it was actually great fun and I quite recommend it.


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