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Monday, May 30, 2016

RETURN TO ROCKY GAP

In the early 1980s my mom and dad began taking my brother, Jake, and I camping at Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland, Maryland.  During the summer months we seemingly went every weekend.  I loved it there.   Rocky Gap was just a short drive from our home in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  We spent our days playing on the beach and fishing in the lake.  My mother made incredible meals for us at the campground and each evening my dad would make a campfire.  The campfire was my favorite part.  My dad made mountain pies, my mom would make popcorn over the fire, and my brother and I would roast marshmallows and hot dogs.  Our camping trips ended in the late 80s when both my brother and I reached high school.   Our schedules were just too hectic.  That was the last I would see of Rocky Gap for 25 years.  

Rocky Gap State Park and campgrounds sits at the base of Evitts Mountain in western Maryland -- May 30, 2016
When I began dating my wife in 2010 I was surprised to learn that she like to camp.  I never would have guessed it.  Since we've been together, Robin and I have set aside Memorial Day weekend as time for us to spend alone.  On our first Memorial Day weekend together (2011) we took a weekend trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Antietam Battlefield in Maryland.  In 2011, at the last minute, we decided to try to find a camp site somewhere.  We ended up camping in Caledonia State Park just west of Gettysburg, PA.  We had a nice weekend at Caledonia...and we did a lot of fun things...but it made me miss the camping trips that my mom and dad took me on as a child.  As soon as I arrived home I got on line and booked a campsite for Robin and I at Rocky Gap for the following year.  Since then, with the exception of last year, Robin and I have made a return to Rocky Gap a yearly thing.  

My campsite for Memorial Day weekend 2016 (and 2017!)  Site 54 in the Chestnut loop at Rocky Gap State Park, MD -- May 28, 2016
The campgrounds are just like I remember them...with one notable change:  cabins.  There are a total of ten of them in the camping loops (I already booked mine for next year!)  We've always tent camped...and I have really nice tents...but tent camping in the rain is zero fun. The cabin eliminates the "zero fun" factor and makes our trip so much more relaxing.  As a matter of fact, it rained a little last night.  I built a fire, put the chairs up on the porch, cooked dinner for Robin & I, and watched all the people in the tent sites around me scurry to cover their belongings.  I've never flown in first class...but I imagine this is what it feels like!

Trail Map of Rocky Gap State Park
Our hike from our campsite up Evitts Mountain and across the Mason Dixon Line into Bedford County, Pennsylvania -- May 29, 2016
One of the things that Robin and I love to do together is hike...especially when we go camping. The trails out of the campgrounds lead to one of the toughest hikes that Robin and I have done...Evitts Homesite Trail.  Evitts Mountain, which sits aside of the campgrounds is named after Mr. Evart who was, according to local history, the first white settler living in Allegheny County.  He apparently came to the area in the early 1700s to escape civilization and live as a hermit.  Hiking out of our camping loop, Robin and I began our day by navigating the 1.5 miles of rocky terrain aptly named Rocky Trail.  The trail is clearly marked with yellow blazes.  Just beware of the random puddles of stagnant water and downed trees.  My favorite part of the trail is the mountain laurel that is close to full bloom this time of year. 

Robin & David Raymond on Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

Mountain Lauren near full bloom on Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

Rocky Trail is marked with yellow blazes...it's impossible to lose your way -- May 29, 2016


More mountain laurel lining both sides of Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016


No hike would be complete without a few obstacles to navigate -- May 29, 2016

Rocky Trail will eventually intersect with Evitts Homesite Trail which is marked with white blazes.  Now the fun really begins.  According to my Garmin, Evitts' Homesite Trail will climb approximately 1,400 feet from this point to the Mason Dixon Line at the top of the mountain!  The trail is wide but changes from rock to mud to gravel to sand to ankle high grass throughout your trek to the top.  As you make your way up the trail. Mr. Evart's homesite is clearly marked.  Remnants of the homesite (stone walls, a well, and his orchard) are still visible and accessible...if you're not squeamish about ticks!  

A sign marking the entrance to Evart's Homesite -- May 29, 2016

Mr. Evart's well.  Don't fall in....seriously -- May 24, 2014

Remnants of stone walls near Evart's homesite -- May 29, 2016

Leaving Evart's homesite, Robin and I have another mile to go before getting to the Mason Dixon Line at the top of the mountain -- May 29, 2016
The next mile of the hike doesn't flatten out much...but the trip is worth it.  At the top of the mountain you will find a really cool fire tower (which I will climb someday) and an old Mason Dixon Line marker.  If you continue just a couple yards further you will reach a cut line in the mountain where a gas line runs.  The view from the top is absolutely breath taking! 

An extra cool fire tower on Evitts Homesite Trail just prior to the Mason Dixon Line -- May 29, 2016

On the left side of the trail you will see this entrance to the old Mason Dixon marker -- May 29, 2016

Hanging out on my home side (Pennsylvania) -- May 29, 2016

A not so old, but just as cool, Mason Dixon line marker on Evitts Homesite Trail -- May 29, 2016

The westward view from the gas line on top of Evitts Mountain -- May 29, 2016

Robin and I conquering Evitts Homesite Trail -- May 24, 2014

In all seriousness, two years ago,  Robin and I witnessed an incredible feat of human strength and courage.  A friend of ours, Lynn, who having just finished chemo and who just won her battle with cancer visited us while we were camping at Rocky Gap.  Lynn came with us that day (May 24, 2014) to hike Evitts Homesite Trail.  Lynn totally kicked that mountain's ass.  
Truly amazing.

Lynn Nichols -- May 24, 2014



This picture puts Lynn's accomplishment into perspective.  This is the road leading into the camp grounds at Rocky Gap.  Circled in red is the gas line cut out that is at the top of Evitt's Homesite Trail.  Amazing!  -- May 30, 2016

Lynn isn't the only person to visit us at Rocky Gap.  It's also been a tradition the past few years for my dad and Mary Jane to come for dinner around the campfire.  I think this is my favorite part the entire trip.  My father worked so hard for our family when I was young and somehow he found the time and energy to create great memories for my brother and I.  A lot of those memories were forged  here at this campground.  I'm so happy that, even though my mother is no longer with us, he and Mary Jane can come and share in the joy of this special place with us.  The only difference is now I am the one building the fire and making dinner.  Dad gets to sit and watch.   Thank you, Dad....you get a well deserved rest.

Mary Jane, Dave, Robin, & David Raymond -- May 29, 2016

This year my step daughter, Mia (and her dog, Vader) came for dinner too!  -- May 29, 2016

Robin and Mary Jane Raymond -- May 29, 2016

Thank you for the memories dad, I love you!  David and Dave Raymond -- May 29, 2016

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond  -- May 30, 2016
Be sure to check out HIGHPEAKSHIKING.COM

Robin and David Raymond -- May 26, 2013

Sunday, May 15, 2016

BACK IN THE SADDLE -- May 15, 2016

This past week, I ventured out on my first bike rides since my back surgery in mid-March.  As road rides go...they weren't long rides...but they were fun!  I'll admit that I was just as nervous as I was excited.   I've tried hard to be a good patient so that I would heal as quickly as possible and I definitely didn't want to undo any progress...but, a few rides in now, I feel good.  The rides I've done so far have been about 10-ish miles (I don't want to over do it) and I've stayed relatively close to home...but yesterday I rode 13 miles.   I've got to tell you....it just feels good to be out in the fresh air doing what I love to do.  No mountain bike rides yet.  I'm going to give myself another week or two before I try some off road riding.

My bike rides, both yesterday and today, took me down near the Conewago Inn.  It was great to be out on my bike -- May 15, 2016
I seriously have to thank my family for helping me (and putting up with me) during the past two months.  First and foremost, thanks to my wife, Robin.  She loves me and takes care of me in a way no one ever has.  Thank you for being next to through all of this and making sure that I was comfortable, taken care of, and  most importantly, loved.  I love you so much, honey!  Thanks to my dad and Mary Jane for making the trip to our house to help with things the first week I was home.   Thank you to my sister-in-law, Mary, for helping me take care of stuff around the house...and a special thank you to my son, Alex, who took care of all the house work and chores that I normally take care of...all the while earning a top 25 class ranking, playing varsity baseball, and holding down a part time job at Subway.  I love you, son.  

My wife, Robin, busted me out of the house a few times to go out for dinner.  This pic was taken at Sydney in  East Berlin on Valentine's Day a few weeks prior to my surgery -- February 14, 2016
My son, Alex, playing third base for Northeastern High School's varsity baseball team -- March 2016 

Mary Jane & Dave Raymond in Alexandria, Virginia -- April 2016
So many of my friends have stopped in to check on me and hang out.  Thanks to all of you.  I'm afraid that if I start listing you all I'll miss someone...but I'll try (and apologize ahead of time to those that  I miss).  Thanks to Mike & Julie Ritts, Mike Alessandroni, Mike Graham, John Senko, Chris Lowe, Brent Shirk, Mike Alicea, Tim Sindlinger, my brothers-in-law Donny, Jimmy, Dave, and my neighbor, Becky, who made me some pretty incredible soup!  I appreciate all of you!  

Mike & Julie Ritts came for a visit to present the NMS Pep Rally trophy.  Nicely done, Green Team!  -- April 2016

Chris Lowe, Dave Raymond, Donny Arnold, & Alex Raymond at Vaccaro's in Little Italy, Baltimore, Maryland.  You won't get a bigger portion of ice cream (or in this case, gelato) anywhere! -- May 14, 2016

Tim Sindlinger, Dave Raymond, & Chris Lowe -- May 15, 2016
Something amazing and unexpected happened during my time off.  I had to change what I write about in this blog and instead of focusing on the rides I am currently taking I was forced to write about friends, events, and rides taken over the years.  Some of those entries...in particular THE LEGEND OF THE WHITE SQUIRREL series...focused on some of my friends who were no longer out riding with me for one reason or another.  Those stories were very therapeutic for me because I still blamed myself for why some of those relationships ended. I had no idea that those friends from the past would be touched by those stories.  A dialog was opened and a fire was rekindled in each of us.  Both Mikey and Glenn went out and purchased new bikes.  Billy Graves pulled his out of storage.  The plan is for us all, along with Mark, Tim, and everyone else who rides with us, to be out riding together once school lets out in June.  

Both Glenn & Mikey have purchased new bikes and have begun turning the pedals again -- April 16, 2016

Billy's SETTE is getting some long overdue TLC -- May 9, 2016
Who'd of thought that my time off because of  back surgery would have helped put the band back together?  I cannot wait to be back on the trails with the whole group and see what adventures we come across together.  Looks like I'm not the only one back in the saddle again.

Life is a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- May 15, 2016

My students were happy to have me back.  This gave me a warm fuzzy -- May 11, 2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016

MOMENTARY LAPSE IN GRACE -- May 12, 2016

Mountain biking is a beautiful thing...but inevitably someone will fall off of their bike.  Then it can get ugly.  Glenn once said of me, "Davy doesn't crash much, but when he does the ground shakes."  Apparently, I hit the ground like a sand bag!  That being said, I, and the guys I ride with, are fortunate that none of us have ever been seriously hurt.  

I don't wreck often, but when I do I hit the ground like a sand bag.  Thanks for watching over me, Tim, while I gain my senses back! -- The Lakes, October 14, 2014
Not that we haven't had scary moments.  We've all wrecked...except Tim, that is.  How is that?  I've never seen the man wreck!  Now that I think about it...I don't think I've ever seen Timmy fall off his bike.*  The rest of us have, though.  I've witnessed Mark wipe out really hard at Blue Marsh Lake.  I've remember Glenn going down hard in a ditch underneath the power lines at Rocky Ridge.  Mikey...(oh, where do I begin?)...poor Mikey has put his body on the line more times than I can count.  Mikey doesn't wreck half-assed either.  He puts all he has into it...and it's epic!  Personally, I've gone down more times than I care to count.  My worst crash ever was at Potapsco Valley State Park in 2012.  I tried to ride a rock face near the base of Cascade Trail.  I had ridden it dozens of times...but it only takes one slip up to tumble 20 feet backwards down the rock.  I've not ridden it since...and the park has now put some very mountain bike friendly steps around the rock.  Thank you Maryland DNR!  

Glenn's epic stream crossing crash at the top of Triple Falls in North Carolina.  It's was a relief to see the thumbs up and the smile when it was all over.  The video below was the first video I ever uploaded to YouTube -- August 2008



Mikey showing off the hole in his knee after a mishap in  Patapsco Valley State Park -- August 16, 2011


Chris Keller is all smiles after going down at the Lakes -- May 18, 2014

A big smile from Jon after going over the handle bars on trail 8 at Rocky Ridge County Park -- August 10, 2011

What an epic crash at Patapsco Valley State Park.  Mikey was the only one of us brave enough to try to ride over this log build up.  At least he was able to get up and walk away from it.  I should note that he hasn't had any more children since this incident! -- August 9, 2011



 Billy Graves tried to ride a root system on a ledge near Cascade Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park.  The look on his face says it all -- July 11, 2009

The Squirrels With Cameras who take these photos are instructed to make sure that everyone is okay before we laugh (seriously, it's only funny if people aren't hurt).  That's what makes mountain biking with friends so awesome.   We talk, we ride, we look after each other, and then laugh at our escapades after the fact.  Luckily, up to this point, none of us have been so badly hurt that that we couldn't fix things with some post ride ice cream...and maybe a trip to the bike shop.

Life is a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- May 12, 2016

*Well...I stand corrected.  Tim reminded me that  he DID wreck...and how could I possibly forget this?   Back in 2006, when we first started riding in Michaux State Forest, Tim went over his handle bars about 50 yards from the conclusion of our ride.  He landed landed on his right side and tore the labrum in shoulder.  He was on the shelf for almost a year.

One of my many successful rides to the top of the rock face at the base of Cascade Trail in Patapsco Valley State Park -- August 16, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2016

KEEPING THINGS MOVING -- May 6, 2016

There was a time, when I first started mountain biking, that a flat tire would end my ride.  Not only was I not wise enough to carry what I needed to fix my bike...I wouldn't have known what to do if I did have what I needed with me.  Over the years, I've learned to deal with a whole lot more than just flat tires.  I have to credit any ability I have to fix my bike mid ride to Mark Lentz and Jay Zech.  Mark has given me a whole lot of "on the trail" experience and Jay was kind enough to teach me a thing or two while at the bike shop.  

Doing a little maintenance on my bike -- July 2015
Flat tires suck...but when riding in places like Michaux State Forest (or even locally at Rocky Ridge)...they are bound to happen.  Generally, the rule of the ride is, each person carries what is needed to fix their own flat at least once...a tube, a pump or CO2, and the tools needed to get your wheel moving forward again.  The only times I had to push my bike out of the woods, in recent memory, were the times I've forgotten to bring what I need.  We've sealed flats with dollar bills, power bar wrappers, and super glue.  I remember when Glenn's tubeless tire, filled with Green Slime, blew a side wall.  It looked like Predator threw up on the trail!  Regardless, we've always found a way to keep our wheels rolling.

Glenn giving Mark a hand with his flat near Tumbling Run at Michaux State Forest -- 2006
Mike Alicea fixing his flat near Woodrow Road in Michaux State Forest.  He has perfect technique -- June 14, 2014

My son, Alex, experiencing his first road ride flat -- June 18, 2014
It would be nice if flats were the only thing that happen to a bike while riding....but that's not the case.  Some mechanicals take a little more skill to fix.  Everything I carry with me cycling is because of the experience of not having it when I needed it.  When I don't have what is needed a little creativity can go a long way.  Bolts fall off of a bike when you least expect it and chains break.  In Timmy's case, his chain seems to break every couple minutes...

Tim fixing his chain at the Lakes -- April 28, 2013 

Tim fixing his chain at Rocky Ridge -- June 30, 2015

Tim fixing his chain at the Lakes -- October 17, 2015

Tim fixing his chain at the Lakes...again -- October 17, 2015

Me waiting for Tim to fix his chain at the Lakes -- October 18, 2014

Probably the best person to have with you when something happens to your bike is Mikey.  The man can fix anything (and tell you the make, model, and serial number of the parts he needs as he is fixing it).  He has a knack for bike maintenance that I will never know and he's saved my butt more than a few times in the middle of a ride.  Mikey, you're the man and I'm so pumped to be riding with you again soon!

Mikey fixing my brakes in Patapsco Valley State Park -- August 16, 2011
My most desperate fixes have come during adventure races.  While racing the French Creek Fling Adventure Race in 2011, I blew a tire two minutes into the race.   It took me ten minutes to fix it...all the while being passed be the entire field.  Ultimately I finished in 5th place over all...but only seven minutes behind the first place team.  Big lesson learned:  I need to fix my flats faster!   Ironically, my biggest mechanical happened three years prior in the same race.  My rear derailleur ripped completely off of my bike.  After removing a few cables and cutting up the strings of my Camel Bak to tie things up...I turned my 2006 Epic into a single speed.  Anything to keep moving forward.

My make-shift single speed after the completion of the French Creek Fling Adventure Race -- October 2008

There are, I've found, things that happen that you can never prepare for.  When this happens, your bike ride turns into a hike...which can also be fun.  A few years back I was riding at Governor Dick with Mark Lentz.  The trails at Governor Dick are littered with boulders the size of my pick-up truck.  Such a fun place to ride...unless one of those rocks tacos your rear wheel.  Mark and I pushed our bikes out that day and explored stuff that we wouldn't have otherwise...keeping our Garmins running the entire time.  Mark's claim to fame that day is that he still  has a KOM on a hill we pushed our bikes up!  That's so like Mark.   
Regardless of whether we are ultimately forced to hike our way out or if we have the mechanical savvy to ride through any problem the trick is to just keep on moving.  It's a good metaphor not just for biking...but for life.  

The last second I had on a usable rear wheel in Governor Dick -- April 1, 2013

Showing off the damage to  my rear wheel -- April 1, 2013

Life is a journey, not a destination.


David A. Raymond -- May 6, 2016

Tim...fixing his chain at Rocky Ridge.  I should mention that Tim once fixed Mikey's chain for him...with a rock!