Welp, I finally did it and then some.

I registered my thru-hike intention with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Conservancy asks people that hike the Appalachian Trail to register in order to better monitor the impact on the trail and its resources.  Sooooo, I did it!!!

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Yep.  My official start date will be March 22, 2020.  I wish I had the guts to start 2/20/2020.  That’s just a little to cold for me.  As it is March will be cold enough. So, there you have it folks.  Wow.  It’s like this will really happen!

BUT-WAIT-THERES-MORE

C’est fait.  E ‘fatto.  Esta hecho.  IT IS DONE!  Yes.  I quit my wonderful, well paying, comfortable JOB!

Now I will have more time to hike longer trails.  Woohoo!

Is this real life?

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So many emotions!  Am I crazy?  I’m going to climb mountains!!!  Did I do the right thing?  I will cross creeks, hike in the rain and get really smelly!!!!  Do I really think I can hike the whole thing?  I will be crawling on my hands and knees some parts of the trail!

Then I have people asking me all sorts of hard questions like:  Why don’t you wait until you retire?  Because, who knows how my knees will be by then!  What will you do for money?  My husband and I have been saving and planning for this.  How does your husband feel about you leaving him for six months?  He better be sad and miss me a lot!

All silliness aside, I don’t want to wait until I retire.  You never know what will happen tomorrow, so I want to do my living now.   I am forever grateful to my loving, supportive husband who works very hard for us.  He enjoys his job and supports me quitting mine to follow my lifelong dream.  I owe him – big time.  I also promised him I would be more frugal and keep my hike on budget.  Yes, he made a spreadsheet.

Oh no.  What am I feeling now????

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I’m NERVOUS. 

Nervousness is a whole bunch of emotions all trying to get out at the same time.  Fear, longing, concern, desire, doubt, and panic are a few emotions in my nervous packet.  You might have others in yours.  At the beginning of any solo hike I have a bout of the nervous jitters.  My knees feel wobbly, my hands sweat, my mouth goes dry and my breathing becomes faster.   This feeling stays with me for a quite a while into my hike.  While listening to the radio one morning I heard an interview of English actor, comedian, James Corden.  He does the carpool karaoke with famous people and he’s so funny!  This interview was about how he gets so nervous before performing that he sought professional help.  I am going to quote what he learned.  This is just copied from this cnn.com article: James Corden interview on CNN.

“This is a few years ago now, and then he taught me this thing that you’ve got to see nerves as a good thing. You’re only ever nervous when you want to do your best. You’re only ever nervous when something matters. So when nerves come, you’ve got to go, ‘Oh my God, this is great. I’m doing something that is important to me, and this is great that this thing has turned up to help me.’ ” James Corden.

So, I think I’ll be ready to apply this way of thinking on my next solo hike.  Maybe my knees will not be so wobbly and my hands won’t be sweaty.  It’s worth a shot!

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Learning Lessons

In my last article I wrote about being afraid while hiking alone.  The article was lighthearted and some called it cute and funny.  I tried to make light of being afraid while hiking alone.  Like my fears were not real.

Trust me. 

THEY ARE REAL. 

And those fears became even more real when Army Veteran Ron Sanchez was brutally murdered on the Appalachian Trail a few weeks ago.  I do not want to put the incident in my own words; you can google it.

I have read that Ron Sanchez was thru hiking the AT to seek healing from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  He had served three tours in Iraq.  People set out to thru hike the AT for different reasons.  Therefore, on the trail I expect to encounter people like Ron, who are hiking the trail to find inner peace.  On the trail I also predict I will encounter happy people, sad people, grumpy people, friendly people and yes, scary people.

Scary things can happen to you, me, and those we love – anywhere and at anytime.  Recently I was speaking with my nephew, Matthew, about scary things and what does he do to come to peace with it.  He said – when really bad things happen and I can’t do anything about it, I try to learn a lesson from it.

The lesson I learned is that I will be the friendly, cheerful, happy, kind person that others encounter on the trail.  I will be the person that others can trust.  I will “trust my gut” when I encounter suspicious people.  However, I will continue to solo hike.  I will also carry a Personal Locator Beacon in case of an emergency.

Most of all, I will not live in fear of the unknown.  I will not let scary things control me or discourage me from my thru hike in 2020.

Ron Sanchez
Ron Sanchez Trail Name “Stonghold” Rest in Peace

 

 

 

ALONE AND BRAVE

Oh, help me!  I read so many articles about hiking, but why, oh why, do I read the articles about hikers gone mysteriously missing, hikers shredded by mountain lions, hikers eaten by bears, hikers attacked by a machete wielding crazy person!  Oh, good grief, it gets in my head and stays there!

I’ve been so excited to work on completing my Allegany 18 challenge I woke up early on Sunday and drove the hour and a half to the park!  The park was so quiet.  At this time of year not many hardy souls venture out when the weather is iffy.  Do murderers?

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I headed to a short and sweet trail called Bear Springs.  BEAR!???!!!!???  Did that sign say BEAR???  Yes it did.  Well, psht, bears aren’t around trails, right.  Off I went. Out and back, easy peasy.  Well, it was a muddy trail and the trail stewards had been hard at work in the last few years building neat “board” walks to bypass the wettest areas.  I just love how unique each trail is.  This trail is very easy and highly recommended for old dogs with arthritis and husbands like mine.

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I found the marker on the tree for the challenge, raced up to the end of the trail and quickly made my way back to the car.  Look at me!  No make up, no hair products, completely au natural.  (Please don’t enlarge the photo.  I cannot be responsible for broken monitors.)  My mother always said I was a natural beauty.  I believe everything my mother says.

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I didn’t see any bears on “Bear” Spring trail, so I went next to Black Snake Mountain!  SNAKES!  I actually am not afraid of snakes.  Bring it!  Being brave and doing things that are uncomfortable are two things that I’m learning to be good at.  Black Snake Mountain Trail is 2.8 miles.  Sounds easy?  It’s Black Snake MOUNTAIN Trail.  But, yes, actually it was physically easy”ish” for me.  The not physical part where I remembered I was –ALONE!  ALL ALONE!  wasn’t as easy.

I tried to text my husband to let him know where I was, but I had NO SERVICE!  That’s okay;  my car’s at the trail head, so if I go missing, they’ll find my car.  WHY, WAS MY HEAD GOING “THERE”?  I shook it off and headed up the trail.

First thing I encounter?  A CREEPY SHED where a murderer could live!!

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I ran past that and picked up my pace.

This part of the trail goes up the mountain.  I took a lot of pictures because I stopped a lot to catch my breath.  AND to look behind me to make sure the murderer wasn’t following me.

The Allegany Challenge map indicated I would find a stone marker where I could be in two states at once.  I found it!

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One foot in Pennsylvania and one foot in New York.

For those few lovely moments I had forgotten about the murderer following me on the trail.

I was at the summit and realized I had cell service!  Quickly, I sent messages to my husband and best friend with a couple photos of where I was.  You know, in case of the murder.  Of course, I didn’t let on to them that I was afraid.  I felt like if I typed that out at that time, it would just make them worry more about me.  There were lots of birds singing – which is a good sign of nothing bad around.  I just kept telling myself that.  There at the summit was the marker I needed to prove I was here.  My phone will tell the story to the investigators when they find my body.

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At this point I reallllllly had to pee.  REEALLLYYYY bad!  So I peed in the woods.  I was buckling my pack and as all hikers should – I looked back at where I peed.  Guess what I saw??????  Not a murderer. Not a bear.  Not even a snake……

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MY PHONE!!!!!!!!

Of course it isn’t in the picture, because I used it to take the picture.  But, pfeeyoof!  I’m so glad I looked back to make sure I didn’t drop anything, because I DID! How could the detectives follow my trail if I lost my phone before I was murdered?

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Now, for some reason, I began to think of mountain lions.  WHY????  I didn’t even know if mountain lions lived where I was!  How could I not know this!  Seriously.  My brain went there.

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Not today, kitty.

I stood in the middle of the trail.  ALL ALONE.  ALONE and BRAVE!

So I sang a song.  “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. From my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.”  (Worth the click. It’s not me singing, don’t worry.)

Mountain lions do not like that song.  They must not, because I never saw one.

I did hear a dog bark.   Or was it a coyote?

There was no murder, no mauling, no investigation was necessary.  I made it back to my car in one piece.

What do we say to god of death?

Not today.

 

 

 

 

 

Distractions, Challenges and Gettin’ it DONE!

wedding CAThere was a major distraction in my life this past year.  My handsome son was married in September 2018!  My dining room became wedding central.  Two tables were full of centerpieces and every kind of wedding paraphernalia.  The wedding was beautiful!  Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that after the big day it takes a few weeks to recover.  Well, I took a few months.  Now I can get back to my agenda of training for the AT!

Last summer, before the big day, I took a couple of hiking trips to Kinzua Sky Walk, Kiasutha Recreation Area and Allegany State Park – among many other day hikes locally.

Click here for information on Kinzua Bridge State Park and the Sky Walk.

Kinzua Sky Walk is an old railroad bridge that was knocked down by a tornado.  They bolstered the remaining trestle and made a really, really cool walk way out of it.  I highly recommend walking the trail to view the bridge from below!  There is also a brand new education building with extremely interesting history of the bridge, the tornado and how the sky walk was built.

Click here for the visitor guide.

Kinzua State Park - Mount Jewett, PA Kinzua looking up

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Kiasutha Recreation Area was about 40 minutes from the Sky Walk but worth the ride.  I had the most peaceful campsite with a beautiful view (Tent site number 12) right next to the lake and just a minute walk to the sandy beach.  I highly recommend it!  It was a peaceful and beautiful place to camp out overnight.

Last year I also camped out at Allegany State Park.  I rented a cabin though because the campground was closed.  The cabin did not have heat or electricity.  I wasn’t there for the cabin though!

I’ve been to this park over a hundred times and I was able to see five new things that I never saw before!

Bear Caves, Thunder Rocks, Stone Tower, Quaker Lake, and Science Lake.

 

The park has a program called Allegany 18.  It is a challenge to hike all 18 original trails of Allegany State Park.  It totals about 70 miles.

Most trails average 5 miles or so.  You pay $20.00 for your packet which includes separate maps of each trail and a neon pencil.  As you walk each trail you come across yellow markers with the trail number, which you etch onto your map for proof you actually hiked the trail.  After hiking all 18 trails you can claim your neat water bottle and sticker!

Currently I’ve only hiked one trail, but I plan to complete them all by August.

My thru hike is only a year away now, so it’s time to get to business.  I hope to be writing about my challenges and adventures more often.  I’ll be headed back to the gym (!!!!) to get some muscle built.  Gyms are intimidating to me, so send positive thoughts that I get my big girl panties on and just DO IT!

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My faithful hiking partner is never far away, although sometimes she fades into the shadows.

 

 

What just happened?

Some of you know that I attempted to hike 40 or so miles through Maryland on the Appalachian Trail a couple weeks ago.  I didn’t hike as far as I wanted to.

Dave dropped me off at Pen Mar Park about 9:30 a.m. and I eagerly started out.

I walked a flat mile or so and then it happened.  The rocks.  I heard about the rocks.  My poles saved my ankles and knees a few times as I maneuvered up and down and around the boulders.  Suddenly, the trail went up and up and up.  Then up some more.  ON THE ROCKS.

How I dreamed of the A.T.

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How the A.T. actually is.

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I didn’t push myself, I was slow and deliberate in my steps.  My thoughts kept reminding me of the view that awaited me at the top.  And I did it!  I made it to High Rock Overlook.  The day was so clear and perfect.  I took a few photos and had a little snack.  The climb was worth it today!  My spirits were good!

I continued on and started going down, down, down and down again!  Then finally I saw a sign for the Rock Haven Shelter.  It was literally a haven from the rocks.  I was going to hike more miles, but decided 6 miles was enough for my first day.

Since I was the first one there, I had my pick of the spots in the shelter.  It was a very nice shelter, as I understand, it is one of the nicest around.  I unpacked my gear and set up my pad, sleeping bag, changed my clothes, found the privy and then decided to figure out the bear bag cables.

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View from the throne!

The cables were easy enough to figure out, but the cable snagged on itself as I was trying to reattach it to the tree.  As I was struggling, three men walked toward me and one offered his kind assistance.  After he helped me, he looked crazy at me and asked if I knew that I hadn’t attached my food bag to the cable.  Hahaha.  I told him I was only practicing for later!

Mine is the green one!

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I learned that the kind man that helped me with the bear bag cables is an Assistant Leader for a Boy Scout Troop.  It made me relieved that someone who knew camping was sheltering with me!  We all know accidents can happen though and as he was making his dinner he poured boiling water all over his left hand – and – he didn’t have a first aid kit!  WHAT??!!!??? What kind of Boy Scout is this?? Lucky for him I had packed the world’s largest first aid kit and gave him some salve for the burn.  Another man hiking with him had a 60 pound pack – yes, 60 pounds.  He proceeded to bring out boxes of crackers, 2 pounds of almonds and a can of black beans.  I was shaking my head in disbelief.  I thought I would be the one burning myself and carrying the crazy amount of weight.  The same man later on pulled out raw Italian sausages from his pack and proceeded to cook them over the campfire.  A thru-hiker sitting at the campfire said in all his 68 days on trail he had never seen anyone cook Italian sausage over a campfire.  He also said the craziest thing he had seen was a woman hiking while eating an entire head of lettuce like it was an apple.  Ooookay.

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The Boy Scouts/burn victim cooking the sausages.

The shelter was packed with hikers and the surrounding area was dotted with bright tents.  As we settled down for sleep around 8:30 I was WIDE AWAKE.  It was only when the hiker next to me started to snore that I fell asleep.  He sounded just like my husband!  During the night I woke up a few time to sounds of multi pitch snoring, sleeping bags crinkling against their pads as sleepers rolled over and random whispering.  All in all, I had a decent sleep.

All the hikers started to roll out of their beds about 6:30 or so.  I took my time.  A nice woman from Switzerland had helped me put up my food bag the night before on the cables and she was so nice she brought it back down when she retrieved her own bag in the morning.  I made some food, but was feeling tired.  I dilly dallied and swept out the shelter after everyone left.  First one in, last one out.

The energetic feeling of joy wasn’t in me.  I was feeling different.  My legs were very wobbly.  I was worried about every little thing.  I was constantly checking my guthook app for where I was and how far I had to go to the next shelter or the next water. And I hadn’t even gone that far yet!

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Although I triumphantly gathered my own water at a waterfall, I was feeling gloomy, no matter how hard I tried to cheer myself up.  I was going down hill for about a mile.  Then, I saw a road, multiple vehicles were parked along the shoulder and day hikers were all around the trail.  A nice woman smiled at me.  I kept going.  I crossed the road.  I crossed a creek.  I started to climb up and up and up.  Then I saw a black snake. IMG_20180508_093029

Cool!  I was hoping to see some wildlife.  I kept going.  Then I saw a big rock, felt my legs wobble and promptly sat on said rock.  Gloomily, I watched day hikers and thru hikers confidently pass me.  I texted my husband.  I did not cry.  My face felt hot.  My mind was swirling.  I simply did not want to continue.  I gave up.  I quit.

I walked back to road.  I waited for that nice woman that smiled at me earlier to finish her hike.  I finally saw her and I leaped into her arms.  Well, not really.   That would have been funny, but I don’t think I could have lifted my legs up high enough to leap.  The nice woman – my trail angel – gave me a ride to a gas station/deli then an hour later came back and drove me further to Frederick so my brother in law could “rescue” me there.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Alys!

But, what just happened?

In the immediate days following I faked being positive and upbeat about my adventure, actually my stomach hurt, my heart hurt and I wanted to crawl into bed and hide.  I thought I was giving up on my dream.  After some reflection and long talks with my husband,  my dream to thru hike has not dimmed.  In fact, I am more determined than ever to set myself up for success.

I don’t want to die with dreams left inside of me.

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This failed hike did what it was supposed to!  I got to know my gear, and most importantly I learned what I need to change.  What would I change about my gear?  Not much, maybe ditch half the first aid and find a lighter tent.  What else could I change?  I have regrets.  The next hike I do, I will have no regrets.  I should have re-read my Why’s before calling it quits.  In the moment I didn’t think I could take one more step, looking back, I don’t think I pushed myself hard enough.  I’m disappointed in myself.  I’m proud of myself, too, though.  I was brave to even try.

The biggest (pun intended) change needed is that I am not physically ready.  If I want to continue this journey for thru hiking the Appalachian Trail I will need to be more focused on my health and strength starting now.  How exciting!

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My goal is still 2020!

I announced my intention to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2020 WAY back in July of 2015.  Some people seem to be assuming that I have given up on it.  What???  No.  I still intend on starting my hike in April of 2020.  Ready or not here I come.  This summer I will be buckling my pack and staking my tent even more; going to places I have never been and gaining some valuable experience.  And I’ll even write about a few of those adventures.  Plans are in the works for a trip to the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail, and a possible trip to Maine.  I’ll, of course, also keep hiking around Western New York.

Right now though, Mother Nature has not yet received the message that Spring is about to be here and has been unleashing some serious snow and cold around here.

I’m not letting that stop me though.  I revisited an old favorite place to hike, Tillman Nature Preserve.  The last time I visited there was a monsoon!  (Read about it here.) I was up past my ankles in water while hiking in my work boots and a skirt! (This was back when I didn’t prepare very well.) It was a little different this time.  The weather was cool, but it had just been raining so the trails were mushy and muddy in places and downright ponds to walk through.  The boardwalks and waterproofed boots were sure handy!

Of course, I always say – It isn’t a truly good hike unless there’s a little mud!

Before and after of my boots.

Tillman Nature Preserve has a great loop trail that is just over 2 miles.  It crosses and recrosses a road and is completely and utterly FLAT.   There were a few interesting photo ops though.

Some kind of fungus, a neat little bridge and it seems as if someone built a couple “shelters”.  Only one seemed to be big enough for me to get in, so I did.

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As you can see by the sunshine over my shoulder the shelter is not very weatherproof, but it’s still fun.  I cleaned up some litter around the shelters and on the trail.

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There must be at least a six pack of Bud Light and a couple Gatorade bottles.  What a shame.  I’m glad I brought a bag to collect it all in.  I actually washed and kept the orange shaker bottle.  It looked brand new!  I’m guessing it fell off a fat-tire bike rider.

A week later, my big green pack was looking sad, so I packed it lightly and buckled it up to revisit Hunters Creek Park.  I was worried about the snow in the parking lot, but I didn’t need to be.  So many people love this park it must have been plowed.  I put on my micro spikes for a short hike around the most used trails.  The trails with no human tracks made me nervous.  I didn’t want to blaze my own trail yet and I had left my snow shoes in my car.

It was not even 30 degrees, but I was plenty warm with my layers.  I was confident hiking on the icy paths with my micro spikes.  I had my taped together, well-used map, so I didn’t get lost.  Although at one point I thought a blue dashed line was the creek when it was actually a trail.  Oops.  So much for having a map.  I am seriously considering taking an orienteering class this summer.

I love this picture below of the brilliant sunset (my AT dream) behind poles (work, life) with a directional sign (chose left or right).  I don’t want to go left or right; I want to go straight into that brilliant dream!!!  Those poles can just get out of my way!  When I’m on the AT, I will take many photos of the sunset I am sure; and NONE of them will have poles in the way!

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See you on the trails!

Deeply Ever Burning

Quiet sleeping fierce desires
Slumbering solid ice
Above rapid flowing water
White soundless snow
Covering reaching roots
Resting bare branches
Whispering wishes of spring

 

Meditation and introspection during a long winter’s walk.