Day Hiking with Dogs

The winter in Western New York is typically very cold and very snowy.  This month though a 111 year record was broken when the temperature soared to 71 degrees on Friday, February 24.  I raced home after work and changed my clothes and fed the dogs.  My dogs were just as excited about the nice weather as I was and raced around the yard and rolled in the grass. When they came back inside the house I asked them if they wanted to go for a ride in the car and go for a walk.  Their ears perked up and they bolted for the door.  I gathered a few poop bags and found their leashes.  Royal and Maggie bounced in circles and made happy whiny noises while I removed their collars and put on their walking harnesses.  It is such a wonderful feeling seeing them so excited!  I love making my dogs happy!

 

I decided to drive to my sister’s house to ask if she would come with us.  She wasn’t home, but my nephew Matt was.  I barely got the question out when he eagerly accepted my invitation to take the dogs for a walk.  Matt knows the Joe Panza trail better than I do, so I was really happy he agreed. It took only a few minutes to arrive at the park.  Once we arrived the dogs jumped out of the car and started sniffing and tugging at their leashes.  Of course, they wiggled around so much that Royal pooped even before getting to the trail.  Luckily, it was right near a garbage can, so I was glad I didn’t have walk around carrying his poop.  It is one of my pet peeves that people don’t pick up their pet’s poop.  Even if your pet poops off the trail, always pick up the poop.

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No way to get a selfie with the dogs too! They do not cooperate.

Matt has never walked a dog before.  Something I hadn’t thought of when I handed him Maggie’s leash.  Maggie is great on a leash, although she does like to move around a lot so there is a little bit of dancing and twirling you have to do.  Royal on the other hand loves to lead the pack.  He doesn’t pull as much when he wears his harness, but he still tugs.  My shoulder gets a work out!  At least I gave Matt the easier dog to walk!

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Royal leading the pack!  There is a leash there, I swear! It’s just hard to see.

It had rained the day before so the trail was damp with some big puddles in places.  Royal is my water dog; he happily walked right though each puddle.  Maggie was very dainty and maneuvered around them all.  She does not like to get her feet wet.

Matt made the decisions on which way on the trail to turn.  He carefully peered down each trail to scope out the puddles before committing to turning left or right!  He was wearing sneakers and didn’t want to wade through the mud!  Of course, I’m glad of that! I didn’t want the back seat of my car to be more muddy than necessary!  Usually I have a vinyl protector on the seat so the dogs mess doesn’t get on my car, but I was lazy for this hike and didn’t put it on.

Another pet peeve of mine is meeting other hikers that have their pet off leash.  We heard some voices up the trail and actually met their dog FIRST!  I stood stock still and reeled in the leash on Royal.  The dog approached us slowly, didn’t growl, and his tail was neutral.  I still was shaking in my boots.  Then I remembered Matthew.  I told Matt to hold Maggie close on the leash and stay still.  The owners of the dog came along and called to their off-leash dog, of course the dog ignored the commands.  Their dog sniffed Maggie and Matthew and I encouraged Matt to just walk forward slowly.  They had another dog on a leash, thank goodness, because this dog was growling at us as the woman could barely hold the dog back from lunging at us.

It is so dangerous to have your dog off leash.  What if my dogs didn’t like to be approached by a strange dog?  I would have been in the middle of a terrifying situation. Fortunately all dogs and humans walked away from the encounter without incident.  We might not be so lucky next time.  I held my tongue from saying anything to the other dog owners, but I think they got the message when I refused to acknowledge them and concentrated on getting my dogs out of there safely.  Next time I use my friendliest voice to remind them of the leash law.

With that excitement past us we were at the car in no time.  Royal and Maggie jumped into the car and we drove Matthew home.  When I brought the dogs into the house I gave them each a couple treats and big bowls of cold water.  We snuggled together and had a nice nap and dreamed of our next hiking adventure!

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Same trail, SNOWY day!

 

Way Outside my Comfort Zone

We are our own worst critics.  At least I know I judge myself harshly.  I pick on myself and my faults.  I tear myself down to the core at times.  I don’t feel like I am good enough, thin enough, smart enough, tall enough, tough enough.  You might be thinking…NO way, Trailchaser2020, you are all of those things.  Well, thank you, but sometimes I don’t believe it.  In fact, some days I really believe that I will never hike the Appalachian Trail.  No matter how much I talk about it and train for it, it just won’t happen for some reason or another.  I’ll find some “excuse” that will stop me.

One small obstacle that could prevent me from hiking the trail is my physical condition.  I’ve read stories how some hikers have never hiked a day in their life before completing the trail.  I’ve also read about middle aged women hiking the trail and breaking a leg!  So, to err on the side of caution I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and join some exercise classes.

I DO NOT EXERCISE.

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Disclaimer: This is not me.

Now, I have taken a Yoga class or two.  I’ll hike and walk outside all day, too.  But a real exercise class with a teacher in the front and a bunch of strangers all around me while my fat bounces up and down is NOT what I would sign up for.  But I DID!

Our little town has a community education program that offers a 20/20/20 class(20 minutes of aerobics, 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of weights) and a Yoga class.  The session is 8 classes once a week.  The classes are held in the local primary school (five minutes from my house!) and my insurance company covered the ENTIRE cost of these classes!  So, I signed up for BOTH classes so that I will be exercising each Wednesday and Thursday for eight weeks.  Oh boy.

Well, I missed the first 20/20/20 class because I had to go to the dentist.  I was actually GLAD to go to the dentist so I didn’t have to exercise!  But, I did go to Yoga the first week. I couldn’t think of any good excuse for me to miss it.  Imagine my delighted surprise when I tried to open the doors at the school and everything was locked.  I tried a side door.  Locked.  Secretly I was rejoicing that I didn’t have to go to Yoga.  I headed back to my car when I heard a lady yell at me that the door was now open.  Rats.  I guess I was going to Yoga.  There were about 10 women in the class and it was okay.  I didn’t die.  My clothes weren’t “Yoga” clothes, my mat was too thin, I was too fat to bend the way I thought I should – WHAT was I doing here?!?!  Then the instructor told us to breathe.  And I did. I no longer cared that my shirt was exposing my fat stomach, I doubled up my mat when my knees hurt and I just bent over as far as my body would let me.  The teacher was so nice!  And Yoga, is just so peaceful.  It’s impossible for me to not like practicing Yoga.  At the end of the class when you are just melting into the floor my mind drifted to the Appalachian Trail and how Yoga will help with my flexibility, stamina and balance.

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The second week approached and yes, I actually called the lady running the program asking how I can get out of the 20/20/20 class.  She wouldn’t let me.  She offered different locations and days, but no; I HAD to go or pay the price since my insurance wouldn’t pay them if I didn’t go. So I went.  I was freaking out!  Even as the instructor started explaining the aerobic steps I was swearing in my head.  I was telling myself that I hate aerobics, I hate dancing, I hate the music she was playing, I hate the lighting in the gym, I was tired, I was getting a headache, I was hungry.  And then I just did it.  I was doing aerobics while I was dancing to the music I hated under the bright lights with energy I didn’t know I had while suffering from a little headache and hunger.  I did it.  It wasn’t so bad.

You know what?  I am actually proud of myself.  Was I comfortable at the classes?  Heck, no.  My comfort zone was two time zones away!  But, I laughed at myself when I was facing front instead of facing back or raising my left leg instead of my right leg.  I made up my own steps instead of doing a “step ball chain.”  What on earth are my feet supposed to be doing???? I probably have the name of the step wrong because Google didn’t even know what I was talking about!

Learning to not be so hard on myself is tough.  I doubt I’ll ever succeed.

See what I did there?

Conservation Trail – Mammot Rd to Sumner Rd

I put on my favorite Darn Tough socks.

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I ate a good breakfast.  (My husband made it for me.)

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I laced up my boots and threw my pack into the car.

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I had packed my big backpack the night before with all the essentials.  You know, everything you need on a short day hike.  Stove, pots, 2 liters of water, rain gear, head lamp, emergency blanket, extra clothes, gloves, food for two days.  I just wanted to be prepared – I am in training after all.

I asked my nephew to hike with me and was happy he agreed.  Matthew hikes fast and doesn’t complain when I can’t keep up.

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My husband drove us to the trail head on Getman Road and I discovered a very fast moving stream about shin deep right across the trail.  I wasn’t familiar with this trail head, but I looked up and down the creek and couldn’t find a way across that wouldn’t mean hiking in wet boots the rest of the way, so we moved to Plan B.

Plan B was entering the trail at Mammot Road.  We would have had to hike .7 miles on this road anyway, now we will avoid the road walk.  I peeked down the trail before making the commitment to the hike.  It seemed wet, but not impassable.  I sent my husband on his way back home and Matthew and I took off down the trail.

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We encountered many, many “puddles” aka swampy areas.  Matt has LONG legs and moves like a gazelle.  I have short stubby legs and I lacked any finesse hopping over these areas, especially carrying my full pack.  I prayed my boots stayed dry and the prayer worked.  And I really sloshed through the water. As long as it wasn’t over my ankle I was good. (I love my Keen boots!)

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This was a small puddle, I kept my camera put away while hiking through the deep stuff!

Matt and I stuck close together while the ground was a giant puddle but once the trail dried out, Matt was off like a flash.  The trail was very easy to follow.  The bright orange blazes were close together and I knew Matt would be able to follow it no problem.

Matt backtracked a little to find me and told me saw a railroad track ahead.  Sure enough we came upon the track and glanced in both directions.  No trains in sight.  Drat.  That would have been a treat to see a train so close.  We didn’t want to wait around not knowing the schedule at all.

We spotted the orange flag in a tree branch indicating the trail entrance and Matt took off again.  I stopped a few times to take some pictures, look at the sky, admire the forest and listen to the birds.  We didn’t see any deer, only their footprints and some scat.

We saw some gorgeous waterfalls, including one that I drive by everyday and didn’t even know that it was there! It was spectacular especially with all the snow melt and rain we had recently.

We crossed Broadway into Darien Lake State Park.  We found the log book and signed in.

It started to really warm up so I stopped to take off my jacket and we had an impromptu snack time.  After a few cheese puffs, beef jerky and red fish we were fortified.

I put a few red fish in my pocket and we continued our journey.  It didn’t take long to come across the blue trail to the lean to.

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I gave Matt the option to hike it and he declined so we continued on following the orange blazes towards Sumner Road.

We actually heard a tree fall somewhere nearby and we both stopped in our tracks.  We looked at each other relieved that it wasn’t a bear crashing through the woods to eat us.  Then I found a ninja tree stump!  Tell me it doesn’t look like ninja??

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The trail ends at a parking lot on Sumner Road, so when I started hearing traffic I called my husband to pick us up.  Timed right we wouldn’t wait long for him.  We exited the trail and found a picnic bench, snacked again and had a drink.  I picked up trash I found in the lot.

It was a beautiful day of nearly 60 degrees in January.  It took us about two hours to hike about 4 miles.  Matt said he’d be up to hiking this trail again when it was dry!

I have a few other trails up my sleeve for us, too!  I just ordered and received a bunch of maps from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference.  My goal this summer is to hike the Letchworth State Park branch trail of the FLT.

Trail? What trail?

So my husband has decided that he likes hiking with me!  Yay!!!!  He has a great sense of direction when I get turned around and he makes funny faces to keep me happy!  That is all you need in a great hiking partner, right?

Last weekend we ventured out to the good ole’ Joe Panza Trail.  It’s where my training for the Appalachian Trail began way back on July 20, 2015.  I’ve been back there a few times since because it is so close to home.  When we started out I asked him how far he wanted to go.  I braced myself for his answer of one mile, but he surprised me when he said two miles!  I was giddy!  I set my app on my phone to measure our distance.

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It’s nearly winter and we were bundled up, but it wasn’t raining.  The trail is very flat and since I’ve been on it so many times, a little boring.  Well, not today.  I seem to always go a certain way on the trail.  Today my husband turned left instead of right and right instead of left and low and behold we were OFF the trail!  Where did the trail go?  With all the leaves on the ground we somehow missed a turn and it was obvious we were no longer on the trail.  We were walking along the creek and of course I knew we weren’t “lost” just not on a trail.  I remembered that there was a geocache near where I thought we were so I opened the geocache app on my phone and checked.  Nope.  Not where I thought we were.  At least now I had an idea of where we were since I could see the other geocaches that I have found in the park.

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My husband checked the app and together we decided to hike next to the creek until we came to “something.”  We slowly made our way along the creek. I found a green mossy tree that reminded me of a dinosaur foot and we found some litter.  I didn’t have my backpack so I didn’t have a garbage bag, but we took turns carrying the trash. Which reminds me, I still have a yucky bottle cap in my puffy jacket pocket!  About this time my app said we had hiked one mile!

We kept walking through the woods not positive where we were going to end up and then BAM!  There was a trail!  Well, I hope you weren’t worried!  Jumping back on the trail dear husband again took a left instead of a right and the trail ended at an open field that was behind the high school.  This time we knew the main trail was only about 200 feet to the right so we carefully made our way through the brush to the trail.  At this point we were on the main trail so there was a garbage can where we unloaded the trash we found.

The Joe Panza trail has identification on some of the trees.  We stopped to read a few and I hugged and loved on them.  The red maple did not want to let me go and snagged my scarf.

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I freed myself from the amorous maple and hubby and I then decided to play on some tree stumps!  My husband tried to impersonate The Thinker pose.  I think he looks a little constipated.  When I showed my sister the picture of me posing on the tree stump she said I reminded her of a twirling ballerina inside a little girl’s jewelry box.  Awe!  I wasn’t even trying!

While heading back to the car my app said we had hiked 1.97 miles.  It looked like we would make my husband’s goal of two miles by the time we reach the car. The last time we hiked we went about a mile. If we keep doubling our distance and if my husband could retire early, we could hike the Appalachian Trail together in 2020!  I think I’ll start playing the Lotto!

Disclaimer:  I try to make it a rule to not venture off trail.  I understand it could harm the plant life and I could get really lost.

Hiking with a Spouse, Rain or Shine!

My husband and I met on a blind date.  We spoke a few times on the phone before our first date, but that was WAY before cell phones and the internet.  It was actually even an accident that we met at all.  Loooong story.  One thing I told him was that if he didn’t like camping in the rain, he wasn’t the right guy for me.  I think I could feel him cringe through the phone.  He asked me to marry him six weeks later.  Apparently, there are many other things we love about each other and here we are twenty years later, through rain and shine!

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My supportive husband has hiked and camped with me in the rain.  He does it because he loves me and I love him for it!  Now that I am training for my big Appalachian Trail thru hike I would like to hike longer and more miles.  Husband, on the other hand, likes to keep it short and sweet.  I compromise usually.  This past Black Friday we “opted outside” instead of fighting through the crowds and shopping to save $5.  Unfortunately, when we put on our hiking boots that morning it was raining.  Not a hard rain, just an annoying sprinkle.  I needed to get every moment outside that I could, rain or shine!  My husband was excited to test out his new Merrell hiking boots in the rain.  He wanted to be sure that his feet would be warm and dry the next day while tailgating before the Buffalo Bills game. (They were great!)

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I packed my backpack and he packed two umbrellas.  Hahahaha!  He said he was going to use one and the other was for me.  Now, I have heard of hikers using umbrellas on the trail, I just won’t be one of them.  Fact, on the trail you’re going to get wet if it is raining.  Just deal.  The umbrellas went into the trunk anyway.  I love that he was trying to take care of me!

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We settled on hiking the Boy Scout trail in a local park.  It’s only 3/4 mile long.  Enough for my husband; a tease for me.   My husband was going to use one of my hiking poles.  He twisted and pulled it out too far and oops.  I had to push and twist to get the darn thing back together!  He said that my poles were shot and I should get new ones so he could have my old ones!  Sounds good to me! (Please comment with recommendations!)   Before I closed my trunk I asked him if he wanted his umbrella. He declined.  Hardy soul that he is!  He also likes to make funny faces when I take his picture!

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We each had winter hats on and the sprinkle wasn’t even noticeable once we were on the trail.  The Boy Scout Trail meanders along a creek.  The water was really moving since it was raining.  The trail is very flat although there is a little tiny hill at the end.  We stopped to take some pictures near a tree. One side had horrible orange graffiti.  I hate it when I see graffiti on trees!!!  What is wrong with people?  It makes me so angry and sad.  On a different trail recently I even saw “Will you marry me?” each word spray painted on four separate trees!  On other trees around it, they painted hearts. The vandal probably thought it was romantic and cute.  NOT!  If I were that unlucky girl I would say NO! and break up with the vandal then and there!

When my husband took the first graffiti filled picture, he didn’t say anything about it.  I don’t know if he thought it was “normal” or if he thought it added to the artistic value of the photo or more likely he just didn’t “see” it.  I was so disappointed and sad when I saw the photo on my phone with me smiling next to a graffiti covered tree.  I asked him to retake the photo from the other side of the tree.  I didn’t lose the meaning of the fact that the side of the tree with the graffiti was the side of the tree getting rained on.  Like Mother Nature trying to wash it off by crying on it!

 

I didn’t let the graffiti spoil our hike.  As we neared the last curve of the loop heading back to the car, my husband tried to sneak a short cut through the grass!  I gently guided him to the tree line where the trail was.  I needed every step available!

Later on that day we were driving somewhere and it was so sunny!  Isn’t that how it works sometimes!

Reflecting back to our recent hike and our twenty year marriage I noticed that frequently we have different views, ideas and beliefs.  We “see” things differently.  We have learned to listen to each other and respect those differences.  Opposites do indeed attract!  I like to think we compliment each other.  I’m horrible at math, he is a certified public accountant.  He can program a computer, I can type on a computer.  I’m good at planning things, he is a procrastinator.  I run on emotion and he is very logical.  It all works out.

Rain or shine, besides my shadow, my husband is my favorite hiking partner, on the trail and through life!

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Letchworth State Park

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday.  My bff, Linda aka MsBirder, knows I love hiking and so does she, so we set out on a birthday adventure of geocaching and hiking in Letchworth State Park.  The park is in Livingston and Wyoming counties, New York and is about 14,500 acres.  WOW!  It has numerous waterfalls and it known as the Grand Canyon of the East.  The gorge is about 600 feet deep in places and the Genesee River flows through it. The views are amazing!

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Usually when I go to Letchworth State Park I end up at the same end of the park, seeing the same things.  This time we went to the opposite end to see the Mount Morris Dam.  The dam is not exactly in the park, but right next to it.  It was built between 1948 and 1952 by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  My bucket list includes the Hoover Dam, it must be massive compared to this little dam!  It’s still a modern marvel how man can build something like this!

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At this time we were losing our minds and just having a great time!

Linda was not trying to choke me, she was taking a funny selfie and I had to capture it!

 

Linda and I continued on to do some hiking.  We weren’t exactly sure where we were going, but we had some coordinates for geocaches. The trail we took had a yellow blaze with the number 20 on it. I looked it up once at home and it is the #20 Highbanks Trail which is almost 5 miles.  It follows the west rim on the northern part of the state park.  The trail starts at the Mt. Morris Entrance and ends at cabin area C.  We didn’t get that far, maybe 2 or 3 miles because I was hungry!   There was a small ravine we had to carefully make our way down.  Unfortunately for Linda, and fortunately for me and your viewing pleasure, Linda slid down on her butt.  Here’s a very short video that she will have to forgive me for sharing.  Love you, Linda!

It’s not poop!  LOL!

We found a geocache and a little lean-to that was being re-built.

The face on the tree wasn’t the geocache, I forgot to take a picture of that!  But, isn’t the face cool!

We hiked about 2 miles or so, maybe 3 and I got hungry! There is a restaurant in Letchworth called Glen Iris Inn.  We had a great lunch there and visited the Middle Falls.

We made our way out of the park and headed home with the geocache app on.  We made a quick stop in a cemetery for a cache and then a Christmas tree farm.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Christmas tree farm was!

As we continued on we were stopped in traffic on the road.  Apparently a horse had gotten loose.  It was captured and thankfully no one was hurt, not even the horse.

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It was a great way to start my birthday weekend!

Griffis Sculpture Park

Okay, okay.  I know I skipped a month of blogging.  Recuperating my eyeball and life gets in the way.  When I scanned my pictures recently I found photos of the fabulous time I had Griffis Sculpture Park and I never wrote about it!

This will be short and sweet as I have another adventure I want to write about!  (Sneak peek- Guess where this picture was taken!)

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My day hikes group took a NIGHT hike to Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto, NY.  It is 450 acres and has over 250 large scale sculptures made of metal throughout the property.  It is open from May through October.  This year, for a few weeks during the Fall, they decorated a small portion of the park with lights and allowed people entry after dusk.

It was so much fun hiking in the dark with my headlamp on.  I wasn’t afraid at all because I was with a large group and my good friend, Richelle (who is in Central America right now having the time of her life)!  The moon was full or nearly full that night and I didn’t need to use my headlamp at times.

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Some of the metal sculptures were made so you could climb them, get in them or sit on them.  It was a little freaky walking the path in the complete dark with only a headlamp and BOOM! – come across a naked lady sculpture rising out of the ground!

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Or you come across a naked man sculpture!  Couldn’t resist this one!  Yes, my hand is on his butt.  You can see the forest lit up in the background!

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The lights made the forest surreal and like we were on another planet.

It was magical!