No Choice, Joyce

Well, that was a learning experience!

Packing my pack on Thursday night, I proceeded to: crack my headlamp, have my water bladder leak all over the padding of my pack and removed, replaced and added extra items at the last minute.  I ran out to the local hardware store and bought a $5 headlamp, my pack stayed slightly damp and I carried probably about a pound of extra weight on items I never looked at while hiking.

We started out Friday headed south to the Morrison/Rimrock Trail Loop in the Allegheny National Forest.  We had all the excitement of kindergartners on the first day of school!  It was snowing, but we laughed and didn’t care!

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The snowflakes were small and we bundled up.

This was my first time carrying my pack on a hike.  It was almost 30 pounds.  Filled with everything I would need to survive one night and two days in the woods. Morrison Trail including the Rimrock Trail is about 12 miles long.  The terrain is very steep in sections and also beautiful as the trail follows the creek.  There are many creek crossings where I am beholden to my hiking poles for saving me from getting wet. I know I would not have stayed dry without them!  I think I may have even kissed them once or twice!

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Not so wide to cross here. This one was easy!
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Four little waterfalls in row.  So beautiful!
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Everything was starting to turn that perfect Spring green.  Shelly blended in!

We stopped to camp after hiking about 7 miles.  Unfortunately for us I could not manage to climb down a steep slope to the reservoir below where there was some flat land.  (I slid down and got muddy and upset – poor Shelly.)  Our little camp had to be set up on a slope.

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Don’t do this unless it’s all you got.  This was not ideal.  We made it work.

We ate our dinner at about 5:30 and hung out in my surprised (!) tent for a little while. It was becoming very cold and weather.com said it could be down to 26 degrees!  Shelly went back to her tent and I was all alone.  Being on the slope made it very challenging to sleep.  We slid down in our tents because….gravity.  Her tent wasn’t staying up with her hiking poles because she kept sliding into it.  Finally, I convinced her to sleep with me in my one-man tent.  Eureka should know that four grown women could sleep in the fetal position in the solo tent.  The two of us only took up half the tent!

I do think this was one of the longest nights ever.  I couldn’t stretch my legs.  Our feet were pressed up against the tent holding us up.  It was so uncomfortable.  At least we were warm next to each other.  Unfortunately for Shelly, I also snore.  Loud.  She woke me up a couple times to stop me.  I stayed awake for awhile so I could make sure she slept a little.  In the end I’m sure I slept more than she did.  All I did all night was watch the time on my phone.  Anxious for sunrise and being able to eat some hot oatmeal and a boiling cup of tea.

At around 6 am I heard a Barred owl saying “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?”  Shelly woke up and we chatted and stayed warm until the sun rose around 7am. We retrieved the bear canister and pots and cooked our breakfast as the sky became brighter and brighter.  Packing up our tents we discovered ice coated everything!  Our tents, poles, anything we left outside of our tents.  It was really, really cold!  Our fingers and toes were numb!  But, we had a lovely view of the forest with the reservoir in the background!  Staying positive here!

We hit the trail about 8:30am.  The sky was blue and it was warming up.  The trail continued up the mountain and we said if there was a flat spot within the next quarter mile we would have been so mad we made camp where we did, but there wasn’t. So, we made a good choice.

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Beautiful, huge moss covered boulders.  They look like they are sliding off the mountain, much like we nearly did the night before.

The trail took us up the very last inch of the mountain, with no apologies.  In my head I was drafting my next blog post -“I’m never hiking again.  I’m quitting!” “This is too hard.”  “I can’t do it.”

On one particular steep section, I stopped because I was exhausted and sweaty.  I wanted to close my eyes, twitch my nose and be in my bed at home.  Then it hit me.  I HAD NO CHOICE.  At this point of the game, the only way I would ever see my bed at home again was if my two feet kept going.  I looked down at my feet and said, “Feet, you have to do this for the rest of the body.  You must continue.  You have NO CHOICE, JOYCE!”  With that, I continued, I continued to complain, whine, climb and walk and eventually we made it to some glorious flat ground.

We were anxious to see some sign that we were going in the right direction.  We knew we should be coming up to a turn in the trail.  We finally saw a sign and made the turn.  Walking and walking and walking we thought maybe we turned at the wrong spot!  At worst we would have to walk an extra 2.6 miles, lucky for us we came across some day hikers that told us the parking lot was about a mile away.  Can you hear angels singing? I can.

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Can you find Shelly?

Hiking out that last half mile was hard.  Who am I kidding, it was all hard. If someone would have asked me on Saturday, if I would do this again I would have said, maybe.  Today, I can’t wait to hit this trail again – in warmer weather!  Now that I know where to stop to camp it should make that part so much more tolerable.

I want to thank my good friend, Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com.  She taught me how to adjust my pack straps.  It was magic!  She taught me about bear canisters and cooking away from your camp to discourage animal visitors.  She gave me a pat on the back when I fell and slid down the mountain. (It helped, it really did!) She also listened to me whine and complain and when I look back at myself, I wish I didn’t do so much of that.

Watch out, Appalachian Trail.  I’m getting ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Mile Creek and a Tent!

Located about 40 minutes from my house is a hidden treasure.  18 Mile Creek Park in Hamburg, NY is spectacular!  The trail is about 5 miles to the end and back.  Easy, peasy.  The hiker walks above the creek on the main trail along the rim of a ravine. This affords the hiker with magnificent views of the creek and ravine.  There are two side trails that will take you down to the creek if you want to fish or wade in the water on a hot day.  I can’t wait to go back during the summer.

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View from the rim.
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It’s a long way down!
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Take a rest!
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Fishermen!
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My camera and the sun did something wonky and I got a heavenly inspired photo!
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This is what I was trying to photograph. The water cascaded down the rock and froze. It was sparkly and beautiful.
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Of course, there was a geocache!
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Just in case you didn’t see the well worn trail come to an abrupt end, here’s a sign!

Okay, friends.  Coming up this Friday I will be backpacking in the Allegheny National Forest. Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com and I will be hiking about 6 miles Friday, spend the night in the woods and hike 6 miles back out on Saturday.  We can’t miss Easter Sunday dinner!

I’ve not had the chance to use ANY of my long hike gear yet.  I set up my tent ONCE in my LIVING ROOM!  My backpack still has the tags on it!!  So, I spent Sunday doing some preparing.  I gathered my guts and my tent and headed to my backyard with my dogs for moral support.

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The tent I bought for about $50. This is not the tent I will use for the AT.

I scanned the ground for “land mines” aka dog doo. I found a spot next to our fire pit.  Don’t worry, I would never set up my tent this close to a fire pit in real life.  The first thing I looked for in the bag was the directions!  I love the saying – When in doubt, RTFM.  “Read the F’n Manual”  Truer words have never been spoken!

I learned that you should read the directions once all the way through before you start.  Good advice.  So, now that I had a clue how this should end I started with step one and two.  Lay out the tent and put the poles in an “X” on top.

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That was easy.

Step two I had to put the poles in the grommets. Grommet?  Isn’t that a British cartoon?  Oh, no that is Wallace and Gromit.  Gromit is the dog.  These would be metal rings.  Found them.  Then I staked it at four corners.  The ground was soft so the stakes went nice and easy! If I was sleeping here, I’d be worried they would pop out, but I’m not, so I didn’t care.

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I attached the “dog-bone connector” – that’s what it said it was called in the directions, honest –  at the center top and then the hook things (technical term) on the poles.

Hey, this looks like a tent!  What’s this?  I have to put a fly on?

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Maggie was curious.  Or she just wanted to drink my tea. So, how does it look?  Wait, what’s this in the directions?  Side ventilation?  Guyouts???

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I had to connect paracord to the sides and stake them out.  Then the directions said something about guyouts?  Huh?  Oh, so if you don’t want your tent to blow away while you’re in it, you should attach “guy out lines”.  Um.  I may need help with that.  I have no idea how to tie a knot.

Okay.  Moving on.  Let’s get in!!!

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Not you, Maggie!!

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Please remove your shoes before entering my home away from home!

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I could actually kneel without ducking my head inside. Lots of headroom for me!

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Roomy for a solo tent.  Roomy for a 5’2″ woman.

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I don’t look comfortable.  And the grass was making all kinds of noise.  It sounded like it was raining.  I think I need to buy a small footprint tarp?  Is that what it’s called?  Something to go under my tent and above the grass.  I’ll see about that before Friday. And I think I need a pillow.  I know I NEED a pillow.

Well, I tried it out and now lets see if I can get it all to go back in the same small bag!

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I DID IT!!!

My knees were a little muddy from crawling around on the floor, but the next task was packing my backpack.

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Most of my gear.  I don’t have a lot.  Just the necessities.

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Do I get points that my sleeping bag color matches my pack color and my NAIL color!!???  LOL!

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I have no idea how to use this, but the directions seem pretty clear.  Even if I have enough water, I may want to use this just to see how it works.

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I researched google and was schooled by Shelly how to pack my pack.  Sleeping bag on the bottom, heavy stuff centered.  It felt pretty good.  Now I have to unpack it all because I want to put a trash compactor bag in there to keep things dry if my pack gets wet.

I’m going to add a couple more things to this bag, like more clothes.  It’s supposed to be pretty cold at night.  My food will be added and of course, a bladder filled with 2 liters of water.  That should bring me up to about 18 pounds in my pack.  Doable.

I hope.

Thanks for reading.  And please, if you have any advice, I’ll take it!!!

 

 

 

 

Mud, Bones and What am I doing????

I personally love the feeling of walking in mud.  It’s squishy and soft and makes the grossest sound as you pull your foot out of a deep mud puddle.  I love it!  After a heavy downpour the trails are made of slippery, chocolate brown mud!  Mud doesn’t stop me!

While hiking, one periodically comes across unusual things.  Recently, after an uneventful 2 miles or so I noticed the decomposing leg of a deer had been draped on a tree branch.  GROSS!  Of course I took a picture because I’m morbid.  I won’t put it here, but if you want to see it (you sick, sick person) I won’t judge you, just send me a message!

It was a bonus unusual day.  Off the trail about 50 feet was a little white cross. Someone must have buried their pet in the woods.  Or was it the remains of the deer and someone put a cross over it. I decided to admire the cross from trail just in case whatever was there wasn’t completely buried!

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Shelly and I didn’t waste anytime getting away from the decomposing bones!

Hiking with different people I don’t know, I generally ask them, “How do you spend your time outside of hiking?”  Almost always, the answer I get is, “Work.”  Well, besides that!?  Next the answers are about their children or grandchildren, pets, education and travel.

When I am asked that question the first thing I want to tell people is about my family.  Dave (my husband) and Carl (my son) are my most favorite people!  My two golden retrievers are great hiking buddies, too!

Another hobby I enjoy is hand crafting homemade greeting cards.  I have a room in my house dedicated to my stamps and crafts!  I also love Halloween, cooking and reading everything I can about the AT.

Truth be told, I really just want to talk about hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I want to talk about my gear, maps, books, planning – YOU NAME IT!  My hike may be 3.7 years from now (or maybe sooner if I can manage it) but I eat, sleep, and breathe the AT.

I’m planning a trip to Gatlinburg, TN in late April and plan to visit many trails there.  I had made a promise to myself to not hike any of the AT until I started my thru hike.  I wanted everything to be new on the trail.  Now I have a chance to go to Clingman’s Dome!  I should do it, right?  Or, should I not?  I should.  Maybe not.  Ugh!

In reality I should be focusing on planning and preparing for a backpacking trip I am taking to the Allegheny National Forest in ONE WEEK!  Shelly and I are spending one night on a trail out there.  I’m very nervous about putting up my tent.  I will be practicing it over and over in my yard this week!  I’ll be documenting my success or lack thereof!

As you can tell, it is Spring and I’m excited for backpacking season to begin.  I’m looking forward to wearing my heavier pack on some trails to get more accustomed to it.

Happy Trails and thanks for following my adventures in training for my thru hike of the AT!

Ice and Eskers

Woot! Another double hike weekend!  I need a t-shirt that says “Hiking is my religion.”  Being outdoors improves everything!  I took advantage of some mild weather this past weekend to visit a long time favorite park, Stiglmeier Park and a new park near Honeoye Falls called Mendon Ponds Park.

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Boardwalk in the meadow where we saw the Red-Tailed Hawk.

Saturday morning was pretty cold.  I’m trying to thicken my skin so I didn’t back out of the hike in Stiglmeier Park.  There was a new group to meet, Creation Exploration.  The group met in the parking lot of the park and I asked about needing micro-spikes on the trails. The leaders both said, “No, I doubt it.”  Well, the entire trail was complete ice.  Note to self and others, when leading a hike always hike a little of the trail before everyone gets there so you can be aware of the trail conditions to inform your group how to prepare.  Ugh.  As we were sliding on the ice, one of the leaders smiled and said to me, “Should have worn your spikes, huh?”  Okay, strike one.

We were walking the Seneca Trail and we were looking for wildlife! This was a slow paced walk through very flat (but, icy) trails. Some of the animals and birds that made an appearance were: White-Tail Deer (a nice sized buck!), Mallard Ducks, Red Tail Hawk, Cardinals, Black-Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Juncos, Downy Woodpecker and some cool tracks of little critters.  There were probably others, I just don’t remember.

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A mouse probably made these tracks.

We had a super view of the Red-Tailed Hawk swooping over a meadow and again hovering and diving down to catch some lunch and then again it was flying through another meadow.  Birds are amazing, especially birds of prey.  They fascinate me.

The group was small and some of us were new to the group. Everyone was nice enough, but since we didn’t know each other it was a little stiff.  When I saw the Red-Bellied Woodpecker and pointed it out there was a man that didn’t believe me because it had a red head not a red belly.  Well.  Okay.  But then another man in the group confirmed my call and the guy believed him just fine!  Strike Two.  Moving on then!  They don’t get a strike three. I don’t need that.  I kept my mouth shut the rest of walk.  It was still a nice walk in a beautiful park.  This was not challenging at all, except for the people part.

The weather on Sunday was AMAZING!  It was forecast to reach 60 degrees and I think it was a bit higher than that.  It is so nice to be able to hike in the snow while wearing just a fleece on February 28! We were hiking Mendon Ponds Park with my familiar Day Hikes group.  The trail we took was the East Esker Trail.  There were only 6 of us on this hike and I do enjoy small group hikes.  I can really get to know every person and we are like a little family on the trail.

My friend Shelly (check out her blog at: http://livingonthedirt.com) hiked along with me.  I was so glad she was there.  Hiking up a hill, she commented that I was really keeping up and what a long way I’ve come so far.  It made me feel terrific.  Even I noticed that the hills weren’t so tiring as they were on past hikes.  Like they say, the more you do, the better you get!

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Take a photo of the map with your phone. Very helpful if you don’t have a printed version.

You are probably wondering what “Eskers” are in my title.  I learned a little bit about glaciers on my hike to Mendon Ponds.  Eskers are a winding ridge of sand and gravel that are very long and remind me of walking on an old abandoned railway embankment. They are created when streams flowed under and within glaciers.  It is a little more technical than that so I’ve supplied the wiki address if you interested in learning more.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esker

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Learning about the Esker we are hiking on from our group leader.

Shelly brought along her new camera.  She will have to leave a comment below as I don’t remember what kind of camera it is.  The pictures of my rear end came out lovely as usual.

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X marks the butt.
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About to get my butt over this tree in the trail. Same day, removed my fleece because it was so warm!

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You can see how the trail conditions changed during our hike.  Lots of snow and ice then it changed to mud then back to ice.

This hike was moderately challenging for me, it would have been more challenging if Shelly and I were alone because she marches me up the hills!  Since we were with a group we stopped frequently and took pictures.

I made the final decision to not sign up for the Finger Lakes Trail Cross County hike this year.  Too many of the dates conflicted with vacation and other events.  Instead, I hope to backpack by myself or with my son in Alleghany National Forest or other places this Spring and Summer.  This coming weekend my husband I are visiting Downtown Buffalo for a little City getaway.  I hope to visit Tifft Nature Preserve to get my outdoor time in.

Thanks for tuning in to learn about my adventures in training for my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Until next time – Hike on!!