“Gorge”eous Day for a Hike

The Applachian Mountains were created by nature over 295 million years ago.  The Niagara Falls first plunged over the rocks a measly 12,000 years ago.  The gorges created by Niagara Falls appeared only 5-12,000 years ago.  It is difficult to believe there was a time so long ago that places like this in nature did not exist.

This past weekend I travelled to Niagara Falls, New York to hike in the gorge.  I live about 45 minutes from one of the Seven Forgotten Natural Wonders of the World.  I admit, I found I have taken it for granted, and “forgotten” I lived so close to such a beautiful place.  I hate that I did that.  If you have never been, please do!

Driving into Niagara Falls State Park you can see the mist rising above the Falls from miles away.  I carpooled with Travel Strong (aka Shelley) to the meeting point near Devil’s Hole.  Right away we walked down a few steps and left the trail to find a cave.  Rumor has it those entering the cave are cursed!  Needless to say, I did not go in the cave.  But here is a picture!

Devilsholecave

We all made our way further down, down, down to the bottom of the gorge.  Approaching the Niagara River I could see the rushing water and felt my heart beat faster!  rapids 2 There were brave fishermen on the rocks.

The path was narrow in places and very rocky.  Shelley informed me that the Appalachian Trail in Vermont was very rocky.  I joked with her that I would skip Vermont!  It was actually fun scrambling over the boulders, but I felt like I was moving in slow motion.  The other hikers in our group seemed so agile and energetic and I felt like a Weeble wobble. Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!  Shelley didn’t know what a Weeble wobble was…here is a picture.

Weeble wobbleI played with these as a kid, now you know I’m old.

The gorge has some very unique rock formations.  I learned that the trail we were hiking used to be a trolley track!  If you don’t believe me, here are two pictures.

Gorge TrolleyGorge rock

Same rock, just 80 or 90 years later!  Crazy!!!  It is so neat seeing something like this.  They shut the trolley down because the constant rock slides tearing out the track became to costly to keep up.  I’m glad or I would not be able to hike here today!

After carefully making my way over the boulders we came to an area called “the flats.”  Obviously, a flat rock area that provided a spectacular viewing area of the river and gorge.  We lingered here for 15 minutes, I think the hike leader knew I had to catch my breath!

me looking at watertheflats2

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There were so many stunning pictures!

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We continued to through to the Whirlpool Trail to the very end of the trail.  Or so it is supposed to be the end of the trail – our fearless leader led many of our fearless hikers onto the “forbidden trail!”  I chose to stay behind with a group of others.  I know my limits!  This isn’t really a trail at all and brought you extremely close to the rushing rapids on very slippery rocks.  Not for the faint of heart!

Forbidden path - Copy - Copy

Shelly trying not to kill herselfOf course, Shelley the daredevil, who can’t have a hike where she doesn’t have a near death experience, walked right in the river!  I am glad I didn’t see this when it happened (photo courtesy of another hiker) or I would have had a heart attack!

Our group all reassembled in one piece thank goodness and turned around the way we came, but this time we headed up the high trail, away from “the flats” and boulders on a less rocky path.  We came to the bottom of the stairs of the Whirlpool Trail.  There is approximately 300-310 stairs, depends who is counting.  The picture I took shows the gradual incline of the first few stairs.  Then the stairs become more like a ladder.  Okay, I’m exaggerating, but the incline is much steeper.  I did not get a picture of the nasty part of the stairs, because I was trying to breathe.

Stairs that tried to kill me

I let all the others go a head of me, but Ali (a former correction’s officer) and Shelley stayed with me, making sure that I had their support all the way up!  Ali was like a happy Drill Sargent!  She gave me small goals to achieve along every step of those stairs.

Shelly always is my motivator!  She cheers me on and even at one point pushed me from behind – It helped!

As I approached the final flight of stairs, our fearless leader called out to me and was cheering me on and encouraging me up the last steps!  I couldn’t dream of a better group of people to hike with!

After catching my breath at the top of the stairs, there was more to hike!!  We made our way on the trail above the gorge back to our cars.  Spectacular views from above!

stunninggorge         powerplant

I slowly and easily made my way to the parking lot and caught up with the group.  I then discovered – I WASN’T LAST!  There was a small group behind me!  It amazed me that I wasn’t the only one they were all waiting for!

Every time I go out hiking I get a little more experience, a little faster, and a little more confident in my strengths and ability.

groupshot The gang at the Trolley Rock.

All about Adrenaline.

Checking the weight of my pack it was 10 pounds.  Manageable?  Sure!  My adrenaline was flowing fast and I was so excited to be hiking a little, tiny part of the North Country Scenic Trail/Finger Lakes Trail/Conservation Trail/etc, etc….  this trail had soo many names!  I guess it never occurred to me that trails often overlap each other.  I drove to my friend, Shelly’s house and we set off together to Allegany State Park.

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We met up with a group of people from Hiking Adventures and that is when my nerves set in.  I never have hiked a real hike before. My head felt prepared, but I was afraid my legs weren’t.  The hike leader said the trail was 5.6 miles.  I quickly removed about 3 pounds from my pack and threw it all in my backseat!  I have never hiked a mountain that far before.  Flat trails, yes.  Not up a mountain. Technically, it may have been a hill, but it sure looked like a mountain!

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The group started up the hill very quickly with me falling behind just as quickly.  Lucky for me, my friend, Shelly hiked with me and other people waited and chatted with us while I caught my breath.  The group stopped for a snack (to wait for me to catch up).  When I had two bites of my snack, the rest of them moved on.  My head had so many thoughts going through it – this isn’t for me, why don’t I do this for a living, I don’t like hiking, I love hiking, I wish I could do this forever, my legs are wobbly, I feel strong.  I knew one thing, I had to keep to going!  BECAUSE – my car was as the starting point and I needed a ride back to where I parked!  I knew they wouldn’t leave me, but it was funny thinking about it.image

My friend, Shelly is the most optimistic, positive person I know.  She made this hike so much fun. She sang songs, while I was just trying to breathe.  She talked about all the times she almost died on her wild adventures.  She once mountain biked on an Extreme trail and almost fell to her death!  She nearly was sucked up in muddy pond, luckily, she was wearing her flotation device and she didn’t sink all the way under.  Two huge men had to pull her up out of it!  She said it made a giant “POP” sucking sound when she finally got out!   She’s a daredevil!

Before I knew it we had arrived at the highest part of trail and Shelly reminded me to look at the ridge-line.  It was amazing!  Seeing the tops of the trees and the nearby mountaintops was incredible!!  I can’t even describe it!image

We caught up with the rest of group and stopped for lunch at a lean to, enjoying each other’s company for a little bit.  I actually peed in the woods for the first time in a long time!  A little cool air on my behind felt so GOOD!  I’m going to do that more often.  I need the practice.

The lean to was really neat for me to see.  I never saw one in person before and I must say, I was pretty stoked.  There were extra pots hanging, tarps hidden in the rafters for anyone to use that might need them and a little notebook that served as a log book.  Shelly and I read through some of the entries in the log book and they were FUNNY!  “Out of Beer, send more, ” was one of my favorites.image

We had a nice rest and I grabbed my hiking pole and set off for the rest of the trail.  It wasn’t all down hill from here, there was at least one more up, but I kept my head down and focused on the next two feet in front of me.  Near the end of the trail a very nice person created image a set of stairs to climb down that led to a meadow of sorts.  At this point I was so excited to be done, and so sad to be done.  This may have been my first up hill hike, but it won’t be my last.

I arrived home in the early afternoon and I couldn’t keep still. My muscles wanted me to keep moving.  My dogs, Royal and Maggie, played with me outside until I finally collapsed on the grass in my backyard, my dogs licking my face.  Adrenaline worn off, I knew I would sleep good that night!

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Unusual Adventures and Lessons Learned

There are a number of little parks near where I work.  Many, I would have never known about if it weren’t for Geocaching!  Geocaching leads me to some of the most beautiful places.  I grab the cache then hike through the parks!

This week I went to a familiar park in the town where I work.  There is a beautiful waterfall and lovely creek with a hiking path that winds its way alongside.  Recently the daylight is ending earlier and earlier so after work I knew I had to hurry to the park, grab the cache and hike fast to get two miles under my belt before the sun set.  Finding the cache was super easy, hiking fast not so much.  The entire trail was filled with tree roots and actual trees that had fallen across the trail.  And the sun was setting in such a spectacular array of color I was totally distracted

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Since it was such a warm, beautiful day there were many people enjoying the trail with me.  I really prefer solitude while I am hiking, but I had fun today greeting the different people I met.  There were young couples holding hands – no doubt looking for a quiet place to cuddle and parents with their little ones discovering sticks and rocks.  I was happy and then….a group of young people were walking toward me on the path.  I immediately noticed they were not prepared for the muddy, slippery path because they were wearing flip flops.  I decided to let them have the smooth path on the trail and walked to my left into a little muddy, squishy part.  As I passed them we exchanged greetings and then it hit me.  The wall of smell.  B.O.  The smell is not like any other.  I was cringing and struggled to find clean air even yards down the path.  Then it HIT ME AGAIN.  I was going to be hiking the AT.  There are no regular showers on the AT.  This smell is probably going to be on me and I will be offensive!  I laughed to myself realizing that everyone on the AT probably has a little or a lot of B.O. and I better get used to it now!  The people I met on the trail today probably weren’t wearing layers or were not prepared for the very warm weather we were having and dressed to warmly and well, they were sweating!   I am going to be immune to the smell of my own sweat, so please, if you see me, if I stink, please tell me so I can do something about it!

Sometimes when you are walking a path that many people use, you see very unusual things.  This hike was no different as I came upon a woman waving her hands and swaying to and fro.  Obviously concerned, I cautiously approached and discovered she was twirling a hula hoop in her right hand while spinning a hula hoop on her hips!  What??  On the trail, creekside, she was just doing her thing.  Enjoying the beauty of it all while hula hooping.  I couldn’t resist and asked her if I could take her picture.  She was happy to pose for me.  It is hard to see, but she does have the hula hoop around her hips!Hula Hoop Girl - Amherst State Park

There wasn’t much trail left so I sat on a rock and shared a couple doritos I had in my pack with a little chipmunk.  He stuffed the little tiny pieces into his cheeks and ran off and came back.  He’s done this before!  I thought I could feed him from my hand if I was so inclined, but I was not.Trail at Amherst State Park

I was sad to leave the trailhead and walk to my car.  The sun was fading fast and I knew I should go home, but I just wish I could walk in the woods a little longer.  Tomorrow is another day!

It’s not a good hike unless you get dirty!

My boots have been broken in!  My tall, fancy work boots that is!   I found a new favorite hiking area called Tillman Wildlife Management Area.  The day I found the park was rainy and windy.

I wasn’t wearing my hiking boots.  I was wearing my work clothes! My hiking clothes and boots were left at home in a pile that I was supposed to grab on my way out the door in the morning, but I wasn’t going to NOT go hiking!  So, off I went.  I found Tillman Road, but I wasn’t sure where to park.  I pulled into a what looked like a parking area, but found a State Trooper instead!  He must have thought I was crazy when I approached his vehicle wearing a long skirt, tall boots and light rain jacket.  I asked him where the parking was for the walking trails and he looked throughly amused.  After making my way to parking area the Trooper told me about, I quickly put my hood up and made my way to the trailhead.

Of course I was looking for a geocache while hiking, so I did have a goal.  I slopped through the mud and wished I had wipers for my glasses!  The trail was actually quite beautiful in the rain and I was smiling like a fool when I ran into a man dressed in full rain gear walking his dog.  He said hello and warned me that boardwalk was very slippery.  I thanked him and continued on, watching my step.   I can’t imagine what he thought of a woman in a long skirt out in the rain!  The geocache wasn’t too difficult to find, but I did have to walk in INCHES of water!  I can’t believe my tall, fancy boots kept the water out!  I was fully expecting my feet to be soaked, but they weren’t!

As I made my way back to the main trail I came across some teenagers running in shorts and I am guessing it was their mom I said to hello to, not far behind them.  I slipped a little on an incline, but kept my body upright, thankfully!  Approaching the parking lot I saw the State Trooper truck and the Trooper stuck his head out the window and said, “I wanted to make sure you came out of there okay!”  I laughed and said, I was throughly wet, but I still have a smile on my face!  We laughed and went on our way.

There is something to be said about walking in the rain.  Now I only walked for about a half an hour, but it was refreshing.  It might have been cleansing if I didn’t have MUD up my boots and all around the edges of my skirt!  Still, I’m glad I didn’t let it stop me.  It won’t be able to stop me on the AT either.  Go hike!  Here are a few pictures of Tillman on a nicer day when I was there hiking.IMG_20151102_171410453IMG_20151101_130848641IMG_20151101_130905720

IMG_20151102_164246952My favorite!

New Boots and Panama Rocks!

Well, hello to another day!  My best friend, Linda has got me out hiking more by introducing me to Geocaching.  If you don’t know what that is, please look at the geocaching.com website and check it out.  It is good family fun, works your brain and gets you outside!

I met a wonderful woman on my recent Wild Woman Weekend, Shelly. She is as outdoors as you can get.  I love that she is giving me many good lessons about backpacking and hiking.  Shelly looks me in the eyes and tells me like it is!  I need a woman like her in my life!  She even told me her BEAR story!!!  I hope to never, ever meet a bear unless it is so far away it is a blob and maybe not even then.

Shelly went with me to EMS to shop for a new pair of boots.  It was very educational and no less entertaining with my friend Shelly with me.  My current boots really hurt my ankles after wearing them for just a few hours.  They are very heavy as well.  I know I need good support, I want a boot that goes over my ankle and I would like a lightweight boot. EMS had a good selection and I tried on every single pair of boots they had.  The Keen Mid WP boots were my final selection.  I wore them for a couple hours at work the next day and felt fine.  Then I wore them on a short hike around the Joe Panza trail.  Slowly breaking them in and getting my feet used to real boots.

 

Since I last wrote I have been hiking a couple different places, Letchworth State Park, Chestnut Ridge Park and other local parks mainly.  My main mission is to wear my day pack with a little weight and just put one foot in front of the other.  I really enjoyed hiking with my mom at Letchworth State Park.  We had to go off trail to find a geocache and my mom was a trooper!  She climbed a hill, slid on her butt down the hill (only about 3 feet but, STILL!) and smiled and laughed all the way through it.  My mom is 69 going on 25.  She loves nature and outdoors, but we never did anything like this together before and it was amazing.  I’m so glad we did that together.   Here is a picture of my beautiful mother on our hike!
IMG_20151012_144503304This past weekend I went to Panama, New York and visited the Panama Rocks Park with the Buffalo Outdoor Meetup Group.  What a spectacular geological rock formation!  It is so interesting to learn how the earth moved and made these HUGE rocks pile on top of each other so many years ago!  It was really amazing!  Panama Rocks has been a park since 1885.  So amazing cool treeIt was fun to climb up on the rocks for a while, until I realized I wasn’t as young as I used to be.  I didn’t want to be airlifted out of there!  It did make me think of the Appalachian Trail and I wondered if I would encounter anything like this on the Trail.

Me and my BFF Tight quarters Happy three muskateersThe Three Musketeers.

If you live nearby, you should really check it out.  We drove 90 minutes to see it and it was worth it!

Oh, and here is a picture of my new boots!IMG_20151024_134124306  Happy Hiking!

Wild Women Weekend

IMG_20151002_111836798This past weekend I enjoyed the friendship of nearly 100 women.  We all converged upon Grand Island, NY to attend the Wild Women Weekend.  The Weekend offers women the opportunity to try new activities under the watchful eye of trained leaders. Some of the workshops were ziplining, horseback riding, zentangle, archery, tapping into your intuition, embracing your feminine power, self defense, walking in nature, foraging for wild edibles, tai chi, skeet shooting and others.

My workshops were horseback riding, archery, walking in nature and foraging.  I won’t bore you or me with lack luster details of Friday, except to say I was with my girlfriends in a log cabin at a beautiful campground.  We had a campfire, drinks, laughs and just a really great time getting to know each other.

Saturday started very early with me waking at 6:30 am.  Horseback riding was first on my agenda.  Breakfast was in the opposite direction, so I gave my breakfast coupon to my friend and went straight to the stables.  There were about 15 women in our morning ride.  Lucy the white mare was assigned to carry me around the trails for 45 minutes of joy!  Well, Lucy was a follower.  Much like myself.  If the horse in front of me was trotting, so was Lucy.  If the horse in front of me stopped for a bite of grass, so did Lucy.  Luckily, that meant she didn’t wander or do anything to scare me.  She was a solid, happy girl.  I’m glad I went, but my thighs and legs are still sore!

Lucy is a good girl.
Lucy is a good girl.

My next adventure was archery.  Cabela’s sponsored this workshop and provided two people to train us ladies on how to properly shoot a crossbow and recurve bow.  I started by shooting the recurve bow.  The young man in charged patiently showed me how to hold my hands, how far to pull it back and guided my aim.  I hit the wood behind the target, the wood next to the target and finally, the TARGET!  After a few more shots I finally shot the middle of the target!  It was a lot of fun and I would love to do that again!  The crossbow was scary to me.  It seemed too powerful and dangerous.  I just wasn’t sure about it.  Then I remembered what this weekend was all about – trying new things!  The young lady in charge showed me how to prime the bow with all the strings and clips.  I’m sure I am not using the correct terms for these things.  Anyway, she encouraged me to look through the scope, aim for the target and when I was comfortable and ready to put my finger on the trigger and shoot.  Well, I hit the target, EXACTLY where I was aiming!  I was stunned how powerful I felt!  What a great experience!

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Recurve Bow
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Crossbow

My last two workshops were more subdued, but thoroughly educational.  I walked in nature and learned about foraging.  While walking in nature we identified plants, flowers, trees and wildlife.  We walked on a trail into the woods and it was very peaceful.  The Naturalist was very knowledgeable and patient with all our questions.  I’ll never forget what a New England Aster looks like or a Dogwood shrub (Ruff rrrruuffff) or Buck Thorn tree.  The foraging workshop taught me the many types of plants and trees that we can eat and are easily (or not) found in the wild.  Dandelion, plantain, wood sorrel, to name just a few.  I even chewed on fir tree needles.  They gave me fresh breath!  It was like tasting Christmas!

On my nature walk. It was 50 degrees and sprinkling.
On my nature walk. It was 50 degrees and sprinkling.

The overwhelmingly best part of the entire weekend was meeting like minded women.  Women who enjoyed the outdoors, nature and adventure just as much as I do!  I met some great new friends.

Stronger than that.

This past weekend I attended a Geocache event with my bff MsBirder at Letchworth State Park.  I am not a geocacher, she is.  She told me that there would be hiking and exploring new areas of the Park that we have never seen and I would enjoy it.  After a bit more convincing I decided to tag along with her.

If you don’t know what Geocaching is, please go to Geocaching.com and explore the site and try it!  It really is a lot of fun to walk around in circles, putting your hands in places you can’t see into and sometimes you even find something really cool.

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Before the wet butt. Me in the middle.

We started the day off meeting new people and MsBirder received a lesson on how her new Garmin works.  MsBirder’s friend, Terry, hooked up with us and we drove to the first cache in Terry’s car.  I realized I left behind my hiking poles in MsBirder’s car and wasn’t too worried, but then we arrived at the creek.

The cache was across a little stream.  We walked across just fine, found the cache and started back over the creek.  That is where my real adventure began.  Yup, I fell in.  In the deepest part.  I was wet, very, very wet.  Luckily, the only thing bruised was my ego.  I’m not one to go lightly on the dramatics, so immediately I told MsBirder I wanted to go home.  I was huffy and puffy and even I didn’t think I was very mature.  MsBirder and Terry worked out a plan that I could drive MsBirder’s car home and Terry would bring her home later OR I could use the change of clothes MsBirder had in the car and carry on.

I wanted to go home.  I was wet and miserable.  I was angry at myself for forgetting my poles in MsBirder’s car, I was angry that I wasn’t more careful and frankly, I was embarrassed.

We got in the car and headed back to MsBirder’s car, all the while they were asking me over and over and over if I had a change of heart.  They wanted me to stay and stick it out, at least through lunch.

On the short car ride to the parking lot, I mulled it over and over in my head.  Why did I want to go home when an option to stay is there?  What would I do if I fell into a creek on the Appalachian Trail while 1000’s of miles from home?  I couldn’t just get in my car and pout and go home.  If I want to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, I’m going to have to learn how to adapt to my situation and muddle through it and make the best out of my circumstances.  Also, MsBirder is my bff, I can’t let her down!  I am a strong, wild woman!

“FINE!  I”ll stay!”  Wow, they were so excited!  MsBirder has known me a long time, so she was skeptical that I meant it.  But, I changed into dry pants and socks (luckily that was all I needed) and had lunch and participated in the rest of the event.  Every time I thought that “this cache will be the last for today” MsBirder put on a pout and sweetly explained “but the next cache is only .25 miles away…”  How could I say no?  That is not what a bff does.  MsBirder and I went on to have a “big day” or something like that.  I think we found 6 different kinds of caches.  I think I may be a Geocacher now!

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We found a skull on our search for one of the caches! If you know what it might be, let me know!
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Our last cache of the day! Notice the difference in my appearance from the photo in the beginning to this one here! It was a LONG day!

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I will say, I am so glad I stuck it out.  After the event, Terry even said she would have gone home if it had happened to her!  There is something inside of me that is strong, stubborn and powerful.  My —- “of course you failed, you always fail” way of thinking has got to stop.  I subconsciously started this day imagining going home early.  I had a reason to go home early.  I didn’t.  I’m stronger than that!