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.

IMG_20170224_171649
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!

IMG_20170224_171637
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!

IMG_20161231_093616
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.

no-exercise
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.

nailed-it-01-1024x589

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?

Mono-vision = Mind Blown

A few months ago I bought a pair of glasses.  I love getting new glasses, everything is so clear without all the scratches that somehow accumulate no matter how careful I am.  This time was no different.  I bought new, pretty frames and new lenses.  I wear bifocals, so the price was almost $500.  YIKES!  But, I’ve worn glasses for 40 years so the price was, well, the price I pay to be able to see!

Just a few short weeks after getting my pretty new glasses a terrible tragedy occurred.  I scratched them.  Not just a little scratch in the corner, but a big enough dent, smack dab in the middle of my line of sight.  This was not good!  I was so upset with myself.  I didn’t want to fork over another $500!  Nothing could be done to fix them.

I had HAD IT!  I picked up the phone and called Lasik Vision Institute.  Maybe they can fix my eyes, instead of me buying new glasses every year.  I didn’t think I was a candidate for eye surgery.  I wore glasses for 40 years, I wore bifocals, I had an astigmatism.  I made an appointment anyway.  Of course, I was prepared for them to tell me my eyes were too bad for this procedure, but I had to try!

I wasn’t even excited about the appointment.  I just knew they would say it wouldn’t work on me.  I went through the tests, one by one.  They kept putting me in the next room.  Another test, next room.  Another test, next room.  What’s going on?  Why aren’t they just giving me the bad news?

The only bad news they had for me was that my corneas were too thin for Lasik surgery, so they had to do the PRK surgery instead.  It had a longer recovery time, but it would have the same results.  I was SHOCKED! AND TERRIFIED!

Fast forward to the day of my surgery.  Saturday, September 24.  I was very emotional.  My mind kept racing imagining the worst outcome.  I could go blind if that laser slipped!  I was a nervous wreck.  Thankfully, I had the support of my friends and family that encouraged me to always be the best I can be.

Then, upon further exam by the doctor he informed me that my distance vision was such a small prescription that they recommended that it does not require surgery. WAIT, WHAT?  Yes, you read that right.  I had been wearing glasses for 40 years thinking I had horrible vision, when in fact, I was just shy of 20/20.  WHAT???  Of course, wearing my glasses gave me 20/15 or so in vision, but, WHAT?????

So, I practiced walking around the office wearing the big goggles with no prescription in my left eye and with my right eye corrected for near (because otherwise I would need “readers”).  I LOVED IT!  Not everyone tolerates “mono-vision.”  Some people get nauseous or vertigo.  I took to it right away!  It made me feel like Wonder Woman!

img_20160924_121709
Yes, the name tag is on upside down on purpose.  So the Dr. can read the information from above my head during surgery!

Knowing that my distance vision was going to be untouched was a HUGE relief to me. The view I have of the stars, moon, sky, etc will remain the same!  Only one eye needed surgery, so the recovery would be easier.

My husband loves to take photos of me in unflattering moments, so I amused him.

 

I was still nervous about the pain, but the only real pain I had was when I put the steroid drops in the first 3 or 4 times.  It felt like little razor blades were on my eyeball.  That pain only lasted a minute or two each time.

Here I am typing this article just a mere three days after surgery!  I can see!!  I’m cleared to drive!!  My vision is not exactly perfect, but I know it will be better in time.  The doctor says it may take up to three months to be completely acclimated to the mono-vision and for my eye to heal. And, I do look like the Terminator.  My right eye is blood shot and creepy looking!  I still have a contact lens bandage on my eye.

Now if I can just retrain myself to not keep trying to push up my non-existent glasses or look for them on the bedside table every morning, it would be all good!

I’m imagining myself hiking the Appalachian Trail in the rain and not worrying about how in the world I would dry my glasses when everything I own is soaking wet!  I don’t have to worry about losing my expensive glasses and oh yeah, my $500 prescription sunglasses!

After wearing glasses for over 40 years, I felt it was only fitting to have a proper memorial service at our local bar.  I made a cross out of a twist-tie I found in my pocket and we had a couple shots.  RIP, glasses!

img_20160926_184140

I feel so FREE!!!!

If you would like to learn more about the eye surgery I had here is the link to their website.

This click will change your life!

I AM NOT AFRAID! I AM NOT AFRAID!

Fabulous!  Excited!  Amazing!  ALIVE!

I have a Bucket List.  Do you?  If not, you should!  A Bucket List details things that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime.  Recently, I was able to check off a couple things on my Bucket List.

my-bucket-list

Well, I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone in baby steps.  It’s not easy for me to do things that I feel intimidated by.  I know, I know, I want to thru hike the Appalachian Trail…pretty intimidating.  So I have to start putting myself out there NOW.

One really fun thing I did off my Bucket List was participate in the Color Run.  A Color Run is a 5K non race.  Just my thing!  During the run/walk/skipping along the course there are “Color Zones” where a bunch of people throw different colored powder at you.  There’s an orange zone, pink zone, blue zone, purple zone, you get the drift.  By the end of the course you are covered head to toe in different colors.

Participating in the Color Run was a little intimidating for me.  I was afraid you had RUN or JOG the whole thing.  Heaven forbid!!  NOT TRUE!!!  The more I read other people’s experiences I was satisfied that I could just walk or skip or jog a tiny bit.  Unfortunately, the night before the race I was anxious.  I didn’t want to go alone.  I was ready to back out.  My registration was paid, I had my t-shirt and polka-dot socks, but I was NERVOUS!  My husband came to my rescue, like he often does, and when I asked him if he would join me on the course, he said he would.  He is such a trooper.  We both got thoroughly covered in different colors and we walked pretty much the entire way, but at the end we still got shiny silver medals and we weren’t the last ones across the finish line!

Another thing I really had to do was sleep outside in the woods all by myself. Since I was a little girl I’ve been afraid of the dark.  Now, I’ve outgrown being afraid while in the darkness of my house.  Mostly…but especially when my dogs or others are around.  When I am with others outside in the dark, easy; I’m not scared really at all.  If I am alone outside, with only a tent, how will I do?  Well, I survived!

I started out with a baby step.  I slept in my backyard!  Now, I have a very woodsy backyard.  Where I slept, I couldn’t see my house, but I could see my shed.  It was pitch black out.

img_20160818_204214
I know I heard something weird…

I knew my dogs and husband were only a few hundred feet away.  I knew I could easily walk back to my house in the dark.  I also had a headlamp and my phone so I had light.  Like I said, baby steps.  It was also a baby step for my husband.  He loves to worry!  He was pretty freaked out about me sleeping outside by myself.  It was good for both of us.  I slept okay and managed to not freak out more than twice from the weird noises.  When I woke up at 6 am, I walked to the house and slept another couple hours in my bed.

Just this past weekend I decided it was now or never to actually camp out in the woods away from home.  I convinced my husband to drop me off at a nearby trail head where I knew about 2 miles down the trail was a lean to.  We left late in the day so I wouldn’t be at the lean to bored out of my mind for too long before bed.

There was one car in the parking lot and as any worry wart would, my husband took a picture of their license plate.  As I hiked, the woods became darker and darker.  I forgot how it gets darker in the woods more quickly.

image

image

Whew.  I made it to the lean to and unpacked my gear.  I started a small fire in the fire ring, and I mean small.   

While settling in I realized the mosquitoes were going to kill me.  Even with repellent on.  There were mouse droppings in the lean to.  I felt exposed. And scared. And nervous. And worried. And And And!

So, in the dusk, I rapidly set up my tent.  I’m so glad it’s so easy! In less than 15 minutes I was snug as a bug inside my tent watching the fire die out.

image
I love looking at my little home away from home.

Somehow during my rush I butt dialed my mother.  When I realized it and put the phone to my ear and heard her beautiful voice it was like magic!  It was like I was cheating a little though.  I was supposed to be outside in the woods overnight by myself.  Well, my mother couldn’t do anything to protect me when she is just on the other end of the phone so we chatted for 10 minutes and she encouraged me and I felt so much more brave!

Inside my tent that night I could hear the nearby amusement park roller coaster and what I thought were the screams of the riders!  It’s crazy how sound travels.  Then I heard their fireworks at 9pm and then again at 10pm.  Then it was eerily silent.  Just the sounds of the forest around me.  The call of a barred owl, the miscellaneous insects and some weird licking sound?  Seriously??!!??  I heard a raccoon and YELLED at it!  It must have run off because I never heard it’s chittering sound again.  I kept hearing the “licking” sound, though.  Like my dog licking his paw over and over and over…ugh.  I have no idea what that was, and I don’t care.  I just turned Adele Radio on and drowned it out for 20 minutes.  It worked.  I fell asleep and dreamed.  I posted a 4 minute video at the end of this article if you want to know really how my night was and what my dream was about.  Just be kind; it was a no makeup kind of day.

image
I’m the green lantern.

My body clock finally woke me at my usual time just before the sunrise and gradually I could hear the forest waking up all around me.  The birds began their morning songs and I debated whether to hike for awhile or just head back to the trail head and have my husband pick me up.  I started my little stove and ate hot granola with blueberries.

img_20160905_065553
This was delicious.

As I walked around the trees while eating and breathing in the sweet morning air I felt exhilarated!  I made it through the night!  But, I wanted to go home.  I packed up and headed back.

img_20160905_072630

Baby steps.

Next time I will hike longer in, camp out and hike longer out.  All by myself.  Sigh.  Now to just do it.

A couple other small things I have checked off my Bucket List is making a little gnome home.  I did that at the base of one of the largest red oak trees in Erie County, which happens to be in my front yard.

image

The other thing checked off was that I had wanted my picture taken with Shark Girl.  She is a lot like me!  Quite a resemblance.  Especially the teeth!

img_20160903_140633

Also at Canalside in Buffalo was the world’s largest rubber duck. I didn’t realize that seeing it was on my bucket list until I heard about it.  But, how could you NOT go see the world’s LARGEST rubber ducky!  It was 6 stories tall and weighs about one ton!

img_20160826_223723

Next week on my bucket list is:  I get to meet Alison Arngrim.  She is the actress that played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie.  Can’t wait!

manyan

The week after that I have PRK eye surgery scheduled.  That will cross off another thing on my Bucket List!  No glasses for me on my thru hike!

Whew…that’s quite enough for now!

As promised here is the scary video!  Sorry about the vertical video.  I’m learning!

Checked off another one on the bucket list!  Add video to my blog!