Weather – Whether it be nice weather or bad weather, it’s nice to be out in the weather.

Oh man, I kind of got carried away with the title of this post.  The weather in Western New York is so strange!  First it’s several feet of snow, then it melts and causes flooding, then it freezes and more snow falls!  It is wonderful to live in an area of the world that you can feel and experience all four seasons, sometimes all in the same week.

My adventures in training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail continues. Recently my friend Shelly (livingonthedirt.com) and I hiked in Hunter’s Creek Park. It’s a favorite park of mine and I have written about it a few times now.  There is a Northern section of the park that I have never visited and on this occasion, Shelly and I decided to discover it!

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Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com and some out of shape hiker trying to catch up!
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Started out wearing my puffy coat. After about a quarter mile I stowed it away.
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Ice and snow on the boardwalk trail made for slippery conditions.

It was a warmer day and there was a lot of snowmelt which made for some sloppy trails.  I wore my trusty micro spikes as the some of the trail was also snow or ice covered.  When the trail wasn’t icy it was muddy and the mud accumulated in my spikes and made my feet weigh 5 pounds each.  We hiked some orange trail and a blue loop then back to the orange.  Since we didn’t have a map, Shelly had the foresight and experience to know to take a picture of the map at the trail head.  We consulted the picture a couple times, more to just ease my mind that we were going in the right direction.  I’m still practicing my sense of direction.

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The Conservation Trail.  We can go to Canada or Pennsylvania on this trail!

The orange trail is also called the Conservation Trail.  The Conservation Trail is a footpath which begins at the Pennsylvania border in Allegany State Park and extends northward about 177 miles to meet the Bruce Trail in Canada.  I totally just ripped that last sentence off from the website.  Check it out at:  http://www.foothillstrailclub.org/trail.html.

Another nearby trail I visit frequently is the Joe Panza Trail in the Alden Town Park. On my most recent visit I was joined by my bff, Linda, my son – Carl and his girlfriend, Amanda.  It was a beautiful, warm winter’s day and we all decided to take a walk before dusk on the trail.  The warm weather caused the recent snowfall to melt and the creek along the trail was completed flooded.  Places we walked in the summer were impassable.  What a neat sight to see.

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Excellent hiking companions!
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This used to be a little creek!
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We did some geocaching!
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And we did some bushwhacking aka peeing in the woods.

I visited Canton, Ohio in early February.  It was Super Bowl weekend and it’s an annual tradition to meet at our friend’s house and party all weekend!  There’s a bunch of us that attend and this year was a blast.  The weather was unseasonably warm, so, of course I had to go outside!  I found a pretty park in nearby Hartville, Ohio called Quail Hollow State Park.  There were very nice nature trails here.  The trail I chose on Saturday morning was only about 1 mile or so.  My friends came with me, so it was a nice leisurely pace.

The teenager was lured to hike with the promise of Starbucks!
The teenager was lured to hike with the promise of Starbucks!
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I love the light at the end of the tunnel!

I ventured out again to the same park on Saturday afternoon with my husband.  His back had been hurting him, so we didn’t walk long.  Dave and I did go to another walking path Sunday morning.  This path was paved and meandered through the woods along a subdivision.  Not my ideal nature walk, but it was nice.  My feet did not like walking on the paved trail and began to hurt.  I also think the fact that I did A LOT of drinking the night before made me dehydrated and my feet were swollen!  If you want to play, you have to pay!   It was still great to be outdoors.

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I love this sign!
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Oooo, my legs look so long and skinny! I was trying to take a picture of the ice on the trail.

This weekend I have two hikes planned, one in a new park and the other is in a park I used to go to all the time to bird watch.  I also have to make a big decision on whether or not to participate in a 100 mile hike on the Finger Lakes Trail.  It’s broken up into 8 long hikes or 16 short hikes.  I’d like to do the longer hikes, but I am so nervous about hiking 10 or MORE miles in one day!  Hard to imagine when you sit on your butt all day at work!  We shall see!  Stay tuned!

 

 

Testing, testing, testing.

It was 24 degrees when I left the house early Saturday morning and it was 21 degrees when I arrived at Sgt. Mark A. Rademacher Memorial Park aka Hunter’s Creek Park. Hunter’s Creek Park was a favorite place of Mark Rademacher. Sgt. Rademacher, a Wales, NY resident, died in the Grenada Invasion in 1983 at the age of 20.  I didn’t know the man, but I’m glad he was recognized in this way.  There is a trail blazed with a Chevron that is named after him, too.

I had hiked this park five months ago with my nephew, Matthew.  It was summer then.  A sunny, warm day.  Today was sunny, but the temperature was anything but warm.  I hadn’t worn my boots in the snow for an extended period of time and I hadn’t had a chance yet to try out my new spikes.  I bought a new puffy coat, too.  I wasn’t convinced this lightweight, thin puffy would keep me warm on such a cold day.  Today was the day of testing! Testing my boots, testing my spikes, testing my new puffy and testing my stamina on a long hike in the cold.

My best friend, Linda hiked with me again today.  She’s been a big supporter of my crazy idea to hike the Appalachian Trail and always encourages me to get outside and practice.

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Linda, putting her head in places only a Geocacher would.

Of course, since I was hiking with Linda, there was some geocaching to be done!  We found a total of four caches in the park that was filled with approximately 50!  We had to give up on a few we were looking for due to the snow covering EVERYTHING! The few that we found were fun.

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She left a “Travel Bug” in this one.

 

Hunter’s Creek land formerly belonged to the Kellogg family.  There are ruins of their cabin that I had not seen on earlier hikes.  I was excited to finally see what was left.  A stone chimney and the foundation.  Not much!

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Kellogg Cabin site.

On the previous hike through here with Matthew there was neat little bridge we bounced across.  This bridge was now covered in ice and snow.  Linda walked across it very slowly and I waited until she was completely off the bridge before starting over. The little bridge creaked and it lacked the fun bounce it had in the summer.  My boots hit the bridge and my micro spikes gave me great traction.  I never worried once about slipping.  The difference in wearing the spikes was incredible.  I won’t be caught on a winter hike without them from now on!

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Winter bridge.
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Summer bridge, opposite direction.

 

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Trusty micro spikes fit my boots perfectly like REI said they would!  What a great invention!

Hunter’s Creek offers a number of trails to hike.  They often intersect and sometimes, merge for a distance.  If you don’t know what you are doing, you could get very confused and become turned around.  This would never happen to us.  HA!  I said that as long as we see a blaze, we know we are in the park and we are not lost.  HA!  HA! HA! We followed a red trail, a pink trail, a double pink trail, a blue trail, a chevron trail, a green trail with one dot, and a green trail with three dots. There may have been others.  Apparently the number of dots and whether the color is a circle or a rectangle mean different things.  APPARENTLY, I need to brush up on my map reading skills!

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Yes!  There is a yellow blaze!
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Uh, where’s the blaze??

We came to an intersection of trails and decided to follow the pink trail heading towards where we came in the park off the parking lot.  I almost had to (gulp) get out my compass.  Alas, Linda used her phone and pulled up the geocache we had found earlier that was just off the parking lot and we followed the directions back to it.  See, geocaching while hiking is helpful!

So, my day of testing went well!  I tested my boots – Keen Durand Mid WP.  My feet were warm, dry and felt great all day.  We probably hiked well over 5 miles.  Next time I will remember to set my phone app to measure my distance.   My micro spikes worked amazingly well.  Easy to slip on over snow covered boots, stayed in place while hiking, and easy to peel off at the end of the day.  My new puffy coat passed the test.  I bought the puffy for $49.00 at Macy’s, that’s right, $49.00! It has a down fill of 650, kept me toasty warm and I loved that I wasn’t wearing a bulky coat.  I was able to maneuver and my pack fit great over it.  The workmanship quality of this coat lacks a little.  The pockets don’t zipper and the hood had no string or cord to keep it in place.  I might want a higher down fill and better quality for the AT.  But, what a bargain!  As for my stamina on the hike; we hiked for about 4 hours.  I felt great the next day with no soreness; only a thirst for more!

And, I didn’t know it, but I was testing my sense of direction.  It sucks, I failed.  I will have to practice that and try to find a class on map and compass reading.

 

 

REI and D.C. Parks

Can you believe I live in a place that doesn’t have a nearby REI?  I have never been to an REI store, but while visiting my sister-in-law’s house near Washington, D.C. there was a store about 20 minutes away!  It didn’t take much convincing to have them take me for a visit!

My heart skipped a beat and my breathing quickened when we pulled into the parking lot.  I skipped to the store to be the first inside.  Upon entering the store I stopped dead.  My eyes taking in all the wonderful sights of outdoor EVERYTHING!  Snapping back to the task at hand was difficult!  My husband had been wanting some hiking boots for when he goes out with me and of course I couldn’t wait to look around and see what I could find!

First things, first.  I scoped out the different brands of boots for Dave and chose the Merrell Moab Waterproof Mid height boot.  He wasn’t sure he liked how they laced up, but he liked how comfortable they felt.  He tried on a few others, but those were ones that we took home.  He’s excited to wear them tailgating at Bills games next year.  What can I say….he has other priorities than I do.

Finishing with his purchase I moved on to my own!  I plan to do more winter hiking and need some micro spikes.  A helpful REI representative helped me find what I needed in no time and made sure they fit my boots – Keen Durango.  That was easy!  I continued to browse the store and tried on some Kuhl coats. They were a little out of my price range for now. I needed a new water resistant pair of gloves and they had a large selection that made me very happy! I picked out my favorite and browsed my way to the register. My brother-in-law is a member so we were able to get the member price or he got the points or however that works.  I was shocked that I didn’t buy more things, but then again my hubby was with me to control my spending!

My brother-in-law, Wayne, knows a lot of neat parks and places to visit around D.C. so we spent some time exploring!  We visited the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  It was close to dusk when we arrived so I only had a short walk about.  There was a neat trail called the Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling Conservation Heritage Trail.  It was a short loop and every few yards there was a board with names and short biographies of famous conservationists. I learned a lot and said a silent thank you to each one.

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Me and the lake. It was misty over the water and so beautiful. My camera phone didn’t quite capture the true beauty.

Another park we visited was the Lake Artemesia in Prince George’s County.  It is a man-made lake that was created when they were building the metro rail.  The park was named after Artemesia N. Drefs, who donated the land back in 1972.  We had fun walking around the lake and Wayne taught me to identify two seed pods from two trees – the cottonwood tree and the black gum tree.

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The cottonwood pod are the nice round ones and the black gum is the spiky one.

We saw a beautiful white swan flying overhead and many other water birds.  The park seemed to be well used by dog walkers, bikers, fishermen, and hikers.

The last place we visited before heading home was the National Arboretum.  I didn’t even know this existed!  They have a field of state trees, the biggest herb garden that is meticulously labeled, a bonsai museum and the old columns from the Capital.  When the Capital
was remodeled they removed the old columns in the front and placed them on a hill in the Arboretum.  It is quite the sight to see!

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It looks spooky and curious!

Walking through the herb garden was very interesting.

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Obviously, I lifted this picture from their website.  The gardens are not this lush this time of year! http://www.usna.usda.gov/Gardens/collections/herb.html# 
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I was imagining being a little tiny person walking on the gravel path and then sitting under these trees!

All in all a GREAT visit to D.C.!  Thanks for traveling with me!

Patient Wild Woman

Patience, patience, patience.

Patience My weekends since the holiday began have been busy with baking, family time and all those wonderful INDOOR things.  Now, the next few weekends are full of visiting with family and friends.  Don’t get me wrong, I will still hike out on the weekend mornings.  Someplace close by, easy and quick (aka – been there, done that).

I once heard that the secret to being patient is doing something else in the meantime, so I took my family out for a one mile jaunt the other day.  My hubby had a sore back or I would have pushed for more mileage.  Here is our family photo.  I need a selfie stick and dogs that know how to pose for photos .

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My long hike on the AT is a few years away, so I am concentrating on getting outside for shorter hikes.  I’m finding it harder to go.  Why?  I know why.  It’s winter, it’s cold, I’m bored.  The short hikes are nice, but I want longer ones!  I want to set up my tent!  I want to cook over my pocket rocket.  I wanna go backpacking in the woods!  Wahhhh!  Okay, that’s out of my system.

This Christmas I received a set of Frogg Toggs rain gear.  Pink jacket, black pants. Love it.  Will I take it with me in 2020 on The Trail?  I dunno.  Maybe? I also received a titanium spork.  Will I take it with me?  Probably. Dunno.  My brother gave me a cute hiker girl ornament for my tree.  I don’t think she’ll make the gear list.

It’s not easy for me to be patient.  Especially when I see others readying their packs for the 2016 thru-hike. (Shout out to my friend, travelshell!) I know it’s not my time yet.  I have a plan.  There are so many places I want to hike first.  So much more experience I need before undertaking such a feat.

So, here I am, cheering all you 2016 thru-hikers on to Maine or Georgia (whichever way to want to go.)  I’ll bring out my notebook, studiously taking down all the how-to’s and do-not-do’s.  I’ll put all your knowledge to work on my thru-hike in 2020.

Chasing Waterfalls

I hadn’t worn my boots in over a week.  It’s funny how I began to miss them!  My name was sitting on a “waitlist” for a hike to chase waterfalls in a nearby State Park.  I checked my phone for alerts every half hour hoping my name would be put on the “confirmed” list.  I woke up at 7:00 a.m. the day of the hike and saw that I was finally confirmed.  Enough people had backed out, clearing a spot for me!  Jumping out of bed and scaring the dogs, I hurried to shower and pack my backpack.

The December day was forecast to be in the 60’s and nice.  I was looking forward to being outside and among friends on the trail. Stepping outside it was foggy, damp and dreary – it did not look promising.  Driving to the park it began to sprinkle.  It still felt more like an April day than a December day, so I carried on.

The group was beginning to assemble at the meeting point and it started to rain harder.  People were changing their RSVPs to No every couple minutes and before we knew it, we had only 14 people instead of 25.  The rain was putting sour faces on most of us, but no one backed out.  We all hoped it would stop soon and lucky for us it did.

Fog was still settled below.
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We were chasing down a number of waterfalls in the park and since there hadn’t been much rain, except for the little that fell early in the morning, the waterfalls were only trickling.

Our leader, Chuck took us past interesting old ruins of park infrastructure.  IMG_20151213_094706730The park was built in the 30’s and many of the old stone incinerators and mysterious buildings remain.  A few took us a minute to figure out what they might have been used for.  I still don’t know what this large dog house building would be.  It had no floor – only mud, trash and a large pipe running through it.IMG_20151213_101037986

 

 

 

We eventually chased down a few waterfalls. Not very exciting this time of year with no water rushing over them, but beautiful, just the same.

Just a trickle.                       I swear there is a waterfall here.IMG_20151213_115515109

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IMG_20151213_093813748Chuck said this one wasn’t on his list, but it was flowing better than any of the other waterfalls!

 

 

There’s a teeny tiny waterfall in the middle of this picture.  It didn’t make Chuck’s list either.

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This hike felt different to me than any other so far.  I was talking to everyone, breathing easily and having so much fun.  My feet were even smiling in my boots!  There were a couple of challenging, steep inclines and I was glad I brought my hiking poles.  They sure do come in handy.  Chuck had us walking in the creek bed in order to view another waterfall.  The creek bed was SLIPPERY!  Those poles saved me from getting wet!  So did Ali – my happy Drill Sargent was there lending a supportive hand and motivational words whenever I needed it!

At the edge of the park there was a marker engraved with the name, Cliford Robert Pettis, State Forester.  Of course, I had to “Google” his name!  Turns out he was named the “Father of Reforestation” and was the New York State Forest Superintendent from 1910-1927. Seems this man was responsible for the planting of 20,000,000 trees in New York State.  Here is a website if you want to learn more: https://localwiki.org/hsl/Clifford_R._Pettis.

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Nearing the end of the hike we were climbing and climbing.  My heart was beating out of my chest!  My face was RED!  I reminded myself that this is why I am in training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  As long as I am still breathing I will get through it!  I concentrated on my slow even breathing and setting small little goals.  For example on one steep section of trail I concentrated on different shape rocks ahead of me and told myself to get to that one rock, then the next rock, then the next weird looking root, then the next bright leaf in trail.  Sometimes these goals were only 2 feet apart, but it worked!

Luckily the last steep climb landed us right at the parking lot near our cars.  I quickly caught my breath and we said our farewells.  My muddy boots and poles needed a little TLC.IMG_20151213_120944591

“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!

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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!

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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.

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!