“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!


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


There were so many stunning pictures!


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.

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


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!

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!

Stand Still and Use Your Inner Compass

Slowly, ever so slowly I am making plans in my head.  Some might call my plans dreams.  Well, so be it.  As always I’ve come to a stand still in my training.  It is a predictable predicament.  In the past I have made goals, announced my intentions and them – BAM – I freeze into pillar of stone with a head full of doubt and a feeling of failure.

I dig deep into my brain to understand
why when I set a goal, start towards it I drift away of the very thing I so desperately desire.

Learning to forgive myself for my lateral throws that get me nowhere is a personal goal.  It seems like progress, but we all know it’s just fluff.  I’m sidestepping to avoidfootball the hard stuff.  Or am I?

Reading articles of the successes and failures of others that have/had the same goal as I do,thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, prepares my mind, gets my adrenaline flowing and makes my mouth water for the taste of trying!  I examine articles and webpages to research the purchase of proper gear.  It is quite to fun to shop for the gear I will require to hike this trail.  My recent purchases include: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, water purification system and (woohoo!) sock liners.

Owning the “big three” (pack, tent and sleeping bag) compasswas a goal that I accomplished.  That’s at least a first down if this were a football game.  Now I need a touch down.  I won’t forget my compass.  I just need to stand still a second, look at my compass and it will point me the way to success.  Trailchaser2020, I forgive you for these so called lateral throws.  It keeps the game interesting.

Another day, another chance to keep walking.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015.  At work today the glorious sun beaming through the window panes lured me outside to eat lunch.  Today was the day “I start” walking during my lunch time.

Entering the concrete and brick picnic area outside my office I hatched my plan.  After gobbling down a healthy cold slice of pizza and washing it down with a protein shake I would walk 1 mile.  Grabbing my lunch bag, weighed down with a bottle of water and my latest reading material, I set out.

With the pizza churning into a nice dough ball in my stomach I walked briskly toward Main Street out of the courtyard of the brick office building where I worked.  The smell of freshly spread blacktop sealer seared my nose.  I patiently waited at the busy corner of Main St. and Harlem Road for the light to change to begin my latest adventure.  Walking across this intersection every day is taking my life into my own hands as cars whiz by without regard to pedestrian right of way.  Making it safely across I wished I had remembered to bring my walking shoes to work.  Walking in high-heeled sandals was a challenge, but I looked good.  I think.

I walked past a florist, three restaurants, a gas station and a drug store then found a quiet dead end street that I immediately knew was today’s walking path.  The street was residential with craftsman homes that all had neat, tidy yards.  I could hear birds singing and spied children coloring with chalk on the sidewalk across the street.  This neighborhood was idyllic and charming.

Unfortunately, I suddenly realized in my eagerness to “start” I neglected to start my phone app that keeps my pace.  Not losing stride I quickly started it up and chugged along.  My left foot had a funny twang that I disregarded to the fact that high-heeled sandals are not walking shoes.   As I came to the dead end of the street I realized I had to turn around.  Yuck.  I don’t want to ever turnaround, so I walked up the other side of the street, reasoning that this was a new path since it was on the opposite side of the street.

Slowing my pace I enjoyed the gardens of the houses I passed.   gardenflowers

There was a house with two Adirondack chairs in the front yard, just calling out to weary travelers.  I wasn’t weary, so I carried on.  Main Street was ahead and along with it, loud bangs from a garbage truck, cars honking and weaving around the street.  My feet hit the concrete sidewalk hard and I wondered if any of the Appalachian Trail was on a sidewalk.  I hope not much, if any.

Carefully making my way back to work, I resisted the urge to stop at TWO ice cream shops and a chocolate shop.  Walking on the concrete and black top is not my ideal conditions and I knew what I had to.  Approaching my office building I walked around to the side and found a lush green patch of grass.

Not much, but it was enough.  greengrassoasis

I was tempted to pull my sandals off, but a bee lurking at a wild strawberry flower stopped me.  I felt the tickle of the grass on my ankles and toes and breathed in a deep, cleansing breath.  I checked my pace, figuring in my “lost” portion with the map.

My pace was 1.1 miles and I was so glad “I Started” walking during lunch today.

Somewhere. Sometime.

Somewhere, sometime.  You have to start.  July 20, 2015.  It was a Monday, of course, starting on a Monday is cliché, but like the saying goes….You have to start sometime; so Monday it was.

Somewhere was more meaningful.  Backyard? Park? Trail? Sidewalk?  In the end, leaving the house was the important part.  Escaping daily routine and distractions is easier said than done.  “Your goal is too big!” “You don’t know what you are getting into!” “I’m not fit enough.” “I don’t have enough money.” “You don’t have enough time.”  Thoughts and people’s opinions get in the way of starting somewhere and starting sometime.

Monday.  July 20, 2015 at the backdoor of my house.  I started.

Not knowing where it was leading I took my first steps, bounding down the stairs to the driveway and reaching the sidewalk.  I turned right and headed into the village.  It was a beautiful evening and I set my pace quickly.  As I walked, I smiled at everyone and no one.  My soul filled with the joy of “starting.”  My feet led me to a walking path.  Not very exciting.  Keeping positive I rounded the bend and saw it.  The Joe Panza Nature Trail.  joepanzaIt was pulling me to enter enticing me with the promise of cool shade and solitude.  I did not resist the pull and easily walked into the trail head framed by tall trees.

With no small goal in mind when “I started” I realized there were many choices on this trail.  Left, right, straight, turn around?   forkinthetrailI would never, ever turn around.

Right then and there I set a goal.  3.1 miles or otherwise known as a “5K.”  It seemed a realistic goal and checking my pace, I found out I was half way there already.

With new confidence I quickened my pace around the nature trail, walking out of the woods and around the walking path, out of the park and I wasn’t going home until I hit my mark.  The daylight was fading as I walked out of the park.  I needed more distance and hurried around the Fireman’s Park and put blinders on past the cupcake shop.  I realized I was still short of 3.1 miles.  Walking home a little more slowly, I passed St. Aidan’s church.  I remembered the labyrinth they maintain in their backyard.  That will do it!

I paused just briefly before entering the labyrinth, remembering my bigger goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I took the first little step and wound my way around the flowers and stones, breathing deeply as the meditative motion pulled me to the center.  The little red bench beckoned a short pause in my journey.  I pulled away from the center and wound out of the labyrinth making my way home.  The sidewalk was flat and easy to walk as I checked my pace.  3.2 miles.  I knew my bigger goal was possible because.   I Started.

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