Alone to Explore!

Ah, alone time.  As much as I love to hike with others, I love much more to hike alone.  There is something about the quiet solitude and keeping my own pace that I find very peaceful.

After leaving a detailed note for my napping hubby on where I would be I set off for Darien Lakes State Park.  My plan was to hike the Conservation Trail that runs through the park, turn around and hike back to the car.

It was windy, warm and a great day for being outside.  When I parked my car there were two other cars in the small lot at the trail head.  I didn’t anticipate seeing anyone though as this is a big park!  The trail started at the top of a gully and I could look down and see the creek that looked pretty dry. Don’t worry, I stayed away from the edge!

The Conservation Trail runs from Pennsylvania to Canada for about 177 miles.  The trail was built and is maintained by Foothills Trail Club of Western New York. The Conservation Trail is part of the Finger Lakes Trail System which extends eastward across New York State to the Catskills. I’ve hiked other sections of this trail in Hunter’s Creek Park and Akron Falls Park and others.  I was impressed by the trail markings here. You really can’t get lost on this trail!

This trail looked like a lot of people used it.  Or, so I thought.

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Yes, there is a trail here.   Or there usually is!  The grass is growing so fast the trail is almost obscured, but I could just barely make out the orange blaze on the tree at the far end of the picture!

Don’t worry I sprayed myself with Deet and checked myself for ticks after this hike!  I found one on my shirt sleeve.  Killed that sucker!

 

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Not long after that crazy overgrown section, a perfectly new, beautiful boardwalk appeared.  The dragonflies were bouncing off the ground ahead of me enjoying the sunshine even more than me!

Some of the trail was mucky and trail maintainers or other hikers had used large sticks and logs to try to cover the mud in the path.  It worked for the most part.  I don’t mind getting my boots muddy anyway.

 

After hiking a while I saw a blue trail blaze.  On the Appalachian Trail a “blue blaze” will take you to a shelter, water, vista, or other point of interest off of the “white blazed” Appalachian Trail.  Here, the Conservation Trail is “orange blazed” and this “blue blaze” led to a lean-to!

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Of course, I just had to check it out!  I figured it would add an extra mile to my hike, so I would do it on my way back.  I nearly sprinted to finish up getting to the trail head at the other end of the park because I wanted to go back to see this darn lean-to!

Here is a pretty photo of the trail at the opposite end from where I started.

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Doesn’t this look so incredibly inviting?  It pulls me in like a magnet.  

Those rocks lining the trail’s entrance are perfect. I imagine it could have been easy to just create the trail by clearing the way, but to add the rocks at the entrance to welcome you and make it beautiful just brightens my day.  Thank you to those people that lugged those rocks and put them in place for me to enjoy!

 

Okay, enough of that.  I hiked back to the blue blaze trail head to go to the lean-to and then for a horrified moment realized I left a note that explained I would be only on the Conservation Trail, not on a side trail.  In case something happened to me I would want someone to know where to find me.  I checked my cell service and realized I had service and could call for help if needed.  I was fine.  I should have sent my husband a text so he knew, but I didn’t.  I guess I figured the bloodhounds would find me.  Ugh, the things solo hikers worry about.

The half-mile blue blazed trail was not as well maintained as the Conservation Trail.  Probably not as well used, either.  It was mucky, but fun!  Here is what I found at the end!!! (Hint: I think if you click on a picture it will get bigger so you can see it better!)

Now I wish I had packed my overnight pack!  I could have been right at home here!  This lean-to was Justin Yaw’s Eagle Scout project on May 24, 2003, Troop 67, Corfu, NY!  How awesome is that!  This Eagle Scout is a man now, moved on to bigger and more important things I’m sure.  He has no idea that a crazy hiker lady just fell in love with his little lean-to he built back in 2003!

The wind was picking up and the sun was getting lower and I was getting hungry for dinner!  So, I picked up the pace and headed back to the car, but not before I heard a wild turkey, saw a chipmunk, squirrel and a bear.  Oh wait, no, there wasn’t a bear.  It was my imagination.  When you’re hiking alone, sometimes your head plays tricks on you!

It’s all good, keeps the heart pumping!

Until next time!  Hike on!

!*^% Snowshoes and Sunshine

What a beautiful weekend in Western New York!  The weather was warm and the sun was shining on all creation!  I was lucky enough to have both Saturday and Sunday planned for hiking!

Saturday morning I met my best friend, Linda and we drove to Bear Creek State Forest.

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Finger Lakes/North Country Trail

 

It is in or near Machias, New York.  We were meeting our Buffalo Day Hike Group and the Foothills Trail Club for a joint club snowshoe hike.  I’ve been on snowshoes maybe three times before and always had a good experience so I was excited.

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The snow is about a foot deep here.

 

As we were putting on our snowshoes, Linda noticed that one of her shoes was completely broken.  She wouldn’t be able to wear them.  We checked with the leaders, Chuck and Marty and they agreed that if she wore micro spikes and walked behind the group, she could participate.  Phew! It was a long drive to the trail head to not be able to hike!

Of course the hike started up a hill.  Hills are a challenge for me!  I have no stamina and I get out of breath quickly.  Now, add in that I am wearing snowshoes!  Yikes.  Well, we went slowly and stopped often as the rest of the group quickly hiked out of sight.  Determined to continue I pushed myself further than I thought I would.  The leader of Foothills Club, Marty, hiked back to check on us.  Linda made a point of telling Marty that I was training to hike the Appalachian Trail.  Marty looked at me cross eyed.  I can only imagine what he was thinking of my goal.  While he hiked with us for a little while, I told Marty I was thinking of joining the Cross County hike this summer.  He was very nice and told me to join the half-hike group.  It breaks the 96 miles into shorter hikes. I agreed that it would be a good place for me to start.  Our slow pace was now a crawl and we convinced Marty to go on ahead.

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I do not look happy.

Linda and I pushed up the hill (it felt like a mountain) and I tried to maintain a positive attitude.  About a half hour later, Marty joined us again he said it was only another half mile before the turn around point.  Right then and there I said we would turn around now.  Marty went ahead again and Linda and I were on our own going back down the hill.  We had walked up hill a mile and a quarter, now we had to go back down!  Our moods were elevated knowing that we were headed back to the car!  I just couldn’t wait to get my snowshoes off!  We were in the homestretch when Linda took a huge fall and twisted her ankle.  When she fell I was in front, I turned around and saw her looking like a human sled.

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Ooph! Poor Linda! I told her not to move until I got this picture!

Linda was a trooper and slowly started downhill again.  Suddenly she shouted that she heard voices coming.  I’d be damned if the group caught up to us!!  We high-tailed it the rest of the way and finally made it to the car.  On our way home, we, of course, stopped to find a geocache.  It was super cute!

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There’s a geocache hidden in this little outhouse!

Linda had x-rays on her ankle and it’s a bad sprain, but nothing is broken!

Sunday was another beautiful day for a hike.  It took everything I had to get out of bed. My legs were sore from using muscles snowshoeing that I don’t normally use hiking. The only thing that motivated me was knowing it would be a flat hike and there would be very little snow at Beaver Island State Park on Grand Island.

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Short loop trail that had a great viewing area for bird watching.

Chuck was again my leader for this hike and he razzed me a little about dropping out of yesterday’s hike.  I told him I wouldn’t abandon him this time!

We walked around Beaver Island State Park for 4.5 miles and some of the trail was icy and/or flooded.  My Keen boots kept my feet dry and warm!

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So much happier on this hike!

This hike didn’t have any falls, steep hills or snowshoes.  Woohoo!

I know I have to continue to challenge myself on my hikes and my endurance needs to grow to successfully hike the Appalachian Trail. I’ll get there.

Next step, register for the Finger Lakes Trail Cross County Half-hikes.