Welp, I finally did it and then some.

I registered my thru-hike intention with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Conservancy asks people that hike the Appalachian Trail to register in order to better monitor the impact on the trail and its resources.  Sooooo, I did it!!!

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Yep.  My official start date will be March 22, 2020.  I wish I had the guts to start 2/20/2020.  That’s just a little to cold for me.  As it is March will be cold enough. So, there you have it folks.  Wow.  It’s like this will really happen!

BUT-WAIT-THERES-MORE

C’est fait.  E ‘fatto.  Esta hecho.  IT IS DONE!  Yes.  I quit my wonderful, well paying, comfortable JOB!

Now I will have more time to hike longer trails.  Woohoo!

Is this real life?

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So many emotions!  Am I crazy?  I’m going to climb mountains!!!  Did I do the right thing?  I will cross creeks, hike in the rain and get really smelly!!!!  Do I really think I can hike the whole thing?  I will be crawling on my hands and knees some parts of the trail!

Then I have people asking me all sorts of hard questions like:  Why don’t you wait until you retire?  Because, who knows how my knees will be by then!  What will you do for money?  My husband and I have been saving and planning for this.  How does your husband feel about you leaving him for six months?  He better be sad and miss me a lot!

All silliness aside, I don’t want to wait until I retire.  You never know what will happen tomorrow, so I want to do my living now.   I am forever grateful to my loving, supportive husband who works very hard for us.  He enjoys his job and supports me quitting mine to follow my lifelong dream.  I owe him – big time.  I also promised him I would be more frugal and keep my hike on budget.  Yes, he made a spreadsheet.

Oh no.  What am I feeling now????

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I’m NERVOUS. 

Nervousness is a whole bunch of emotions all trying to get out at the same time.  Fear, longing, concern, desire, doubt, and panic are a few emotions in my nervous packet.  You might have others in yours.  At the beginning of any solo hike I have a bout of the nervous jitters.  My knees feel wobbly, my hands sweat, my mouth goes dry and my breathing becomes faster.   This feeling stays with me for a quite a while into my hike.  While listening to the radio one morning I heard an interview of English actor, comedian, James Corden.  He does the carpool karaoke with famous people and he’s so funny!  This interview was about how he gets so nervous before performing that he sought professional help.  I am going to quote what he learned.  This is just copied from this cnn.com article: James Corden interview on CNN.

“This is a few years ago now, and then he taught me this thing that you’ve got to see nerves as a good thing. You’re only ever nervous when you want to do your best. You’re only ever nervous when something matters. So when nerves come, you’ve got to go, ‘Oh my God, this is great. I’m doing something that is important to me, and this is great that this thing has turned up to help me.’ ” James Corden.

So, I think I’ll be ready to apply this way of thinking on my next solo hike.  Maybe my knees will not be so wobbly and my hands won’t be sweaty.  It’s worth a shot!

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Learning Lessons

In my last article I wrote about being afraid while hiking alone.  The article was lighthearted and some called it cute and funny.  I tried to make light of being afraid while hiking alone.  Like my fears were not real.

Trust me. 

THEY ARE REAL. 

And those fears became even more real when Army Veteran Ron Sanchez was brutally murdered on the Appalachian Trail a few weeks ago.  I do not want to put the incident in my own words; you can google it.

I have read that Ron Sanchez was thru hiking the AT to seek healing from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  He had served three tours in Iraq.  People set out to thru hike the AT for different reasons.  Therefore, on the trail I expect to encounter people like Ron, who are hiking the trail to find inner peace.  On the trail I also predict I will encounter happy people, sad people, grumpy people, friendly people and yes, scary people.

Scary things can happen to you, me, and those we love – anywhere and at anytime.  Recently I was speaking with my nephew, Matthew, about scary things and what does he do to come to peace with it.  He said – when really bad things happen and I can’t do anything about it, I try to learn a lesson from it.

The lesson I learned is that I will be the friendly, cheerful, happy, kind person that others encounter on the trail.  I will be the person that others can trust.  I will “trust my gut” when I encounter suspicious people.  However, I will continue to solo hike.  I will also carry a Personal Locator Beacon in case of an emergency.

Most of all, I will not live in fear of the unknown.  I will not let scary things control me or discourage me from my thru hike in 2020.

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Ron Sanchez Trail Name “Stonghold” Rest in Peace

 

 

 

ALONE AND BRAVE

Oh, help me!  I read so many articles about hiking, but why, oh why, do I read the articles about hikers gone mysteriously missing, hikers shredded by mountain lions, hikers eaten by bears, hikers attacked by a machete wielding crazy person!  Oh, good grief, it gets in my head and stays there!

I’ve been so excited to work on completing my Allegany 18 challenge I woke up early on Sunday and drove the hour and a half to the park!  The park was so quiet.  At this time of year not many hardy souls venture out when the weather is iffy.  Do murderers?

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I headed to a short and sweet trail called Bear Springs.  BEAR!???!!!!???  Did that sign say BEAR???  Yes it did.  Well, psht, bears aren’t around trails, right.  Off I went. Out and back, easy peasy.  Well, it was a muddy trail and the trail stewards had been hard at work in the last few years building neat “board” walks to bypass the wettest areas.  I just love how unique each trail is.  This trail is very easy and highly recommended for old dogs with arthritis and husbands like mine.

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I found the marker on the tree for the challenge, raced up to the end of the trail and quickly made my way back to the car.  Look at me!  No make up, no hair products, completely au natural.  (Please don’t enlarge the photo.  I cannot be responsible for broken monitors.)  My mother always said I was a natural beauty.  I believe everything my mother says.

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I didn’t see any bears on “Bear” Spring trail, so I went next to Black Snake Mountain!  SNAKES!  I actually am not afraid of snakes.  Bring it!  Being brave and doing things that are uncomfortable are two things that I’m learning to be good at.  Black Snake Mountain Trail is 2.8 miles.  Sounds easy?  It’s Black Snake MOUNTAIN Trail.  But, yes, actually it was physically easy”ish” for me.  The not physical part where I remembered I was –ALONE!  ALL ALONE!  wasn’t as easy.

I tried to text my husband to let him know where I was, but I had NO SERVICE!  That’s okay;  my car’s at the trail head, so if I go missing, they’ll find my car.  WHY, WAS MY HEAD GOING “THERE”?  I shook it off and headed up the trail.

First thing I encounter?  A CREEPY SHED where a murderer could live!!

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I ran past that and picked up my pace.

This part of the trail goes up the mountain.  I took a lot of pictures because I stopped a lot to catch my breath.  AND to look behind me to make sure the murderer wasn’t following me.

The Allegany Challenge map indicated I would find a stone marker where I could be in two states at once.  I found it!

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One foot in Pennsylvania and one foot in New York.

For those few lovely moments I had forgotten about the murderer following me on the trail.

I was at the summit and realized I had cell service!  Quickly, I sent messages to my husband and best friend with a couple photos of where I was.  You know, in case of the murder.  Of course, I didn’t let on to them that I was afraid.  I felt like if I typed that out at that time, it would just make them worry more about me.  There were lots of birds singing – which is a good sign of nothing bad around.  I just kept telling myself that.  There at the summit was the marker I needed to prove I was here.  My phone will tell the story to the investigators when they find my body.

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At this point I reallllllly had to pee.  REEALLLYYYY bad!  So I peed in the woods.  I was buckling my pack and as all hikers should – I looked back at where I peed.  Guess what I saw??????  Not a murderer. Not a bear.  Not even a snake……

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MY PHONE!!!!!!!!

Of course it isn’t in the picture, because I used it to take the picture.  But, pfeeyoof!  I’m so glad I looked back to make sure I didn’t drop anything, because I DID! How could the detectives follow my trail if I lost my phone before I was murdered?

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Now, for some reason, I began to think of mountain lions.  WHY????  I didn’t even know if mountain lions lived where I was!  How could I not know this!  Seriously.  My brain went there.

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Not today, kitty.

I stood in the middle of the trail.  ALL ALONE.  ALONE and BRAVE!

So I sang a song.  “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. From my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.”  (Worth the click. It’s not me singing, don’t worry.)

Mountain lions do not like that song.  They must not, because I never saw one.

I did hear a dog bark.   Or was it a coyote?

There was no murder, no mauling, no investigation was necessary.  I made it back to my car in one piece.

What do we say to god of death?

Not today.

 

 

 

 

 

Distractions, Challenges and Gettin’ it DONE!

wedding CAThere was a major distraction in my life this past year.  My handsome son was married in September 2018!  My dining room became wedding central.  Two tables were full of centerpieces and every kind of wedding paraphernalia.  The wedding was beautiful!  Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that after the big day it takes a few weeks to recover.  Well, I took a few months.  Now I can get back to my agenda of training for the AT!

Last summer, before the big day, I took a couple of hiking trips to Kinzua Sky Walk, Kiasutha Recreation Area and Allegany State Park – among many other day hikes locally.

Click here for information on Kinzua Bridge State Park and the Sky Walk.

Kinzua Sky Walk is an old railroad bridge that was knocked down by a tornado.  They bolstered the remaining trestle and made a really, really cool walk way out of it.  I highly recommend walking the trail to view the bridge from below!  There is also a brand new education building with extremely interesting history of the bridge, the tornado and how the sky walk was built.

Click here for the visitor guide.

Kinzua State Park - Mount Jewett, PA Kinzua looking up

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Kiasutha Recreation Area was about 40 minutes from the Sky Walk but worth the ride.  I had the most peaceful campsite with a beautiful view (Tent site number 12) right next to the lake and just a minute walk to the sandy beach.  I highly recommend it!  It was a peaceful and beautiful place to camp out overnight.

Last year I also camped out at Allegany State Park.  I rented a cabin though because the campground was closed.  The cabin did not have heat or electricity.  I wasn’t there for the cabin though!

I’ve been to this park over a hundred times and I was able to see five new things that I never saw before!

Bear Caves, Thunder Rocks, Stone Tower, Quaker Lake, and Science Lake.

 

The park has a program called Allegany 18.  It is a challenge to hike all 18 original trails of Allegany State Park.  It totals about 70 miles.

Most trails average 5 miles or so.  You pay $20.00 for your packet which includes separate maps of each trail and a neon pencil.  As you walk each trail you come across yellow markers with the trail number, which you etch onto your map for proof you actually hiked the trail.  After hiking all 18 trails you can claim your neat water bottle and sticker!

Currently I’ve only hiked one trail, but I plan to complete them all by August.

My thru hike is only a year away now, so it’s time to get to business.  I hope to be writing about my challenges and adventures more often.  I’ll be headed back to the gym (!!!!) to get some muscle built.  Gyms are intimidating to me, so send positive thoughts that I get my big girl panties on and just DO IT!

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My faithful hiking partner is never far away, although sometimes she fades into the shadows.

 

 

Deeply Ever Burning

Quiet sleeping fierce desires
Slumbering solid ice
Above rapid flowing water
White soundless snow
Covering reaching roots
Resting bare branches
Whispering wishes of spring

 

Meditation and introspection during a long winter’s walk.

Cleaning your house

By cleaning your house, I actually mean the one that your soul lives in.  The physical body that your mother and father made for you.  The beautiful body that contains your thoughts, dreams, aches, and pains should be really cleaned out once or twice in your life.  Cleansed of negativity, cleansed of brain clutter, cleansed of – well, everything that makes the aches, pains and stress.  Now that it is winter, it is the perfect time to dig inside yourself, not just dig in the snow.  Dig inside yourself and shovel out that crap! (Figuratively and literally.)

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In my last article I talked about de-cluttering my home.  That is still a work in progress.  In the meantime, I’m taking three weeks this month to see what happens when I de-clutter the way I eat.   I tend to snack at night – on a big bowl of popcorn, or a few m-n-m’s.  I love to eat candy!  Chewy candy or caramels…yum!  So, needless to say, I gained a few pounds.  I’m not on any medicines, and I would like to keep it that way for the rest of my life!  So changes need to be made!

My friend introduced me to a wellness program called the Ultimate Reset .  Before I even read anything about it, I signed up.  Woah.  I panicked.  I spent money on health stuff.  That is not like me.  I must have a fever.   I took a deep breath and talked to my friend – shout out to Tabatha! She is a coach with Team Beachbody and a darn good one.  She always says the right thing to put me back on track and believe in myself.

This article isn’t to sell the program.  I don’t know enough about it to sell it.  The big thing that sold me on Ultimate Reset is that there is only light exercise involved.  If by some chance you want to know more, let me know and I can connect you to Tabatha.  These are just a few observations about my personal experiences during this process.

VERY, VERY simply, Ultimate Reset is a 21 day program where you gradually eliminate meat, dairy and sugar and all food that tastes good.  heheheh.  That’s not true.  At least that last part.  I’ve had great food and new foods!  Never had tempeh before this!  Or miso soup!  Actually, the Ultimate Reset says that it will “reset” my body’s inner workings and fine tune all my parts to make it strong and as healthy as possible. They name the three weeks: reclaim, release, restore.

Image result for week one imageRECLAIM!  I am reclaiming my body as my own.  I am reclaiming my health!  As I look back at week one it was challenging!  I had to spend a lot of money on food that I never knew existed (wakame seaweed, jicama, liquid aminos).  The meal prepping was mind boggling.  There were videos of other ladies drinking their “power greens” with their nose plugged because it smells so bad.  Doubts crept in.  The old familiar voice in my head started telling me I could never eat like this, I would never follow through, I was going to eat candy!  I didn’t feel like I was “reclaiming” anything!  Then.  Then, I spoke out loud to the voice in my head and told it to SHUT UP!  I reclaimed the voice in my head!

My fear of failure is still always there.  I set myself up for success this time by setting a lot of alarms on my phone. Reminding me to take the supplements on time, to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, an alarm to remind me to go to bed!  If I had to remember it, I set an alarm for it.

The recipes and almost all the food was delicious (miso soup is not my favorite).  I learned to substitute things (veggie broth for the miso soup) and was brave in trying new foods – tempeh and wakame seaweed.  I even made nori gomasio.

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Nori Gomasio
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Zucchini Cashew Soup

The instructions of this program are that you are only to do light exercise, like walking or yoga.  It was freezing outside so I took my sister and nephew on a wintery hike in the woods.  My sister had a chickadee eat out of her hand for the first time.  She is now the newest Disney princess!  She is a master bird whisperer.

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Image result for week two imageRELEASE!  Please release me!  Release week is when you take a “detox” supplement that should help you “release” – be it physical, mental, and/or spiritual.  Looking back at Release week I remember I was excited that I didn’t have to buy as many groceries!  I’m released from grocery shopping!  Wait….am I going to be hungry?  Why am I only eating mashed chickpeas for breakfast?  What did I sign up for?  Then. Then, I released my concerns and followed the program.  I stopped my questioning and drank my power greens like a big girl and made some delicious, healthy meals.

The Releasing for me has been releasing control of my comfort.  Letting myself feel uncomfortable.

It’s okay to feel a little hungry.  For I know I will feel hungry while hiking the Appalachian Trail, so I might as well see how it feels now!

It’s not comfortable or fun cooking every single day for 21 days.  My husband and I ate at restaurants 3-4 times a week.  But, I’ll be cooking for myself nearly every day for six months on the Appalachian Trail.  Better get used to cooking!

Pushing away cravings for food is difficult for me.  I admit, I did sneak a teeny tiny piece of my husband’s steak while I was supposed to be eating vegan.  I might have accidentally put a teeny tiny piece of chocolate in my mouth.  I’m human.  One thing I really want is a big bowl of buttery, salty popcorn.  But on the Appalachian Trail, I won’t be able to succumb to cravings, so I better figure out how to manage them now.

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On a side note: My dreams have been spectacular!  So vivid and funny.  In one, my husband and I were flying (just our bodies, no plane or spaceship) into outer space and nearly collided with a satellite.  My husband was supposed to know where the parachutes were to go back to Earth, but he wasn’t sure.  Somehow we landed and NASA was interrogating us about our trip.  Then my friend Linda showed up and said that next time we should look up where the satellites are first, so we don’t almost hit one.  Seriously, I dreamed this!  The only thing I had to eat before bed was a big glass of water.

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RESTORE!  Week three!  What a week it was!  I ate roasted fennel (my favorite) and other veggies, tons and tons of fruit and started a new supplement to put the good bacteria back in my gut.  Well, I started out the week by getting sick. Puking sick.  I haven’t thrown up in a long time!  Some of my friends on the same program said I had a flu.  Sure felt like it.  Being sick and on a diet is so hard.  My body just wanted comfort food and not power greens.  This week is supposed to be entirely vegan.  I failed.  I am not ashamed.  I didn’t feel good!  My husband made me a scrambled egg because if I threw up again, it wouldn’t hurt coming back up.  The next day I stayed home from work because my stomach still didn’t feel right.  I ate most of the food suggested, but I added a very small chunk of fresh chicken my husband made to the salad I had for lunch.  I skipped a half day of supplements and stopped taking power greens.  Again.  It’s what I felt like I needed to do to feel better.  The next day I was back to the program.  Only you know your body best.  It’s great to push yourself, but don’t make yourself miserable.

As you can see from the length of this section and lack of pictures, this week was tough for me.  It’s the week before Christmas so I was extremely busy, extremely sick and getting tired of having to prep and plan every meal.  By the end of the week I did have a couple slip ups.  But I did the best I could.

My program results are about what I expected.  I am excited to say I am down over ten pounds and four inches all around.  My energy level has improved and I slept better than ever.  Amazingly, my GERD has not been an issue at all during this.  I did make sure I didn’t eat problem foods, of course.  As I transition back to eating meat protein I will see how I feel and take careful notice of what I eat that makes me feel tired, bloated, and sick.

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There are some other programs by Beachbody that Tabatha has suggested I try starting in the new year!  I’m excited to continue this great process of getting stronger and healthier in order to make sure my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail is a success!

Now go be healthy!

 

 

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.

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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!

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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!

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Same trail, SNOWY day!