Trail? What trail?

So my husband has decided that he likes hiking with me!  Yay!!!!  He has a great sense of direction when I get turned around and he makes funny faces to keep me happy!  That is all you need in a great hiking partner, right?

Last weekend we ventured out to the good ole’ Joe Panza Trail.  It’s where my training for the Appalachian Trail began way back on July 20, 2015.  I’ve been back there a few times since because it is so close to home.  When we started out I asked him how far he wanted to go.  I braced myself for his answer of one mile, but he surprised me when he said two miles!  I was giddy!  I set my app on my phone to measure our distance.

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It’s nearly winter and we were bundled up, but it wasn’t raining.  The trail is very flat and since I’ve been on it so many times, a little boring.  Well, not today.  I seem to always go a certain way on the trail.  Today my husband turned left instead of right and right instead of left and low and behold we were OFF the trail!  Where did the trail go?  With all the leaves on the ground we somehow missed a turn and it was obvious we were no longer on the trail.  We were walking along the creek and of course I knew we weren’t “lost” just not on a trail.  I remembered that there was a geocache near where I thought we were so I opened the geocache app on my phone and checked.  Nope.  Not where I thought we were.  At least now I had an idea of where we were since I could see the other geocaches that I have found in the park.

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My husband checked the app and together we decided to hike next to the creek until we came to “something.”  We slowly made our way along the creek. I found a green mossy tree that reminded me of a dinosaur foot and we found some litter.  I didn’t have my backpack so I didn’t have a garbage bag, but we took turns carrying the trash. Which reminds me, I still have a yucky bottle cap in my puffy jacket pocket!  About this time my app said we had hiked one mile!

We kept walking through the woods not positive where we were going to end up and then BAM!  There was a trail!  Well, I hope you weren’t worried!  Jumping back on the trail dear husband again took a left instead of a right and the trail ended at an open field that was behind the high school.  This time we knew the main trail was only about 200 feet to the right so we carefully made our way through the brush to the trail.  At this point we were on the main trail so there was a garbage can where we unloaded the trash we found.

The Joe Panza trail has identification on some of the trees.  We stopped to read a few and I hugged and loved on them.  The red maple did not want to let me go and snagged my scarf.

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I freed myself from the amorous maple and hubby and I then decided to play on some tree stumps!  My husband tried to impersonate The Thinker pose.  I think he looks a little constipated.  When I showed my sister the picture of me posing on the tree stump she said I reminded her of a twirling ballerina inside a little girl’s jewelry box.  Awe!  I wasn’t even trying!

While heading back to the car my app said we had hiked 1.97 miles.  It looked like we would make my husband’s goal of two miles by the time we reach the car. The last time we hiked we went about a mile. If we keep doubling our distance and if my husband could retire early, we could hike the Appalachian Trail together in 2020!  I think I’ll start playing the Lotto!

Disclaimer:  I try to make it a rule to not venture off trail.  I understand it could harm the plant life and I could get really lost.

No Choice, Joyce

Well, that was a learning experience!

Packing my pack on Thursday night, I proceeded to: crack my headlamp, have my water bladder leak all over the padding of my pack and removed, replaced and added extra items at the last minute.  I ran out to the local hardware store and bought a $5 headlamp, my pack stayed slightly damp and I carried probably about a pound of extra weight on items I never looked at while hiking.

We started out Friday headed south to the Morrison/Rimrock Trail Loop in the Allegheny National Forest.  We had all the excitement of kindergartners on the first day of school!  It was snowing, but we laughed and didn’t care!

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The snowflakes were small and we bundled up.

This was my first time carrying my pack on a hike.  It was almost 30 pounds.  Filled with everything I would need to survive one night and two days in the woods. Morrison Trail including the Rimrock Trail is about 12 miles long.  The terrain is very steep in sections and also beautiful as the trail follows the creek.  There are many creek crossings where I am beholden to my hiking poles for saving me from getting wet. I know I would not have stayed dry without them!  I think I may have even kissed them once or twice!

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Not so wide to cross here. This one was easy!
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Four little waterfalls in row.  So beautiful!
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Everything was starting to turn that perfect Spring green.  Shelly blended in!

We stopped to camp after hiking about 7 miles.  Unfortunately for us I could not manage to climb down a steep slope to the reservoir below where there was some flat land.  (I slid down and got muddy and upset – poor Shelly.)  Our little camp had to be set up on a slope.

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Don’t do this unless it’s all you got.  This was not ideal.  We made it work.

We ate our dinner at about 5:30 and hung out in my surprised (!) tent for a little while. It was becoming very cold and weather.com said it could be down to 26 degrees!  Shelly went back to her tent and I was all alone.  Being on the slope made it very challenging to sleep.  We slid down in our tents because….gravity.  Her tent wasn’t staying up with her hiking poles because she kept sliding into it.  Finally, I convinced her to sleep with me in my one-man tent.  Eureka should know that four grown women could sleep in the fetal position in the solo tent.  The two of us only took up half the tent!

I do think this was one of the longest nights ever.  I couldn’t stretch my legs.  Our feet were pressed up against the tent holding us up.  It was so uncomfortable.  At least we were warm next to each other.  Unfortunately for Shelly, I also snore.  Loud.  She woke me up a couple times to stop me.  I stayed awake for awhile so I could make sure she slept a little.  In the end I’m sure I slept more than she did.  All I did all night was watch the time on my phone.  Anxious for sunrise and being able to eat some hot oatmeal and a boiling cup of tea.

At around 6 am I heard a Barred owl saying “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?”  Shelly woke up and we chatted and stayed warm until the sun rose around 7am. We retrieved the bear canister and pots and cooked our breakfast as the sky became brighter and brighter.  Packing up our tents we discovered ice coated everything!  Our tents, poles, anything we left outside of our tents.  It was really, really cold!  Our fingers and toes were numb!  But, we had a lovely view of the forest with the reservoir in the background!  Staying positive here!

We hit the trail about 8:30am.  The sky was blue and it was warming up.  The trail continued up the mountain and we said if there was a flat spot within the next quarter mile we would have been so mad we made camp where we did, but there wasn’t. So, we made a good choice.

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Beautiful, huge moss covered boulders.  They look like they are sliding off the mountain, much like we nearly did the night before.

The trail took us up the very last inch of the mountain, with no apologies.  In my head I was drafting my next blog post -“I’m never hiking again.  I’m quitting!” “This is too hard.”  “I can’t do it.”

On one particular steep section, I stopped because I was exhausted and sweaty.  I wanted to close my eyes, twitch my nose and be in my bed at home.  Then it hit me.  I HAD NO CHOICE.  At this point of the game, the only way I would ever see my bed at home again was if my two feet kept going.  I looked down at my feet and said, “Feet, you have to do this for the rest of the body.  You must continue.  You have NO CHOICE, JOYCE!”  With that, I continued, I continued to complain, whine, climb and walk and eventually we made it to some glorious flat ground.

We were anxious to see some sign that we were going in the right direction.  We knew we should be coming up to a turn in the trail.  We finally saw a sign and made the turn.  Walking and walking and walking we thought maybe we turned at the wrong spot!  At worst we would have to walk an extra 2.6 miles, lucky for us we came across some day hikers that told us the parking lot was about a mile away.  Can you hear angels singing? I can.

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Can you find Shelly?

Hiking out that last half mile was hard.  Who am I kidding, it was all hard. If someone would have asked me on Saturday, if I would do this again I would have said, maybe.  Today, I can’t wait to hit this trail again – in warmer weather!  Now that I know where to stop to camp it should make that part so much more tolerable.

I want to thank my good friend, Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com.  She taught me how to adjust my pack straps.  It was magic!  She taught me about bear canisters and cooking away from your camp to discourage animal visitors.  She gave me a pat on the back when I fell and slid down the mountain. (It helped, it really did!) She also listened to me whine and complain and when I look back at myself, I wish I didn’t do so much of that.

Watch out, Appalachian Trail.  I’m getting ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.