Way Outside my Comfort Zone

We are our own worst critics.  At least I know I judge myself harshly.  I pick on myself and my faults.  I tear myself down to the core at times.  I don’t feel like I am good enough, thin enough, smart enough, tall enough, tough enough.  You might be thinking…NO way, Trailchaser2020, you are all of those things.  Well, thank you, but sometimes I don’t believe it.  In fact, some days I really believe that I will never hike the Appalachian Trail.  No matter how much I talk about it and train for it, it just won’t happen for some reason or another.  I’ll find some “excuse” that will stop me.

One small obstacle that could prevent me from hiking the trail is my physical condition.  I’ve read stories how some hikers have never hiked a day in their life before completing the trail.  I’ve also read about middle aged women hiking the trail and breaking a leg!  So, to err on the side of caution I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and join some exercise classes.

I DO NOT EXERCISE.

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Disclaimer: This is not me.

Now, I have taken a Yoga class or two.  I’ll hike and walk outside all day, too.  But a real exercise class with a teacher in the front and a bunch of strangers all around me while my fat bounces up and down is NOT what I would sign up for.  But I DID!

Our little town has a community education program that offers a 20/20/20 class(20 minutes of aerobics, 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of weights) and a Yoga class.  The session is 8 classes once a week.  The classes are held in the local primary school (five minutes from my house!) and my insurance company covered the ENTIRE cost of these classes!  So, I signed up for BOTH classes so that I will be exercising each Wednesday and Thursday for eight weeks.  Oh boy.

Well, I missed the first 20/20/20 class because I had to go to the dentist.  I was actually GLAD to go to the dentist so I didn’t have to exercise!  But, I did go to Yoga the first week. I couldn’t think of any good excuse for me to miss it.  Imagine my delighted surprise when I tried to open the doors at the school and everything was locked.  I tried a side door.  Locked.  Secretly I was rejoicing that I didn’t have to go to Yoga.  I headed back to my car when I heard a lady yell at me that the door was now open.  Rats.  I guess I was going to Yoga.  There were about 10 women in the class and it was okay.  I didn’t die.  My clothes weren’t “Yoga” clothes, my mat was too thin, I was too fat to bend the way I thought I should – WHAT was I doing here?!?!  Then the instructor told us to breathe.  And I did. I no longer cared that my shirt was exposing my fat stomach, I doubled up my mat when my knees hurt and I just bent over as far as my body would let me.  The teacher was so nice!  And Yoga, is just so peaceful.  It’s impossible for me to not like practicing Yoga.  At the end of the class when you are just melting into the floor my mind drifted to the Appalachian Trail and how Yoga will help with my flexibility, stamina and balance.

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The second week approached and yes, I actually called the lady running the program asking how I can get out of the 20/20/20 class.  She wouldn’t let me.  She offered different locations and days, but no; I HAD to go or pay the price since my insurance wouldn’t pay them if I didn’t go. So I went.  I was freaking out!  Even as the instructor started explaining the aerobic steps I was swearing in my head.  I was telling myself that I hate aerobics, I hate dancing, I hate the music she was playing, I hate the lighting in the gym, I was tired, I was getting a headache, I was hungry.  And then I just did it.  I was doing aerobics while I was dancing to the music I hated under the bright lights with energy I didn’t know I had while suffering from a little headache and hunger.  I did it.  It wasn’t so bad.

You know what?  I am actually proud of myself.  Was I comfortable at the classes?  Heck, no.  My comfort zone was two time zones away!  But, I laughed at myself when I was facing front instead of facing back or raising my left leg instead of my right leg.  I made up my own steps instead of doing a “step ball chain.”  What on earth are my feet supposed to be doing???? I probably have the name of the step wrong because Google didn’t even know what I was talking about!

Learning to not be so hard on myself is tough.  I doubt I’ll ever succeed.

See what I did there?

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.

Mono-vision = Mind Blown

A few months ago I bought a pair of glasses.  I love getting new glasses, everything is so clear without all the scratches that somehow accumulate no matter how careful I am.  This time was no different.  I bought new, pretty frames and new lenses.  I wear bifocals, so the price was almost $500.  YIKES!  But, I’ve worn glasses for 40 years so the price was, well, the price I pay to be able to see!

Just a few short weeks after getting my pretty new glasses a terrible tragedy occurred.  I scratched them.  Not just a little scratch in the corner, but a big enough dent, smack dab in the middle of my line of sight.  This was not good!  I was so upset with myself.  I didn’t want to fork over another $500!  Nothing could be done to fix them.

I had HAD IT!  I picked up the phone and called Lasik Vision Institute.  Maybe they can fix my eyes, instead of me buying new glasses every year.  I didn’t think I was a candidate for eye surgery.  I wore glasses for 40 years, I wore bifocals, I had an astigmatism.  I made an appointment anyway.  Of course, I was prepared for them to tell me my eyes were too bad for this procedure, but I had to try!

I wasn’t even excited about the appointment.  I just knew they would say it wouldn’t work on me.  I went through the tests, one by one.  They kept putting me in the next room.  Another test, next room.  Another test, next room.  What’s going on?  Why aren’t they just giving me the bad news?

The only bad news they had for me was that my corneas were too thin for Lasik surgery, so they had to do the PRK surgery instead.  It had a longer recovery time, but it would have the same results.  I was SHOCKED! AND TERRIFIED!

Fast forward to the day of my surgery.  Saturday, September 24.  I was very emotional.  My mind kept racing imagining the worst outcome.  I could go blind if that laser slipped!  I was a nervous wreck.  Thankfully, I had the support of my friends and family that encouraged me to always be the best I can be.

Then, upon further exam by the doctor he informed me that my distance vision was such a small prescription that they recommended that it does not require surgery. WAIT, WHAT?  Yes, you read that right.  I had been wearing glasses for 40 years thinking I had horrible vision, when in fact, I was just shy of 20/20.  WHAT???  Of course, wearing my glasses gave me 20/15 or so in vision, but, WHAT?????

So, I practiced walking around the office wearing the big goggles with no prescription in my left eye and with my right eye corrected for near (because otherwise I would need “readers”).  I LOVED IT!  Not everyone tolerates “mono-vision.”  Some people get nauseous or vertigo.  I took to it right away!  It made me feel like Wonder Woman!

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Yes, the name tag is on upside down on purpose.  So the Dr. can read the information from above my head during surgery!

Knowing that my distance vision was going to be untouched was a HUGE relief to me. The view I have of the stars, moon, sky, etc will remain the same!  Only one eye needed surgery, so the recovery would be easier.

My husband loves to take photos of me in unflattering moments, so I amused him.

 

I was still nervous about the pain, but the only real pain I had was when I put the steroid drops in the first 3 or 4 times.  It felt like little razor blades were on my eyeball.  That pain only lasted a minute or two each time.

Here I am typing this article just a mere three days after surgery!  I can see!!  I’m cleared to drive!!  My vision is not exactly perfect, but I know it will be better in time.  The doctor says it may take up to three months to be completely acclimated to the mono-vision and for my eye to heal. And, I do look like the Terminator.  My right eye is blood shot and creepy looking!  I still have a contact lens bandage on my eye.

Now if I can just retrain myself to not keep trying to push up my non-existent glasses or look for them on the bedside table every morning, it would be all good!

I’m imagining myself hiking the Appalachian Trail in the rain and not worrying about how in the world I would dry my glasses when everything I own is soaking wet!  I don’t have to worry about losing my expensive glasses and oh yeah, my $500 prescription sunglasses!

After wearing glasses for over 40 years, I felt it was only fitting to have a proper memorial service at our local bar.  I made a cross out of a twist-tie I found in my pocket and we had a couple shots.  RIP, glasses!

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I feel so FREE!!!!

If you would like to learn more about the eye surgery I had here is the link to their website.

This click will change your life!

I AM NOT AFRAID! I AM NOT AFRAID!

Fabulous!  Excited!  Amazing!  ALIVE!

I have a Bucket List.  Do you?  If not, you should!  A Bucket List details things that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime.  Recently, I was able to check off a couple things on my Bucket List.

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Well, I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone in baby steps.  It’s not easy for me to do things that I feel intimidated by.  I know, I know, I want to thru hike the Appalachian Trail…pretty intimidating.  So I have to start putting myself out there NOW.

One really fun thing I did off my Bucket List was participate in the Color Run.  A Color Run is a 5K non race.  Just my thing!  During the run/walk/skipping along the course there are “Color Zones” where a bunch of people throw different colored powder at you.  There’s an orange zone, pink zone, blue zone, purple zone, you get the drift.  By the end of the course you are covered head to toe in different colors.

Participating in the Color Run was a little intimidating for me.  I was afraid you had RUN or JOG the whole thing.  Heaven forbid!!  NOT TRUE!!!  The more I read other people’s experiences I was satisfied that I could just walk or skip or jog a tiny bit.  Unfortunately, the night before the race I was anxious.  I didn’t want to go alone.  I was ready to back out.  My registration was paid, I had my t-shirt and polka-dot socks, but I was NERVOUS!  My husband came to my rescue, like he often does, and when I asked him if he would join me on the course, he said he would.  He is such a trooper.  We both got thoroughly covered in different colors and we walked pretty much the entire way, but at the end we still got shiny silver medals and we weren’t the last ones across the finish line!

Another thing I really had to do was sleep outside in the woods all by myself. Since I was a little girl I’ve been afraid of the dark.  Now, I’ve outgrown being afraid while in the darkness of my house.  Mostly…but especially when my dogs or others are around.  When I am with others outside in the dark, easy; I’m not scared really at all.  If I am alone outside, with only a tent, how will I do?  Well, I survived!

I started out with a baby step.  I slept in my backyard!  Now, I have a very woodsy backyard.  Where I slept, I couldn’t see my house, but I could see my shed.  It was pitch black out.

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I know I heard something weird…

I knew my dogs and husband were only a few hundred feet away.  I knew I could easily walk back to my house in the dark.  I also had a headlamp and my phone so I had light.  Like I said, baby steps.  It was also a baby step for my husband.  He loves to worry!  He was pretty freaked out about me sleeping outside by myself.  It was good for both of us.  I slept okay and managed to not freak out more than twice from the weird noises.  When I woke up at 6 am, I walked to the house and slept another couple hours in my bed.

Just this past weekend I decided it was now or never to actually camp out in the woods away from home.  I convinced my husband to drop me off at a nearby trail head where I knew about 2 miles down the trail was a lean to.  We left late in the day so I wouldn’t be at the lean to bored out of my mind for too long before bed.

There was one car in the parking lot and as any worry wart would, my husband took a picture of their license plate.  As I hiked, the woods became darker and darker.  I forgot how it gets darker in the woods more quickly.

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Whew.  I made it to the lean to and unpacked my gear.  I started a small fire in the fire ring, and I mean small.   

While settling in I realized the mosquitoes were going to kill me.  Even with repellent on.  There were mouse droppings in the lean to.  I felt exposed. And scared. And nervous. And worried. And And And!

So, in the dusk, I rapidly set up my tent.  I’m so glad it’s so easy! In less than 15 minutes I was snug as a bug inside my tent watching the fire die out.

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I love looking at my little home away from home.

Somehow during my rush I butt dialed my mother.  When I realized it and put the phone to my ear and heard her beautiful voice it was like magic!  It was like I was cheating a little though.  I was supposed to be outside in the woods overnight by myself.  Well, my mother couldn’t do anything to protect me when she is just on the other end of the phone so we chatted for 10 minutes and she encouraged me and I felt so much more brave!

Inside my tent that night I could hear the nearby amusement park roller coaster and what I thought were the screams of the riders!  It’s crazy how sound travels.  Then I heard their fireworks at 9pm and then again at 10pm.  Then it was eerily silent.  Just the sounds of the forest around me.  The call of a barred owl, the miscellaneous insects and some weird licking sound?  Seriously??!!??  I heard a raccoon and YELLED at it!  It must have run off because I never heard it’s chittering sound again.  I kept hearing the “licking” sound, though.  Like my dog licking his paw over and over and over…ugh.  I have no idea what that was, and I don’t care.  I just turned Adele Radio on and drowned it out for 20 minutes.  It worked.  I fell asleep and dreamed.  I posted a 4 minute video at the end of this article if you want to know really how my night was and what my dream was about.  Just be kind; it was a no makeup kind of day.

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I’m the green lantern.

My body clock finally woke me at my usual time just before the sunrise and gradually I could hear the forest waking up all around me.  The birds began their morning songs and I debated whether to hike for awhile or just head back to the trail head and have my husband pick me up.  I started my little stove and ate hot granola with blueberries.

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This was delicious.

As I walked around the trees while eating and breathing in the sweet morning air I felt exhilarated!  I made it through the night!  But, I wanted to go home.  I packed up and headed back.

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Baby steps.

Next time I will hike longer in, camp out and hike longer out.  All by myself.  Sigh.  Now to just do it.

A couple other small things I have checked off my Bucket List is making a little gnome home.  I did that at the base of one of the largest red oak trees in Erie County, which happens to be in my front yard.

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The other thing checked off was that I had wanted my picture taken with Shark Girl.  She is a lot like me!  Quite a resemblance.  Especially the teeth!

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Also at Canalside in Buffalo was the world’s largest rubber duck. I didn’t realize that seeing it was on my bucket list until I heard about it.  But, how could you NOT go see the world’s LARGEST rubber ducky!  It was 6 stories tall and weighs about one ton!

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Next week on my bucket list is:  I get to meet Alison Arngrim.  She is the actress that played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie.  Can’t wait!

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The week after that I have PRK eye surgery scheduled.  That will cross off another thing on my Bucket List!  No glasses for me on my thru hike!

Whew…that’s quite enough for now!

As promised here is the scary video!  Sorry about the vertical video.  I’m learning!

Checked off another one on the bucket list!  Add video to my blog!

!*^% 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.

 

 

 

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.