During the last couple months I’ve had time to think about and discover what does and does not make me happy. In my last post waaaayyyy back in April I talked about setting goals that I could achieve since the Appalachian Trail was off the table. So, I was the first challenger (out of about 700 people) to complete the Western New York Hiking Challenge, hiking 20 of the 34 trails in the challenge. I had eluded to completing the entire 34 trails in the challenge and I’m happy to say, I was the first challenger to complete all 34 trails! Here are just a few highlights from some of the final trails I hiked or not, because I can’t remember which trails I did when. Just enjoy the pictures.
That wasn’t all though. Since then a few of my friends have signed up for the challenge and I’ve been “guiding” them on the trails. I use the term “guide” loosely since I hike so slow I let them lead! It’s been great fun watching them achieve their goals and makes me happy I can be part of it. One of my favorites was the Holland Ravine section of the Finger Lakes Trail.
A few pictures of that, because my mother likes to see the photos.
So, yes, that makes me happy, but is that all? Recently I completed the FREE online Yale course “The Science of Well-Being” that taught me I don’t need nearly the amount of things I thought in order to be truly happy. Taking that course helped me see very clearly that helping others and setting goals makes me a happy girl! One of the best parts of this course was that I joined a group of women led by my AT trail angel, Alys, on Zoom every week to discuss the course materials. The women I met were so amazing and insightful. Also I’ve never completed college, so it felt AWESOME to complete a YALE college course!
After discovering that I thrive on goal setting I wanted to keep accomplishing things. Early this year I made a good friend, Jim, who was to be on the Appalachian Trail this year too. He lives nearby so we have been hiking together to stay in trail shape. We recently hiked the 22 miles of the North Country Trail through the Allegany State Park over a three day weekend.
We started by staging my car at the end of the trail then drove his truck to the beginning of our hike. The trail began in Pennsylvania and I didn’t even realize it until I saw the trail sign that we were entering New York. I guess I should have paid more attention to where we were driving, I was just too excited to get there. My pack was just over 30 pounds and the first section of trail was all uphill. Lucky for me, Jim is kind and let me lead us slowly up the incline. Along the way we spotted a few doe with their fawns. We stopped for a break halfway up the hill and after the break I felt much better and we eventually made it 7 miles to the Willis Creek lean-to. Unfortunately it was full and there were two tents already set up nearby. We decided to keep hiking to the next campsite, but again, lucky for me, Jim spotted a flat spot and fire ring on the other side of Willis Creek and we gratefully made it home for the night. Jim carried in steaks for dinner and I brought the cheesy potatoes and brownies. There was only one minor fail. Jim tried to make bannocks. I’ve never had them before so I was intrigued. Unfortunately we never could get them to bake well and they were a little doughy or burnt. We put honey on them and that only made them marginally better. It was a learning experience and we will try again! The steaks and potatoes were amazing though! We ate well Friday night!
Saturday was our long day, we took our time getting on trail though, enjoying a morning campfire. Our destination for lunch was the Stoney Creek lean-to. The trail was incredible. So lush and green. The weather was perfect for hiking. There was just enough of a challenge to keep me breathing hard most of the way. We eventually reached the Stoney Brook lean-to where there was an outhouse and spring nearby. It would have been a great place to stay, but we were only having lunch. After refilling our water and filtering we hiked off and it felt like forever until we finally saw the Beck Hollow shelter. Dinner on Saturday was not as glamorous, but we did enjoy having a fire and some drinks. Not that we needed anything to help us sleep, we were tired!
Waking up on Sunday, Jim and I were both sad our adventure was coming to an end. We enjoyed a celebratory bloody mary and another morning campfire for a little while until we finally trekked out the two or so miles to my waiting car. FYI, if you are staging a car anywhere in Allegany State Park, tell the park police. You want to make sure they don’t tow away your car if it looks abandoned. Lucky again, the officers assumed I was hiking and just left me a voicemail asking me to let them know I was okay.
This two night backpacking trip helped me achieve another two goals I had set. I had signed up for the North Country Trail 100 challenge and the Finger Lakes Trail 50 challenge. Lucky for me the Finger Lakes Trail is the North Country Trail in New York so with this hike (and a few other hikes not mentioned here) I was able to complete both the NCT100 challenge and the FLT50 challenge. I have already received the FLT50 patch and sticker in the mail! I love the design. Click those links above to sign up (it’s FREE).
These wonderful, happy things in my life are happening because of Covid preventing me from hiking the Appalachian Trail this year and of course, my incredibly patient, kind, understanding husband is always encouraging me to hike. I’ve been able to meet incredible women and men that enjoy the outdoors as much as I do and the summer is just beginning! The longer COVID goes, the less I think about where I was “supposed” to be this year and the more grateful I become for where I am.
Now to set some new goals! Tell me what goals you have for yourself this summer. Let’s go hike!
Bonus picture of my mom at Letchworth State Park, just because she is beautiful and amazing! I hope I grow up to be just like her!