There’s a question I love to answer! The answer is – anything and everything to prepare for my adventure in the Spring! I definitely have some kind of Appalachian Trail Fever. I’ve been busy reading and researching the trail, gear, backpacking food, etc. The most important thing I have been doing is – Hiking!
Over the past month, I have completed six more trails of the Allegany 18 Challenge. For those of you keeping track, I have one more trail left. I promised Dave that he could hike that last trail with me so we can celebrate together.
I spent the night in Allegany State Park at the Ridge Run Trail lean-to. This is where I learned that my sleeping bag is not warm enough, that I can start a fire if needed and always remember to pack a little booze!
Typically, I hike solo, but two of the trails I completed were hiked with my good friend, Denise. She makes me laugh as you can see from the video below.
She really thought she would fit in that tree!
My best friend, Linda also went hiking with me. Well, I call it hiking, she calls it geocaching. We celebrated her 5000th cache found by hiking to a cache that was clothing optional. She was crazy enough to hike naked, so I did too. Unfortunately, it was rainy and chilly so the naked didn’t last long! Here are a couple of edited pictures.
The fun doesn’t stop there!
Of course, I am utilizing all the resources available to me to learn about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. One thing I did was to join a group on Facebook specifically for people planning to hike the trail in 2020. Since it’s such a small world, I met another hiker that actually lives in a town over from me. Jim is starting the trail just before me and his brother will be hiking the first month with him. Jim invited me to join him on a shakedown hike in the Allegheny National Forest. A shakedown hike is where a hiker packs all their gear and sees what gear they used, what worked, what needs to be replaced or upgraded, and what gear they can live without, etc. My pack weighed in at 31 pounds fully loaded with food and water. Jim’s was 23 pounds. I would prefer to carry Jim’s pack, so I’m working on lightening my pack weight. We hiked out to the Tracy Ridge Campground on Friday evening and I faced my first night-hike. It was tiring and sometimes confusing because it was so dark, but we made it to the campsite and quickly set up our tents.
When I woke up on Saturday morning and finally saw my surroundings – All I can say is WOW!
We hiked a little on Saturday and Jim also gave me a fire building lesson. He showed me how a water bladder makes filtering water easier (it’s on my Amazon wish list) and more little bits of backpacker tips and tricks. It was so helpful! We spent another night and hiked out to the car on Sunday morning. Every mountain I climb makes the next mountain I climb a little easier!
Now, I’m looking forward to hiking in Letchworth soon and getting out for some fall hikes. And biting my nails waiting for Spring!
Over a year ago I attempted to hike the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail. Things did not go as planned. I was under-prepared, physically unfit, and mostly inexperienced. It was a big blow to my confidence and made me really question if my dream was achievable. You can read all about it here.
Since that huge wake-up call, I have been hiking, hiking, hiking! I’ve lost weight. I’ve researched and bought new gear. I’ve read books about mentally preparing for personal challenges. But was I really ready to try again?
One piece of gear that I would like to upgrade is my shelter. I have a decent shelter, but it weighs over 3 pounds and there are tents that weigh in at a lot less. Speaking with my husband I expressed a desire to purchase my new light-weight tent and he made a case that I haven’t actually used my current tent on a trip longer than 2 days. Point made. Then he said I should really go back to Maryland. WHAT? That state HATES me! I understood his argument and said, “Fine, I’ll leave Monday.” Why did I say that? It was Thursday, I had three days to prepare! Panic mode, I researched food options (miserable fail), watched Maryland section trail videos and gathered my gear. I made a reservation at the Teahorse Hostel in Harpers Ferry, arranged to keep my car there for five days and then called to arrange a shuttle to Pen Mark Park from Trail Boss Chris. I even reached out to my trail angel, Alys, from last year just to let her know that I would be in her area again. This was getting real.
Monday – 0 miles hiked, 360 miles driving:
I woke up and left the house by 9am for the 6 hour drive to Harpers Ferry. I arrived at the Teahorse Hostel and was thoroughly out of my element. Only a top bunk was left. I never visited a Hostel before. Everything was very foreign to me. I walked around and visited the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters that was nearby. I had dinner with a hiker/wanderer named Garlic Salt who was a very unusual person. I slept well but was too nervous to eat the waffle breakfast.
Tuesday – 7 miles.
I woke up early and made sure my pack was ready. Trail Boss Chris picked me up at 8am sharp. We made the nearly hour drive north to Pen Mar Park. He dropped me off at the trailhead in Pennsylvania so I could walk to the Mason Dixon Line, which I missed in my last attempt. My nerves were on end as I remembered the rocky ascent to High Rocks Overlook. Before I knew it I was there! I took off down the trail towards the Raven Rock Shelter (I totally screwed up the name of this shelter in last year’s article about this hike.) I was so proud of myself when I hiked past the blue blazed side trail to the shelter. I was determined to get to the next shelter. Until I wasn’t determined anymore. There were three more miles to the shelter and I couldn’t continue. I made a quick call to my trail angel then resigned myself to stealth camping along the trail. My tent went up quickly and I slept well.
Wednesday – 12 miles:
When I woke up in the morning I hiked the three more miles to the shelter and met Alys at the Ensign Cowall shelter. There is a long, steep climb out of the shelter to the ridge. She was determined to help me and offered to carry my heavy pack up the half-mile climb. I was grateful. I huffed and puffed up that climb and rested every few feet. Alys was right behind me letting me set the pace. She’s a strong, amazing woman. I want to be just like her.
After we reached the ridgeline I put my pack back on. Alys made her way back to her car and promised to meet me later with turkey sandwiches! We had planned to meet at Pogo Memorial Campsite but I made good time and it was too early to stop, so I quickly texted her and made plans to meet at Annapolis Rocks campsite. I’m so glad I did! What a view! I spent the night in my tent at Campsite #3. Can you see my tent in the picture?
Thursday – 10.5 miles:
Fortified by TWO turkey sandwiches, oranges, gatorade, breakfast bars and Alys’ encouragement I continued on Thursday knowing I would be seeing some history this day along with the trail being relatively flat.
First, I became slightly emotional crossing the pedestrian bridge over I70. Having gone under this bridge in a car wishing to be on the bridge and now actually hiking on it was amazing!
Second, the original Washington Monument is on this section of trail. It was built in 1827 and just refurbished. I walked up the stairs to see the view from the top. It’s not an attractive monument, but remarkable when you think of what people had to do in 1827 to build something so big on the top of a mountain!
After filling up with water I continued on to Dahlgren Campground. This campground has the only free shower directly on the trail. Also, I had heard you could order pizza and have it delivered here. Additionally, there is a restaurant with air conditioning nearby. It was early when I reached the campground and I spent a long time taking my shower. It rejuvenated me and it didn’t take me long to decide that I was going to continue hiking to the next shelter just a couple miles more. (No pizza….) That night I stayed at the Rocky Run Shelter. There was a family of seven staying the night along with a few others sleeping in tents and hammocks.
Friday – 8.5 miles:
It was overcast and misty in the morning. I prepared by putting my pack cover on and having my raincoat handy. I made a rocky, steep climb out of the shelter. My motivation today was that Alys was meeting me again. It started to downpour. I decided that the Appalachian Trail was baptizing me; giving me a taste of what hiking in the rain feels like. I was drenched.
Everything from the top of my head to tips of my toes was waterlogged. While texting Alys she said she would meet me on the trail and bring with her more turkey sandwiches! Well, she outdid herself and brought me towels, dry socks, so much food, water and best of all her contagious smile that really encouraged me. We sat in a pavilion at Gathland State Park while I dried out and had some lunch.
Alys helped me find the blazes to continue on my way and off I went into the rain. Watching her drive away in a warm, dry car wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I was excited to get to my last stop. Ed Garvey Shelter.
The Ed Garvey Shelter was vacant when I arrived. I changed into dry clothes, checked out the loft, the privy, found the bear pole, and made some ramen soup. Then a young man arrived to spend the night in his new hammock. Then two young women hung their hammocks, too. There was a campfire, laughing, talking and a great night’s sleep.
Saturday – 8 miles.
The sun was barely a glint in the sky when I awoke. I was eager to get packed up and down to Harpers Ferry. There was a long steep descent then a very flat section on the C&O Towpath. Unfortunately, my phone and battery backup both died so I could not take pictures. As I approached the pedestrian bridge that would take me over the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry I was shaking my head in disbelief. I was pretty amazed that I had actually made it. I hiked through Lower Town and up to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters, triumphant! I charged my phone a little and spoke with a hiker that had just completed her first half of a flip flop hike. She had hiked from Harpers Ferry to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. She was back in Harpers Ferry to now go South to Springer Mountain in Georgia. How I wished I could go with her. I put some of my left over food in the hiker boxes and then hiked on to the Teahorse Hostel where my car was waiting. I decided that I needed to go back to the Harpers Ferry National Park and take the bus shuttle to Lower Town Harpers Ferry and take the pictures I missed and have a bite to eat (and a beer).
I spent the night in a hotel about an hour away to be that much closer to home. The hotel had a king sized bed and a hot tub. Boy, did that feel good!
I am forever grateful to my Trail Angel, Alys. She made me feel like I was the most important person in her life for my whole hike. I made some mistakes with my food choices and she really helped by bringing me those turkey sandwiches, Gatorades and granola bars! Her friendship made all the difference for my successful hike!
By the way, all those hikers out there that say Maryland is easy….it was not easy. However, it may be easier than New Hampshire, Maine or other states.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
Since my vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park I’ve tried to wind down my obsession with the Appalachian Trail a little. Honest! I want to concentrate on solo hikes in my neck of the woods and few group hikes. Hopefully I will be able to get a handful of over-nighters during the summer months, too.
But, I can’t seem to get my head out of the Appalachian Trail or out of the Smoky Mountains! When I fall asleep I see those amazing mountains of blue, grey and purple. If you’ve seen them, you know what I mean.
You would think my dreams would be calm and sweet. But NO! My dreams are filled with walking the trail and sometimes the trail is a DEAD END! Or there’s a scary BEAR! Or I keep walking the same trail over and over and over. I wake up in a sweat and can’t fall back to sleep.
Well, I think I need therapy. How about I take a walk! No, seriously, I need help! I’ve decided to step back from the Appalachian Trail a little, no a lot. I’m going to concentrate more on my immediate surroundings, my house, my family and friends and even other hobbies besides hiking!
Let me clarify, I have not given up on my goal of thru hiking the AT!!
Recently, I’ve hiked with my MOM! My mom grew up loving the outdoors and wandering around the woods between the border of NY and PA not far from the Allegheny National Forest. I think I get my love for the woods from her! We went to a trail that I’ve discovered before and that I knew would be “kind” to her. It’s a mile and a quarter long trail with gentle slopes and meanders along a little creek with little waterfalls. I know we will be back.
Linda and I have also been out in the last few weeks exploring (and geocaching). I’m lucky to have friends and family that enjoy being outside.
I was out on National Trail Day, June 4. I visited the Eternal Flame in Chestnut Ridge Park. My favorite place to go.
Unfortunately, I said good-bye to my good friend and hiking partner, Shelly! Livingonthedirt.com She left for her grand adventure on Memorial Day. She’s traveling out West to visit many of the National Parks! I’m going to miss this woman soooo much! She took me on my very first overnight backpacking trip and taught me so many things. Please follow her blog! She’s so excited to start this new path in life. I’m so excited FOR HER!
Located about 40 minutes from my house is a hidden treasure. 18 Mile Creek Park in Hamburg, NY is spectacular! The trail is about 5 miles to the end and back. Easy, peasy. The hiker walks above the creek on the main trail along the rim of a ravine. This affords the hiker with magnificent views of the creek and ravine. There are two side trails that will take you down to the creek if you want to fish or wade in the water on a hot day. I can’t wait to go back during the summer.
Okay, friends. Coming up this Friday I will be backpacking in the Allegheny National Forest. Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com and I will be hiking about 6 miles Friday, spend the night in the woods and hike 6 miles back out on Saturday. We can’t miss Easter Sunday dinner!
I’ve not had the chance to use ANY of my long hike gear yet. I set up my tent ONCE in my LIVING ROOM! My backpack still has the tags on it!! So, I spent Sunday doing some preparing. I gathered my guts and my tent and headed to my backyard with my dogs for moral support.
I scanned the ground for “land mines” aka dog doo. I found a spot next to our fire pit. Don’t worry, I would never set up my tent this close to a fire pit in real life. The first thing I looked for in the bag was the directions! I love the saying – When in doubt, RTFM. “Read the F’n Manual” Truer words have never been spoken!
I learned that you should read the directions once all the way through before you start. Good advice. So, now that I had a clue how this should end I started with step one and two. Lay out the tent and put the poles in an “X” on top.
That was easy.
Step two I had to put the poles in the grommets. Grommet? Isn’t that a British cartoon? Oh, no that is Wallace and Gromit. Gromit is the dog. These would be metal rings. Found them. Then I staked it at four corners. The ground was soft so the stakes went nice and easy! If I was sleeping here, I’d be worried they would pop out, but I’m not, so I didn’t care.
I attached the “dog-bone connector” – that’s what it said it was called in the directions, honest – at the center top and then the hook things (technical term) on the poles.
Hey, this looks like a tent! What’s this? I have to put a fly on?
Maggie was curious. Or she just wanted to drink my tea. So, how does it look? Wait, what’s this in the directions? Side ventilation? Guyouts???
I had to connect paracord to the sides and stake them out. Then the directions said something about guyouts? Huh? Oh, so if you don’t want your tent to blow away while you’re in it, you should attach “guy out lines”. Um. I may need help with that. I have no idea how to tie a knot.
Okay. Moving on. Let’s get in!!!
Not you, Maggie!!
Please remove your shoes before entering my home away from home!
I could actually kneel without ducking my head inside. Lots of headroom for me!
Roomy for a solo tent. Roomy for a 5’2″ woman.
I don’t look comfortable. And the grass was making all kinds of noise. It sounded like it was raining. I think I need to buy a small footprint tarp? Is that what it’s called? Something to go under my tent and above the grass. I’ll see about that before Friday. And I think I need a pillow. I know I NEED a pillow.
Well, I tried it out and now lets see if I can get it all to go back in the same small bag!
I DID IT!!!
My knees were a little muddy from crawling around on the floor, but the next task was packing my backpack.
Most of my gear. I don’t have a lot. Just the necessities.
Do I get points that my sleeping bag color matches my pack color and my NAIL color!!??? LOL!
I have no idea how to use this, but the directions seem pretty clear. Even if I have enough water, I may want to use this just to see how it works.
I researched google and was schooled by Shelly how to pack my pack. Sleeping bag on the bottom, heavy stuff centered. It felt pretty good. Now I have to unpack it all because I want to put a trash compactor bag in there to keep things dry if my pack gets wet.
I’m going to add a couple more things to this bag, like more clothes. It’s supposed to be pretty cold at night. My food will be added and of course, a bladder filled with 2 liters of water. That should bring me up to about 18 pounds in my pack. Doable.
Thanks for reading. And please, if you have any advice, I’ll take it!!!