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!

 

Conservation Trail – Mammot Rd to Sumner Rd

I put on my favorite Darn Tough socks.

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I ate a good breakfast.  (My husband made it for me.)

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I laced up my boots and threw my pack into the car.

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I had packed my big backpack the night before with all the essentials.  You know, everything you need on a short day hike.  Stove, pots, 2 liters of water, rain gear, head lamp, emergency blanket, extra clothes, gloves, food for two days.  I just wanted to be prepared – I am in training after all.

I asked my nephew to hike with me and was happy he agreed.  Matthew hikes fast and doesn’t complain when I can’t keep up.

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My husband drove us to the trail head on Getman Road and I discovered a very fast moving stream about shin deep right across the trail.  I wasn’t familiar with this trail head, but I looked up and down the creek and couldn’t find a way across that wouldn’t mean hiking in wet boots the rest of the way, so we moved to Plan B.

Plan B was entering the trail at Mammot Road.  We would have had to hike .7 miles on this road anyway, now we will avoid the road walk.  I peeked down the trail before making the commitment to the hike.  It seemed wet, but not impassable.  I sent my husband on his way back home and Matthew and I took off down the trail.

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We encountered many, many “puddles” aka swampy areas.  Matt has LONG legs and moves like a gazelle.  I have short stubby legs and I lacked any finesse hopping over these areas, especially carrying my full pack.  I prayed my boots stayed dry and the prayer worked.  And I really sloshed through the water. As long as it wasn’t over my ankle I was good. (I love my Keen boots!)

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This was a small puddle, I kept my camera put away while hiking through the deep stuff!

Matt and I stuck close together while the ground was a giant puddle but once the trail dried out, Matt was off like a flash.  The trail was very easy to follow.  The bright orange blazes were close together and I knew Matt would be able to follow it no problem.

Matt backtracked a little to find me and told me saw a railroad track ahead.  Sure enough we came upon the track and glanced in both directions.  No trains in sight.  Drat.  That would have been a treat to see a train so close.  We didn’t want to wait around not knowing the schedule at all.

We spotted the orange flag in a tree branch indicating the trail entrance and Matt took off again.  I stopped a few times to take some pictures, look at the sky, admire the forest and listen to the birds.  We didn’t see any deer, only their footprints and some scat.

We saw some gorgeous waterfalls, including one that I drive by everyday and didn’t even know that it was there! It was spectacular especially with all the snow melt and rain we had recently.

We crossed Broadway into Darien Lake State Park.  We found the log book and signed in.

It started to really warm up so I stopped to take off my jacket and we had an impromptu snack time.  After a few cheese puffs, beef jerky and red fish we were fortified.

I put a few red fish in my pocket and we continued our journey.  It didn’t take long to come across the blue trail to the lean to.

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I gave Matt the option to hike it and he declined so we continued on following the orange blazes towards Sumner Road.

We actually heard a tree fall somewhere nearby and we both stopped in our tracks.  We looked at each other relieved that it wasn’t a bear crashing through the woods to eat us.  Then I found a ninja tree stump!  Tell me it doesn’t look like ninja??

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The trail ends at a parking lot on Sumner Road, so when I started hearing traffic I called my husband to pick us up.  Timed right we wouldn’t wait long for him.  We exited the trail and found a picnic bench, snacked again and had a drink.  I picked up trash I found in the lot.

It was a beautiful day of nearly 60 degrees in January.  It took us about two hours to hike about 4 miles.  Matt said he’d be up to hiking this trail again when it was dry!

I have a few other trails up my sleeve for us, too!  I just ordered and received a bunch of maps from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference.  My goal this summer is to hike the Letchworth State Park branch trail of the FLT.

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.

Hiking with a Spouse, Rain or Shine!

My husband and I met on a blind date.  We spoke a few times on the phone before our first date, but that was WAY before cell phones and the internet.  It was actually even an accident that we met at all.  Loooong story.  One thing I told him was that if he didn’t like camping in the rain, he wasn’t the right guy for me.  I think I could feel him cringe through the phone.  He asked me to marry him six weeks later.  Apparently, there are many other things we love about each other and here we are twenty years later, through rain and shine!

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My supportive husband has hiked and camped with me in the rain.  He does it because he loves me and I love him for it!  Now that I am training for my big Appalachian Trail thru hike I would like to hike longer and more miles.  Husband, on the other hand, likes to keep it short and sweet.  I compromise usually.  This past Black Friday we “opted outside” instead of fighting through the crowds and shopping to save $5.  Unfortunately, when we put on our hiking boots that morning it was raining.  Not a hard rain, just an annoying sprinkle.  I needed to get every moment outside that I could, rain or shine!  My husband was excited to test out his new Merrell hiking boots in the rain.  He wanted to be sure that his feet would be warm and dry the next day while tailgating before the Buffalo Bills game. (They were great!)

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I packed my backpack and he packed two umbrellas.  Hahahaha!  He said he was going to use one and the other was for me.  Now, I have heard of hikers using umbrellas on the trail, I just won’t be one of them.  Fact, on the trail you’re going to get wet if it is raining.  Just deal.  The umbrellas went into the trunk anyway.  I love that he was trying to take care of me!

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We settled on hiking the Boy Scout trail in a local park.  It’s only 3/4 mile long.  Enough for my husband; a tease for me.   My husband was going to use one of my hiking poles.  He twisted and pulled it out too far and oops.  I had to push and twist to get the darn thing back together!  He said that my poles were shot and I should get new ones so he could have my old ones!  Sounds good to me! (Please comment with recommendations!)   Before I closed my trunk I asked him if he wanted his umbrella. He declined.  Hardy soul that he is!  He also likes to make funny faces when I take his picture!

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We each had winter hats on and the sprinkle wasn’t even noticeable once we were on the trail.  The Boy Scout Trail meanders along a creek.  The water was really moving since it was raining.  The trail is very flat although there is a little tiny hill at the end.  We stopped to take some pictures near a tree. One side had horrible orange graffiti.  I hate it when I see graffiti on trees!!!  What is wrong with people?  It makes me so angry and sad.  On a different trail recently I even saw “Will you marry me?” each word spray painted on four separate trees!  On other trees around it, they painted hearts. The vandal probably thought it was romantic and cute.  NOT!  If I were that unlucky girl I would say NO! and break up with the vandal then and there!

When my husband took the first graffiti filled picture, he didn’t say anything about it.  I don’t know if he thought it was “normal” or if he thought it added to the artistic value of the photo or more likely he just didn’t “see” it.  I was so disappointed and sad when I saw the photo on my phone with me smiling next to a graffiti covered tree.  I asked him to retake the photo from the other side of the tree.  I didn’t lose the meaning of the fact that the side of the tree with the graffiti was the side of the tree getting rained on.  Like Mother Nature trying to wash it off by crying on it!

 

I didn’t let the graffiti spoil our hike.  As we neared the last curve of the loop heading back to the car, my husband tried to sneak a short cut through the grass!  I gently guided him to the tree line where the trail was.  I needed every step available!

Later on that day we were driving somewhere and it was so sunny!  Isn’t that how it works sometimes!

Reflecting back to our recent hike and our twenty year marriage I noticed that frequently we have different views, ideas and beliefs.  We “see” things differently.  We have learned to listen to each other and respect those differences.  Opposites do indeed attract!  I like to think we compliment each other.  I’m horrible at math, he is a certified public accountant.  He can program a computer, I can type on a computer.  I’m good at planning things, he is a procrastinator.  I run on emotion and he is very logical.  It all works out.

Rain or shine, besides my shadow, my husband is my favorite hiking partner, on the trail and through life!

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Griffis Sculpture Park

Okay, okay.  I know I skipped a month of blogging.  Recuperating my eyeball and life gets in the way.  When I scanned my pictures recently I found photos of the fabulous time I had Griffis Sculpture Park and I never wrote about it!

This will be short and sweet as I have another adventure I want to write about!  (Sneak peek- Guess where this picture was taken!)

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My day hikes group took a NIGHT hike to Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto, NY.  It is 450 acres and has over 250 large scale sculptures made of metal throughout the property.  It is open from May through October.  This year, for a few weeks during the Fall, they decorated a small portion of the park with lights and allowed people entry after dusk.

It was so much fun hiking in the dark with my headlamp on.  I wasn’t afraid at all because I was with a large group and my good friend, Richelle (who is in Central America right now having the time of her life)!  The moon was full or nearly full that night and I didn’t need to use my headlamp at times.

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Some of the metal sculptures were made so you could climb them, get in them or sit on them.  It was a little freaky walking the path in the complete dark with only a headlamp and BOOM! – come across a naked lady sculpture rising out of the ground!

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Or you come across a naked man sculpture!  Couldn’t resist this one!  Yes, my hand is on his butt.  You can see the forest lit up in the background!

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The lights made the forest surreal and like we were on another planet.

It was magical!

 

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!

Sunbeams, Berries and Shaggy Bark

Hubby was napping after work.  Shhhhh!!!!  Don’t wake him!  I quickly and quietly slipped on my new Keen sandals and threw my backpack into the car and zipped over to one of my favorite trails – Creation Walk Nature Trail.  I knew with the drought we’ve been experiencing that the creek would be low and wanted to try out my sandals with a little creek walking.

The parking lot was empty and I had the whole park to myself!  The sunshine was bouncing rays and sunbeams through the branches of the trees onto the path in front of me.

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It looked just magical!  When I entered the creek I noticed that there appeared to be a circle of light in the creek.  Can you see it in the next picture?  Is this where Scotty will “Beam me up?”  I stood in the light for a few minutes, but the only thing that happened was that I started to sweat! Oh, well!

The water was cold and my sandals kept me upright easily.  They have a sturdy bottom.  I’m glad, because I had left my hiking poles in my car.  I splashed my way along the creek bed until I was satisfied my sandals were thoroughly soaked!

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My Keen sandals were keeping my feet very happy, in, and out of the water!

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After my little creek walk my stomach was growling because I had skipped dinner.  That’s when I noticed that along the trail were BERRY BUSHES!!!

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I’m not a berry expert, but they looked like black raspberry bushes.  They were so sweet and delicious!  I laughed out loud when I took the picture of the berries in my mouth (top photo – How could you miss it?) and one flew out of my mouth and landed on the trail!  Five second rule.  I ate it.

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I was having WAY too much fun picking and eating berries!  I picked up the pace a little bit and nearly ran smack into a little green worm making its way down from the leaves above.  Little stinker!  Can you see him?

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How about now? Right in the center.

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I tried to put my hand behind him to give it some background, but it stuck right to me!  Yuck!!  Luckily, it was easily removed and I didn’t have to kill it!  What an adventure this has been!

This path is ingrained in my soul and I knew my favorite tree was coming up!  The Shagbark hickory!  Like the name implies, the bark of the mature tree is shaggy! (The young ones have smooth bark.) The nut of the Shagbark hickory is edible and sweet.  I haven’t tried one yet.  You know I will eventually.

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Me and my love!

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For some reason after hugging my Shagbark hickory, I became very romantic and took a few photos of the flowers I noticed on the way back to my car.

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Shelly, what is this???? Didn’t we learn this one on the nature walk we took when we first met. I think I remember the name, do you?

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There was an amazing perfume drifting from this group!
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Not a flower, but beautiful, just the same!

This was one of my favorite hikes on this trail yet!  Every time I visit here there is something new to see and experience!  It wasn’t physically challenging, but it was good for my soul!

Take care and hike on!

**The Keen sandals are a keeper!  I just wish they weren’t so doggone heavy!