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!

Peace Bridge Sidewalk

I almost missed this!

Once in a while I have to push myself to do something I just don’t feel like doing. Our day hiker meet-up was going downtown to a little park and I didn’t feel like going. I almost called to cancel, but I didn’t.  My bff, Linda, wouldn’t have let me anyway.

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Driving down the thruway, I would see people walking on this strip of cement in the middle of the Niagara River and wonder about it.  I thought it would be cool to walk “in” the middle of the Niagara River on that strip of cement.  I didn’t even know it was a park!  You see, there is a long cement pier that splits the Niagara River and separates the Black Rock Canal and the Niagara River.   The pier is very narrow and runs about a mile and a half.  It goes under the Peace Bridge that connects the United States and Canada.  Now that I made up my mind to actually go on this walk, I was really excited to check it out!

History lesson time!  The Native Americans had their own name for this island, but back in 1812 the English called this island Squaw Island.  That was the name that was used until last year when a Native American woman petitioned the Courts to change the name because members of the Seneca Nation of New York felt the name was racist and derogatory to Native American women. It is now called Unity Park.  The island is home to two parks – Broderick Park and Bird Island Pier – and you get to it by crossing a drawbridge.  Bird Island Pier was built in 1860 and there are a lot of people that fish here.  Apparently, you can catch some really big fish!  I only saw a dead one on the sidewalk, sorry no pictures of that!

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Broderick Park was the location of the former Black Rock ferry.  It linked Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ontario until the mid 20th century.  The ferry’s dock was used as an Underground Railroad station.  Escaped slaves would take the ferry or other boats across the Niagara River to Canada to their freedom.

This is also a great place to watch the sunset.  From my last post, you know I love the sunset on the water!  The evening walk began with a little geocaching, of course!  I was with Linda and when Linda is around, there’s a cache to be found!  The cache was in dire need of maintenance!  Which reminds me, I still need to log that!

We walked through Broderick Park and approached the narrow entry of the Bird Island Pier and looking to my left I could see the concrete thruway that Buffalo thought would be so smart to put right on the water. How beautiful.  NOT.  But, in the canal were crew boats.  The men rowers were grunting and rowing so fast!  The lady rowers were almost as fast, but not quite!  It was quite a sight.  We also saw the Edward Cotter Fire Boat.  This fire boat was built in 1900 and is still in use by the Buffalo Fire Department.

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I glanced up and noticed the Peace Bridge looming large above me.  I was going to walk right underneath it!  How cool is that!

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There are many birds that hang out along the rocks on either side of the pier.  Some even managed to leave their feet print on wet cement, leaving their permanent mark on Bird Island Pier!  Walking on the pier you had better watch where you plant YOUR feet!  The bird poop was everywhere! Although we noticed that they liked to poop on the left side more than right!

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At the tip of Bird Island Pier stands the glorious United States Flag.

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It was a gorgeous evening for a walk on the pier.  This wasn’t my favorite hiking destination; as I like my trails without cement.  But, it was fun to finally experience a place I’ve only looked at from a car window traveling down the thruway.

Now, back to the woods for me!

 

Alone to Explore!

Ah, alone time.  As much as I love to hike with others, I love much more to hike alone.  There is something about the quiet solitude and keeping my own pace that I find very peaceful.

After leaving a detailed note for my napping hubby on where I would be I set off for Darien Lakes State Park.  My plan was to hike the Conservation Trail that runs through the park, turn around and hike back to the car.

It was windy, warm and a great day for being outside.  When I parked my car there were two other cars in the small lot at the trail head.  I didn’t anticipate seeing anyone though as this is a big park!  The trail started at the top of a gully and I could look down and see the creek that looked pretty dry. Don’t worry, I stayed away from the edge!

The Conservation Trail runs from Pennsylvania to Canada for about 177 miles.  The trail was built and is maintained by Foothills Trail Club of Western New York. The Conservation Trail is part of the Finger Lakes Trail System which extends eastward across New York State to the Catskills. I’ve hiked other sections of this trail in Hunter’s Creek Park and Akron Falls Park and others.  I was impressed by the trail markings here. You really can’t get lost on this trail!

This trail looked like a lot of people used it.  Or, so I thought.

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Yes, there is a trail here.   Or there usually is!  The grass is growing so fast the trail is almost obscured, but I could just barely make out the orange blaze on the tree at the far end of the picture!

Don’t worry I sprayed myself with Deet and checked myself for ticks after this hike!  I found one on my shirt sleeve.  Killed that sucker!

 

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Not long after that crazy overgrown section, a perfectly new, beautiful boardwalk appeared.  The dragonflies were bouncing off the ground ahead of me enjoying the sunshine even more than me!

Some of the trail was mucky and trail maintainers or other hikers had used large sticks and logs to try to cover the mud in the path.  It worked for the most part.  I don’t mind getting my boots muddy anyway.

 

After hiking a while I saw a blue trail blaze.  On the Appalachian Trail a “blue blaze” will take you to a shelter, water, vista, or other point of interest off of the “white blazed” Appalachian Trail.  Here, the Conservation Trail is “orange blazed” and this “blue blaze” led to a lean-to!

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Of course, I just had to check it out!  I figured it would add an extra mile to my hike, so I would do it on my way back.  I nearly sprinted to finish up getting to the trail head at the other end of the park because I wanted to go back to see this darn lean-to!

Here is a pretty photo of the trail at the opposite end from where I started.

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Doesn’t this look so incredibly inviting?  It pulls me in like a magnet.  

Those rocks lining the trail’s entrance are perfect. I imagine it could have been easy to just create the trail by clearing the way, but to add the rocks at the entrance to welcome you and make it beautiful just brightens my day.  Thank you to those people that lugged those rocks and put them in place for me to enjoy!

 

Okay, enough of that.  I hiked back to the blue blaze trail head to go to the lean-to and then for a horrified moment realized I left a note that explained I would be only on the Conservation Trail, not on a side trail.  In case something happened to me I would want someone to know where to find me.  I checked my cell service and realized I had service and could call for help if needed.  I was fine.  I should have sent my husband a text so he knew, but I didn’t.  I guess I figured the bloodhounds would find me.  Ugh, the things solo hikers worry about.

The half-mile blue blazed trail was not as well maintained as the Conservation Trail.  Probably not as well used, either.  It was mucky, but fun!  Here is what I found at the end!!! (Hint: I think if you click on a picture it will get bigger so you can see it better!)

Now I wish I had packed my overnight pack!  I could have been right at home here!  This lean-to was Justin Yaw’s Eagle Scout project on May 24, 2003, Troop 67, Corfu, NY!  How awesome is that!  This Eagle Scout is a man now, moved on to bigger and more important things I’m sure.  He has no idea that a crazy hiker lady just fell in love with his little lean-to he built back in 2003!

The wind was picking up and the sun was getting lower and I was getting hungry for dinner!  So, I picked up the pace and headed back to the car, but not before I heard a wild turkey, saw a chipmunk, squirrel and a bear.  Oh wait, no, there wasn’t a bear.  It was my imagination.  When you’re hiking alone, sometimes your head plays tricks on you!

It’s all good, keeps the heart pumping!

Until next time!  Hike on!

Appalachian Trail Dreaming

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.

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See 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.

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Please don’t let this EVER happen to me!

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.

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My mom making a swan dive into the waterfall. I stopped her.
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My mommy!!
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She only accused me of trying to kill her once. She though the hill was too steep.

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.

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My bestie!
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Linda and I made an Inukshuk.
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Little waterfall.
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Big waterfall.

I was out on National Trail Day, June 4.  I visited the Eternal Flame in Chestnut Ridge Park.  My favorite place to go.

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These natural gas flames are in a grotto behind a waterfall. So beautiful!

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!

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Shelly is a secret Disney Princess – birds just land in her hands!

 

One day of Amazing Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

A 12 hour drive from my home is the most visited National Park in the country – The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  This park is visited more than the Grand Canyon!  I can see why, it is spectacular!

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The Appalachian Trail runs right through the Smokies so of course I decided I must walk a little bit of the trail while I visited.  The weather has been perfect for outdoor play.

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The 360 degree view from Clingman’s Dome Tower is amazing.  The hike up to the tower is at a 13 degree grade.  It is steep!  Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, so it was important for me to visit this place first.  It was worth every staggering step and drop of sweat.

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We encountered a few thru hikers at the tower, but I was too shy to approach them.  I just stared and looked like a creeper.  When we climbed up the tower an honest to goodness thru hiker took our picture for us.  He was a military man, but again, I was too shy to ask many questions.

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I had planned out a very short hike on the Appalachian Trail after hiking Clingman’s Dome.  It was just 1.7 miles from Road Prong trail head to Newfound Gap.  Easy.  Dave dropped me off at the trail head and I posed for the obligatory first steps/first white blaze ever on the AT photos.

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My boot hit the narrow trail and my heart skipped a beat.  My adrenaline flooded into my body and all the sudden I became very nervous, anxious, excited, happy, overwhelmed, you name it, I felt it.  I walked a few feet into the trail and saw my second white blaze.  Realizing I should not be out of breath so soon, and why were my knees shaking?  I stopped to check myself and my surroundings.  My brain was still wrapping itself around the fact that I was on the AT.  I took a deep breath of the mountain air, did a little spin in the middle of trail, looked up, looked down, to the left and to the right.  Finally, I propelled myself forward on the trail easily, knowing Dave was waiting for me at the trail head at Newfound Gap.  I told him to give me one hour.

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The trail itself was in great shape.  There were stairs built out of logs and you could see where some trees had fallen and they were recently cleared away from the path.  Trail maintainers are heroes in my book!  I gracefully tripped over a root or two, grateful for my hiking poles keeping me upright.  There were magnificent little white flowers in bloom so it looked like it had snowed.  I thought it looked like a fairy land!

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There was an enclosure that I had to hike over.  It was a fenced area protecting the beech tree from the invasive wild boar.  I was really, really hoping I didn’t encounter a crazy wild pig!  However, this post would have been more interesting if I had!

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When the end of the hike was approaching I saw Dave hiking out towards me.  He’s a worrier.  It took me about 45 minutes because of all the stopping to photograph and look around.  It was nice to complete a small, very manageable, portion of the trail.  I would love to do more, but that will have to wait.

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See Dave, I didn’t get lost!

 

 

No Choice, Joyce

Well, that was a learning experience!

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

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

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The snowflakes were small and we bundled up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Can you find Shelly?

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Mile Creek and a Tent!

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.

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View from the rim.
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It’s a long way down!
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Take a rest!
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Fishermen!
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My camera and the sun did something wonky and I got a heavenly inspired photo!
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This is what I was trying to photograph. The water cascaded down the rock and froze. It was sparkly and beautiful.
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Of course, there was a geocache!
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Just in case you didn’t see the well worn trail come to an abrupt end, here’s a sign!

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.

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The tent I bought for about $50. This is not the tent I will use for the AT.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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???

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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!!!

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Not you, Maggie!!

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Please remove your shoes before entering my home away from home!

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I could actually kneel without ducking my head inside. Lots of headroom for me!

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Roomy for a solo tent.  Roomy for a 5’2″ woman.

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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!

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I DID IT!!!

My knees were a little muddy from crawling around on the floor, but the next task was packing my backpack.

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Most of my gear.  I don’t have a lot.  Just the necessities.

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Do I get points that my sleeping bag color matches my pack color and my NAIL color!!???  LOL!

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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.

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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.

I hope.

Thanks for reading.  And please, if you have any advice, I’ll take it!!!