Welp, I finally did it and then some.

I registered my thru-hike intention with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Conservancy asks people that hike the Appalachian Trail to register in order to better monitor the impact on the trail and its resources.  Sooooo, I did it!!!

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Yep.  My official start date will be March 22, 2020.  I wish I had the guts to start 2/20/2020.  That’s just a little to cold for me.  As it is March will be cold enough. So, there you have it folks.  Wow.  It’s like this will really happen!

BUT-WAIT-THERES-MORE

C’est fait.  E ‘fatto.  Esta hecho.  IT IS DONE!  Yes.  I quit my wonderful, well paying, comfortable JOB!

Now I will have more time to hike longer trails.  Woohoo!

Is this real life?

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So many emotions!  Am I crazy?  I’m going to climb mountains!!!  Did I do the right thing?  I will cross creeks, hike in the rain and get really smelly!!!!  Do I really think I can hike the whole thing?  I will be crawling on my hands and knees some parts of the trail!

Then I have people asking me all sorts of hard questions like:  Why don’t you wait until you retire?  Because, who knows how my knees will be by then!  What will you do for money?  My husband and I have been saving and planning for this.  How does your husband feel about you leaving him for six months?  He better be sad and miss me a lot!

All silliness aside, I don’t want to wait until I retire.  You never know what will happen tomorrow, so I want to do my living now.   I am forever grateful to my loving, supportive husband who works very hard for us.  He enjoys his job and supports me quitting mine to follow my lifelong dream.  I owe him – big time.  I also promised him I would be more frugal and keep my hike on budget.  Yes, he made a spreadsheet.

Oh no.  What am I feeling now????

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I’m NERVOUS. 

Nervousness is a whole bunch of emotions all trying to get out at the same time.  Fear, longing, concern, desire, doubt, and panic are a few emotions in my nervous packet.  You might have others in yours.  At the beginning of any solo hike I have a bout of the nervous jitters.  My knees feel wobbly, my hands sweat, my mouth goes dry and my breathing becomes faster.   This feeling stays with me for a quite a while into my hike.  While listening to the radio one morning I heard an interview of English actor, comedian, James Corden.  He does the carpool karaoke with famous people and he’s so funny!  This interview was about how he gets so nervous before performing that he sought professional help.  I am going to quote what he learned.  This is just copied from this cnn.com article: James Corden interview on CNN.

“This is a few years ago now, and then he taught me this thing that you’ve got to see nerves as a good thing. You’re only ever nervous when you want to do your best. You’re only ever nervous when something matters. So when nerves come, you’ve got to go, ‘Oh my God, this is great. I’m doing something that is important to me, and this is great that this thing has turned up to help me.’ ” James Corden.

So, I think I’ll be ready to apply this way of thinking on my next solo hike.  Maybe my knees will not be so wobbly and my hands won’t be sweaty.  It’s worth a shot!

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ALONE AND BRAVE

Oh, help me!  I read so many articles about hiking, but why, oh why, do I read the articles about hikers gone mysteriously missing, hikers shredded by mountain lions, hikers eaten by bears, hikers attacked by a machete wielding crazy person!  Oh, good grief, it gets in my head and stays there!

I’ve been so excited to work on completing my Allegany 18 challenge I woke up early on Sunday and drove the hour and a half to the park!  The park was so quiet.  At this time of year not many hardy souls venture out when the weather is iffy.  Do murderers?

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I headed to a short and sweet trail called Bear Springs.  BEAR!???!!!!???  Did that sign say BEAR???  Yes it did.  Well, psht, bears aren’t around trails, right.  Off I went. Out and back, easy peasy.  Well, it was a muddy trail and the trail stewards had been hard at work in the last few years building neat “board” walks to bypass the wettest areas.  I just love how unique each trail is.  This trail is very easy and highly recommended for old dogs with arthritis and husbands like mine.

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I found the marker on the tree for the challenge, raced up to the end of the trail and quickly made my way back to the car.  Look at me!  No make up, no hair products, completely au natural.  (Please don’t enlarge the photo.  I cannot be responsible for broken monitors.)  My mother always said I was a natural beauty.  I believe everything my mother says.

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I didn’t see any bears on “Bear” Spring trail, so I went next to Black Snake Mountain!  SNAKES!  I actually am not afraid of snakes.  Bring it!  Being brave and doing things that are uncomfortable are two things that I’m learning to be good at.  Black Snake Mountain Trail is 2.8 miles.  Sounds easy?  It’s Black Snake MOUNTAIN Trail.  But, yes, actually it was physically easy”ish” for me.  The not physical part where I remembered I was –ALONE!  ALL ALONE!  wasn’t as easy.

I tried to text my husband to let him know where I was, but I had NO SERVICE!  That’s okay;  my car’s at the trail head, so if I go missing, they’ll find my car.  WHY, WAS MY HEAD GOING “THERE”?  I shook it off and headed up the trail.

First thing I encounter?  A CREEPY SHED where a murderer could live!!

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I ran past that and picked up my pace.

This part of the trail goes up the mountain.  I took a lot of pictures because I stopped a lot to catch my breath.  AND to look behind me to make sure the murderer wasn’t following me.

The Allegany Challenge map indicated I would find a stone marker where I could be in two states at once.  I found it!

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One foot in Pennsylvania and one foot in New York.

For those few lovely moments I had forgotten about the murderer following me on the trail.

I was at the summit and realized I had cell service!  Quickly, I sent messages to my husband and best friend with a couple photos of where I was.  You know, in case of the murder.  Of course, I didn’t let on to them that I was afraid.  I felt like if I typed that out at that time, it would just make them worry more about me.  There were lots of birds singing – which is a good sign of nothing bad around.  I just kept telling myself that.  There at the summit was the marker I needed to prove I was here.  My phone will tell the story to the investigators when they find my body.

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At this point I reallllllly had to pee.  REEALLLYYYY bad!  So I peed in the woods.  I was buckling my pack and as all hikers should – I looked back at where I peed.  Guess what I saw??????  Not a murderer. Not a bear.  Not even a snake……

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MY PHONE!!!!!!!!

Of course it isn’t in the picture, because I used it to take the picture.  But, pfeeyoof!  I’m so glad I looked back to make sure I didn’t drop anything, because I DID! How could the detectives follow my trail if I lost my phone before I was murdered?

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Now, for some reason, I began to think of mountain lions.  WHY????  I didn’t even know if mountain lions lived where I was!  How could I not know this!  Seriously.  My brain went there.

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Not today, kitty.

I stood in the middle of the trail.  ALL ALONE.  ALONE and BRAVE!

So I sang a song.  “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. From my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.”  (Worth the click. It’s not me singing, don’t worry.)

Mountain lions do not like that song.  They must not, because I never saw one.

I did hear a dog bark.   Or was it a coyote?

There was no murder, no mauling, no investigation was necessary.  I made it back to my car in one piece.

What do we say to god of death?

Not today.

 

 

 

 

 

Distractions, Challenges and Gettin’ it DONE!

wedding CAThere was a major distraction in my life this past year.  My handsome son was married in September 2018!  My dining room became wedding central.  Two tables were full of centerpieces and every kind of wedding paraphernalia.  The wedding was beautiful!  Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that after the big day it takes a few weeks to recover.  Well, I took a few months.  Now I can get back to my agenda of training for the AT!

Last summer, before the big day, I took a couple of hiking trips to Kinzua Sky Walk, Kiasutha Recreation Area and Allegany State Park – among many other day hikes locally.

Click here for information on Kinzua Bridge State Park and the Sky Walk.

Kinzua Sky Walk is an old railroad bridge that was knocked down by a tornado.  They bolstered the remaining trestle and made a really, really cool walk way out of it.  I highly recommend walking the trail to view the bridge from below!  There is also a brand new education building with extremely interesting history of the bridge, the tornado and how the sky walk was built.

Click here for the visitor guide.

Kinzua State Park - Mount Jewett, PA Kinzua looking up

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Kiasutha Recreation Area was about 40 minutes from the Sky Walk but worth the ride.  I had the most peaceful campsite with a beautiful view (Tent site number 12) right next to the lake and just a minute walk to the sandy beach.  I highly recommend it!  It was a peaceful and beautiful place to camp out overnight.

Last year I also camped out at Allegany State Park.  I rented a cabin though because the campground was closed.  The cabin did not have heat or electricity.  I wasn’t there for the cabin though!

I’ve been to this park over a hundred times and I was able to see five new things that I never saw before!

Bear Caves, Thunder Rocks, Stone Tower, Quaker Lake, and Science Lake.

 

The park has a program called Allegany 18.  It is a challenge to hike all 18 original trails of Allegany State Park.  It totals about 70 miles.

Most trails average 5 miles or so.  You pay $20.00 for your packet which includes separate maps of each trail and a neon pencil.  As you walk each trail you come across yellow markers with the trail number, which you etch onto your map for proof you actually hiked the trail.  After hiking all 18 trails you can claim your neat water bottle and sticker!

Currently I’ve only hiked one trail, but I plan to complete them all by August.

My thru hike is only a year away now, so it’s time to get to business.  I hope to be writing about my challenges and adventures more often.  I’ll be headed back to the gym (!!!!) to get some muscle built.  Gyms are intimidating to me, so send positive thoughts that I get my big girl panties on and just DO IT!

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My faithful hiking partner is never far away, although sometimes she fades into the shadows.

 

 

Deeply Ever Burning

Quiet sleeping fierce desires
Slumbering solid ice
Above rapid flowing water
White soundless snow
Covering reaching roots
Resting bare branches
Whispering wishes of spring

 

Meditation and introspection during a long winter’s walk.

Way Outside my Comfort Zone

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

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

I DO NOT EXERCISE.

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Disclaimer: This is not me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See what I did there?