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!

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!