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.

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!

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!

 

Mud, Bones and What am I doing????

I personally love the feeling of walking in mud.  It’s squishy and soft and makes the grossest sound as you pull your foot out of a deep mud puddle.  I love it!  After a heavy downpour the trails are made of slippery, chocolate brown mud!  Mud doesn’t stop me!

While hiking, one periodically comes across unusual things.  Recently, after an uneventful 2 miles or so I noticed the decomposing leg of a deer had been draped on a tree branch.  GROSS!  Of course I took a picture because I’m morbid.  I won’t put it here, but if you want to see it (you sick, sick person) I won’t judge you, just send me a message!

It was a bonus unusual day.  Off the trail about 50 feet was a little white cross. Someone must have buried their pet in the woods.  Or was it the remains of the deer and someone put a cross over it. I decided to admire the cross from trail just in case whatever was there wasn’t completely buried!

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Shelly and I didn’t waste anytime getting away from the decomposing bones!

Hiking with different people I don’t know, I generally ask them, “How do you spend your time outside of hiking?”  Almost always, the answer I get is, “Work.”  Well, besides that!?  Next the answers are about their children or grandchildren, pets, education and travel.

When I am asked that question the first thing I want to tell people is about my family.  Dave (my husband) and Carl (my son) are my most favorite people!  My two golden retrievers are great hiking buddies, too!

Another hobby I enjoy is hand crafting homemade greeting cards.  I have a room in my house dedicated to my stamps and crafts!  I also love Halloween, cooking and reading everything I can about the AT.

Truth be told, I really just want to talk about hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I want to talk about my gear, maps, books, planning – YOU NAME IT!  My hike may be 3.7 years from now (or maybe sooner if I can manage it) but I eat, sleep, and breathe the AT.

I’m planning a trip to Gatlinburg, TN in late April and plan to visit many trails there.  I had made a promise to myself to not hike any of the AT until I started my thru hike.  I wanted everything to be new on the trail.  Now I have a chance to go to Clingman’s Dome!  I should do it, right?  Or, should I not?  I should.  Maybe not.  Ugh!

In reality I should be focusing on planning and preparing for a backpacking trip I am taking to the Allegheny National Forest in ONE WEEK!  Shelly and I are spending one night on a trail out there.  I’m very nervous about putting up my tent.  I will be practicing it over and over in my yard this week!  I’ll be documenting my success or lack thereof!

As you can tell, it is Spring and I’m excited for backpacking season to begin.  I’m looking forward to wearing my heavier pack on some trails to get more accustomed to it.

Happy Trails and thanks for following my adventures in training for my thru hike of the AT!

Ice and Eskers

Woot! Another double hike weekend!  I need a t-shirt that says “Hiking is my religion.”  Being outdoors improves everything!  I took advantage of some mild weather this past weekend to visit a long time favorite park, Stiglmeier Park and a new park near Honeoye Falls called Mendon Ponds Park.

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Boardwalk in the meadow where we saw the Red-Tailed Hawk.

Saturday morning was pretty cold.  I’m trying to thicken my skin so I didn’t back out of the hike in Stiglmeier Park.  There was a new group to meet, Creation Exploration.  The group met in the parking lot of the park and I asked about needing micro-spikes on the trails. The leaders both said, “No, I doubt it.”  Well, the entire trail was complete ice.  Note to self and others, when leading a hike always hike a little of the trail before everyone gets there so you can be aware of the trail conditions to inform your group how to prepare.  Ugh.  As we were sliding on the ice, one of the leaders smiled and said to me, “Should have worn your spikes, huh?”  Okay, strike one.

We were walking the Seneca Trail and we were looking for wildlife! This was a slow paced walk through very flat (but, icy) trails. Some of the animals and birds that made an appearance were: White-Tail Deer (a nice sized buck!), Mallard Ducks, Red Tail Hawk, Cardinals, Black-Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Juncos, Downy Woodpecker and some cool tracks of little critters.  There were probably others, I just don’t remember.

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A mouse probably made these tracks.

We had a super view of the Red-Tailed Hawk swooping over a meadow and again hovering and diving down to catch some lunch and then again it was flying through another meadow.  Birds are amazing, especially birds of prey.  They fascinate me.

The group was small and some of us were new to the group. Everyone was nice enough, but since we didn’t know each other it was a little stiff.  When I saw the Red-Bellied Woodpecker and pointed it out there was a man that didn’t believe me because it had a red head not a red belly.  Well.  Okay.  But then another man in the group confirmed my call and the guy believed him just fine!  Strike Two.  Moving on then!  They don’t get a strike three. I don’t need that.  I kept my mouth shut the rest of walk.  It was still a nice walk in a beautiful park.  This was not challenging at all, except for the people part.

The weather on Sunday was AMAZING!  It was forecast to reach 60 degrees and I think it was a bit higher than that.  It is so nice to be able to hike in the snow while wearing just a fleece on February 28! We were hiking Mendon Ponds Park with my familiar Day Hikes group.  The trail we took was the East Esker Trail.  There were only 6 of us on this hike and I do enjoy small group hikes.  I can really get to know every person and we are like a little family on the trail.

My friend Shelly (check out her blog at: http://livingonthedirt.com) hiked along with me.  I was so glad she was there.  Hiking up a hill, she commented that I was really keeping up and what a long way I’ve come so far.  It made me feel terrific.  Even I noticed that the hills weren’t so tiring as they were on past hikes.  Like they say, the more you do, the better you get!

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Take a photo of the map with your phone. Very helpful if you don’t have a printed version.

You are probably wondering what “Eskers” are in my title.  I learned a little bit about glaciers on my hike to Mendon Ponds.  Eskers are a winding ridge of sand and gravel that are very long and remind me of walking on an old abandoned railway embankment. They are created when streams flowed under and within glaciers.  It is a little more technical than that so I’ve supplied the wiki address if you interested in learning more.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esker

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Learning about the Esker we are hiking on from our group leader.

Shelly brought along her new camera.  She will have to leave a comment below as I don’t remember what kind of camera it is.  The pictures of my rear end came out lovely as usual.

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X marks the butt.
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About to get my butt over this tree in the trail. Same day, removed my fleece because it was so warm!

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You can see how the trail conditions changed during our hike.  Lots of snow and ice then it changed to mud then back to ice.

This hike was moderately challenging for me, it would have been more challenging if Shelly and I were alone because she marches me up the hills!  Since we were with a group we stopped frequently and took pictures.

I made the final decision to not sign up for the Finger Lakes Trail Cross County hike this year.  Too many of the dates conflicted with vacation and other events.  Instead, I hope to backpack by myself or with my son in Alleghany National Forest or other places this Spring and Summer.  This coming weekend my husband I are visiting Downtown Buffalo for a little City getaway.  I hope to visit Tifft Nature Preserve to get my outdoor time in.

Thanks for tuning in to learn about my adventures in training for my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail.  Until next time – Hike on!!