In my last article I wrote about being afraid while hiking alone. The article was lighthearted and some called it cute and funny. I tried to make light of being afraid while hiking alone. Like my fears were not real.
THEY ARE REAL.
And those fears became even more real when Army Veteran Ron Sanchez was brutally murdered on the Appalachian Trail a few weeks ago. I do not want to put the incident in my own words; you can google it.
I have read that Ron Sanchez was thru hiking the AT to seek healing from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He had served three tours in Iraq. People set out to thru hike the AT for different reasons. Therefore, on the trail I expect to encounter people like Ron, who are hiking the trail to find inner peace. On the trail I also predict I will encounter happy people, sad people, grumpy people, friendly people and yes, scary people.
Scary things can happen to you, me, and those we love – anywhere and at anytime. Recently I was speaking with my nephew, Matthew, about scary things and what does he do to come to peace with it. He said – when really bad things happen and I can’t do anything about it, I try to learn a lesson from it.
The lesson I learned is that I will be the friendly, cheerful, happy, kind person that others encounter on the trail. I will be the person that others can trust. I will “trust my gut” when I encounter suspicious people. However, I will continue to solo hike. I will also carry a Personal Locator Beacon in case of an emergency.
Most of all, I will not live in fear of the unknown. I will not let scary things control me or discourage me from my thru hike in 2020.
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?
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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……
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?
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.
I stood in the middle of the trail. ALL ALONE. ALONE and BRAVE!
There 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.
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.
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.
Skinned my knee scrambling up here before my camera timer went off!
This rock is falling on me! Help!
Did not see bears. Disappointed. Not!
Stone Tower. I love the history of this park!
Sitting in the lifeguard chair at Quaker Lake. No one drowned.
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!
My faithful hiking partner is never far away, although sometimes she fades into the shadows.
Some of you know that I attempted to hike 40 or so miles through Maryland on the Appalachian Trail a couple weeks ago. I didn’t hike as far as I wanted to.
Dave dropped me off at Pen Mar Park about 9:30 a.m. and I eagerly started out.
I walked a flat mile or so and then it happened. The rocks. I heard about the rocks. My poles saved my ankles and knees a few times as I maneuvered up and down and around the boulders. Suddenly, the trail went up and up and up. Then up some more. ON THE ROCKS.
How I dreamed of the A.T.
How the A.T. actually is.
I didn’t push myself, I was slow and deliberate in my steps. My thoughts kept reminding me of the view that awaited me at the top. And I did it! I made it to High Rock Overlook. The day was so clear and perfect. I took a few photos and had a little snack. The climb was worth it today! My spirits were good!
I AM A GIANT!!!!
I continued on and started going down, down, down and down again! Then finally I saw a sign for the Rock Haven Shelter. It was literally a haven from the rocks. I was going to hike more miles, but decided 6 miles was enough for my first day.
Since I was the first one there, I had my pick of the spots in the shelter. It was a very nice shelter, as I understand, it is one of the nicest around. I unpacked my gear and set up my pad, sleeping bag, changed my clothes, found the privy and then decided to figure out the bear bag cables.
The cables were easy enough to figure out, but the cable snagged on itself as I was trying to reattach it to the tree. As I was struggling, three men walked toward me and one offered his kind assistance. After he helped me, he looked crazy at me and asked if I knew that I hadn’t attached my food bag to the cable. Hahaha. I told him I was only practicing for later!
Mine is the green one!
I learned that the kind man that helped me with the bear bag cables is an Assistant Leader for a Boy Scout Troop. It made me relieved that someone who knew camping was sheltering with me! We all know accidents can happen though and as he was making his dinner he poured boiling water all over his left hand – and – he didn’t have a first aid kit! WHAT??!!!??? What kind of Boy Scout is this?? Lucky for him I had packed the world’s largest first aid kit and gave him some salve for the burn. Another man hiking with him had a 60 pound pack – yes, 60 pounds. He proceeded to bring out boxes of crackers, 2 pounds of almonds and a can of black beans. I was shaking my head in disbelief. I thought I would be the one burning myself and carrying the crazy amount of weight. The same man later on pulled out raw Italian sausages from his pack and proceeded to cook them over the campfire. A thru-hiker sitting at the campfire said in all his 68 days on trail he had never seen anyone cook Italian sausage over a campfire. He also said the craziest thing he had seen was a woman hiking while eating an entire head of lettuce like it was an apple. Ooookay.
The shelter was packed with hikers and the surrounding area was dotted with bright tents. As we settled down for sleep around 8:30 I was WIDE AWAKE. It was only when the hiker next to me started to snore that I fell asleep. He sounded just like my husband! During the night I woke up a few time to sounds of multi pitch snoring, sleeping bags crinkling against their pads as sleepers rolled over and random whispering. All in all, I had a decent sleep.
All the hikers started to roll out of their beds about 6:30 or so. I took my time. A nice woman from Switzerland had helped me put up my food bag the night before on the cables and she was so nice she brought it back down when she retrieved her own bag in the morning. I made some food, but was feeling tired. I dilly dallied and swept out the shelter after everyone left. First one in, last one out.
The energetic feeling of joy wasn’t in me. I was feeling different. My legs were very wobbly. I was worried about every little thing. I was constantly checking my guthook app for where I was and how far I had to go to the next shelter or the next water. And I hadn’t even gone that far yet!
Although I triumphantly gathered my own water at a waterfall, I was feeling gloomy, no matter how hard I tried to cheer myself up. I was going down hill for about a mile. Then, I saw a road, multiple vehicles were parked along the shoulder and day hikers were all around the trail. A nice woman smiled at me. I kept going. I crossed the road. I crossed a creek. I started to climb up and up and up. Then I saw a black snake.
Cool! I was hoping to see some wildlife. I kept going. Then I saw a big rock, felt my legs wobble and promptly sat on said rock. Gloomily, I watched day hikers and thru hikers confidently pass me. I texted my husband. I did not cry. My face felt hot. My mind was swirling. I simply did not want to continue. I gave up. I quit.
I walked back to road. I waited for that nice woman that smiled at me earlier to finish her hike. I finally saw her and I leaped into her arms. Well, not really. That would have been funny, but I don’t think I could have lifted my legs up high enough to leap. The nice woman – my trail angel – gave me a ride to a gas station/deli then an hour later came back and drove me further to Frederick so my brother in law could “rescue” me there. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Alys!
But, what just happened?
In the immediate days following I faked being positive and upbeat about my adventure, actually my stomach hurt, my heart hurt and I wanted to crawl into bed and hide. I thought I was giving up on my dream. After some reflection and long talks with my husband, my dream to thru hike has not dimmed. In fact, I am more determined than ever to set myself up for success.
I don’t want to die with dreams left inside of me.
This failed hike did what it was supposed to! I got to know my gear, and most importantly I learned what I need to change. What would I change about my gear? Not much, maybe ditch half the first aid and find a lighter tent. What else could I change? I have regrets. The next hike I do, I will have no regrets. I should have re-read my Why’s before calling it quits. In the moment I didn’t think I could take one more step, looking back, I don’t think I pushed myself hard enough. I’m disappointed in myself. I’m proud of myself, too, though. I was brave to even try.
The biggest (pun intended) change needed is that I am not physically ready. If I want to continue this journey for thru hiking the Appalachian Trail I will need to be more focused on my health and strength starting now. How exciting!
I announced my intention to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2020 WAY back in July of 2015. Some people seem to be assuming that I have given up on it. What??? No. I still intend on starting my hike in April of 2020. Ready or not here I come. This summer I will be buckling my pack and staking my tent even more; going to places I have never been and gaining some valuable experience. And I’ll even write about a few of those adventures. Plans are in the works for a trip to the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail, and a possible trip to Maine. I’ll, of course, also keep hiking around Western New York.
Right now though, Mother Nature has not yet received the message that Spring is about to be here and has been unleashing some serious snow and cold around here.
I’m not letting that stop me though. I revisited an old favorite place to hike, Tillman Nature Preserve. The last time I visited there was a monsoon! (Read about it here.) I was up past my ankles in water while hiking in my work boots and a skirt! (This was back when I didn’t prepare very well.) It was a little different this time. The weather was cool, but it had just been raining so the trails were mushy and muddy in places and downright ponds to walk through. The boardwalks and waterproofed boots were sure handy!
Of course, I always say – It isn’t a truly good hike unless there’s a little mud!
Before and after of my boots.
Tillman Nature Preserve has a great loop trail that is just over 2 miles. It crosses and recrosses a road and is completely and utterly FLAT. There were a few interesting photo ops though.
Some kind of fungus, a neat little bridge and it seems as if someone built a couple “shelters”. Only one seemed to be big enough for me to get in, so I did.
As you can see by the sunshine over my shoulder the shelter is not very weatherproof, but it’s still fun. I cleaned up some litter around the shelters and on the trail.
There must be at least a six pack of Bud Light and a couple Gatorade bottles. What a shame. I’m glad I brought a bag to collect it all in. I actually washed and kept the orange shaker bottle. It looked brand new! I’m guessing it fell off a fat-tire bike rider.
A week later, my big green pack was looking sad, so I packed it lightly and buckled it up to revisit Hunters Creek Park. I was worried about the snow in the parking lot, but I didn’t need to be. So many people love this park it must have been plowed. I put on my micro spikes for a short hike around the most used trails. The trails with no human tracks made me nervous. I didn’t want to blaze my own trail yet and I had left my snow shoes in my car.
It was not even 30 degrees, but I was plenty warm with my layers. I was confident hiking on the icy paths with my micro spikes. I had my taped together, well-used map, so I didn’t get lost. Although at one point I thought a blue dashed line was the creek when it was actually a trail. Oops. So much for having a map. I am seriously considering taking an orienteering class this summer.
I love this picture below of the brilliant sunset (my AT dream) behind poles (work, life) with a directional sign (chose left or right). I don’t want to go left or right; I want to go straight into that brilliant dream!!! Those poles can just get out of my way! When I’m on the AT, I will take many photos of the sunset I am sure; and NONE of them will have poles in the way!
By cleaning your house, I actually mean the one that your soul lives in. The physical body that your mother and father made for you. The beautiful body that contains your thoughts, dreams, aches, and pains should be really cleaned out once or twice in your life. Cleansed of negativity, cleansed of brain clutter, cleansed of – well, everything that makes the aches, pains and stress. Now that it is winter, it is the perfect time to dig inside yourself, not just dig in the snow. Dig inside yourself and shovel out that crap! (Figuratively and literally.)
In my last article I talked about de-cluttering my home. That is still a work in progress. In the meantime, I’m taking three weeks this month to see what happens when I de-clutter the way I eat. I tend to snack at night – on a big bowl of popcorn, or a few m-n-m’s. I love to eat candy! Chewy candy or caramels…yum! So, needless to say, I gained a few pounds. I’m not on any medicines, and I would like to keep it that way for the rest of my life! So changes need to be made!
My friend introduced me to a wellness program called the Ultimate Reset . Before I even read anything about it, I signed up. Woah. I panicked. I spent money on health stuff. That is not like me. I must have a fever. I took a deep breath and talked to my friend – shout out to Tabatha! She is a coach with Team Beachbody and a darn good one. She always says the right thing to put me back on track and believe in myself.
This article isn’t to sell the program. I don’t know enough about it to sell it. The big thing that sold me on Ultimate Reset is that there is only light exercise involved. If by some chance you want to know more, let me know and I can connect you to Tabatha. These are just a few observations about my personal experiences during this process.
VERY, VERY simply, Ultimate Reset is a 21 day program where you gradually eliminate meat, dairy and sugar and all food that tastes good. heheheh. That’s not true. At least that last part. I’ve had great food and new foods! Never had tempeh before this! Or miso soup! Actually, the Ultimate Reset says that it will “reset” my body’s inner workings and fine tune all my parts to make it strong and as healthy as possible. They name the three weeks: reclaim, release, restore.
RECLAIM! I am reclaiming my body as my own. I am reclaiming my health! As I look back at week one it was challenging! I had to spend a lot of money on food that I never knew existed (wakame seaweed, jicama, liquid aminos). The meal prepping was mind boggling. There were videos of other ladies drinking their “power greens” with their nose plugged because it smells so bad. Doubts crept in. The old familiar voice in my head started telling me I could never eat like this, I would never follow through, I was going to eat candy! I didn’t feel like I was “reclaiming” anything! Then. Then, I spoke out loud to the voice in my head and told it to SHUT UP! I reclaimed the voice in my head!
My fear of failure is still always there. I set myself up for success this time by setting a lot of alarms on my phone. Reminding me to take the supplements on time, to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, an alarm to remind me to go to bed! If I had to remember it, I set an alarm for it.
The recipes and almost all the food was delicious (miso soup is not my favorite). I learned to substitute things (veggie broth for the miso soup) and was brave in trying new foods – tempeh and wakame seaweed. I even made nori gomasio.
The instructions of this program are that you are only to do light exercise, like walking or yoga. It was freezing outside so I took my sister and nephew on a wintery hike in the woods. My sister had a chickadee eat out of her hand for the first time. She is now the newest Disney princess! She is a master bird whisperer.
RELEASE! Please release me! Release week is when you take a “detox” supplement that should help you “release” – be it physical, mental, and/or spiritual. Looking back at Release week I remember I was excited that I didn’t have to buy as many groceries! I’m released from grocery shopping! Wait….am I going to be hungry? Why am I only eating mashed chickpeas for breakfast? What did I sign up for? Then. Then, I released my concerns and followed the program. I stopped my questioning and drank my power greens like a big girl and made some delicious, healthy meals.
The Releasing for me has been releasing control of my comfort. Letting myself feel uncomfortable.
It’s okay to feel a little hungry. For I know I will feel hungry while hiking the Appalachian Trail, so I might as well see how it feels now!
It’s not comfortable or fun cooking every single day for 21 days. My husband and I ate at restaurants 3-4 times a week. But, I’ll be cooking for myself nearly every day for six months on the Appalachian Trail. Better get used to cooking!
Pushing away cravings for food is difficult for me. I admit, I did sneak a teeny tiny piece of my husband’s steak while I was supposed to be eating vegan. I might have accidentally put a teeny tiny piece of chocolate in my mouth. I’m human. One thing I really want is a big bowl of buttery, salty popcorn. But on the Appalachian Trail, I won’t be able to succumb to cravings, so I better figure out how to manage them now.
On a side note: My dreams have been spectacular! So vivid and funny. In one, my husband and I were flying (just our bodies, no plane or spaceship) into outer space and nearly collided with a satellite. My husband was supposed to know where the parachutes were to go back to Earth, but he wasn’t sure. Somehow we landed and NASA was interrogating us about our trip. Then my friend Linda showed up and said that next time we should look up where the satellites are first, so we don’t almost hit one. Seriously, I dreamed this! The only thing I had to eat before bed was a big glass of water.
RESTORE! Week three! What a week it was! I ate roasted fennel (my favorite) and other veggies, tons and tons of fruit and started a new supplement to put the good bacteria back in my gut. Well, I started out the week by getting sick. Puking sick. I haven’t thrown up in a long time! Some of my friends on the same program said I had a flu. Sure felt like it. Being sick and on a diet is so hard. My body just wanted comfort food and not power greens. This week is supposed to be entirely vegan. I failed. I am not ashamed. I didn’t feel good! My husband made me a scrambled egg because if I threw up again, it wouldn’t hurt coming back up. The next day I stayed home from work because my stomach still didn’t feel right. I ate most of the food suggested, but I added a very small chunk of fresh chicken my husband made to the salad I had for lunch. I skipped a half day of supplements and stopped taking power greens. Again. It’s what I felt like I needed to do to feel better. The next day I was back to the program. Only you know your body best. It’s great to push yourself, but don’t make yourself miserable.
As you can see from the length of this section and lack of pictures, this week was tough for me. It’s the week before Christmas so I was extremely busy, extremely sick and getting tired of having to prep and plan every meal. By the end of the week I did have a couple slip ups. But I did the best I could.
My program results are about what I expected. I am excited to say I am down over ten pounds and four inches all around. My energy level has improved and I slept better than ever. Amazingly, my GERD has not been an issue at all during this. I did make sure I didn’t eat problem foods, of course. As I transition back to eating meat protein I will see how I feel and take careful notice of what I eat that makes me feel tired, bloated, and sick.
There are some other programs by Beachbody that Tabatha has suggested I try starting in the new year! I’m excited to continue this great process of getting stronger and healthier in order to make sure my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail is a success!