Wild Women Weekend

IMG_20151002_111836798This past weekend I enjoyed the friendship of nearly 100 women.  We all converged upon Grand Island, NY to attend the Wild Women Weekend.  The Weekend offers women the opportunity to try new activities under the watchful eye of trained leaders. Some of the workshops were ziplining, horseback riding, zentangle, archery, tapping into your intuition, embracing your feminine power, self defense, walking in nature, foraging for wild edibles, tai chi, skeet shooting and others.

My workshops were horseback riding, archery, walking in nature and foraging.  I won’t bore you or me with lack luster details of Friday, except to say I was with my girlfriends in a log cabin at a beautiful campground.  We had a campfire, drinks, laughs and just a really great time getting to know each other.

Saturday started very early with me waking at 6:30 am.  Horseback riding was first on my agenda.  Breakfast was in the opposite direction, so I gave my breakfast coupon to my friend and went straight to the stables.  There were about 15 women in our morning ride.  Lucy the white mare was assigned to carry me around the trails for 45 minutes of joy!  Well, Lucy was a follower.  Much like myself.  If the horse in front of me was trotting, so was Lucy.  If the horse in front of me stopped for a bite of grass, so did Lucy.  Luckily, that meant she didn’t wander or do anything to scare me.  She was a solid, happy girl.  I’m glad I went, but my thighs and legs are still sore!

Lucy is a good girl.
Lucy is a good girl.

My next adventure was archery.  Cabela’s sponsored this workshop and provided two people to train us ladies on how to properly shoot a crossbow and recurve bow.  I started by shooting the recurve bow.  The young man in charged patiently showed me how to hold my hands, how far to pull it back and guided my aim.  I hit the wood behind the target, the wood next to the target and finally, the TARGET!  After a few more shots I finally shot the middle of the target!  It was a lot of fun and I would love to do that again!  The crossbow was scary to me.  It seemed too powerful and dangerous.  I just wasn’t sure about it.  Then I remembered what this weekend was all about – trying new things!  The young lady in charge showed me how to prime the bow with all the strings and clips.  I’m sure I am not using the correct terms for these things.  Anyway, she encouraged me to look through the scope, aim for the target and when I was comfortable and ready to put my finger on the trigger and shoot.  Well, I hit the target, EXACTLY where I was aiming!  I was stunned how powerful I felt!  What a great experience!

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Recurve Bow
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Crossbow

My last two workshops were more subdued, but thoroughly educational.  I walked in nature and learned about foraging.  While walking in nature we identified plants, flowers, trees and wildlife.  We walked on a trail into the woods and it was very peaceful.  The Naturalist was very knowledgeable and patient with all our questions.  I’ll never forget what a New England Aster looks like or a Dogwood shrub (Ruff rrrruuffff) or Buck Thorn tree.  The foraging workshop taught me the many types of plants and trees that we can eat and are easily (or not) found in the wild.  Dandelion, plantain, wood sorrel, to name just a few.  I even chewed on fir tree needles.  They gave me fresh breath!  It was like tasting Christmas!

On my nature walk. It was 50 degrees and sprinkling.
On my nature walk. It was 50 degrees and sprinkling.

The overwhelmingly best part of the entire weekend was meeting like minded women.  Women who enjoyed the outdoors, nature and adventure just as much as I do!  I met some great new friends.

Stronger than that.

This past weekend I attended a Geocache event with my bff MsBirder at Letchworth State Park.  I am not a geocacher, she is.  She told me that there would be hiking and exploring new areas of the Park that we have never seen and I would enjoy it.  After a bit more convincing I decided to tag along with her.

If you don’t know what Geocaching is, please go to Geocaching.com and explore the site and try it!  It really is a lot of fun to walk around in circles, putting your hands in places you can’t see into and sometimes you even find something really cool.

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Before the wet butt. Me in the middle.

We started the day off meeting new people and MsBirder received a lesson on how her new Garmin works.  MsBirder’s friend, Terry, hooked up with us and we drove to the first cache in Terry’s car.  I realized I left behind my hiking poles in MsBirder’s car and wasn’t too worried, but then we arrived at the creek.

The cache was across a little stream.  We walked across just fine, found the cache and started back over the creek.  That is where my real adventure began.  Yup, I fell in.  In the deepest part.  I was wet, very, very wet.  Luckily, the only thing bruised was my ego.  I’m not one to go lightly on the dramatics, so immediately I told MsBirder I wanted to go home.  I was huffy and puffy and even I didn’t think I was very mature.  MsBirder and Terry worked out a plan that I could drive MsBirder’s car home and Terry would bring her home later OR I could use the change of clothes MsBirder had in the car and carry on.

I wanted to go home.  I was wet and miserable.  I was angry at myself for forgetting my poles in MsBirder’s car, I was angry that I wasn’t more careful and frankly, I was embarrassed.

We got in the car and headed back to MsBirder’s car, all the while they were asking me over and over and over if I had a change of heart.  They wanted me to stay and stick it out, at least through lunch.

On the short car ride to the parking lot, I mulled it over and over in my head.  Why did I want to go home when an option to stay is there?  What would I do if I fell into a creek on the Appalachian Trail while 1000’s of miles from home?  I couldn’t just get in my car and pout and go home.  If I want to thru hike the Appalachian Trail, I’m going to have to learn how to adapt to my situation and muddle through it and make the best out of my circumstances.  Also, MsBirder is my bff, I can’t let her down!  I am a strong, wild woman!

“FINE!  I”ll stay!”  Wow, they were so excited!  MsBirder has known me a long time, so she was skeptical that I meant it.  But, I changed into dry pants and socks (luckily that was all I needed) and had lunch and participated in the rest of the event.  Every time I thought that “this cache will be the last for today” MsBirder put on a pout and sweetly explained “but the next cache is only .25 miles away…”  How could I say no?  That is not what a bff does.  MsBirder and I went on to have a “big day” or something like that.  I think we found 6 different kinds of caches.  I think I may be a Geocacher now!

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We found a skull on our search for one of the caches! If you know what it might be, let me know!
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Our last cache of the day! Notice the difference in my appearance from the photo in the beginning to this one here! It was a LONG day!

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I will say, I am so glad I stuck it out.  After the event, Terry even said she would have gone home if it had happened to her!  There is something inside of me that is strong, stubborn and powerful.  My —- “of course you failed, you always fail” way of thinking has got to stop.  I subconsciously started this day imagining going home early.  I had a reason to go home early.  I didn’t.  I’m stronger than that!

Stand Still and Use Your Inner Compass


Slowly, ever so slowly I am making plans in my head.  Some might call my plans dreams.  Well, so be it.  As always I’ve come to a stand still in my training.  It is a predictable predicament.  In the past I have made goals, announced my intentions and them – BAM – I freeze into pillar of stone with a head full of doubt and a feeling of failure.

I dig deep into my brain to understand
why when I set a goal, start towards it I drift away of the very thing I so desperately desire.

Learning to forgive myself for my lateral throws that get me nowhere is a personal goal.  It seems like progress, but we all know it’s just fluff.  I’m sidestepping to avoidfootball the hard stuff.  Or am I?

Reading articles of the successes and failures of others that have/had the same goal as I do,thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, prepares my mind, gets my adrenaline flowing and makes my mouth water for the taste of trying!  I examine articles and webpages to research the purchase of proper gear.  It is quite to fun to shop for the gear I will require to hike this trail.  My recent purchases include: backpack, tent, sleeping bag, water purification system and (woohoo!) sock liners.

Owning the “big three” (pack, tent and sleeping bag) compasswas a goal that I accomplished.  That’s at least a first down if this were a football game.  Now I need a touch down.  I won’t forget my compass.  I just need to stand still a second, look at my compass and it will point me the way to success.  Trailchaser2020, I forgive you for these so called lateral throws.  It keeps the game interesting.

What AM I thinking??

What AM I thinking??

Having just started this adventure of training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I am beginning to really see the magnitude of my goal. So many ideas I have had throughout my life never came to fruition and I feel my previous failures knocking me in the head.

Is this really achievable? Can I walk 2,200 miles in the woods? ALL AT ONCE?

There are motivational quotes I like to read when I begin to feel like this, but is a quote enough to change my feeling of doom?

I had a walk a couple weeks ago with my nephew, Matthew. I’d been after him all summer to go hiking with me. He finally found a day off and excitedly told me he had time to go somewhere with me. I was very excited to spend some time with him and enjoy his company while getting a hike under my belt. We decided on hiking the Hunters Creek Park trails. This would be my first real hike in the woods that mimic the terrain of the AT and I was prepared.

My backpack carries my water for me in a soft bladder with a cool hose that hangs around my shoulder and I can easily drink from it. I filled the bladder with cold water and checked the hose and nozzle by giving it a little squeeze. Wiping my face from the spray of water that hit me when I squeezed the nozzle, I had to push back the feeling that this was not a good start. My pack was filled with popcorn, pepperoni, crackers, first aid kit, my Leatherman, compass, a map of the park, extra socks, and my 2 liters of water. It totaled 8 lbs when I checked it on the scale. Not bad for a first hike.

Matthew and I fortified ourselves with breakfast that Saturday morning at the West Alden Kitchen. Feeling excited and anxious to begin we gulped down breakfast and soon arrived at the park. HIMG_20150801_102545575unters Creek Park is rustic. There are no facilities except for a parking lot, a wooden sign with a faded map to orient yourself and not much else. Matthew picked the trail and I set my app to measure our distance. We walked a narrow path that opened up to a cool, shaded woods and I always wonder if this is what the AT might look like in places. Matthew is tall and lean with a large step and quick pace. In no time he was up front of me looking back periodically to make sure his elderly aunt hadn’t fallen or twisted an ankle.

Matthew was a great leader; he kept my pace quick and didn’t let me fall too far behind him. He checked the map against the trail marks we came across to make sure we didn’t get turned around. Or so I thought. Either it was poor map reading or just a plain mischievous spirit I found ourselves walking up the same steep hill three times! As I stopped IMG_20150801_114839711_HDRmidway up the hill the third time, I looked up and saw Matthew standing at the top of the hill trying to hide his big smile. I groaned and continued up the hill, reminding myself that my Walk isn’t for four years. I have lots of time to get into AT shape.

Matthew and I stopped for a snack on the creek’s shale bed. We sat and chatted about nothing in particular, just enjoying the cool breeze and watching the dragonflies dart around the rocks. I took my shoes off and carefully walked into the creek, loving the cool water on my hot, sweaty soles.

After a while we packed up and continued on our journey. There was a rickety bridge that bounIMG_20150801_122023400ced when Matthew crossed over it.  I hesitated at this bridge taking a picture and smiled as I thought, worry about the bridges when you get to them.  I was worried about this bridge, luckily though the drop was only about one foot!  Confident, I bounced my own way over the bridge, watching my step over the larger gaps.  Matthew led me to the parking lot at long last and we blasted the air conditioning in my car. I checked my app and proudly told Matthew that we had hiked five miles!

I don’t know if this is what the AT will be like, or if I will ever get to walk the AT, and if I do walk the AT, will I finish it?  I do know this for sure, the time with my nephew, Matthew, was special and I can’t wait to hike with him again.

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As for motivational quotes, I can always re-read my stories of when I didn’t give up, even if I was hiking up the same hill for the third time.

Heatwaves and Brainwaves

This week has been the hottest all summer.  Walking is not practical during my lunch.  No one wants to work with a sweaty, smelly secretary!  As an alternative I walked and shopped through Western New York’s largest mall.  The Walden Galleria –  Air conditioned and entertaining.

My father is a retired carpenter.  I use the term retired very loosely as he just finished remodeling my kitchen.  When I was a teenager my father helped to build the Walden Galleria.  In fact, he helped to build many of the largest and well-known buildings in Buffalo.

He told me of building the frame for the central curved stairway.

curved staircase

His big brown eyes widened when telling me how the floor would crack in a few years because they didn’t put the tiles in correctly.  The floor was replaced in many places!  I still remember his thick Italian accent saying “Sonofapup – I told them!”  My dad makes me proud.

Remembering the conversations we had about the construction of this mammoth shopping mall, I walked along the second floor peering below at the planters, benches and shoppers.  floorplanMy eyes squinted as I looked up in marvel at the glass roof, easily hearing the take off of an airplane from the nearby airport over the din of the mall.  I breathed deeply feeling my chest expand and quickened my pace.  I had set my pace and planned to walk a mile in the mall.  To be honest, it was distracting to walk in the mall.  There were colorful windows advertising the newest styles and gift shops full of items waiting to be discovered and taken home.

My feet were a little achy from pounding the concrete floor and I decided to treat myself to a pedicure.  I need to take care of my feet since I plan to abuse them in four years, so I offered them a little pampering.  This was only a temporary break in my stride as immediately after my pedicure I had to walk all the way back to entrance that I started from.  My feet squeaked against my plastic sandals I wore.  My pace slowed as I realized the lotion on my feet were causing my sandals to slide around my feet uncomfortably.

All in all, this was one of my easier walks; very relaxed and not fast at all.  It felt good to be among people and be a silent witness to their shopping day.  I was very amused by children begging their parents for a video game, intrigued by a an argument that I couldn’t quite hear between a young lady and a young man, and a I felt little envious when I watched a group of women laughing, talking and sharing opinions as I walked by them.  I have friends, but for some reason I do a lot of things by myself.

Checking my pace (minus the 30 minute pedicure) I walked a little over a mile in the mall.  There are mall walkers that walk the mall at 7 am everyday.  Maybe over the winter months I will try it one or two days a week.  For now, I think I will stick to walking in the outdoors.  Where I can feel the sun’s rays on me, the wind making my hair a mess and my eyes can land on the beautiful colors of nature.

Sunday afternoon.

One question I hear from my husband is “Are we walking or driving?”  Today we are definitely walking.  There is a car show in town and there are so many people that their cars are parked in front of our house and we are a quarter mile from town!

Today was warm, very warm.  Too hot to hold hands with my husband I lengthened my stride to keep up with his pace.  We were excited to get into town and have lunch at our favorite place, Darrow’s.  This portion of my walk was a bust as you can assume.  Arriving at Darrow’s we found two stools at the bar and enjoyed the company of friends while I had a salad and my husband had a “Godfather” sandwich.  My salad was a Pittsburgh salad.  Not exactly for the health conscious, it comes covered in french fries.  It was delicious as you can imagine.  The “Godfather” sandwich is steak, jalapeno peppers and gooey cheese on a hard roll.  He enjoyed it thoroughly.  We both drank plenty of water before we headed out into the sun to see the car show.

I knew this walk would be leisurely and relaxed. We walked through the triangle park and across the street to see my friend Pam and her family.  We chatted and lingered.  It was delightfully refreshing and my friend Pam is very happy and positive.  Her energy is contagious!  Regretfully parting ways, my husband and I walked back through the triangle park, stopped to listen to music and chat with friends and finally we walked up into the town park near the walking path.  There were so many fun cars to see.  Of course I didn’t take any pictures of them, though.  My favorites were the ones with spider webs painted in purple and cars with flames.  Someday I will own a car with flames.  After walking the trail maybe I’ll splurge!

Excitedly I saw an ice cream truck.  I said to my husband….I hope they have Perry’s!!!  Scanning their menu I found the Perry’s Strawberry Sundae Bar!  It was only a $1 and soon it was just a memory of sweetness on my lips and stickiness on my fingers!  Delicious!!!  Walking down the walking path we heard a band starting and of course my husband loves any music!  I told him I would continue my walk while he listened to the band and happily he agreed.

Rounding the familiar path I zeroed in on the Joe Panza Trail.  I couldn’t wait to be away from the loud music and hustle bustle of the car show.  Easing onto the trail felt like returning home after being away for too long.  I embraced the cooler, shaded air with a deep cleansing breath.  The loud music was too much for the little path and it gripped my ears.  In fact the music was horrible!  The vocalist was very bad and I knew Dave wouldn’t want to stay to listen to that for long.  Quickening my pace I hurried to make a short walk meaningful.

I glanced around at the serenity inside the little woods.  The mossy covered logs,

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the tall trees leaning over the path letting in the sun in with peek-a-boos as the wind blew the leaves.  IMG_20150726_155407072

Turning around (yes, sometimes it has to be) I followed a blue morpho butterfly out of the trail.  It made turning around easier when you had such a beautiful leader.  The little fellow would not land for me to take a picture and I watched as it floated up into the trees and was gone.  Here is a stock photo.  butterfly

With a tinge of regret that the music was getting worse and much louder as I neared the trail head my stomach flipped flopped with love as I could see my husband watching for me. I stepped onto the walking path and discovered that had I interrupted the walk of a large winged ant.  Something compelled me to take a picture and when I bent down, the little guy stopped for a moment and posed for me! IMG_20150726_155948310 (2)

Thoroughly amused I jogged to catch up with my husband and we continued our journey.  We saw the Mercy Flight helicopter on display and we decided to take a closer look.  It was much smaller on the inside than I had imagined and I said a quick, silent prayer for the crew and passengers, past and future.

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Feeling Dave’s tiredness, I quickened my pace and we headed home.

Holding hands now, we chatted about our day and talked about our gratitude for living in such a great little town.  I had set my app to measure my pace and all in all we walked about 3 miles.  A very lazy walk of 3 miles. As we entered the house, we could hear the strong thuds of Mercy Flight’s blades hit the air in take off, flying low. Thankful that it was only for show.

No time. Failure is not an option.

Friday.  July 24.  I did not feel like walking!  It was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and I just didn’t want to walk.  I skipped my walk during lunch today.  It made me feel bad and little like a failure.  I’m always so afraid of failing.

I have a feeling the title of my post will be a recurring one.  So many times I feel like I run of out of time to actually do the things that are important to me as a person.  I know, cleaning, laundry, cooking are important…but I want to WALK and get ready for this adventure!

When I arrived home, my 23 year old son, Carl, was coming over for dinner, my husband, Dave, was waking up from a nap and I was irritable!  There wasn’t anything I could do about it.  We all went out to Bubba-loos for cheeseburgers and ice cream.  It was so much fun and I soon forgot all about being moody!  We decided to let Carl drive my car to dinner and his foot was skittish with mom and dad in the car!  I had to tell him “let’s go!”  We had ordered and had our burgers sitting outside on a pink picnic table.  We enjoyed watching children playing in the large grassy field behind the building.  It was a special time to share and I am grateful that we were together.  After finishing our burgers we ordered ice cream.  My husband works for Perry’s Ice Cream so it isn’t exactly a new treat for us.

twistI ordered a custard twist.  It was delicious.

In the back of my mind was my walk…will I have time tonight?

Arriving home, Carl left to be with his girlfriend, Amanda and Dave and I got ready to visit my sister.  My sister, Anne, lives down the street from me.  I knew we should WALK!  It would be dark by the time we left my sister’s, but it is a quiet street, so we would be safe.  It isn’t far, in fact I didn’t even track it to my sister’s house.  I just was glad my husband agreed we could walk there.  The walk there was quick and easy.  The walk back at 10 pm was so beautiful.  We looked up at the stars twinkling at us and got ready to jump the curb when a truck was headed at us a little to fast!  We made it home safe and sound and I was so glad that even though it wasn’t quite a mile there and back, I still was able to walk today!