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!

 

No Choice, Joyce

Well, that was a learning experience!

Packing my pack on Thursday night, I proceeded to: crack my headlamp, have my water bladder leak all over the padding of my pack and removed, replaced and added extra items at the last minute.  I ran out to the local hardware store and bought a $5 headlamp, my pack stayed slightly damp and I carried probably about a pound of extra weight on items I never looked at while hiking.

We started out Friday headed south to the Morrison/Rimrock Trail Loop in the Allegheny National Forest.  We had all the excitement of kindergartners on the first day of school!  It was snowing, but we laughed and didn’t care!

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The snowflakes were small and we bundled up.

This was my first time carrying my pack on a hike.  It was almost 30 pounds.  Filled with everything I would need to survive one night and two days in the woods. Morrison Trail including the Rimrock Trail is about 12 miles long.  The terrain is very steep in sections and also beautiful as the trail follows the creek.  There are many creek crossings where I am beholden to my hiking poles for saving me from getting wet. I know I would not have stayed dry without them!  I think I may have even kissed them once or twice!

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Not so wide to cross here. This one was easy!
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Four little waterfalls in row.  So beautiful!
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Everything was starting to turn that perfect Spring green.  Shelly blended in!

We stopped to camp after hiking about 7 miles.  Unfortunately for us I could not manage to climb down a steep slope to the reservoir below where there was some flat land.  (I slid down and got muddy and upset – poor Shelly.)  Our little camp had to be set up on a slope.

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Don’t do this unless it’s all you got.  This was not ideal.  We made it work.

We ate our dinner at about 5:30 and hung out in my surprised (!) tent for a little while. It was becoming very cold and weather.com said it could be down to 26 degrees!  Shelly went back to her tent and I was all alone.  Being on the slope made it very challenging to sleep.  We slid down in our tents because….gravity.  Her tent wasn’t staying up with her hiking poles because she kept sliding into it.  Finally, I convinced her to sleep with me in my one-man tent.  Eureka should know that four grown women could sleep in the fetal position in the solo tent.  The two of us only took up half the tent!

I do think this was one of the longest nights ever.  I couldn’t stretch my legs.  Our feet were pressed up against the tent holding us up.  It was so uncomfortable.  At least we were warm next to each other.  Unfortunately for Shelly, I also snore.  Loud.  She woke me up a couple times to stop me.  I stayed awake for awhile so I could make sure she slept a little.  In the end I’m sure I slept more than she did.  All I did all night was watch the time on my phone.  Anxious for sunrise and being able to eat some hot oatmeal and a boiling cup of tea.

At around 6 am I heard a Barred owl saying “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?”  Shelly woke up and we chatted and stayed warm until the sun rose around 7am. We retrieved the bear canister and pots and cooked our breakfast as the sky became brighter and brighter.  Packing up our tents we discovered ice coated everything!  Our tents, poles, anything we left outside of our tents.  It was really, really cold!  Our fingers and toes were numb!  But, we had a lovely view of the forest with the reservoir in the background!  Staying positive here!

We hit the trail about 8:30am.  The sky was blue and it was warming up.  The trail continued up the mountain and we said if there was a flat spot within the next quarter mile we would have been so mad we made camp where we did, but there wasn’t. So, we made a good choice.

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Beautiful, huge moss covered boulders.  They look like they are sliding off the mountain, much like we nearly did the night before.

The trail took us up the very last inch of the mountain, with no apologies.  In my head I was drafting my next blog post -“I’m never hiking again.  I’m quitting!” “This is too hard.”  “I can’t do it.”

On one particular steep section, I stopped because I was exhausted and sweaty.  I wanted to close my eyes, twitch my nose and be in my bed at home.  Then it hit me.  I HAD NO CHOICE.  At this point of the game, the only way I would ever see my bed at home again was if my two feet kept going.  I looked down at my feet and said, “Feet, you have to do this for the rest of the body.  You must continue.  You have NO CHOICE, JOYCE!”  With that, I continued, I continued to complain, whine, climb and walk and eventually we made it to some glorious flat ground.

We were anxious to see some sign that we were going in the right direction.  We knew we should be coming up to a turn in the trail.  We finally saw a sign and made the turn.  Walking and walking and walking we thought maybe we turned at the wrong spot!  At worst we would have to walk an extra 2.6 miles, lucky for us we came across some day hikers that told us the parking lot was about a mile away.  Can you hear angels singing? I can.

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Can you find Shelly?

Hiking out that last half mile was hard.  Who am I kidding, it was all hard. If someone would have asked me on Saturday, if I would do this again I would have said, maybe.  Today, I can’t wait to hit this trail again – in warmer weather!  Now that I know where to stop to camp it should make that part so much more tolerable.

I want to thank my good friend, Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com.  She taught me how to adjust my pack straps.  It was magic!  She taught me about bear canisters and cooking away from your camp to discourage animal visitors.  She gave me a pat on the back when I fell and slid down the mountain. (It helped, it really did!) She also listened to me whine and complain and when I look back at myself, I wish I didn’t do so much of that.

Watch out, Appalachian Trail.  I’m getting ready!