It’s true. Almost everyone I meet when they hear that I am hiking the Appalachian Trail they ask, “Are you hiking alone?” Yes. But, there’s a big, HOWEVER! I am hiking alone with the hundreds of other thru-hikers and section hikers on the trail. Most thru-hikers start out “alone” and acquire a trail family aka “tramily” along the journey. Being a friendly sort of person there’s a good chance I will be hiking with others along the way.
It makes me proud to be a solo woman attempting a thru-hike. Walking alone lets me dictate how far I go, how fast I go and if I even go at all. I alone make the decisions that impact my hike. That being said, there’s no one around to grab the snacks out of my backpack, consult the map with, or try to save me before I fall in a creek. It can be pretty nice to have a helping hand when needed.
These last few months I have found some amazing friends to hike with around Western New York! Now that Winter is here Outside Chronicles has announced a WNY Winter Hiking Challenge. Hikers are challenged to complete 6 of 9 trails around Western New York. I am hiking the trails along with Kim, Stephanie and Sara whom I met through the Allegany 18 Challenge I completed over the summer. I couldn’t dream of better hiking partners. These strong women inspire me, make me laugh, encourage me to push myself and they also bring good snacks.
Our first hike took us to Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park. The challenge landmark was the Eternal Flame. Being hardy hikers we decided to go the long way. Unfortunately, we became a little misguided, but Google set us straight and soon we were at the “Not so Eternal” Eternal Flame. The flame was out! I had my mini Bic lighter and Stephanie bravely climbed the ice-covered waterfall. She waved that little flame all over the grotto and could not get it lit. As you can see from the photo above, we were still all smiles. If you attempt this hike in the winter, I highly recommend microspikes.
Still feeling strong we headed to the Knox Farm State Park to find a little pond. We circled around the park and asked directions a few times. Finally, we found the right little pond for the challenge photo. Knox Farm was tricky as the trails were not well marked or at all.
We just didn’t get enough so we all headed out again a couple of days later (minus Stephanie) to Zoar Valley MUA. This was my first time at this amazing park. The trail took us down into a gorge along the Cattaraugus Creek. The challenge landmark was the confluence of the Main and South branches of the Cattaraugus Creek. It was amazing! I highly recommend this hike and again, in the winter, bring your microspikes.
Our second stop that day was to the Erie County Forest to find “A Bridge Too Far” for the next challenge landmark. This trail had a few footbridges to cross and was so beautiful. It was a really nice hike. “A Bridge Too Far” was just far enough.
After those two hikes, we eagerly drove over to Sprague Brook Park for the trifecta for the day! It was getting later in the day, but we were determined to find the challenge landmark of a “unique tree”. Unfortunately, we were all unfamiliar with the park and the trailhead eluded us. We wandered around for a few miles and called it quits before it got dark. We obtained better directions and a few hints and plan on returning to Sprague Brook to find that darn tree! All of these hikes were made immensely better by hiking with good friends. Maybe one of my friends will meet me for a few miles of the Appalachian Trail this year. Until then, I look forward to a few more hikes with them before I leave in March – alone!
Over a year ago I attempted to hike the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail. Things did not go as planned. I was under-prepared, physically unfit, and mostly inexperienced. It was a big blow to my confidence and made me really question if my dream was achievable. You can read all about it here.
Since that huge wake-up call, I have been hiking, hiking, hiking! I’ve lost weight. I’ve researched and bought new gear. I’ve read books about mentally preparing for personal challenges. But was I really ready to try again?
One piece of gear that I would like to upgrade is my shelter. I have a decent shelter, but it weighs over 3 pounds and there are tents that weigh in at a lot less. Speaking with my husband I expressed a desire to purchase my new light-weight tent and he made a case that I haven’t actually used my current tent on a trip longer than 2 days. Point made. Then he said I should really go back to Maryland. WHAT? That state HATES me! I understood his argument and said, “Fine, I’ll leave Monday.” Why did I say that? It was Thursday, I had three days to prepare! Panic mode, I researched food options (miserable fail), watched Maryland section trail videos and gathered my gear. I made a reservation at the Teahorse Hostel in Harpers Ferry, arranged to keep my car there for five days and then called to arrange a shuttle to Pen Mark Park from Trail Boss Chris. I even reached out to my trail angel, Alys, from last year just to let her know that I would be in her area again. This was getting real.
Monday – 0 miles hiked, 360 miles driving:
I woke up and left the house by 9am for the 6 hour drive to Harpers Ferry. I arrived at the Teahorse Hostel and was thoroughly out of my element. Only a top bunk was left. I never visited a Hostel before. Everything was very foreign to me. I walked around and visited the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters that was nearby. I had dinner with a hiker/wanderer named Garlic Salt who was a very unusual person. I slept well but was too nervous to eat the waffle breakfast.
Tuesday – 7 miles.
I woke up early and made sure my pack was ready. Trail Boss Chris picked me up at 8am sharp. We made the nearly hour drive north to Pen Mar Park. He dropped me off at the trailhead in Pennsylvania so I could walk to the Mason Dixon Line, which I missed in my last attempt. My nerves were on end as I remembered the rocky ascent to High Rocks Overlook. Before I knew it I was there! I took off down the trail towards the Raven Rock Shelter (I totally screwed up the name of this shelter in last year’s article about this hike.) I was so proud of myself when I hiked past the blue blazed side trail to the shelter. I was determined to get to the next shelter. Until I wasn’t determined anymore. There were three more miles to the shelter and I couldn’t continue. I made a quick call to my trail angel then resigned myself to stealth camping along the trail. My tent went up quickly and I slept well.
Wednesday – 12 miles:
When I woke up in the morning I hiked the three more miles to the shelter and met Alys at the Ensign Cowall shelter. There is a long, steep climb out of the shelter to the ridge. She was determined to help me and offered to carry my heavy pack up the half-mile climb. I was grateful. I huffed and puffed up that climb and rested every few feet. Alys was right behind me letting me set the pace. She’s a strong, amazing woman. I want to be just like her.
After we reached the ridgeline I put my pack back on. Alys made her way back to her car and promised to meet me later with turkey sandwiches! We had planned to meet at Pogo Memorial Campsite but I made good time and it was too early to stop, so I quickly texted her and made plans to meet at Annapolis Rocks campsite. I’m so glad I did! What a view! I spent the night in my tent at Campsite #3. Can you see my tent in the picture?
Thursday – 10.5 miles:
Fortified by TWO turkey sandwiches, oranges, gatorade, breakfast bars and Alys’ encouragement I continued on Thursday knowing I would be seeing some history this day along with the trail being relatively flat.
First, I became slightly emotional crossing the pedestrian bridge over I70. Having gone under this bridge in a car wishing to be on the bridge and now actually hiking on it was amazing!
Second, the original Washington Monument is on this section of trail. It was built in 1827 and just refurbished. I walked up the stairs to see the view from the top. It’s not an attractive monument, but remarkable when you think of what people had to do in 1827 to build something so big on the top of a mountain!
After filling up with water I continued on to Dahlgren Campground. This campground has the only free shower directly on the trail. Also, I had heard you could order pizza and have it delivered here. Additionally, there is a restaurant with air conditioning nearby. It was early when I reached the campground and I spent a long time taking my shower. It rejuvenated me and it didn’t take me long to decide that I was going to continue hiking to the next shelter just a couple miles more. (No pizza….) That night I stayed at the Rocky Run Shelter. There was a family of seven staying the night along with a few others sleeping in tents and hammocks.
Friday – 8.5 miles:
It was overcast and misty in the morning. I prepared by putting my pack cover on and having my raincoat handy. I made a rocky, steep climb out of the shelter. My motivation today was that Alys was meeting me again. It started to downpour. I decided that the Appalachian Trail was baptizing me; giving me a taste of what hiking in the rain feels like. I was drenched.
Everything from the top of my head to tips of my toes was waterlogged. While texting Alys she said she would meet me on the trail and bring with her more turkey sandwiches! Well, she outdid herself and brought me towels, dry socks, so much food, water and best of all her contagious smile that really encouraged me. We sat in a pavilion at Gathland State Park while I dried out and had some lunch.
Alys helped me find the blazes to continue on my way and off I went into the rain. Watching her drive away in a warm, dry car wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I was excited to get to my last stop. Ed Garvey Shelter.
The Ed Garvey Shelter was vacant when I arrived. I changed into dry clothes, checked out the loft, the privy, found the bear pole, and made some ramen soup. Then a young man arrived to spend the night in his new hammock. Then two young women hung their hammocks, too. There was a campfire, laughing, talking and a great night’s sleep.
Saturday – 8 miles.
The sun was barely a glint in the sky when I awoke. I was eager to get packed up and down to Harpers Ferry. There was a long steep descent then a very flat section on the C&O Towpath. Unfortunately, my phone and battery backup both died so I could not take pictures. As I approached the pedestrian bridge that would take me over the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry I was shaking my head in disbelief. I was pretty amazed that I had actually made it. I hiked through Lower Town and up to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters, triumphant! I charged my phone a little and spoke with a hiker that had just completed her first half of a flip flop hike. She had hiked from Harpers Ferry to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. She was back in Harpers Ferry to now go South to Springer Mountain in Georgia. How I wished I could go with her. I put some of my left over food in the hiker boxes and then hiked on to the Teahorse Hostel where my car was waiting. I decided that I needed to go back to the Harpers Ferry National Park and take the bus shuttle to Lower Town Harpers Ferry and take the pictures I missed and have a bite to eat (and a beer).
I spent the night in a hotel about an hour away to be that much closer to home. The hotel had a king sized bed and a hot tub. Boy, did that feel good!
I am forever grateful to my Trail Angel, Alys. She made me feel like I was the most important person in her life for my whole hike. I made some mistakes with my food choices and she really helped by bringing me those turkey sandwiches, Gatorades and granola bars! Her friendship made all the difference for my successful hike!
By the way, all those hikers out there that say Maryland is easy….it was not easy. However, it may be easier than New Hampshire, Maine or other states.
I registered my thru-hike intention with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The Conservancy asks people that hike the Appalachian Trail to register in order to better monitor the impact on the trail and its resources. Sooooo, I did it!!!
Yep. My official start date will be March 22, 2020. I wish I had the guts to start 2/20/2020. That’s just a little to cold for me. As it is March will be cold enough. So, there you have it folks. Wow. It’s like this will really happen!
C’est fait. E ‘fatto. Esta hecho. IT IS DONE! Yes. I quit my wonderful, well paying, comfortable JOB!
Now I will have more time to hike longer trails. Woohoo!
Is this real life?
So many emotions! Am I crazy? I’m going to climb mountains!!! Did I do the right thing? I will cross creeks, hike in the rain and get really smelly!!!! Do I really think I can hike the whole thing? I will be crawling on my hands and knees some parts of the trail!
Then I have people asking me all sorts of hard questions like: Why don’t you wait until you retire? Because, who knows how my knees will be by then! What will you do for money? My husband and I have been saving and planning for this. How does your husband feel about you leaving him for six months? He better be sad and miss me a lot!
All silliness aside, I don’t want to wait until I retire. You never know what will happen tomorrow, so I want to do my living now. I am forever grateful to my loving, supportive husband who works very hard for us. He enjoys his job and supports me quitting mine to follow my lifelong dream. I owe him – big time. I also promised him I would be more frugal and keep my hike on budget. Yes, he made a spreadsheet.
Oh no. What am I feeling now????
Nervousness is a whole bunch of emotions all trying to get out at the same time. Fear, longing, concern, desire, doubt, and panic are a few emotions in my nervous packet. You might have others in yours. At the beginning of any solo hike I have a bout of the nervous jitters. My knees feel wobbly, my hands sweat, my mouth goes dry and my breathing becomes faster. This feeling stays with me for a quite a while into my hike. While listening to the radio one morning I heard an interview of English actor, comedian, James Corden. He does the carpool karaoke with famous people and he’s so funny! This interview was about how he gets so nervous before performing that he sought professional help. I am going to quote what he learned. This is just copied from this cnn.com article: James Corden interview on CNN.
“This is a few years ago now, and then he taught me this thing that you’ve got to see nerves as a good thing. You’re only ever nervous when you want to do your best. You’re only ever nervous when something matters. So when nerves come, you’ve got to go, ‘Oh my God, this is great. I’m doing something that is important to me, and this is great that this thing has turned up to help me.’ ” James Corden.
So, I think I’ll be ready to apply this way of thinking on my next solo hike. Maybe my knees will not be so wobbly and my hands won’t be sweaty. It’s worth a shot!
We are our own worst critics. At least I know I judge myself harshly. I pick on myself and my faults. I tear myself down to the core at times. I don’t feel like I am good enough, thin enough, smart enough, tall enough, tough enough. You might be thinking…NO way, Trailchaser2020, you are all of those things. Well, thank you, but sometimes I don’t believe it. In fact, some days I really believe that I will never hike the Appalachian Trail. No matter how much I talk about it and train for it, it just won’t happen for some reason or another. I’ll find some “excuse” that will stop me.
One small obstacle that could prevent me from hiking the trail is my physical condition. I’ve read stories how some hikers have never hiked a day in their life before completing the trail. I’ve also read about middle aged women hiking the trail and breaking a leg! So, to err on the side of caution I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and join some exercise classes.
I DO NOT EXERCISE.
Now, I have taken a Yoga class or two. I’ll hike and walk outside all day, too. But a real exercise class with a teacher in the front and a bunch of strangers all around me while my fat bounces up and down is NOT what I would sign up for. But I DID!
Our little town has a community education program that offers a 20/20/20 class(20 minutes of aerobics, 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of weights) and a Yoga class. The session is 8 classes once a week. The classes are held in the local primary school (five minutes from my house!) and my insurance company covered the ENTIRE cost of these classes! So, I signed up for BOTH classes so that I will be exercising each Wednesday and Thursday for eight weeks. Oh boy.
Well, I missed the first 20/20/20 class because I had to go to the dentist. I was actually GLAD to go to the dentist so I didn’t have to exercise! But, I did go to Yoga the first week. I couldn’t think of any good excuse for me to miss it. Imagine my delighted surprise when I tried to open the doors at the school and everything was locked. I tried a side door. Locked. Secretly I was rejoicing that I didn’t have to go to Yoga. I headed back to my car when I heard a lady yell at me that the door was now open. Rats. I guess I was going to Yoga. There were about 10 women in the class and it was okay. I didn’t die. My clothes weren’t “Yoga” clothes, my mat was too thin, I was too fat to bend the way I thought I should – WHAT was I doing here?!?! Then the instructor told us to breathe. And I did. I no longer cared that my shirt was exposing my fat stomach, I doubled up my mat when my knees hurt and I just bent over as far as my body would let me. The teacher was so nice! And Yoga, is just so peaceful. It’s impossible for me to not like practicing Yoga. At the end of the class when you are just melting into the floor my mind drifted to the Appalachian Trail and how Yoga will help with my flexibility, stamina and balance.
The second week approached and yes, I actually called the lady running the program asking how I can get out of the 20/20/20 class. She wouldn’t let me. She offered different locations and days, but no; I HAD to go or pay the price since my insurance wouldn’t pay them if I didn’t go. So I went. I was freaking out! Even as the instructor started explaining the aerobic steps I was swearing in my head. I was telling myself that I hate aerobics, I hate dancing, I hate the music she was playing, I hate the lighting in the gym, I was tired, I was getting a headache, I was hungry. And then I just did it. I was doing aerobics while I was dancing to the music I hated under the bright lights with energy I didn’t know I had while suffering from a little headache and hunger. I did it. It wasn’t so bad.
You know what? I am actually proud of myself. Was I comfortable at the classes? Heck, no. My comfort zone was two time zones away! But, I laughed at myself when I was facing front instead of facing back or raising my left leg instead of my right leg. I made up my own steps instead of doing a “step ball chain.” What on earth are my feet supposed to be doing???? I probably have the name of the step wrong because Google didn’t even know what I was talking about!
Learning to not be so hard on myself is tough. I doubt I’ll ever succeed.
My husband and I met on a blind date. We spoke a few times on the phone before our first date, but that was WAY before cell phones and the internet. It was actually even an accident that we met at all. Loooong story. One thing I told him was that if he didn’t like camping in the rain, he wasn’t the right guy for me. I think I could feel him cringe through the phone. He asked me to marry him six weeks later. Apparently, there are many other things we love about each other and here we are twenty years later, through rain and shine!
My supportive husband has hiked and camped with me in the rain. He does it because he loves me and I love him for it! Now that I am training for my big Appalachian Trail thru hike I would like to hike longer and more miles. Husband, on the other hand, likes to keep it short and sweet. I compromise usually. This past Black Friday we “opted outside” instead of fighting through the crowds and shopping to save $5. Unfortunately, when we put on our hiking boots that morning it was raining. Not a hard rain, just an annoying sprinkle. I needed to get every moment outside that I could, rain or shine! My husband was excited to test out his new Merrell hiking boots in the rain. He wanted to be sure that his feet would be warm and dry the next day while tailgating before the Buffalo Bills game. (They were great!)
I packed my backpack and he packed two umbrellas. Hahahaha! He said he was going to use one and the other was for me. Now, I have heard of hikers using umbrellas on the trail, I just won’t be one of them. Fact, on the trail you’re going to get wet if it is raining. Just deal. The umbrellas went into the trunk anyway. I love that he was trying to take care of me!
We settled on hiking the Boy Scout trail in a local park. It’s only 3/4 mile long. Enough for my husband; a tease for me. My husband was going to use one of my hiking poles. He twisted and pulled it out too far and oops. I had to push and twist to get the darn thing back together! He said that my poles were shot and I should get new ones so he could have my old ones! Sounds good to me! (Please comment with recommendations!) Before I closed my trunk I asked him if he wanted his umbrella. He declined. Hardy soul that he is! He also likes to make funny faces when I take his picture!
We each had winter hats on and the sprinkle wasn’t even noticeable once we were on the trail. The Boy Scout Trail meanders along a creek. The water was really moving since it was raining. The trail is very flat although there is a little tiny hill at the end. We stopped to take some pictures near a tree. One side had horrible orange graffiti. I hate it when I see graffiti on trees!!! What is wrong with people? It makes me so angry and sad. On a different trail recently I even saw “Will you marry me?” each word spray painted on four separate trees! On other trees around it, they painted hearts. The vandal probably thought it was romantic and cute. NOT! If I were that unlucky girl I would say NO! and break up with the vandal then and there!
When my husband took the first graffiti filled picture, he didn’t say anything about it. I don’t know if he thought it was “normal” or if he thought it added to the artistic value of the photo or more likely he just didn’t “see” it. I was so disappointed and sad when I saw the photo on my phone with me smiling next to a graffiti covered tree. I asked him to retake the photo from the other side of the tree. I didn’t lose the meaning of the fact that the side of the tree with the graffiti was the side of the tree getting rained on. Like Mother Nature trying to wash it off by crying on it!
I didn’t let the graffiti spoil our hike. As we neared the last curve of the loop heading back to the car, my husband tried to sneak a short cut through the grass! I gently guided him to the tree line where the trail was. I needed every step available!
Later on that day we were driving somewhere and it was so sunny! Isn’t that how it works sometimes!
Reflecting back to our recent hike and our twenty year marriage I noticed that frequently we have different views, ideas and beliefs. We “see” things differently. We have learned to listen to each other and respect those differences. Opposites do indeed attract! I like to think we compliment each other. I’m horrible at math, he is a certified public accountant. He can program a computer, I can type on a computer. I’m good at planning things, he is a procrastinator. I run on emotion and he is very logical. It all works out.
Rain or shine, besides my shadow, my husband is my favorite hiking partner, on the trail and through life!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!