Alone to Explore!

Ah, alone time.  As much as I love to hike with others, I love much more to hike alone.  There is something about the quiet solitude and keeping my own pace that I find very peaceful.

After leaving a detailed note for my napping hubby on where I would be I set off for Darien Lakes State Park.  My plan was to hike the Conservation Trail that runs through the park, turn around and hike back to the car.

It was windy, warm and a great day for being outside.  When I parked my car there were two other cars in the small lot at the trail head.  I didn’t anticipate seeing anyone though as this is a big park!  The trail started at the top of a gully and I could look down and see the creek that looked pretty dry. Don’t worry, I stayed away from the edge!

The Conservation Trail runs from Pennsylvania to Canada for about 177 miles.  The trail was built and is maintained by Foothills Trail Club of Western New York. The Conservation Trail is part of the Finger Lakes Trail System which extends eastward across New York State to the Catskills. I’ve hiked other sections of this trail in Hunter’s Creek Park and Akron Falls Park and others.  I was impressed by the trail markings here. You really can’t get lost on this trail!

This trail looked like a lot of people used it.  Or, so I thought.

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Yes, there is a trail here.   Or there usually is!  The grass is growing so fast the trail is almost obscured, but I could just barely make out the orange blaze on the tree at the far end of the picture!

Don’t worry I sprayed myself with Deet and checked myself for ticks after this hike!  I found one on my shirt sleeve.  Killed that sucker!

 

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Not long after that crazy overgrown section, a perfectly new, beautiful boardwalk appeared.  The dragonflies were bouncing off the ground ahead of me enjoying the sunshine even more than me!

Some of the trail was mucky and trail maintainers or other hikers had used large sticks and logs to try to cover the mud in the path.  It worked for the most part.  I don’t mind getting my boots muddy anyway.

 

After hiking a while I saw a blue trail blaze.  On the Appalachian Trail a “blue blaze” will take you to a shelter, water, vista, or other point of interest off of the “white blazed” Appalachian Trail.  Here, the Conservation Trail is “orange blazed” and this “blue blaze” led to a lean-to!

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Of course, I just had to check it out!  I figured it would add an extra mile to my hike, so I would do it on my way back.  I nearly sprinted to finish up getting to the trail head at the other end of the park because I wanted to go back to see this darn lean-to!

Here is a pretty photo of the trail at the opposite end from where I started.

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Doesn’t this look so incredibly inviting?  It pulls me in like a magnet.  

Those rocks lining the trail’s entrance are perfect. I imagine it could have been easy to just create the trail by clearing the way, but to add the rocks at the entrance to welcome you and make it beautiful just brightens my day.  Thank you to those people that lugged those rocks and put them in place for me to enjoy!

 

Okay, enough of that.  I hiked back to the blue blaze trail head to go to the lean-to and then for a horrified moment realized I left a note that explained I would be only on the Conservation Trail, not on a side trail.  In case something happened to me I would want someone to know where to find me.  I checked my cell service and realized I had service and could call for help if needed.  I was fine.  I should have sent my husband a text so he knew, but I didn’t.  I guess I figured the bloodhounds would find me.  Ugh, the things solo hikers worry about.

The half-mile blue blazed trail was not as well maintained as the Conservation Trail.  Probably not as well used, either.  It was mucky, but fun!  Here is what I found at the end!!! (Hint: I think if you click on a picture it will get bigger so you can see it better!)

Now I wish I had packed my overnight pack!  I could have been right at home here!  This lean-to was Justin Yaw’s Eagle Scout project on May 24, 2003, Troop 67, Corfu, NY!  How awesome is that!  This Eagle Scout is a man now, moved on to bigger and more important things I’m sure.  He has no idea that a crazy hiker lady just fell in love with his little lean-to he built back in 2003!

The wind was picking up and the sun was getting lower and I was getting hungry for dinner!  So, I picked up the pace and headed back to the car, but not before I heard a wild turkey, saw a chipmunk, squirrel and a bear.  Oh wait, no, there wasn’t a bear.  It was my imagination.  When you’re hiking alone, sometimes your head plays tricks on you!

It’s all good, keeps the heart pumping!

Until next time!  Hike on!

Appalachian Trail Dreaming

Since my vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park I’ve tried to wind down my obsession with the Appalachian Trail a little. Honest! I want to concentrate on solo hikes in my neck of the woods and few group hikes.  Hopefully I will be able to get a handful of over-nighters during the summer months, too.

But, I can’t seem to get my head out of the Appalachian Trail or out of the Smoky Mountains! When I fall asleep I see those amazing mountains of blue, grey and purple. If you’ve seen them, you know what I mean.

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See what I mean?

You would think my dreams would be calm and sweet.  But NO!  My dreams are filled with walking the trail and sometimes the trail is a DEAD END! Or there’s a scary BEAR! Or I keep walking the same trail over and over and over.  I wake up in a sweat and can’t fall back to sleep.

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Please don’t let this EVER happen to me!

Well, I think I need therapy.  How about I take a walk!  No, seriously, I need help!  I’ve decided to step back from the Appalachian Trail a little, no a lot.  I’m going to concentrate more on my immediate surroundings, my house, my family and friends and even other hobbies besides hiking!

Let me clarify, I have not given up on my goal of thru hiking the AT!!

Recently, I’ve hiked with my MOM!  My mom grew up loving the outdoors and wandering around the woods between the border of NY and PA not far from the Allegheny National Forest.  I think I get my love for the woods from her!  We went to a trail that I’ve discovered before and that I knew would be “kind” to her.  It’s a mile and a quarter long trail with gentle slopes and meanders along a little creek with little waterfalls.  I know we will be back.

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My mom making a swan dive into the waterfall. I stopped her.
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My mommy!!
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She only accused me of trying to kill her once. She though the hill was too steep.

Linda and I have also been out in the last few weeks exploring (and geocaching).  I’m lucky to have friends and family that enjoy being outside.

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My bestie!
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Linda and I made an Inukshuk.
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Little waterfall.
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Big waterfall.

I was out on National Trail Day, June 4.  I visited the Eternal Flame in Chestnut Ridge Park.  My favorite place to go.

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These natural gas flames are in a grotto behind a waterfall. So beautiful!

Unfortunately, I said good-bye to my good friend and hiking partner, Shelly!  Livingonthedirt.com  She left for her grand adventure on Memorial Day. She’s traveling out West to visit many of the National Parks!  I’m going to miss this woman soooo much! She took me on my very first overnight backpacking trip and taught me so many things. Please follow her blog!  She’s so excited to start this new path in life.  I’m so excited FOR HER!

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Shelly is a secret Disney Princess – birds just land in her hands!

 

Chasing Waterfalls

I hadn’t worn my boots in over a week.  It’s funny how I began to miss them!  My name was sitting on a “waitlist” for a hike to chase waterfalls in a nearby State Park.  I checked my phone for alerts every half hour hoping my name would be put on the “confirmed” list.  I woke up at 7:00 a.m. the day of the hike and saw that I was finally confirmed.  Enough people had backed out, clearing a spot for me!  Jumping out of bed and scaring the dogs, I hurried to shower and pack my backpack.

The December day was forecast to be in the 60’s and nice.  I was looking forward to being outside and among friends on the trail. Stepping outside it was foggy, damp and dreary – it did not look promising.  Driving to the park it began to sprinkle.  It still felt more like an April day than a December day, so I carried on.

The group was beginning to assemble at the meeting point and it started to rain harder.  People were changing their RSVPs to No every couple minutes and before we knew it, we had only 14 people instead of 25.  The rain was putting sour faces on most of us, but no one backed out.  We all hoped it would stop soon and lucky for us it did.

Fog was still settled below.
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We were chasing down a number of waterfalls in the park and since there hadn’t been much rain, except for the little that fell early in the morning, the waterfalls were only trickling.

Our leader, Chuck took us past interesting old ruins of park infrastructure.  IMG_20151213_094706730The park was built in the 30’s and many of the old stone incinerators and mysterious buildings remain.  A few took us a minute to figure out what they might have been used for.  I still don’t know what this large dog house building would be.  It had no floor – only mud, trash and a large pipe running through it.IMG_20151213_101037986

 

 

 

We eventually chased down a few waterfalls. Not very exciting this time of year with no water rushing over them, but beautiful, just the same.

Just a trickle.                       I swear there is a waterfall here.IMG_20151213_115515109

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IMG_20151213_093813748Chuck said this one wasn’t on his list, but it was flowing better than any of the other waterfalls!

 

 

There’s a teeny tiny waterfall in the middle of this picture.  It didn’t make Chuck’s list either.

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This hike felt different to me than any other so far.  I was talking to everyone, breathing easily and having so much fun.  My feet were even smiling in my boots!  There were a couple of challenging, steep inclines and I was glad I brought my hiking poles.  They sure do come in handy.  Chuck had us walking in the creek bed in order to view another waterfall.  The creek bed was SLIPPERY!  Those poles saved me from getting wet!  So did Ali – my happy Drill Sargent was there lending a supportive hand and motivational words whenever I needed it!

At the edge of the park there was a marker engraved with the name, Cliford Robert Pettis, State Forester.  Of course, I had to “Google” his name!  Turns out he was named the “Father of Reforestation” and was the New York State Forest Superintendent from 1910-1927. Seems this man was responsible for the planting of 20,000,000 trees in New York State.  Here is a website if you want to learn more: https://localwiki.org/hsl/Clifford_R._Pettis.

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Nearing the end of the hike we were climbing and climbing.  My heart was beating out of my chest!  My face was RED!  I reminded myself that this is why I am in training for my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  As long as I am still breathing I will get through it!  I concentrated on my slow even breathing and setting small little goals.  For example on one steep section of trail I concentrated on different shape rocks ahead of me and told myself to get to that one rock, then the next rock, then the next weird looking root, then the next bright leaf in trail.  Sometimes these goals were only 2 feet apart, but it worked!

Luckily the last steep climb landed us right at the parking lot near our cars.  I quickly caught my breath and we said our farewells.  My muddy boots and poles needed a little TLC.IMG_20151213_120944591