Welp, I finally did it and then some.

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!!!

img_3159

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!

BUT-WAIT-THERES-MORE

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?

AdobeStock_93968452-e1529676544879

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????

images

I’m NERVOUS. 

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!

img_3074

 

 

Learning Lessons

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.

Trust me. 

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.

Ron Sanchez
Ron Sanchez Trail Name “Stonghold” Rest in Peace

 

 

 

ALONE AND BRAVE

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?

img_2645

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.

img_2647

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.

img_2656

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!!

img_2660-1

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!

img_2684
One foot in Pennsylvania and one foot in New York.

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.

img_2693

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……

img_2700

MY PHONE!!!!!!!!

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?

crisis

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.

mountain lion
Not today, kitty.

I stood in the middle of the trail.  ALL ALONE.  ALONE and BRAVE!

So I sang a song.  “If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. From my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.”  (Worth the click. It’s not me singing, don’t worry.)

Mountain lions do not like that song.  They must not, because I never saw one.

I did hear a dog bark.   Or was it a coyote?

There was no murder, no mauling, no investigation was necessary.  I made it back to my car in one piece.

What do we say to god of death?

Not today.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Hiking with Dogs

The winter in Western New York is typically very cold and very snowy.  This month though a 111 year record was broken when the temperature soared to 71 degrees on Friday, February 24.  I raced home after work and changed my clothes and fed the dogs.  My dogs were just as excited about the nice weather as I was and raced around the yard and rolled in the grass. When they came back inside the house I asked them if they wanted to go for a ride in the car and go for a walk.  Their ears perked up and they bolted for the door.  I gathered a few poop bags and found their leashes.  Royal and Maggie bounced in circles and made happy whiny noises while I removed their collars and put on their walking harnesses.  It is such a wonderful feeling seeing them so excited!  I love making my dogs happy!

 

I decided to drive to my sister’s house to ask if she would come with us.  She wasn’t home, but my nephew Matt was.  I barely got the question out when he eagerly accepted my invitation to take the dogs for a walk.  Matt knows the Joe Panza trail better than I do, so I was really happy he agreed. It took only a few minutes to arrive at the park.  Once we arrived the dogs jumped out of the car and started sniffing and tugging at their leashes.  Of course, they wiggled around so much that Royal pooped even before getting to the trail.  Luckily, it was right near a garbage can, so I was glad I didn’t have walk around carrying his poop.  It is one of my pet peeves that people don’t pick up their pet’s poop.  Even if your pet poops off the trail, always pick up the poop.

IMG_20170224_171649
No way to get a selfie with the dogs too! They do not cooperate.

Matt has never walked a dog before.  Something I hadn’t thought of when I handed him Maggie’s leash.  Maggie is great on a leash, although she does like to move around a lot so there is a little bit of dancing and twirling you have to do.  Royal on the other hand loves to lead the pack.  He doesn’t pull as much when he wears his harness, but he still tugs.  My shoulder gets a work out!  At least I gave Matt the easier dog to walk!

IMG_20170224_171637
Royal leading the pack!  There is a leash there, I swear! It’s just hard to see.

It had rained the day before so the trail was damp with some big puddles in places.  Royal is my water dog; he happily walked right though each puddle.  Maggie was very dainty and maneuvered around them all.  She does not like to get her feet wet.

Matt made the decisions on which way on the trail to turn.  He carefully peered down each trail to scope out the puddles before committing to turning left or right!  He was wearing sneakers and didn’t want to wade through the mud!  Of course, I’m glad of that! I didn’t want the back seat of my car to be more muddy than necessary!  Usually I have a vinyl protector on the seat so the dogs mess doesn’t get on my car, but I was lazy for this hike and didn’t put it on.

Another pet peeve of mine is meeting other hikers that have their pet off leash.  We heard some voices up the trail and actually met their dog FIRST!  I stood stock still and reeled in the leash on Royal.  The dog approached us slowly, didn’t growl, and his tail was neutral.  I still was shaking in my boots.  Then I remembered Matthew.  I told Matt to hold Maggie close on the leash and stay still.  The owners of the dog came along and called to their off-leash dog, of course the dog ignored the commands.  Their dog sniffed Maggie and Matthew and I encouraged Matt to just walk forward slowly.  They had another dog on a leash, thank goodness, because this dog was growling at us as the woman could barely hold the dog back from lunging at us.

It is so dangerous to have your dog off leash.  What if my dogs didn’t like to be approached by a strange dog?  I would have been in the middle of a terrifying situation. Fortunately all dogs and humans walked away from the encounter without incident.  We might not be so lucky next time.  I held my tongue from saying anything to the other dog owners, but I think they got the message when I refused to acknowledge them and concentrated on getting my dogs out of there safely.  Next time I use my friendliest voice to remind them of the leash law.

With that excitement past us we were at the car in no time.  Royal and Maggie jumped into the car and we drove Matthew home.  When I brought the dogs into the house I gave them each a couple treats and big bowls of cold water.  We snuggled together and had a nice nap and dreamed of our next hiking adventure!

IMG_20161231_093616
Same trail, SNOWY day!

 

Hiking with a Spouse, Rain or Shine!

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!

download

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!)

download

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!

a2cc44b1187295e90487327d4f66cbe5

 

img_20161125_111010

 

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!

img_20161125_104312

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!

bb58af1f-e2eb-4b80-9297-eabf2cad9800-3235-0000090edce6a3f8_tmp