Who am I?

I love the crocheted hat my sister made me. I especially love the star sewn on. It could be a hint to a secret identity!

The first time I identified myself I knew I was a girl and then I knew I was a daughter. Then I was also a sister, and then a cousin. Then a friend, then a best friend, then a student…I kept adding ways to identify myself. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. As we get older we continue to add to our identity. As I grew up, I added girlfriend, wife, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother, aunt, ex-wife, then wife again, step-mother and mother-in-law. Soon I will add an amazing new identity, Nana (aka Grandmother)! Not only do I identify myself by my relationships, but also by my hobbies. I identify as a hiker, paper crafter, rock painter, writer, cook, traveler, dreamer. Don’t forget about work identities. Too many to name!

All of those identities make me who I am today. There are more I haven’t mentioned and more that will come that I don’t even know about yet! If I took just one of those identities away I would no longer be exactly who I am. Most of those identities were automatic. I became that person without thought, like being a girl, daughter, sister…it was natural for me to be those things. I love finding new ways to identify myself now. Especially through my hobbies. My favorite hobby is hiking and meeting new friends on the trail.

Stella at Tifft Nature Preserve

Recently I met a fabulous being named Stella T. Rex while hiking. I was on a challenge trail hiking it for the second time and it’s hard not to notice a giant T-Rex on the trail. She was a little terrifying at first, but then I was intrigued by her confidence. She is tall and has a toothy grin which can put people off and I’m really glad she didn’t take a bite out of me! She recognized me from my posts on the Facebook page for the WNY Hiking Challenge and Stella roared in my ear that she wouldn’t mind getting her own patch and sticker for completing the challenge. How could I resist? I had to help Stella. I also wanted to get to know her better and discover her other identities! Stella T. Rex became a bit of a celebrity hiker. People either loved her or ran from her!

Other WNY Hiking Challengers asked to hike with her and wanted to be her friend on Facebook. She even has an Instagram, although she admits she never really got the hang of it. You can’t teach an old dino new tricks apparently. She was pretty popular and I was a little jealous how quickly she could make friends, it’s harder for me. Stella brought joy to others just by being.

I told Stella about my blog and asked if I could write a story about her. She was nervous but graciously said yes and provided these photos. She also swore me to secrecy! There’s only so much I can divulge! So, on a rainy day, I sat down with Stella over lunch (I made sure to feed her well!) and asked her a few questions. She was shy at first, which surprised me. She’s always so outgoing on our hikes! Once she opened up, she became alive with excitement of being the one that created so many smiles this summer. Stella T. Rex explained that she was hoping to spread joy to others during such a dreary year full of anxiety and fear. She knew that just by being silly and fun others would follow along and be silly and fun too. Stella rocked out those trails. Sometimes she traveled alone to the landmarks and her little T-Rex arms weren’t long enough for selfies. Other times she had an entourage of fans accompanying her. She liked that best she says. The more the merrier on a hike! Although, she said pensively, there were times the quiet solitude of a solo hike was magical. Stella expressed gratitude to the challengers that hiked with her. She loves meeting new friends, but she knows she can be a pain to hike with (literally). She apologized for complaining and whining when the trails were steep, her stubby legs couldn’t always keep up. Also she’s sorry for when she was hungry and made a snack out of a few hikers. She is a wild t-rex after all. When Stella completed the 20 trails for the challenge, she didn’t stop there, oh no! She kept hiking to complete all 34 trails on the list.

Stella received her coveted completion patch and stickers in the mail in late October.

I asked Stella what plans she had for hiking now that the challenge has been completed. Stella reminded me that Outside Chronicles is holding a Winter Hiking Challenge https://outsidechronicles.com/winter starting next month. She is also looking forward to helping some of her new friends complete their hiking challenge still this fall. She remains busy and is loving the cooler weather.

I wish I could tell you what other identities Stella T. Rex has, but she’s not ready to share just yet. She’s happy being a friend, smile maker and hiking partner. She wanted me to tell you to follow her adventures so look her up on Facebook!

Just an FYI, if you want to hike with Stella, make sure you bring good snacks or you will become the snack!

Happy Trails and Stella says, “RRRRRRRAAAAAAWWWWWRRRRR!!!!”

Never Gonna Give Up

A few weeks ago I was preparing my gear for my thru-hike, minding my own business and dreaming of spending the next six months in the company of nature.  Then, kind of out of nowhere, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States.  My brain was frantic, I was going, I wasn’t going, I was going, I wasn’t going….  Ultimately, you know I chose to delay my thru-hike.  It was the wisest and safest decision for me and my family.  But, wow.  I was disappointed!

Goal-Setting

There is usually a time in everyone’s life when we work toward a goal.  We study to pass a test, diet to lose 10 pounds, save money for a house, etc…  Sometimes we achieve our goal, but sometimes that goal gets shifted.  That test you studied for led you to a new goal of a doctoral presentation, you now need to lose 15 pounds, that money you were saving for a house is now paying for your car repairs.  Well, my goal of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail has shifted.  Don’t get all nervous….it’s still my big picture and ultimate goal!  Right now that goal just isn’t reasonable in the next few months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the past, I have always been so afraid to set a goal.  As soon as I set a goal, something usually sidetracks me and derails my progress (usually my inner fear).  I wrote about some of that fear in one of my past articles. Stand Still and Use Your Inner Compass This time, my goal was thwarted by something completely out of my control.  I had to find a new goal that I could control. Something that could direct me away from the disappointment I was feeling about not starting my thru hike.

Last year I completed the Allegany 18 Challenge You win some. You lose some.  and then the Western New York Winter Hiking Challenge and I remembered there was a NEW Western New York Hiking Challenge posted by Outside Chronicles.  The challenge asked you to complete 20 trails out of 32 (plus 2 bonus hikes).  I immediately clung to the goal of completing the challenge, telling only a few select friends that I wanted to be the first to complete it.

While hiking the trails of the challenge I savored every minute. There were bridges to cross or go under, trees climbed, muddy trails, waterfalls, abandoned ruins, a cemetery, a lighthouse, rusty things left in the forest, dog kisses, very interesting statues, big rocks, little rocks, amazing views, random signs, a snake’s nest, birds eating out of my hand and nature galore.

These photos are just some of the highlights:

 

I didn’t care when the trail was muddy, I didn’t care when it was cloudy, I didn’t care when it was raining.  I hiked up hill, I hiked down hill, I hiked the road, I hiked it all.  My friends hiked with me sometimes (keeping the proper social distance), they all helped me reach my new goal by encouraging me, keeping me laughing and pushing me up the hills.  And guess what?  I managed to be the first to complete the challenge. Go me!

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Now, that only means I completed 20 trails and there are 32 plus 2 bonus hikes…sooooo, you know what my next goal is then, don’t you?

If you would like to enter the hiking challenge, please visit Outside Chronicles WNY Hiking Challenge.  We have all summer and fall to complete the challenge!  Join me!

Happy Trails!

I’m Hiking Alone. Ha!

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!

If you want to go hiking, send me a message!

Happy Trails!