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!
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?
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.
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.
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!!
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!
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.
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……
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?
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.
I stood in the middle of the trail. ALL ALONE. ALONE and BRAVE!
There was a major distraction in my life this past year. My handsome son was married in September 2018! My dining room became wedding central. Two tables were full of centerpieces and every kind of wedding paraphernalia. The wedding was beautiful! Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that after the big day it takes a few weeks to recover. Well, I took a few months. Now I can get back to my agenda of training for the AT!
Last summer, before the big day, I took a couple of hiking trips to Kinzua Sky Walk, Kiasutha Recreation Area and Allegany State Park – among many other day hikes locally.
Kinzua Sky Walk is an old railroad bridge that was knocked down by a tornado. They bolstered the remaining trestle and made a really, really cool walk way out of it. I highly recommend walking the trail to view the bridge from below! There is also a brand new education building with extremely interesting history of the bridge, the tornado and how the sky walk was built.
Kiasutha Recreation Area was about 40 minutes from the Sky Walk but worth the ride. I had the most peaceful campsite with a beautiful view (Tent site number 12) right next to the lake and just a minute walk to the sandy beach. I highly recommend it! It was a peaceful and beautiful place to camp out overnight.
Last year I also camped out at Allegany State Park. I rented a cabin though because the campground was closed. The cabin did not have heat or electricity. I wasn’t there for the cabin though!
I’ve been to this park over a hundred times and I was able to see five new things that I never saw before!
Bear Caves, Thunder Rocks, Stone Tower, Quaker Lake, and Science Lake.
Skinned my knee scrambling up here before my camera timer went off!
This rock is falling on me! Help!
Did not see bears. Disappointed. Not!
Stone Tower. I love the history of this park!
Sitting in the lifeguard chair at Quaker Lake. No one drowned.
The park has a program called Allegany 18. It is a challenge to hike all 18 original trails of Allegany State Park. It totals about 70 miles.
Most trails average 5 miles or so. You pay $20.00 for your packet which includes separate maps of each trail and a neon pencil. As you walk each trail you come across yellow markers with the trail number, which you etch onto your map for proof you actually hiked the trail. After hiking all 18 trails you can claim your neat water bottle and sticker!
Currently I’ve only hiked one trail, but I plan to complete them all by August.
My thru hike is only a year away now, so it’s time to get to business. I hope to be writing about my challenges and adventures more often. I’ll be headed back to the gym (!!!!) to get some muscle built. Gyms are intimidating to me, so send positive thoughts that I get my big girl panties on and just DO IT!
My faithful hiking partner is never far away, although sometimes she fades into the shadows.
I announced my intention to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2020 WAY back in July of 2015. Some people seem to be assuming that I have given up on it. What??? No. I still intend on starting my hike in April of 2020. Ready or not here I come. This summer I will be buckling my pack and staking my tent even more; going to places I have never been and gaining some valuable experience. And I’ll even write about a few of those adventures. Plans are in the works for a trip to the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail, and a possible trip to Maine. I’ll, of course, also keep hiking around Western New York.
Right now though, Mother Nature has not yet received the message that Spring is about to be here and has been unleashing some serious snow and cold around here.
I’m not letting that stop me though. I revisited an old favorite place to hike, Tillman Nature Preserve. The last time I visited there was a monsoon! (Read about it here.) I was up past my ankles in water while hiking in my work boots and a skirt! (This was back when I didn’t prepare very well.) It was a little different this time. The weather was cool, but it had just been raining so the trails were mushy and muddy in places and downright ponds to walk through. The boardwalks and waterproofed boots were sure handy!
Of course, I always say – It isn’t a truly good hike unless there’s a little mud!
Before and after of my boots.
Tillman Nature Preserve has a great loop trail that is just over 2 miles. It crosses and recrosses a road and is completely and utterly FLAT. There were a few interesting photo ops though.
Some kind of fungus, a neat little bridge and it seems as if someone built a couple “shelters”. Only one seemed to be big enough for me to get in, so I did.
As you can see by the sunshine over my shoulder the shelter is not very weatherproof, but it’s still fun. I cleaned up some litter around the shelters and on the trail.
There must be at least a six pack of Bud Light and a couple Gatorade bottles. What a shame. I’m glad I brought a bag to collect it all in. I actually washed and kept the orange shaker bottle. It looked brand new! I’m guessing it fell off a fat-tire bike rider.
A week later, my big green pack was looking sad, so I packed it lightly and buckled it up to revisit Hunters Creek Park. I was worried about the snow in the parking lot, but I didn’t need to be. So many people love this park it must have been plowed. I put on my micro spikes for a short hike around the most used trails. The trails with no human tracks made me nervous. I didn’t want to blaze my own trail yet and I had left my snow shoes in my car.
It was not even 30 degrees, but I was plenty warm with my layers. I was confident hiking on the icy paths with my micro spikes. I had my taped together, well-used map, so I didn’t get lost. Although at one point I thought a blue dashed line was the creek when it was actually a trail. Oops. So much for having a map. I am seriously considering taking an orienteering class this summer.
I love this picture below of the brilliant sunset (my AT dream) behind poles (work, life) with a directional sign (chose left or right). I don’t want to go left or right; I want to go straight into that brilliant dream!!! Those poles can just get out of my way! When I’m on the AT, I will take many photos of the sunset I am sure; and NONE of them will have poles in the way!
By cleaning your house, I actually mean the one that your soul lives in. The physical body that your mother and father made for you. The beautiful body that contains your thoughts, dreams, aches, and pains should be really cleaned out once or twice in your life. Cleansed of negativity, cleansed of brain clutter, cleansed of – well, everything that makes the aches, pains and stress. Now that it is winter, it is the perfect time to dig inside yourself, not just dig in the snow. Dig inside yourself and shovel out that crap! (Figuratively and literally.)
In my last article I talked about de-cluttering my home. That is still a work in progress. In the meantime, I’m taking three weeks this month to see what happens when I de-clutter the way I eat. I tend to snack at night – on a big bowl of popcorn, or a few m-n-m’s. I love to eat candy! Chewy candy or caramels…yum! So, needless to say, I gained a few pounds. I’m not on any medicines, and I would like to keep it that way for the rest of my life! So changes need to be made!
My friend introduced me to a wellness program called the Ultimate Reset . Before I even read anything about it, I signed up. Woah. I panicked. I spent money on health stuff. That is not like me. I must have a fever. I took a deep breath and talked to my friend – shout out to Tabatha! She is a coach with Team Beachbody and a darn good one. She always says the right thing to put me back on track and believe in myself.
This article isn’t to sell the program. I don’t know enough about it to sell it. The big thing that sold me on Ultimate Reset is that there is only light exercise involved. If by some chance you want to know more, let me know and I can connect you to Tabatha. These are just a few observations about my personal experiences during this process.
VERY, VERY simply, Ultimate Reset is a 21 day program where you gradually eliminate meat, dairy and sugar and all food that tastes good. heheheh. That’s not true. At least that last part. I’ve had great food and new foods! Never had tempeh before this! Or miso soup! Actually, the Ultimate Reset says that it will “reset” my body’s inner workings and fine tune all my parts to make it strong and as healthy as possible. They name the three weeks: reclaim, release, restore.
RECLAIM! I am reclaiming my body as my own. I am reclaiming my health! As I look back at week one it was challenging! I had to spend a lot of money on food that I never knew existed (wakame seaweed, jicama, liquid aminos). The meal prepping was mind boggling. There were videos of other ladies drinking their “power greens” with their nose plugged because it smells so bad. Doubts crept in. The old familiar voice in my head started telling me I could never eat like this, I would never follow through, I was going to eat candy! I didn’t feel like I was “reclaiming” anything! Then. Then, I spoke out loud to the voice in my head and told it to SHUT UP! I reclaimed the voice in my head!
My fear of failure is still always there. I set myself up for success this time by setting a lot of alarms on my phone. Reminding me to take the supplements on time, to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, an alarm to remind me to go to bed! If I had to remember it, I set an alarm for it.
The recipes and almost all the food was delicious (miso soup is not my favorite). I learned to substitute things (veggie broth for the miso soup) and was brave in trying new foods – tempeh and wakame seaweed. I even made nori gomasio.
The instructions of this program are that you are only to do light exercise, like walking or yoga. It was freezing outside so I took my sister and nephew on a wintery hike in the woods. My sister had a chickadee eat out of her hand for the first time. She is now the newest Disney princess! She is a master bird whisperer.
RELEASE! Please release me! Release week is when you take a “detox” supplement that should help you “release” – be it physical, mental, and/or spiritual. Looking back at Release week I remember I was excited that I didn’t have to buy as many groceries! I’m released from grocery shopping! Wait….am I going to be hungry? Why am I only eating mashed chickpeas for breakfast? What did I sign up for? Then. Then, I released my concerns and followed the program. I stopped my questioning and drank my power greens like a big girl and made some delicious, healthy meals.
The Releasing for me has been releasing control of my comfort. Letting myself feel uncomfortable.
It’s okay to feel a little hungry. For I know I will feel hungry while hiking the Appalachian Trail, so I might as well see how it feels now!
It’s not comfortable or fun cooking every single day for 21 days. My husband and I ate at restaurants 3-4 times a week. But, I’ll be cooking for myself nearly every day for six months on the Appalachian Trail. Better get used to cooking!
Pushing away cravings for food is difficult for me. I admit, I did sneak a teeny tiny piece of my husband’s steak while I was supposed to be eating vegan. I might have accidentally put a teeny tiny piece of chocolate in my mouth. I’m human. One thing I really want is a big bowl of buttery, salty popcorn. But on the Appalachian Trail, I won’t be able to succumb to cravings, so I better figure out how to manage them now.
On a side note: My dreams have been spectacular! So vivid and funny. In one, my husband and I were flying (just our bodies, no plane or spaceship) into outer space and nearly collided with a satellite. My husband was supposed to know where the parachutes were to go back to Earth, but he wasn’t sure. Somehow we landed and NASA was interrogating us about our trip. Then my friend Linda showed up and said that next time we should look up where the satellites are first, so we don’t almost hit one. Seriously, I dreamed this! The only thing I had to eat before bed was a big glass of water.
RESTORE! Week three! What a week it was! I ate roasted fennel (my favorite) and other veggies, tons and tons of fruit and started a new supplement to put the good bacteria back in my gut. Well, I started out the week by getting sick. Puking sick. I haven’t thrown up in a long time! Some of my friends on the same program said I had a flu. Sure felt like it. Being sick and on a diet is so hard. My body just wanted comfort food and not power greens. This week is supposed to be entirely vegan. I failed. I am not ashamed. I didn’t feel good! My husband made me a scrambled egg because if I threw up again, it wouldn’t hurt coming back up. The next day I stayed home from work because my stomach still didn’t feel right. I ate most of the food suggested, but I added a very small chunk of fresh chicken my husband made to the salad I had for lunch. I skipped a half day of supplements and stopped taking power greens. Again. It’s what I felt like I needed to do to feel better. The next day I was back to the program. Only you know your body best. It’s great to push yourself, but don’t make yourself miserable.
As you can see from the length of this section and lack of pictures, this week was tough for me. It’s the week before Christmas so I was extremely busy, extremely sick and getting tired of having to prep and plan every meal. By the end of the week I did have a couple slip ups. But I did the best I could.
My program results are about what I expected. I am excited to say I am down over ten pounds and four inches all around. My energy level has improved and I slept better than ever. Amazingly, my GERD has not been an issue at all during this. I did make sure I didn’t eat problem foods, of course. As I transition back to eating meat protein I will see how I feel and take careful notice of what I eat that makes me feel tired, bloated, and sick.
There are some other programs by Beachbody that Tabatha has suggested I try starting in the new year! I’m excited to continue this great process of getting stronger and healthier in order to make sure my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail is a success!
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.
I ate a good breakfast. (My husband made it for me.)
I laced up my boots and threw my pack into the car.
I had packed my big backpack the night before with all the essentials. You know, everything you need on a short day hike. Stove, pots, 2 liters of water, rain gear, head lamp, emergency blanket, extra clothes, gloves, food for two days. I just wanted to be prepared – I am in training after all.
I asked my nephew to hike with me and was happy he agreed. Matthew hikes fast and doesn’t complain when I can’t keep up.
My husband drove us to the trail head on Getman Road and I discovered a very fast moving stream about shin deep right across the trail. I wasn’t familiar with this trail head, but I looked up and down the creek and couldn’t find a way across that wouldn’t mean hiking in wet boots the rest of the way, so we moved to Plan B.
Plan B was entering the trail at Mammot Road. We would have had to hike .7 miles on this road anyway, now we will avoid the road walk. I peeked down the trail before making the commitment to the hike. It seemed wet, but not impassable. I sent my husband on his way back home and Matthew and I took off down the trail.
We encountered many, many “puddles” aka swampy areas. Matt has LONG legs and moves like a gazelle. I have short stubby legs and I lacked any finesse hopping over these areas, especially carrying my full pack. I prayed my boots stayed dry and the prayer worked. And I really sloshed through the water. As long as it wasn’t over my ankle I was good. (I love my Keen boots!)
Matt and I stuck close together while the ground was a giant puddle but once the trail dried out, Matt was off like a flash. The trail was very easy to follow. The bright orange blazes were close together and I knew Matt would be able to follow it no problem.
Matt backtracked a little to find me and told me saw a railroad track ahead. Sure enough we came upon the track and glanced in both directions. No trains in sight. Drat. That would have been a treat to see a train so close. We didn’t want to wait around not knowing the schedule at all.
We spotted the orange flag in a tree branch indicating the trail entrance and Matt took off again. I stopped a few times to take some pictures, look at the sky, admire the forest and listen to the birds. We didn’t see any deer, only their footprints and some scat.
We saw some gorgeous waterfalls, including one that I drive by everyday and didn’t even know that it was there! It was spectacular especially with all the snow melt and rain we had recently.
We crossed Broadway into Darien Lake State Park. We found the log book and signed in.
It started to really warm up so I stopped to take off my jacket and we had an impromptu snack time. After a few cheese puffs, beef jerky and red fish we were fortified.
I put a few red fish in my pocket and we continued our journey. It didn’t take long to come across the blue trail to the lean to.
I gave Matt the option to hike it and he declined so we continued on following the orange blazes towards Sumner Road.
We actually heard a tree fall somewhere nearby and we both stopped in our tracks. We looked at each other relieved that it wasn’t a bear crashing through the woods to eat us. Then I found a ninja tree stump! Tell me it doesn’t look like ninja??
The trail ends at a parking lot on Sumner Road, so when I started hearing traffic I called my husband to pick us up. Timed right we wouldn’t wait long for him. We exited the trail and found a picnic bench, snacked again and had a drink. I picked up trash I found in the lot.
It was a beautiful day of nearly 60 degrees in January. It took us about two hours to hike about 4 miles. Matt said he’d be up to hiking this trail again when it was dry!
I have a few other trails up my sleeve for us, too! I just ordered and received a bunch of maps from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference. My goal this summer is to hike the Letchworth State Park branch trail of the FLT.