Way Outside my Comfort Zone

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.

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Disclaimer: This is not me.

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.

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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.

See what I did there?

Conservation Trail – Mammot Rd to Sumner Rd

I put on my favorite Darn Tough socks.

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I ate a good breakfast.  (My husband made it for me.)

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I laced up my boots and threw my pack into the car.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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This was a small puddle, I kept my camera put away while hiking through the deep stuff!

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.

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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??

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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.

Trail? What trail?

So my husband has decided that he likes hiking with me!  Yay!!!!  He has a great sense of direction when I get turned around and he makes funny faces to keep me happy!  That is all you need in a great hiking partner, right?

Last weekend we ventured out to the good ole’ Joe Panza Trail.  It’s where my training for the Appalachian Trail began way back on July 20, 2015.  I’ve been back there a few times since because it is so close to home.  When we started out I asked him how far he wanted to go.  I braced myself for his answer of one mile, but he surprised me when he said two miles!  I was giddy!  I set my app on my phone to measure our distance.

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It’s nearly winter and we were bundled up, but it wasn’t raining.  The trail is very flat and since I’ve been on it so many times, a little boring.  Well, not today.  I seem to always go a certain way on the trail.  Today my husband turned left instead of right and right instead of left and low and behold we were OFF the trail!  Where did the trail go?  With all the leaves on the ground we somehow missed a turn and it was obvious we were no longer on the trail.  We were walking along the creek and of course I knew we weren’t “lost” just not on a trail.  I remembered that there was a geocache near where I thought we were so I opened the geocache app on my phone and checked.  Nope.  Not where I thought we were.  At least now I had an idea of where we were since I could see the other geocaches that I have found in the park.

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My husband checked the app and together we decided to hike next to the creek until we came to “something.”  We slowly made our way along the creek. I found a green mossy tree that reminded me of a dinosaur foot and we found some litter.  I didn’t have my backpack so I didn’t have a garbage bag, but we took turns carrying the trash. Which reminds me, I still have a yucky bottle cap in my puffy jacket pocket!  About this time my app said we had hiked one mile!

We kept walking through the woods not positive where we were going to end up and then BAM!  There was a trail!  Well, I hope you weren’t worried!  Jumping back on the trail dear husband again took a left instead of a right and the trail ended at an open field that was behind the high school.  This time we knew the main trail was only about 200 feet to the right so we carefully made our way through the brush to the trail.  At this point we were on the main trail so there was a garbage can where we unloaded the trash we found.

The Joe Panza trail has identification on some of the trees.  We stopped to read a few and I hugged and loved on them.  The red maple did not want to let me go and snagged my scarf.

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I freed myself from the amorous maple and hubby and I then decided to play on some tree stumps!  My husband tried to impersonate The Thinker pose.  I think he looks a little constipated.  When I showed my sister the picture of me posing on the tree stump she said I reminded her of a twirling ballerina inside a little girl’s jewelry box.  Awe!  I wasn’t even trying!

While heading back to the car my app said we had hiked 1.97 miles.  It looked like we would make my husband’s goal of two miles by the time we reach the car. The last time we hiked we went about a mile. If we keep doubling our distance and if my husband could retire early, we could hike the Appalachian Trail together in 2020!  I think I’ll start playing the Lotto!

Disclaimer:  I try to make it a rule to not venture off trail.  I understand it could harm the plant life and I could get really lost.

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!

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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!)

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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!

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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!

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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!

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I AM NOT AFRAID! I AM NOT AFRAID!

Fabulous!  Excited!  Amazing!  ALIVE!

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.

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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.

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I know I heard something weird…

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.

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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.

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I love looking at my little home away from home.

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.

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I’m the green lantern.

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.

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This was delicious.

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.

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Baby steps.

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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!

 

No Choice, Joyce

Well, that was a learning experience!

Packing my pack on Thursday night, I proceeded to: crack my headlamp, have my water bladder leak all over the padding of my pack and removed, replaced and added extra items at the last minute.  I ran out to the local hardware store and bought a $5 headlamp, my pack stayed slightly damp and I carried probably about a pound of extra weight on items I never looked at while hiking.

We started out Friday headed south to the Morrison/Rimrock Trail Loop in the Allegheny National Forest.  We had all the excitement of kindergartners on the first day of school!  It was snowing, but we laughed and didn’t care!

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The snowflakes were small and we bundled up.

This was my first time carrying my pack on a hike.  It was almost 30 pounds.  Filled with everything I would need to survive one night and two days in the woods. Morrison Trail including the Rimrock Trail is about 12 miles long.  The terrain is very steep in sections and also beautiful as the trail follows the creek.  There are many creek crossings where I am beholden to my hiking poles for saving me from getting wet. I know I would not have stayed dry without them!  I think I may have even kissed them once or twice!

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Not so wide to cross here. This one was easy!
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Four little waterfalls in row.  So beautiful!
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Everything was starting to turn that perfect Spring green.  Shelly blended in!

We stopped to camp after hiking about 7 miles.  Unfortunately for us I could not manage to climb down a steep slope to the reservoir below where there was some flat land.  (I slid down and got muddy and upset – poor Shelly.)  Our little camp had to be set up on a slope.

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Don’t do this unless it’s all you got.  This was not ideal.  We made it work.

We ate our dinner at about 5:30 and hung out in my surprised (!) tent for a little while. It was becoming very cold and weather.com said it could be down to 26 degrees!  Shelly went back to her tent and I was all alone.  Being on the slope made it very challenging to sleep.  We slid down in our tents because….gravity.  Her tent wasn’t staying up with her hiking poles because she kept sliding into it.  Finally, I convinced her to sleep with me in my one-man tent.  Eureka should know that four grown women could sleep in the fetal position in the solo tent.  The two of us only took up half the tent!

I do think this was one of the longest nights ever.  I couldn’t stretch my legs.  Our feet were pressed up against the tent holding us up.  It was so uncomfortable.  At least we were warm next to each other.  Unfortunately for Shelly, I also snore.  Loud.  She woke me up a couple times to stop me.  I stayed awake for awhile so I could make sure she slept a little.  In the end I’m sure I slept more than she did.  All I did all night was watch the time on my phone.  Anxious for sunrise and being able to eat some hot oatmeal and a boiling cup of tea.

At around 6 am I heard a Barred owl saying “Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for you all?”  Shelly woke up and we chatted and stayed warm until the sun rose around 7am. We retrieved the bear canister and pots and cooked our breakfast as the sky became brighter and brighter.  Packing up our tents we discovered ice coated everything!  Our tents, poles, anything we left outside of our tents.  It was really, really cold!  Our fingers and toes were numb!  But, we had a lovely view of the forest with the reservoir in the background!  Staying positive here!

We hit the trail about 8:30am.  The sky was blue and it was warming up.  The trail continued up the mountain and we said if there was a flat spot within the next quarter mile we would have been so mad we made camp where we did, but there wasn’t. So, we made a good choice.

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Beautiful, huge moss covered boulders.  They look like they are sliding off the mountain, much like we nearly did the night before.

The trail took us up the very last inch of the mountain, with no apologies.  In my head I was drafting my next blog post -“I’m never hiking again.  I’m quitting!” “This is too hard.”  “I can’t do it.”

On one particular steep section, I stopped because I was exhausted and sweaty.  I wanted to close my eyes, twitch my nose and be in my bed at home.  Then it hit me.  I HAD NO CHOICE.  At this point of the game, the only way I would ever see my bed at home again was if my two feet kept going.  I looked down at my feet and said, “Feet, you have to do this for the rest of the body.  You must continue.  You have NO CHOICE, JOYCE!”  With that, I continued, I continued to complain, whine, climb and walk and eventually we made it to some glorious flat ground.

We were anxious to see some sign that we were going in the right direction.  We knew we should be coming up to a turn in the trail.  We finally saw a sign and made the turn.  Walking and walking and walking we thought maybe we turned at the wrong spot!  At worst we would have to walk an extra 2.6 miles, lucky for us we came across some day hikers that told us the parking lot was about a mile away.  Can you hear angels singing? I can.

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Can you find Shelly?

Hiking out that last half mile was hard.  Who am I kidding, it was all hard. If someone would have asked me on Saturday, if I would do this again I would have said, maybe.  Today, I can’t wait to hit this trail again – in warmer weather!  Now that I know where to stop to camp it should make that part so much more tolerable.

I want to thank my good friend, Shelly aka livingonthedirt.com.  She taught me how to adjust my pack straps.  It was magic!  She taught me about bear canisters and cooking away from your camp to discourage animal visitors.  She gave me a pat on the back when I fell and slid down the mountain. (It helped, it really did!) She also listened to me whine and complain and when I look back at myself, I wish I didn’t do so much of that.

Watch out, Appalachian Trail.  I’m getting ready!