Saturday, December 27, 2014

Getting Lost is a Perk of Hiking

Approx 7:45 a.m. Sun rising over
the I- 95 bridge
Sometime the purpose of a hike is to get lost. But today, I think it's the trail that got lost not me.

Today I went to Susquehanna State Park in Maryland. It's about an hour drive south on 95. It sounds
far because it's in another state but the drive was only a few minutes more than driving out to French Creek SP in PA. I wanted to visit this park after seeing Destrie, an MLC trail runner, posting about it. Great views and lots of climbing. I need the climbing to get ready for super hike and great views are always a plus.

I studied the park maps online but did not have one with me. I saw that the red blazed ridge trail had a trailhead at the boat launch on Lapidurm Road and I headed there to start. I couldn't find the trail at first. I started down an abandoned railroad but when that became too overgrown to pass through I turned around. I was just about to give up and drive to another spot when I noticed a rocky ledge with signpost near it. I walked over to look at it and that's when I saw the trail marker.

As soon as I was on the trail I could see why Destrie likes the ridge trail so much. It is a narrow tree lined trail that climbs and descends repeatedly opening up at times to provide awesome views of the river. There quite a few views through the trees but those will disappear in Spring and Summer. I look forward to seeing the trail then, too.

A short way in I came to the junction with the white blazed Land of Promise Trail. I made a mental note of where I was. My plan was to follow the ridge trail to the northern end of the park at the Deer Creek picnic area then follow the Farm Road Trail back to the grist mill and then the Land of Promise Trail back to this spot. That was the plan, anyway.

The ridge trail descended to the road just before the grist mill. I discovered a historic walking trail and decided to take that. I figured it probably went around the Rock Run Historic Area and would bring me back to the street eventually. It did and on the way I got a nice tour of the area. I also found the connection to the Land of Promise Trail which I would need to know for later.

Back at the street and the mill I tried to resume my hike on the ridge trail. I found the red blazes on two trees along the road and then - poof - they disappeared. I went back and forth a couple of times but found no marker indicating a turn. I followed the road for a bit knowing that I really wanted to be up there...
In real life it was steeper
than it looks here. The photo begins
partway up the hill
I toyed briefly with the idea of climbing up that hillside to find the trail. I decided against it for two reasons. #1 If I got up there and the trail wasn't there I'd have to come back down. In my head, coming down is harder than going up. I am afraid of falling. In fact, reason #1a would be that I could get part way up and if I stopped and looked down I'd freeze and have to be rescued by the fire department or something like that. And reason #2 for not climbing up was that although there did appear to be sufficient rocks, roots and trees to keep me moving and supported in an upward direction, if I was wrong and fell down the hill I would land on a somewhat busy street with a blind curve right there.

So instead I followed the Mason Dixon Trail which was now following the river. This meant much more flatland than I had anticipated but it was better than no hike at all. I figured I'd follow this for a couple of miles and if I didn't find the Deer Creek picnic area I would simply turn around and retrace my steps back to the car. A few miles later I came to a trail and bridge that went across a creek away from the Mason Dixon Trail. No signage except for a Susquehanna Heritage Trail sign similar to the ones I had seen back at the Grist Mill town. I have to admit that I pulled up the GPS on my phone here to see if I could tell where the Deer Creek picnic area was. It looked like this spur trail went in the general direction of the picnic area so I decided to try it.
Deer Creek
I came to a road with a directional sign for the picnic area. Just off the road was a dirt trail (better than road any day). I decided to follow it figuring that if it strayed from following the road I'd hop back down to the road. Just as the trail started to veer off from the road I was met by a couple and their dog. They informed me that yes this trail led to the picnic area. Not in a straight line but I did get there.

I found a map kiosk and determined where the trails back to the Grist Mill went off. I found the junction of the Farm Road Trail and the Ridge Trail. I decided to go back on the Ridge Trail so I could find out where it meets up with the Grist Mill village. Well,it turns out the Ridge Trail follows a road to the left just past the Mill for a short distance and then descends to cross the creek and head back up to the ridge. When I got to the road I looked again....and there is no clear indication of that in terms of trail blazes. I suppose if I had a park trail map I might have found it but I didn't.

I passed on the creek crossing here. I got half way across and realized I was going to end up IN the creek no matter what and I just wasn't in the mood for it. I had a towel and dry socks in my pack but still opted to cut off on a trail that others had blazed back out to the street and cross the creek on the bridge. Wimpy perhaps but that water was going to be very cold.

Also, as I approached the village I stopped to look down at the road where I had contemplated climbing up. Now that I knew for certain the trail was at the top, I think I could have made it. But it was a smart move to skip that adventure without that knowledge.

I found the Land of Promise trail and followed it around to the ridge trail and back to my car. The ridge trail has great views but I think the Land of Promise trail had more climbing. I'll look at my Garmin info more closely later to see of that's true or if it just felt that way because I was nearing the end of a 4 hour hike.

I had a great time today. I recommend a visit to this area. If you don't want to climb there is plenty of trail along the river instead. Long post today. Thanks for staying with me.

Keep smiling and keep moving,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy.

Which may (partly) explain the obsession with shadow pictures. 

Media is "Everybody's Hometown" and I guess that makes Ridley Creek State Park "Everybody's Hometown Park". At least it's mine. Less than 10 minute drive from my house it is perfect for Sunday morning hikes. I can sleep in a bit (something I seem to want to do more as I get older), get in a decent hike and be home before the day is all but gone. It's nice to follow up Saturday's longer adventures with a shorter, familiar hikes close to home. RCSP is also big enough that I can put longer hikes together when I want. My longest to date is 13+ miles and there was plenty more to go without doubling back yet. 

Another benefit to RCSP is that bikes are restricted to the multi-use trail. I appreciate that mountain biking is the sport of choice for many and when I go to places like Smedley Park or Wissahickon I expect to be sharing the trails with them and I'm ok with that. It's a different kind of hike though. It's nice to have a spot I can go and not have to be on that kind of alert. 

Yesterday's gray skies gave way to full sunshine. I took my time enjoying the sun and the trails. I'll say no more and just leave you with a few pictures. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

HST Hike: Scotts Run Lake to Northside Road

..... and UP to Critter hill. That is significant after a 9 mile hike.

Today's hike started at Scotts Run Lake at French Creek State Park (the start and finish of last year's MLC 50 SOS). On the way there I picked up Alexis at her house which is very near our planned end point. We left my car at Scotts Run Lake and began the hike back to Northside Road. Today was a gray December day; temps in the low 30s and cloudy. I had propped my sunglasses on top of my hat before leaving but never put them on during the hike. Despite the gray the hike was anything but dreary. I enjoyed the chance to catch up with Alexis and be out on the trails. I did not get out last weekend. I had to work on Saturday and had family stuff and errands to do on Sunday. I did nothing at all during this week either and I did wonder if 9 miles was too ambitious. But I'm home now (duh) had a shower and I feel pretty good. And even after the hour long ride home getting out of the car was not bad. I could tell I had hiked but did not wobble (or fall down!)

The Horse-shoe trail takes off from Scott Run Lake by going across the lake then taking a large counter clockwise loop in the woods around the edges of the park on the other side of the lake. You can see the map my Garmin drew here. After passing along Hopewell lake the trail enters into Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. If you look closely at the Garmin map you can see the blip of a detour we took to visit the restrooms at the visitor center and have a snack. It was here that we encountered some runners who commented on the thoroughness of the blaze orange we both wore. The runners had some flashes of it but not full coverage. I commented that we were not moving as fast as they were. They laughed but I felt like they wished they were wearing more. We did not encounter any hunters directly this time but we could hear the gunshots at different times today.

After Hopewell the trail is mostly in woods again except for a gravel road section called Green Lane. It was on Green Lane that we saw a pile of junk. It wasn't garbage trash but rather personal belongings of sorts. I thought it looked like someone had moved recently and didn't have room in their new place so they dumped the stuff. Whatever the reason it's wrong and sad. Alexis found an address on something in the pile and planned to report it to the park office when we got back.

Photo does not do Alexis'
driveway justice. It winds and
climbs quite a bit
We reached Northside Road and headed for Alexis' house. She and her family live on a hill.To get to the house from the street one must climb a long winding driveway. A cruel joke after a long hike after about 10 days of inactivity. This was the only part of today's miles that I felt out of breath. Alexis runs this for hill-work. I'm very much in awe of her!

According to the guide book it's about 9 trail miles from Scotts Run to Northside Road. My Garmin and Alexis' Strava app on her phone were about a mile apart most of  the way. My guess is that reality is somewhere in between.I left the Garmin running during the stop at Hopewell and still we averaged a really good pace. A great day on the trails and now I have to try to keep some workout momentum going.

With today's section I've completed just under 40 miles of the HST from Valley Forge to French Creek State Park. Only 100 or so more to go! :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Slow run in the cold beats warm bike ride to nowhere beats sitting on the couch.

Tonight began what will likely become a love-hate relationship with the Olive Street Parking Garage. I walked to the garage from home to warm up. Beside the fact that warming up is a good idea it is near freezing out tonight with wind chill near 20. Once there, I ran up the stairs on the Baltimore Pike side to the top (3rd) level; around the top level to the Baker Street side and then down the steps; around the block to the Baltimore Pike stairs and repeated for a total of 4 circuits. Then I jogged home.

Details here.

Just over 2.5 miles total. Longest run on pavement in over two years and longest run period since last Bob Potts training run 18 months ago. Except for feeling lopsided - tighter on the right side - it felt good to run. And the reminder that I need to get back to strength exercises was a good thing. It felt good to get my heart rate up and feel the cold in my lungs & on my skin. There are some things about running that I miss. Like watching your breath in the beam of a headlamp. Under the influence of mind altering drugs it would probably be hours of entertainment. As it was sober me was giggling at it most of the way home. Talk about distraction!

For those betting when I will (if ever) use the bike that's now sitting on the trainer, there's still hope to win that bet. You can admit that you are betting against me. Heck, *I'm* betting against me. However, faced with the option of riding the bike to nowhere or gearing up for a stair workout in the cold .... I opted to go outside and run up and down stairs. The bike being set up and ready to go meant no excuses. I had to do something. So I've already benefited from the setting up bike without ever sitting on it...yet. Whatever works!

Oh and walking to warm up, followed by running the stairs, followed by a jog home resulted in progressively faster average pace across time tonight! Yay!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rainy Morning on Misery and Joy

The rain held off until the last mile of today's hike.
This is taken out the care window before leaving. 
Actually it was Joy and Misery since we did our 'usual' loop in reverse today. Today was my first day back on the trails (any trails) in three weeks. In my head Joy is easier than Misery so I suggested we go the reverse route. In reality it's not that much easier just different and truthfully starting out almost always feels harder than later when your legs are warmed up. But since so much of any of this is a mind game ya gotta go with what works.

The rains held off for 5 of today's 6 miles. I had the company of Julius, Sara and Tootsie for 4 of them and we ran (walked) into Gary and Kristen V along the way. These adventures are always so much more fun with friends - even in passing.

I felt good despite the long layoff. My hips, knees and back all held up well. Even after the drive home my back is not bothering me. I'm very happy about that.

I fell twice today. Once I tripped over nothing (that I could see) and landed hard on my hands trying to keep my legs out of the muddy leaves. I'll feel that later probably. And a second time I stepped on a log and my foot went right out from under me. I'm not sure why I even stepped there. Probably yakking with friends and not paying attention. It's all good though. No damage done.

The mouthpiece popped off the hose from my hydration pack at one point and water dribbled down my leg for a few seconds while I figure out what was going on. Fortunately my friend Tootsie spotted to piece in the pile of leaves so I don't have to get a replacement.

Despite the falls and leaky water I had a great time as always. Hike details from Garmin.

Map of the route which included
a little off trail stuff at the end. 
Elevation profile

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Vicious Life Cycle of the Basement (And other random stuff)

Today was clean out the basement day. Our is not a finished basement and it's just too easy for things to end up there when one doesn't know what else to do with the item. Neither one of us is a slob so the basement was an orderly mess but still held things that should not be held anymore. Can't count how many times we've said "THIS is just too good to throw away".

Well, today most of that stuff was thrown away.

It was very rewarding. We still have a dusty unfinished basement but it now has much less clutter than it did at the beginning of the day.Lots of room for more 'stuff' now but that's the vicious life cycle of a basement.

My bike, which had been in the basement was moved to the spare bedroom. I decided putting up on the trainer permanently for the winter might encourage me to use it more that way. I can't use the excuse "I'm not in the mood to drag it up out of the basement and put it on the trainer" if it's already there. Here's hoping I actually do use it and don't come up with another excuse. My intentions are good anyway. I'll let you know. :)

My bike and its shadow! :)  
In other news it's supposed to snow on Wednesday evening. (Today it got into the 70s by the way.) Thursday is Thanksgiving. I love snow and snow at the parade would be awesome. I/We are a bit concerned about parking in the city if it snows more than 3 inches. We've pretty much decided that sleep on Wednesday night will be minimal. We have to be at the staging hotel at 5:00 a.m. If it's snowing when we go to bed on Wednesday we'll have to get up extra early to make sure we won't have any travel issues.

Fortunately, Thursday (post parade) is all about napping, Turkey sandwiches, napping, football,napping .... and packing. Friday we leave for Florida to spend time with KT and JL and to cheer JL at the Space Coast Marathon. It's time to return a favor....

Dave, JL and KT
cheering me on in 2010.
The year it SNOWED
at the Disney races in Florida. 
I am excited to see JL rock his first marathon distance. His goal race is Disney marathon in January. Space Coast is a supported training run with a cool medal at the end! I'm glad we can be there to support him.

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Back Pain

I think it goes neck and neck with tooth pain for being the worst. Although with tooth pain I can still hike so that likely puts back pain over the top. 

I have three concerns about this right now. 

#1) That it is old age related and is going to be permanent. I've not had this kind of pain in the back before.  #2) I have a balloon to wrangle on Thursday. #3) I love exploring the outdoors - especially in this weather - and not being able to is intensifying the grumpy caused by #1. 

What follows is my way of getting the details written down and out of my head. A) so I can remember them if I do have to tell the doc and B) Once written down I can let them go to a certain extent and ease the anxiety from thinking about it too much. (or so I'd like to think).

So about two weeks ago I started to feel pain on my spine. Unlike the radiating pain of muscle spasm or a pulled or strained muscle this felt very localized to the bone itself. The best way I could describe it is it felt like a bone bruise. I happened to have a routine physical appointment a few days later so I mentioned it to the doc. I would not have made an appointment for this but since I was there anyway .... Doc had me bend this way and that and said nothing appeared out of order and there was no visible signs of bruising. She suggested I stay tuned to it and come back if anything new happened or if got considerably worse. 

This pain is behaving like no other back issue I've ever had. It's in my lower back and shows itself mostly after sitting. (Yes, I know that's likely a clue.) While sitting I don't feel it but upon standing it makes itself known in varying degrees of volume depending on how long I've been sitting. Until Thursday this week I was able to walk it off. Not completely but enough that it was reduced to an annoying jab rather than a movement stopper. I hiked both days of both weekend since it started. The hiking didn't bother it at all. In fact, I didn't feel it while hiking. But after the car ride home (even the short distance from RCSP to my house) it was back. :( 

On Thursday this week, it got worse. I couldn't walk it off and added to the bone bruise feeling was a tightness/burning all around it. I did my best with ice, heat and rest on Thursday evening but it was still there on Friday. I decided it was best to cancel hiking this weekend. Although that didn't seem bother it I wonder if I was aggravating whatever it is and the endorphins that flow when I'm outside moving on the trails were masking it. 

I'm doing a little better today. I felt much better first thing out of bed (which has been the pattern every morning) and I'm being careful in my movements and watching my posture when I sit. And I am a poor sitter. It is taking a lot of concentration to mind that. The pain and tightness are still there but much much much less than the past two days. I have an appointment with the doc for Dec 4th. Here's hoping I won't need it. 

Keep smiling and keep moving. (I'm doing my best with both today)

Friday, November 14, 2014

We've Had to Believe in Impossible Things

The quote that titles this post is heard in the opening of NPR's Ted Talks for Radio. It gets me every time. 

On Sunday, November 9, three astronauts returned from 165 days on the International Space Station. From the un-docking of their Soyuz capsule to landing in Kazakhstan took 3.5 hours. From a SPACE station. I can't drive to Pittsburgh on the other side of my own state in 3.5 hours. (Ok. Maybe I could but it would not end well). I am a Space/Science geek but this ISS thing has to amaze even those who are not. Space is 'out there' .......but it's really not. 3.5 hours from ISS to ground. Now granted the spacecraft traveled at speeds most of us can't even imagine to accomplish that but that's kinda the point of this post. Somebody imagined it. And called on their somebody friends. And made it happen. And all those somebody's along with three guys - one American, one German and one Russian - believed it would work.

On Wednesday, November 12, the European Space Agency landed a spacecraft on a comet. ON. A. COMET. It took 10 years to get there. So somewhere beyond 10 years ago someone believed that it was possible to land a 220 pound spacecraft on a 2.5 mile wide ball of rock and ice travelling over 40,000 miles an hour. My mind is blown

I find all of this an incredible source of inspiration and motivation. 

These things don't always go right of course. There have been horrific crashes and unfortunately loss of life in some of them. Still it's hard (for me anyway) not to be inspired by people who believe in impossible things and make them possible. 

We don't have to be astronauts or space agency scientists to make impossible things possible. Whether it's completing a feat of fitness; learning a new language or skill; conquering a fear; forgiving another person; getting out of a bad relationship; losing or gaining weight; finding a new job or believing in someone else's seemingly impossible idea...... 

All we have to do is believe that impossible things are possible.

All we have to do is believe in ourselves (and/or others). 

All we have to do is to keep smiling and keep moving. :) Stuff is gonna happen. Don't give up. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hiking with Mr. and Mrs. B.

After my all day excursion two weeks ago I took some time off. I kept up with Yoga and made it out to Haverford College once (where it was too spooky in the dark alone) but other than that I took it easy for two weeks.

Today I got back to work.

Although it is tough to call it work since I got to spend the entire hike with Julius and Maggi also fondly known as the Bickersons. One of them, damned if my old brain can remember which, gave me credit today for giving them the nickname but I actually think the other is right and that it was Jeannie. But I can say that I've witnessed my share of their antics - and love every minute of it. They both have quick wits and can dish the snark (with incredible aim) as well as take it. I was surprised that it took 29 minutes and change before the first zing today. I wondered if they were losing their art. But it was such a gorgeous day and I think we were all a bit bedazzled by that!

However once they got started I was thoroughly entertained although not once did either one of them call the other a 'fat butt'. If they had I might still be up there rolling around laughing.

We climbed Mt Misery and the Horseshoe Trail, back down the other side and then over Mt Joy for a circle back to our cars. All in all it was about 4.5 miles. Combined, the two make a nice hill workout. Today both were covered in leaves making the small rocks and tree roots difficult to see but I'm please to say we all made it upright the whole way.

We met at 8:30 with Michael M. and a new member to the group Kris. Michael and Kris headed out
on a trail run while we hiked. We met up with them again as we were coming down the far side of Misery and again at the parking lot before heading home.

It was a great day to start phase two of my Super Hike training. Tomorrow I'm off to Ridley Creek State Park with a goal of 4.5 more miles make it a 9 mile weekend.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Thankful Heart

The theme for this hike was "A Thankful Heart". The song, from A Muppet Christmas Carol (one of my favorites), kept popping in my head. And your welcome as now it may be in yours. It's not Christmas .. heck it's not in Thanksgiving yet but the opening lines of the song are appropriate:

With a thankful heart
With a endless joy

The fact is I have a lot of people to thank for the joy of this hike. First, foremost, always and forever my husband Dave who never visibly flinches when I say "I have an idea... " He's the best. 

I also want to thank Mike, Maryann, Naomi, Sara, Maggi, Russ, Candy, Kristi and Alexis who at different times since December 2012 section hiked the Horseshoe Trail with me. I didn't know I was going to do this all day hike when I started the sections but having done it made it all the more fun today. I also want to thank my family and friends who read the blog. It has gotten me through more than one hard day wanting to be able to tell you "I did it."

Now I give you fair warning. I have no idea exactly how much I have to say about this hike. It might be a long one. Read on at your own risk. 

This hike marked the culmination of what I am calling the base building phase of my Super Hike training. Having had so much downtime since the abandoned effort to do the Bob Potts Marathon I knew I had to build up again to attempt any kind of distance event. Starting on May 31st of this year I targeted October 25th for an all day hike. Largely due to the knowledge gained from section hiking with the folks identified above I decided to take on the Horseshoe Trail from Northside Road to Great Valley Nature Center. Although I've been going out for time rather than distance each weekend, for this hike I had to factor in distance since I wanted to do a one - way hike and had to choose spots where I could be dropped off and picked up. Based on my average pace on previous timed outings the 24.5 miles between Northside Road and Great Valley seemed ideal. 

Part 1: Northside Road to St. Peter's Village. This section is the only section I hiked in the same direction as before (west to east). I first hiked this section with Alexis on Mother's Day 2014. The same day she tried to teach me the fine art of chicken grooming. A skill we discovered I am highly unsuited to but I had a lot of fun learning about it and visiting her. We finished that escapade with a hike into St. Peter's Village and back. Although we did not take the detour that I had to take yesterday. 

What I didn't plan on was that this weekend was opening day of small game hunting season in PA. As I stood at the trail head (which proceeds through state game lands) waiting for my Garmin to find the satellites I realized I had three strikes against me. The hunters had guns (#1), the hunters had dogs (#2), and I did not have any blaze orange(#3). I had a moment of  pure panic and then remembered scouting the aid stations for Misery Loves Company's  50 SOS. Maggi and I drove all around the trail to do that. And so I knew I could stay on the road around the gamelands and pick up the trail at Trythall Road. 

BTW, the blaze orange vest and hat I ordered earlier this week arrived while I was out hiking. 

Part II: St. Peter's Village to French Creek Elementary School. I first hiked this section east to west with Candy and Kristi. Ladies it was much much much drier this time. The entire trail was covered in a thick layer of dry leaves. When possible this allowed me to slush through listening to one of my favorite sounds - the rustling of the dry leaves as my shoes move through. It wasn't always possible to do that though. The trail - the entire length - has long stretches of rocks sticking up and out of it. This is Pennsylvania after all and while it's not the boulder fields of the Appalachian Trail it might be more dangerous here. The leaf cover was thick and hid a lot of the tripping hazards. I was often caught off balance when my foot hit one of these unseen obstacles. I'm proud to say though that I did not fall once all day. :) 

When I arrived at Warwick County Park I took a deliberate detour off the trail. Instead of going right immediately upon entering the park and then following the ridge line the length of the park I headed for the bathroom. I had coffee with breakfast and I was not going to pass up my only real chance for indoor plumbing. 

When Candy and Kristi and I took this hike in early Spring there had been a lot of rain that week and with the high snowfall this past winter the creek was running high. So we wisely took the trail guide suggested detour. I decided to tackle the creek this time. I had done it once before when a bunch of us went running/hiking here a few months ago. I failed on the return trip across the creek that time too. I spent a good couple of minutes trying to figure out if I could make it. If you zoom in on the map my Garmin drew you can see my zig zagging as I debated what to do. The rocks slant the wrong way for me. I figured it was better to just walk across in the water than risk falling and getting all of me wet. The water came up over just over my shoes. Once across I found a dry place to sit, took off my shoes and socks, dried my feet and put on dry socks. All was good. I had hoped to make it via rock hopping but I was prepared for not making it. 

Part III: French Creek Elementary School to Route 113.  I first hiked this section with Maggi and Russ in the snow.  I was pretty sure then - and I'm convinced of it now  - that we blazed a bit of our own trail that day. In this section the trail blazes are in the worst condition. All along the hike today (except for this section) I could see where trail workers had come out and repainted the yellow blazes. From here (about mile 7) through mile 11 of my day the blazes were few and far between and the ones that were there were faint and peeling. The trail meanders in the first part through a lot of woods and the leaf cover this time and snow last time made it difficult to see any path. The lack of blazes made for slow going trying to follow them and not face plant over a rock or tree root. I'm not really complaining just describing. If I didn't want the adventure that the trails offer I'd stick to the roads. 

One noticeable difference between last time and this one is the creek crossing that I almost didn't manage back in March. I'm pretty sure this was one of the spots that back in March we were off trail. The crossing today was quite narrow and even had a large cement filled log portion for easy step crossing. Now it's possible the log was added later but the width of the creek likely did not change that much. 

There was a detour that wasn't my doing in this section. I'm not sure if it is permanent or not but it was a very nice one . It cut out a significant portion of road walking which was really nice. 

Part IV: Route 113 to Great Valley Nature Center: I first hiked this section with Mike, Naomi and Sara.  In fact, it was almost one year ago exactly. So conditions today were very similar to that first time except I was going in reverse. I was nervous about the one section where we got confused going across what looked like someone's property. All I can say is that in reverse it seemed less like trespassing. Although that may be because we had already done it once. There were parts along this section (which had a lot of road in it) that the previous hikes helped me with direction. I had the guide book with me but my memory of the landmarks we had seen before meant I didn't have to dig it out. 

The other big difference is that this time I was in the final 8 or so miles of my day and I have to admit that I was getting a bit cranky in my head. I was passing the six hour mark now - the longest I had hiked to date. When I first plotted out the base building phase I set my sights on finishing with a 10 hour hike. I trimmed it to 8 after missing a few benchmarks along the way. 

I was able to tackle the crankiness by reminding myself about how far I had come. It was hard but it was supposed to be hard. My legs at this point were actually not too bad except for my shins. I attribute that to the amount of road walking. I have done very little road walking since our July 4th adventure. Plus any road walking I would do in sneakers not hiking shoes. 

At what I thought was 3 miles left I texted Dave to let him know I was about an hour out. I came out of a wooded area onto the intersection of Pikeland Road and Hollow Road. I had about 1.5 miles to go. I looked up the hill of Pikeland and my shins were screaming "Please don't make us do that". So I pulled out the map book to make sure I was where I thought I was and decided to proceed down Hollow road to the nature center. More or less I was cutting across the diameter of the half circle the trail would take me. 

Except I got turned around while looking at the guide book and ended up going down Pikeland (away from the hill) instead of Hollow. I made my way back to Hollow and called Dave and asked him to start driving toward me as I continued to walk. I had had enough. 

All in all it was a very successful end to my base building phase. My average moving time was 3 miles per hour. The decision to go for 8 hours instead of 10 was smart and does not set me back. I still have 10 months to get ready for the Super Hike. I finished 24.4 in roughly 8 and a half hours. Garmin map and details here. The shorter route for the Super Hike is a mile shorter than what I just did and with 12 hours to finish. I want to do the longer distance 29.6 and I still think I'm on track to get there. 

The Super Hike will have bigger and longer climbs one after the other after the other. So the next phase of my training is to climb, climb, climb. My goal between now and March is to get stronger and more efficient on the climbs. 

Next weekend though is a week off from hiking. Saturday is balloon handler practice for the Thanksgiving day parade and Sunday I plan an urban hike along the SRT in the city across the new bridge. 

I did not take a lot of photos today, I wanted to focus on moving along. It was hard not to take photos it was such a beautiful day. Here the few that I did take. 

Thanks for reading, 

Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


My new hiking shoes are awesome. Patagonia Drifters. They fit perfectly. Right out of the box they took me up and down Hawk Mountain (twice) on Saturday and around Ridley Creek State Park's White Trail on Sunday. Not a smidgen of discomfort. It's really quite incredible.

What has me shaking my head now is the number of pairs of shoes I have for sport. I have my new awesome hiking shoes. I have two pairs of Saucony running shoes from my abandoned marathon training last year. They still have life in them and I'm using them for my hill workouts and pavement walking. I also have an older pair of Saucony's that I wear to and from Yoga class (because there are these silly rules about driving without shoes). I dug them out of the closet for this purpose so as not to wear the others out.

If you are keeping up that's 4 pairs. It's Madness!! For someone who craves order and reasonableness - especially when it comes to spending habits - this has the makings of a nervous breakdown.

Having said that I just went online and ordered a second pair of my wonderful hiking shoes. I will likely need them before the Super Hike which is 10+ months and about 700 miles away. I'm trying not to hyperventilate here.... they were more than 1/2 off the regular price.

I had to do it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hawk Mountain Hike

I did make it to the North Lookout eventually --- and this photo is proof. Just not on the path I had hoped to take.

Here is a link to the various Hawk Mountain Treks (as they are called). I figured if I'm going to make the trip I was going to make the most of it so I chose the Golden Eagle Trek (a combination of three trails) as my goal for the day. "The guide says 4 miles; allow 3-4 hours of daylight to hike". I knew going in that the hardest part for me would be the portion that combined with the Skyline Trail along the ridge line. I was really worried my fear of heights would kick in. It was difficult to tell from the descriptions how steep the drop off might be on either side of this portion. I could only find references to the fact that they existed. The photos of the boulder sections on the ridge line are aerial photos. Probably because on the trail it takes both hands to keep balance and scramble across. The scrambling didn't worry me. I had done that on the Appalachian trail trek back in August. It was the fear of falling plummeting to my death the cause of which would be heart failure that worried me. But I had to get up there and see for myself. So off I went.

I began on what's dubbed the River of Rocks Trail. It earns it's name every step of the way. I followed it around until it crossed the Golden Eagle Trail the second time and began the ascent to the ridge line. That is where I encountered this ....

The photo does not do it justice. I climbed about half way up and realized that if it was this way all across the top I was in trouble. I heard voices coming toward me so I waited for the hikers to get closer and asked them if this is the way it was the rest of the way across to the North Lookout. They said yes.. .it was more or less a straight shot across once you got up there but if I was afraid of heights (how could they it was likely going to freak me out. And the climb down on the other side was going to be really tricky. I decided it was best I go back down and pick up the River of Rocks trail again back to the 'regular' trail up to the North Lookout.

This meant going back down more than 700' I had just climbed up only to start climbing back up again almost immediately on  a different trail. The climb to North Lookout from the visitor center is about 210 feet according to their website but the River of Rocks trail I had started on goes downhill for quite a bit before climbing back up. In the end I hiked 6.3 miles instead of 4 in about 4.5 hours. I need to get some climbing work in for the Super Hike. This definitely counts for that! Garmin readout here.

All in all I did ok, I think... except for the fear thing of course. I kept a running clock so my time includes stopping to eat. It's tough to eat when you are climbing and the flats required both hands for balance over the boulders so I had to stop and sit down to eat. The Super Hike clock won't stop if I do so I keep a running clock to better judge how long it's taking me to do my hikes.

As for the fear thing ... I wish I could say I'll go back and conquer the ridge top some day. I really wish I could. Never say never but it was so scary looking. Here are some other random photos from the hike.

From the South Lookout.. about 1/2 mile from visitor center

For Bippy. 

A tree along the River of Rocks Trail 

More rocks on the River of Rocks Trail..
Lots and Lots of this all throughout today

More from the North Lookout

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The One Where We Learned That You Can’t Wipe Your Nose With Your Dirty Underwear On The Golden Gate Bridge ….

(This is one in a series of blogger challenge posts with my nieces which often fall in to the “You had to be there” category. Read at your own risk of confusion)

Ok, so that’s not really how it goes (about the Golden Gate Bridge) but when a family like ours plays Balderdash anything goes.

On Saturday, October 11 the family gathered at our house for the annual Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner. The day was memorable just because but perhaps more so by the number and combination of folks who made it. Although everyone is always invited, this is not a command performance and since it is not an official US holiday work schedules especially among the 16 - 30 something group can sometimes get in the way. This year all members of that generation made it. So did all of their significant others with the exception of Arron who was holding down the fort at the bike shop so Emma could come. We also had three friends of family members.  All told there were 24 packed into our living room. Despite the cool rainy temperatures outside it was warm and (thankfully for sure) dry inside.
There was no way to get everyone in the shot

24 people talk … a lot. It was fun to simply sit back at times and listen to the multiple conversations going on at once. It was very amusing to watch everyone look for a timepiece when there was a lull in the conversation to see if it was 20 minutes before or after the hour. It should be noted that never once did we hit the mark.

Where did that idea come from anyway? I thought it was the ubiquitous “they”. You know “They always say …..” but several family members attributed it to Aunt Miriam and since Aunt Miriam wasn’t there to defend or deny the rumor it will join the ranks of family lore. Right along with “Where’s the pool?”, “This is YOUR carrot” and underwear on the Golden Gate Bridge.

This particular Thanksgiving will be remembered (at least by me) as the one where there were no leftovers except for a tiny serving of vegetables and a pie which we gave to someone else to take since we knew we wouldn’t eat it. Who has Thanksgiving with no leftovers? Turkey and mashed potatoes are usually in abundance. It made for quick clean up but still…….. And then there’s the matter of my right ring finger which began bothering me shortly after pealing about 8 pounds of potatoes.

Thanksgiving complete. Bring on the next puzzle. 
Until next year,

-Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A is for making Adjustments

I have momentum. Two hikes on the weekend, yoga on Monday and Tuesdays (yesterday) are rest days. Wednesdays are typically evening hikes and Thursday is for my hills.

So here's the thing. There's always a thing, right? On Thursday I have a class to teach. Once a month I teach an all day class for our new members. It's one of, if not the most, favorite thing about my job. But it leaves me drained. I'm on my feet 7.5 of the 8 hours and although I don't travel much beyond the length or width of the room, I generally end up dehydrated and mentally exhausted. It's fun but it's work. I love it :)

Anyway, an argument could be made that I should push myself to get out anyway. But realistically, I know it's unlikely. Also, I'll be helping to staff our Association Happy Hour after work this particular Thursday so I won't get home till 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. Something has to give.

I decided that - in the big picture right now - the hill work was more valuable than the evening hike. So tonight I went out for hill-work.

AND ...

I ran ALL SIX of them. Woo hoo! Ok jogged but it counts ;)

Keep smiling and keep moving

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall Hiking Weather - what to wear

It's that time of year. Long Sleeve? Short sleeve? Hat? Gloves? Layers? 

Yesterday's hike started late - 11:00 a.m. - because I had to work a few hours in the morning. It was raining all night and still a little drippy at 11 at Valley Forge. The rain was dragging a cold front with it that would bring temps in the low 40s for most of us before Sunday morning. Timing is everything though and I was throwing lots of alternatives in my bag before I left for work. 

I settled on short sleeves with rain/wind shell and a regular hat. Along with hiking pants and shoes of course. I chose wisely it turns out. The precipitation had all but left by the time I started and the shell kept my torso warm which was needed at the beginning. The temperature climbed as I hiked - probably to about 70 or so - but the extra layer was not uncomfortable and when the wind started to pick up later I was glad to have it. 

I hiked 17.5 miles in just under 6 hours yesterday. I felt good. Especially after having to cut short my hike two weeks ago and bailing completely last weekend. This weekend I felt good about my hydration/electrolyte balance and fueling during the hike. My legs were feeling the layoff but I had good energy and spirits throughout. 

This morning I went to Ridley Creek a little more layered than yesterday. It wasn't quite 50 when I started out. I had long sleeves, the shell and a head band under my hat. I could have used gloves for the first mile. It was a gorgeous fall day in the park. 

I started out just fine. My legs were recovered from yesterday. I didn't feel any muscle soreness. But they felt wobbly. It's hard to explain exactly. That feeling went away though. But about 1.5 hours in the rest of me started feeling dizzy and clammy. :( 

Despite feeling OK yesterday I don't think I properly cared for myself after the hike. I should have hydrated more when I got home, I should have eaten more when I got home and should have done more of both before heading out this morning. 

In hindsight, I also think I overdid it yesterday. The distance was fine but I pushed too hard. My goal on the long hike right now is supposed to about time - not distance or pace. I was pushing the pace yesterday. Consciously, I was concerned about getting back to the parking lot before dark (having started later than usual) and the risk of getting locked in. To be honest though, I was also constantly pushing back thoughts of making up for the missed and shortened workouts. I knew I shouldn't and tried to ignore them but they were there and were difficult to shut down. But hey, I'm human and we are a competitive bunch. Even if it is only with ourselves. So I'll forgive myself, hope I've learned my lesson and move on. 

The thing is, I'm worried about the 10 hour hike on October 25th. Since I want to do a one way hike I need to calculate as close as possible the distance I can cover in that time and get dropped off at the far point to work my way back. Since I will not have done more than 6.25 hours by then I wonder how much steam I'll lose going for 10 and that will affect the mileage. 

The plan is to go one way east on the HorseShoe Trail. If I underestimate I'll get back to Valley Forge too early and have to do circuits around there to make up the time. I'm not sure I won't just bail and go home though. I could stick with my original estimates and simply get picked up short of Valley Forge if necessary. That is likely what I'll do but it's not 100% certain yet. 

Keep smiling and moving


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sometimes things don't happen the way you expect.

Two weeks ago I did 4 hill repeats. Last Thursday I should have done 5 but it was raining and I didn't feel well. I might battle one or the other but together not so much. So today I planned to do 5. On the way home I talked myself into 2 walk - 1 run- 1 walk - 1 run. After I parked the car and walked over to the hill I had decided on 1 walk - 2 run - 1 walk - 1 run.

I ended up doing 1 walk and 4 run!!

Sometimes things don't happen the way you expect. :) :)

The key to success tonight was not caring about the pace of the run portions.I didn't feel the need to 'race' up the hill. I just wanted to get there.  I didn't even bring my Garmin. I focused on form and keeping enough run pace to move up the hill steady. I wanted to find that spot where I could get my heart rate up, sweat a little, but not be gasping for breath at the top. I wanted to keep my shoulders and fists loose. Just move and smile. I succeeded.

Could I have run harder? Yes. Should I have run harder? I don't know and I can honestly say I don't care about that right now. I completed what I set out to do. I want to get stronger. Stronger translates into faster in the long hike because - combined with proper fueling - it will mean being able to go longer distance before fatigue sets in. But I'm training for a hike not a sprint.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Is Breakfast The Most Important Meal of the Day?

I don't believe in one size fits all philosophies. Especially when it comes to Thanksgiving Day Parade jumpsuits.

But that's a left turn without signaling, sorry. I don't truly believe in one size fits me either. For example I can head out on a 3 hour hike without breakfast and do just fine relying on water and a mid hike snack. Whereas other days - mostly work days - skipping breakfast seems to throw me off. I'm sure the exercise factors into that somehow but I'd have to get up early to exercise before work to have enough data to prove the hypothesis and that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

There is a point to this post. My brain has simply decided to take the scenic route there. I'm channelling my inner Robin Williams.

I mentioned in an earlier post about the rough allergy season this year. I've been building or spiraling toward today for about two weeks I figure. I was scheduled for an 8 hour hike today. Considering I didn't wake up until just before 8 and I feel the need for a nap at barely 9:30 the hike is unlikely to happen. I've made my peace with that.

It's quite possible there is more going on than allergy crud but I can't help feeling I'm suffering mostly from the effects of an imbalance caused by the meds. I generally try to avoid them. I do not like the way I feel when I take them - especially the crash and burn after effect. I'd prefer to drink lots of water and exercise to move the blood along and speed up the metabolism of the allergens. It's a method that will work eventually but - in a bad year like this one - leaves me with itchy face, runny nose and eyes. When I have a presentation to make or a class to teach - and I've had several these past few weeks - I give in to the meds so as not to gross out the attendees or embarrass my boss.

So I get through the public facing part of my job and spend the remainder of the day(s) tired, cold and groggy. Come morning I have trouble waking up and opt to sleep as long as possible which means skipping breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast takes effort and I'm too tired for that. Sure I could grab a PB and toast or a granola bar but I'd rather not get back into that habit. Somehow skipping it feels like the lesser of the evils. You may not agree with me. That's cool. One size does not fit all. :)

So today is a detox day. I will not take any meds. I will likely take a few naps and I started the day off with a good sized healthy breakfast. Here's hoping for a successful reboot.

Keep smiling and keep moving

PS It's almost time for parade registration. If you'd like to join us send me a message!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Working Out In TheTime of Ragweed

My apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez but truly it was inevitable. For me at least this is shaping up to be the worst ragweed season in recent memory. And despite the opinion of the checkout person at Kohl's earlier this week I am not a senior citizen yet and my memory is just fine thank you very much.

What was I talking about?.... Oh yeah ragweed allergy. It's the kind of year that leaves me drained and feeling like I want to rip my face off because it itches so much. Yesterday I had a two pill day ....ugh. Needless to say this is getting in the way of exercise. All I want to do is sleep.

Something to be worried about is that the depending on conditions the Super Hike could end up being a bad allergy day in 2015. I gotta hope that it isn't or that it's mild enough that hiking will be enough to keep the demons at bay. Often I can avoid or lessen the effect of an attack by getting my blood moving.

I did manage a 5k hike yesterday at Okehocking before bailing but yesterday it was partly sunny and warm. Today it's rainy and about 62 so I didn't even bother to go out for hill work. Two negatives, in this case, do not make a positive.

I am grateful that not all years are as rough as this one.

Keep smiling and keep moving ....
(Achoo, sniff)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hill Work Starts Now

I'm 5 weeks away from finishing phase one of my Super Hike Training. Phase One's goal is to get to a 10 hour hike. It's planned for October 25. Phase One is about mental stick-to-tiveness as much as increasing time on my feet.

Phase Two's focus will be on physical strength. Climbing and core work. Starting tonight I've begun overlapping Phase One and Phase Two. Thursdays are for hills (or stairs) and yoga Mondays start next week.

I started tonight with 4 hill repeats on the 8th street hill in Media. My goal tonight was to pick a number I knew I could finish. 4 sounded good. It occurs to me that maybe that's too small but I figure I have plenty of time to build it up. And next week I have no excuse not to do it since I'm only adding one more. And one more the week after that and so on. Mind game? Maybe but if it works it's all good. So tonight I power walked up the hill three times and jogged the fourth. Next week 5 repeats probably 3 and 2. And so on each week. When I get to ten I'll find a steeper hill and start again. At least that's the plan.

No hiking this weekend though. I'm doing the Schuylkill River Heritage National Park bike ride. I'm really looking forward to it. Approximately 30 miles each day. Hopewell Furnace to Valley Forge on Saturday and Valley Forge to Independence Hall on Sunday.