Sunday, July 31, 2016


The US is experiencing a political debate unlike any other that I can recall clearly in my lifetime. I have vague recollections of a LOT of Nixon-Humphrey-Wallace nastiness in 1968. I was 8 then and I'm not sure if my memories are true or not. Our country was in similar turmoil back then....... but I don't have time to corroborate my memories right now and it's not the point I wanted to work on.

Back to the present day --- I find the social media and news media chatter upsetting. It used to be that negative campaigning was limited to the politicians themselves. The mud slinging, the name calling, the loud talking over each other was limited to the candidates. Today, it seems we have all been drawn into it. Maybe i'm more sensitive than most. I do have a low tolerance for conflict and loud noises. But I think it's more than that and it's scary. Come November, no matter who is elected, we all have to continue living, working and caring for each other. If we don't ..... like I said it's scary.

I think it would be helpful if we could stop and THINK before we post. Social media has made it far too easy to post and share without pause. It's created a frenzy of frantic discord.

T is for true. This one is challenging because much of the talk is opinions or interpretations of what's going on. And in the eye or mind of the speaker it IS true. I'm not suggesting that just because everyone doesn't agree - it's false. Nor am I suggesting that we all must fact check before we post. What I am suggesting is taking an extra pause before posting or sharing--- "is this really what I want to say or is it being said or shared in response to an emotional reaction I had?".

H is for helpful. Not everything must be said. Again, the question we could ask ourselves is "am I reacting or am I truly (there's that truth concept again) trying to further a valuable exchange."

I is for inspiring. Merriam Webster defines this as "causing people to want to do or create something or to lead better lives". This is a challenging one as well. There are many who when the say "vote for __________ or else" or "if you don't vote for ___________ you are no better than ____________" could say they are trying to inspire others to change the world by voting a certain way. And I'm not in any position to say the speakers are wrong.

I'd like to challenge folks to adopt the "Yes, and" strategy used often in improvisational entertainment. The "yes" portion allows for acceptance/respect that the other person has an opinion; the "and" statement adds new information to the conversation. I don't have to agree with you to have a "Yes, and.." conversation with you. "Yes....and" also forces us to stop and think before we speak or post.

I'm not completely naive. I get that the 'yes...and' conversation can be easily abused if someone really wanted to. Being a generally positive person though I do believe most of us, would find the strategy useful.

N is for necessary. I don't have much to say here. I think the H and the N go together.

K is for kind. When all is said and done (while it is being said and done in this case) is there a way to say what we need to say in a way that is kind. "Can I say what needs saying without shaming, slamming or ridiculing others?" I think if we manage T,H,I and N the K comes naturally.

In my opinion, if we are not careful in how we share our words - especially if our words are meant to bring about a certain action - we run the risk of causing the opposite of what we intended.

Keep smiling keep moving (and consider more *T*H*I*N*K*ing)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Horseshoe Trail: Warwick County Park to Hopewell Furnace and back.

When a heat wave strikes and the temps are predicted to be at or near 100 for the day it's a good time to plan your hike nearer to "civilization" than not. I had contemplated an urban hike for this weekend but sidewalks and streets were not the best place to be in this weather. I'll save that idea for another weekend. At the same time another AT hike seemed foolish. My gut was telling me to stay closer to places where I could get more water and head indoors if that became necessary.

After way more thinking than is necessary to be sure, I settled on a round trip hike on  Horseshoe Trail between Warwick County Park and Hopewell Furnace National Historic site. The two end points provide rest rooms and water fountains and St Peter's Village in between.

My plan was to start at 8 a.m. but I was awake at 5:30 and ready to by 6:30. Warwick officially opens at 8:00 a.m. I was likely to arrive there too early. I left anyway figuring I could simply start at St. Peter's Village instead. I was in luck, though, as the park ranger was just opening the gate when I arrived at 7:30. I gathered and check my gear slowly to give just enough time for the ranger to get the rest rooms open. :) I fastened the strap of my Garmin through a loop on my backpack. I brought it along this trip because it beeps at me every mile. After last weekend's hydration and fueling fail I wanted the reminder.

From the restrooms at Warwick you have to head down the park trail heading East to pick up the Horseshoe trail heading West. From there the trail climbs to the top of the ridge and follows it along the park boundary and then back down to the same level as the parking lot. It's a great way to start a hike. You get your blood moving and the views are awesome.

The HST leaves the park across County Park Road and a field before climbing again to about the same level as you were on the ridge. At the top of the hill is a trail register. I signed in using a pen that I had left there 2 years ago when I found no pen in the box. I was very surprised to see it still there and working!! I signed in and continued on my way.

As I mentioned a the beginning of this post it was predicted to be a very very hot day. About 15 minutes in I could slurp the sweat off my upper lip without touching it. It tasted like salt with a side of sunscreen.

Shortly after this the HST dumps onto Ridge Road for a trek downhill to route 23. It's the most boring part of this stretch. And despite having done it before and knowing that the big dog at the bottom of the hill is behind an invisible fence, I still jump when he starts charging. Once you cross Route 23 (carefully) you descend the trail and follow along French Creek

On my way  back through this section a group of boys
was jumping off the ledge you can barely see in the
back of this photo.I'm not sure the water is deep enough
but boys will be boys and judging by the laughter they
were having a blast and - so far - no injuries

The HST bears left just before the edge of St Peter's Village and follows the top of the hill past the village eventually turning away from it and the creek onto Trythall Road. There is a lot of graffiti along this part of the trail. :( I am more nervous on the graffiti filled trails than anywhere else. I always try to be aware of my surroundings and alert for trouble but I feel more concern when the trails are trashed like that. I think if someone has that little respect for the woods then they likely have none for me. Fortunately, I've never had any trouble.

Just before the trail turns left to head toward the road I met a couple and their dogs. Two gigantic dogs. But they were on leashes and the man was saying "It's OK. They won't hurt you". While he is saying that he left his female companion holding the dogs and kept walking toward me. Ummm.. ok the dogs won't hurt but what the H*** are you doing? (I said to myself). Then I saw the third dog, not on a leash. She had been camouflaged among the plant growth along the trail. She was directly between me and the approaching man. He was going to grab her leash. Both humans were seriously apologetic for the scare. They had let the dog go into the growth to do her business. I thanked them, starting breathing again and walked on.

Across Trythall road the HST goes into Crow's Nest Preserve and State Game Lands. I was wearing my orange hat today. It's not hunting season but the memory of trying to come through this section once before still lingers. I felt safer with the orange. It's a pretty but rocky section of trail from here across and onto the other side of Northside road. Weaving in and out of woods and open space.

Once on Green Lane (a gravel lane) I was in the boundary of Hopewell Furnace. Along Green Lane and through the Hopewell Big Woods  was the worst part of the trip. The bugs were awful. I wasn't getting bitten, thankfully, but it was as if they were playing a big game of tag and I was the home-free pole. They just kept bouncing off my head and arms.

Finally, I popped out of the woods and had arrived at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. I cleaned up as best I could in the rest room then headed to the visitor center to get my passport stamps; the regular park stamp and their 100th anniversary stamp. Back outside I found a shady spot to enjoy some lunch.

My lunchtime view.
Lunch consisted of peanut butter, honey and cinnamon on whole wheat bread
with a side of grapes and water from the fountain just to
the left in this photo. 

Refreshed and fed I began to explore the park. I had arrived just in time to see a molding demonstration. This was happening in the furnace hut next to the big water wheel. It was quite comfortable with natural air conditioning from the creek and water wheel. There were several families there watching as well.

Before heading on my return trip, I checked my water levels. Being later in the day, it was hotter and a bit more stifling so I knew I'd need more for the return trip. I had taken in half my 3 liter supply on the way out. I guesstimated that I should at least have enough to make it back as far as St Peter's Village.

I dreaded the beginning of the return because it meant going through the bug infested Big Woods and Green Lane. I don't know whether it was the fact that I had cleaned up (taken a lot of sweat off my face) or that it was a different time of day (I had spent about an hour at the park) or that I was just resigned and used to it but the bugs did not seem to be as much a bother and as a result this section seemed to go by much quicker.

I could feel the heat starting to take it's toll, though. I drank more as expected and worried just a bit about not having enough. I arrived at St. Peter's about 2 hours later with about 1/2 a liter of water left. I sent straight to the Ice Cream shop and ordered a bottle of water and ice cream! :) The water went straight into my pack and I judged it to be enough to make it back. I was less than 2 miles from Warwick at this point.

My view during my ice cream break.
Two scoops; salted caramel and coconut almond joy
Consumed slowly to allow sufficient rest and to avoid
ice cream headache :) 
I followed the blue trail from St. Peter's up to the HST and out to route 23. Here I made a decision to skip Ridge Road. My hiking shoes are great on the trail but are a (literal) pain on streets. I was not in the mood for walking up the hill on a paved surface. So I turned left on Route 23 and then right just a short distance away on County Park Road to the entrance to the park. I was still on a hard surface but for less than half the time of Ridge Road and flat. I felt I had earned the shortcut.

The side trip into St. Peter's and cutting out the trail going up Ridge Road made for a total of 13.9 miles. In this weather I think that was my limit. I was definitely ready to be done but not down at the end.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Are you a Scout or a Soldier

One of  a series. Visit the Mediation Tab to read more.

Are you a soldier or a scout? This is the question posed by Julia Galef in this TedTalk. It's a short (11 minute) Talk that includes a history lesson. I encourage you to listen.

Ms. Galef describes the soldier personality as "prone to defending your viewpoint at all costs" and the scout  personality as "spurred by curiosity".

When two or more people have thoughts or ideas on a topic, disagreements WILL happen. What a boring place the world would be if we all believed the same thing in the same way, right? Conflict is not in and of itself a bad thing. Some of the biggest discoveries in life came out of disagreement and subsequent 'scouting'.

It's only when there are too many soldiers and not enough scouts in the conversation that conflict escalates and becomes nasty. If all participants in the debate are soldiers - "prone to defending your viewpoint at all costs" - there is no room for acceptance of new or different ideas. And I mean acceptance not acquiescence.

A mediator helps conflicting parties feel the emotions that put them in soldier mode and then helps them move into scout mode so that they can be receptive to the other party's ideas. This is the foundation for creating a space where common ground can be discovered leading to mutual agreements. It's not about giving up your beliefs, but rather being curious enough to accept that it's ok for someone else to believe differently. Sometimes it's about being ok with being wrong. And above all finding a way to move forward together despite our differences.

The next time you find yourself on the 'other side' of an argument with someone(s) take a moment to check your soldier personality and allow your scout to do some listening. It's hard work that leads to great rewards.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Applachian Trail Hike; Port Clinton to Windsor Furnace

For this hike, I met Tootsie at the Hamburg Reservoir. This is the same place we met with Julius for our Pinnacle Hike two weeks ago. We car pooled to an AT parking area on Route 61 just south of Port Clinton and then hiked North back to Windsor Furnace and our cars. The AT maps and guidebook say this is 6.1 miles.

Our hike begins with the 'blue trail' from the parking lot to the AT. The guidebook simply says (the parking lot) "connects to the A.T via a blue blazed trail" and "blue blazed trail on west leads 100 yards to parking area." Notably absent is the word that best describes this trail STEEP.

Looking back up the
blue blazed trail after
descending from the parking lot. 
The blue blazes are scarce and at first we were not going to descend the hill until we realized the stones formed steps of a sort into the side of the hill. Once we began to trek down we saw more blue markings freshly painted on them.

At the bottom we turned left on to the AT. The trail climbs slowly back to Route 61 and passes under the road. Once on the other side we crossed Blue Mountain Road and a big wooden AT sing that I should have taken a photo of but didn't. From here the trail climbs steeply 900-1000 feet in the first 1.5 miles. I was disappointed in my inability to speak smoothly on the way up but my breathing returned to normal pretty quickly after we reached the ridge and I felt better.

As is typical for PA we did a lot of rock and boulder balancing across the ridge. The breezes were nice up there. There were some intermittent views of the town and the river below but the humidity and dense leaf cover did not make for great photos. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Unfortunately as we started to descend off the ridge and and the vegetation got thicker the humidity rose and the bugs were almost unbearable. I alternated between glasses on and off. For awhile it seemed the glasses were keeping the bugs out of my eyes but then they got smart and went around and got caught between the glasses and my face. Then one went up my nose and set the left side of my face into contortions. My nose itched and my eye watered. As annoying as all that was, it was still a great hike even though I still feel like bugs are trying to get in my ears.

We say two springs - Pocohontas and Minnehaha - both were flowing although the guidebook said Minnehaha is unreliable. (By the way I read the guidebook last night not while hiking). A deer darted across our path down the mountainside. Its buddy watched us walk by with some suspicion.

And we saw a snake. My first hiking snake. To be clear WE were hiking IT was slithering.

And of course we did exactly what you are not supposed to do. Stop and take a photo of it. We heard it first as it tried to slither away from us. Then it stopped and had just started to turn around when we left. Not sure what kind it is. I tried to look at photos on the Internet but it's too hard to tell what kind of markings this one has. It did not appear to be any of the venomous ones. :)

Shortly after the snake sighting we stopped to snack a bit and then finished the hike down into Windsor Furnace.

It was a hot, humid, mostly cloudy day and a great hike. I failed in hydration though and I'm still trying to recover. The headache is starting to get to me. :( I used my trekking poles today which helped on the climbs and the rocky sections, And on one of the descents they kept me upright when my foot slipped out from under me. The poles also kept my hands from swelling. Not having my hands free though made it awkward to reach for the hydration tube. I must fight the awkwardness and do it anyway. Lessons learned. :)

Keep Smiling and Keep Moving
- Paula

Friday, July 15, 2016

What is Mediation

One in a series. To read others click here.

Thank you very much to those who publicly "liked" and/or commented on my previous post. Your support encourages me to keep going. I look forward to more conversation, give & take on this.

I've been contemplating where to start the conversation. In my previous post, I proposed that the skills used by a mediator or learned by the parties in a mediation are useful in our everyday interactions. So maybe the best place to start is with an understanding of what mediation is.

Mediation is a type of negotiation. In a way we've all been dong it all our lives. If you are a parent, child, sibling, aunt, uncle, husband, wife, employer, employee - if you are a person who interacts with others in more than a casual acquaintance kind of way - I can all but guarantee you have been involved in mediation of some sort at least once in your lifetime.

Often when I bring up mediation as a resolution alternative for disputing parties one or the other will say things like:

"Look, I know I'm right. I do not want to compromise" or
"The other party is stubborn. There is no way they will compromise"

The thing is mediation is not necessarily compromise. Many situations result in compromise because through the process the parties come to see each other as fellow human beings. By separating people from problems we tend to be more inclined to want to compromise. By the same process - separating people from problems - many mediations result in the parties each keeping what the brought to the table because they realize that allowing that doesn't take away from who they are.

Mediation is magic. I've seen people start out barely speaking to each other, leave side by side smiling!

Keep smiling and keep moving

Sunday, July 10, 2016

High Hopes

" If you think you're too small to make a difference, you haven't spent a night with a mosquito." - African Proverb.

This appeared on the Facebook page of "Grok Nation"** on Wednesday of this past week. Seeing it - combined with the current events that prompted it - has prompted me to finally do something I've been thinking about for awhile.

I'm expanding the scope of my blog to include to include talk about mediation and conflict resolution. It's an area of study that I've become passionate about. Mediation is about resolving conflict by finding common ground and creating space for honest communication.

Sometimes people need a neutral third party - the mediator- to help find the common ground and create the space. However, the strategies a mediator uses can be used by anyone every day. It takes practice and varying degrees of conscious effort and I think it's worth it.

Talking about mediation and conflict resolution won't make everything better. We, the people, have to take action to do that. But maybe I can move people to create the space needed to communicate better. Whether it's about politics, guns, race relations, transgender rights or whose turn it is to take out the trash - we could all practice better communication.

And maybe I can't. I'm only one small person. I'm not sure I can say anything that anyone will care about. But I've decided to be a mosquito .........or maybe an ant. Moving rubber tree plants seems less painful.

Stay tuned. (To see related posts click here)

And for those that prefer reading about hikes and road trips, I'm still gonna do that too.

Keep Smiling and Keep Moving
- Paula

**Grok Nation is an online community founded by actress-neuroscientist-mom Mayim Bialik. For more about this site, read this letter from site founder.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Freedom Walk 2016

This year's walk (#4) combined the best of year 1 and year 2.

In year 1, I left from my house and walked straight down Baltimore Pike/Avenue; took a left at University City and a right down Chestnut Street.

In year 2, we left from the Media train station and followed the Leiper Smedley Trail along the blue route into Nether Providence; through Swarthmore and Morton on to Providence Road and through Cobbs Creek Park and eventually connecting to Baltimore Avenue. the Leiper Smedley Trail is nice but it added more hilly miles to the walk. Cobbs Creek Park was boring and added miles as well. Seeing the Aldan Borough Parade setting up was a highlight however.

This year we started at the Swarthmore Train Station. Septa Regional Rail is not running between Swarthmore and Media for the summer due to construction related to the Crum Creek Viaduct work.

Sara, Mike and I left Swarthmore Station at 8 a.m. 

A bathroom break at The Coffee Station in Morton.
No idea who this is but the sign said take a selfie so I did. 

Sara found a fork in the road
(but no Muppets)

Having cut out the distance on the Leiper Smedley Trail
We arrived in Aldan around 9:15 a.m. so no parade the year.

Still miles to go...

After lunch at Mix Brick Oven Pizza we arrived.
It was super crowded and the man who took the
photo couldn't get back far enough to include
the tower. Trust us it's still there.

Note the guy in the background. Perched precariously on top of the Declaration of Independence. I guess he drew the short straw this morning.

Once again we had a nice walk. Humid and overcast but not terribly hot. All three of us were quiet this year. We walked for blocks on end without saying a word. And that was just fine. I liked that we didn't feel the need to fill the air with conversation just because.

If you are interested here is a link to our route.

Save the date for next year (July 4, 2017 in case you are not paying attention). Barring any road or train issues we'll be leaving from Prospect Park Train station; walking through the Heinz Wildlife Refuge and on through Essington over the Passuyunk Ave Bridge and through Southwest Philadelphia to Independence Hall. It's just under 13 miles and includes a walk through the Italian Market area.

2017 will be year 5!! I think we should do t-shirts. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Pulpit-Pinnacle Hike - Berks County, PA

With a little help from friends anything is possible.

A little over a year ago I tried to do this hike and ended up turning around before the first view. I reached a rock scramble that was over my head and not being able to see over it scared me. I had visions of having to balance on a narrow ridge once I got up there and I freaked out.

Today, in the company of friends I made it over the scramble and on to some awesome views.
Here is me being determined not to fail this time. 
And victorious

This hike is loop out of Hamburg Reservoir. Julius, Tootsie and I had plans to meet at 8:00 a.m. I made two wrong turns on the way there and then got stuck behind the clean up of an accident at the last stop sign before the parking area. So we didn't set off until about 8:15.

The hike begins with a long slow and steady climb along the Appalachian Trail. As you near the first view point called Pulpit Rock the terrain gets rockier and rockier. Climbing and boulder hopping are way to the top. But it's so worth it. I think it'd be worth it in any weather but today was PERFECT!

More rocks and a meandering walk along the ridge brought us to the Pinnacle.

Just beyond this rock pile is the view from Pinnacle
(We added our own rocks to the pile before leaving.) 

Out of the woods and rocks to this. WOW! 

The hike down is wider and less rocky.
Less being a relative term. 

Here is a video of the hike we did. It's someone else's video but if you want to see moving pictures of the hike. You can start about 1:40 into the video to start the hike. About 11:10 is the start of the scramble that I bailed on last time. :)

I had such a great time today. Can't wait to do another one soon.