Notes From the Field

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Most of my hiking trips are squeezed in between work and chores at home – usually no more than two or three miles in an evening. It’s usually enough to get some exercise and to make me want more time. Saturday morning’s goal was to get out for a longer hike in the Hocking Hills.

Evidently, that was everyone else’s goal too. Fall is a busy time at our local parks. It’s more or less the Smokys of the north so there were a lot of people, even in sections of the trail that normally are sparsely populated.

Here are a few notes from the field.

  • It’s funny how people behave differently in groups than they do alone. There were a number of groups – anywhere from three to fifty people – clumped together, talking and seemingly paying no mind to their surroundings. I was sad for them because there’s so much beauty to be enjoyed and not just visually. If you’re quiet, you can hear an orchestra of birds, the chatter of squirrels and leaves crunching underfoot. If you take a moment to breath deeply, you’ll notice how the turning leaves almost flavor the air and that sharp intake of a cool fall morning will give new life if you let it.
  • On the other hand, I’ve been seeing an uptick in people hiking alone. I’ve always seen men going it alone but there was a huge number of ladies out solo yesterday. A few had dogs but most were just alone and it made my heart happy to think that I’m not alone in my belief that you can’t wait for a partner to go out and live your life!
  • There was an unusual number of dogs off leash yesterday. You may love your pet but it’s alarming to see someone’s Great Dane barreling down the trail when you’re timid or afraid of strange dogs.
  • More people than normal appeared to be lost. I gave directions to several groups that had launched out without maps or any clue where they were going. If you know the area, offer to help. Most people are thrilled to have a little guidance.
  • Along those same lines, if you see someone taking a selfie, you may offer to take their picture. I noticed a woman struggling to get a selfie with her dog and thought she would cry when I offered to take their picture. She said they have few pictures together because they’re always alone. If you’re on vacation, you typically want some pictures of yourself in context or your entire group together. It takes just a minute to give this gift to a stranger.
  • The best thing I saw all day was a man helping a female companion along the trail. I thought that he was just being sweet until I got closer and realized that she was blind. Ironically, it made me think of those groups of people who seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings and I realized that this woman with visual impairment probably would absorb as much or more of her surroundings than those people did. It also made me happy to think that she’s not allowing anything to hold her back.

 

 

 

 

 

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Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Sometimes when you miss your goals, something even better happens.

The day we attempted to climb Laramie Peak and were forced out by a nasty storm, we encountered something we would’ve missed had we made it to the top.

We saw this beautiful rainbow. My friend Johnna took the above picture. It was exciting to see both ends and it was all the more impressive against the big Wyoming sky.

So while we hated not making that last mile up the mountain, this was a fantastic reward for the sacrifice. And it’s a timely reminder that when things don’t work out as we wish, we may be getting set up for something even better.

That missed job opportunity? There could be an even better career change waiting for you next year.

That broken heart? Maybe it taught you to be a better partner to someone else down the road. Maybe it taught you how not to hurt someone the way you were hurt.

That rain shower slowed us down and turned us around so we could see something truly spectacular and I am grateful. And I’m trying to be grateful for all the other stuff that I hope to someday learn were blessings in disguise.

Have a good day and go looking for what’s over the rainbow, my friends. You deserve it.

A Mile Shy Of Laramie Peak

One goal for my western adventure was to climb Laramie Peak. Once a landmark for weary travelers along the Oregon Trail, today it is a popular area for recreation as part of the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming.

There is a nice hiking trail up the 10,274 foot mountain and Johnna and I were stoked to climb it. It’s about five miles up so we set out with packs full of water and supplies but felt no sense of urgency as the forecast was for blue skies all day.

This was the view early in the day.

Laramie Peak rocks and sky.JPG

Lovely, isn’t it? The sky was blue and clear, punctuated with puffy white clouds that my friend calls “Simpson’s Clouds.” It was the perfect day for a long hike.

Around mile three, we started running into rain showers. Just a little drizzle but we could see that a dark cloud was settling over us.

storm cloud.JPG

At mile four, the sky turned ominous and the rain picked up.

And then came the wind: wind so powerful that it sounded like a train coming up the mountain and so strong that it could knock you over.

The terrain turns rockier as you near the top, making travel treacherous when the ground and rocks are wet. There’s no cell service here and we saw just one house in the vicinity after traveling for miles without seeing another living soul – even at the campground.

In other words, it would be a long, lonely trip down the mountain to run for help for your friend should someone get hurt. And the rescue undoubtedly would involve a helicopter ride.

We discussed continuing on with our journey and considered sheltering in place if we could find somewhere safe. We had seen a number of natural rock ledges and shelters along the way but none were in sight in that last leg of the journey.

Ultimately, we abandoned our plan and headed back down the mountain toward safety.

It was the right thing to do, even if we were disappointed to abandon our goal. But there will be other trips and other mountains. And we still got in an eight mile hike which isn’t too shabby.

It was a friendly reminder that plans don’t always work out and that sometimes circumstances simply get in the way. We made the best of the day anyway and celebrated eight miles rather than be sad we didn’t make it to ten.

That’s a pretty nice victory too!

 

 

Adventure Is On The Horizon

One of my favorite memories of all time involves a week spent with this gal last year. We hiked in Arches and Canyonlands national parks and had all sorts of fun adventures.

We’ll be up to some more shenanigans pretty soon and I’m sure to come home with fun stories and pictures to share.

Until then – Happy Wednesday, friends!

Don’t Let Fear Slow You Down

I encountered a group from Maryland on last night’s hike. They were extremely friendly and thrilled to be hiking in the Hocking Hills.

For some, it was their first time on a hike. A few seemed to marvel that I was out there alone. This isn’t an uncommon reaction.

I hike alone a lot.

This is partly because there is nothing like the serenity of the woods and having people around is disruptive. It’s partly because I refuse to miss out on experiences simply because there is no one to go with.

This wasn’t always the case. I didn’t pick up solo hiking until last winter. My relationship of many years had just ended. I was working on accepting the idea that it will likely always be just me and I refuse to spend my life at home simply because I’m single.

So I started hiking in the well trafficked areas of local state parks until becoming comfortable enough to venture out on longer hikes where there are fewer people.

It was intimidating to put it mildly. But once I got used to the uneasiness, it became an experience that I crave.

I breathe better in the woods and despise having a lot of people around when trying to enjoy my surroundings.

Those visitors yesterday marveled at my bravery. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I feel safer by myself in the woods than walking down the street in a city like their hometown. People are nuts and scare me far more than wildlife.

But I’m not stupid. I’m always prepared for something bad to happen and grateful each time I make it out safely. Of course, after the spike in crime in the town with my favorite TJ Maxx, I feel the same sense of relief every time I leave there without incident too.

The bottom line is that you can’t let fear prevent you from living. Know the threats and prepare to avoid or face them the best you can. But you still have to live and enjoy life.

And I’m not just talking about hiking.

Wherever you are right now, you’re probably letting fear hold you back in some way. Fear could even be running your life or preventing you from doing what’s best for you.

It’s ok to be afraid. It is not ok to let fear prevent you from living the life you want and deserve.

Go for the hike. Take the leap, whatever it may be.

You may be surprised at how good it feels.

These Shoes

These shoes. I love these shoes.

They’re nothing fancy. Just some New Balance trail runners I found cheap on clearance. But they’re comfortable and sturdy and they have good grip for climbing and hiking. Yet they look like a tennis shoe so they transition well to walking around town too.

They’re like old friends, these shoes. We’ve been to a lot of places together. In these shoes, I followed my friend Johnna up giant boulders in Canyonlands National Park and waded through ankle deep sand at Utah’s Great Salt Lake. If you look close they’re still stained red from Utah’s sandy terrain.

I’ve worn them lots of other places including the gritty streets of Pittsburgh and the muddy trails of Ohio’s Hocking Hills.

I like to think that I’m carrying with me a little piece of all the places I’ve been when I wear these shoes.

Alas, their days are numbered. They’re getting enough miles on them they will soon be too worn out to be useful or healthy even though the tops still look good.

One of these days I will be forced to replace them with a shiny new pair that I hope will take me on even more grand adventures. But I’m hoping to wear them on one more big adventure to Wyoming this summer.

By the way, I’m also grateful for the feet inside these shoes that take me everywhere I want to go and occasionally some places that I’m not sure I really want to go. If you’re able to get out of bed every day, walk around and do things for yourself, count yourself lucky.

Regardless of the shoes you wear, you are lucky.

Fit For A Troll

Doesn’t this look like the kind of place where a troll would live? Every time I cross it, the phrase “once upon a time” parades through my mind. Then I wonder if I’ll be smart enough to solve the troll’s riddle.

We can hope. Happy Saturday!