Hike 8: Appalachian Trail

DSC_6891

I did it, folks! I finally started hiking the Appalachian Trail! I just decided there wasn’t anything to do but to do it and started out!

That’s a total lie. There’s not a bone in my body with enough spontaneity to ever seriously utter those words about anything except ripping off a Band-Aid.

But I did – FINALLY – knock out my first section hike.

It was about a 100-feet-long section – but it was still a section so shut your mouth. Also, I did it without oxygen. Yes, it was 100 feet on a road atop Fontana Dam, but I DID IT, darn you.

So saying I completed a section hike might be a bit of a stretch.

I read somewhere once that if the water levels in Fontana Lake are low enough, you can see the old roads that were flooded over. We didn't find them.

I read somewhere once that if the water levels in Fontana Lake are low enough, you can see the old roads that were flooded over. The water was still quite low, but we didn’t find anything but dirt.

My Hike Eight is a bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t help but throw this in here. The day we hit Juney Whank Falls, we kept driving around the area. I’m not really sure how or why, but we ended up at Fontana Dam.

Last year we came close to it when we visited the Road to Nowhere. We drove up hoping the water level would still be low enough for us to see some of the old road that was flooded out, but we either weren’t in the right spot or the water was already over it. Nevertheless, I checked out the giant Appalachian Trail board outside their visitor’s center and we all walked around the dam.

100 feet down. 11,447,040 to go.

Advertisements

Hike 7: Juney Whank Falls

And now, for a hike outside the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana tri-state area! Its been a while since I hiked more than 50 or so miles from home, but on my family’s annual spring trek to the Smokies I managed to talk them into a hike – however short it was.

IMG_3654

It was mother/daughter selfie time with a quilt about one of our favorite movies!

Every year there is a quilt show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for which Mom basically offers my brother and me a free trip. I go with Mom to the quilt show and Cory (my little brother) goes with Dad to do manly-man things. Everyone wins – including me because I get to look at something pretty and say, “Mom! Make me that!” Usually, she will.

Last year, the boys hiked somewhere and found and old, forgotten graveyard. When I tried to get them to take me to it the next day, they claimed they couldn’t remember where it was. This year, while Mom and I wandered through convention center displays, they bought tools and then went back to the hotel to sleep. Basically, it was their usual Friday.

DSC_6780

So now you know where I get my goofiness from. Dad was feeling rather victorious after tackling the switchbacks of the quarter-mile trail.

Saturday broke a rainy, gross, cloudy day. But by the time we got through a hearty, southern breakfast, the sun was chasing the clouds away and I managed to talk everyone into going waterfall hunting. I thought I found a relatively easy hike, even for my broken lungs and my parents’ old knees. But like everything in the mountains, looks can be deceiving.

Mom found a copy of The “Smokies Guide,” the self-proclaimed official newspaper of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, somewhere and the “Places to go” section listed a couple of places I haven’t been before. We decided to choose a place none of us have been, and headed to Bryson City, N.C. to pick up the road to Deep Creek.

DSC_6772

The Deep Creek area is full of waterfalls. This Barbie-doll sized set of rapids is the first one you’ll see when you leave the parking lot.

I’ve been to the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area of the Smokies more times than I can count. The mountains in that area haven’t lost their majesty, but the traffic and the crowds certainly have. The last few times I’ve gone down, I’ve spent most of my time on the North Carolina side things. It’s not necessarily always less busy, but there at least seems to be more places that aren’t completely overrun with tourists.

 

The “Smokies Guide” calls Deep Creek off-the-beaten-path – and it definitely was. We passed through a holler outside Bryson City that looked like the kind you didn’t want to break down in, if you know what I mean. Right about the time my parents pointed this out, I realized this was just the kind of spot I wanted.

DSC_6770

This always makes me sad.

Although the Park Service advertises Deep Creek as one of the few areas in which mountain bikers are welcome, we didn’t see anyone on bikes. Just a mostly-full parking lot and several off-season couples and families wandering about. I’d say that even though the area is a bit off the main drag, it still gets very busy in the warmer months.

There are several trails of varying length and intensity in the Deep Creek area, and we chose the shortest one because no one enjoys being outside as much as I do, and my parents have old joints. Juney Whank Falls is the easiest to reach, but you climb about a quarter-mile of switchbacks to reach her. Once you reach the falls, the trail divides to go above and below the falls. You can either take the trail past the falls further uphill to loop back around to the parking lot, or you can turn around and take the devil you know back down to the car. We took the devil we knew and went directly back downhill.

 

GusScaleLvl4

I’m giving this trail a solid middle ranking. It’s a very short, very clear and well-kept trail. By that I mean you won’t be tripping over rocks and roots. But it is almost entirely uphill, so be prepared for your cardio when you hike this trail.

The hike was short, but pretty. It was also not a hike I should have tried without Gus; my oxygen level dropped to 78 before I sucked it up and plugged in. After that, my rest breaks got farther apart than about every 15 feet.

If you want to go farther on the hikes, the North Carolina Waterfalls site has a lovely post that takes you farther along the Juney Whank Trail to show you the other two waterfalls in the Deep Creek area: Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls.

Hike 6: Look, Ma! No Oxygen!

I’ve really been sucking at this whole 52 Hike Challenge and blogging thing this year. I can’t seem to get myself in any kind of groove. Basically, if I had a three-day weekend every weekend and zero other family/life obligations, this would be a lot easier. But, my creditors don’t care if working overtime kills my soul, and so I’ve been losing a lot of Saturdays to The Man. Nevertheless, I’ll keep plugging away.

So, depending on the order in which I publish the posts I’ve been working on this sunny, chilly Sunday afternoon, and if you choose to read them all (I wouldn’t), you’ll know that no longer using oxygen is finally on the table. It’s taken about six months of me rarely using Gus other than when hiking, of course, to get Dr. M. to consider this. That being said, with my pessimistic doctor finally on board, I’ve started considering what that actually means.

new-mad-max-fury-road-trailer-shows-no-mercy

The second I saw this guy in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I knew this is what I have to look like when I’m hiking – oxygen and crazy written all over my face. Except, instead of a huge gun, I have a rabid hound.

Might I hike without my “Mad Max” backpack of oxygen on my back? I decided to find out.

I went to a trail I knew well. Any ideas which one? Yes! Big Bone Lick SP. I suppose I could have walked around my neighborhood first, but, let’s face it. That’s boring. And my dog hates all our neighbors. So I decided to hit the easy-peasy paved trail at Big Bone.

It was great. Sometimes longer distances can start to wear my ol’ lungs down, but this wasn’t an issue, thanks to intermittent stops for my hound dog to inspect a clump of grass. Or a leaf. Or the wind. This path is basically a flat walk around a bog and sulfur spring (peeee-youuuuuuuuu), so I wasn’t expecting anything to be a huge issue.

So, since I was doing so well, why not push things a little? We headed off on a side trail I knew would take us up a slight incline to the bison pen, then dump us downhill before a final climb over a moderate hill back to the parking lot. I know how I usually handle this trail with oxygen, so I had a good baseline on which to compare results.

The inclines got a bit hairy at the end and that last incline got me down below 88 – my danger zone – but I was able to either slow down or stop to get my oxygen level back up again enough to finish the short hike without busting out Gus.

I call it a win.

Hike 5: Kincaid Lake

Typically, I start a hike with a particular milestone in mind.  I want to complete a particular trail or log a certain number of miles. Typically, I end up on a completely different path. Kind of like life, right? You start out on a path with your entire trajectory planned – if you’re me, anyway – and end up in an entirely different place. Hike five of my 52 Hike Challenge was sort of like that.

It was a breezy Saturday morning. Birds were singing. Curtains were wafting in the breeze. I was blinking into the bright light – of a computer screen.

emme

Seeing a creek without being able to get into it is real frustrating. 

Last Saturday was the first really beautiful day of the year. The temperature made it to 70 degrees, the sun was shining and a perfect breeze was blowing. Why did I shove myself into a corner with a stack of claims to process on such a gorgeous day? Honestly, the prospect of some overtime and extra money was nice. And then the sun lured me outside. But the problem remained: Where should I hike?

And then it hit me – like my excited dog nearly knocking the wind out of me when I get home – why not go back and show Kincaid Lake who’s boss? What better way to kick off the warmer weather hiking season and shake off the winter blues than by revisiting the site of my last 2015 hike?

The last time I attempted this hike it was in the heat and humidity of late summer … and I forgot water. That hike was doomed from the start. This one was different. I had everything I needed for a perfect afternoon out.

emmejpg

Its hard to get a selfie with a tracking dog. 

Emme and I arrived at the park – with plenty of water and oxygen – intending to hike the same route as last summer. (The same hike that is outlined in the “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles” book.) We started down the hill, me letting Emme take the lead. I have a tendency to wander off-trail, while Emme follows the trail of other hikers ahead of us. Hiking with a hound comes in handy when you aren’t sure which trail to follow.

still sign

It kind of looks like there’s a trail straight ahead. We decided to follow it and see where it led!

Once you get down the hill, you hang a Louie at the creek, following it down to a suspension bridge that separates the stagnant piece you just followed with a much prettier, babbling piece of the creek. When we came to the bridge, the hound wanted to cross so she could follow the hikers in the hills above us. It took me about a half a second to override that decision and take a disappearing trail just past the bridge that followed the creek.

Hike 5

The first part of the creek is still and sort of stagnant looking. Farther up, it rolls over a rocky portion of earth. 

Whether this is actually part of the Spicebush or Ironwood Trails that the park advertises, I don’t know. After I crossed the first drainage pipe, I lost all semblance of a trail, but kept following the creek – much to the delight of my water-loving dog. (And no trip around water is complete without Emme nearly dragging me face-first into it.)

We eventually came back out and crossed the suspension bridge. The trail we planned to take went right – following that stagnant part of the creek again before heading up another hill. But going straight took us along the babbling, pretty part of the creek. Guess which way we went?

still sign 2

Not exactly a white blaze, but they mark the trail. Kinda. 

One thing to note about the hiking trails at Kincaid: They aren’t extremely well marked. There are arrows at various points along the trail telling you which way to go, but the trails aren’t often travelled, making it easy to lose track of where you are between the markers. This phenomenon is a little worse right now because we’re still in winter – even if Saturday’s perfect weather didn’t know that.

For much of the trail we covered, the only trace of a path was a barely perceptible dent in the leaves carpeting the ground. I could only see it from a distance, and once I started following it, the wind was the only thing guiding me. That’s how I ended up thinking I was all cool, blazing my own trail, only to look a back and realize that I had been following a time-worn trail all along.

I didn’t face down my nemesis from last season, but I had a fantastic afternoon trying to not get pulled in while my dog played in the creek like a puppy. While a big part of my 52 Hike Challenge is pushing myself harder and tackling more difficult hikes, the bigger part is enjoying the adventure.

Hike 4: The Hike That Wasn’t

Today I planned to tackle a brand new, three-ish mile hike. But we should all know by now that when I plan to do something, nothing at all goes the way it’s supposed to.

Everything started changing when I kept having these gut feelings that I should avoid that hike. I never have these kinds of feelings, despite family members constantly asking me if I’m afraid to hike alone. The answer is no, actually I love it. Not that I don’t also love hiking with my friends, but it’s nice to get out into the woods on my own to clear my head.

The hike I was planning to do is a bit further out, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. There’s no cell service, so if I fell, or broke something, I’d be on my own. Despite the total likelihood that I’d be fine doing this hike with only my dog like every other hike, I paid attention to the nagging voice in the back of my head and decided to hold it until my friends are available to join me.

IMG_3487

The Lakeview Trail was only visible by the divot it left in the earth. Under those leaves was squishy, sucking mud.

Instead, I decided to hit a park I haven’t visited since I was a kid: Stonelick State Park. This park was built around another one of those man-made Clermont County lakes I would advise against sticking a toe into. There is a beach and a boat ramp, but I couldn’t tell you if anyone still swims here. The state of the park would suggest few people use any of its amenities, but I think that’s deceptive.

The park was created to become a haven for outdoor sportsmen, and it appears that is really all it’s used for. The hiking trails appeared to be little-trafficked, the only one that seemed to be getting much regular use was the Lakeview Trail, which followed about a mile on one side of the lake.

IMG_3507

The “60 Hikes” trail begins here. Note the pool of water in the foreground. The author warns of these along the trail, but not that it is a public hunting area.

I started out trying to follow the “60 Hikes” path through the park; normally I just take her notes and pick my own path. But I drove past the trailhead twice before I found it, and then nearly ripped the undercarriage off my car turning into the parking lot. I think the last time anyone parked there and took that trail was in 2009 when her book was published.

There was a sign at the Beechtree Trailhead announcing a public hunting area. Despite another sign forbidding hunting on Sundays, and that most hunting seasons are over in Ohio, I just don’t trust people enough to actually follow regulations. Not that I think most hunters turn their nose at the law; quite the contrary. Most of the people I know are careful to follow the law and practice safety because they don’t want to lose their license or hurt themselves or someone else. But there’s one in every bunch, and with my luck that one would be wandering around Stonelick the day I decided to hike it. It didn’t help that while I was pondering the pros and cons of hiking a hunting area that someone started target practice nearby.

IMG_3484

The Lakeview Trail would be easy if not for all the downed trees across the path.

I finally decided to hike around the lake a bit, and parked in another decrepit lot that was more dead weeds than pavement, just past a marked Sycamore grove. There was a spur trail that brought us down to the Lakeview Trail. The quiet serenity advertised on the park’s website was ruined by a rowdy bunch of fishermen on the complete other side of the lake. I could make out every ridiculous comment they made. When listening to them got to be too much, I turned around and headed back down the trail the other way, trying to get farther away from their ruckus. I never really did.

The trail was a slippery slide of mud covered in a thick layer of leaves. If it weren’t for the leaves on the ground, instead of the trees, the Lakeview Trail wouldn’t give any views of the lake. Couple my slip-sliding with a stubborn hound who was doing some hardcore tracking, and I was basically skiing down this trail. It wasn’t fun. But it would have been much easier if there weren’t trees down every twenty feet or so on the trail.

IMG_3489

That darn dog would have dragged me into the lake if I would have let her.

When a dog is trying to drag you after something and you have to keep hopping over logs, her tugging while you’re in the air is enough to make you eat mud, every time. Thank goodness for trekking poles.

Totally frustrated with my more-stubborn-than-usual dog, and the hilljack fishermen across the lake, I hauled my dog back to the car and left the park more annoyed than when I got there, completely defeating the purpose of my weekly hikes. Thus, the hike that wasn’t. I logged less than a mile before I removed my frazzled self from Stonelick woods.

The moral of this story: I explored this park and determined that it’s not somewhere I want to hike. However, if you want to hunt or fish or hang out with a bunch of noisy fishermen, it’s your kind of place.

Hike 3: The Aborted Hike

I won’t take the space necessary to discuss how much of a fail this particular hike was. I called it “The Hike That Wasn’t,” until Hike 4 earned that title. (Stay tuned for that lovely story.)

You ever have one of those days where every time you start to do something, something goes wrong? And then every time something goes wrong you kind of laugh (not really) and think to yourself, “Why did I get out of bed, again?” And eventually you stop laughing, and just get annoyed. That was my day for Hike 3 of my 52 Hike Challenge. And now, I’m far enough away from it that I can finally chuckle a little bit about it. (Not really.)

So what do you do when everything in your day is just going super-duper wrong? You get lost in the woods, of course!

Since it was a weekday, I decided to go to a park that stays pretty packed on weekends, Shawnee Lookout. Its part of the Hamilton County, Ohio, park system and has three nature trails, a golf course, nature center and historical cabin.

Before I left, I couldn’t find my GoPro. Even though the picture distortion drives me crazy, it’s a lot more portable and easy to deal with than my DSLR, especially when I’m carrying 20 pounds of oxygen tanks on my back. But I ended up grabbing my DSLR and taking that instead. When I got to the trailhead and started trying to take pictures, I realized there was no memory card in the camera.

Then, I decided I’d use my iPhone. They have great cameras, right? That didn’t work EITHER. Helga’s (yep, I named my cell phone, too) memory was full, because podcasts had been downloading automatically. (I didn’t discover and correct this until later.) So I have zero photos or videos or anything of this hike.

But wait! There’s more. I went to this park intending to hike all five miles of trails, something I haven’t done in well over a year. But that didn’t happen. You see, I need a wrench to open and close my oxygen tanks. When one empties, I take a slim, black piece of plastic with a hole in it and close the empty tank, remove the regulator from the top of one tank to another, and use that handy piece of dense plastic to open the new tank. No wrench, no oxygen. You’d think I’d remember something this important, but I’m chuckling as I type because this isn’t the first time I’ve forgotten it.

I realized I didn’t have my wrench almost halfway into the first trail – in just enough time to get back to the car with just a few minutes of oxygen left. This is the part where I quit trying to turn my day around and went back home.

I managed to hike a total of one mile. Go. Me.

Hike 2: Gobbler’s Trace Trail

Well, my second hike was supposed to be at Shawnee Lookout, but I decided to stick closer to home because of weather and, well, because I just love being able to hike so close to home. Besides, I have a couple of little nooks and crannies to explore before I run out of new things to see at Big Bone Lick SP.

DSC_6483

For the last year, every time I’ve hiked Big Bone I’ve planned my hikes to avoid this steep, slippery hill. But, like any other bully, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be once I finally just climbed it.

There was a gap between my first and second hike because of weather, but the little bit of snow and ice leftover was mostly gone by the time I hit the trail. What was left in its place was ankle-deep mud. I spent a few minutes bemoaning this fact before I realized that this mud is going to be my constant companion until July, and then I just jumped in.

Even though the snow was gone, it was still freaking cold a couple of weekends ago. I stayed warm enough while I was hiking but when I stopped to change tanks I felt the cold through my sweat-frozen headband.

Usually when I hike Big Bone, I take an access road to the bison pen and then take the Cedar Run Trail up the hill to Gobbler’s Trace and back down to the parking lot. This route starts out relatively flat, but takes you up a moderate, yet long, hill before you reach the crest and take a shorter, steeper route back down.

stand off

There was an intense standoff between Emme and a doe on the trail ahead of us. Fortunately, Emme didn’t try too hard to take off after her and drag me down the trail. 

I went into this hike planning to hit all four trails in the park: Big Bone Creek, Gobbler’s Trace, Cedar Run and Coralberry Trails, starting with the shorter, steeper hill at the Gobbler’s Trace trail head. This way, I had the worst of the hike over at the beginning. The rest would be minor ups and downs through the woods.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t complete all the trails. Did I mention it was cold? It was really cold, about 20 degrees, and windy. It was muddy – really muddy. I would have thought the ground would be more frozen from our January cold snap, but the sun was so warm it thawed everything, even in denser parts of the woods. We were ankle-deep in mud for the entire hike. When it started to snow, I decided I would cut the hike short and head back to the car.

booboo-edited

That blood spot and the prick in the middle of it is from a giant thorn – on a TREE! 

Even though this hike was abbreviated, I still feel fantastic about it. I faced that big, honking hill I’ve been afraid of since my lungs broke, and conquered it with nothing but a very bruised knuckle. When there’s a gigantic tree down across the trail, look out for the giant tree thorns when you’re climbing off-trail. If you don’t, they’ll dig into your knuckle down to the bone.

1 hike down. 51 to go.

52 Hike Logo

For more information, visit 52hikechallenge.com.

It’s only January 3 and I already have one hike under my belt! Go me! Last night I packed up some oxygen and dug out my neglected hiking shoes. This morning, I pulled on some layers and set off just past dawn for my first hike of the year. And boy, let me tell you, it felt good. There is something about getting the old lungs blown out to make them feel better.

DCIM126GOPRO

Hike one of the 52 Hike Challenge was a half frozen one around Big Bone Lick SP’s sulfur springs and creeks.

My choice for my first hike was my favorite local park: Big Bone Lick State Park near Union, Ky. I’ve blogged about this park about 47 times in the last year, so I won’t drone on about it again here.

I am getting over a cold, so I started out taking the pansy trail, a.k.a. the Discovery Trail, a mile-long paved trail that loops through sulfur springs and bogs. It’s pretty flat and anyone who can walk, or even uses wheels to get around, for that matter, can do it.

Along the way are boards with park history printed on them so people can learn about the history of the area. (Spoiler: Lewis and Clark had a big bone dig, old-timey spas popped up around the salt and sulfur springs, and, finally, someone operated a salt mine before the spot became a park.)

Except for the sour-rotten egg smell around the sulfur springs, I felt better and better as we walked this easy-peasy trail. So, we veered off the paved Discovery Trail and took the Buffalo Trace Trail, about a half mile of trail that connects the Discovery Trail to a park access road behind the bison pen. The trail meanders along Big Bone Creek, following an old bison migration path still etched in the earth. The bison would come down from Indiana, load up on salt, and head back north. Even though the wild bison are long gone, the buffalo clover on the trail remains.

GusScaleLvl2

The Buffalo Trace Trail is pretty easy – even for me. I’m rating it a two only for the tiny baby hill to get out of it.

This was the first time I took the Buffalo Trace Trail, and it was super-de-duper easy as well. I don’t know if wheels could make it, but anyone who can walk should be able to do it. It isn’t paved, but it’s flat and wide, and any roots crossing the path are small and mostly buried. Added bonus: We were so close to the creek that we could hear it running over rocks when my feet weren’t crunching the frozen buffalo clover lining the trail. I give this trail a two on the Gus Scale; it was just that easy.

Once you exit the woods, there will be a paved road. To the right is a park residence, but to the left the parking lot and museum are at the end of the road, just up a slight incline. Now, I say slight, but it was long, and enough to get me winded. But, you have an incline to get back up to get off the Discovery Trail as well, so pick your poison.

When you’re going up the hill, there will be a gravel drive open up to the right. You can take this to see the bison; they usually graze on this side of the pen in the early morning. If you take this route follow the trail out to the bench, and then you can veer left to keep hiking along the fence line and onto the more wooded trails, or you can almost double back and take the trail through the trees. This will take you right back to the parking lot.

I can’t come to Big Bone without a visit to the bison, so I took Emme and headed around the bison pen, but they were nowhere to be found. They had more sense than me and were probably snug in a barn somewhere.

Next weekend, I think I’ll tackle the trails through the woods and see if I can pound out a few miles over some (pretty small) hills. Even though I’m not sure I am quite ready for it, the Hocking Hills Winter Hike is Jan. 16. It’s a pretty rugged six mile hike from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave. For the event, a shuttle will bring you back to Old Man’s Cave, instead of having to hike the six miles back. The fact that I’m unsure if I can do it makes me want to prove myself wrong. We’ll see.

One hike down. 51 hikes to go.

Next up: 52 Hike Challenge

Blogger’s Note: (Logo above courtesy of 52hikechallenge.comI wrote this post, oh, probably three months ago.  I tried to start the challenge introduced in this post in October, but it was a fail. So was restarting my blogging at that time. But, we’re through the holidays and on to the lonnnnng haul of winter, where there’s nothing to do but wait for spring. (And hike!)

My life is a mess of halves right now. I have half-unpacked boxes stacked in corners and shoved into closets – even though I moved almost a month ago. There are half-written blog posts and half-edited pictures and videos littering my laptop. I have a half-eaten sandwich next to me. And don’t forget the half-dead mutt laying in the floor next to my desk because I’m ignoring her begging right now. Eventually, I’ll get my life together again. But until then, I’ll stop neglecting my blog.

Summer got a bit nuts there at the end. I wish I could say I took off on a grand adventure, or spent more time outside than on a computer but I don’t even have anything that awesome to talk about. I went back to work in the office for a few months for training, decided to move and had a blue million different birthday parties, wedding and baby showers, baby gender reveal parties, festivals, non-baby related parties, and oh-my-god I can’t even think of everything else that’s been going on. Nevertheless, it’s been crazy. I haven’t even hiked since the disaster that became my last foray into the wilderness. But more on that later.

Right now I want to focus on all the exciting things that are coming. Even though all the holiday festivities are getting ready to start, I’m starting a new project, because why not pile something else on my to do list? After all, as my friend Lacey loves to remind me, we can sleep when we’re dead. I add to that: While we live, we hike. Thus, my next endeavor: The 52 Hike Challenge.

It’s simple: Hike 52 times. The suggested method is once a week for a year, but there’s no hard and fast rule, no minimum requirements. Which is perfect for someone to can do a moderately easy five-mile hike one weekend and completely die on a two-mile hike the next weekend, a.k.a. someone like me with half-busted lungs.

The Challenge’s founders wanted to start something to give people a chance to decompress and get into nature. I was basically doing this earlier in the year, but without fanfare. I started the summer wanting to walk every day and hike every weekend, but heat (and self-pity, if I’m honest) stopped me for a couple of months this summer. I don’t know if it’s the break in the heat or just the seasons changing that has me finally coming out of this fog and ready to go. Maybe with this challenge, the next time I think about giving up, I’ll have a better reason to keep going.

So here we go. Boxes or no boxes, the second I find my backpack and hiking shoes, we’re off.

Fifty-two hikes to go.