Sunday, November 25, 2012

Purrrrfect Ending

It was a party of six for the final two hikes and a beautiful fall day to boot! I was joined by Joe, Cheryl, Ryan, Morgan and Morgan's friend Chase. Our first destination was to Miami University Natural Areas Hiking Trails. We hiked 3.77 miles in about an hour and 20 minutes. You would think that having six of us on a hike that one of us would have noticed the trailhead as we walked past it at the onset of the hike, but not so much! I guess being part of a small crowd, we were more interested in socializing than thinking about the trailhead. After walking about a half a mile, I looked at the Endomondo map and compared it to the map in the book and I could then tell we were going in the wrong direction. We turned around and as we walked I read the narrative in the book and I had a pretty good idea of where we went wrong. As soon as you leave the parking lot, there is a bridge and right at the bridge's end there is a set of stairs that leads down to the trail. There was a small sign, but we all missed it. Wah wah wahhh! There is always a silver lining though. Before we got to the trailhead, we saw a really cool historic log cabin and some horses. There was one particular horse who I thought looked like Mr. Ed, but Cheryl mistakenly called a donkey. He didn't seem to like that much because he kept staring at her. I think it was her high-pitched voice, but she felt it was because she insulted him. This is a really nice trail with some fun landmarks. Just after we met up with one of the biggest fallen trees I've ever seen, we came to a creek crossing made of concrete posts. We haven't had any new members to the "Fall on Your Butt Club" in a long time and I wondered if this was our big chance. I took some pictures as everyone was crossing and then I followed up from behind. As I concentrated on my footing I heard Cheryl scream and when I looked up she was on the ground laughing with everyone standing around her. Poor Cheryl! She didn't fall on her butt, she fell on her face!!! She took quite a beating and had red marks later in the day to show for it. As always she was a good sport and started making jokes about being the first member of the "Fall on Your Face Club." There was a a nice sized pond and another creek crossing with a cool footbridge made with swinging ropes. I crossed that one first and took video of everyone else crossing. Pretty funny!

As soon as we finished our hike at Miami University, we headed to Governor Bebb Preserve to complete the final hike before dark. Upon arrival to the Pelewa trailhead we were greeted by an unexpected visitor of the feline variety, a cute little tabby cat. She hung out with us while we took pictures at the trail sign and then when we started hiking she followed right along. I found this so funny and unexpected. I was thinking how I could see a dog following us, but a cat? As we kept going I expected that she would take off on her own, but she never did. She followed right along. When we returned to the trail sign, the tabby laid down in the dirt right where we had started. It was her resting place after completing her tour guide duties. Very cute! This was a nice trail, but there wasn't much to it. A good portion of it was meadow trail and as the sun started to set the sky was pretty. I was grateful that we had the four legged creature to make the hike more interesting. We hiked 1.23 miles in 27 minutes.

After hiking we all went out to dinner to celebrate. It was fun talking about all of the different happenings over the months of hiking. It's kind of a strange feeling knowing that all 60 hikes are complete. When I went to fill in my tracking sheet with the final mileage and dates, I was sad that there weren't any names of trails left on the list! What I am excited about is that I have all of these great places that I know about now to hike. Also, I can go hike when I want, wherever I want. No longer dictated by specific places from the book.

I learned so many things about hiking and about myself from this adventure. I learned a lot about navigating trails, using modern technology tools, and how to dress for different kinds of weather. Blogging about this experience taught me a lot as well. Knowing I would blog about each trail heightened my awareness of everything I saw and everything that happened during each outing. I learned that a little more dust on the furniture isn't the end of the world! Taking time for myself still allowed me to get my work done and keep up with household chores.

Depak Chopra says, "Spending time in nature will give you access to infinite creativity, freedom, and bliss." Until I spent significant time in nature this year, I couldn't truly understand this statement. I think today we often get so caught up in our daily activities that we forget to stop and take in all of the beautiful things around us. Every time I went out for a hike, I was so far away from it all that I felt a feeling of renewal.

Hiking is a great way to spend time with friends and family. This was one of the greatest gifts of the 60 hikes.  I am eternally grateful to everyone who joined me for one hike or many hikes. Having other people to share in the adventures made the experience that much more fun.

I don't see this as the end of hiking for me or the end of my blogging about hiking. I'd like to write a post about hikes from the book I would recommend. I'd also like to write future posts about new hiking trails that I tackle that are not a part of the 60 Hikes book.

Some final stats:
60 hikes down with 0 hikes left!
Completed in 10 months and 18 days 
About 196.5 miles hiked
1704 page views of this blog from 10 countries
3 four-legged hikers (2 dogs + 1 cat)
Frogs - too many to count
Mileage on my car - don't want to count
Calories burned - lots
Calories consumed - probably more than burned between trail snacks, creamy whip stops, and Quaker Steak and Lube celebratory dinner

Thanks also to all of the readers of this blog! You inspired me to keep on hiking and keep on blogging!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Snap! Crackle! Sniff!

As I set off today for my two final hikes of this adventure, it only seems appropriate to squeak in a quick blog post about the two hikes last weekend to Hardy Lake State Recreation Area and Pennywort Cliffs Nature Preserve. These hikes were over 100 miles from my house. Since I live just 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati, I am still confused about how the "within 60 miles of Cincinnati" was established, but so be it. I have come this far, so we gassed up the car and headed on the road.

Hardy Lake State Recreation Area has a really nice trail. As we set off, it was unbelievable the thick layer of leaves on which we were walking. It was so loud, that if we wanted to say something to each other we either had to stop to say it or shout at each other. There were plenty of leaves on other hikes recently, but for some reason the dryness of them on this day made them extra loud, along with the crackling of twigs and branches we couldn't see under the layers of leaves. The first landmark that we reached was McClain Cemetery. The sign said that the oldest occupant is John McClain who was buried in 1770. There was a cement wall surround the graves that were so old you could read what many of them said. As we continued on the trail, we reached the lake. The scenery was beautiful on this sunny day. My favorite part of the trail was when it followed along the edge of a peninsula jutting out into the lake. We didn't realize how peaceful it was until we stopped to really appreciate the scenery. At this point after hiking about 2 miles both Joe and I agreed that between the snapping of the twigs, the loud crackling of the leaves and the sniffling from our noses due to fall allergies the sound was getting really annoying! After taking quite a few pictures we headed back to the car and on to find Pennywort Cliffs.

Here's what Tammy York writes in her book about Pennywort Cliffs Nature Preserve: "Finding the trailhead is an adventure in itself. It is easy to miss-repeatedly. The entrances to Pennywort are simple cut-ins through the standard overgrowth of edge species such as multiflora rose and poison ivy. This alone probably discourages less-adventurous hikers who would turn around and head for a trail system in a more civilized setting." Really, Tammy?  I travel over 100 miles to get to this trail and that's the best you can do within 60 miles of Cincinnati?  I am baffled, befuddled and bewildered by this choice. Let me just say that finding this trailhead was just as Tammy described and thankfully we were hiking in what was not poison ivy season, so we were probably more game. When we thought we found the trailhead, Joe said, "I don't care if you want to skip it." I said, "What? Skip it? I am three hikes away from my goal. I am not skipping this hike." We drove up and down the road like Tammy said would happen. Her landmark was "barns" which there was only one across from a gap in the woods that had a white sign that wasn't much bigger than a sheet of copy paper and was as white, with no printing on it. I had the sports tracker going so we could watch the trail. We decided we would hike until we felt like it got too hard to follow and then we would just turn around and travel back the way we came. As we hiked along on top of the leaves wondering if we were even on a trail, we came upon a picnic table which I told Joe was on her map, so I got out the sports tracker and compared the map in the book to the map on the sports tracker and sure enough they matched perfectly. I was shocked that we were actually on the trail. It felt like we were wandering through the woods. Finally we came upon a fork in the trail that didn't looked cleared and you could tell not traveled on frequently. We decided this was the point to head back the way we came. I was satisfied that we made at least an effort to tackle this location.

Between the two hikes we hiked over 4 miles in about an hour and a half of hiking time. I don't even want to think about the travel time. UGH!

Today I set out for hikes 59 and 60 with a band of merry hikers. The temperature is supposed to reach 60 degrees and be sunny. It's amazing the outstanding weather that has prevailed throughout this whole experience. I'm not sure how I'm feeling that we are completing this today, but I'm sure I'll be ready to write about it when it's all said and done.

58 hikes down and 2 hikes left!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Interesting First

On Sunday, November 4, I set off to tackle three of the seven hikes that remain. It took me about an hour and 40 minutes to travel 84 miles to Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge. I was hopeful after traveling that far that I would be rewarded with some awesome trails. When I entered the park there was a  large sign that said "Deer Hunting Today - Check In at Visitor's Center." I got a little butterfly twinge in my stomach at that point. Then, my stubborn inner self said, "I didn't drive this far to not get to hike today." So I proceeded. Previous to arrival I decided that I would start with the longest hike on the East River Trail that was supposed to be 3.6 miles long. I followed the directions in the book, but had no luck finding the trail head. As I drove back through the gravelly park roads, I decided I would hike one of the other trails and then head to the Visitor's Center to ask about the location of the East River Trail.

I got out of my car at the Richart Trail with my ears cocked. I was listening for the sound of gunshots. I don't know what I was hear constant rapid gunfire? The sun was shining, the day was beautiful and I was ready to go. I took a picture of myself at the the kiosk because this is what we have done on almost all of the previous hikes. I'm glad no one happened by because I'm sure I looked pretty ridiculous. Richart Trail is 0.9 miles long. The beginning of the trail is mowed grass and it's still really green. It was amazing how quiet it was. You can really appreciate the solitude when you are hiking alone. And then my thoughts started to wander: What if the hunters are using bows and arrows? I really wouldn't hear them if that is the case. I started to make as much noise as I could with my feet as I walked. Silly! Some of the trail follows along one side of Richart Lake. There is a pretty gazebo with an overlook. I stopped to take some pictures and then hiked back along the trail to my car deciding that all was clear and I was letting my imagination run away with me.

Next stop was the Visitor's Center to ask about the trail head for the East River Trail. When I walked through the door I was greeted by two older ladies. One of them was doing some computer work and the other walked over to see how she could help. I told her I was looking for the trail head for the East River Trail. She said, "Oh that trail was closed a little over a year ago. It was just too hard to maintain." I said, "Well that's a first! I have hiked over 50 hikes this year and none of the other trails have been closed." I showed the ladies my book and they both congratulated me on my efforts. They asked me how many miles I've hiked this year and I told them that I've hiked over 180 miles. The greeter then told me that she used to volunteer on the trails and that she hiked 500 to 700 miles a year. WOW! I couldn't believe it! She then showed me some alternate trails in the park that I could hike, also warning me about which ones to stay clear of because of the bow hunting  for deer that was taking place in one area of the park. Then my little voice in my head said, "Next time, you WILL check the Visitor's Center first!"

All of the hikes were relatively short. I hiked the Chestnut Ridge Trail that was 0.5 miles. This trail is in the book. I replaced the closed East River Trail with hikes on the Turkey and Bird Trails (1.95 miles) and the Wood Duck Trail (0.64 mile). The trails were really flat and didn't present much of a challenge except that at times it was hard to follow the trail because almost all of the leaves are off the trees and are on the ground now.

Considering the time and distance traveled, I probably wouldn't head out to Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge again, but the sun was shining, the solitude was rejuvenating, and the ladies at the Visitor's Center were interesting so it was a pleasant day.

56 hikes down and 4 to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Full Circle

Had a great hike today to Cox Arboretum and Gardens Metropark near Dayton, Ohio. Originally I wanted to hike this trail on Wednesday last week when it was 75 plus degrees, but sadly my transmission went out on my car and by the time I got my car settled, acquired a rental car and drove the distance to the park, it was already getting dark. It was around 50 degrees today for the hike, but instead of hiking alone like I would have on Wednesday, my friend Lorrie joined me so it was worth the wait!  We hiked 2.83 miles in one hour and 10 minutes.

It was a really blustery day today and Lorrie and I both thought that the wind would make the hike somewhat unpleasant, but it didn't really bother us much. This was another beautiful park, one of several that we hiked this year in the Dayton Metroparks park system. I will look forward to hiking some of the other parks that were not in the book next year. There is a beautiful educational building at the entrance to the park with a couple of ponds and some amazing gardens. I was surprised by the number of people at the park considering the gloomy, chilly and windy weather. There was a young couple getting their engagement pictures taken and several families enjoying the park.

When we finally reached the hiking trail it was mostly gravel. There were signs along the route with the park maps and "You are here."  Love it! Hiking for dummies!  We didn't have to think much about which way we were going at all! It makes for a much more relaxed hike! I was surprised by the drastic change in the amount of leaves on the trees in just two weeks time since my last hike. Most were on the ground. Lorrie and I both commented about how it felt like this whole adventure is now coming full circle because the trail is starting to look like it did when I started almost a year ago. Many of the trees were marked with signs that had a phone number you could call on your cell phone or you could use your cell phone's QR reader and get information about each individual tree. How's that for modern technology?

It was an easy hike with very few ups and downs, and the trail was wide enough for Lorrie and I to walk side-by-side. Once we finished the wooded part of the trail we entered a wetland area. As we returned near the park entrance there was a very cool observation tower that we climbed. It had spiral stairs and when we got to the top it was swaying in the wind. It made me a little nervous. We took a few pictures and descended quickly!

As we walked along the ponds and gardens to head back toward the car, we noticed a sign that said "Working Dog in the Area." It explained that Zipp, a border collie, was trained to work in the park doing "goose patrol." We saw Zipp when we first entered the park and wondered who he belonged we know. I wonder what a job like "goose patrol" pays?  I hope they take good care of Zipp for doing such a thankless job!

Nearing the end of 10 months of hiking. I only hiked 6.77 miles in October. That seems like a very pathetic number. I am definitely losing steam! I have 7 hikes left that will need to be done in 3 outings because of their remote locations. It sounds doable, but I am really pushing myself at this point. I am hopeful that I can get some friends rallying behind me and come and join in a fall outdoor adventure to get me through these final trails to my goal.

53 hikes down and 7 to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Camouflage...Not Always a Safety Measure!

Throughout this entire experience I have been barraged with matters of social studies, language arts, science and mathematics! Because I'm getting down to the nitty gritty, all of these thoughts are flooding my mind. The elementary school teacher in me just can't help myself.

Related to social studies, I've visited historical sites that included Indian mounds, battlefields, pioneer villages and cemeteries. I've used map reading skills and appreciated the roles that different organizations and government agencies (both county and state) have played in the creation and maintenance of the many beautiful places I've visited.

Things I've learned and taught about in the language arts classroom were valuable as well. I did a lot of reading about the places I've visited. I used communication skills, both oral and written.  I recruited my fellow hikers via phone calls, text messages and FaceBook messages. I also solicited information from locals when I was lost. Most of these skills have come into play while writing this blog. For example, I created a graphic organizer before writing this post!

Scientifically speaking, this subject was the greatest part of my graphic organizer. I visited a variety of habitats: forests, wetlands, meadows. All of the plants in these habitats were more than one could imagine. Not only were there all kinds of trees, there was ground cover, vines, flowers, lily pads and stinging nettles!!!! I saw fossils and a life-sized diorama of mastadons and wooly mammoths. The weather has factored into every hike. Will it be sunny or cloudy? Dry or Rainy? Snowy? Windy?  I would be remiss if I didn't mention all of the rocks and landforms. Also, the animals! I saw toads, frogs, a snake, birds, deer and LOTS of insects. One insect that we saw on a hike this week to Beaver Creek was a praying mantis that reached an unfortunate demise. Morgan was leading with Joe following closely behind. We were walking through a wetland area and the trail was a boardwalk. Morgan shouted, "A praying mantis!" But, not soon enough. When Joe looked down we couldn't find it. It was under his foot. In this case, the science of camouflage did not work in this little bug's favor. His whole body was brown in order to conceal his appearance, thus he got stepped on. Camouflage...not always a safety measure! So sad.

Every week I was using mathematics to estimate, calculate, and reflect on the journey. I figured how long it would take to travel to each location and the time it would take to complete the hike. This allowed us to determine what time we would leave. I measured the distance of each hike to see how far I traveled and kept a running total. I counted the number of hikes down and the number of hikes left. I studied the elevation changes for the hikes on graphs included in the book. I also studied the graphs for this blog that show statistics for page views and visitor information.  I know there is so much more that I could include in this post about all of the different disciplines that were part of this journey. But the constant integration of all of these subjects over this experience makes me wonder, why do we teach each in such isolation in schools?

One of the hikes this week was to John Bryan State Park. I took over 70 pictures. The fall beauty was overwhelming and I think it has put me in a very reflective state. I have completed 52 hikes and have 8 hikes left. There are some challenges that remain. One of these is the far distances necessary to get to the remaining hikes; they involve doing more than one hike in a day. I am finding it hard to carve out this kind of time. Another challenge is the weather. It is unpredictable in the fall and I'm hopeful that the blessings I've had with good weather will continue. Finally, I have some weekend commitments that will make it difficult to hike. So, even though I have only 8 hikes left, this is all still taking quite a bit of effort. I will take a deep breath and trust that this can be done.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall is Here!

Over the last three weeks, I have managed to complete four more hikes. Fall is my favorite time of year and I was anxiously awaiting for the signs that it was here. On September 16, Cheryl, Joe and I hiked at Whitewater Memorial State Park in Indiana. The leaves on the trees really weren't changing colors yet, but there were some leaves on the ground and the damp smell of fall was definitely in the air. We hiked 3.75 miles in one hour and thirty minutes. It was great having Cheryl with us on a hike again. The trails were easy to follow and well-cared for. Even though this hike was a long ways from home, I would definitely travel back again. It had some nice hills and a good portion of the hike was along a lake. Cheryl commented that it would be a great winter hike because you would have good views of the lake.

The next week, Joe, Lorrie and I hiked 4 different trails at Mount Airy Forest on the west side of Cincinnati. We hiked 5.07 miles in two hours and thirty-seven minutes. There wasn't as much change in the trees as I expected, but there were a lot of fall flowers starting to bloom. There were two highlights of this hiking trip. One was hiking to a tree house. It is a really cool structure and was a great reward after hiking up and down several hills to get to it. We definitely got a great workout on this hike. There is one part of the trail called "Stone Steps Ridge." This was probably one of the longest and steepest grades that we have hiked. I had to stop four times to catch my breath along the way! Following the trail was a little tricky at times, but we used the map from the book and the Endomondo map and we did well.

This week Joe, Lorrie and I hiked two trails in Kentucky: Blue Licks Battlefield State Park and Quiet Trails Nature Preserve. Total miles hiked for these two trails was 5.03 miles and Fall was everywhere. What a difference a week makes! It took us about an hour and 45 minutes to drive to Blue Licks Battlefield causing us to again question the "with 60 miles of Cincinnati." When we arrived at the park, our first stop was the bathroom. I got to see my first black widow in person. Joe saw it on the side of the building and I got a pretty good picture of it. I was totally creeped out! As we walked through cobwebs on the trail, I couldn't get that spider out of my mind. We also saw a huge wolf spider before starting the hike, so that didn't help either! There was a lot to see on this hike. This park is set on the sight of the last battle of the American Revolution. Who would have thought that the American Revolution was fought this far west? The Licking River and Tanner Station were two other sites we saw. Tanner Station is an old pioneer trading post. We didn't get to go inside, but it was a cool structure to see and a great place to take a quick water break. After completing this 3 plus mile hike, we headed to Quiet Trails Nature Preserve. The fact that we even found this park was a miracle. We only hiked 1.63 miles here, but it was a great workout. We were huffing and puffing to get up the final hill to take us back to the car.

With Fall upon us, this marks my fourth and final season of this fitness goal. It's been a great journey so far and I'm eager to watch the trail change back to winter and what it looked like when I took on this adventure. I have hiked approximately 176.74 miles and completed 50 hikes! Only 10 hikes left! I must admit that I am looking forward to the day when I can hike any place I darn well feel like and am not constricted to a list! I am really pushing hard to complete the last ten hikes. All of them are more than an hour away from home, so due to distance, I need to hike more than one hike in a day for the remaining weekends. Hopefully, I will be done before December and I'm feeling pretty confident that I will complete all 60 hikes this year.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Litte Miss Pocket Knife

On Saturday, September 8, I woke up to the unfamiliar sound of rain pounding on the roof of my house. It's been so long since I've heard that. The weather on the weekends has had a whole new meaning with this hiking challenge. Believe it or not, I have hiked in the rain one time since starting this goal in January of this year and it has only snow flurried lightly once. That is amazing to me! I laid in bed and flipped on the local news to checkout the weather forecast. The rain was going to move out by 10:00 a.m., so I text messaged brother, Joe and let him know we were on. We hiked 7.6 miles in 3 hours and 8 minutes at Germantown Metropark. It is just south of Dayton, Ohio. Thanks to that rain, it was a glorious 65 degrees while we hiked.  Lovely.

Knowing we were not parking in the same place the book suggested, we had to find a place where the Orange Trail met the side of the park where we were driving. We studied the map and saw a sign for the "pond," so we decided to take our chances. Fortunately the trails were very well marked and cared for. It made for a great three hours of hiking. I've gone out for this amount of time and distance before when this wasn't the case, and it can be a little miserable. I was so happy with the trails that when we hit the Nature Center after hiking about 3 miles, I thanked one of the park rangers for all he does and told him how much we were enjoying hiking the trails.

With the cool temperatures and wet leaves starting to cover the ground, fall was definitely in the air. None of the leaves appear to be changing yet, so I would say there was a "hint" of fall. This is my favorite season so I am getting really pumped about hiking over the next couple of months. It's hard to believe I am moving into the last season I have yet to hike! This year has gone quickly. Parts of the trail were soil or gravel covered whereas others were mowed, but most of the trail was nice and wide. We traveled through new forests, old forest, meadows and cedar glades. It was very diverse and kept our interest. There was a lot of ups and downs, we would weave back and forth along Twin Creek, so along with the long distance we traveled, it was a great cardio workout too! After going up one of the steepest hills, we ran into a family with two small children. I smiled and said hello and the little girl (about 5 years old) pointed her toe, pointed her dainty little finger to her pocket and said, "I have a pocket knife!" Followed with a big huge smile. I replied, "That's a really good hiking tool to have in case of an emergency!" Making a mental note that despite my bug spray, waterproof matches, and flashlight, I don't even have a pocket knife!  I must say, I was a little jealous.

We finished out the hike walking along the park road, otherwise we would have traveled well over eight miles to get back to the car. It was a great hike that both Joe and I enjoyed. This park is one of the Five Rivers Metroparks. This is a great park system and has provided some of the best hikes this year. I am looking forward to hiking at one more of these parks in the near future. If you live in the area and want to go on a hike, I highly recommend these parks.

46 hikes down and 14 to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!