Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spring Chicks Hike in May

It is a lot greener and cheerier around the 11-mile sign post in May than it was in April. These women are still smiling after several hours of hiking 11 miles on the 17-mile scout trail at Oak Openings Preserve near Toledo, Ohio. That is Lynn (age 50) with the walking stick she bought in the Smokies. Marita (age 65) is wearing the Swan Creek Day Breakers tee shirt which she designed. Marita and Lynn smiled even bigger when they finished the last 5 miles!

This is the group which started the hike. From left to right: Lynn, Pat, Marita, Susan, and me. Pat (age 53) and Susan (age 62) had intended to hike a section of the trail. They ended up walking further than they had ever walked before!
I must give all of the women credit for even showing up at 8 am last Saturday. It was raining and cool. They could have stayed home in bed. I'm so proud to associate with women who leave fear and laziness behind and step out for change and challenge.

This spring hike was not an easy one. Much of the trail was covered in water and had to be hopped from log to log, or we would scout a way through the woods to get around the standing water and boot-sucking mud. Pat is balancing well here!

Then we had some dry areas like the oak/blueberry forest pictured below in which Susan is leading the group. Can you see the yellow blaze on the tree in the left foreground? That's the color you follow to find your way along the entire 17-mile scout trail (which is really only 15 1/2 miles due to rerouting around wet areas).

The trail weaves through much more than wetlands, flood plains, and flatwoods dotted with vernal pools in the preserve's 6000 acres. We enjoyed the filtered light of the savannas, prairies with blooming blue lupine, whimsical pine plantations, and cactus-studded sand dunes. The migrating songbirds whizzed around us and stopped us in our tracks with their chorus echoing overhead. Deer spotted us while we took our breaks. Sweet aromas stimulated deep, deep breaths. And safe completion boosted self-esteem and self-confidence.

Congratulations to Susan, Pat, Lynn, and Marita! I mention your ages so we all know that even "old" spring chicks can....can....can.....and can!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

May it Happen!

One of the things I would like to do in life is sit.
Sit for 30 days in the woods and watch the changes.

I have decided mid-April to mid-May would be the most amazing time. These photos were taken April 17th and May 17th on the 17-mile Scout Trail at Oak Openings Preserve near Toledo, Ohio.

Can you believe this is the same place?

April looks pretty bare here. Notice the river.

Can you see the river in May? The skunk cabbage grows thick and lush in one month.

I intentionally shot photos from the Polly Fox bridge because there is a nice story behind it. High school girls built this bridge under the direction of a female park ranger. The girls are single moms from Polly Fox Academy. Several of them have backpacked the 17-mile scout trail. Isn't this a unique way to do something useful for the community and learn life-skills at the same time?

What will sign-post 11 look like in May?
Coming soon on my next post!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Break My Day

If you can't travel to the Smoky Mountain National Park and trek on up to the Appalachian Trail, you can experience life on the AT vicariously by absorbing yourself in a copy of Bill Bryson's true story, A Walk in the Woods. This was a best seller for a few years. I was told during my visit on the AT in April that the number of thru-hike starters is down to its normal numbers. According to a worker with the trail alliance, this is a relief since many readers would attempt to hike the trail without proper preparation or an understanding of the "leave-no-trace" ethic.

Shortly after I returned to Toledo I took an 8 mile walk with this playful group, the Swan Creek Day Breakers. They meet nearly every morning of the year at 6:45 AM. They walk 4 or 5 miles together even on super-cold mornings when all they can see of each other is a nose and two eyes. They see the seasons change, study birds and flowers, and meet and greet others on the trail. They have semi-annual potlucks and celebrate each others birthdays. In the winter, these day-breakers get to walk in the light of the lingering moon.

The Day Breakers were enthusiastically telling me stories about experiences they have shared on walks in "their" park. Swan Creek Metropark has become such a part of their lives for the last 13 years that they refer to it as "my" or "our" park. A few times a year they travel to other parks. I met with them at Oak Openings Preserve. I was the youngster, their ages ranging from 65 to 80. You know, they didn't even notice when it started to rain. They mindlessly adjusted their hoods and jackets while they continued with their happy banter and gentle tread.

You can sit in your easy chair and travel vicariously all you want, or you can get up early and make your day with the Day Breakers. They made mine!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bye Smokies!

The view from 5000 ft Mount Cammerer in Smoky Mountain National Park is well worth the climb. In my opinion, if you get a clear day, the view from any mountain top is icing on the "I-did-it" cake. In this photo, I am standing below the fire tower. The camera's self-timer clicks the shutter in these "lonely" places.

It is so quiet at Davenport Gap Shelter where I spend the night. I am here by myself for a few hours. Notice the chain link fence on the front of the shelter. It keeps out the bears. The park service is starting to remove the fencing because the hikers don't like the feeling of being caged. There hasn't been as much bear activity at the shelters since there is more care in hanging food. This preventative measure is easier to do since the park put in high cables which we pulley our food up for storage each night.

I finally get a couple of visitors. Ann (age 62), pictured reviewing her map, is walking every trail in the park....over 1000 miles! She lives nearby and hikes a few times a week all year long. There are several walking clubs in the area so these day-hikers can always find someone to walk with.

In this view I can see the expressway heading north. It is the road I will be on TOO SOON.

The thru-hikers have to keep on truckin' as recorded here in the journal at Davenport Gap shelter (GA-ME 08 is short for 'from Georgia to Maine in 2008'). The thru-hikers have 2000 miles to cover this summer so they better keep "movin' on," like Cuatro briefly journaled. If they don't move on, they will get caught in the snow this fall at the northern terminus, Mount Katahdin.
Looks like Pips is loving the sunsets, sunrises, and the adventure. Looks like Pips and Kraut are loving each other too!
Happy Trails Thru-hikers! Bye-bye Smokies!