Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year- 2009

January 1, 2009

Well, it's time to get caught up! Finally. For the holidays I've been walking a couple of miles most days at "my" beach. The last couple of days I've been able to actually ride my bike on the hard packed sand. It felt like heaven. Riding mainly in the late afternoon, the colors from the setting sun reflected over the rolling doesn't get much better than this.

I realize that proper blog etiquette probably means one needs to write and entertain fairly soon after events happen...well, I was terribly negligent on doing that writing. I filled you in on the trail in the Smokies but I really didn't think I was accomplishing much after that anyway. Now, as I put them to text, I see that I really have done some walking from summer through the end of this year. Here are the comments (slightly abbreviated), photos and links to prove it!

The missing posts:
Indiana June 21-25
Hiked on Indiana trails in at TC Steele's State Historic Site , Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest. I was hiking with my parents who usually go out 3-4 days a week. Brown County Indiana, where I grew up, is a lovely area with rolling hills and many paths for a green stroll.

July 4-6 I walked on East coast beaches of Florida with my sister in Osprey/Sarasota. The Gulf side of Florida is very different than the Atlantic. In Sarasota the public beaches are incredibly crowded (not what I'm used to) but they are very pleasant, flat and certainly gives one lots to sightsee. Just look at that sky!

July 23 - Walked on Cocoa Beach North toward Jetty Maritime Park. I had to walk a round trip starting off at a condo where my daughter was staying with friends. I walked about 8 miles in relatively nice conditions. At the Jetty Park I was able see across the Canavarel Barge Canal and way in the distance locate the launch pads for the Kennedy Space center. I don't think I'll be walking through that area...maybe if I visit the Space Center? One of the highlights of the day was having lunch in my bikini at the Jetty Park snack shop- the popcorn shrimp was delicious!

Sometime during the week of July 28-August 1? Okay, I can sort of remember this walk. It was actually a long and important one, so I'll probably have to update this when I really figure it out! My daughter was meeting friends at the Riverside Park beach in Vero, so I asked her to drop me off and then when she was ready to leave we would connect and she could pick me up. What an excellent plan...I could really get some miles down and not have to back track. Well...the day was great, skirting clouds, flat sand. Two hours or so later my ride was ready but I didn't know how to get off the beach. You see traveling north from the Riverside Park there are only a few beaches with public access. I passed Jaycee Park and then I was passing lovely homes on John's Island. The walking wasn't getting any easier because it was mountains of seashells. The sound of tinkling shells was incredible but how was I going to get off the beach? My ride was waiting, not so patiently, at a small park outside of Wabasso Beach. My feet were not happy and the going was rough. Forty-five more minutes, thirty more minutes...finally I arrived at what I hoped was the exit park. A very productive 8-9 miles had been achieved but not without some drama and trauma.

August 4 - A visiting cousin, Sasha, needed a ride to the Miami airport. What a great opportunity to go to South beach. I found a small park (I think it was called Collins Park), changed into my suit and traveled South to Miami beach. Again, a little more crowded for my taste and there was a lot of beach "construction" going on. The walking was a little difficult due to higher tide and erosion. I did take a swim at the South Pointe Park, because it was too hot; the water was glorious. I walked around 8 miles round trip but on the return tried a little sidewalk strolling to look at all the lovely people and restaurants. The art deco buildings were fun too.

September 27 - Remember Juno Beach Pier? Back in April, 2008 I walked from the Pier South. This time I walked North, and returned, for about 6 miles. It was supposed to be low tide but...

October 18- I spent the morning helping out our local Reading Council by reading to young children on the sidewalk benches. Then it was off to Jensen Beach to walk and return by bike. Unfortunately this day is a bit of a blur- thus the reason to write about it immediately (or at least write something down) I think I parked my bike at the Jensen Beach Park and drove to Waveland to park and walked South. I believe I walked around 4 miles but I do remember having deja vue; had I traveled this path before? Better record keeping for this year? Stay posted ;-D

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Clingmans Dome- A day of rest

June 17, 2008 Tuesday

I did the touristy thing and went to the top of Clingman's Dome (6643 ft) It was windy and it was chilly but the panaramic view was fabulous. I walked, maybe, 100 yards down the Appalachian Trail and then I did a very lazy thing. I popped out my foldable chair, had a picnic lunch and watched the mountains for the rest of the afternoon.

Because I had not used very much energy in the afternoon, I decided I needed to do something for exercise so I drove to Laurel Falls which offered a 2.5 mile round trip hike. Again, 1 mile up is still some work in the mountains. But there were loads of people at the top and the peaceful waterfalls wasn't very peaceful. Going down was a breeze.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Russell Field Trail to Cades Cove- Day 3

June 16, 2008 Monday

Jack, Liz and I exited the Appalachian Trail and heading west on the Russell Field Trail which would take us into Cades Cove and our ride back to Fontana Dam. Debbie and Phillis were heading on for a couple more days to Newfound Gap (5045 ft) which will take them past Clingmans Dome (6643 ft) the highest point in the park.

This was an easy day. It was to be 6+ miles. We headed down, down, down, past azeala trees and the dying Eastern hemlocks. Jack and Liz had hiked this trail years before and the section had greatly changed. Many of the giant hemlocks were lying, crashed to the forest floor. This allowed for other species to catch the sunlight and grow; changing the make up of the plants along the trail. There wasn't as much canopy, therefore the sun filtered through and it was much warmer, which is not beneficial to a hiker. Jack was bothered, most of the day, by gnats.
We arrived into the picnic area of Cades Cove right after lunch and utilized their picnic tables for a pleasant sit down dinner. Jack and Liz shared their tuna and baby bell cheese with me and while Jack relaxed Liz and I went to find the car.

Our goal, to exit the park, was to take the car down one way Parson Branch road . To get to the road we had to travel through the one-way Cades Cove Loop. We stopped with the other tourists to take pictures of vistas and deers, and then we ran into a major traffic jam. People were leaping from their cars, with their cameras at the ready, to try to capture...what? A small bear was running through the woods, desperately trying to escape the throngs of tourists who were trying to capture it's photo. Sorry, no physical images here, only mental ones.

Parson Branch road came with a caution. It was dirt, it would have rough patches, and it was not suggested for cars that were low to the ground. Supposedly it would save us time? It turned into yet another adventure. We forded, what was it Jack? at least twenty areas with running water. The road was windy and steep; the driving was slow and we were surrounded by woods. It was with great pleasure that we arrived at route 129 (remember the Tail of the Dragon) Route 129 was at least paved.
Shortly afterwards we arrived back at Fontana Dam, transfered all belongings and the Great Smoky Mountain hike 2008 was at an end.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Great Smoky Appalachian Trail-Day Two

June 15, Sunday

Up, UP, UP, back to the top of my Long Trail, in an attempt to catch up with the other hikers on the Appalachian Trail. I woke up at 6:30am and was on my way by 7:30am. There was no rain, no bears and no snakes. I was moving pretty quickly (for me), at a steady pace...UP, UP, UP. I think I found the bear's rock cave, but they may have been sleeping. I tiptoed past.
It took me two hours to get out of my "valley" and then when I passed the Birch Spring Gap I found a stick arrow "sign" on the path to indicate the other hikers were on their way. I picked up the pace, determined to at least walk with them some of the day. Because I was moving so quickly, I developed a blister on my left heel and had to stop for some maintenance.

On my climb up Doe Knob (4520 ft) I ran across a ridge runner. He was out checking and trimming the trail and had crossed paths with the other hikers and predicted that I would catch up with them at their lunch stop, perhaps Ekaneetlee Gap (3,842 ft). Sure enough the troop was supine, relaxing or eating their lunch when I arrived. They were happy that I was able to catch up with them, and I was glad to continue at a more reasonable pace. Jack and Liz were amazing with their knowledge of plants and flowers. This slowed us down even more because we stopped often to identify species. My goal was to try to remember at least one.

We made a brief pause at Mollies Ridge Shelter before continuing up to 4,775 feet on Devils Tater Patch. We were headed for Russell Field Shelter where we all had a reservation for the night. I would be trekking about 9 miles on this second day. I thought I would have a tough time managing this mileage but, besides the blister, I was doing great. We briefly left Jack behind as he stopped to rest more often, but we could hear him singing through the woods and knew he wasn't far behind.

Russell Field Shelter...was crowded...with women. Jack was the only male and the shelter was almost full. Supposedly if you are booked at a shelter you must stay in the shelter and aren't to use tents. This is probably to help with the maintenance of the camping area and to protect you from bears, who know that shelters sometimes means food. The shelter did have a fenced front, but smart bears (Yogi) would probably just open the gate ;-D

The shelter had two tiers, and getting up on the top bunk area wasn't a simple task. There were four ladies on the top and at least 7 people on the bottom. Before we even went to sleep the mice were running. They scurried along the sides and climbed around on the fenced front. Some of the ladies had hung their packs from the fence AND forgot to put away one piece of food. (my food and back-you got it- up the bear cables) As soon as the food was taken away, the mice settled down for a nice sleep. We attempted to do the same. Sleeping in the shelter just doesn't have the same comfort as your tent.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam

June 14, Saturday

Getting up after a late night wasn't too difficult. We were excited to get going and had about 6+ miles to hike. Granted it was going to be up to 3680 thousand feet. We made it the trail head at Fontana Dam and had a lovely morning hike, pacing ourselves and having a look at all the flora and fauna.
It threatened to rain most of the day. We watched the thunderhead clouds moving just out of reach through the trees. There were mainly just trail and trees and a few vistas. Later in the afternoon it started to rain fairly steady. We weren't to concerned because we weren't getting cold and our packs were covered. My back was very light. Since I hadn't backpacked for at least 4 years I did my best to make sure the pack was maybe 30 pounds. There was only a few extras...I did bring my ipod but no book. I didn't have a water filter, I was going to use the tablets to purify the water, just for a couple of days. There were PJ's but no change of clothing. I always bring my fleece jacket because in the mountains, after dark, I'm usually cold. Three days of food included peanut butter, bagels, noodles, rice, gatorade, breakfast bars and dried fruit.

Four of the party were trekking up to the Birch Spring Gap Shelter (campsite 113). When you backpack into the Smokies you must have reservations and register to camp. They only allow a few campers at each location and I was unable to stay with the others. I was assigned to campsite 91, which took me off the Appalachian trail about a mile. I discovered that it was the Lost Cove Trail which follows along the Benton MacKaye Trail. The rain slacked off a little and it's nearing 5pm when I have to veer off, by myself, on to a misty side trail. Hmmm...I'm okay with this, right? I'd had such a good day, I was feeling pretty good. I waved good-bye, calling cheerfully I would see them tomorrow.

And then it started to rain again and harder. Wait, I was traveling....down hill? You know what happens when you go down? Yes, in the morning I would have to retrace my steps back UP the mountain. Slipping and sliding down the slippery slope that seemed to go on forever. Really it was more like 1.5 miles than 1 mile to the campsite. On the beach 1 mile takes me 20 minutes or less. It took me two hours to get to the campsite. It did finally stop raining and I had plenty of fresh babbling water to drink and traverse. The campsite was lovely but there wasn't anyone else there. I was all alone, with bear cables. Well, at least I didn't have to try my hand at finding a good limb and use my non-existent throwing arm, achieve a perfect throw 25 feet up. Luckily the sign on the left was NOT near my campsite, but it felt as though I could have a furry visitor at any moment.

I set up my hammock tent and arranged my area. A small brightly colored snake stuck it's head out from under a rock on which I had perched my backpack, and then retreated to clear out of my way. I made dinner of rice and some fruit, stowed everything into the backpack and hung it from the bear cable, all before sunset.

My hammock tent is comfortable, just not too roomy. I listened to my ipod, relaxing into sleep, listening for rain and rustling in the bushes.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Appalachian in the Smokies

June 13, 2008

In June of 2004 Frank and I trekked on the Appalachian trail from Springer Mountain to Fontana Dam. We traveled for three weeks, stopping every 3-4 days to recoup. On the second stop in Hiawassee, GA, where we stayed 24 hours with my friend Pat, I almost wanted to stop but we continued and covered maybe 172 miles. The photo above is on our 2nd day in Blood Mountain, GA.

I belong to the Florida trails (though not actively) and a few people were going to hike on the Appalachian Trail from Fontana Dam. (They had been backpacking for at least a week before I joined them) The plan was to meet at Nantahala, drive to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to drop off my car, return to Nantahala and start walking on Saturday from Fontana Dam. This way we could walk for three days, camping for two and return by my car to Fontana on Monday.
The only thing that we didn't plan for was the Tail of the Dragon. The Smokies have two main entrances. It took us 2 1/2 hours, one way, to get to the West entrance, most of it on Route 129, which is the Dragon. It was crazy and we didn't get back until 11pm. We have to get up early and get to Fontana Dam?

Nantahala has these cute, if you don't mind sharing, cabins with bunkbeds. I was in a room with two Florida ladies, a mother and daughter. They had been on the Appalachian trail for 3-4 days prior, and slept soundly, despite my late night return.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Florida State University

June 9, 10, 11, 12, 2008

What a great campus. I want to go back to school.