A Hike in the Rain – 5 Miles of Bliss Away from 2nd-hand Smoke

Fall Hike color collage 10-26-15

The fresh air was exceptionally refreshing and the steady light rain added to the feeling of being cleansed and purified on all levels — body, mind and spirit, through every cell atom and molecule.  A bonus over the 5 mile hike was that the rain kept humans away–there wasn’t another soul throughout the whole trek.  There were only the sounds of my breath, the hiking poles and my feet against the earth,  squirrels scurrying about, the tapping of the rain against the leaves the whole time.  

I hiked through tunnels of red, yellow and orange leaves that acted like a natural umbrella keeping the trail beneath dry and only where there were a few breaks in the trees was the trail wet.  It was a cool day too (temperatures in the 50’s) and occasionally a cold wet drop of rain would hit my head.  I’d pretend it to be mother nature blowing me a kiss from above and smiled all the more when that happened.

Once I broke out in song feeling…

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My Birthday Hike! and my favorite place along the trail

Joy Birthday Hike Collage 2015

Yes, I am! and I didn’t.  I am 68 years old now and no I didn’t remember to bring my good camera on the birthday hike and the blurry evidence in the photos above proves it! That place in the photo is one of my favorite spots.  You can’t see it from the photo but beyond the trees you can just catch a glimpse or two of the lake.  I gave myself a very special gift on this hike.  What I did was…

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Hiking with Irony

Lake Hike Collage 10-9-15Irony:  A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

It was supposed to be an awesome hike but that’s what expectations will do for us sometimes.  Trip us right up, they do!  I hadn’t hiked in well over a week due to day after day of continuous rain. I gave the trail most of the week this past week to dry out and went early in the day, hoping to avoid as many humans as possible.  I just really wanted to be alone that day more than I usually would.  Yet, as irony, my invisible hiking partner would have it, this was not in the cards or written in the stars.

The percentage of loud voiced people that shouted in the sacred silence of the woods was high yesterday, and Irony was fulfilled by that I’m sure.  I did my best not to be irked.

The trekking poles seemed a bit more natural in my hands yesterday and sometimes I’d like to have been rid of them on the flats but when there were hills or the trail was rocky, I was glad to have them.  Mr. Smart-ass Irony probably smirked at that one too.  But I consoled myself knowing that my arms were getting the benefit of exercise too.  

The overall effort yesterday was physically easier than prior hikes and I really don’t think this had anything to do with the trekking pole assist.   Maybe hiking with greater ease had to do with my efforts at the gym, putting the treadmill at the highest hill setting.  That last mile wasn’t as difficult either but it was plenty challenging nonetheless.  When I need to stop to catch a breath, I glance at my heart rate monitor and it reads well into the 160’s (beats per min.) which is well over and above my maximum heart rate for my age.  I stop for about 30 seconds to recover and plug away again.  I smirked right back at Irony knowing that this was an indication of improvement.  Take that!  

Perhaps there’s a defect in my psyche but I do not prefer companionship but for nature, preferring the woods to be the comforting partner because of the silence that is offered–a rare commodity when living in a city around so many obnoxious humans.

We all have times, I suppose, when we’re thankful not to be alone but those times for me are rare, yet significant and usually associated with my family.

Having some irksome human encounters this past week and letting those get to me (despite my best efforts not to) is what attracted Irony as my companion yesterday.  But as they say, even a bad day in the woods on the trail is better than a good day anywhere else.

The lake and the trees absorbed my sorrows and as I sat upon Mother Earth, I asked for transmutation, releasing tears of frustration.  I tried to smile my best in that photo (above) after a good cry.

PS-  Time for each of the 5 miles (recorded for my own reference mostly and I was walking at a comfortable pace;not trying to hurry) was as follows:

26 min., 26 min., 28 min., 29 min., 29 min.  = total time:  2 hrs. 18 min.

The breezes were nice but the humidity high and in the low 80’s.  The humidity was justifiably high yesterday since today it has been pouring rain non-stop.  And, looking at current radar, it appears that the whole state is covered in rain with what looks like even more on the way.

LAST THOUGHT:  The next time we are in a rainy spell, I’m going to hike in the rain and mud anyway! Because even if I slide and get all muddy, that (to me) is preferred to a loud noisy crowd on the trail.

My First Hike Using Trekking Poles

hiking poles and bench 9-23-15
My waist pack and poles and the trail. There are benches like these every few miles with a view of the lake

It was awkward at first and for the life of me how do people move arms as fast of their feet using these things.  Not for me; no can do.  I take 3 to 4 steps with every arm swing with the poles and honestly if I didn’t… well, can’t imagine getting anywhere that way.  A few times I had to stop and laugh at myself because I tripped over one.  Really Joy?  That was excellent and helps a lot!  ha ha

Sometimes I thought it was like swimming, reaching out with the poles in harmony with leg rhythm.  Yep, I’d think.  I’m just here swimming through the woods.  And I’d laugh again.

I probably laugh too much when I hike.  Like when I’d not seen a soul for an hour or so (weekday) and it was just me and the trees and a few squirrels for the longest time (didn’t see any deer that day)… and it was the breeze too–wind just moving through the trees steadily and leaves falling.  Well, anyway at one point the breeze really picked up to a wind and the trees really danced and I looked up and called out in a fairly loud voice, “Yeah, that’s right mother!”  (Mother nature and Goddess).  And then right after that I look up to see a man coming toward me on the trail with his dog.  Had to laugh again then too at being caught talking to the trees et al.  

Whatever, because I get a really don’t care attitude when I hike anyway.

Anyhow, back to the poles.  I see the pro’s and con’s and the jury is still out.  It’s a 50-50 thing.  I see they do help or better said, it’s more of a “feel” that they help, especially on the uphills.  But they will take more getting used to.  There’s a lack of freedom that comes with them somehow–like slight entrapment with the hands in the straps, but of course I need the straps, don’t I?  

I kept thinking I may be using them wrong because in videos they show opposite hand with opposite foot but I gave up on that in a few minutes and gave my arms and poles intuitive ruler-ship like I did with my feet a few hikes ago.  I trusted in the wisdom of the arms like I trusted in the wisdom of my feet realizing overthinking this stuff is more of a detriment.

Besides, I thought, I dare one of these trees or squirrels to tell me I’m using my trekking poles wrong!  Ha!  

I biked (spin biking interval workouts) at the gym the two days prior to my hike that day and my knee was hurting even before the hike started and the poles didn’t prevent that.  I was a little despondent about that because the last hike was virtually pain free–the feeling of having engaged in some back sliding was tough to shake.

Joy 9-25-15 hike traihead
At the 5 mile trail’s end

I make the 5 mile trek and it took 2:25 min. this time–a little bit longer due to figuring the best way to used those poles.   I stopped the clock to sit a  few times on a bench not that I needed the rest but to simply enjoy the trees, the silence and the awesome breezes of the day.  It was the Autumn Equinox–the first day of Fall and the official end of summer and the weather felt like it too!

Now, however, we have a rain system that moved in and so…

…the trails right now will be bubbly muddy mess.  If my knee wasn’t so temperamental, I’d put on old shoes and just go for it but I think better to use the time to return to my search for scholarships for my grandson for now.  Dryer, cooler and sunnier days are ahead.    Current humidity is 98%.    My daughter and I were going to attempt the 9 1/2 mile trail with higher elevations on Sunday, but doesn’t look like it will be the best day for it.  Gosh darn rain!   She wants to wait for a better day and I promised her we’d have the adventure together and that I’d wait.  

I was going to hike 15 miles this week again–that’s not happening.  

Well, anyway, I got trekking poles– my first piece of equipment for my “someday-over-the-rainbow-why-can’t-I?” Appalachian Trail hike!

BOOK UPDATE: I finished the book Lost on the Appalachian Trail and while … Continue reading

Gain with No Pain – Hiked a Personal Best

joy2 faded 9-20-16
Great quality photo LOL

I hiked 15 miles this week.  Personal pride in an accomplishment.  And just so’s ya’ know there’s a very well-read part of me (fan of A.T. hiking books) that realizes that 15 miles is a decent norm daily (not weekly!) when living on the trail.  No matter, I’m feeling just as accomplished as someone who just completed their first 15 mile day. And I hope what I’m writing here may encourage someone else somehow just like the thru-hikers on the A.T. encourage me.  Anyway…

The human body is an amazing machine.  Strange how I’ve always known this and actually in my previous profession (seems like a past life now) as a physical therapist that was so simply understood.  I helped patients come back from all kinds of physical setbacks–stroke, surgery, heart attacks.  The body responds to training, plain and simple.  For them but not for me?  That doesn’t make sense.

Yet, lately it’s a different story.  For the first time in years — even with the 1-mile swims in the lap pool and the hour intense spin-bike sessions — these hikes have strengthened me in ways that truly give me hope.  Hope that … well, that it’s not over yet!

What I mean is that each hike makes me feel younger in ways that no other exercise has done!  And the window of possibility to being able to hike on the Appalachian Trail that cracked open in July 2015 when this blog was started, has opened a bit wider this week.  I’m psyched!


  • The first time I hiked that 5 mile trail it took me 4 hours.  Yesterday it took me 2 hours, 3 minutes.  A Personal Best!
  • After the first time,  totally spend–exhausted–came home and collapsed on my bed for hours.  Yesterday, walked around Wal Mart and then had dinner at Applebee’s Restaurant with my daughter after the hike.
  • Yesterday was the first time nothing hurt during my hike.  Previous hikes contained a good deal of yelling that was coming from my knee and ankle and residual soreness.  Yesterday, there was nothing of that nature whatsoever.

And while those things may seem minor to a routine hiker, for me they are HUGE!  And… Continue reading

Magical hike on a day when it was sorely needed and hiking revelations

joy 430 blog post 9-17-15This hike’s for my mental health and spiritual nourishment. That was my intention and what I repeated as i strapped on my waist pack.  I needed the silence of the woods and fully intended to enjoy the 5-mile hike and I did.  I stopped to enjoy the breezes off of the lake and look up at the trees and the sun winking through the leaves.  My pace was reasonable and at mile one there’s a bench placed on a curve facing the water; and this time I took the seat and breathed deeply as I watched the many small waves dancing and glistening.  The the wind and sun created this wavy sparkle upon the lake.  

As I was on my way to that scenic spot, I allowed my mind to wander and thought about how grateful I am to have the opportunity in life to just drive off to the woods for a hike.  (Not that I haven’t worked physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally to reach this point! — mostly spiritually, mentally and emotionally)  But anyway, then I dedicated all of my hiking steps to others who might be wishing they were there hiking too but couldn’t be.  

I called to mind the spirits of the woods, the nature devas, the spirit of the lake herself and all the angels and friends of the light as deep waves of love and gratitude for being in that very spot at that very time permeated every cell, atom and molecule within me.  

Then I sent those vibes out into the world and chanted silent thank you’s for every blessing that I could call to mind all the while cherishing the feel of the breeze on my body as my inner and outer ears danced in joy with the song of the birds.  

This will be a great hike; I vowed it.   And I let myself sit a moment longer drinking from my water bottle.  The body drank while the spirit was drinking in all of the nature spirits and elements.  I felt at one with the woods and the lake.  The world here was silent.   I felt each moment fully there, pausing at mile one.  

As I moved along through the 5 mile hike… Continue reading

Hiking up a 1,000 foot climb

Joy 9-16-15Since yesterday, I’m trying to figure something out.

Its about a 1,000 foot climb.  How high is 1,000 feet?

There’s 300 ft in the length of a typical football field.

So we’re talking about a climb that’s 31/3 football fields high.

Can’t really imagine that.  There are a lot of those and higher on the A.T. — an intimidating thought.

Now these 3 football fields high could be spread out over a couple of miles or more I suppose, but still!

How steep the climb is — that’s the real question.

But honestly after a series of hills spread out over 5 miles that are only 1/10th as high, I’m pretty tired after doing those 100 ft. roller coaster hills.  The thought of 1,000 feet seems pretty overwhelming.  I’d have to take a lot of rests or get in a whole lot better shape!

I’m wiped out thinking about hiking up elevation like that.

ADDENDUM:  I wonder how high the typical high school football stadium seating is?  I could go practice there.

GETTING IT STRAIGHT:  okay, okay, hold on… now I’ve got it straight I think.  I found a website for the biking trails that gives elevation gains and also found elevation gain on the 5-mile trail I’ve been hiking–what would we do without Google. So yeah, 100 ft climb (elevation gains) on the 5 mile trail.  But now I see a really amazing challenge with a 356 ft elevation gains and that trail is 10 miles long –so that’s something to work toward.  

Hiking Perspective, Progress and Pace for 5 Miles – A.T. Prep

Joy-250_ 9-15-15 hikeI hit the trail again yesterday. 5 miles in 2.5 hours.   It’s been a week and too long between hikes if I intend to prepare to hike the A.T. but do I?   I’m keeping the dream alive and all options open but meanwhile a few thoughts.  One of those being with 4 miles under my fanny pack waist belt as I trudged uphill, the thoughts went something like “no more pizza or hamburgers girlfriend!”  as I lectured myself on the virtues of loosing a lot more weight.  I was just demoralized by a guy who jogged past me going downhill and there I was in the process of pausing for some water and monitoring the last two miles effort on my heart rate monitor.  Of course this guy was coming from the end of the 5 mile loop trail toward me, but the humbling point here is that moments later he ran past me a 2nd time going uphill.  I felt like a turtle who was just passed by the rabbit and tried not to cry thinking about the years that I’d let myself go, as it were.  I used to run everyday and regrettably I’d stopped a daily running habit many years ago.

But then one simply cannot think dispirited thoughts like that and still keep hiking uphill very well, so I let that go in favor of… Continue reading

We came, we saw, we hiked — still only 5 miles but you got to start somewhere

  I was patient waiting for the magic moment to happen. I was past the 3 mile mark and just about to give up on the idea when suddenly I came to a small clearing in a gap between the hills where there were no trees–a nice sunny spot.  

I stopped hiking and just stood there feeling that this was a special place and then it happened.  

It had been a muggy day with no breeze and temperature around 90 but suddenlyContinue reading