Hiking Dude Blog
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Yesterday, we hiked 6 miles around Lake Maria state park on a gorgeous fall afternoon.
You can View Larger Map with Photos.
My wife and I enjoyed the warm sun and gusting wind through the trees on this 6-mile loop trail. This state park trail is well groomed and intended for hikers, horses, and skiers - but no bikes. We might be back here in a couple months to see how we handle the hills on skis, but it is almost an hour from home.
Here is the trail route and some photos. When you click on the thumbnail pics, a larger picture is displayed, but using the link above to open a larger map works much better.
Keep reading below the map...
(click the pics below to see a larger version)
Even though we walked past a handful of lakes and bogs, I saw no wildlife except this one caterpillar. The tree colors were very nice, but mostly yellows. You only get the colors of the trees that grow where you walk, so getting the timing with color change is only half the challenge. The rest is finding a forest of the right kind of trees.
We passed under maples, aspen, birch, and poplar and they were all yellows, even the maples. Sumac provided some dark reds, a few oaks were turning burnt orange, and plenty of dry prairie grass added tans and browns.
Some parts of the forest were still green and the strong sun shining through the canopy made for wonderful colors.
Our route was very easy to follow. Starting at the parking area in the far west by Lake Maria, we hiked clockwise always taking the left fork at any trail intersection. This kept us on the outside trail around the entire park. Shorter walks are possible by cutting in towards the center at any intersection.
Being Minnesota, there was little terrain, but wide open Anderson Hill in the north east gave a great view far out to the north and east. Other than that, many open meadows allowed views across the lakes to far colored hills.
I didn't get out on the trail early enough to see the lunar eclipse this morning, but did catch the moon just as it was setting and leaving the umbra shadow.
It was a beautiful morning to be out walking. In stark contrast to the past couple mornings, there were virtually no animals out and about - maybe the weird moon scared them into hiding. :-)
The sun rose in the opposite direction from the setting moon at nearly the same time.
With only tiny bits of cloud forming, the sky gradually transformed through the lightening red, orange, yellow, white, blue spectrum.
A very enjoyable view as I munched on my granola bar breakfast. A much better view than the rush hour traffic I crossed over on a walking bridge. This morning was an especially bad one for at least two people.
Leaving my neighborhood, I thought I heard screeching tires in the distance. Not that uncommon, I didn't pay any mind to it. But, upon crossing the highway where I took the moon photo, directly below me was this mishap.
The car in the median was traveling in the far lanes, coming into the city. The entire driver side was scraped and crunched, and she wound up facing opposite her driving direction when her car came to a stop.
Sure wish I could have seen what happened.
There were no fewer than FIVE police cars on the scene, and an officer was talking to the driver through her side window.
I'm sure thankful I don't have a commute in all that every day. A 6-mile hike is much more enjoyable.
My walk yesterday offered up the first frost of the fall! But, since I was out for a jog, I didn't have my camera to prove it. Today, it was quite a bit warmer and animals were all over the place nibbling and gathering food. I guess that cold night woke them up and let them know it's time to prepare for some long months ahead.
This little fellow held perfectly still as I walked past him on the trail this morning, not twitching a whisker. He was sure I couldn't see him, so I walked on past and stopped about 30 feet later to take his picture.
Squirrels, jays, chickadees, chipmunks, mice, and many other little critters were everywhere! There has even been a virtual flock of tiny birds in my backyard, probably eating up all the grass seed I threw down a few days ago. :-) I've also noticed holes dug in the yard where squirrels have buried nuts that they'll most likely never find again.
I think it's amazing how these minuscule bodies can survive the bitter cold we have here over the winter.
Hey, if you want to follow someone doing a long hike, since I'm off the trail this fall, check out Someday - she has about 350 miles left of the Ice Age Trail and she'll be getting snow any time now.
I've been seeing this fellow every morning this week on my walks and runs. Finally decided to share him with you.
The wildlife are really out in abundance as summer begins to wane, stocking up for the long winter ahead. I've given up trying to count the squirrels scurrying everywhere, burying nuts in all the yards. The Canada geese are noisily honking overhead as they figure out which way to migrate, or just stay for a few more weeks. Fuzzy black and brown caterpillars trudge across the trail, dodging bicycle wheels obliviously whizzing along.
I'm impatiently waiting for the trees to change. Over the next month, there will be a dramatic parade of colors followed by stark, bare trunks and limbs opening up the views through the woods. I hope you get out to enjoy some of it.
Yesterday, I hiked around Lake Rebecca on my first hike from the "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles" book for Minneapolis and St. Paul. Since I don't get to do a long hike this year, I'll be walking these local spots as Fall approaches and the trees change colors. I don't plan to do all 60 hikes, but I'll share what I find on those I complete.
You can View Larger Map with Photos.
Keep reading below the map...
(click the pics below to see a larger version)
My wife joined me on this beautiful early Fall walk on a 6.5 mile paved multi-use trail. It is a well-maintained area with trails for walking, biking, and horses. We saw a couple riding horse, quite a few bikers, and a half dozen roller-bladers on this sunny, bright blue afternoon. I still can't figure out why so many people don't wear helmets when biking and blading - oh well.
The trail passed through open meadows, thick maple, basswood, oak forest, and near swampy areas at it made its way around Lake Rebecca. We enjoyed the variety of terrain during the two hours we hiked this loop trail.
We are past the time for picking wild berries, but we did try some wild plums growing along the trail. They were very sweet, but past ripe for the most part. There were also many acorns dropping from the trees when the wind blew just right.
There is a wonderful playground, beach, and picnic area at the trailhead. A lookout tower was almost too tempting for me to stay away, but my wife still has her commanding 'stern look' from raising two boys and it works well. :-)
This is a very easy trail, being paved the entire loop, and offers a nice afternoon stroll away from most traffic, but still close to the cities. In a few weeks, it will be even more beautiful with the wide variety of trees changing colors. This map shows the current colors across the state - don't miss them!
I've been out walking 4 to 8 miles on the local trail this past week to keep my knee moving. It's feeling much better and I will be spending days over the next month taking in some local hikes around the Twin Cities. I have a book titled '60 Hikes Within 60 Miles' for Minneapolis and I'll check out a few of those.
I think a good question to ask yourself when you are participating in a recreational activity, such as a long hike, is: 'Is the effort I'm expending worth the enjoyment I'm receiving?'
Most outdoor activities include some strenuous effort that result in rewards. For example, hiking to a mountain top, or paddling across a lake, or climbing up a cliff. Parts of the activity are grueling work, but the rewards of beautiful views, exciting rapids, or new terrain are worth the expected work.
When the answer to the question is 'No, the effort is more than the rewards,' then it's no longer recreational. And, I feel, it's time to stop. That happened to me earlier this week, for the first time on my long hikes.
My left knee became painful the second evening of my hike, most likely because I was pushing too hard on very rough, very steep, downhill portions of the trail. The next day, the discomfort grew until it hurt on every step - up, down, or level. For 3 more days, I continued on with the hope it would eventually work itself out but it maintained a fairly consistent irritation.
So, when I arrived in Duncannon, PA on Sunday night, I had a plan to visit a doctor in the morning and then make a decision. If the knee should feel better in 2 days or less, I would continue. If it would take longer than that, I could not afford to sit in a town for 3 days or more because I would miss my already small window of completing the trail before winter weather.
Monday morning, the doctor checked me out and said it looked solid with no major tearing and I could continue to walk on it - but recommended slower pace and even terrain. She said continuing my hike on the trail would most likely not make it worse, but it would not get a chance to heal and the pain could take a long time to abate.
This is when the question came up. A 2 hour debate with myself and I concluded: 'No, I'm not enjoying this.' The ongoing discomfort from the past 4 days would continue for the near future and I would not have fun.
I arranged a 20-mile shuttle to Hamburg, PA where I caught a 1,106-mile greyhound bus ride home. Late Tuesday night, after 24+ hours touring the country, I was home. I took yesterday to rest and come to grips in my head with my first long distance hiking failure.
Failure is the description that I keep coming back to for this hike. I had a goal to walk a certain distance in a certain time and reach the trail end. I failed to do that, actually didn't even come close. So, my trail record is now 3 wins and 1 lose. I completed the AZT, SHT, and IAT. I didn't complete my first effort with the AT.
It's pretty easy to start coming up with better ways to look at failed goals to make them not seem so bad. I hiked 123 miles in 5 days. I walked in 3 states - WV, MD, and PA. I learned a lot for future hikes. I met some interesting people. But, for now, I'm just sticking with 3-1 and admitting to myself that, however I look at it, I didn't reach my goal.
I'll share tomorrow some of the things I learned on this short trek and my plans for some shorter hikes the rest of this year.
PS: This picture is the last one I took on my hike. I am resting on a mountain before the final 600-foot steep, rocky, drop into Duncannon.
I walked 63558 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 29.5 miles today.
This view from the north across the Cumberland Valley shows the mountains where I started hiking this morning. From this nice view, I still had 12 miles of mountain trail to reach Duncannon, PA which I did a little after 7pm. Dead tired and out of water, I stumbled into town to find a bit more walking required due to a construction detour. Finally reaching the Doyle hotel here just before John locked the door made my extra efforts on the trail pay off. I'm checking in with a doctor tomorrow for my knee to see what can be done about it. As you can see from the miles of today, I can still hike but it's miserable and it would be dumb to force more injury. I met few people today, just a couple SoBos and some day hikers. The rain probably kept folks off the trail.
The 'scattered thunerstorms' have changed to a downpour the past hour. Fortunately, I got to Boiling Springs and hve waited out much of it at a gas station. It's letting up, so I'm back on the trail. A local guy here chatting with his buds gave me a cantalope from his garden - mmmmmm! Hoping for Duncannon and a bed tonight, but we'll see.
I walked 46149 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 19 miles today.
Made it to Alec Kenndy shelter on a bum knee. :-( The folks I met yesterday didn't get here, but two SoBos showed up separately. They are a real testament to the variety of people, styles, and goals out here on the trail. :-) Both seem like good guys and it sounds like they are at the front of the SoBo bubble so I should be seeing more each day, as long as the knee holds out. I'm giving my knee tomorrow and then the next morning into Duncannon to get better, or I see a local doc for advice. And, thanks a ton for the supportive comments. It really helps to get them on a ridgetop with cell coverage. Speaking of ridgetops, this pic is the Rock Maze - a big jumble that the A.T. goes through.
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