I have to say that there are some stunningly beautiful , peaceful, quiet, memorable moments available to us, even in hard times. We must chase them down and live in them whenever possible.
This is the end of the first week of A to Z Challenge 2022. I have been completing posts A through H while on a trip and that has made it more of a challenge than other years. I have had to keep it very simple, knowing that it doesn’t compare to some of the other great blogs I’ve been reading. It is still fun to put it together and share. Hope you are enjoying the read.
Having always been a walker, but mostly for the purpose of getting from point A to point Z, hiking was not really a “thing” in life until 2000. That was the year we hosted an exchange student from Sardinia for her last year of high school in the U.S. Having mastered her English enough to graduate, Maura was all set to go to Cancun with a number of classmates to celebrate. I wasn’t very comfortable with that. There were horror stories of young girls disappearing from the beach and never being seen again. I said no.
I had to come up with an alternative activity. I can’t remember why hiking the Appalachian Trail sounded like a reasonable project. Maybe I already had it on my list. At any rate, we put together a small band of adventurers including my daughters and one of their friends, five of us. None with hiking experience.
We survived and we bonded, as often happens with challenging experiences. We got blisters, sore backs, got thirsty, hungry and sleep deprived. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
While it is comforting to young people to know that their elders are capable and resourceful, it only adds to the depth of a relationship to find out that they are not always that. I think it may have been one of the first times that I was the weak one, needing to be rescued from dehydration and lifted to the next camp via truck. Those girls hiked, by themselves, the twelve miles that day and arrived in camp in record time.
It was a successful hike overall and we had great satisfaction in getting to our car on the fifth day, somewhat more experienced as hikers. Olive Garden fresh salad, bread and Alfredo sauce never tasted as good as it did on that trip home.
Since that time, hiking has been a passion for me, and it is always better with a daughter or a family member. There are so many good shared moments walking through nature, talking about what we see, making camp, and dividing up chores. We see how we behave when we have less convenience and less distraction. It is getting to know each other in a unique way.
To me, hiking is a special kind of walking, in a particular planned area just for the intent of seeing what’s there and spending time with companions. It can be an hour long, or a week long – distance is not the issue, purpose is. In the last 20 years my girls and I have made lots of memories and seen some amazing places. It has been an important factor in the relationships we have with each other.
Find a friend or family member who you want to get to know better, plan a hike, and get walking!
Small stories about me make me think about you, because we all share some of the same weirdness.
It has been cold this week and I only had one day of meeting my 10,000 step goal. But today it warmed up to 43 degrees F and I could not resist going out for a late fall walk. It was also the first day of deer hunting season so I decided not to tempt fate by walking in the forest. I headed west into town, on the sidewalk.
I may actually have taken a bigger risk by walking in town, since there was so much to look at, so many curbs to step off, so many stores to get sucked into. My route took me up Main Street. My town is working on winning the title of “America’s Main Street” and so far has made it into the top 25 five different years, including this year. There is a lot of electric decorating that’s going to light the place up after Thanksgiving, and it really does make it a picture perfect, small town Main Street. (Please, please vote for Hayward, Wisconsin by going to this link, every day through December 12 http://mainstreetcontest.com/profile121 It’s a popularity contest – you don’t even have to go there to vote for it.)
After my halfway mark of 3,000 steps I headed home. On the way there was a big garage sale at my church, so I decided to walk through.I usually consider it safe to do that when I’m on foot because who wants to carry a bunch of stuff for a mile? Not me. My excuse for stopping was that I might find the perfect thing for Mom’s birthday. She loves garage sale treasures. Instead I found a whole box of really nice glassware – just the kind I’d been looking for at the thrift stores. They were heavy glasses, sixteen of them.
Leaving the sale with my box of glasses, I started looking for shortcuts home. I am always aware of the difference between “as the crow flies” and the distances I normally walk on the streets. Most of the time I’m trying to get more steps in and don’t mind, but the box wanted to get home, and there was kind of a path heading in the right direction. I took it.
It turned out to be the way to the impenetrable urban woods, where the church lawn crew dumped all their leaves and pine needles. I say impenetrable, but really it wasn’t. I was able to put the box on the ground and push it under the downed pine tree and follow it out into the ditch. The road I wanted to be on was right there, where the crow was still flying, in the direction of home. I was glad there were no cars going by though.
One more shortcut remained between me and my destination. I was getting a little tired, maybe a tad clumsy as well. But the thought of tripping and ruining all my new glasses kept me going so, so carefully.
It feels a little odd walking in places I normally drive, cutting across parking lots and ditches. It feels odd and sneaky taking back alleys and roads that most people don’t travel or even know about. But honestly, at my age, there aren’t a lot of things more exciting than this to do, so I like doing this. Especially with a heavy box.
I crossed the last highway and made it home, all the glasses intact. And today, once again, I finished my 10,000 step goal. But I will say it’s going to be harder to do it very often this winter, and it’s definitely harder with a heavy box. Might not do that again, just sayin’…
Stop pretending – you’ve probably done something like this too. What was in your “heavy box”?
It happened at night when I hadn’t paid attention to the forecast. I woke up in the morning and there were 4 inches of snow on the ground. I had already been forcing myself outside for a couple weeks, in temperatures close to freezing and my suspicion (of winter) and reluctance (to accept it) were coming on strong. The snow clinched it.
Since the snow I’ve developed some new diet and exercise parameters.
Diet first, I did the Noom thing already last spring and summer so I’ve got the psychological part well in mind. Lots of psych tricks, no “all or nothing” thinking, no real guilt about satisfying my cravings. In other words I’m going to welcome a few extra pounds of insulation. It’s cold out there. Dessert after supper every night will be the new benchmark. I’m going to weigh myself daily to make sure I’m not gaining too fast. I believe in moderation.
As for exercise, I’m going to change my daily step count goal from 10,000 to … basically whatever I get. I do enjoy a challenge though, so I might have a week or two during the winter when I see if I can keep it under 1,500 a day. Do you know how hard that is? It’s hard, but I can do hard things.
I’m thinking there might be a day now and then when it’s warm enough to bundle up and go cross country skiing outside. I have a goal for that sport too. There’s a particular hill that I attempted last year right after I got skis. This year, with the proper amount of instruction, I hope to ski down that hill and not fall over at the bottom. I missed the lesson and practice session last week. I don’t know how people make themselves leave their warm houses at 8:30 in the morning to go stand in a cold parking lot and do exercises. Besides, it was raining, wasn’t it? Somewhere?
Really though, what’s throwing me off my usual energy level and positive thinking habit is all this darkness. I’m used to going to bed when it’s dark but it’s so impractical to do that at 4:30 in the afternoon. I’m automatically tired looking at a dark sky. After a couple hours of pitch black, I tell myself it looks way too late to start cooking supper. But I have to do it anyway. The thought of dessert is the only thing that gets me through it.
All this is to say that I’m struggling, probably with the thought of winter more than winter itself. Thoughts are important, right Noom? And I live, thinking in my head, almost all the time. It’s going to be five long, dark months ahead. That’s what I’m thinking now, just sayin’…
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I’m coming.” Psalm 27:8
I’m thinking about that question, “does my heart have ears?” I think it does.
I was walking one evening this week, feeling thankful for a chance to get out where it was quiet, feeling the rhythmic, somewhat stumbling way my feet were hitting the uneven ground, feeling like the open sky was listening. I was thinking (because it’s too hard not to think) about all the decisions of the day, all the possible responses to upcoming events, and processing, processing.
I felt like I heard in my spirit the suggestion that I talk about all those things – like, just speak them out. So I did that, and as I got into it more, it didn’t feel terribly weird. It felt like I was being listened to. It was easy to credit God with that – it had sounded like his voice, and no one else was around.
Just to clarify – I have two Gwens in my life. One is my mother and the other is the friend who has been hiking the Birkie with me. Some who know us have been asking…
November 3, 2021. North End TH to Timber TH, loop. 6.5 miles, 14,828 steps
I asked, “Do you think we really need to go down this hill and touch that road?”
“Yes, of course we do,” Gwen told me. And so we walked down that last hill which marked the completion of our 34 miles of Birkie trail, stuck our poles in the sand, took a picture and started back up the hill. We had walked on the skate side of the Birkie and were looping back to the car on the classic side.
Today was cloudy and cold enough for gloves and hats, but we did end up shedding our outer layer of jackets. At one point near the end, we saw several large white snowflakes falling in the forest so we knew it was in the low 30’s for temperature.
I had spent time studying the map of our remaining section and had printed it out. That meant we only had to question ourselves at a couple intersections where fresh logging roads had added to the confusion.
Rocks and trees are the main features of this forest trail and the subjects of most of my photos. I’ve also started a collection of “meaningful” rocks to mark different hikes I’ve done, so I was on the lookout for a rock. The one that caught my attention was a bit bigger than the pebbles I usually pick up, but it had a pattern to it, and I liked it. Gwen doesn’t stop me from doing stupid stuff, she even carried the rock for me when I needed a rest. We had guesses as to how much it weighed. She won. Thirty-five pounds.
Our last stop before leaving Cable, Wisconsin and the Birkie Trail was the Brick House Cafe. It wasn’t that we were hungry, or needed the calories but more that I needed to see if the Chocolate Tower cake was as good as Gwen said it was. I figured we should mark our accomplishment with some kind of splurge, even if we ended up taking it home to put in the freezer (which, by the way, didn’t happen). This cafe is known for its lunches and desserts as attested to by the dozen hunters, and huntresses who trooped in shortly after we were seated.
What I really feel good about, in addition to feeling very exercised, is that I got to be a tourist in my own backyard. I would feel sad not to know what this internationally famous trail was like. Now I know where the trailheads are, how difficult and hilly the terrain can be, and how many more paths are there yet to be explored. I have that sense of ownership that comes with familiarity, and that feels good. The chances of me ever skiing this trail are almost nonexistent, well, they are nonexistent. Really nonexistent. But I have walked it. That’s good enough for me.
Tomorrow Gwen and I will finish the last section of the Birkie Trail, and it’s good timing because we are starting to get snow flurries and temps in the teens. Hiking this northern section of the trail has been quite different because we have used the actual Birkie trail rather than the single track bike trails. Another difference is that it’s about the busiest place “out in the woods” that I’ve ever seen. We are always crossing ATV trails, bike trails, logging trails and fire lanes and more than once we have been confused. Often we are telling ourselves to just enjoy the walk in the woods and see where we end up, because we have no clue where we are. Backing up, here are the finished sections.
September 12, 2021 Hatchery TH to Hwy 77 Bridge
I explored this short section myself one afternoon because I’ve been curious about the bridge ever since it went up. For years the Birkie ski race used to cross Hwy 77 near this spot and the road actually had to be covered with snow and closed while thousands of skiers crossed it. There was even talk of tunneling under the road, but the eventual decision was to put a bridge over it, making it much more convenient and safe. I’ve gone under this bridge countless times, and now I’ve also gone over it.
September 17, 2021. OO TH to Firetower TH. 5.53 miles, 12,410 steps
We had some logistical help when we hiked the section of OO to the Fire Tower trailhead. My brother dropped us off at the Fire Tower warming cabin and picked us up a couple hours later at the Johnson Center on OO. He rode mountain bike trails in the area while we hiked. In fact, there were quite a few bikers riding the trails that day. I guess some of them got hot and sweaty and had to change clothes, at least that’s the story we told ourselves as we passed the warming cabin at Boedecker Road where a guy was standing naked by his car. The things you see in the woods… I did not take a picture. It was a beautiful fall day in all respects!
September 30, 2021 Firetower TH to Timber Trail TH 6.9 miles, 15,484 steps
A couple weeks later we did the next section ourselves, doing a loop from the Fire Tower TH to Timber Trail warming cabin on the classic trail and back on the skate trail. It was another beautiful afternoon, but we had a later start. We didn’t make it back to the car until 6 pm and the sun was nearly down. Our days are getting noticeably shorter. This one got us a little tired. We did extra steps looking for trail signs and my real step count for that day was 19,172.
October 26, 2021. American Birkebeiner TH to North End TH. No idea
I could hardly believe we had taken almost a month off. It didn’t seem like that long a time because both Gwen and I started going to Ski and Tea. It’s a ladies ski group coached by some amazing, experienced cross country skiers. We’ve been getting together nearly every week for training on the Birkie. Since there’s no snow, we practice various ski techniques while hiking – it works. On the afternoon of the 26th we drove to the far end of the trail, the Birkebeiner TH in Cable and walked in some kind of a weird circle until we got back to the car a couple of hours later. Too many intersections, too many maps, too many trails. I think we set foot on enough of the Birkie to say we did a good section. My total step count for the day was 15,464, about 7 miles. Have I mentioned that there are lots of hills? There are LOTS OF HILLS.
And as I wrote, tomorrow we will hike our last section, Lord willing. I hope to post about our triumphant finish. Excited! Check in to see if we made it (and find out about our planned reward).
“For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, for the love which from our birth, over and around us lies; Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”
Thank you for taking this autumn walk with me.
It’s June, only 20 days away from the longest day of the year. The sun was still quite a way above the horizon at 7:30 pm when I took the picture above. In spite of this, last week we had a couple nights below freezing. The night it got down to 28 degrees, my new potato plants froze. They had just gotten above ground and were looking so healthy and strong. Everything else in the garden got covered with tarps and sheets and survived. It is light now at 5:15 am so maybe everything will grow fast and produce before the short summer is over.
I took several walks this week. It is scary how fast the trees went from bare to fully leafed out. It’s like they know they have to hurry. The wooded trails are SO BEAUTIFUL! My walks go slow because I am always stopping to take pictures, or identify bird calls. It all looks lovely to me and is like medicine for my soul.
Yesterday’s walk was past a beaver pond and a large marsh. I pushed through the bushes to get a view of the water and watched a family of ducks swimming. The cattails started rustling and moving and out of them came the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It had a grizzled white head and was prowling through the marsh, probably looking for nests with eggs. Later I saw a pretty box turtle digging a hole in the dirt for her eggs
It was a good walk. I am still counting steps – 13,000 yesterday and 10,000 today. The last two weeks I have been working on getting the garden going instead of walking, but even then it was easy to get 5,000 to 7,000 steps tilling, carrying mulch and fixing fence.
Suddenly, it is summer in this crazy, wild, northern place.
It’s Sunday, which means it’s a day off from the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Instead I want to update anyone who has wondered whether or not I accomplished anything with my December walking/fitness goals.
For a while there, the 10,000 steps a day thing was at the top of my list. It was hard to make it happen. I got tired of it and was glad when the month was over. But, guess what? It became more of a habit than I anticipated.
It was a challenge, and not meant to last forever, but I loved the activity and have kept it up, with a few alterations.
First, I lowered my daily expectation to around 8,000 steps, which I have heard is just as beneficial as the higher number. Who decides? I think I heard it was a somewhat arbitrary number that sounded good to someone in charge of a program.
Second, I don’t reach that number seven days a week. Realistically, there are days when it’s just not going to get done because something else is more important. But if I go two days without walking, I know it’s time to hit the road again. Now that the snow is gone it is so much easier, and so interesting to be outside in the spring!
In December I frequently found myself looking at fitness trackers and smart watches. Carrying my phone for GPS and counting steps was always an uncertain thing. I was always wanting to walk at the low end of the phone battery life. But I thought I could hold off getting one – maybe someone would get me one for Christmas?
So that’s what I finally did, bought myself a Fitbit Versa 3. I spent about a month wearing it 24/7 and got addicted to all that good information it was giving me. Then I noticed a reddened area on my wrist under the band that looked very unusual to me. Being a nurse, I immediately googled the problem and found scores of reports of allergic skin reaction and possible EMF sensitivity. I was very disappointed and stopped wearing it all the time.
I still use the Fitbit for shorter periods of time, and I always wear fabric between it and my skin. So far, so good – no new skin inflammation. It can still read my pulse and count steps, and give me notifications from my phone. I’m not using it to track my sleep though. I’m being cautious and giving my arm some free time at night. Basically, the Fitbit is now an expensive pedometer.
There’s more. I saw a trial offer for Noom on Facebook and decided to go for it. I like learning about different approaches to weight loss and wanted to know just what was so unique about this one. They promised I could lose what I wanted to lose by mid April, and they were right! I did it. I am back down to a weight I can easily live with, and I think I can keep myself there. Here’s why.
I’ve been made so much more aware of why I eat (overeat) and this understanding has made a lot of difference. The psychology around weight loss has taken some pretty big leaps. I was surprised by a lot of it, but it made sense. The daily lessons were short (I chose how long I wanted to spend on them). They involved some snarky humor, which helped it be interesting. And who doesn’t want a couple coaches and a group of fellow Noomers available for encouragement and accountability, right there in your phone, whenever you need them?! Again, a little addicting.
Apparently I wasn’t keeping track of when my trial period ended, and was a little surprised when my next monthly charge came through. I decided not to renew, even though the program was good and effective. Daily weighing and logging of meals raised my awareness of what I was doing to myself which was helpful, but also time consuming. It was like a long range project. I don’t need another project in April. They refunded the charge and cancelled my account with no hassle. I still have use of the free app, and I learned a lot of good stuff.
I feel pretty good about my general health and have added some new tricks to my “already pretty good lifestyle”. Everything isn’t perfect, and I’m still feeling wear and tear on my aging body, but I’m not dead yet and I’ve lived through 2020 without getting COVID 19! How great is that? Feeling blessed, just sayin’…