Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Hiking

What in the Blue Blazes??

The day began with a picture perfect Saturday morning. After a week of hot and humid days and today waking to a clear sky and 60 degree temperature, I chose whimsy over reason.

A more training-disciplined person would have used this day to continue increasing mileage, 17 miles on the schedule. Deciding to save that 17-mile run for a day or two, I opted for a 12-mile hike with my Meetup group.

We were to hike an area called Sand Springs, new to me, then connect and continue on the Appalachian Trail (AT) on Stony Mountain.

Within the first kilometer of the hike, came the cable bridge across Stony Creek. This was my second experience walking a cable bridge, and its actually fun if not just a little intimidating. Just maintain your concentration.

Next came a rather peaceful section with bubbling stream, rhododendron bordering the trail, fields of ferns, and as you would expect, stones.

That peaceful section was quickly followed by a steep climb up the Yellow Springs Trail through a boulder field. As we climbed up and over rocks my eyes scanned for the blue blazes identifying the trail, looking for each new blue blaze to ensure I was still on trail. The thought “what in blue blazes am I doing here” crept into my psyche. Then to stay positive and keep my mind busy as my body stretched over and found footing on each new rock, I pondered where that phrase came from, what does it mean, etc.

Finally, we crested the top of Stony Mountain with me being the last arrival. A brief flat respite of trail, then a steep descent down, although shorter than the journey up.

Several miles later, we hiked through what had been the Yellow Springs Village. I understand there are some remnants of the town off-trail but on-trail, nothing was left of the mining village.

In our last several miles, we hiked a long gentler, but still rocky descent. This is after all the Pennsylvania portion of the AT, referred to by hikers as Rocksylvania.

Along the way we spotted the oversized, beautiful mushroom identified by our hike leader as Chicken of the Woods. It is reportedly safe to eat (please check it out with someone who knows about these things before doing so) and is so tasty is can be used as a meat replacement.

So, another section of the AT I had not hiked before is in the logbook. I will rest up a bit before I take on that ascent again.

I don’t usually use poles, but today they were helpful both on the journey to the top and the steep downhill that followed. I also opted for my heavy, clunky hiking boots over the trail running shoes I had originally planned to wear. When I’m heading out for a hike, I generally bring a pair and a spare.

How is your weekend going? And, when is the last time (if ever) you heard the phrase “what in the blue blazes..”

Garlic Mustard Pull on the Appalachian Trail

If it is Spring in Pennsylvania, you can be sure the invasive garlic mustard plant is showing off its tiny flowers somewhere near your favorite running trail.

Joining a garlic mustard pull on an evening hike was my opportunity to give a bit of volunteer time to benefit the Appalachian Trail. I don’t see myself shoring up stream banks or carrying in lumber to repair bridges and walkways over swampy areas. I do have extensive experience in weed pulling. There is a volunteer job for everyone and this one suits me.

The Invader

The garlic mustard plant found its way to our shores and doesn’t have any plan to leave voluntarily. It rudely spreads itself in the undergrowth of forests and then becomes the dominant plant, muscling out native species. So, if you are looking for a beneficial but lightweight volunteer gig with your local trails, contact their leadership and ask if they are planning a garlic mustard pull. Then, join in.

Based on my experience, here is a preferred method to go about this task:

Place yourself in or near a full bed of garlic mustard so that you can reach several plants without changing position. Then, do a gentle squat (very beneficial mid-hike). Staying in the squat position, with each of the plants within reach, place your fingers around the base of the plant, then pull straight up. The plant gives way easily, especially if your weed pull is scheduled a day or so after a rain.

Keep pulling until your bag (or bags) are full. If you are near a road intersection, bags can go directly into the car trunk of one of the hikers. Then, good-bye garlic mustard.

Bag everything. Any weeded plant left on the ground is likely to reseed.

What’s for Dinner?

I won’t leave you with the impression that any plant is all bad. A fellow hiker informed me that she eats garlic mustard, adding it in her salad. I checked this out on a couple of sites and in seems that with certain precautions, the garlic mustard will provide a bit of zest to your table.

The most thorough site I found regarding eating this plant is the cleverly titled EAT THE INVADERS.

The article includes other edible options for garlic mustard, including preparation methods for a foods from pestos to stews, and even a cocktail.

The author also offers a reasonable list of safety precautions to consider before using the plant. Most are common sense items, but if you plan to forage, I suggest giving their article a read.

Spring offers wonderful opportunities for running the trails and for trying new things. Do you have experience foraging food? Have you participated in a mustard garlic pull or efforts to remove any other invasive species from our forest floors?

Beach Dreams on an Icy Day

February is a great teaser. One day, the afternoon brings balmy 50-degree temperatures perfect for a run. The following morning, a layer of ice clogs your doorways and walkways. You hope your yaktrax hold on for your brief stint in the out of doors.

There is nothing to do with February but enjoy the balmy days and dream of beaches on icy days. My beach memories this year are of the beautiful islands of Guadeloupe.

This is not a swimming beach due to the ruggedness of the coastline and an undertow. It is an enchanting beach where I became mesmerized by the ocean. Many visitors and residents take a hike to reach the cross atop the cliff.

If cliff climbing isn’t for you, stop by this lovely swimming beach, Place de Petit-Havre on Grande-Terre. Don’t worry about bringing your beach umbrella. When you emerge from the beach there are ample trees for shade

Anse de la Perle sits in a crescent of the shoreline. A beach for stronger swimmers that is rated by many as the most beautiful beach on Guadeloupe. Orange sand, coconut trees with a few beach bars sprinkled nearby, it’s no surprise this location was chosen for the series Death in Paradise.

If you’re interested in an authentic view of a pirate’s cove, stop at La Rhumérie du Pirate for some creole cuisine, casual outdoor dining and a beautiful view of the cove. Take a surreptitious peak around the side of the deck and you will see lobster pots bobbing in the water and staff preparing fresh seafood.

As I wrap up this post, snowflakes have again returned. So, I will return to my beach dreaming. If this persists I may take you on a future blog tour of our drive across the inland mountains.

Travelers hint: If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., Norwegian Airlines now has affordable and convenient flights to Pointe-à-Pitre Guadeloupe out of JFK.

What makes a Successful Running Year

I suppose the answer to my title is this: Any year I can run is a successful running year. Whether you have met your goals or whether you had goals at all, the simple act of getting out the door and breaking into a run can constitute success.

That may sound like a low bar to qualify for success, but I will claim it as mine for 2018. There are years when events in life, happy or sad, expected or not, take precedent over any preset running plans for the year.

Having said that, there were a few highlights, like that crazy rainy Boston that made me question my sanity but in the end left me a decent finish place entitling me to this fabulous shirt

The photo doesn’t do it justice. It is merino wool and light as a feather.

So, yes, we will call this a success.

Trying something new in 2018, I ran in a track meet for the first time since 4th Grade. That effort qualified me for the 2019 National Senior Games, and who doesn’t want to go to New Mexico to compete and then do some sightseeing? So, we will put this event in the success category as well.

Then, there was the Sasquatch Adventure Run. It was a fun, scenic run through horse trails, lots of climbs, a few steep downhills and crossing a fast-running stream. What seemed like a minor trip turned out to be a deep cut to my knee resulting in stitches and time off from running for a few weeks.

I didn’t realize I had an injury until Photographer Clay Shaw, perched on the creek bank said to me “Did you fall? You’re bleeding.” With only a mile or so to go to the finish, I simply kept running.

This I would not call a success as much as a wakeup call. My success has been running and hiking trails over the last 20 years and never needing stitches until this event.

So what’s up for 2019? In my seventies I’m not anticipating any great breakthrough moments. But maybe I will find some fresh territory to run or some races I haven’t yet experienced. Any suggestions?

Finding Sasquatch – A Preservation Trail Run 5 & 10K

A week of high temperatures and humidity gave way to an evening of downpours that continued through Saturday’s Sasquatch Preservation Trail Run 5K and 10K. The run is billed as an adventure run – and definitely is. It begins at North Branch Farms and benefits the Farm & Natural Lands Trust of York County.

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Sasquatch did appear. I’m sure there must have been more than one, since I saw him (or her?) several times on the trails. The mixture of terrain was good, with some open pasture land, some horse trails through the woods, and at least five or six horse jumps to find our way over by whatever means, followed by short but steep ups and downs. Then near the end of mile 5 came the stream crossing.

With the intense rain the night before Codorus Creek was running high and fast, more than waist-high for me. A couple of burly volunteers were stationed in the creek to ensure none of us was swept downstream. 

It was when I emerged from the stream that I realized that from a quick fall – down and back up again in a second – that I had blood running from my knee. I reached the finish line at 1:27:30. Friends who had finished much earlier were there cheering. Seeing my bloody knee, they flagged down a gator. I hopped in for  a ride back to my car, pulled out my first aid kit, and with the help of the volunteer cleaned out and bandaged my knee  well enough to get to urgent care.

With only a light breakfast hours before and 10K of trail under my belt, I decided just a bit of nourishment was needed to keep from getting lightheaded. At the McDonald’s nearest to the highway, I pulled up at the drive-through. Creek-wet from the waist-down and blood dripping from my knee, I wasn’t suitable for even the interior of a McDonald’s. My order?  Apple pie and coffee, please. Calories and caffeine.

Back on the highway to urgent care, I was seen quickly.  As expected, stitches were in order. Not a great ending to a scenic run, but for my many miles of trail runs and hiking, this was my first experience with stitches. Bumps, bruises, scratches and a few insect bites, yes, but never stitches until now. A small price to pay for many wonderful experiences in the outdoors.

How was your weekend run? Hopefully less eventful than mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kipona Weekend

My capital city celebrates each Labor Day with activities around our beautiful sparkling waters of the Susquehanna River, our Kipona Festival.

Here you will find hand-made art items, musical performances and food, lots and lots of food.

While all that is wonderful, my early arrival on City Island was designed to get in a few miles before joining running friends Todd and Jen as they hosted a River Runners group run to celebrate their upcoming marriage. Todd and Jen met at a group run years ago so it was only fitting to host a run and finish it off with post-race snacks. Group runners began at different paces, making our way up river through food and performance tents not yet occupied by vendors and visitors.

Runners congregated post-run to chat and munch. I saved my snack for later as I had more miles on my schedule. On my last lap around City Island, I stopped at the Pow-Wow Festival and listened a bit to the haunting sound of a wood flute while I picked up a Fry Bread Taco. Delicious and far too big for me to finish.

While running down river earlier, I saw that wires were being set up for a tightrope walker scheduled for later in the day. Given the gusts of wind coming across the water, I expected the walk would be cancelled. Not so, as my friend Jennifer caught in this photo.

 

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Not a water walking nymph as the eye might have us believe, but a graceful tightrope walker probably 40 feet or so above the water.

Overall a relaxing weekend, ending with an out-and-back six-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, 93 degrees at the start but feeling cooler on the trail, Our return trek took us into dusk, ending with a dark trail alight with the beam of our headlamps.

The end of summer heat and humidity did nothing to dampen my appreciation of the  bountiful beauty of this region. Never forget those who labor to protect our environment so that we can enjoy it.

I will end this post with another view of our sparkling Susquehanna, this one from atop Peter’s Mountain, taken during the hike, a scenic close to a beautiful weekend.

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Power lines can be an eyesore along some trails. In this case, our hike leader Mark captured the view as the sun was about to take that last shred of pink beneath the horizon, the lines having the look of architecture, drawing our eye down into the valley below.

Art in the Wild at Wildwood Park

What better way to spend a hot, steamy Independence Day Week than a walk (or run) on a shaded towpath and hilly perimeter around Wildwood Park. 

Using mostly natural materials, each year artists construct art that reflects the natural setting where a variety of flora and fauna have a happy home. Here is your preview:

 

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Forces

 

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Boundless Tabernacle

 

 

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Embracing Diversity

 

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Larger than Life

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Harmonic Convergence

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 Nature’s Gallery

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Birth of Mother Nature

 

 

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Natural Abstraction

 

So this week of July 4th, give us your independent vote. The official awards have been given, but we can still make choices right here. What’s your preference in art? Go Wild with your response!