Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Nature

Ultimate Family Gift: A Themed Vacation

Here we are in the midst of the holiday season. Are you still looking for that perfect family gift to remember all year long? Consider a themed vacation in a sunny place.

Winter doldrums will hit, but there are a number of ways to benefit from the warmth of the Caribbean Islands and those in the Pacific as well. I’ve enjoyed a few days away now and then to simply read, enjoy friends and family, savor the local foods, and of course, run.

There are any number of resorts that will cater to your needs as you let the cares of the world wash away. There is another way to spend some time with family: dig deep into a topic they would find worthwhile or intriguing. I just experienced one of these on my first visit to the Caribbean in many years.

My recent week away on the French island of Guadaloupe included a study on the topic of the Slave Trade History in Post-Colonial Guadeloupe. 

Ruins of a colonial prison

I came away from my week in Guadeloupe with a deeper understanding of the complex, violent past of many of the islands in the area.

Historian interpets signage at a slave rebellion site 

I also learned some about the plant life and the topography of this beautiful island, much I would have overlooked had I chosen a more passive vacation.

We also had opportunity to enjoy the many beautiful and varied beaches of Guadaloupe

On a much earlier trip to Hawaii, just by chance I happened upon an announcement in a local windward side free newspaper. A local civic historic group was offering a tour of ancient sites in the area. I was surprised that with the myriad  of tourists on the island of Oahu, we were  the only non-residents of Hawaii taking the tour. It was a magnificent opportunity to learn about ancient fish ponds. sacred burial grounds and a drive to some cliff locations that mark the historical changes of power on Oahu.

As a proponent of both the get-away-and-be-pampered vacation and the thought-expanding vacation, I’ll provide my ideas on what makes the latter a success.

1.Prepare well for the subject or territory you will be exploring. In my recent trip, I sought out fiction and non-fiction literature to give me a basis for the history and a sense of place. Ask your tour contact for their suggestions for advance reading.

2. If you are not on a specific topic tour, keep an eye out for information, both on the web and in print, that may be offered by local groups such as the one I ran across in Hawaii. Generally they know their subject matter well and are eager to share their knowledge.

3. Consider a trip that includes a homestay, at least for a portion of the trip. My trip to Guadeloupe did. I stayed in the home of a professional young woman and came to understand much of family life, residential architecture designed for the lifestyle and the climate, and the favorite restaurants and home cuisine that are preferred by locals.

4. Learn in advance who will be your guide and who will be providing information of the credentials of your primary guide. If you are doing a study tour, the background of the leader should be available to you. Is he or she an educator, a resident or former resident, a frequent traveler to the area?

5. What is the maximum size of your group? A smaller group can move more efficiently and sometimes have access to venues not available to larger groups. It also offers more opportunity for individual questions and discussion, but may be a bit more costly. There are always trade-offs.

6. Will there be downtime to digest information and enjoy time with your host or fellow participants? Simply taking a drive for the mountain view, enjoying a warm walk on a sunset beach, or following up on a lead of a wonderful local eatery can provide a break and add to your memories.

7. Will the tour be age-appropriate and of interest for your entire family? Will there be recreational time for those less interested?  

Do you search for something more intriguing for family vacations? Is there a topic or activity your entire family enjoys? Have you tried a vacation exploring a specific topic or engaging in a home stay with a local? I’d love to hear your experiences.

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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!

 

 

 

 

Best Intentions and Almosts

via Daily Prompt: Almost

I planned with the best of intentions. Barring bad weather getting in the way, I could get some rest after an 11-hour flight, then make an early morning drive to the eastern shore of Maryland for the 50K Pain in the Neck.

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My view from morning run before departure flight

Arriving home and with snow in the morning forecast, I pondered instead of an early morning drive, leaving several hours after my flight arrived, then spending the night near the race start. I almost followed through, but decided instead to unpack my bags and make my way through several weeks of snail mail.

As jet lag began to set in, my desire to do the race was offset by my desire for some sleep and downtime, so I considered a fallback to my almost.

My fallback was  The Last Mile, a race I enjoy doing with friends. It offers pottery age-group awards and the local fire company makes chicken corn soup for the runners. I always buy an extra container to take home when they have any to spare.

 

Last Mile (it’s actually 5 miles) AG award from a previous year when I did better than an ‘almost’

Well, I almost went. But, I slept in (jet lag, you know) and the snow coming down looked so pretty from my side of the window and the temperature was hovering around 15 degrees F. So, I almost went to my fallback race, but no.

By afternoon with the almosts behind me, temperatures had tilted up past 20 degrees. 

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24 hours after my tropical pre-departure run, I’m running along the frozen Susquehanna.

Out the door I went, running through some lovely light snowflakes. It’s good there are 24 hours in a day (sometimes more – or less – when you’re moving between time zones).

Wishing you a wonderful new year and courage in working around your almosts.

 

 

 

 

Favorite Month, Favorite Marathon

 

In spite of a lack of training, as in one 16-mile run over the last few months, in spite of zero (0) speed work since summer, in spite of a lingering ailment that I continued to nurse, November 12 dawned and I once again toed the line at the Enders Harrisburg Marathon.

This is my hometown marathon where the running community has more heart than anywhere else I have run. The marathon and the running community draw me in whether I am ready for it or not.

Most of the last 20 years or so, I have volunteered along its course, organized the Pre-race Pasta Dinner, and helped at packet pickup. All of those volunteer stints were a painless way to spend time with other runners, see old acquaintances and make new ones and, in a small way, pay back this wonderful running community in Central Pennsylvania that offers friendship, company along the training miles, and the beauty of watching other runners achieve their goals.

I could not stay away from that start, knowing my long term training would see me through 26 miles albeit at a much slower than usual pace. Or I could simply drop if it didn’t seem in my best interest to continue.

And so it was that I walked some miles,

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Photo Credit: Paul Moretz

and ran some miles through perfect marathon weather.

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Photo Credit: Adrienne Mitford

I wore my Garmin but avoided looking at the numbers, hugged a few good friends working as course monitors and cheering along the course and finished with a personal worst (PW) (5:23), which I prefer to think of as my Age 70 personal record (PR).

It wouldn’t be November without the Harrisburg Marathon, my favorite marathon during my favorite month. As it comes to a close, I try to avoid the garish lights rushing the holiday season and rushing the end of this beautifully sedate month of November which has its own lovely light. It occurs just before full darkness, the last of leaves hanging on to beautiful nearly-bare branches.

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Something about the November air says keep running, breathe deep, and be ready for a beautiful and possibly difficult winter of cold weather distance training and trail runs.

Goodbye, November. You have been lovely, as always.

 

 

Walking in Solothurn – Day 5 and Farewell

Our final day hiking began with a train from Solothurn to Deitingen where we walked through a lush forest to the lake of Inkwil.

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The pilings in this lake area are a Unesco world heritage site, originally houses on stilts now primarily underwater due to changes in environment over the thousands of years since the houses were built.

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After another hour of walking we came to a clearing in the forest where two Friendship Force of Solothurn volunteers Susan and Martin surprised us with a forest luncheon.

 

We learned how to properly score a sausage prior to placing over the fire.

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Jürg demonstrated the proper technique to score a sausage to achieve the desired appearance.

Bidding goodbye to Susan and Martin, we continued out of the forest and were again on open trail where we came upon the Lake of Aeschi, a lovely tourist stop suitable for swimming and having a beverage on the lawn that banks to the lake.

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A beautiful afternoon of sun and water followed by a farewell dinner with many thank you and good-byes, and of course music of the region. 

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Tomorrow, we leave this wonderful hive of hikers to cast ourselves to various destinations. Some will continue to travel in Europe, others like myself will be returning to our homes.

I will miss the door-to-door public transport that Switzerland offers. Among the first departures in the morning, I catch the earliest bus at our stop. The bus drops me at the Solothurn train station where I then board the train for arrival at the station in the Zurich Airport, finishing my morning commute with  a walk through security and on to my airline’s gate.

Many thanks, Friendship Force of Solothurn for a hospitable and healthy journey.