Sunday, July 26, 2015

Almost There!

Cheesin' with my pal, the FLT

I am both sad and incredibly thrilled to say...I am almost there! I am presently in the tiny town of Bainbridge on Map 26 with just a little over 100 miles left to travel. When I began I had a stack of maps - 54 to be exact - over half of which I had sent ahead to Irene Szabo because they were too heavy to carry. Now I am down to a mere six. I can hardly believe it.
View of New York hills

Whenever I start a trek of this magnitude I don't spend too much time looking ahead to the end while hiking. This makes the task seem insurmountable. I learned this on my first AT hike, my 1000 mile attempt I should say, when at 2 weeks in with swollen knees and blistered feet, thought, I have to do this for another 5 month and a half months? Best to take it one day at a time, focusing on stepping atop the next rock, dodging the next mud puddle, eating the next granola bar, and maybe so far as to where  you will sleep that evening. This lil lesson from the trail is one that I have transferred to the rest of my life. One step at a time. And now...holy ?@*! I'm here! Well almost.

One of the many stonewalls along the FLT and throughout the woods of NY

As you can see from my blog posts and those who have been trying to keep in touch with me via phone...wifi and cell service have been next to none. Since leaving Ithaca I have virtually hiked from one state forest to state park to stretch of wild private land to the next. Especially since finishing the Onondaga trail, the last of my 6 branch trails to hike along the FLT, the trail has become more unruly. It is evident that not too many venture out this way. But it's a shame. Because this portion of trail has been breath-taking and with all this quiet time to myself, I've had all the more ability to soak it in while I can.
Seen lots of these lil snails along the way - luckily I move faster than they do

Daily I stroll along rock walls that come and go for miles, weaving throughout the woods. I startle turkey and grouse and little tweeters of all kinds of which I don't know their names. I sidestep salamanders bathing in the wet of the trail and frogs the size of my thumbnail that hop as fast as their warty legs will take them. I gain momentum only to do a double take, then stop in my tracks and crouch down to eye level to examine yet another plant, wondering exactly which species of Agrimony I have, or Thistle, or Bedstraw. I look to the sky and wonder, how many more days of sun will I be graced with? or maybe hours or minutes? And I have moments in which I wish this simple hiking would never have to end and moments when I curse the very trail I walk upon and wish I had 100 miles less to do and best of all, long stretches where I think nothing at all. This trail has been a gift.

Indian Cucumber (Medeola virginiana) - the root is crisp and edible like a small potato or cucumber, however only harvest these where you have identified there to be an abundant population as they are endangered in some states (not classified as endangered in NY)

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) - the above-ground-parts can be made into a tea or tincture helpful in raising the body temperature and breaking a fever. 

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) - the leaves may be steeped for a flavorful lemony mint tea aiding in digestion or warming the body, and the individual red florets, which also have a minty flavor, may be eaten raw, in baked goods, or used to adorn a variety of dishes

Queen Anne's Lace aka Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) - all parts of this plant are edible from the flowers to the roots. It is actually related to our domestic carrot, the biggest difference being that this plant's root does not contain any beta carotene and is therefore whitish instead of orange. However, be CERTAIN you have this plant as fatally poisonous Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata) and Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) can both resemble this flower. Look for the purple floret near the center of the flowering top. Not for beginning foragers.

Agrimony (Agrimonia gryposepala) - the above-ground-parts may be steeped and made into a tea that is both astringent and diuretic, excellent for treating UTI's and inflammation in general.

However...with all this serene solitude one has to at times shake things up at bit. Enter the OutPost. I hit the Outpost, a lil biker bar on the edge of McDonaugh, on day in which I had a mere 13 miles to do. This has now become an easy day. So when I arrived at 2:30, I ordered a Coke and a big tossed salad and settled in, doing some writing and mileage planning for the next 2 hours. That was until Lynae and Carol strolled in. With my maps strewn all about we got to chatting about what I was doing out here but we hadn't gotten to the part about the plants yet. Then out of the blue Lynae exclaimed, "Do you know you can eat Day Lilies?!" I knew I had some friends-to-be here then and there.

Carol and Lynae
After some more chatting and wishing I could do nothing more than sit down and share a couple rounds with these ladies, Lynae and Carol said, "Too bad you aren't hiking back toward Bowman Lake, we'd have you over for the night!" To which I responded, "If you want to pick me up 5 miles down the road, I'll come over for the night!" I still had some miles to do before I could call it quits for the day as the next day I had a whopping 20 miles in store for me. Then I added, "Well and I would need to be dropped off at the same point about 8 am." They looked at each other, "Well sure, we could do that. But after we're done with you, you may not want to hike 20 miles tomorrow!" These ladies were so much fun, I decided it was worth the risk.

Carol and Lynae - can you tell these ladies are fun?
Many drinks and stories and even herbal recipes were swapped on this night as we tuned into the oldies station on a wind up radio and ate piles of veggies steamed over the fire. It was all I hoped it would be. The next day...I did indeed wake up at 8am and not much feel like hiking...but I did...20 miles to be exact and hiked off with wildflowers in my hair bestowed upon me by these two wild women. Thank you for the spontaneous trailside fun Lynae and Carol!

Lynae, Me, and Carol at Bowman Lake

I will have just one more stop in a town, maybe two, these being Downsville and Roscoe and so I hope to get a blog post out to y'all from there. I wish I could keep you up to date and have you virtually hike along with me all the way up to the eastern terminus...but alas I suppose this is a wilderness experience. If you don't hear from me before that lil country road in Claryville...I'll see you at the end!


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  3. Just read this today (Aug 3) after seeing article in Finger Lakes Trail newsletter at my local library. Sorry about the timing because I would have met you in Bainbridge -- I am an avid gardener/herb fancier and sometimes forager (my daughter and friends do more foraging than I do - inc mushrooms). Inspirational to read about your journeys.

    1. oops...can't identify myself there so I am Barbara (BHpurple - at- aol)

    2. Hi Barbara, it is too bad we didn't get a chance to meet up! I always enjoy meeting my readers and folks along the trail. I'm glad that you have been enjoying the blog. There will be more to come so stay tuned!

  4. Hi Heather!! I'm the Laura you were waiting for at Bowman!! Love your pics n hope to meet you sometime !!