Sunday, July 26, 2015

Friends from Here to There

What a trail this has been since I left Ithaca!  I have experienced heavy rain (surprise, surprise!), crystal clear blue skies, temps so cold I could see my breath and I huddled with a hand warmer in my sleeping bag to so hot that I began to suffer the effects of dehydration and thought I might just melt into the trail somewhere never to be found again, views of rolling hills and dark pine woods full of such incredible beauty I simply didn’t want to stop hiking for the day, and trail magic from both new found friends and old. A lot can happen in 150 miles! And speaking of miles, at the time of writing (7/22/15) this I am just 180 miles from the end of my trek.

I can hardly believe it. Can I start back at the beginning and do it all over again? Well, yes, I could I suppose, but I’m not that crazy, not in the same hiking season at least.

Saba Alemayehu and me at Silk Jones in the Ithaca Commons
Allow me start with leaving Ithaca. Above is a pic of my good friend from college whom I had not seen in ten years. Saba is a grad student at Cornell studying International Development with just one semester left to go. Plus she is a ton of fun. I enjoyed two luxurious nights at her downtown apartment and we hit the town on the second night. We enjoyed dinner at the Bandwagon – an incredible selection of veggie burger and french fry toppings and the best dark beer I do believe I have ever had – and then drinks at Silky Jones.

At this bar, where trivia night was in full swing – who ever knew trivia could be so rowdy – Saba and I met up with Marina and Marietta. These two women are graduates of SevenSong’s School of Northeast Herbal Medicine located in Ithaca. SevenSong was a guest teacher of mine when I attended the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. He is a wealth of information and sarcastic humor, both of which I appreciate and the latter so rare and much needed in the herbal world. I managed to meet up with these two herbal ladies through the one and only other distance hiker I met while hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail last summer. I had remembered Sprout telling me she had lived for some time in Ithaca so when I knew I was coming through, had looked her up. She in turn contacted some like-minded folks for me to meet up with. 

Thank you Sprout for arranging, and Marina and Marietta for attending a blind date with this hiker! Again, thank you Saba!

Before hiking out of Ithaca, I also had a chance to chat with Lee Rayburn of  WHCU 870 AM and 95.9 FM about my journey thus far. Here is the link to the short radio segment:

A creek crossing along the FLT - one of the benefits of all this rain, plenty to drink and beautiful streams 
Once out of the city I was welcomed back to the trail with a good flash and boom of a thunderstorm, complete with winds and dropping tree limbs. Soaked and all-too-late taking cover in the Chestnut Lean-to I received a message from Robin Carlisle Peck, she said that she and her husband Paul Warrender (who supported me my first day in Ithaca) thought it a good idea that I come back to their house for the night given the weather. Done.

And so I spent yet another comfortable night in the Ithaca area, able to once again do laundry and dry out all my gear (that I had just finished drying out the day before) as well as a giant burrito for dinner and a cold beer in the evening lounging about with now good friends, Robin and Paul. I considered just staying in town for the Grassroots fest which I attended several years in a row in my late teens but then decided I might never leave town if I did that!

Joe McMahon by the Shindagin Lean-to. This lean-to is perched above a rushing waterfall and is complete with log benches and a large handmade round wooden table.
Paul drove me back to the trail the next day and on the way picked up Joe McMahon. Joe is an Ithaca resident, an active member of the Cayuga Trails Club and Chairperson of the National Areas Commission. We had made plans to link up so that he could not only hike with me awhile but show me a more scenic route through a new detour that had me on roads for several miles. On this morning it was misty and so cold we could barely stand about with catching a chill, thus we knocked out the miles. We took a nice lunch at the Shindagin Lean-to once it had finally warmed up in the afternoon and then took off on the miles of trail that Joe, his wife Gail and another friend maintain. Little did I know what laid just around the bend.

The first of Joe's stone scultpures I saw - not far east of the Shindagin lean-to
More of Joe's Piles of Rocks

Here Joe and his friends got creative, building a stone wall around this Ash tree that may not be here forever, but perhaps the stones will remain standing.
Joe McMahon has been building these for years. He began on friends', Andy and Connie's, property, then his own, and then on the trail. I cannot tell you exact coordinates except where they can be found but I can tell you to begin your exploration at the Shindagin Lean-to and hike east for about 2 miles keeping your eyes open. They are pretty hard to miss. I asked him what he calls these sculptures to which he responded, “Piles o’ Rocks.” The truth is these sculptures begin as piles of rocks, usually the piles left by farmers from last century who cleared the land to plant crops, but once Joe is done with them they are art installations. Thank you for sharing your masterpieces with me Joe!

Connie and Andy
In our travels, Joe and I crossed the property of Andy and Connie. Here we enjoyed a lengthy break with good company and fresh carrots picked straight from the garden alongside a tub of homemade hummus. Thank you for your hospitality, Andy and Connie, and your home is beautiful!

One of the amazing views seen daily with Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) in the foreground - remember this is a plant that is pretty to look at but dangerous to touch as it contains chemicals that can cause burns to the skin when the affected skin is exposed to sunlight. I have rubbed up against truckloads of this stuff out here and had no ill effect but I imagine I have just been lucky or maybe it's thanks to all those rainclouds.
Back on the trail I hiked for several days  headed for Cortland. The weather was beautiful. However here’s another surprise for you….the “new” shoes bit the dust.

Brooks, I am sad to say that we are done. Back to the drawing board on lightweight but durable kicks to wear when distance hiking.
Enter Roger Hopkins. Oh, the trail really does have a way of bringing factors, whether these be people, plants, events, together serendipitously. The day my right foot decided to bust through the inner seam of my shoe and I thought I might just chuck them over the side of the mountain like Cheryl Strayed but then had more sense than that, Roger Hopkins was due to pick me up and shuttle me into Cortland for a resupply. When Roger arrived he not only came early, taking my pack for the last two miles but had all the deets about a shoestore just outside of town that could provide me with what I needed. So we did shoes, resupply, and dinner all in the matter of 2 hours and then back to the trail before dark. I never got so much accomplished in such a short period of time and had fun while doing it. Thank you so much, Roger!!

So far those $55 Sauconys out-performing the $120 Brooks. Go figure.

Kit and Coy
Earlier that day I had hiked full speed through a backyard and into the woods, from which it was just a short jaunt down to a trail register and a lovely lil overlook  of waterfalls and a gorge below. I no sooner had stopped to sign in when I heard,

“Heather!” I had hiked miles since Ithaca…who could this be?

I was soon greeted by an adorable pup named Coy and his owner Kit. Kit had found my blog online and had been following along for sometime. She knew that I was in the area and would be passing through, quite literally, her backyard soon, and so when she happened to see me breeze by her window, she dashed out to say hello. We had fun chatting and I was grateful for the human (and canine) interaction to take my mind off my crumbling shoes. It was so nice to have met you, Kit! I’ll have to stop by again when I have more time and less miles to do!

And I leave you with one more we didn't actually make friends, in fact I nearly stepped on him, but we are sharing the same woods and like the same things like lean-tos, although he likes to eat them whereas I like to sleep in them.

Porcupine on his way to scurry up a tree - I got to watch him amble nearly to the top when I lost sight of him

1 comment: