Monday, February 14, 2011

Sheer Stupidity or How My Arms and Back Came To Be So Sore From a Hike

The week-end began with a hike at one of the parks along the Potomac River.  The day was expected to be relatively warm, but it was overcast and felt cooler than it was. The trail ran through tall, decidous trees that are bare now for winter. In many places, particularly at the beginning, the width of the trail was covered in ice, but we found good footing trudging through the vegetation alongside the trail. It was easy walking and a good day to be outdoors. After an hour or so, we wound our way down to the Potomac and paused at this scenic spot.

Then we moved on, following the trail along the river gorge. From my mountain-bike-racing days, I tend to hyper-focus on the trail in front of me. All I pay attention to is the condition and terrain of the trail in front of my, gauging my physical abilities. I'll cycle through studying the path right in front of me, to a view about 5 feet in front, and then further ahead. But any irrelevant information, such as what's going on outside the periphery of the trail itself -- I don't even notice. Which was perfectly appropriate for mountain-bike-racing, since we were always on pre-planned courses. But it's not appropriate for hiking, particularly on new trails.

The trail, alongside the rocky edge, became more narrow and evolved into single-track. We were ever so slightly gaining elevation. We came to an area of small boulders to clamber over. I love rock scrambling! I was focused on finding the right spot for my foot  on the increasingly narrow, yet ice-covered path, often using my hands to somewhat crawl up and along the trail.

Glancing ahead to see how far we still needed to go, I stopped and looked around. That's when I noticed we had crawled/hiked our way onto a rocky, icy ledge no more than three-feet wide. On one side was the hillside. On the other side .... nothing. Off the edge was just a plunge down into the Potomac about 50-75 feet below us.

The other hikers didn't seem to be bothered about it, but I thought it was a particularly stupid place to be. One wrong step and ... ...  While letting this all soak in to my brain, the hikers ahead had scouted out the trail ahead, came back, and said we couldn't continue further along as the trail up ahead was "treacherous". And this part of the trail wasn't???

The only option was to go back. I realized I couldn't physically turn around; I was going to have to crawl/slide down. Trying to move backward, I couldn't get secure footing on the trail. Even in spots that weren't icy, the earth was frozen, making moving downhill slippery.

That's when the fear kicked in. It wasn't my irrational, panic-attack-type fear of heights. This was totally rational, totally logical fear of death. I remembered the banner at one park along this river that states "Since such-and-such a date, X number of people have died from falling into the Potomac. Stay away from the edge." I remember reading articles in the Washington Post each year on people "playing on the rocks" who fell in and died. I remember thinking they were effin' idiots for being so stupid. Now, it could be me. And I thought: is this how people end up having to be rescued?

I made my way down. Slowly. With my fingers, I dug out a spot on the hillside to make a hand grip. Then I'd slide down on my butt a few inches. Make another handhold. Slide. And again. And again. All the time, holding on for dear life.

Once we all got off that ledge, we quit the trail and bushwhacked back to safer terrain. We took another side trail. When we saw it was heading to the edge again, we opted out. Found another trail that safely led down to a view at the river. The rest of the hike back was as pleasant as the beginning. Our 3.5 miles easy winter trek took us 3.5 hours.

"AWOL on the Appalachian Trail"

Pertinent topic + Kindle sale + "2 books a week" challenge and I ended up totally immersed in David Miller's book: AWOL on the Appalachian Trail - his account of thru-hiking the trail.

I could not put down the book. Finished in it an evening and the next morning. He has such an engaging, conversational style of writing and I liked the topics he focused on.

He writes about the reasons behind his decision to take on the journey; the relationship with his wife and how he missed his children; and the people that came in and out of his life along the trail - in particular, this gave me a good perspective on the type of people you meet long-distance hiking, the correct etiquette for interactions, and how safe one may feel.

He provides great color around the trail conditions and the type of terrain and forest cover you'd walk thru. For instance, I had no idea how steep, rocky, exposed sections of the trail are.

He describes, without being repetitive, daily life on the trail: planning for food, "heading into town" days, dealing with injuries, and why hikers take "zero" days. I almost felt as if I was trudging alongside him - getting hungry. Or wet. And being thrilled by "trail magic" - goodies left by other hikers.

Because I enjoyed his writing style, I wished he had offered up more reflections on how the thru-hike changed his life. But maybe that's the takeaway. Many people do a thru-hike like this with the expectation of problems being solved, resolutions achieved, and life-changing outcomes. But that's not necessarily the case. It's just one event, in a lifetime of many. Maybe your life evolves in more subtle ways.

I was fascinated by his account. Prior to reading it, I had no interest in spending 5-7 months hiking alone on the AT. And after reading the book, I still have no desire! I'm perfectly happy just reading about it. I'll stick with my mini-adventures :)

Signed Up For a 330-Mile Bike Tour

I was researching some fun ideas for the summer and landed on some bike touring websites. I thought it might be fun to ride the C&O Canal and camp. Or, ride the Great Allegheny Passage trail from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, PA. This particular night, I found out that the Adventure Cycling Association offers a supported tour that includes BOTH trails. One can start in D.C. and ride 330 miles in 7 days, camping each night along the way. Sounds ideal! So I wrote my essay/application, paid my deposit, and got accepted.

On the tour, we'll average 46 miles a day. Now, since I probably haven't even ridden 46 miles over the past 10 years, I think I better get on the bike ...

The "Psychological Index" of a Warm, Sunny Day

February 6, 2011

Sunday arrived sunny, dry, and warm - 40 degrees by 9:00am. We need a new weather term. We have the "wind chill" index to indicate how much colder it really feels than the actual temp. We need one to indicate how good you feel when a winter day is suddenly warmer and brighter than expected. Today's "psychological" index was at least 65 degrees! It was a get-out-and-play day.

I need to get some miles on the bike, which is a whole 'nother story. So I headed out to the North / Central rail/trail. In the parking lot at the trail, as I was getting my bike and gear together, other people looked at me like I was nuts. Ha! Let them stare. I knew what I was doing.

The joke was on me as I discovered that the freezing rain the day before left the trail as a path of ice, with ruts from a gazillion footprints frozen in time. There was no way I could get any traction and ended up putting my bike away.

Instead, I spent about an hour+ "hiking" the ice-path. Came across these awesome tracks! Couldn't wait to get home and research them. Concluded it was only a dog -- but a big dog!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Groundhog Day / Imbolc - Spring is on its Way!

February 2, 2011

The contemporary tradition of Groundhog Day is rooted in the ancient Celtic tradition of Imbolc - a time to celebrate the return of light and warmth: Spring.

When Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition evolved into Candlemas Day and became associated with St. Brigid.

It is believed that Imbolc gives an indication of the remaining length of winter:
If the day is cloudy and moist (indicating a warm air mass) - spring is nigh!
A sunny, bright, crisp, clear day (due to a cold front) - more days of winter.

Here, it was cloudy, drizzly, foggy - Spring is just around the corner!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More Snowshoe'g!

Energized by this new activity, I head to Susquehanna State Park. I plan to take the trail that runs along the river.

There's more snow here than at Gunpowder. But the river's edge trail is difficult with snowshoes. It follows a rail bed, but there are many ties missing -- just an open hole. Also, the trail is narrow - sticker bushes on one side, on other side, a drop off. I give up on the snowshoes.

Instead, I put on my hiking boots and explore the park.

For several minutes, I amuse myself watching this flock of birds chirping in the trees, then one-by-one fly to a particular spot on the ground, wait til they all are there, and then whoosh! fly off as a pack.
They repeat this endlessly. I imagine it's take-off practice.
The black specks (right-side center) are the birds.

By the time I left the park, mid-afternoon, the sun was out. Temps were in the high 30s. I seriously miss spending all week-end outdoors. My daily morning routine since Christmas includes checking the weather forecast for the upcoming week-end, hoping for mid 30s.


We have a fairly heavy snowfall mid-week. There seems to be enough snow on the ground to pull out my new toys: a set of MSR snowshoes.

I try them on, testing them walking on my deck. They're unwieldy, feeling clumsy. I'm not so sure about this but looking forward to giving them a try.

I head to a local park and strap them on. The learning curve is about: 10 steps !!! Snowshoeing is fun! Just like hiking, but you have to pick up your feet more. (Which is something I'll say to myself several times over the course of the week-end.) It's like walking on mermaid tails. If you don't pick up your feet enough, you'll trip yourself.

I end up spending two hours out on the trails. It's great exercise, quite exertional.

There were very few people out at the park; it was eerie.

Still Can't Get Outside Enough

Two more week-ends in January have temps below freezing during the day (my threshold) and/or snow and rain. I'm getting antsy. I loved the calm, peaceful, relaxed state-of-mind I achieved by my week-ends outdoors, as well as the confidence and sense of self-sufficiency. I'm eager to get out; but stymied by the weather.

Fortunately, I get outside for some time during most every week-end. And 2-3 times a week, I escape for a walk at lunchtime. I'm getting some sunshine, but not enough.

Scouting Out a Trail

I've been invited by a group to participate in their leadership training. I'll start leading hikes / outings in the spring. I plan to start with something I am very familiar with. I map out a route around the Savage Park area. Today, I plan to scout out my chosen route and see how it works.

And it's a good thing I've decided to do that.

The park is a mess. The county is doing sewer work. Much of the section were my selected trails wind through are now closed off and dug up. Heavy equipment has been moved in. Portions of the trail have been re-routed, onto paved paths. The only way to get a decent hike in is to do portions of 1-2 miles each, driving to get to each section. That's not going to work.

I'm going to have to cancel plans for my very first outing.

Morgan Run Environmental Area / Hike

Participating in a day-long course on camping meant that ... there was no time to actually go camping. So with a free morning on hand for the week-end, on the spur of the moment, I joined up with a group hiking at Morgan Run Environmental Area.

This is the group that hikes "for time" in my perception, covering ground as quickly as possible. But it was a new area for me, and I preferred to explore it with a group. Also, the hikes was billed at 7 miles, my longest to date. I was excited about the outing.

It was a brisk pace. Either I'm getting fitter, or using both trekking poles helped (or a combination of both ideas), but I was able to pretty much hang with the group. It was an exertion, but I didn't fare badly.

There is still snowfall on the ground. The trail wound back & forth through fields and delved into a wooded area, in some sections alongside a stream. There wasn't much elevation gain except for a climb out of the stream valley.

We stopped for a lunch break in the sun. Carrying my "10 Essentials" paid off, as I unwrapped my emergency blanket to use as a groundcloth.

It was a nice winter outing.

"Essential Camping Skills" Seminar & Outing

January, 2011

So far in January, there are no opportunities for sleeping outdoors. The temps are in the 20s; I could handle that for the night as long as temps were above freezing in the daytime. I have a place picked out that is close, and has year-round camping; but I'm hampered by the weather. Besides the cold, it's been snowing or freezing rain on the week-ends. Luckily, there's usually been a window of some time available for daytime fun.

On this week-end, I participate in an all-day outing teaching the essentials of camping: how to choose a back-country campsite; where to set your tent in relation to streams, your "kitchen", etc.;  how to use water treatment systems; a demonstration on cook stoves.

I had been busy at work, and didn't think this through. I knew it was all day; but I hadn't planned that we'd actually be hiking somewhere in order to set up camp. My own fault. In addition, I want some help understanding all the gidgets and gadgets on my tent; they suggest I bring it with me. So for the first time, I'm actually backpacking with a load. I have my non-waterproof trail running shoes on, rather than waterproof hiking shoes. Even so, I'm pleased - I did well physically. Though I was glad to get the pack off, I didn't feel overly burdened by it. I was able to keep up a decent pace.

The day was chilly and overcast, but hiking kept us warm. The two instructors were personable and very  knowledgeable. My short, local forays into car camping paid off. I felt comfortable with the group, knew what they were talking about, and could assimilate more information than just the basics. I was prepared with very specific questions. I learned how to use a camp stove and have bought one since then!

I also learned more about the proper way to hang bear bags; emergency supplies to pack (just one example: dental floss for sewing repairs), and more specific tips on eating properly - especially for a good night's sleep!

"Winter Camping" Seminar

Fresh on the heels of reading the "AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping", I attend a seminar on the topic. This ends up being a wondrously fun hour. The instructor covers the basics of clothing, cooking supplies, and tent/sleeping gear.

But apparently, he spends more nights outdoors than indoors. I can't wait to learn where and how to do this. Hopefully, there are places closer to home than backpacking in the Shenandoah, at least a 4-hour drive away. But his method is far more adventurous than I care to be. He finds out-of-the-way spots,  like farm fields and road clearances where he can just quickly pitch a tent, or even just "camp" in his car. He even uses his camp stove in his car.

Though he has lots of fun stories to share with us, it's just not practical for me.

"AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping"

I devour this book with energy. It's stuffed full of information I need to know - the essentials of staying safe, warm, and uninjured in harsh conditions. This knowledge is the difference between having fun outdoors in the winter vs survival. Everything from planning, getting to and from the adventure, eating and dressing properly, gear, tent and sleeping supplies ... The more I learn, the more aware I am of what can go wrong out in the cold. But the knowledge also gives me more confidence, and builds the enthusiasm to get outside - even in winter.

Orienteering! Transition to Intermediate

Yaay! I'm thrilled about another orienteering event. I've become addicted to the sport. Although I don't spend any free time working on getting better.

This event was held at Wheaton Regional Park. The courses were described as good ones to try at the next level, so I went for the intermediate course.

My little dirty secret about orienteering is that I can get lost just going from the registration area to the "start". I always have to ask, getting confused by the map. It's a wonder that the event organizers let me go off alone - lol! If I can't even find the "start" on my own, how do I expect to make it successfully through the entire course???

By doing some research later, I learn that it's not unusual to be *disoriented* [ :) ] at the first few checkpoints. Warming up is recommended -- not just warming up your body physically, but also your brain. I need to build that into my travel plans when going to these events.

Once I get settled, I find the course easy. Until moving from checkpoint 4 to 5. I bushwhack; I mean, "go off trail". I felt confident in my compass skills and sighting landmarks. But once I got where I wanted to go, I wasn't sure that's where I was supposed to be. At that point, I was on a trail and I continued along it, trying to identify topographic features and figure out where I was on the map.

I wasn't having much luck; did not see anyone which convinced me I was way off course; got teary-eyed (another not-unusual occurrence for newbies); sat for a spell and made a plan. I determined I was on either one of two trails and heading south no matter which trail I was on would lead me to the parking area. So I proceeded that way.  Within 50 feet, I encountered another orienteer, who showed me on the map where I was. I felt much better! and continued with the course.

At another section, I was in the right spot but had trouble understanding the clues as to where the checkpoint was. (It was well-hidden off-trail.) Someone helped me at that spot too. From there, for the remaining six checkpoints, I was fine on my own. Sometimes I stuck to trail options; but many times I also headed off-trail.

It was mentally challenging for me; but I loved it. I felt very satisfied that I had successfully accomplished that course.

Winter Solstice / Full Moon Hike

This is the most memorable hike of the year; and likely will be a treasured memory for years to come.

I join a group for a hike celebrating the winter solstice; it's a full moon too. Luckily it's a clear night.

We start about 6:30pm  and with ranger permission, head into Patapsco Valley State Park. At first, we're following a fairly easy single track trail. The course though turns more technical. In addition, there's still some snowfall on the path and lots of icy patches. It's fun, but slow-going. At some points, the leader and the front pack gets farther ahead, out of sight. It's a little scary as I would have no idea how to get back to where we started.

We follow and cross some small streams, helping each other on the icy rocks and patches. Wandering through the woods, we use our headlamps and flashlights. Later on though, we're in more open areas. We can turn off our lights and walk simply by the light of the moon.

Much of the hiking around PVSP leads you towards the ridge line. You climb up and cross over to descend into the valley along the river. Once along the river, the silhouette of the ridge line, and the tall pine trees is impressive and intimidating.

At one section, we cross the swinging bridge. I'm terrified of the bridge, and now I'm crossing it in darkness. Our guide wants to tell us about the effects of water currents and suggests we stop on the bridge for the view. I barely can do that. Everyone is helpful towards me. Later, we'll need to cross the bridge again to get back to where we started.

Another portion of the hike takes us on the Cascade Falls trail. We cross the stream, helping each other on the icy rocks again, admiring the frozen waterfall, and using our hands to clamber up the icy path on the other side.

The adventure is exciting, invigorating, and fun; but more difficult than I had expected. It was described as an "easy" hike, but it's a technical single-track trail, made more challenging by the darkness and icy conditions. It's a work day for me, so I'm tired after being at the office all day. I didn't eat enough, and my energy is lagging.

Another portion takes us along the river. We walk for a 1/2 mile or so completely by moonlight. We have no trouble seeing.

Overall, I found the experience immensely rewarding. Hiking at night, illuminated by the moon, and with snow on the ground, is incredibly beautiful.


Coming around a bend in the path on a day hike, I come across this friendly greeting.

Seneca Creek State Park / Hike

December, 2010

Another new park to explore! I meet up with a favorite group for this hike. I enjoy exploring a new area, during the winter, at a comfortable pace. It's a pleasant day.

My fitness level is still improving. I feel good after this hike; it's relatively short due to it being scheduled in winter. So on the way home, I stop at a park and do another two miles. Feels good.

Winter Bike Ride on North Central Rail/Trail

Decent winter weather ... two hour bike ride on the North Central rail/trail. Spotted a bright red cardinal during a water break.

Tracks !

We had a light snowfall. Discovered "wildlife" tracks on my deck. I need to use my BOW skills (i.e. look it up in a book) and identify the source.

A Backyard Camping Experiment

December, 2010

It's looking unlikely that I'll be able to camp anywhere during December. Weekends are full of fun, holiday stuff with family and friends.

One week-end is warmer than the others. It's raining. I remember how well I slept in the rain earlier in the season at Codorus. I decide to set up my tent on my patio and try it out for a nap. If it works well, I may spend the night outdoors on my deck. Kind of crazy ... but it will count towards my challenge.

It was a great learning experience! I don't know what I did wrong, but the tent leaked. Also, I had a tarp down but I guess it extended out, as I got puddles under my tent. The concrete patio was cold.

My experiment lasted about, maybe, 15 minutes.  :)

"Women in the Woods" / New Gear

December, 2010

I attend another seminar at REI; this one specific to women's needs. I learn a lot at this session. Even though I've been reading and scouring websites, I'm now more clearer on the proper kinds of clothes to wear. For instance, I really didn't know the difference or the need for light-, mid-, and heavy-weight underlayers. We talk about sleeping bags and pads, trekking poles, FUDs ("the girl pee-thing"). I learn the 10 Essentials, and since I'm out so often by myself, I vow to carry them with me at all times.

Once I have my variety of underlayers, I start using them at the office too. Being dressed properly for the outdoors makes it very easy to escape for a quick lunchtime walk.

I get properly fitted for a daypack - something large enough to carry the 10 Esssentials, extra winter clothing as needed, and food, along with the water bladder. The nicest part is that I have plenty of room to carry a thermos, full of hot chocolate, for my winter excursions.

Another Orienteering Outing

December, 2010

I may not have the opportunity to sleep outdoors, but I'm still playing outdoors in the daytime.

Another orienteering event fits into my schedule. This one is at Great Falls, but on the Maryland side - the C&O Canal Historical Park. I take my bike with me too, intending to do a short bike ride on the canal since I'm driving that far to get there.

The day is gray, windy, and cold. It's one of those days where being outside is just-not-fun. I opt for sticking to the beginner course. Even so, I also stick to a route on the trails, rarely going off-trail even if it looks shorter. I don't want to take the risk of getting injured because my technique is off due to off-energy level. I'm getting in better shape, and my hiking speed is picking up though. So I finish in a decent time even with using the trails. But I don't feel beat up, which is good.

It's pretty windy, still gray and cold. I decide not to go for a bike ride and head home instead. Even though I spend more time driving back & forth than actually doing something.

I start thinking about my "sleeping outdoors" challenge. It is now becoming a proper challenge, but not for the reason I thought. I expected it o be difficult because it would be cold at night. But I've got my sleeping arrangements under control to stay warm through the night. The difficulty will be the daytime; it's becoming just too cold to stay outdoors all day. And the other challenge is the short days: I don't have the time or I'm too bored to stay in a tent for 14 hours.

My Streak is Broken

December, 2010

After eight consecutive week-ends of at least one night spent outdoors, the streak comes to an end. Holiday events during the first week-end of December fill my schedule.

Always Check the Weather Forecast

December, 2010

I have vacation days to burn before the end of the year. I plan an easy mountain bike ride at Susquehanna State Park, using the trail running along the river. I expect to be alone, as it is mid-week.

Something nudged me to double-check the weather before leaving the house. An alert was issued for the Susquehanna area. Due to all the rainfall, the dam was high. They may open the flood gates and let water out into the river. I cancel my plans.

If I had been riding along the edge ... unbeknownst to the threat ...

Another Outdoor Activity to Try ???

Back to the real world, but still energized about my sleeping-outdoors-as-long-as-possible challenge ...

During the week, I attend a lecture on "Snowshoe Basics" at REI. Okay, another outdoor activity I want to try. Snowshoes make hiking in (or rather, "on") the snow much easier. I dream of more outdoor excursions, not hampered by snowfall. Why didn't I have these last year? - when I was stuck indoors by the blizzards and the weeks of lingering snow.

It sounds like snowshoes are a more easily-acquired skill than cross-country skiing. I tried x-skiing years ago in my previous lifetime ... making several trips out to western Maryland. I was really lousy at it though. I remember one time I was x-skiing on the flat North Central rail/trail, and regular people out for a hike were passing me. It didn't quite make sense to continue skiing as an activity if walking was faster ....

Natural Beauty of Cape Henlopen / Camping #9

November, 2010

It's Thanksgiving week-end. I do all the "family" stuff on Thursday. And head to Delaware to Cape Henlopen for a luxurious 3 days / 2 nights trip. Not only do I get to explore a new camping area, but I love going to the ocean in the wintertime; I'm looking forward to side trips to Rehoboth and Lewes. Maybe more. But I've learned not to plan or expect too much; often times I just want R&R.

I arrive fairly early; no problem arriving too early -- very few people are there. On Friday night, there'll be a handful of other camping groups: some folks who camp to be close to the outlet shopping on "Black Friday", an RV couple and a tent couple who both enjoy "winter" camping, and a party-group arrives later that evening.

My holiday home - what a glorious camp site!

I'm struck by the natural, rugged beauty of Cape Henlopen and the campground at the state park. It's nothing like other areas along the ocean, like Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, Bethany, or Ocean City.

 Along the coast:

The day is cloudy, very breezy even for the ocean. It feels "cold". I explore the beach area and drive around the park to familiarize myself with my surroundings.

In the afternoon, I drive down the road a few miles and explore Lewes. It's a small town, sort of touristy but fun window-shopping. Special treats are an Italian market deli/bakery/shop; and some very appealing small cafes. I have a nice, late lunch and buy goodies at the market for breakfast and snacking.

The days are very short now. It's solidly dark by 5:45pm. I don't mind an early evening inside the tent, as I'm usually so exhausted by the weekend, I appreciate the opportunity to do nothing but sleep. I don't sleep very well though the first night. The wind is gusty and the sounds of the tent flapping and the wind through the pine trees keeps me in a light sleep.

On top of that, there's a large group a few sites down. They're not drunk, loud, or obnoxious. But they come & go, like every hour. I don't know where they're going. Sometimes they are going to the bathhouse, and to do so they have to walk right by my campsite. So the sounds of starting a car, driving in and out of the camp area several times throughout the night, or laughing on their way to the restrooms keeps me awake.

I'm definitely within "whistle distance" of help if they cause any trouble. Though the pictures don't show it, I've chosen a site that is actually right across from the camp host. I'm alone, but someone is near by.

The campground:

I'm awake before sunrise. The moon is still strong, but it's cold. I think it's in the 20s. I should buy a small thermometer. I use my blackberry to check weather dot com. I'm set on seeing the sun rise over the ocean, so I bundle up and drive to a parking spot close to the beach.

The day is bright and clear, but windy and cold. It's not too much  fun getting hot water going, even with my little Esbit stove. I didn't even think to use a tarp to block the wind ... I do have success with coffee and warming up food for breakfast; and I enjoy some of the treats I bought at the Italian market.

I decide to explore some hiking trails at the park; the activity will be refreshing and keep me warm. On the "nature trail", which should be the easiest of all, I get confused. Luckily, I encounter another camper. I can't tell if I'm going in the right direction or re-doing a portion I've done before. It's all pine trees, scrub, and sand dunes with pine needles. If you've seen one sand dune .... But they point me back to the nature center. I hike longer than I had planned, but I'm warm. And the park is very pretty.

After the hike, the day is warmer and the wind is subsiding. I decide to get my bike out and try for a bike ride. I haven't ridden in ... months .... years ? .... It takes me awhile to get my gear organized. Ready to take off, I realize my back tire is flat. It's a new tire. I just pump it with air, hoping that somehow it just deflated and doesn't need replacing.

I head down the highway to Lewes, and stop at a bike shop. I have them check the tire and they put more air into both. I do some window-shopping at the shop.

Leaving the bike shop, I walk over the canal bridge. I turn down a road heading to the Rehoboth bike trail, and my front tire blows out. I'm really not happy at this point. In my annoyance, I attribute the blow out to the bike shop person putting too much air in my tires.

I don't want to ruin the rims so I carry my bike back to the bike shop. My bike is not light. It's mid-afternoon and the breeze is picking up again.

The bike shop repairs my tire because I'm too cold and tired to do it myself, but it costs me $25. I give up on the idea of biking to Rehoboth today and head back up the highway to the state park and my campground. All is well; the bike is working fine. I decide to explore the bike trails around the park and end up having a delightful ride.

Late afternoon, I freshen up and drive my car into Lewes again. I have a wonderful dinner at a Mediterranean-style cafe, including oyster stew and homemade Spanish hot chocolate which ends up being like a hot rich chocolate mousse.

I get back to the campsite and it's solidly dark. And cold. But the dinner warms me; I snuggle into my sleeping bag by 7:00pm.  A car goes by about 10:00pm; I assume it's the park ranger checking out the place; and that's all I hear all night. There's only one RVcouple and the camp host on site. I sleep for a total of 10 hours; the best sleep I've had in years. I want to somehow take sand dunes covered with pine needles back home with me, so I can sleep like that every night.

I'm definitely rested but it's too cold to get started on any outdoor fun. So I gather up my personal care items, head to the bathhouse, spread out my supplies and have some girly time: facial masque, moisturizing, paint my toe nails, etc. I feel indulgent.

The day turns out to be a bit warmer and less windy. I pack up and move my car to a general parking area. I spend the morning/afternoon biking on the trail to Rehoboth. It's wonderful! The trail goes through woodland, along marshy areas and farm fields, and skirts behind the shopping centers and highway. It is the best way to get to Rehoboth.

I keep my holiday tradition of Thrasher's french fries on the boardwalk at Rehoboth overlooking the ocean. :)

After biking back to Cape Henlopen, I drive home and promise to repeat the trip next Thanksgiving.