Backpacking the Finger Lakes Trail

8 Aug

For Part One of the Hike ‘Em All/Run ‘Em All Challenge, go here!

 

Sunday morning (8/3), we got up and ran the Dam Good preview run.  I started out nice and easy with Eric, but he left me after the first mile.  Both of us were surprised by how good our legs felt–tired, but still capable of more.  I ran for a good chunk with Heather and Rick.  I left Team O around mile 4 and ran into Lindsey.  She and I ran a bit, then literally ran into Eric and Scott on their way back.  I turned around and ran back with them, figuring a 10 mile run was sufficient when we were about to strap giant packs on our backs and hike the rest of the day.  With around 2 miles to go, Eric kept mentioning that he couldn’t believe that the faster people hadn’t caught us yet.  Our pace picked up a bit.  With about 1 mile to go, one guy came flying up and passed us and we started to hear voices behind.  I decided to put my head down and gut it out but not get beat to the cars.  It felt good to run fast.  The trail was a muddy, sloppy mess and in the last half mile, as Scott said “careful–slippery” I hit the turn and wiped out hard.  The guys were both like “are you OK?!?” and even though my ankle and hip were hurting, I quickly got up and took off again.  No one else passed us on the way back to the cars.

 

no that's not a creek...that's the trail.  bit of a wet, sloppy run (and hike later that day).

no that’s not a creek…that’s the trail. bit of a wet, sloppy run (and hike later that day).

Dog dog was in all his glory playing in puddles and mud.

Dog dog was in all his glory playing in puddles and mud.

Fell in the mud...woooops!

Fell in the mud…woooops!

We hosed off and hung out in the parking lot, eating some food and drinking a little beer before we strapped on our packs.  The forecast called for rain all day, and we were counting our lucky stars that so far it hadn’t rained.  As we got our packs on, it started to sprinkle.  It then poured for the next 6 hours or so.  The 5.5 mile hike in to lean-to 1 took us about 2:12:00.  We took no breaks and we really pushed the pace, anxious to get out of the rain.  If you’ve never backpacked before, the feeling you get when you first take off your pack after a long hike is bizarre–it feels kind of like you are floating off the ground or something.

 

send me on my way

send me on my way

Our home for night #1

Our home for night #1

The lean-to was pretty new and really nice, so we started to set up camp as best as we could without getting everything muddy/wet.  Eric put down his camp pad for Picasso, who immediately curled up and went to sleep (he was pretty tired by this point and the thunder storms we’d just hiked through had kind of scared him a bit).  We collected soaking wet firewood, even though we were all pretty sure that there was no way the guys could get a fire going in these conditions.  Around 8ish, the rain had finally stopped and the guys managed to get a raging fire going.  It was really nice.  We hung our bear bags and went to bed around 10:30ish.  It was a quiet night (or maybe we were all just so tired that we didn’t notice any noises).

 

Our cavemen making kindling for our fire

Our cavemen making kindling for our fire

The next morning (8/4), we got up and had a lazy morning.  We built the fire back up, had breakfast and dilly dallied–I think none of us were too excited to put the heavy packs back on.  We finally suited up around 9.  We weren’t positive how many miles we had to the next lean-to–all the mileage counts I had found were if you started the FLT from the other side, and all of them detailed different total mileage counts for the whole trail, so subtracting the different mileages, I knew we had anywhere from 8 to 10 miles to hike.

 

This section of trail became much hillier, and my pack was killing me.  There’s a moment in a marathon where your brain is telling you that all is lost, that you are too tired to keep going on like this, that you should just quit.  I had many such moments on day two of our trip.  Eric and I bickered a little bit (which is weird for us).  We were taking rest breaks every 2 hours or so, just to give our backs a break.  Our pace from the day before had slowed considerably.  Around mile 7, I started to get REALLY nervous that I had done the math wrong and the lean-tos were going to be 15 miles apart.  We passed a few AMAZING waterfalls, and Tori and I talked about taking showers in them.  I started checking my watch to see how far back each of these waterfalls would be, knowing deep down that if it was more than a half mile, I would probably just forego the shower.  I was THAT tired. ( If you know me, you know that not much keeps me away from a nice shower.)

 

Breaking for lunch!

Breaking for lunch!

one of the many waterfalls we passed that looked so refreshing and inviting...

one of the many waterfalls we passed that looked so refreshing and inviting…

Around mile 8.5, as we crested a hill, Eric triumphantly called out, ‘Fucking lean-to, bitches!”  We were all elated to have arrived at our final destination, even if it WAS covered in spiderwebs and giant spiders.  Someone had made homemade brooms out of sticks, leaves/pine needles, and twine, so Tori started sweeping out the lean-to.  I took one look at the spiders and told Eric I was sleeping in my hammock.  We set them up, tarped them in case of rain (because why WOULDN’T it rain on us at camp?) and had some dinner. We all hiked down to the last waterfall we’d seen (about a quarter mile from camp)–the girls climbed up the creek/waterfalls to the most amazing waterfall, with a completely flat shale base and got “cleaned up.”  We had to hang our food bags, but this site had very few good places to hang from…the guys finally got the bags up in a tree about 15 or 20 feet from our hammocks.  We didn’t think that one through, as we would come to find out.

 

homemade brooms

homemade brooms

We went to bed super early–we were all so tired.  Around 8:30, Eric helped Picasso get into my hammock, he got into his, and we went to sleep.  I woke up to Eric, moving around in his hammock, grumbling under his breath and cursing about bears and me and the dog sleeping through, blah blah blah.  Apparently there was something big moving around our bear bags, snorting and snuffling.

 

The lean-to became a lean-four.  I dumped my gear into the lean-to and Scott turned on his lantern–so I could see all the spiders right by my head.  FML.  Death by bear or death by spider?  Oh the choices.  The guys built up our fire again and we all tried to get more sleep, knowing that the following day we had another 14 miles to hike back to the cars.  I glanced at my watch at this point, thinking it had to be at least 2, that daylight was just a short ways away.  It was 11.  WTF.  I could not go back to sleep, and Eric kept yelling at me to lay down.

We had all just finally settled in, when there was this high-pitched scream.  I was trying in my head to figure out where there could be other people, panicking a little bit because someone or something was apparently attacking a woman. Before I could question too much, we heard a pack of coyotes attacking whatever the screamer was (maybe a rabbit?).  It was super close by.  Picasso, who had been laying at my feet, was instantly up and growling, looking out into the darkness and wanting to go out.  We grabbed and leashed him, the guys got up again to rebuild our fire.  It took a long time to settle back in, and it was a VERY restless night.  At one point, a log in the fire broke and the whole thing collapsed.  Spooked us.  We heard smaller animals moving around in the woods.  Spooked us.

 

Truth be told, I kind of hate the dark.  I hate not being able to see things, and when we’re in the woods, that just gets compounded.  I love camping, but I hate the sleeping part.  In fact, I hate sleeping most places.  I feel too vulnerable sleeping–just laying there, exposed if someone or something wanted to attack.  This nighttime excitement just confirmed that for me.

 

We finally woke up a little before 6.  I was up.  I just wanted to pack our shit and get out of that lean-to, hopefully with no more animal issues.  I did take a walk back to where our bear bag had been, but there were no discernible footprints, just some spots where the leaves had been moved by whatever walked through.  Eric and I laid everything out, and like a gentleman, he took all of the heavy stuff.  My pack was considerably lighter on day 3, which made for a considerably more enjoyable hike out.  Thanks, babe.  Love you.

 

Enormous pack + rickety bridge = tense moments haha

Enormous pack + rickety bridge = tense moments haha

I had been running numbers in my head, and I was not really sure that we could make it to lean-to 1 before noon, but that was our goal, so we could use the table for lunch and hide in the lean-to if it started to rain again (because, shockingly, rain was in the forecast again).  We started hiking and I was amazed at how much quicker our pace was.  We hit lean-to 1 by 11!!  We made lunch, relaxed for a bit, and got back “on the road” by 11:30.  We decided to take bets on how long it would take us to get back, and most of us thought around 2:30.  The last 5.5 miles involved a lot of uphill (long, slow uphill) and a LOT of mud (it hadn’t rained in a day, so the puddles dried out to leave behind thick, shoe-sucking mud).  The sky started to get really dark with about a mile and a half left, and there were some rumbles of thunder.  We started to move faster.  We hit the parking lot a little before 2 and it had just started to sprinkle.  I went to the bathroom to change my sports bra and shirt and came out to an absolute down pour!

 

Made it!!!

Made it!!!

Here, on my couch, 3 days later, I am still tired.  My legs are still a little funny, my foot hurts a little bit (lots of slipping and sliding in mud), I am eating everything in sight (I really hate camp food and ate very little…except for skittles).  But my heart is so full.  We were so sad to have “missed out” on the cross country trip, but the reality is we didn’t miss out on anything.  We just had a different adventure.  And I guess this is a big metaphor for my life right now.  Rather than think of the things that we are missing, we need to embrace the things we have, make the best of crappy situations, and keep living it up.  Life is insanely beautiful and we are surrounded by so many good, funny, like-minded people who add so much joy and happiness to our lives.  Call it lucky.  Call it blessed.  No matter what you call it, it’s awesome.

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