I Got a Job at a State Park! (Progress Update #12)

Hello again,

So I got a job! At a state park, where I can be outdoors and near lots of trails.

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Myself and Pete the gray rat snake. ❤

They have a little mini-museum there, called the Nature Center, and I’m taking care of it for the summer. Not a bad gig. It’s relaxed and pretty slow paced. Basically I give tours daily, show the snakes to visitors upon request, sweep up, feed the fish, and answer questions. I’ll be there full-time for the duaration of the summer.

(Fun backstory: when I was interviewing for this job my soon-to-be boss wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the snakes. So she let me hold Mazey the corn snake and stroke and pet her and all that normal stuff. I did okay, I even thought Mazey was cute. So next she draped Mazey around my neck. I would have been just fine with that too but Mazey wasn’t. Mazey wanted to be back in her bedding where she could hide and she noticed that my hair was in a high, poofy bun that day. So, fast as she could, she slithered up my head, through my hair tie, and into my bun. And she just chilled there. To my credit I didn’t scream or freak out, although I really wasn’t used to having snakes in my hair. We did eventually get her untangled, and I’m now on good terms with Mazey, but I’ve decided to wear my hair in braids from now on.)

 

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Exterior of the Nature Center, where I work. It’s  a cute little building.

Strategically this job is well suited to my plans. I knew I needed a few thousand extra dollars to make my thru hike possible and before even hearing about this job I decided I wanted to work just over the summer so that the autumn was free for applying to colleges and backpacking in earnest. This job is perfect for that. It’s full-time but short and I have my autumn free.

But those are short term benefits. I also knew that this was a field I was interested in entering later on in life (p

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Our blind cave fish. They don’t do much. 

erhaps as a park ranger?) so a job like this couldn’t hurt. And I love the outdoors and being near hiking trails. Heck, my instagram is nothing but pictures from state parks right now. My senior pictures were even taken at this particular state park. So all around it seemed like a great fit.

Oh! And I did eventually test out my poncho. It works fine, I didn’t get wet, but I never did get any pictures. Ah well, someday I’ll be on a lonesome trail in the wilderness when the sky suddenly starts pouring buckets. On that day I’ll get out my rain poncho and my water-proof camera and I’ll take a selfie of my dry, comfortable self. Then you’ll have proof. Until then you’ll have to trust my word that the poncho works.

That’s about all. I would have told you guys I was going to get this job a month ago but I wanted to wait until I really had it and everything was set in stone.

Until next time,

Liza

 

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Pete and I again. They like to wrap around the neck because it provides a secure hold, so they know they won’t fall. But don’t worry: she’s not strong enough to cut off my airflow, even if she wanted to.

 

 

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One of my senior pictures, shot at the same state park where I now work.

Radnor Lake Fun+Pictures

Short one today. I haven’t done anything specific to backpacking this week but I did go explore Radnor Lake State Park with my family today and I have pictures.

The first thing to understand is how delightful the Lake Trail was. It’s about three miles of woodland tunnel but the path is an old abandoned asphalt road. The result is incredibly picturesque and fanciful.

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The lake, too, was stunning. It’s a bit (very) small, but clear and blue and at a few points I felt as if I could fly away on the wind coming off it.

 
Radnor Lake

We also spotted a fawn, not three hundred feet from the parking lot, just chilling with his mother Apparently that’s commonplace at this park, which I think is really cool.

Full tally of the wildlife we spotted:

  • Toads
  • Many turtles
  • Fawn and doe
  • Ducks (or possibly geese, they were far away)
  • Cranes
  • Snake
  • A blue and an orange salamander. We named the blue one Sally.

This is the snake:

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Snek, snek, snek.

 

I had fun. It’s a great little park.

To update: my water filter and poncho probably work but I still haven’t tested them (oops). I’ll do that eventually, probably on my next backpacking trip, if I’m honest. I would rather test them in the field and be able to given an accurate opinion than have nothing to say at all.

That’s all for now.

Until next time,

Liza

 

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Feets.

Orginazational Changes (Progress Update #11)

Hello again!

It’s Monday and I’m going to talk about pack organization this week.

So I went on my second overnight backpacking trip two weeks ago and I had a great time, as I detail in a different post. But I also noticed that I had a lot of free-floating items, just sort of thrown into my pack. Additionally I don’t have a good place to put my clothes, or books, or electronics. In fact at one point my phone wound up in the mesh, exposed, outer-pocket just when I most expected it to rain. If it had rained I know for a fact my phone would have gotten wet before I managed to take off my pack and retrieve it, and I also know it probably would have been ruined. That moment is a big reason I want to remedy my disorganization before my next overnight trip.

So this is the game plan I have at the moment: I’ve decided to group my things into the following categories and give each category its own stuff-sack or bag, depending on the nature of the contents.

  1. Clothes                                                                                                                                           I was sorely tempted to say I wanted to have two separate pockets in this bag, one for dirty clothes and one for clean. But it occurred to me that during my thru-hike, a week after my last in-town stop, wearing one of my two shirts and my only pair of pants, the distinction between clean and dirty clothes will lose all relevance. I might as well get used to mixing my dirty clothes with my clean now.
  2. All things toiletries.                                                                                                          Okay this is gross, but bear with me. I want a small, non-see-through bag which contains toilet paper, trowel, hand sanitizer, Ziploc bag, and anything else I might need. Feel the call of nature? Grab the bag and go, everything you need is in there. I just felt like I was juggling all my things last time and especially with see-through bags the whole group knew where you were going. This way there’s more privacy, more organization, and more convenience.
  3. Miscellaneous.                                                                                                                      This one is actually pretty important because I found that I had a lot of random things floating around my pack last time. I intend to fix that issue with a bag for all that stuff.
  4. Food.                                                                                                                                        This will come in the form of a bear bag. It was surprisingly frustrating not to have one spot to put my food, and instead have to hunt down each individual item every time I wanted to eat. (To be clear I did hang my food last time, I just used my tent stuff-sack as opposed to a bag designed for hanging.)
  5. Water proof stuff-sack.                                                                                                             For electronics and anything else I want to keep especially safe.  Pretty self-explanatory.

So five bags. I’m waiting on an REI garage sale for that.

Also I’ll be camping next weekend for my brother’s birthday! So a post about that should be coming out soonish. And I still intend to tell you about my water filter and poncho, but I feel they deserve their own post and that I should wait until I’ve tried them out to give my thoughts.

That’s all for now.

All the best,

Liza

Rock Creek Loop Overnight Hike! (Progress Update #10)

Hello all!

Time to tell you all about my excursion to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (it’s a mouthful, I know). This is an area in Tennessee near the Kentucky border, about halfway between Nashville and Knoxville. I’ve got a nifty little map below so you can see the Big South Fork and Nashville at the same time. You’re welcome. 

 

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Nashville and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

So Saturday, the 30th of April, I got up early and packed everything for my overnight backpacking trip. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty stressed out with last-minute details. But I survived and at about nine o’clock in the morning I met the rest of my backpacking group to coordinate carpooling. Because I’m a rather new driver and also because Casper (my car) isn’t particularly suited to backcountry driving, I left my him overnight and hitched a ride to the park.

Two and a half hours of driving, folks. That’s what it takes to get to this park. Not that we were really on a tight schedule, of course. We leisurely swung by Subway for lunch and afterwards arrived at the trailhead of Rock Creek Loop where everyone hung out for a while, getting our packs all put together.  At roughly one o’clock we finally hit the trail and not twenty feet along we ran into a snake. Like a big one. This one:

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We weren’t super happy that he was there. But to be fair, he wasn’t all that happy with us either. We made noise until he slithered off the trail to find another spot to sunbathe.

After that the hiking was mostly uneventful, but lovely. At times it felt almost like we were in a rainforest what with waterfalls and magnolia trees, high rocks and caves, and a pervasive, cooling mist.

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It was three miles to camp and we covered those quickly, so after we set up our tents we had the entire afternoon and evening to chill and get to know one another. There was a creek, and I played in that because I love playing in creeks, and we told stories by the campfire after dark, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I touched on this last week but truly, the people were amazing to be around. The ten of us made a great group. But none of that is really related to hiking so I’ll fast-forward to the next morning.

 

 

After a good night of sleep I woke up and helped everyone break camp. I’d say we left about nine o’clock Sunday morning. We had about three and a half miles to go that day and the first two were smooth sailing. I was starting to think the entire hike was going to be akin to a leisurely walk in a park. Then we came face to face with this:

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The bridge above had formerly spanned a trench of sorts, but at some point two trees fell on it and the entire thing had collapsed. We all sort of stared at it for a few minutes, not sure how to go on. One in our company decided to cross the tree trunks, as you can see in the picture. But he almost lost his balance and I was certain that I would too, if I tried it. The fall would have been about ten feet into bracken and tree branches and we were in the middle of nowhere, hours away from medical help. After a few more minutes of staring at the wreckage the rest of us decided to find a long way around.

After everyone was safe on the other side things went smoothly again for a little while. Then the rumors of uphill climbs came true: it felt like all the gentle downhill hiking we had done yesterday was coming back to haunt us in one very steep and relentless climb. It was pretty challenging. I always dismissed it when people say that the approach trail to the start of the Appalachian Trail destroys them, but I believe it now. Still, I’m glad to have an idea of what climbing mountains is like, so I can be prepared on future hikes. All in all the climb was an exhausting, but good experience.

That was about it. We reached the top, hiked maybe a half mile further, and found our cars. Then we turned towards home.

All in all, a lovely time. I especially enjoyed the creek, the waterfalls, the campfire, and the tranquility of the forest at nighttime.

As far as learning experiences, I realized my organization system is inefficient, saw water filters in action, and discovered that even in the wee hours of the night you can see just a little without anything but moonlight, even inside your tent.

I’ll get more into the organization system next week, and I’ll introduce you to my new water filter and rain poncho.

Until then,
Liza

About Traimily and Big South Fork (Progress Update #9)

Hey guys,

It’s going to be short today because I’m pretty exhausted from this weekend. But I want to give you an overview of how the trip went. I’ll detail it a little more next week. But for a summary:

I met up with the group around nine in the morning on Saturday and we carpooled to Big South Fork, hit the trail about noon, encountered a massive snake and lots of beautiful scenery, made camp, hung out for several hours, and went to bed. The next morning we got up and lounged around a bit before hitting the trail again. This time there was a collapsed bridge and ruthless climb in store for us but I’ll get into that next week. For now I’ll just say we made it to the cars and back home all safe and sound.

More than anything I want to touch on the incredible warmth of the people I hiked with. I’ve always heard about how accepting the trail community is, mostly with reference to big trails like the Appalachian Trail. But I found it to be completely true on this hike in a way that it’s difficult to describe. It’s like the shared experiences bind you together, I guess. The whole atmosphere was very refreshing. I enjoyed myself immensely and absolutely intend to keep hiking with this group though it may be a while, depending on how my job situation works out.

That’s all for now; I really am exhausted. But I’ll have more next week, including some pictures.

Until next time,
Liza