Re-Orienting Myself

It’s early May, and that means that the Montgomery County Senior Games have rolled around again.

You may remember that last year I competed in several days of this week-long event. I did orienteering, running, and speed-walking. I wrote a whole series of posts about my experiences:

Let the Games Begin

Orienteering Myself

I Run as Fast as I Can on a Track

Walk This Way

In my introductory post for last year, I wrote about how I had set the goal of competing to help me start back into regaining my former fitness levels – I was a good runner and swimmer and loved doing those things, but my various illness, surgeries, bad antibiotic reactions, stress fracture in my foot – all of these had slowly stripped away my strength and almost all of my ability to pick myself up and try.

I wrote about how I hoped the event would be the beginning of returning to my old ways. Well, it wasn’t. I experienced more eye issues later in the year and then, when my husband had his accident in December, 2016, for the next four months I pretty much gave up – exercise came near the end of the list.

All right. Here we are today and I am saying the same thing – I hope that the Senior Games mark the beginning of returning to normality as far as my athletic activities.

This year, I decided to do just the orienteering and walking events. My motto was to be: Complete, not compete, meaning – finish the event, not try to bust a gut winning it.

With that in mind, I arrived at the Norristown Farm Park this morning, site of the orienteering event. My husband accompanied me – his new office is very close, and so this year he was able to attend. That was nice, to have his support. We had an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, a bit chilly, but just perfect for this event. Compare it to last year’s day and you’ll see why all of us at the event were thrilled. Here is 2016:

And now, 2017:

Last year I was a green newbie at orienteering, but I liked what I had experienced of it. If you don’t know much about it, you run around the countryside from point to point (called “controls”) following a detailed map, and you are timed. I am not really able to do trail running anymore because of my eyesight, so this sport really appealed to me as a substitute.

This year I am a slightly less green newbie, and I am game. Let’s go, I said. We got signed up at the pavilion and received the all-important T-shirt.

After some explanatory remarks, we headed over to the start. Now, how this works is simple. You get the map when you start, you take off looking for your controls, and you just keep going to the end. You have to go in order, but you can get from place to place any way you want to. You have a small device that you insert into a reader at each control – it keeps your time. The race starts for you when you click in at the start control.

In larger events, there are courses laid out for different difficulty levels over the same plot of ground. Competitors choose the level desired and get the map for that course. So, the people you see as you traverse your course may be doing a different course altogether – you don’t assume their control is one you want for your course.

This event, though, has only one course. So it’s possible to follow another competitor and get to the controls without orienting yourself on your own. Remember this point – it matters in my story!

Here I am at the start point:

And looking over my map, having just clicked the start. You can’t review it beforehand.

And, running off down the path.

The trick to this sport is to stay focused and continue to adjust and re-orient yourself as you go along. Watch your map closely. I try to plan out what next landmark or location I need to hit in a series of moves to get to a control point. A straight line is not always the best route!

Well, I was zipping along. And very quickly I realized that another woman near me was, well, she was watching my moves. Plain and simple. And given how the course was set up, I could do nothing about it. Several times it was clear to me that she would not have found the control if I had not led her there.

Well, complete, not compete, went out the window. I guess I wasn’t surprised. I’m pretty competitive. Yes. So I got a little aggravated and that put some speed into my feet. Down paved roads, dirt trails, crawling up a trackless hill – we did it all. She was ahead of me at the last control but just a little; that cranked up the aggravation level and I took off for the finish. Hard. And I got there first.

I’m the tiny black speck. I don’t know who that man is who was caught up in our drama.

Well, I’ll tell you, it’s a small thing, but I felt as if I had done something big. I didn’t give up and I didn’t back down. Makes me feel that I am really on my way in this new start.

Thanks for reading. And Happy Orienteering, if you try it.

Egg and Extra

Lots happening along the Green Ribbon trail in Flourtown/Fort Washington, PA, today.

I left home early today and parked the car at the day use area along Mill Road. Headed down the trail and for a change, at the fork I went left instead of right, toward Stenton Avenue. I’m not sure why but I almost always go to the right fork first. Why I mention this fact will become clear, I assure you.

It had rained hard all day yesterday and things were still very wet today. I was skipping from puddle to puddle when I hit this dry stretch.

What is that in the middle of it? I got closer. Look! A robin’s egg, and guess what – no robin in it now, which means a new little bird somewhere in a nest nearby.

I felt sure it had been there since at least yesterday, since it had a little puddle inside it. And look, I match.

Well, I continued along my way, coming up to the last little bit before the trail ends at the gate at Stenton Avenue – the trail parallels the road here.

At this spot I heard a discreet beep of a car horn – not enough to startle me but enough to make me look. Guess who – my husband, driving by on his way to work. He pulled into the little area to say hello. He told me he had seen my car at the lot on the other side of the park – I’d left before him this morning –  and he knew I was in here somewhere, never thinking I’d up and appear. And I thought, what a good thing I went to the left rather than the right at the fork this time. What a nice surprise for us both.

So he turned around and went off on his way.

I did the same.

Later on, I came on this area where water is trapped when the creek overruns the banks. I was very taken by the reflections in the still water. Then I had the idea of throwing a stick in the water to stir things up. The trees became wiggly strands waving away at me. Now this amused me and I can’t say why.

I took a picture of this tree on April 19 and here it is on April 26. There is a lighter green hue to the groundcover now and it is taller.

Green Ribbon Tree 8 4-19-17 small

April 19

April 24

Here’s a warning – this nice-looking light green ground-covering plant is not nice. It has a Velcro-like stickiness to it and where it touches your skin, it will itch and burn, leaving no mark, just that maddening pain.

It grows all over this flood plain. My husband calls it “seven-minute itch weed” but I am here to tell you it can be with you more like seven hours, if you are dumb enough to run along a trail, bare-legged, brushing your legs past it at every step. Don’t do this. Wear long pants.

Finally, I ran up the hill to the bird stand and then back down the access road. Here are two birds that have got baby birds under their care – I heard the chirping. These two let me get quite near. I thought they were chickadees but I am not sure – they had a blue cast to their feathers? I am hoping my bird-expert friend Diane can tell me.

Well, I went on my way from here – the remainder of this very nice walk was uneventful but refreshing, in a light misty rain, and with lots to think about.

Walk Around the Park

The other day I was telling my friend John N. about a great walk in the Fort Washington State Park. He’s done the roads there, but not ventured out into the wilds. I told him I’d take him around the loop to show him the route. Later I started to think – how long will it be before we can get together to do this? In the meantime, John is missing a really nice walk.

I was at the park on April 17 and I decided to photo the route. I think it will be enough guidance for John to try on his own if he wants.

Background – this circuit is about 2 miles. It’s part of the cross-country course run by several local high schools in their meets. I became familiar with it running charity cross-country 5K events in the park. Now I go there and do it on my own – sometimes running and sometimes, like today, walking it. The route is composed of a big loop (the one I am showing today) plus a smaller half loop covering much of the same ground and including the dreaded Power Line Hill. We’re not going up that hill today but I will point it out.

The weather was off-and-on rain showers and quite mild the day I took these pictures. OK, John, here goes!

1. Park in the lot next to the bird watching stand and the bathrooms.

2. Go over to the bird stand and start down the hill, aiming for the two benches down there at the bottom.

3. Head down the trail.

4. You’ll come to this fork. Go to the right. And as a note, if you went left, you’d end up on the Green Ribbon trail by the creek. Nice to know this as it’s a good way into that part of the park. And notice the rail line – here’s a good view of it.

5. Now just go along the path. It’s easy to see. It parallels the freight rail line on the left.

6. Keep your eyes open and look to the right when you see the power poles. This is the Power Line Hill. In an actual 5K race this hill comes along about 70% of the way through (the race start is in a different location than where I started). Believe me, this is a killer hill. Looks pretty easy? Remember, it ends way off up there in that open area.

7. Keep on going along the path, until you come up to this bird house on a pole.

8. You veer off to the right – the path is still clearly visible.

9. Look, beach volleyball on the right.

10. Keep going along the line of brush until you see this signpost.

11. Don’t be startled if a train comes along while you’re in this section. I’d say about half the time one passes while I am here.

12. Follow the arrow on the sign and veer right, keeping pretty close to the brush. You’ll see birdhouses all over the park, by the way. And the baby trees have plastic sleeves around their trunks so that the deer can’t eat them.

13. At this point your aim is to get over to the park road that is in front of you (past the pink trees – hard to see in this picture). You can angle over or you can go straight to the pavement.

14. Once on the pavement, you head to the left.

15. When you reach the intersection, you’ll turn right. I always like to do a loop around the little island first…

16. Walk down this road a short distance, until you see the signpost on the left.

17. Now we are at my favorite part of the loop. Pick up this little trail going into the woods.

18. Follow the trail up the hill. If I am running, it takes me about two minutes or so to get to the more level section.

19. At the fork, go right. If you go left, you will end up on the upper park road and you’ll eventually end up at the same finishing point, but – the dirt trail is just more fun.

20. This section of trail skirts the brush on the right, with the overnight campsites on the left. You will see several groups of picnic tables and so on. And at times, the trail gets a bit vague. Just stay along the edge of the vegetation.

21. When you see this bench and the power pole, it’s time to get on the paved road.

22. But wait – I will show you where the Power Line Hill exits – look to your right and down the line of poles.

You say, So what? OK. I’ll walk a little way down it.

And I turn around and look back up. I have seen people crawling at this stage of things, in a 5K race.

23. Back on the route. It’s all easy from here. Go down the hill on the paved road and pass around the gate.

24. Come out to the main road. Does this look familiar? You have finished the loop!

Well, I hope that this travelogue was useful and I especially hope that John will be able to follow it, because I think he’ll enjoy the walk. I know I’ve enjoyed reliving it!

A Good Omen And Things Starting Off Sunny

I got a text from a friend. Driving through Glenside, PA, our town, he went past our florist. Your name is the name-of-the-day at Penny’s, he told me.

I knew exactly he meant. So I hopped in the car and drove right over there.

And there it was.

I went right inside and announced myself. My name is Claudia, I said, and that’s all I had to say. I was escorted into the flower refrigerator and left to choose. I took my time – so much to look at,  and also, I love that cooled flower air smell, why not indulge?

I made my choice and stepped back out into the sunshine.

I brought my rose home and put it into a vase. And now I feel the first day of spring is mine! Thank you, David, for alerting me; Penny’s Flowers, for choosing my name; and first day of spring, for …being the first day of spring!

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter Eight

The hurt leg is on the mend. My husband went back to work this past Monday. It’s the first time he’s been in an office since December – the accident occurred on Christmas, you may remember.

There have been some changes – partly as a result of the injury, he decided to move to an office in the suburb rather than returning to the city office. It’s nice – not far from home, and I like the new schedule.

He is still walking with the brace. Now it’s time for him to begin to regain strength and endurance. Both legs have lost a lot of muscle. There are still months of rehab ahead. But things are progressing!

I am adjusting to the new situation. Once again, feeling a little disoriented. Yesterday, I came home to a nice surprise – my husband had sent me flowers. You may find it amusing that I did not learn this in the traditional way – opening the door to the delivery man.

No, coming home from the gym, I swerved around the truck parked in front of my house, wondering why it had to be parked so close to my driveway. Then as I was getting out, the delivery man appeared at my shoulder, startling me. But he just wanted to let me know he had dropped off the flowers.

Such nice flowers, too, and I was so touched that I cried.

I set them in the dining room. Suitable site for admiration of the blooms, I thought. Then, I started thinking about – the stems. They are very visible in the container. I liked the look of them.

I was reminded of synchronized swimmers – I’m a big fan of the sport. As a former competitive swimmer I know what it takes to move in the water. I am impressed by the athletic ability it takes to do what they do – perform while putting out a whole lot of energy and effort under the water.

The stems of the flowers are the same way, I thought – they support the good looks above the water line in the vase, quietly keeping the blooms alive and holding the flower heads high.

Think about it.

Hurt Leg Chapters from the past:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter Seven

My husband’s leg continues to improve. On Sunday, February 19, we went to a local park, Cisco Park, in Erdenheim, PA, to get in a little bit of a walk.

cisco-park-2-17-3-small

Cisco Park is a modest little place that punches above its weight, as far as all the things to do there. It has a half-mile figure eight paved trail; tot lot; ball fields; picnic tables; a little dam; a creek; and a pond.

A pond that was full of geese on this sunny day. The scene reminded me of a marina full of boats at rest. Never mind what that sign says.

cisco-park-2-17-5-small

This plot of land has an interesting history. I read up on it courtesy of the marker near the parking lot. Apparently it was a small amusement park about 100 years ago, another one of those built in the Philadelphia suburbs, accessible by streetcar, to attract business for the streetcar company. The roads, Hillcrest, Montgomery, Paper Mill, and Bethlehem Pike, are in the same positions today, but the tracks are long gone.

You can clearly see that this pond has been around for a while, because there it is on the map! As a personal note, my husband grew up near here and it was a popular ice skating destination back then (before the sign…)

The marker said that the building marked “Casino” was not a gambling establishment but rather a place for music shows and dancing.

Well, my husband walked a half mile, and I did about three (warming up for a marathon session of yard work later that day, something the nice weather made it a pleasure to do). The park was very busy – kids in the playground, dog walkers, people watching the geese, and walkers like us, getting out on a really nice day.
Hurt Leg Chapters from the past:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Out in the Woods, Part 2

You may remember that about a week ago I mentioned a walk I took along the Pennypack Trail into the Ecological Preserve? Here is a little more about it.

I started out along the rail trail, as I said. It’s very easy going and looks beautiful this time of year.

Being such an even surface, a lot of people push baby strollers along, and sometimes things get left behind…

toy-pp-trail-10-21-16-small

Anyway, after going along for a bit, I crossed one of the old bridges over the Pennypack Creek into the ecological preserve. It’s another world here; the trails are much rougher. I decided on a while to veer off from the main trail into a secondary one. It passes by an old spring house and reconnects with the main road later on.

It’s very rough. Roots cross the path everywhere and I also forded a couple of small water obstacles.

roots-on-trail-pp-eco-pres-10-21-16-small

I used to run on trails like this, but not any more. My eyesight is not good enough to anticipate all the footing challenges. I’m still good for walking, though, and if I get nervous about what’s on the ground, I grab on to trees or bushes; on hills I’ve been known to crawl. Well, I get there, and that’s what counts.

Since I look at the ground a lot, I see what’s on the ground a lot! What I want to show you are these fungi I saw. First, these:

And then a little while later, these:

I find fungi fascinating. I’ll say no more. The pictures do it for me.

I kept on walking. Now, this little trail goes on for a while, and someone put in a rest stop for those who might need it.

bench-pp-eco-pres-10-21-16-small

I came to an often-seen obstacle – a fallen tree. This one called for a little maneuvering and some climbing, but I got around it. It did take the opportunity to poke me in the face, though – a little cut and bruise. I never get through the woods without some kind of mark on me.

tree-across-path-pp-eco-pres-10-21-16-small

Right after that epic struggle, I emerged on to the main road again. I looked to my right and saw more of my recent adversary – tamed.

main-path-pp-eco-pres-10-21-16-small

An ordinary day, but then again, if you have time to go exploring and wandering, it’s not ordinary, then, is it?

Time Passes

I was walking in the Pennypack Ecological preserve today, a place I haven’t been for some time. Now, let me explain – I walk on the Pennypack Rail Trail, paralleling the Pennypack Creek, almost every day. It’s a wide, easy-to-navigate trail and follows the old rail line. Across the creek lies the Pennypack Ecological preserve. It can be accessed from the rail trail by two bridges.

The preserve is criss-crossed by a network of footpaths, quite rough, most of them, and there is one main trail, a former road now in disrepair. I crossed the creek from the rail trail to the preserve side, intending to walk along the road and re-cross later at the other bridge.

I took a whole adventurous walk, but I’ll tell more about that later on. For now, I wanted to mention this sight. In April, 2015, I took these photos of a toppled uprooted tree located right beside the trail. The overturning of this tree was quite recent.

Now in October 2016, take a look. Here is visible evidence of time passing.

roots-pp-eco-pres-10-21-16-small

The roots are now wearing a wig of fast-growing vines.

Red Feather. And More.

Once in a while I get it into my head that I want to do something extreme. Now, being a cautious person, middle-aged, and with arthritis in her feet, crazy eyesight, and a fear of heights, that means you aren’t going to be reading about me bungee-jumping. Or jumping off the high dive. Or jumping off  – the sidewalk curb. Don’t even mention sky-diving.

No, today, doing something extreme meant I decided to walk all 10 miles of the Pennypack Trail through Rockledge/Huntingdon Valley/Bryn Athyn/Lower Moreland. It’s a 5 mile trail, so making the loop is – ten!

I  parked the car at Welsh Road. This place is the mid-point of the trail. I planned it so that I could pass the car halfway through the walk and stop and get a drink, etc. First I walked toward Rockledge, 2.5 miles away. Lots of people out today – the weather is cool and breezy. On the way I met up with my trail friends Alan and Stu, but they were finishing up so we did not walk together very long.

I stopped at the car, refueled, and set off toward Huntingdon Valley, 2.5 miles away. The day grew a little grayer.

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I tend to walk looking at the ground quite a bit, due to my eyesight and my uncertain depth perception. And I saw…

red-feather-9-28-16-small

…this red feather. Lying to the side of the trail, just waiting for me. I picked it up and put it between the pages of my little notebook that I carry in my belt pack.

Immediately afterwards, I saw these…

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What a beautiful group. Clustered together like this, they almost seemed to have arranged themselves for maximum show-off.

Red feather. Toadstools. I felt as if I might be entering a fairy tale…Magic!

I Remember These Names

Yesterday I went to Lorimer Park with my husband. Usually I would be running or walking, but on this day I was taking a day of rest – I injured a joint in my left big toe, and it was swollen, red, and painful. So I decided to take my sketchbook along. It’s a goal of mine to do more drawing and I thought I could do that while my husband ran the trails.

I decided to take up a seat near the ranger cabin, located in the picnic area.

Lorimer 3 9-16 small

I walked around the back of the building, something I don’t usually do – I spend most of my time on the rail trail or at a picnic table when I’m here. I sat down on a bench a little distance away, near the creek. I had a view of the little stone building that I’ve never experienced before.

If you look, you can see a series of wooden plaques on the side of the building. I’d never noticed them before. Curious, I walked back up to the cabin to examine them.

Lorimer 4 9-16 small

They mark the high-water levels of the creek in several past hurricanes. We are about 70 miles from the Atlantic Ocean at Lorimer Park, more or less, so if a hurricane comes near or on shore in New Jersey, we feel it. Still, I could hardly believe the creek had risen to levels that were in some cases above my head, at this location. Look at that picture of the red bench again – I took it from the ranger cabin, and the creek is back some feet and below.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

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