On the trail while not on the trail

My wife figured it out before I did. I told her I was feeling down and I wasn’t sure why.

“Is it because the other Appalachian Trail hikers are getting ready to start and you aren’t?”

Yeah. The northbounders are starting their thru-hikes and I am not going to be out there with them. Bummer.

Keeping my head in the game

How do I propose to keep my head in the game, to be on the trail while not on the trail?

–I follow the hikers

I am following this year’s contingent here on The Trek and on Instagram. I comment on their posts. I ask questions. I get a few replies. Some of of those conversations will go deeper. Some will turn into friendships.

–I read thru-hike memoirs

Thru-hikers like to write books. Some of them are quite good at it. I like to read books. Such a deal.

I enjoy getting to know people through what they have written, whether recently or long ago. Books are time machines. It really is quite wonderful.

Reading thru-hike memoirs helps me understand my own reasons for wanting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Realizing how much much my reasons had to do with the hiking community was a deciding factor in postponing to next year. I don’t want to have to distance myself from other hikers and from the trailside communities.

–I get out in the woods and walk

New York State is beautiful. Most places are, I have learned, but differently. The best way to see the beauty is to get outside and walk. I can step out my front door and be in Durand Eastman Park in fifteen or twenty minutes. Or I have a multitude of choices within an hour’s drive. (We also have a wealth of fine breweries for post-hike libations.)

So I hoist the pack on my back and hike. Because this is also about keeping my seventy-year-old body in the game. I am in good health and reasonably good condition and, inasmuch as it depends on me, I intend to keep it that way.

–I write

Specifically, I write this blog for The Trek. Writing, for me, is as important as walking for keeping my head in the game. Writing forces me to think about what I am thinking, to compose my thoughts coherently. Like photography, it is a way to interact with people whom I will never meet in person and even some whom I will. How cool is that?

–I take photographs

Which means I get to carry the cameras. And the camera stuff. And to figure out what works and what does not. And to figure out how to carry the cameras and stuff without adding twenty pounds (or more!) to the pack.

Since I prefer classic film cameras this gets to be a challenge.

I enjoy making photographs and I enjoy sharing them with other people.

And so…


For the camera geeks, I used the Argus C-3 with a 50mm lens and Ilford HP5 Plus film. I do my own developing and scanning.

The last Saturday in January found me at Mendon Ponds Park, about half an hour’s drive south of Rochester. I wore snowshoes, which would have been appropriate were I breaking trail. But I wasn’t. The trails I was on had had enough traffic that the snow was well packed. The snowshoes went clackity-clack across the top of the snow. Microspikes would have worked better. Such is life. At least I managed to dig them out of the garage, no small project in itself.

Meeting up with a hiking buddy ensures that I get the the trailhead on time. Sue is out a lot but goes more slowly due to a bum knee. Typically she heads back mid way and I continue by myself.

Mendon Ponds Park is a treasure-trove of glacial geography. From the trailhead we followed along the ridge of an esker. The undergrowth on the sides of the ridge was thick.

After Sue headed back I continued on to Devil’s Bathtub, a kettle pond formed as the result of blocks of ice calving from the front of a receding glacier and becoming partially to wholly buried by glacial outwash. I decided against venturing out on the ice. I play it a bit more cautiously when I am out by myself.

The path runs near the edge but the summertime brush gets thick enough to block the view. The wooden deck of the overlook is a bit higher and gives a good view of the pond with the high ground all around it.

The sun kept trying to make an appearance. All in all it was a beautiful day to be out. On the other hand, Mendon Ponds is lovely any day in any season, though that’s easier to appreciate on some days than others.

Walking back along the esker with Hundred Acre Pond to the east. I really need to get my canoe back on that pond when the weather warms up.

One going, one coming. It was getting on toward dusk as I approached the trailhead. I met one solitary hiker heading out for a late afternoon walk.

Thanks for listening in!

Steve / pearwood
Soli Deo Gloria

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Comments 20

  • dave beaty : Feb 21st

    I think you’re really doing it right…!

    • pearwood : Feb 22nd

      Thanks, Dave!

  • Russ1663 : Feb 22nd

    Good morning Steve

    I’m reading you over first coffee and a cinnamon poptart. I know what you mean about that feeling off, needing to be on the trail. I made a decision to wait until I have my plague vaccine. I’m 71 and planning a section hike for my 72nd birthday in September. Starting in Damascus, south into Tennessee then back north to Summit Mt. Roger’s on my birthday. Somewhere in that trip I pick up the Virginia Creeper Trail. All told, almost 200 miles.
    I’m double retired; 23 years military, Navy and Army then 15vyears industrial maintenance.
    My phone is my camera at this point. I previously had a Kodak Digital but I just plain wore it out.
    I live just north of Williamsburg, Va. Between the local, state and national parks there are quite a few miles of trails. York River State Park in 15 minutes away. 20 miles of trails and varying terrain make it a fine spot to spend a day and test out load combinations. The Colonial Parkway, Jamestown to Yorktown is a good day hike, 23 miles in all.
    I am 120 miles east of Rockfish Gap where the AT centers the southern end of Shenandoah National Park.
    All in all I’m not to bad off. Local back roads are safe enough for a short walk.
    Good luck, good hiking. Stay safe


    • pearwood : Feb 22nd

      Thanks, Russ.
      I’m not up to a 23-mile day hike yet, but I’m getting there. That’s what it would take me to do the Letchworth segment of the Finger Lakes Trail in one shot. At this stage in the game I’m more likely to take three, especially given the two conveniently-spaced shelters!
      I’ll turn 71 on June 16.

  • Katie Houston : Feb 22nd

    Love all the photos, and happy that you’re still able to get out and hike even if it isn’t a thru-hike this year. Best to you for making the best decision for you. Love following your content, keep it up, Pearwood!

    • pearwood : Feb 22nd

      Thanks for being an encourager, Katie.

  • 2Quiet : Feb 22nd

    Thank you for sharing the trip report about one of your local trails, nicely done!

    • pearwood : Feb 22nd

      Thank you!
      Too quiet is not necessarily a bad thing. Far too many are 2loud. 😉

  • Bill Yeadon : Feb 22nd

    I especially like the post-hike libations. After all, you deserve it.


    • pearwood : Feb 22nd

      Thanks! ?

  • A Wild Jocelot : Feb 22nd

    I love this post! I am sure it is hard to watch everyone getting ready! I commend you on your patience, your humbleness and your journey to getting on the trail when it is best for you.

    You will get out there one day and get those miles under your toes, I don’t doubt that at all. Even from afar you have been a kind soul, your spirit has tickled me kindly! I hope to share as many of my experiences through my journey with you along the way.

    Keep the black & white photos coming! They are wonderful!

    Cheers 😀


    • pearwood : Feb 22nd

      Thanks, Jocelot! I am enjoying your posts as well.

  • HikesLongTrails : Feb 25th

    May i ask which hikers you enjoy following the most? I’d love to look into some of these. Unfortunately, I’m off trail for the season as well and this seems perfect for my travel depression.

  • J.D./ La Loon : Mar 5th

    I like reading the books too.. and NEVER go out on the ice alone – yikes!

  • Fred Hesd : Mar 7th

    I’m a Truck driver ready to retire. Been enjoying the world through my windshield since 1985. Want to see this creation from trails. Been obsessed with AT drive by and see hiker trails marked. Going to try to break free from my Company and give it a try. Any good advice for a new bee like me?

  • pearwood : Mar 8th

    Follow thru-hikers here and on Instagram #AppalachianTrail. Read the trail memoirs. “AWOL on the Trail” is a good one. Don’t bother with “A Walk in the Woods”. Join the Appalachian Trail Conservatory; check out their online material and books. Ignore Facebook. Start walking.
    At least that’s what I did and am doing to get my legs and my head ready.
    Blessings on your way!
    Steve / pearwood

  • Ines : Apr 5th

    Hey! We’re almost there! Keep up the good spirit 🙂

    • pearwood : Apr 5th

      Hi, Inês. Thanks!
      Steve / pearwood

  • Greg "babbling Brooks" : Feb 1st

    Hi Steve… we must know each other. Durand is my backyard and hiked and ran these trails for over 60 yrs. Worked at Kodak and Rowe Photo. Have you left town for AT?
    email me. I’d like to chat.

  • pearwood : Feb 1st

    Hi, Greg,
    My brother is driving me to the trailhead in an hour or so. Away we go


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