Author Archives: The Zen Hiker

About The Zen Hiker

I am a Special Education Coordinator at a public high school in the lower Hudson Valley in Westchester County, New York. As you can see by the title of the blog, hiking is what I love to do. I get out as much as I can and although I love going to Anthony's Nose, I try to get to different spots in the area. One great thing about living in the Hudson Valley is the abundance of great hikes. You can do the same hike in different seasons and it will be as if you were hiking that trail for the first time. It doesn't get much better than that!

What Are You Doing??

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is!”-Anonymous

So what is everyone doing during this time of uncertainty? With the global pandemic overtaking our every waking thought, we need to think positively. Even with that, when it is the appropriate time to do so, we have to dig deeper into the root cause of the virus as well as its effect on the global community.  UPLIFT, an online site that deals with wellness and mindfulness, sent this in an e-mail:

“This is the beginning of great shifts, for humanity and for our planet. Forces beyond our control are asking us to stop, be still, and look deep within. The unknowns we are facing, individually and collectively, are presenting us with an opportunity. An opportunity to choose how we respond. May we all choose to stay present with our hearts and remember that, together, we will rise.”

I believe at this time the human race is at a crossroads. In terms of the Corona Virus, we here in the US are still wallowing in its infancy. The peak for us still won’t be seen for several weeks and may continue to months.

So how do we respond to this threat? Will this end up being a culling of the herd? We see people hoarding toilet paper. People stealing toilet paper from gas stations and convenience stores. What can a person do with 100 roles of toilet paper? So now we are standing on the ledge, waiting for the next bit of bad news.

I would hope that during this incredibly stressful time that everyone remains positive. Find things that you like to do, even if it is at home. Read a book or listen to some music. Use the time to re-energize yourself. This too shall pass. But, please, don’t be the person that sits in front of the boob tube taking everything that the bobble heads on the news stations throw at us as gospel and you end up worrying about what? If you are doing what the officials say, then you are one step ahead of the game.

So what am I trying to say? I am trying to say that this is another time in history where it is of the utmost importance to come together. If you are hoarding toilet paper or anything else for that matter, give some of it to a needy neighbor. I guarantee that you will feel much better knowing that you actually helped someone.

Listen to that shift. It’s happening. Pay attention and do the soul searching that seems to be what we need right about now.

So what are you doing with the extra time that you may have?

I’m Baaaaack…And Grateful To Be Alive!

“I’m as serious as a heart attack.”-Samuel L. Jackson

“Stress is a major component of cardiac events. It may not cause disease but can trigger a heart attack.”-Anonymous

Hey Folks,

I know that it has been a long time since I posted anything on this site. I am now officially retired from teaching as of 2:46 pm on 3/16/20.

So what am I doing with myself? Let me give you a little background.

First, I’ve had Congestive Heart Failure for just about six years. On December 26, 2019, I had a heart attack and spent nine days in the hospital. The doctors first thoughts were open heart surgery, but after several tests, it was determined that due to the weakening of my heart, I would not survive the surgery. So plan B went into effect. They ended up placing two stents in the arteries that run to the heart.

So, since January 3rd I have been just trying to get my heart stronger. I go to the gym six days a week and try to keep my stress level at a minimum. I have to admit that this has caused a dramatic shift in my lifestyle, especially what I eat. I have always exercised, but I’ve never really paid that much attention to the foods that I ate, Now, I eat tons of chicken, oatmeal, and everything is low fat, low sodium, and no sugar. I haven’t felt this good in a long time,  My cardiologist says with the exercise and vastly improved diet, I should be feeling better.

Now that I am retired, I have all of the time in the world to get to the point where I can back into the woods, hopefully, sooner rather than later. I’m not going to lie-I miss being out there. It has been months since I have felt the soft dirt under my feet, the warm sun on my face and the solitude of just being outdoors. At this point, however, I have to take it slow and listen to what my doctors say.

So what are they saying? I have to go back on 4/6 for an echocardiogram. At that point, I’m assuming they will make a decision as to whether or not I will need a defibrillator placed into my chest. Here’s hoping that they don’t!!!!

So my goals for the immediate future work hand in hand. I need to keep walking on the treadmill to get my heart stronger so I can get back out into the woods. At the same time, the goal is to also have my heart working at a rate where the defibrillator won’t be necessary.

 

Walking, Walking And More Walking

“Breathe in, Breathe Out, Move On.” -Jimmy Buffett

“Don’t me why I walk. Ask yourself why you don’t.-Anonymous

This weeks goal was to get at least a couple of longer days in even if it was just 15 minutes more to make at least an hour. The closest I got was 55 minutes and I was happy with that. Every day I felt good and on a couple of days, I was able to do some hill work by experimenting with the incline. I’ll keep playing around with that to get some harder workouts in. I was able to walk for a period of time at around 3.3 miles per hour and for the time that I did, it was faster than I ever move when I am hiking!!!

For what it’s worth, I like walking on the treadmill as much as I liked riding the stationary bike. The good thing with the treadmill is no knee pain. I am walking in my backpacking boots and that may be helping. Each of the treadmills also has a tv attached to it which makes the time fly by.

Needless to say, I will keep walking so when fall finally arrives and the colors on the leaves are at their peak, I can head back out into the woods.

It’s all good.

Total Minutes-

9/9/19-50-365 (The Thumper was right next to me, the horror)

9/10/19-45-410  (No Thumper)

9/11/19-Rest Day

9/12/19-45-455 (Thumper two treadmills down)

9/13/19-55-510 (No Thumper but a dude older than me who smelled like he just crawled out of a dumpster got on the one next to me.)

9/14/19-50-560 (No Thumper) 

9/15/19-50-610 (No Thumper)

245 minutes for the week.

The Thumper

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“Walking brings me back to myself.” – Laurette Mortimer

As I mentioned in my last post, even though I would much rather be outside,  time does not permit it. To be totally honest with you, I have found walking on the treadmill to be a pleasant change from hiking in the woods.

For one thing, I am able to control the speed that I walk and also walking on an incline has been interesting. The best thing, however, has been the people watching. For instance, no matter what time of the morning or afternoon that I have been there, I have seen a man running on a treadmill two spaces away from me. Usually, this wouldn’t be an issue, but this man runs with a sense of purpose that is truly frightening.

What I mean by this is his feet hit the treadmill so hard that it makes a thumping sound. A loud and rather annoying thumping sound. On Thursday I walked in the front door and I could hear the telltale boom, boom, boom of this mystery man running. I can’t believe that he hasn’t wrecked his knees running like this. If I didn’t know better, I would think he is stalking me.

Since I am going to the gym to train exclusively for hiking, I wear my backpacking boots on the treadmill and I don’t make half the noise that this guy does.

Anyway, I like walking on the treadmill. I don’t get eaten alive by mosquitoes, I don’t have to worry about the weather, dogs or other human beings (for the most part), and I can adjust my workout depending on how I feel. Plus, every treadmill has a small tv on it. You can’t beat that with a stick.

So here are the days that I have walked and the time that I did. Of course, at various times I adjusted the speed and the incline only to test things out for the time being. When I get more adjusted to walking this way I’ll use some of the workouts that they have on the treadmill.  So far, so good.

Total Minutes:

9/3/19-45.0-180.0

9/5/19-45.0-225.0

9/7/19-45.0-270.0

9/8/19-45.0-315.0

Change Is In The Air…

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If you know me, I’m not a big fan of change and I like things the way I like them. So this summer when I injured my knee riding my stationary bike, I knew that I would have to make some changes. Now, mind you, I could still walk and hiking was not an issue, just riding that stupid bike. So I decided to join a gym so I could have access to a treadmill and a stairclimber during the colder months instead of relying on just the stationary bike.

Especially with school starting again, it’s going to be difficult to get out hiking after school so I figured since a NYSC is 2 miles away, this would be the easiest way to get a good walking workout in and then hopefully still be able to get out on days off and on the weekends.

Signing up was easy online and when I went for the first time this morning, the people at the front desk were really friendly. Since I had never used a treadmill before, I did ask one of the trainers to show me how to use one of them. I know, how hard could it be? I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t end up on one of those video shows where the person on the treadmill wipes out and goes flying. So I swallowed my pride and asked the trainer to explain it to me like I was a 5 year old.

Thankfully she took pity on me and did just that. And thankfully again, I actually figured it out on the first try. It wasn’t that difficult.

One thing that I did find strange was that at first, I found it more difficult to walk on the treadmill than on the trail. Maybe it is just something that I have to get used to. We’ll see. But since it was the first time on a treadmill, I decided that I would take it relatively easy just to get used to it. I started just to warm up at 1.5 mph and gradually increased the MPH until I was walking at 3 MPH. My entire work out time? 45 minutes.

I also used the incline on the treadmill and walked for a while on 1.0. It appears as though they have different workouts on these things so I will experiment with that as the days go by.

So, for a first impression, I give them a 5 out of 5.

As I do with my hiking, I’ll keep track of my workouts on the blog. Instead of miles, however, I’ll keep track of my minutes walked every day.

8/30/19-45.0-45.0

8/31/19-45.0-90.0

9/1/19-45.0-135.0

***I decided to include the minutes of the workouts from 8/30-9/1 in this first post. Since I can’t really post many pictures of views in a gym, I was thinking of posting a once a week entry to explain what I did for that previous week.

Just The Four Of Us

“A House is never Lonely where a Loving Labrador waits”

“He is your Friend, your Partner, Your Dog. You are his Life, his Love, his Leader. He will be Yours, Faithful and True, to the last Beat of his Heart”

My daughter follows a twitter account by the name of “Thoughts of Dog.” Today she sent me the latest tweet that said the following:

The small neighbor human goes back to school tomorrow. So we spent the whole day together doing our favorite things. I understand education is important but here’s the thing. So am I.

Even though I am am not the “small neighbor human” I am my dog, cat and rabbits owner and I have been on summer break for two months (I am a teacher). My lab and I have gone on many rides, played out in the yard and at times, just sat on the couch pondering our existence. Even though it will be a sad day tomorrow for both of us, I know that when I get home tomorrow, my friend will be waiting for me at the front door, happy that I have returned.

You can’t ask for more than that.

 

Short, Slow And Relatively Easy…

“Mostly, two miles an hour is good going.”

-Colin Fletcher 

This morning was probably the nicest day of the summer. When I got on the trail at 6:30 am, it was 49 degrees. I was actually a little cold as I headed out into the woods but it only took a couple of minutes though for that nice chilly feeling to go away!

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As has been the case almost all summer, I didn’t see a single person the entire hike. Granted, the hike was shorter than most I have done but on a day like today, I expected to at least see some trail runners. That’s ok, the woods were practically silent as I made my way down the trail.

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If you take a left at the tree that is marked instead of going right as the trail markers tell you to, you can add another half of a mile to your hike. Today I didn’t and continued right. Most of the trail at this point is soft dirt with some rocky spots mixed in at different points.

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The picture above marks the beginning of only two short hills on this particular hike. This one is about halfway through the hike and the second one is almost at the end.

One of the cool things about Ward Pound ridge are the bridges that are found throughout the park. Although the ground was wet, I couldn’t see any running water and if you wanted you could just use the rocks on the left to escape the mud.

The rest of the hike was pretty easy. Nice flat trails and as I got closer to the finish, a breeze started blowing that didn’t help with trying to stay warm. But it was nice weather for the end of August.

I can’t complain about any aspect of today’s hike and tomorrow is looking just as good!

HAPPY HIKING!!!

Hike #28-8/26/19-3.7-123.7

Homemade Beard Oils

“Having a beard is natural. When you think about it, shaving it off is quite weird.”

“Beards are an acquired taste. Don’t like them? Acquire some taste.”

“There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who appreciate a good beard and those who are wrong.”

For every male out there who is bearded and hikes (or who doesn’t), I’ve got some something interesting that you might want to try.

Since I started growing my beard just over two years ago, I have used several different beard washes, butters, and oils. I have found that none of them come at a cheap cost. Imagine my surprise when I was surfing the web looking for ideas on beard care when I came across an article on making your own beard oil.

Seeing this, I did as much research as I could to see if it would be a difficult task. I learned about the different carrier and essential oils, what they did, how much they cost and the many different recipes that are on the internet.

Personally. I  like scents that are more earthy. Pine, patchouli, cedar, and sandalwood all should make suitable scents. I’ll mix and match different essential oils to see what I can come up with.

So with all of that research, where did it send me? Amazon of course. I read reviews of the many different brands of both the Carrier and Essential oils, as well as bottles to store them, and graduated cylinders. I found literally hundreds of different items for each scent, cylinder and bottle. So I just picked some with decent reviews and made the purchase.

As I waited for everything to arrive, I looked for recipes that would involve Cedar and Pine, two essential oils that, according to what I read, go well together.

Even though the directions were easy enough to follow, from what I have read, you have to be very careful with the essential oils. Too much of this, and too little of that and you can screw up that particular bottle.

So today I created a nice Cedar and Pine 2 oz bottle of beard oil with the earthy, woodsy smell that I love. Here is the recipe that I followed for this scent:

2 oz of Jojoba Oil (Carrier Oil)

5 drops a Cedar Oil (Essential Oil)

5 drops of Pine Oil (Essential Oil)

As I get more scents, I will try different recipes, but with this one, I just wanted to get my feet wet to see what I could do. Personally, I think that it turned out really well. It isn’t too strong, but it also isn’t so weak that you can’t smell it.

Has anyone else out there tried to make beard oils?

Homemade Necklace Holder

“That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.” 
― Aimee Bender

In just three days my daughter will be heading off to college at SUNY Albany, a school about two hours from where I live. She was looking on Pinterest a few days ago and saw a necklace holder like the one you see pictured and wanted to buy it. I told her that we could easily make one and it would literally take minutes to do so.

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So we went to our local hardware store (Home Depot) and bought a six-foot 1 X 4 and cut off an 18-inch piece. We then got 7/8″ cup hooks that will actually hold each of her necklaces.

After cutting the wood, I first sanded it down with some pretty coarse sandpaper and when I finished with that, I used a much finer paper to give it a really smooth finish. I thought it would have looked nice with a nice semi-dark stain with a glossy finish, but I was overruled by my daughter who wanted to paint it to match her dorm room.

Since it has been very humid the last few days, I let the paint dry for longer than I usually would. My daughter then picked the side that she wanted facing out and I drilled short pilot holes so the hooks could easily be screwed in. I’ll have to adjust some of them so they are all aligned.

The final part of the project involves my daughter putting pictures of her and some young ladies on it that she babysits. The total cost of this small project was between $7-$9 dollars. On some websites, I have seen them go for $25-$40 dollars. Wow!!!! I’m in the wrong business!

 

Black Cat Appreciation Day

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’

-Lewis Carroll

“In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.”

-Joseph Wood Krutch

Allow me to introduce you to Sirius, our black cat. I am introducing you to him because today, August 17th, is National Black Cat Appreciation Day.

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Sirius a couple of months after we rescued him from the Briarcliff SPCA.

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Sirius hanging out in my daughter’s room.

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Some more relaxing…

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Doing what he does best…nothing!