52 Hike Challenge {Part 2}

I finish this post with all of us on the cusp of what normally is a joyous season filled with friends and family. This year our world looks different. I can only imagine that you too have struggled to find meaning and joy during this hard time. That you have also had to stretch yourself in ways you never have before. With all this change and growing and hard, life can seem just so heavy and challenging. You know me though. Always one to also look for the lesson. As annoying as it is to hear that voice at times, it always shows up eventually.

If you are here for some hiking location ideas and not the personal post I’m sharing with my hikes today, then scroll down. I am so excited for you to get out there. Happy hiking!

I should be honest. I wasn’t always a focus on the positive kind of person more than not. It has taken YEARS of learning and unlearning to find myself in my current headspace. Of course I still complain. I still vent (just ask my husband), but largely I am growing into this practice of gratitude and finding joy in every season. I am proud to say I have worked hard to seek the lesson life is teaching in whatever unfair, hard or frustrating way the lesson is being taught. Perhaps this year the lens through which I view my life has been focused a bit more because of my experiences.

This year has brought more ups and downs than any rollercoaster I have been on before or at least it is a tie. For those that know me well, you know this year carries a lot more weight than just the obvious COVID. 2020 has really been a year for those unexpected things that would make any year really hard and overwhelming and challenging… and then life also said, “let’s do those things AND a pandemic.” I know of SO many others also experiencing crazy hard, heart wrenching and challenging times this year that are in addition to this little virus that has forever changed us.

Yet somehow I remain stronger than I have in other hard seasons. I gravitated at times to my unhealthy habits of my past as a means to control and when I felt out of control. It’s normal to do that in times of hard. I also sought out exercise to boost the natural chemicals in my brain. I found peace in stillness and pause. I deepened my yoga practice. I began meditating. I worked on my relationship with myself. I practiced creating boundaries that helped me to thrive.

Perhaps the most meaningful and transformative thing I did though was continue the goal I set at the start of this year before I knew much of COVID. A goal I set before I knew that I would spend 4 months of this year and counting not running due to an injury during perhaps one of the hardest seasons of our lives. Little did I know when making this goal during the last days of December 2019 just what this goal would do for me. It ended up being one of my only goals that wasn’t canceled. It kept me pushing myself to get outside and get up. It motivated me to create meaningful experiences for my family. It was my solace on my broken days when it seemed 2020 would re-expose every break I’ve ever had.

There is something about the power of nature to open its branches to you and take on your burdens. The leaves seem to nod in encouragement while the empathizing sky absorbs the sorrows of your past and present. There is trust in those tree trunks. When you leave the woods behind, you just know they will hold that information and turn it into something beautiful…a peaceful stillness, a spring blooming flower, a forest bursting with autumn colors, a green canopy of cool on a hot summer day or a magical sunset to inspire hope in the darkest of times. And all without saying a word. A silent conversation. A healing release. A secret between you and the trees and the Earth. The only clues of your presence the fading footprints in the dirt and the ones forever in your heart and soul.

As you close out the year and head into a new year, a blank calendar of opportunities, I urge you to take some steps outdoors amongst the trees. There is so much healing power waiting there. It might feel silly at first. Unnatural. Un-you. Give it time. Embrace a new experience.

Here is the second half of my journey this year (52 Hike Challenge-Part 1). With snacks and a portable potty seat safely traveling to our destinations was never an issue.

#27-Harrington Beach State Park (Whitetail Trail, Quarry Trail Loop and South Lakeshore Trail)

#28-Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve

#29-Morgan Falls

#30-Copper Falls State Park (Doughboy Trail)

#31-Potato River Falls (Upper and Lower Falls Trail)

#32-Superior Falls (MI)

#33-Interstate Falls (MI)

#34-Dells of the Eau Claire (North River Trail + Ice Age Trail)

#35-Hixon Forest

Sometimes my kids take the pictures…

#36-Buena Vista Trail

#37-Willow River State Park

#38-Kinnickinic State Park

#39-Presque Isle River Scenic Area (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area-MI)

#40-Escarpement Trail (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Area-MI)

#41-Jay Cooke State Park (Wild Valley Rd–>Jay Cooke State Park-Superior Hiking Trail-MN)

#42-Ely’s Peak (Jay Cooke State Park–>Spirit Mountain Campground-Superior Hiking Trail-MN)

#43-Hartley Nature Center (Chester Woods Trail–>Martin Road-Superior Hiking Trail-MN)

#44-Hixon Forest

#45-Perrot State Park (White Pine Run)

#46-Levis Trow Mounds Recreational Area

#47-Mt. Simon Area (Eau Claire)

#48-Perrot State Park (Brady’s Bluff)

#49-Perrot State Park (Walnut Nature Trail and Riverview Trail)

#50-Tettegouche State Park (MN-High Falls)

#51-Tettegouche State Park (MN-Shovel Point)

#52-Miller Bluff, Hixon Forest

It made sense to me to end my 52 Hike Challenge on the same trail I began it on in mid-January of this year. I retraced my footsteps a different version of myself. I climbed that bluff more aware of myself than when this challenge began, yet also in a world I could never have imagined living in.

#53-Mill Bluff State Park

Bonus “Hikes”: Two really short walks, so I did not count either in my 52 Hike Challenge, but are in my top 5 places visited this year: Palisade Head and Black Beach.

On hike #52 I made sure to pause and just listen and feel it all. With a hand on my heart and a hand on the Earth, I was filled with so much gratitude for the moments, healing and perspective this challenge brought me. In a year that has been so crazy, hard and heavy, these hiking boots (and shoes) have kept me more than grounded. I know this challenge isn’t over yet.

Where are your feet taking you next?

Sarah

52 Hike Challenge {Part 1}

I should be writing my State 22 marathon recap post, but alas that did not happen this past weekend. State #21-Nebraska was cancelled in June. While I could have ran the Maah Daah Hey Trail Marathon in North Dakota, I had my Theodore Roosevelt National Park camping reservations cancelled and just didn’t feel right taking the family that far given our current scenario. I also did not want to be running a trail race through the Badlands in summer heat without any support person to help me. Lucky for me, I do have a goal I set for myself in January that I have been working on.

While running will always hold a special place in my heart, hiking is a near second. Hiking has been something that I’ve always loved. My first (and only) real hiking memory as a kid was hiking at Devil’s Lake. In college my now husband and I hiked the trails in La Crosse near our campus and ventured out to other hiking places during the summer time. We got engaged on a rainy spring day hike on the West Bluff at Devil’s Lake. We announced our pregnancy with photos from Devil’s Lake, and both Pierce and Aria had their first hikes on those very bluffs before they were even born.

There is something about the near silent sound of my feet as they take each step on the Earth. The grounding smell of pine needles, the hope in the scent of leaves coming to life and the joyful surprise of the scent of wildflowers blooming nearby. Wildlife is never far away. The effort to climb to a beautiful view is always rewarded. The change in seasons is always more appreciated when it is experienced outdoors. While I experience many of these things on the run, there is also beauty in slowing down to enjoy nature. More time to contemplate, reflect and spend time thinking. Again, so fitting for the current time we find ourselves in.

As I’ve gotten older and life more stressful, I find hiking has become a bigger and bigger part of how I recharge, but still not something I did as much as I wanted. I realized hiking really should be part of my regular life, not just something reserved for when we have time or our next vacation. I wanted hiking to be something that was a part of our regular daily lives. I wanted my kids to grow up experiencing the many physical, mental and relational benefits linked to walking in nature. I also wanted my kids to love something involving the outdoors before they could love technology. It is my hope that once they experience nature it can always be a resource and recharge to return to whenever they need to as they get older.

It was with this in mind that I decided to make hiking a focus back in January. One of my goals for 2020 is to complete the 52 Hike Challenge. The goal is pretty simple-hike 52 hikes in a year, one for each week. How interesting that I made a goal I CAN still do this year! As the halfway point of the year passed at the end of June, I can say I’m only loving hiking more and more. While I always planned to include my family in this goal, I did expect more of the hikes to be individual. Given the circumstances of the year, the goal has evolved into a family goal of sorts. We all need that outside time. I have only grown to love my time on the trail even more.

Now there are the not so fun parts too like ticks, mosquitoes and kids who all the sudden cannot. walk. another. step. and must be carried on your back. But those same kids, who sometimes complain at the start, always end up loving their time on the trail and in the woods. It is here that their imaginations come alive and the entire landscape from rocks to plants to footprints to clouds in the sky provide a litany of questions for their curious minds along the way to say why? How come? When? Nature is the ultimate teacher. It’s where somedays we parents are bears and the kids are running from us (we need to teach them some better bear safety 🙂 while other days the eldest is a plethora of dinosaur types and the youngest is a cheetah both roaring through the woods.

In a time where many of us are looking to get outdoors more because there are fewer options with which to spend our time, I’m sharing my list of hikes I completed during the first half of the year. I only ask that you please follow social distancing guidelines and be good stewards of the outdoors. My family has made sure to practice good safety practices while visiting these locations. As always, leave no trace (pack in, pack out). Do not make stops along the way. Avoid touching of public places. Social distance on the trail. Avoid locations when they are busy or choose somewhere different to visit if the parking area is full. We have intentionally hiked a few of these spots when rain is in the forecast in hopes of fewer people and often go during the week to reduce the chance of crowds. Many of these times we ended up being the only ones at these sometimes busier locations. Get creative with bathroom use (we have our kids potty seat along). Get gas before you leave and where you normally would. Plan ahead. Being prepared leads to a better experience-snacks, water, insect repellant, sunscreen and appropriate attire.

I know many others are looking for places to get outdoors, so I’m sharing my list to help you decide where to go next. No matter your experience with hiking, with the right trails and clothes anyone can do this. Below is a list of the first 26 hikes I/we’ve done so far this year. All hikes are in Wisconsin unless otherwise noted.

#1-Miller Bluff, Hixon Forest, La Crosse

#2-Black River State Forest, Millston

#3-Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota

#4-Castle Mound Pine Forest State Natural Area, Black River Falls

#5-Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Brice Praire

#6-Miller Bluff, Hixon Forest, La Crosse

#7-Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge

#8-Halfway Creek Trail, Holmen

#9-Perrot State Park, Trempealeau

#10-Great River Bluffs State Park, Minnesota

#11-Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Brice Praire

#12-Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge

#13-Merrick State Park, Fountain City

#14-Maiden Rock Bluff, Stockholm

#15-Little Bluff Mounds Trail, Trempealeau

#16-Husband’s Family Farm 🙂

#17-Battle Bluff Prairie State Natural Area

#18-Wazee Lake, Black River Falls

#19-Perry Creek Recreational Area, Black River Falls

#20-Wildcat Mountain State Park, Ontario

#21-Pier Natural Bridge Park, Rockport

Don’t forget to walk the top of this rock bridge.

#22-Wyalusing State Park

#23-Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo (East Bluff)

#24-Devil’s Lake State Park (East and West Bluffs Loop)

#25-Hixon Forest, La Crosse

#26-Beaver Creek Valley State Park, Caledonia, Minnesota

Bonus “Hike”: McGilvray “Seven Bridges” Road, Holmen

This is a beautiful walk or running route, but since it wasn’t really a hike, I did not count it in my 52 Hike Challenge. Also, I do NOT recommend this trail once mosquitoes are out and about. In early spring flooding will make some of this trail impassable.

What is a favorite hiking place (or two or three) you would recommend?

Happy Hiking!

Sarah

{Liebster Award-Part 1}

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I was nominated for a Liebster Blog Award which is super exciting. Thank you to JanaBananaRD for nominating me.

If you haven’t heard of this award, it’s an award for bloggers given by bloggers. When you are nominated for the award, you answer a set of questions asked by the blogger who nominated you and then nominate 11 other bloggers, and give those bloggers a set of questions to answer.

Below are the Q and A.

1. Why did you start blogging?
At first I started blogging to share my journey of training and running 50 marathons in 50 states. After catching up with the states I’d run, I found I really liked writing and sharing information about the sport I love with others. Writing has become a great creative outlet for me and place to not annoy my family and friends (most non-runners) with too many running conversations. I’ve also been reminded of how great and supportive the running community is. Running is like a secret club where everybody gets in by simply running some miles. It’s the best.

2. What is your favorite way to stay fit?

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Based on the previous question it is probably obvious that running is my favorite. I’ve always loved the freedom, problem solving, stress relieving, and energizing properties of the sport. I do love to watch any sports Wisconsin, and love to do outdoor sports, too. Hiking and biking are other favorites of mine. I’m also falling in love with yoga and how it makes me feel better as a runner.

3. Where do you live?
I live in the great state of Wisconsin. The state of cheese, beer, and extreme winter running conditions. I live where it can be 60 one day and snowing the next. I live where summer humidity can be just as brutal as winter windchills. I live where nature’s beauty is always steps away and the biggest freeway is only two lanes wide. I live where people are kind, passionate about their Wisco teams, and we have amazing seasons to run, hike, and bike through.

4. Who is your biggest inspiration?

Hmmm… This is a challenge for me. I get inspired by people everyday-my students, husband, other bloggers, quotes on pinterest…I guess I’m easily inspired. Perhaps the most inspiring people throughout a consistent period of my life was/is Suzy Favor Hamilton. As a young runner growing up in Wisconsin, Suzy Favor was the running hero. She won the state championship four years in a row and ran in multiple summer Olympic games. Despite her recent activities I still consider her an inspiration. We all have imperfections and challenges that we work to overcome. When I met her for the first time with the cross country kids I coached, she was nothing but sweet, patient, and kind. Today I consider Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan both inspirations, too.

5. What is your favorite food?
Do coffee and Diet Mountain Dew count? If not, then pizza. There are so many ways to change it up, make it healthier, or vary the flavor.

6. What’s the farthest that you’ve run (for fun or a race)?
26.2 miles plus some small negligible amount that is totally not negligible when you are in that position. That is until June 2014 when I attempt my first 50k.

7. What’s your favorite recipe to share?

Screenshot 2014-03-30 00.55.42
Cowboy Caviar. I simply love the stuff. It is delicious, healthy, and brings back fond memories of summer grilling, no snow, and warmer temperatures. Plus, I haven’t met someone who doesn’t love it.  I usually follow the above recipe and use half the sugar.

8. Who’s your favorite team to cheer for (any sport)?

Screenshot 2014-03-30 01.12.50
Any Wisco teams. Right now…the Badgers. Final Four, Baby!

9. What’s the best group fitness class you’ve tried out?
Where I live fitness classes are very limited, but I’ve loved both the spinning and yoga classes I’ve taken. Both are great forms of cross training and make me feel stronger and healthier as a runner.

10. What’s your favorite thing about blogging?
Having a written record of the challenges and successes of the my journey and “meeting” other who love the sport as much as I do-that is not something I find often in my group of in person friends. Being able to gain ideas and insights as well as share them is invaluable. In a way we are all our own coach, so we help coach each other.

11. Are you going to pass on the torch and nominate 11 other bloggers?
Yes, but give me a few days. I’ve been really busy and like to make careful decisions. I will nominate 11 other bloggers in the next few days.

Thanks again to JanabananaRD for the nomination!

THE RULES:

1. Thank the blogger who has nominated you
2. Answer the questions given to you
3. Nominate 11 other blogs with less than 500 followers
4. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer
5. Tag your nominees & post a comment on their blog to let them know that you have nominated them.

Sneaks & Stilettos

{Friday Fab 5}

What a week! Weather ups and downs aside (pretty much like my unprocessed eating and running this week), it is May and that is awesome!

{#1-Hiking}
2013-05-02 20.24.28
While the weather was amazing this past weekend, Ry and I took advantage of this and hit the trails. We were shocked to see snow on the ground yet in quite a few spots while hiking in Black River State Forest. We got in a sunny and hilly eight mile hike. Ah-Perfection! What state parks are must hike in Wisconsin? We’re always looking for new trails!

{#2-Nathan Fuel Belt}
2013-05-02 20.41.47
With warmer temperatures the need for water on our hikes and runs is (or was) back. We took my fuel belt for the hike and I was reminded just how much I love it. There is a pocket for your phone or a snack. Most importantly, it stays put with the weight on my back side and doesn’t make my back sweat like my Camelbak. I despise carrying water on any run or hike!

{#3-Grilling}
2013-05-02 20.42.56
We fired up the awesome grill I got last summer for a master’s graduation gift from my mom and stepdad this past weekend. Grilled chicken, veggies, and potatoes were yummy! Try this recipe for healthy potato fries-they were delish!

{#4-Runner’s World Magazine}
2013-05-02 20.41.00
I finished my Runner’s World magazine and love everything about this magazine. Even though I don’t consider myself a newbie runner anymore, I still enjoy Marc Parent’s monthly column-The Newbie Chronicles. I especially loved the end of this month’s column which discussed his son running cross country and how runners are just different than other sports participants. Check out his column newbie or not! The link above takes you to a few years worth of columns. You’ll laugh, be inspired, and relate!

{#5-The Color Run}
2013-05-02 21.50.28
I’ve wanted to run “the happiest 5k on the planet” for a while and guess what the husband bought me for my birthday? You guessed it-entries into the The Color Run. What is better than running a race? Running it with your other love! Can’t wait! Anyone else done a color run? What did you think of it?

Happy Weekend!

{Friday Fab 5}

{#1-Awesome weather coming up!}

Fond memories of being at Grandma and Grandpa's house.

Fond memories of being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.


Go visit a favorite park, walk around town, or head somewhere to hike and run like Ry and I plan to do this weekend. Last weekend we visited this park; I spent many childhood hours here while visiting my Grandma and Grandpa. The park always reminds me of flying an eagle kite on a windy afternoon. Anyone have any must hike spots in Wisconsin?

{#2-Wheat Tortilla Quesadillas}
2013-04-23 19.22.23
I can’t write or say the word quesadilla without thinking about how Grandma says it in Napolean Dynomite. So go make yourself a dang quesadilla, with wheat tortillas and jalapenos, unless you are too busy training to be a cage fighter! Wheat tortillas are sooo good!

{#3-Go Brewers}
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Thumbs up to the Brewers on sweeping the Cubs and Giants and 2/3 with the Padres. I have even more faith in you now. Oh, and I’m really looking forward to getting these stitches out next week. Running with them isn’t my favorite.

{#4-Goals In Your Shoes}

Love this!

Love this!


Kara Goucher, an Olympic marathoner, posted this photo on Facebook of her and Shalane Flanagan’s and Joan Benoit Samuelson’s shoes before the Boston Marathon. I love how they have their goals printed on the insides of their racing shoes. I’m so doing this before my next race. What will you be writing in your workout shoes?

{#5-Weather!!}
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Sorry! I’m just so excited to get out there and hike and run and hike and run!

Happy Weekend!