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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Let the adventures begin.

Welcome 2023!!!

It's time for another trip around the sun. Before we do that, let's say good-bye to 2022. If you are like me, you had some really great times, some okay times, mostly mundane happenings, and probably events that you wished never occurred, but all that is in the past now. We can't hold on to any of it or change it. What we can do is, keep the fond memories close to our hearts, relish in those quiet boring times, and learn from challenges.

Everyone likes to make New Year's resolutions. This is the year I'm going to do this! Which all sounds good on paper, but usually never happens. I quit making resolutions years ago, but that didn't mean I gave up on goal setting, nor should anyone. Goals and dreams are what create our tomorrows. I just don't get hung up on them as do or die. Resolutions should be more like the white blazes Appalachian Trail hikers follow while hiking. They are markers to help keep you on track.

I still make a list of what I want to do. In fact, just before sitting down to write this, I sent my 2023 project to-do list off to my designer. Along with that, Bruce and I have declared our 2023 adventure which I will talk about a little bit further down in this post. Like all great to-do lists, mine had three categories; items I know for a fact I will complete, some that I may not be able to get finished, and others that I really want to do but probably won't be able to get to. Another way to categorize the list would be to prioritize it as; Must do's, will do if the must do's get done, and only if the first two lists are completed.

As the pages of my Franklin Planner flip along with the passing seasons, I revisit my lists and make changes as needed. Sometimes my desires change. I get whims and head off into strange directions. So writing things down helps me not to veer off too far. Seeing my list keeps me focused and headed in the right direction just like those white blazes keep hikers headed where they want to go.

Instead of setting New Year's resolutions, I now choose a word for the year. I keep this word forefront for most major decision making. For example; one year Instead of saying "I am going to quit eating sweets so I can lose 20 pounds this year," I chose the word moderation. This was way easier than proclaiming a resolution. Whatever I did, I used the word moderation to guide my behavior which helped me loose weight. I love to feel successful. When I accomplish things, It motivates me to tackle the next task. When I used to set a resolution and break it on January 10th, I'd get discouraged. But choosing a word, I found was gave me more successes.

January 1st dawned and I still had not chosen my word for 2023. I hadn't given it much thought. The day began with my morning devotion. I had been reading from TEACH ME YOUR WAY, O LORD, by Elaine Starner . Disclaimer: I am a contributing author to this title. The devotion was titled Following or Feeding. Elaine wrote about how our social media culture is one of following and the need to be followed. She explained how often she would begin following something that seemed to be good, only to be slowly dragged further from where she really wanted to be. After being caught in the blackhole of time-wasting content that often was masked as positive but was actually nothing but darkness for the soul, she would click unfollow. She soon realized what she continued to follow was the content that feed her.

I shouted in silence to myself, "That's it! That's my word - Feed?" I have so much to work on and so much I want to accomplish this year. My health, my mind, my writing, my soul, my adventures, and more. . Using feed as my white blaze will help keep me on the right path. As I make plans and commitments, I just have to ask myself if what I am about to do will feed my goals. Sure, it's a round-about way of setting New Year's Resolutions. But this mindset works for me, I thought I'd share it.

A sneak peek from my must-do's list is my second Memoire and two more children's books. Titles and stories will be shared later. The grand adventure I mentioned above is going to be a collection of 70 small escapades. Bruce and I are going to take every Mainer's best friend - The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer - and do an outing of some sort in every map. The grids on the back of the Gazetteer refer to detailed maps inside the book. It is a wonderful resource. One way to identify a true Maine outdoor enthusiast is by the fact they have at least one of these in their vehicle.

January 1 we began our adventure map quest. We started with our own map, #33. Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was our debut hike for 2023. For details about this little treasure you can refer to this link. It's only about 45 minutes from home or the back-way option is just under 60 minutes drive time. We chose the later since it was an adventure.

The scenic route took us on a rural road that changed to dirt before arriving at the trailhead. Most of our trips begin at the end of a dirt road. It was a grey, drizzly day, but non of that bothered us. We had adventure on our brain. Maine is beautiful, no matter what the weather. And with our new F-150 King Ranch, nothing was keeping us from venturing out.

The short 3.8-mile loop of the Johnson Brook Trail, just one of several in the Refuge is flat, wide, and easily navigable. Easy is all I can do right now. Surprisingly, my extra 45 pounds is not the direct problem. I have been struggling with hip and leg pain for several weeks. The problem has yet to be diagnosed. I'm sure the extra fluff doesn't help, but it is not the root cause.

Leashed dogs are welcome, so we had Ziggy in toe. More like, he had me in toe. He can be a pain in the backside walking on leash with all the sniffing he likes to do. When we hike at home, we are on private land so we can let him off leash to run, jump, and play. We weren't home, so we obeyed the rules. But we were out there for him just as much as for ourselves, so we let him do what dogs do best - sniff and explore as much as his 6-foot lead would allow.

At one time though, we did play zooms with him. That's when we stand approximately 30 yards apart, each with a handful of treats and let Ziggy off-leash to run as fast as he can to the other person. It's hilarious and he loves it. He starts in a sit-stay with me. On command he is told to "Go find Daddy!" He tears off down the trail missing his mark as he skids past Bruce, turns and stops at Bruce's feet for a treat. Ziggy is supposed to wait to be told to return to me, but he just races back to me. Skidding again to a halt at my side waiting for a treat. He does this several times before we re-leash him. This lets him get rid of pent-up energy stored while riding in the truck.

We hiked slowly through the quiet forest admiring the different trees, a beaver dam, several vernal pools and sounds of birds. It may have been January and cloudy but the temps were mild and birds chirped all around. It seemed more like spring than winter.

We had less than a mile to go when I looked up and saw a medium-sized yellow lab alone in the center of the trail. While Ziggy is extremely friendly to humans and canines, I never trust how any animal will behave out in the wilderness especially while on leash. I stopped and made sure I had a secure hold of Ziggy. Next I heard a voice yell, "Is he friendly?" Then I saw the owner. I replied, "Yes, but...."

The yellow lab ran back to it's owner and I relaxed slightly so Bruce, Ziggy, and I could step aside to let them pass. Then the lab bolted for us, hair raised, lips snarling, and growling. I screamed, "NOOOO!!!!" I tried to grab Ziggy closer while holding my poles between him and the other dog. Bruce was too far behind me to help. I dropped my poles, the other dog circled us and started to attack Ziggy from behind. Ziggy reacted also. Then it was over as the dog went back to it's owner.

A quick inspection showed no signs of injury. I gathered my poles, held Ziggy as close as I could as we hiked passed the hiker and her dog who still wanted a piece of us. She genuinely seemed apologetic as she said, "Sorry." My insides wanted to scream and yell at her. Ziggy had never been in a fight before. Fighting myself to remain calm, I merely said, "And that's why there is a leash law."

That wasn't my idea of how I wanted to begin our 2023 adventure season. My heart and fight or flight mechanism chilled by the time we arrived back to the parking lot. Ziggy seemed less shaken by the ordeal than myself. I just hoped there would be no residual affects. Only time will tell when we meet another dog on a further trail.

Before we headed home, I pulled out a business card and wrote an apology for the confrontation and a Happy New Year on the back of the card. I tucked it under her wiper blade. I didn't want the first day of a brand new year to be spoiled by one infraction. It may not have been our fault, but I could have been a tad more polite. Besides, I have broad shoulders and can take the blame if it means things can end on a high note.

When we arrived back home, we unloaded, unpacked, and began planning hike #2. Since New Year's Day was on a Sunday, that meant the next day was a holiday and Bruce didn't have to work so we did a back to back adventure map quest. Map #43 would be fulfilled next.

Ziggy's encounter made us want to get him back with other dogs fast. Kind of like getting back on the horse after being thrown off. We aren't veterinarians or dog trainers but it seemed like good sense to us. So we scheduled a play date at the kennel for the next day and we would hike without him. We waited at the kennel a little bit to make sure Ziggy was fine. He was. But that doesn't mean he will be okay the next time he meets a dog on trail though. Canines are situational.

Since the kennel is in Millinocket and the only hiking we know of in that map is Baxter State Park we asked the kennel rep if she knew of any place. She recommend The Bait Hole Trail on Route 11 just outside of Millinocket. I had remembered seeing signs for this trail on excursions to the North Maine Woods but I never stopped to check it out. Now was our chance.

This trail was much like Sunkhaze with its wide path and basically no elevation gain. A few times there were trail signs that read, "Steep hill ahead." Which I welcomed but it wasn't really a steep hill for hiking. The trails are also used for cross-country skiing and I could see how they could be considered steep for that sport.

I loved the water and ponds that the trail skirted. And the earth dams were a novelty to hike across. It was another mild day in Maine for January. Again it seemed more like spring with the weak ice conditions, but jaunting across the expanse of the earth dams as the wind blew in from the lake was a reminder that winter wasn't far away.

We even had a distant view of the Appalachian Mountains to the south which I believed to be Saddleback as well as other peaks I did not recognize.

The best view of the day though, was my hubby. His smile always brings joy to my heart.

Two hikes recorded in our 2023 Maine Atlas and Gazetteer adventure quest. Both were short and simple but just as enjoyable as all our other hikes. It's not really the destination that makes them memorable, it's that we are together that makes them worth-while.

I hope you will continue to following along as we tick off the 68 other map grids of our favorite outdoor resource guide. If you have any recommendations please send them along. Also, if you enjoyed this and are fascinated by this trek, maybe someone you know will also like it, so please share.

Happy Hiking,

Black Bear, Batman, Taco Bear

aka Emily, Bruce, and Ziggy


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