Saturday, December 28, 2013

Overlooked Overlooks, Tioga County, PA, October 2013

I had a rough start to my trip back to PA from the Catskills. I left Phonecia at 6 PM and headed west towards Pine Creek Gorge. What looked short on paper was six hours of driving, and I arrived at Mansfield after midnight. I chose the path of least resistance and 'camped' in the back of my car in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. After getting a few hours of restless sleep I headed back up Route 15 to the visitor's center. I'd seen a sign for "overlook" on the drive into Pennsylvania and I knew the visitor's center was on the southbound side of the road. So a quick turnaround at the Tioga exist had me heading south again and in a minute I was pulling into the parking lot.

I arrived before the local fog had burnt off, so I spent time in the visitor's center picking up maps and travel brochures. When the fog cleared I was treated to an expansive panorama of the Tioga and Hammond Lakes dam area. There are a couple of platforms for viewing, but you can photograph anywhere along the fence, and the fence is long. Both the photographs to the right were taken at differing locations on the fence. Walking along it was the easiest "hike" I'd ever done, and one of the most rewarding.

I wasn't done with Hammond and Tioga Lakes, however. Later that day I'd come across a map showing an overlook just off Route 287 North, opposite the lake. I drove to Ridge Road, went round a hairpin turn under a rock cliff, and passed a long-abandoned and chained pulloff. I parked the car, went around the barrier - using a stick to probe the high grass for timber rattlers - and spent a few minutes contemplating the beauty of Tioga County. Tioga is my favorite region of Pennsylvania, and its views like this that remind me why. A day that started with grubby sleep on a bad back in a parking lot ended with this. All days should improve like this.

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"Here you may see Benedick the married man."

A couple of days ago I commented on a post at Who Ate My Blog?, the Internet home of a true weight loss success story. Stephen was 632 pounds in 2008, and he's lost three hundred of them as he transformed from potato to potential. In his post on the subject of guilt,  Stephen mentioned he was to take a flight and was worried he was so fat he would be prevented from boarding the plane. It appears that fear was groundless, and now that he's at his destination Stephen is flying even higher. According to his Twitter and Facebook feeds Stephen traveled to ask a young woman a question, and she said yes. Congratulations to the happy couple.

When Stephen posted his good news to Facebook, I commented "Could your 600 some pound former self have imagined such a thing happening?" The answer is probably "No." Not that super obese people don't get married or shouldn't get married. Its that you can't imagine happiness of any kind ever finding you when you are mired in super obesity. During the years I was 400 pounds and over I was miserable. Super obesity kills, and it first kills hope. Stephen's engagement is one example of how a fat person's world expands as they lose weight. My life after weight loss is a different example of the world getting bigger. And I'm as thrilled for Stephen, and for any super obese person who escapes their former prison, as I am for myself.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Bridge to Bridge Trail, West Pikeland Township, September 2013

A mile from the Binky Lee Preserve is the Bridge to Bridge Trail. Running between Pickering Creek and PA Route 113 the trail is a flat meander of less than a mile's length. The creek views are pretty, and at times the noise of the road disappears and you can imagine you are back in time before the automobile. 

Speaking of which, park your automobile at the pull off on Pikeland Road, and cross the small grass plot to get to the trailhead. Turn around at Clover Mill Road. If you feel adventuresome, back at Pikeland Road cross the bridge and you can hike on an untended and unfinished Pickering Creek Trail. I did but soon tired of bushwacking. I'll come back when I have less to fight. 


Tasting the Woods: Fried Deer Steaks

When visiting my friend Allan in New Jersey this Sunday, I received an unexpected Christmas gift. Allan handed me a heavily wrapped plastic bag with something hard and cold in it.

"What's this?" I said.


"I've never had deer before. How do I cook it."

"Just fry it in a pan with a little butter, pepper, and salt. Don't cook it long. If you do you might as well eat shoe leather."

I thanked Allan for the gift while wondering if I was up to the challenge of cooking venison. Or eating it, for that matter, as images of Bambi crossed my mind. I would soon find out, as the temperatures in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were an unseasonable 70 degrees F, and the deer was largely thawed when I reached home. I stuck it in the fridge while I searched the Internet for recipes for deer.

There appeared to be two ways to serve the beast: either marinate the heck out of it and then drown it in a sauce, or fry it. Not having the time or patience to marinate deer meat for twelve hours led me to frying, and an extremely easy recipe. Here is the link:
I made my own version, eyeballing measurements, as follows.

I took a large cast iron pan, and melted butter at medium heat. I mixed flour, minced onion, some steak seasoning, and a salt-free garlic and herb seasoning mix, and then coated each steak with it. (I later replaced the steak seasoning mix with red pepper to give a little more kick, and that seemed to work well.) Into the pan they went. The steaks were cut thin, and I cooked them only a couple of minutes on each side. I kept adding butter to the pan as I added another set of steaks - deer has next to no fat so you need to add some, and Paula Deen would be proud of the amount of butter I used.

I don't eat rare meat, so some people might argue I overcooked the deer, but they still had a red color in the center and they weren't chewy, so I think they were OK. I served them with pasta and mixed vegetables.

However, after all that effort I discovered I don't really care for venison, or at least that much venison. After a day of eating the leftovers I got rid of it. Perhaps I did overcook the meat? Would marinating have been better? I'm not sure. However much I enjoyed cooking and eating deer, other meat carries less mental baggage - that night I dreamed I told my young nieces that Christmas was cancelled because I'd eaten Prancer.

Binky Lee Preserve, September 2013

Yes, it has an odd name, but the Binky Lee Preserve remains one of my favorite places to hike. The old farm, just off PA Route 113 south of Phoenixville and Kimberton, preserves open space in a part of Chester County undergoing rapid development. (Nearby Exton, for instance, should just have a roof put over the area and call the town a mall.) Numerous trails cross the fields and woods of the hundred acre tract, and one can come up with different loops by switching from trail to trail. On my last visit I stuck to a basic loop around the central meadow, so this time I headed away from the meadow and down the hill toward Pickering Creek. 

My route during this hike took me along the edge of the preserve, next to a neighboring land with horses. I had to step carefully as parts of the trail had seen horse use. Soon enough I was near the base of the hill. The climb back up wasn't difficult, but it was a climb that took some effort. I hiked a pleasant two miles at Binky Lee, and timed my return so I'd reach the parking area at sunset. Parking is on the edge of the meadow and only a few feet from the car was a great spot to shoot from. Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I'll let my camera talk in the rest of the post. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Planning for 2014

The Internet is full of lists, so here is another. My goals for 2014 adventures are:

1. My first backpacking trip. It would be an overnight, probably in Pine Creek Gorge on the Mid State Trail. My friend Jacob is an experienced backpacker and he will lead the trip. Time, probably May.

2. Hike Pulpit Rock and, if possible, the Pinnacle. Both are part of the same trail north of Reading. The Pinnacle is alleged to be the best view in PA.

3. Hike Gillespie Point, the Matterhorn of Pennsylvania. Jacob might help me get to the top as part of my backpacking trip mentioned above.

4. Get back to goal weight of 250 pounds.

5. Get my bike fitted so I don't have hand numbness. One reason I ride so infrequently is that I have to stop so frequently. I want to be unstoppable, if not literally at least figuratively.

6. Hike the "waterfall wonderland" of State Game Lands 13. While Rickett's Glen State Park is famous for its waterfalls, the nearby SGL 13 has a lot of them too. But they take work to get to as there's no blazed trail. My friend Ray offered to lead me there sometime this spring. I should hike Rickett's Glen too.

7. Do an urban hike, the High Line in New York City.

8. Canoe SOMEWHERE. I miss being on the water.

9. Do an overnight, or longer, bike tour. I've not toured since 2011 and I've not been on the road more than one night since 2010. Again, this depends on getting my bike in order.

10. Spend some time in Western PA, Ohio, and West Virginia hiking and riding. Ohio has a rock formation named Fat Man's Peril. How can I pass that up?

11. Revisit many of the places I've been before - Pole Steeple, Pine Creek Gorge, the Catskills, etc - and have a great time.

All these goals are subject to change or replacement, of course. The only constant is that I want to be a formerly sedentary man. The list will change, but the drive won't.


Springton Manor Farm Park hike, September 2013

One Sunday afternoon I headed to Springton Manor Farm Park in Chester County, PA, for a ramble along its trails. I had no great expectations for the working farm park, and so there wasn't a bit of disappointment. Aside, that is, that I didn't allow enough time to fully explore the park. My hiking was restricted to a short loop near the pond and the hillside with the overlook. I missed the viewing platform atop the hill, but even without the additional elevation my photos were impressive. I hiked two miles that afternoon, and in both woods and open field enjoyed every inch. Next time I'll arrive earlier in the day and explore along the creek running at the foot of the land in addition to heading up the hill. 

For more information on Springton Manor Farm, visit their website,



Guilt, according to the Source of All Knowledge, AKA Wikipedia, is defined as a "cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation." There are other definitions related to the law; this is the emotion we are discussing here.

Its also the emotion of the day over at  Who Ate My Blog?a remarkable story of a formerly six hundred pound man working to reach a new low. Stephen lost three hundred pounds, had an injury and extended recovery period, and after regaining some weight he's struggling. As he posted, "I sit here feeling guilty about all of the binging I’ve done over the holidays. I’m also feeling guilty because I have a flight Friday (and a week from Friday), and I dread them so much. I have a fear of someone saying something or shaming me in public. It’s a fear that I felt frequently when I weighed over 600 lbs. I used to avoid booths at restaurants and chairs with arms."

I've been there too. So have been many, many super obese people. But it doesn't seem to me guilt is so much the problem as the baggage that usually comes with it. Shame and punishment are the feelings that overwhelmed me when I ate badly or skipped exercising or had a bad weigh in result. Guilt can help you, because it reminds you that you DO have a standard to observe and uphold. Shame doesn't. It just wants to hurt you. And when you consider that many super obese people use food as a drug or as an escape from pain, you can see how the binge eating feeds itself - you feel ashamed for eating too much so to dull the pain you eat too much. Away from the emotion it doesn't make sense but emotions don't make sense. 

Breaking the cycle is tough. The key I've found is to forget shame and punishment and simply forgive myself. If I overeat, yes, its a problem, but I'm not a horrible man for having done so. I'm human, just like everyone else in the room. I forgive myself, tell myself I'll do better, and work to do better. But I don't beat myself up mentally, or feel shame. No one was ever shamed into weight loss. But many people forgave themselves into a healthier life. 

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Weigh in for December 25, 2013

Pardon for the lack of posts, but I've been swamped at work the past couple of weeks. (Yes, I have a day job. Blogging don't feed the bulldog.) I failed to post about my weigh in last week. From the starting week to now I remain unchanged at 313.

Aside from the reduced amount of exercise, my eating hasn't been good either. I find it hard to stick to healthy meals when working long hours, and when stressed I struggle to ignore the endless supply of junk food and seasonal sweets around me at work and social gatherings. I'm working on it, however, and I think I should be in good shape, pardon the pun, after New Year's.


A Taste For The Woods: 2013-12-22

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A Taste For The Woods