Hiking with the Bullthistles

Well, I've been hearing that all my life, so this past Sunday, I did, literally. I met with the Bullthistle Hiking Club behind Howard Johnson's in Norwich at 7:45 a.m. Sixteen club members and I gathered in the parking lot, signed a waiver, and we whisked off to Whaupanaucau State Forest in our vehicles. Upon arrival, another member and his dog would meet us there.

Now mind you, my background has been a treestand hunter and boat fisherman, which equates to a little walking and a lot of sitting. My gear ranges from something akin to looking like the Michelin Man in bright orange tee shirt and sunglasses. And as long as I have something comfortable to sit on, I'm a happy camper. So, in all honesty, a hiker I am not.

It was a brisk 27 degrees at 8:20 a.m. when we assembled at the forest entrance gate. I quickly perused the members donning gear and clothing that was far from the cold weather garb I was used to. No wool parkas and heavy pac boots. Today it was wind-proof nylon jackets and pants, rubber-soled hiking boots, backpacks, walking stick,s and slip-on ice cleats. Of course, yours truly was totally unprepared for this new experience. My cotton tee shirt, sweatshirt, white waffled long johns, Wal Mart work shoes and Dollar Store polyester hat were completely unfit for even this short hike on a mild day.

But, my inadequacies aside, I had a great day on this six-mile hike led by outdoorsman and historian, Don Windsor. The rest of the group welcomed me with open arms and all were very insightful in our discussions on the trail. Enlightening me as to hiking gear, areas to hike, their varied backgrounds, the Bullthistle club and the Finger Lakes Trail. They were also a big help getting me up each time I slipped on the ice.

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