Lately the discussions I’ve had involve living in Detroit, bike touring, limiting physical possessions, and the need for traveling and adventure.  I say lately, but I suppose this always seems to be the case.  As my time living in Detroit reaches its ending point it doesn’t come as a surprise that conversations may encompass such topics.  Discussions with others who also spend a large portion of their time planning out their escape to a new adventure allows my mind to feel clear- there are others who spend as much time, if not more planning, brainstorming, developing.  Others who have an end date to their time in one location.  Perhaps not a specific date, but somewhere in your mind you know that your time in a set location will expire and when it does you will be ready to set out and explore.

Since my return in June I’ve been trying to pinpoint that end date.  I found it.  It’s time to go.  March 24 I depart and this time it will be to Pennsylvania.  8 months in the Laurel Highlands region (about an hour outside of Pittsburgh).  I’ve only ventured to this region once before for hiking and camping but I have only fond memories.  I took a crew leader position working on a bats and wind energy study for Bat Conservation International and I’m really looking forward to it.  I absolutely love working for the Organization for Bat Conservation and I’m truly going to miss everyone, humans and non-humans alike, but I crave research and working outdoors.  I also want to continue to open new doors and broaden my research experience.  So get ready for adventure stories because I’ll be living in a gorgeous region- hiking and biking galore!

The timing of everything seems rather perfect with spring just around the corner.  Where the smell of mud leads my mind to thinking only of being in the forest and hiking for miles and miles.  To add to that, I turned 30 on March 8th.  The level of excitement on turning 30 increased last month when I realized that on this day not only would I be turning 30, but I would also be celebrating with a full moon.  I also have the added bonus of sharing my birthday with International Women’s Day.

Wanting to celebrate most days of my life in the forest, it only seemed fitting to take a day trip north.  I awoke around 5:30am, only minutes after the time I was actually born on March 8 in 1982, and scrambled to put on the proper amount of layers.  Indecisive the night before about how cold it’d actually be north of here I had left out a small pile of layers to choose from, I fumbled through them half awake.  Now into the kitchen…. feed my cat Douglas who had been purring on my legs, nearly knocking me down as I tried to put on my base layers and pants.  I need food, too.  I peel a banana, toss it in my glass bowl along with a handful of strawberries and a huge handful of spinach, a splash of tart cherry juice, some hemp oil and top it all off with orange juice.  Using my favorite kitchen tool, my immersion blender, I soon have a smoothie.  Snacks…. I need snacks for our hike.  I fumble through the fridge and cupboards… a bag of carrots, a container of raisins, a bagel and some spinach.  I have just about everything…. no wait… where are my binoculars and camera.  Lace up my snow boots….it’s supposed to snow up there, but just rain here in Detroit.  I step outside and it’s already a downpour here.

Did I mention I bought a motorized vehicle? I did… and it’s time to take it out for her first day trip adventure.  I arrive in Flint just after 7am and am greeted by Jay, Meghan, Ruthie (their amazing English Setter dog), Peanutbutter Face (their super cute cat) and a carrot cake cupcake with a candle burning…. it says “30, OLD LADY” and I laugh and smile as I am reminded how much I love my friends.  I blow out the candle but save the cupcake for after the hike.  They are all ready to go and have managed to put together a more filling lunch to take for our trip.  All of us (sans Peanutbutter Face) load into the Rav4.

Close to two hours later we are driving down dirt roads, sloshing through the snow, ice and mud.  Not a single car passes us as I navigate through the ruts and what seem like tiny ponds in the middle of the road.  On the whole drive there was hardly any snow, but when we jump out of the car at the trailhead we are surrounded by snow around 6-12 inches deep with lots of snow drifts reaching close to 2 feet deep.  Ruthie charges through the drifts and runs around full speed, thrilled to be in the forest as we all are.  Snowshoes may have been useful but it was just as fun to try to step where Jay had left his prints and try to float on the surface only to think you had it until your foot sunk in, the snow reaching half way up your knees.  None of this phased Ruthie, at one point she even ran through the cat tails, half in the partially frozen water.   She looked at us, asking for help, thinking she was stuck but we all encouraged her out and Jay told her to put it in 4-wheel drive.

It was pretty quiet in the forest, sometimes the snow fell so hard it would sound like rain.  By the end of the afternoon we saw a northern goshawk (that I desperately wanted to be a snowy owl), ruffed grouse and some porcupine scat…. but not porcupines to be seen.  I kept thinking I’d find myself an assortment of animals wearing birthday party hats for me and they would jump out from a tree shouting “SURPRISE!”  handing me twigs, leaves and other forest snacks but I need to stop anthropomorphizing.

Later that evening I made sure to go out on a bike ride to a hang with a friend and I wanted to be sure to ride under the full moon on my 30th…. it felt really good.  On that note, it’s gorgeous outside and I don’t know what I’m doing inside on the computer when I should be riding my bike.


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