While lying in bed the other night, I tossed and turned faced with a tough choice; will tomorrow be a leg day or upper body day? Poor ole me right? I was finally able to fall asleep in the warmth and coziness of gratitude for having that choice.

Waking up the next morning I stared at the ceiling with a vision of a kayak over one shoulder and a bicycle on the other. I chose leg day and jumped out of bed to prep for my ride. The weather looked good; sunny with highs in the low 80’s and light winds. I am not a fan of riding any streets with distracted drivers these days, so I choose the Northern Central Railroad Trail for my outdoor gym. The trail, originally built in 1832, ceased operation in 1972 and was resurrected as a rail-trail in 1984. I was riding solo that day so other than sucking up some fresh air and sunshine while getting a bit of exercise, I had no real goals in mind. This wasn’t my first ride on the trail, but it had been a few years since my tires had crunched over this stone dust lane to relaxation. Wrestling my bike from the bed of the truck, I caught sight of the bright blue cloudless sky and lush green trees. I smiled with anticipation for the escape ahead of me. I was starting at the two-mile mark of the trail which stretched another 18 miles north to the Pennsylvania line and then for additional 20 miles ending in York, Pennsylvania. Heading north I toyed with the idea of pedaling the entire 80-mile round trip one day.

The first few miles ticked by in a flash. Reuniting myself with the old scenic rail bed made me totally unaware of any physical exertion. One of my favorite things about this trail was how it ran parallel to different branches and creeks off the Gunpowder River. My senses enjoyed a true feast with the sight of the calm pools and gurgling rapids of the river and the earthy smells of the mature sunlit forest. Biking through the woods with a creek by your side is hard to beat. My next journey would be on the river in a kayak with the woods at my sides.  Scanning ahead I spotted a nice spot for a break in a grassy area under some trees. Leaning my bike against an ancient oak tree I considered napping in the lush, green grass. Sitting on the ground with my back against the tree I took in my surroundings. If I were a painter, I would have set up an easel right here. The vivid greens of the leaves on the trees and bushes mixed with the browns and blacks of tree trunks that highlighted here and there with a spotlight of the sun’s rays were magical. Throw in a symphony of birds and breezes and nature was putting on quite a show.  Looking around I suddenly realized that I never been this far north on the trail. Walking around to give my butt a break I found a trail marker that showed me I was still in Maryland, but I had ridden 12 miles already! My previous longest ride was a 16-mile round trip. Today was a guaranteed 24 miles unless I wimped out and called a friend. No way man. Too nice of a day. Realizing the pain that lie ahead I took an extended break and walked around a bit. Another great thing about this trail was the many historical references and sites one could find along the way. Coincidentally, I had decided to take a break near an old stone bridge built in the 1800s. The local residents had posted a sign about celebrating its birthday soon.

Back in the saddle and heading south, I contemplated the healing powers of nature. Not once had I thought about a bill, my job, or politics. My mind and body were at peace. A simple yet elusive pleasure these days. Thanks to my inability to find an adequate seat and padded bike short combination, the 12-mile return trip took twice as long. A small price to pay for the extra time outside. My trip back was also quite eventful as I narrowly missed colliding with an equally startled deer, and I enjoyed a good 20-minute break watching an older gentleman fly-fishing in the river. Not sure who’s smile was bigger as he netted a keeper from the end of a taut line. I shared the trail with many people that day, but it never felt crowded. Everyone seemed to be as grateful as I was to be there. The walkers, runners, bikers, and rowdies carrying inner tubes and coolers all passed with a smile and a cheerful hello.

At the parking lot, I eased my sore behind into the drivers’ seat. The fact that I nearly doubled my previous longest ride paled in comparison to the sights and sounds I had experienced. Although I did pause to take a few pictures, this entire trip, along with many others, would be burned on my brain to revisit anytime, anywhere for a long time to come.


Once again, the sun has set on another deer season. I am eating tag soup for the first time in quite a few seasons. I don’t, however, feel the least bit disappointed. The gratitude I feel for having the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors far outweigh any hunts (all of them this year) that didn’t go my way. Even though I did not harvest a deer this year I enjoyed changing things up by adding a few twists in my game plan. Trail cameras made the biggest impact on my season. I never knew there were so many bucks visiting our property! Unfortunately, this led to passing up several deer that I would have normally shot any other time. I learned a lot this year but studying the photos to determine the direction of travel and time of day. Marking these encounters and sign on the hunting app Hunt Stand revealed tons of intel for my wild theories on where the deer would be and when. I also turned up the scent control and attractant scent game this year. The buck bomb attractant fogger I tried worked like a champ. The closest buck around was a button buck that came straight into the can. Hunters Specialties fresh earth cover scent wafers kept me from getting busted as often leading to many close encounters.

          Something surprising to me that I learned this year through increased scouting is how long the rut can last. I am aware of the secondary rut, but I was still discovering fresh scrapes up until the last week of January!  Not all does get bred in November. Some get bred in December and even a few stragglers fire up the woods in January. Guess that explains the presence of a few extremely small fawns this season that probably weren’t born until June or July because their moms weren’t bred until January last season. So, the cameras have been pulled and gear stowed. I’ll probably wait a few weeks and then try a bit of shed hunting. After that, dad and I are talking about finally trying turkey hunting in May. Several toms also showed on the trail cameras. Until then, we had only seen a hen or two. When July rolls around I’ll bring out the trail cams again and post on mineral licks and deer trails discovered and marked last year. Hopefully, some of last fall’s rock stars and a few new bucks will parade their impressive headgear by the lens again. All and all another great season hunting with my now 82-year-old Dad. He didn’t make it out for all of the morning hunts but still showed great enthusiasm when he was out and loved the new twists we tried this year.

          Visions of exploring in my kayak and making some casts with the fishing gear are now starting to take up space in my mind vacated by the passing hunting season. During a brief warm-up this week, Dad and I pulled the cover off the boat for a quick peek. We vowed to get her off the trailer more this year to toss some fish into the cooler or crabs in the bushel basket. Not sure if it was the rare 60-degree February Day or another rush of gratitude that warmed me up and gave me chills at the same time. We were both grinning as we slid the cover back over the center console.  Gotta love life’s many simple pleasures.



Happy New Year all! I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season. Feels good to be tapping away at the keyboard again. I am fresh off a very different holiday experience that involved our family driving to Bradenton Florida for Christmas! So glad we decided to break from tradition. We were not able to take a summer vacation this year, so this fun-filled, sun-filled week in Florida was just what the doctor ordered for all of us. Much to our delight, the Christmas spirit was just as fresh and alive in the warmer temps as it would have been back home in chilly Maryland.

            Never thought I would be kayaking, biking or beachcombing during Christmas break but we did it all. Our lodging for the week was located three miles from the gulf beaches and within easy biking and paddling distance to several nature preserves. Our first excursion brought us to the beach where we found many families doing all the typical beach activities while wearing Santa hats. We joined right in and promptly took our Christmas card photo for next year in our beach attire. After a relaxing day of gentle waves, soothing sunshine and a beautiful sunset we decided to hop in the kayaks to explore the mangroves the next day. What a treat! Smooth clear water and wildlife at every turn. Even the animals were more relaxed here; letting us drift by within a few yards on many occasions. Observing the many species of birds navigating amongst the maze of the green mangroves had my cheeks hurting from smiling. Cruising in a kayak and being able to look down 8 feet to the bottom is an experience not found at many places in Maryland. I quickly filled up storage on my phone with pics of starfish, horseshoe crabs, herons, pelicans, and egrets. Paddling back to the house on one of the canals we were treated to playful dolphins and pelicans dive-bombing into the shallow waters for fish. Front row seats for a lesson on how to fish. After relaxing around the house and spending a day or two around town at the many delicious boat to table eateries,  we decided to pedal off the extra calories the following day. Flat Florida is perfect for casual biking with well-maintained streets, bike lanes and paths allowing for an excellent day of sightseeing in the Preserves and around town. A twelve-mile ride felt like a trip around the block. At the end of the week, we all felt refreshed and recharged.

              During the long 17-hour drive home I had plenty of time to reflect on our good fortune and the many benefits of spending time outdoors. Not once did we crave any of the nearby trendy tourist spots in Tampa or Orlando. Cell phone use decreased dramatically, and books were read. Sleep came easy and lasted through the nights. We planned nothing ahead of time and were not rushing to get to anywhere by any certain time. This week “off the grid” had us all reevaluating how we spend our time. Our days spent in Florida were what vacations were supposed to be. Relax and exhale. I don’t even remember feeling the dread of returning to work. All I was thinking about was how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to get away and I would soon be returning to one of my other favorite places. My mind shifted gears wondering what new pics I would discover on my trail cams back in Maryland. They hadn’t been checked in a month and I was excited to get back and see what had been stomping around our hunting lease. A brief two-day late firearms season for deer was next on my agenda. Returning to work was reduced to a minor distraction by the buzz of being outside. Hopefully, I will complete my quest with Dad this weekend to fill our freezers.

            If you are the type of person that makes resolutions, I strongly suggest that one be to spend more time outdoors this year and beyond. Getting outside is truly therapeutic for the ever-present daily stresses and expectations of our society. Go ahead, just open the door. You wont be disappointed!