As I travel from national park to state park, the thing I end up collecting is patches. But as I stand in the little ranger station gift shops I am often disappointed by the little embroidered images. Sometimes they don't reflect my experience at that park, or sometimes they just seem cheaply made. Each time I think, "I could design a better patch." I imagine making merit badges for my grown up life; little embroidered rewards and mementos for going to new places, achieving significant goals, or maybe just for fun. 

After the hike, I decided to try and make one, so I bought some canvas, embroidery thread, and a little hoop at the craft store and started designing a patch in the Paper app on my iPad.

One of my favorite things about the hike was my daily contact with wildlife. I ate lunches with chipmunks. Young deer with velvet antlers walked into camp to watch us brush our teeth. Cold grey salamander would hide under my boot while I filtered water in the small stony creeks. And on the many days I found myself hiking miles and miles in a cold foggy drizzle, my day would be lit up by for a moment by these fire-orange newts crossing my path.

Later, when I went to research this little guy, I found out that it is really a Red Eft, which is the terrestrial juvenile stage of the Red-spotted Newt. Red-spotted Newts are born aquatic, and as adults are aquatic, but in between they get a little wanderlust and strike out across the forest for new ponds. That's when they crossed my path and made me smile, despite my sopping wet socks.