I’m at a loss for words on this trip, but that may be more from exhaustion. This was the first long distance (13 mi) overnight hike of the year for this middle aged, out of shape, desk dweller. I didn’t bring a camera other than my cell phone this round, as I tried to limit my already ~30 lb pack. I know some of you run 20 miles a day and then remodel your house on the weekends, but don’t judge me.
It took some time to decide on this trail given recent temperatures, time constraints and incoming weather. It is close to home, and a good test run for some recent gear like trekking poles. Being right in between the Appalachian trails (sub-freezing w/ rain) and the coastal marshlands (5 hour drive each way), I decided to take it easy on myself and just get out there.
The journey started off questionable with limited parking due to a trail running race on the same route in the opposite direction, and the multitude of mountain bikers, whom fortunately had their own trail system. Yet the hike started off pleasant enough, moving downhill, crossing a number of creeks and babbling brooks. There were a few campsites lining the waters as I moved along, but no sign of people thus far. A few runners came here and there, and I just paused and rested as they passed. I would be glad for the rest very soon.
There were a number of rollercoaster hills along the way, as I began to get my stride with the poles and my bad knees. I kept moving along and wanted to get past the hardest climbs and descents on the trail before end of day. There would be rain in the morning, and I knew I would be tired. The first major incline became very apparent, and I could see the looks on the people’s faces as they came down it, being exhausted form the steeper incline on the other side. This is also nearing the halfway point of 6 miles in, so I was feeling the weight of the pack already. I managed to summit the hill without too much issue though and felt pretty good about it.
I took my first break halfway down the other side for a snack and some water. While waiting at this crossroad for the mountain bike trail, I met an older German couple who came riding up and took a breather and snack as well. It was a quick conversation, as we were both anxious to get back moving, so I loaded the pack back on and noted my new water filter bottle was getting low. I knew there were creeks coming up at the bottom, so I journeyed on.
Once I reached the creek, I took another break to polish off what water I had and refill from the flowing waters. I also took a moment to breath in the surroundings, listen to the babbling of the rocks, and snap a shot or two. The spirit of the land was ever present, especially at this point, and it showed in the glow and rainbows in the photo below.
I had to keep moving though. I already had a late start, and I wanted to get to where I planned to camp before it started getting dark. So pushed on, through creek crossing after creek crossing, hill after hill, until the second most “peak” of the area, and then up and over. It wasn’t as bad as the first, but felt much worse. I was reaching my limit, but I was almost there.
After 7+ miles, I decided to setup camp and finish the last 5 or so miles in the morning. The site was secluded and I only saw a couple hikers go by after that. I put up the tent, got out my chair, and started collecting wood for a fire. I set out some offerings to the spirits of the land, as I started the blaze, cleared the space and settled the mind. Then I set to the task of making a “delicious” meal of sliced jerky and ramen. I’ll plan some better food next time, but wanted to avoid the stomach issues of the readymade dehydrated meals I’ve tried before. The dark came quickly, and so did the cold front being pushed in with the coming rain. So I warmed myself by the fire and made some chamomile tea. Then I bundled up in the tent for the night. It was freezing getting up to lean on a tree, even if it was 40º, but I managed to snap a couple quick nighttime photos of the stars before rushing back and jumping into the sack.
It was 5:30am after the last time I dozed off (actually 4:30am due to DST), and the first drops of rain were coming down. I ran out and collected my food canister, so I could get a cliff bar and heat up some water for morning tea. After warming up for a bit, I began breaking things down, and figured out how to get everything in the pack before taking down the rainfly and poles. I had forgone a rain-shell, thinking I had a rain poncho in my pack already. That was a mistake. The struggle to get everything packed up and on my back, and then cover it all with the poncho was ridiculous, but somehow I managed.
The journey home was mixed bag of wonder and suffering. I passed a few others who had setup camp not far from me. I think they were waiting it out, but I needed to get home to the kids. I moved forward, hitting yet another climb, but this one wasn’t so bad. I was focused on staying dry in a crappy poncho and my freezing arms and hands clutching onto the trekking poles. I was ill-equipped for the rain and temperatures that didn’t rise above 40º. I was determined to push on though, since I didn’t really have a choice. The final 3 miles went slow, as I did my best to keep my footing. I kept thinking I was nearing the end, when only a mile had gone by. Then towards the end, my imagination played tricks on me, thinking I could see the trailhead not far in the distance, only to find some rocks in its place.
When I finally reached my car, and set down my pack, it was a struggle to even get my keys out. Muscles I didn’t even know were there, were already angry with me, and I may have had a slight case of hypothermia from the soaked pants and arms. Fortunately I had some good hiking shoes, so my socks were dry. The shivers were setting in as my pulse began to slow, I did my best to get a clean pair of shoes on, load the car, get it started and get the heat running. My only motivation at this point, was finding a nice family restaurant to get a hot breakfast and some hot tea to get the chill out. Then it was home for a nice hot shower.
I hope you enjoyed this journey. I know I did, despite the difficulties. I was aware there would be challenges, and I know this may seem minimal to some, but it was an encouraging journey for myself. It gave me motivation to improve my knowledge and gear and get after it some more. As endurance picks up, and I do more planning, I’ll take some longer trips and bring along some camera gear. Until then, I’m gonna take a nap.