Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Thankful Heart

The theme for this hike was "A Thankful Heart". The song, from A Muppet Christmas Carol (one of my favorites), kept popping in my head. And your welcome as now it may be in yours. It's not Christmas .. heck it's not in Thanksgiving yet but the opening lines of the song are appropriate:

With a thankful heart
With a endless joy

The fact is I have a lot of people to thank for the joy of this hike. First, foremost, always and forever my husband Dave who never visibly flinches when I say "I have an idea... " He's the best. 

I also want to thank Mike, Maryann, Naomi, Sara, Maggi, Russ, Candy, Kristi and Alexis who at different times since December 2012 section hiked the Horseshoe Trail with me. I didn't know I was going to do this all day hike when I started the sections but having done it made it all the more fun today. I also want to thank my family and friends who read the blog. It has gotten me through more than one hard day wanting to be able to tell you "I did it."

Now I give you fair warning. I have no idea exactly how much I have to say about this hike. It might be a long one. Read on at your own risk. 

This hike marked the culmination of what I am calling the base building phase of my Super Hike training. Having had so much downtime since the abandoned effort to do the Bob Potts Marathon I knew I had to build up again to attempt any kind of distance event. Starting on May 31st of this year I targeted October 25th for an all day hike. Largely due to the knowledge gained from section hiking with the folks identified above I decided to take on the Horseshoe Trail from Northside Road to Great Valley Nature Center. Although I've been going out for time rather than distance each weekend, for this hike I had to factor in distance since I wanted to do a one - way hike and had to choose spots where I could be dropped off and picked up. Based on my average pace on previous timed outings the 24.5 miles between Northside Road and Great Valley seemed ideal. 

Part 1: Northside Road to St. Peter's Village. This section is the only section I hiked in the same direction as before (west to east). I first hiked this section with Alexis on Mother's Day 2014. The same day she tried to teach me the fine art of chicken grooming. A skill we discovered I am highly unsuited to but I had a lot of fun learning about it and visiting her. We finished that escapade with a hike into St. Peter's Village and back. Although we did not take the detour that I had to take yesterday. 

What I didn't plan on was that this weekend was opening day of small game hunting season in PA. As I stood at the trail head (which proceeds through state game lands) waiting for my Garmin to find the satellites I realized I had three strikes against me. The hunters had guns (#1), the hunters had dogs (#2), and I did not have any blaze orange(#3). I had a moment of  pure panic and then remembered scouting the aid stations for Misery Loves Company's  50 SOS. Maggi and I drove all around the trail to do that. And so I knew I could stay on the road around the gamelands and pick up the trail at Trythall Road. 

BTW, the blaze orange vest and hat I ordered earlier this week arrived while I was out hiking. 

Part II: St. Peter's Village to French Creek Elementary School. I first hiked this section east to west with Candy and Kristi. Ladies it was much much much drier this time. The entire trail was covered in a thick layer of dry leaves. When possible this allowed me to slush through listening to one of my favorite sounds - the rustling of the dry leaves as my shoes move through. It wasn't always possible to do that though. The trail - the entire length - has long stretches of rocks sticking up and out of it. This is Pennsylvania after all and while it's not the boulder fields of the Appalachian Trail it might be more dangerous here. The leaf cover was thick and hid a lot of the tripping hazards. I was often caught off balance when my foot hit one of these unseen obstacles. I'm proud to say though that I did not fall once all day. :) 

When I arrived at Warwick County Park I took a deliberate detour off the trail. Instead of going right immediately upon entering the park and then following the ridge line the length of the park I headed for the bathroom. I had coffee with breakfast and I was not going to pass up my only real chance for indoor plumbing. 

When Candy and Kristi and I took this hike in early Spring there had been a lot of rain that week and with the high snowfall this past winter the creek was running high. So we wisely took the trail guide suggested detour. I decided to tackle the creek this time. I had done it once before when a bunch of us went running/hiking here a few months ago. I failed on the return trip across the creek that time too. I spent a good couple of minutes trying to figure out if I could make it. If you zoom in on the map my Garmin drew you can see my zig zagging as I debated what to do. The rocks slant the wrong way for me. I figured it was better to just walk across in the water than risk falling and getting all of me wet. The water came up over just over my shoes. Once across I found a dry place to sit, took off my shoes and socks, dried my feet and put on dry socks. All was good. I had hoped to make it via rock hopping but I was prepared for not making it. 

Part III: French Creek Elementary School to Route 113.  I first hiked this section with Maggi and Russ in the snow.  I was pretty sure then - and I'm convinced of it now  - that we blazed a bit of our own trail that day. In this section the trail blazes are in the worst condition. All along the hike today (except for this section) I could see where trail workers had come out and repainted the yellow blazes. From here (about mile 7) through mile 11 of my day the blazes were few and far between and the ones that were there were faint and peeling. The trail meanders in the first part through a lot of woods and the leaf cover this time and snow last time made it difficult to see any path. The lack of blazes made for slow going trying to follow them and not face plant over a rock or tree root. I'm not really complaining just describing. If I didn't want the adventure that the trails offer I'd stick to the roads. 

One noticeable difference between last time and this one is the creek crossing that I almost didn't manage back in March. I'm pretty sure this was one of the spots that back in March we were off trail. The crossing today was quite narrow and even had a large cement filled log portion for easy step crossing. Now it's possible the log was added later but the width of the creek likely did not change that much. 

There was a detour that wasn't my doing in this section. I'm not sure if it is permanent or not but it was a very nice one . It cut out a significant portion of road walking which was really nice. 

Part IV: Route 113 to Great Valley Nature Center: I first hiked this section with Mike, Naomi and Sara.  In fact, it was almost one year ago exactly. So conditions today were very similar to that first time except I was going in reverse. I was nervous about the one section where we got confused going across what looked like someone's property. All I can say is that in reverse it seemed less like trespassing. Although that may be because we had already done it once. There were parts along this section (which had a lot of road in it) that the previous hikes helped me with direction. I had the guide book with me but my memory of the landmarks we had seen before meant I didn't have to dig it out. 

The other big difference is that this time I was in the final 8 or so miles of my day and I have to admit that I was getting a bit cranky in my head. I was passing the six hour mark now - the longest I had hiked to date. When I first plotted out the base building phase I set my sights on finishing with a 10 hour hike. I trimmed it to 8 after missing a few benchmarks along the way. 

I was able to tackle the crankiness by reminding myself about how far I had come. It was hard but it was supposed to be hard. My legs at this point were actually not too bad except for my shins. I attribute that to the amount of road walking. I have done very little road walking since our July 4th adventure. Plus any road walking I would do in sneakers not hiking shoes. 

At what I thought was 3 miles left I texted Dave to let him know I was about an hour out. I came out of a wooded area onto the intersection of Pikeland Road and Hollow Road. I had about 1.5 miles to go. I looked up the hill of Pikeland and my shins were screaming "Please don't make us do that". So I pulled out the map book to make sure I was where I thought I was and decided to proceed down Hollow road to the nature center. More or less I was cutting across the diameter of the half circle the trail would take me. 

Except I got turned around while looking at the guide book and ended up going down Pikeland (away from the hill) instead of Hollow. I made my way back to Hollow and called Dave and asked him to start driving toward me as I continued to walk. I had had enough. 

All in all it was a very successful end to my base building phase. My average moving time was 3 miles per hour. The decision to go for 8 hours instead of 10 was smart and does not set me back. I still have 10 months to get ready for the Super Hike. I finished 24.4 in roughly 8 and a half hours. Garmin map and details here. The shorter route for the Super Hike is a mile shorter than what I just did and with 12 hours to finish. I want to do the longer distance 29.6 and I still think I'm on track to get there. 

The Super Hike will have bigger and longer climbs one after the other after the other. So the next phase of my training is to climb, climb, climb. My goal between now and March is to get stronger and more efficient on the climbs. 

Next weekend though is a week off from hiking. Saturday is balloon handler practice for the Thanksgiving day parade and Sunday I plan an urban hike along the SRT in the city across the new bridge. 

I did not take a lot of photos today, I wanted to focus on moving along. It was hard not to take photos it was such a beautiful day. Here the few that I did take. 

Thanks for reading, 

Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


My new hiking shoes are awesome. Patagonia Drifters. They fit perfectly. Right out of the box they took me up and down Hawk Mountain (twice) on Saturday and around Ridley Creek State Park's White Trail on Sunday. Not a smidgen of discomfort. It's really quite incredible.

What has me shaking my head now is the number of pairs of shoes I have for sport. I have my new awesome hiking shoes. I have two pairs of Saucony running shoes from my abandoned marathon training last year. They still have life in them and I'm using them for my hill workouts and pavement walking. I also have an older pair of Saucony's that I wear to and from Yoga class (because there are these silly rules about driving without shoes). I dug them out of the closet for this purpose so as not to wear the others out.

If you are keeping up that's 4 pairs. It's Madness!! For someone who craves order and reasonableness - especially when it comes to spending habits - this has the makings of a nervous breakdown.

Having said that I just went online and ordered a second pair of my wonderful hiking shoes. I will likely need them before the Super Hike which is 10+ months and about 700 miles away. I'm trying not to hyperventilate here.... they were more than 1/2 off the regular price.

I had to do it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hawk Mountain Hike

I did make it to the North Lookout eventually --- and this photo is proof. Just not on the path I had hoped to take.

Here is a link to the various Hawk Mountain Treks (as they are called). I figured if I'm going to make the trip I was going to make the most of it so I chose the Golden Eagle Trek (a combination of three trails) as my goal for the day. "The guide says 4 miles; allow 3-4 hours of daylight to hike". I knew going in that the hardest part for me would be the portion that combined with the Skyline Trail along the ridge line. I was really worried my fear of heights would kick in. It was difficult to tell from the descriptions how steep the drop off might be on either side of this portion. I could only find references to the fact that they existed. The photos of the boulder sections on the ridge line are aerial photos. Probably because on the trail it takes both hands to keep balance and scramble across. The scrambling didn't worry me. I had done that on the Appalachian trail trek back in August. It was the fear of falling plummeting to my death the cause of which would be heart failure that worried me. But I had to get up there and see for myself. So off I went.

I began on what's dubbed the River of Rocks Trail. It earns it's name every step of the way. I followed it around until it crossed the Golden Eagle Trail the second time and began the ascent to the ridge line. That is where I encountered this ....

The photo does not do it justice. I climbed about half way up and realized that if it was this way all across the top I was in trouble. I heard voices coming toward me so I waited for the hikers to get closer and asked them if this is the way it was the rest of the way across to the North Lookout. They said yes.. .it was more or less a straight shot across once you got up there but if I was afraid of heights (how could they it was likely going to freak me out. And the climb down on the other side was going to be really tricky. I decided it was best I go back down and pick up the River of Rocks trail again back to the 'regular' trail up to the North Lookout.

This meant going back down more than 700' I had just climbed up only to start climbing back up again almost immediately on  a different trail. The climb to North Lookout from the visitor center is about 210 feet according to their website but the River of Rocks trail I had started on goes downhill for quite a bit before climbing back up. In the end I hiked 6.3 miles instead of 4 in about 4.5 hours. I need to get some climbing work in for the Super Hike. This definitely counts for that! Garmin readout here.

All in all I did ok, I think... except for the fear thing of course. I kept a running clock so my time includes stopping to eat. It's tough to eat when you are climbing and the flats required both hands for balance over the boulders so I had to stop and sit down to eat. The Super Hike clock won't stop if I do so I keep a running clock to better judge how long it's taking me to do my hikes.

As for the fear thing ... I wish I could say I'll go back and conquer the ridge top some day. I really wish I could. Never say never but it was so scary looking. Here are some other random photos from the hike.

From the South Lookout.. about 1/2 mile from visitor center

For Bippy. 

A tree along the River of Rocks Trail 

More rocks on the River of Rocks Trail..
Lots and Lots of this all throughout today

More from the North Lookout

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The One Where We Learned That You Can’t Wipe Your Nose With Your Dirty Underwear On The Golden Gate Bridge ….

(This is one in a series of blogger challenge posts with my nieces which often fall in to the “You had to be there” category. Read at your own risk of confusion)

Ok, so that’s not really how it goes (about the Golden Gate Bridge) but when a family like ours plays Balderdash anything goes.

On Saturday, October 11 the family gathered at our house for the annual Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner. The day was memorable just because but perhaps more so by the number and combination of folks who made it. Although everyone is always invited, this is not a command performance and since it is not an official US holiday work schedules especially among the 16 - 30 something group can sometimes get in the way. This year all members of that generation made it. So did all of their significant others with the exception of Arron who was holding down the fort at the bike shop so Emma could come. We also had three friends of family members.  All told there were 24 packed into our living room. Despite the cool rainy temperatures outside it was warm and (thankfully for sure) dry inside.
There was no way to get everyone in the shot

24 people talk … a lot. It was fun to simply sit back at times and listen to the multiple conversations going on at once. It was very amusing to watch everyone look for a timepiece when there was a lull in the conversation to see if it was 20 minutes before or after the hour. It should be noted that never once did we hit the mark.

Where did that idea come from anyway? I thought it was the ubiquitous “they”. You know “They always say …..” but several family members attributed it to Aunt Miriam and since Aunt Miriam wasn’t there to defend or deny the rumor it will join the ranks of family lore. Right along with “Where’s the pool?”, “This is YOUR carrot” and underwear on the Golden Gate Bridge.

This particular Thanksgiving will be remembered (at least by me) as the one where there were no leftovers except for a tiny serving of vegetables and a pie which we gave to someone else to take since we knew we wouldn’t eat it. Who has Thanksgiving with no leftovers? Turkey and mashed potatoes are usually in abundance. It made for quick clean up but still…….. And then there’s the matter of my right ring finger which began bothering me shortly after pealing about 8 pounds of potatoes.

Thanksgiving complete. Bring on the next puzzle. 
Until next year,

-Keep smiling and keep moving

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A is for making Adjustments

I have momentum. Two hikes on the weekend, yoga on Monday and Tuesdays (yesterday) are rest days. Wednesdays are typically evening hikes and Thursday is for my hills.

So here's the thing. There's always a thing, right? On Thursday I have a class to teach. Once a month I teach an all day class for our new members. It's one of, if not the most, favorite thing about my job. But it leaves me drained. I'm on my feet 7.5 of the 8 hours and although I don't travel much beyond the length or width of the room, I generally end up dehydrated and mentally exhausted. It's fun but it's work. I love it :)

Anyway, an argument could be made that I should push myself to get out anyway. But realistically, I know it's unlikely. Also, I'll be helping to staff our Association Happy Hour after work this particular Thursday so I won't get home till 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. Something has to give.

I decided that - in the big picture right now - the hill work was more valuable than the evening hike. So tonight I went out for hill-work.

AND ...

I ran ALL SIX of them. Woo hoo! Ok jogged but it counts ;)

Keep smiling and keep moving

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall Hiking Weather - what to wear

It's that time of year. Long Sleeve? Short sleeve? Hat? Gloves? Layers? 

Yesterday's hike started late - 11:00 a.m. - because I had to work a few hours in the morning. It was raining all night and still a little drippy at 11 at Valley Forge. The rain was dragging a cold front with it that would bring temps in the low 40s for most of us before Sunday morning. Timing is everything though and I was throwing lots of alternatives in my bag before I left for work. 

I settled on short sleeves with rain/wind shell and a regular hat. Along with hiking pants and shoes of course. I chose wisely it turns out. The precipitation had all but left by the time I started and the shell kept my torso warm which was needed at the beginning. The temperature climbed as I hiked - probably to about 70 or so - but the extra layer was not uncomfortable and when the wind started to pick up later I was glad to have it. 

I hiked 17.5 miles in just under 6 hours yesterday. I felt good. Especially after having to cut short my hike two weeks ago and bailing completely last weekend. This weekend I felt good about my hydration/electrolyte balance and fueling during the hike. My legs were feeling the layoff but I had good energy and spirits throughout. 

This morning I went to Ridley Creek a little more layered than yesterday. It wasn't quite 50 when I started out. I had long sleeves, the shell and a head band under my hat. I could have used gloves for the first mile. It was a gorgeous fall day in the park. 

I started out just fine. My legs were recovered from yesterday. I didn't feel any muscle soreness. But they felt wobbly. It's hard to explain exactly. That feeling went away though. But about 1.5 hours in the rest of me started feeling dizzy and clammy. :( 

Despite feeling OK yesterday I don't think I properly cared for myself after the hike. I should have hydrated more when I got home, I should have eaten more when I got home and should have done more of both before heading out this morning. 

In hindsight, I also think I overdid it yesterday. The distance was fine but I pushed too hard. My goal on the long hike right now is supposed to about time - not distance or pace. I was pushing the pace yesterday. Consciously, I was concerned about getting back to the parking lot before dark (having started later than usual) and the risk of getting locked in. To be honest though, I was also constantly pushing back thoughts of making up for the missed and shortened workouts. I knew I shouldn't and tried to ignore them but they were there and were difficult to shut down. But hey, I'm human and we are a competitive bunch. Even if it is only with ourselves. So I'll forgive myself, hope I've learned my lesson and move on. 

The thing is, I'm worried about the 10 hour hike on October 25th. Since I want to do a one way hike I need to calculate as close as possible the distance I can cover in that time and get dropped off at the far point to work my way back. Since I will not have done more than 6.25 hours by then I wonder how much steam I'll lose going for 10 and that will affect the mileage. 

The plan is to go one way east on the HorseShoe Trail. If I underestimate I'll get back to Valley Forge too early and have to do circuits around there to make up the time. I'm not sure I won't just bail and go home though. I could stick with my original estimates and simply get picked up short of Valley Forge if necessary. That is likely what I'll do but it's not 100% certain yet. 

Keep smiling and moving


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sometimes things don't happen the way you expect.

Two weeks ago I did 4 hill repeats. Last Thursday I should have done 5 but it was raining and I didn't feel well. I might battle one or the other but together not so much. So today I planned to do 5. On the way home I talked myself into 2 walk - 1 run- 1 walk - 1 run. After I parked the car and walked over to the hill I had decided on 1 walk - 2 run - 1 walk - 1 run.

I ended up doing 1 walk and 4 run!!

Sometimes things don't happen the way you expect. :) :)

The key to success tonight was not caring about the pace of the run portions.I didn't feel the need to 'race' up the hill. I just wanted to get there.  I didn't even bring my Garmin. I focused on form and keeping enough run pace to move up the hill steady. I wanted to find that spot where I could get my heart rate up, sweat a little, but not be gasping for breath at the top. I wanted to keep my shoulders and fists loose. Just move and smile. I succeeded.

Could I have run harder? Yes. Should I have run harder? I don't know and I can honestly say I don't care about that right now. I completed what I set out to do. I want to get stronger. Stronger translates into faster in the long hike because - combined with proper fueling - it will mean being able to go longer distance before fatigue sets in. But I'm training for a hike not a sprint.

Keep smiling and keep moving