Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday in the Park with Ice and Snow

THIS every step of today's hike. 
I bailed on hiking yesterday because I do not like cold rain. And that's what was happening when I woke up. Apparently others are not so wimpy as you can see by the frozen over tracks on the trail. My hiking buddy for today suggested we wait until later in the day for some thaw but I have a train to catch before the next snowstorm hits so waiting was not an option for me.

I decided to make one loop of the white trail (4.25 miles) and just go as best I could. It was probably my slowest time on the White Trail but the hike had it's benefits. It was slow going over the existing impressions. They had frozen over so in addition to not being able to place my foot flat anywhere it was slippery. I could have walked on new snow around the tracks but I dislike going off the trail in any conditions. It's bad for the surrounding area for lots of reasons and future erosion is a big one.

So I stayed on the trail bumpy ice and all. It was a good workout for my ankles, knees, hips and feet. They were buzzing pretty good by the end. This was a hike were uphill was just as challenging as downhill. Going downhill I could go heel first to find footing. If I took smaller steps and placed my foot just right in an existing boot mark the icy rim would keep me from slipping. On flatter terrain I could flat foot it most of the way. The only way to propel yourself uphill, though is to dig in and push. Without traction that was really tough. Heel first on the uphill was going to be an Achilles tendon nightmare. I am pleased to say that I managed the entire hike without touching ground with hands, face or butt! It was good practice for the rocky portions of other trails (most of them) in PA. The icy spots were good practice for wet rocky trails.

Along they way I could see why some folks like hiking or trekking poles. I still don't think I want to use them though. I managed without and they'd annoy me having to carry them on spots where I don't need them.

Keep smiling and keep moving

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Importance of Hiking Smart

It was another gorgeous Sunday in the Park today. Made even better (for me anyway) because of the snow. I hiked 6 miles on the Yellow, White and Blue trails. It made me think that maybe I should do a Red, White and Blue hike near 4th of July. :) Truth is the park is trying to phase out the red trail. I'm not sure why but they've blacked out the red blazes. If you know the park or have an old map you can still hike it for now. I need to find out why they are trying to get rid of it. If they are trying to revive some natural habitat or something like that I wont try it.

Anyway, today's hike reminded me of three important lessons in hiking.

Reminder #1 - always have a map with you. I really don't need a map at RCSP but I always have one with me anyway. Mostly in case I or someone I'm with has a struggle or gets hurt I can get a quick look at the fastest way back to my car. But today I was reminded of the importance of having a map for other reasons. I got distracted by a landmark - a big farmhouse along the multi-use trail near the corrugated underpass. I normally wouldn't see this from the trail when the leaves are in full. I knew that I would be coming out off the trail onto the MU trail for a bit right by that farmhouse. But I forgot for a moment that the trail would first go away up and over the hill before turning back toward it. That distraction caused me to turn the wrong way. No harm done I realized it quick enough and my knowledge of the trails here meant I didn't have to take out my map to get back on track. BUT on a lesser known trail it is easy to get distracted - by a view or an animal or to stop and rest. It's easier than you think to get turned around. Don't rely on  your GPS or Internet on your phone. Quite often there won't be service. Always carry a map.

Reminder #2 - it only takes a few degrees to turn what you wore to keep warm  one day into a little too much the next day. There was no wind - or much less than yesterday anyway - today. I wore the same level of layers both in number and weight. I wasn't uncomfortable but I probably would have been on a longer hike. Fortunately I could have taken one off and stuffed it in my pack had I needed to. Which leads to reminder 2A - on a long hike (different for all of us) bring extra clothes in case you need to change for weather or because you got wet. At the very least dry socks and a shirt.

Reminder #3 - watch your nutrition. I did not eat a lot of breakfast before going out today. I ate very close to going out and didn't want to be fighting a digesting stomach. I should have paid more attention and refueled sooner in the hike. I changed my planned route mid stream and that made for an extra mile than I thought it would be. That mile made a lot of difference. My energy bottomed out just before mile 5.

Here is a link to the Garmin map of my route. I had a great a lot of fun today.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Wandering the Frozen Tundra along the Wissahickon Creek

Today I met with some MLC trail runners at Valley Green along the Wissahickon Creek (Forbidden Drive).

I usually park at Northwestern Avenue entrance to FD but the trail runners like to start at Valley Green. I can  understand why since the Inn is kinda in the middle (mile 2 of 5.5) of FD and the trails along the bank of the creek can be picked up for all directions from there. In the past when meeting them I go early and park at NW Ave and the run or hike down to Valley Green. I was not feeling like getting up that early this morning. So last night I admitted to being intimidated by parking at Valley Green and asked for help. The group responded kindly and assured me there were no secret turns or difficulties getting to the parking lot. But it was John T's text that saved me. He told me he comes down Wises Mill Rd off Henry Avenue. All along I wanted to come down Wises Mill because I could see from the trail exactly how it approached but every time I tried to map it, the route would not go there. With John's assurances I went that way.

At 8 am I met with this group which included Tootsie who hiked with me. Two others took off before I got the photo.

Tootsie and I crossed the creek and headed northeast toward Bells Mills Road. I had hoped to pass by the Indian Statue but missed it --- again. I have yet to find it on my own. And I have never found the Toleration Statue because I've only tried on my own.  So today's hike keeps my streak of getting 'lost' at Wissahickon intact. Fortunately, it's hard to get hopelessly lost here. If you feel like you are, you just head down to the creek and follow it to a bridge. We did not have to resort to that today but we definitely turned off somewhere I had not intended. We saw some trails I haven't explored here yet. It was great.

The trails were mostly just snow covered with a few icy spots where there was thaw and refreeze but nothing hidden so we managed it just fine. All told we did 5 miles. Ok, 4.9 if you must know the truth. :) After reaching Bells Mills Road we crossed over and returned via the yellow trail on the other side.

I felt great at the end and would have strongly considered going out again except for one rookie mistake. This is the first time out this season in sub freezing temps with my pack and I forgot that I have to keep the tube inside my jacket or it will freeze. Solid as a rock. So I had no water after the first mile and that's not good. It took almost half the trip home in the heated car for it to thaw. I'm happy to say this was my only error. I had appropriate layers top and bottom and had even remembered to Vaseline my face for extra protection against the wind.

The views today were awesome.  You'll have to take my word for it though. The few pictures I managed to take were washed out by the bright sunshine. So you'll have to imagine the creek running through the ice and the gigantic ice patches and icicles coming off the hills and the gorgeous view of the covered bridge from high up on the creek on both sides.

Trust me it was beautiful .

Keep smiling and keep moving

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Goals

It's that time of year. I see people posting and asking about 2015 goals. I'm more a 'do the best you can every day one day at a time' person than a resolution person, but I can get on board with thinking out loud.

As it is I've been thinking about my previously stated goal to do the Susquehanna Super Hike in 2015. There's no doubting that I want to do it. The benefits of a supported hike are many. In no particular order, they include:

- Less hoops to jump through figuring out the logistics of a one way long distance hike
- Less to carry due to aid stations every 5-7 miles
- The awesome atmosphere of a formal endurance event
- The opportunity to meet new people/make new friends

What I'm contemplating is whether or not I should sign up right away. Registrations opens February 1st and I've had that marked on my to do list since last year.

For my running adventures signing up early was a carrot to keep me moving and smiling and training. Each year, I'd choose the main event for the year and sign up as early as possible knowing that if I was registered I wasn't going to let the 'I don't feel like going out today' demons derail me. I leaned on my running friends a lot to keep me going too. I don't really need that for hiking though. Whether there is company or not, whether there is a goal or not, I enjoy going out on the trails. So do I really need to sign up at the first opportunity? There is fine line, too, between the upside and downside of early registration. A fine line between motivation and the pressure of "I have to do it because I'm signed up."

Training is rewarding but the pressure to complete every workout is not. The internal debate about the effect of missing even one workout - whether for a real reason or an excuse - can be exhausting. The constant rejiggering of the training plan because you're not sure it's going to work is frustrating. Do I want to put myself through that? Don't bother telling me it doesn't have to be that way. I know *IT* doesn't but it's the way *I* am.

Here;s the thing. (Always the thing, right?) There's no doubt in my mind that I can complete the event. After my daylong hike in October, I am really confident that barring the unexpected I can finish the long version of the hike within the time allowed (12 hours). I have to continue hiking; I have to put in some long hard efforts; I have to practice climbing steeper hills. I know that and I believe that I can accomplish that without the pressure of the completed advance registration.

The benefit of not registering early is that I can designate certain hikes to be the long hard, training ones. I can designate certain days for short hard climbing workouts. AND - best benefit of all and the reason for all this thinking - is that I can also have plenty of hikes that are just for the beauty and enjoyment of the trail that I happen to be on at the time. Stopping to smell the roses and enjoy the view. If I'm right, I can enjoy a spring and summer of hiking with a combination of fun and work and still register later. The event has not sold out in the five years it's been around. They even took a registration the night before (although I would not wait that long).

If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and I don't do the hike. It's not the end of the world. I think I'm better off without a committed 2015 event.

Keep smiling and keep moving,

PS I do have to not forget to register at all. :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year

On January 2nd last year, Dave and I went ice skating and he taught me how to skate backward. This was thing one of what was hoped to be 27 new things in 2014. I think I only made it to 5 or 6 new things. I had fun with the things I did learn, I just didn't pursue the goal aggressively enough to make it to 27. Yet, 2014 was not a disappointment. I learned lots of stuff in 2014, just not within the parameters of my goal. Goals are good unless you regret stuff because you didn't get there.

In 2014 I hiked three more sections of the Horse Shoe Trail, sort of started the Mason Dixon Trail, rode my bike 30 miles in one ride, hiked my longest hike in one day.I also -- 

Hiked my first section of the Appalachian Trail
Hiked to the top of Hawk Mountain

And so much more.
2015 is going to be another great year. Thanks for reading,

Keep smiling and keep moving.