Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day Hike

Family Campout -- Episode 4

While looking at the park map I noticed a seven mile day hike that looked like fun.  Great! I thought.  Having decided not to bring the bikes along on this trip I figured we would have a good opportunity to enjoy some quality hiking for something different.

We planned to do this hike as a family but unfortunately the weather got hotter and more humid each day.  In the mornings we rose early around 7:30am and by 9:00 it was sweltering.  On the scheduled day LeeAnn and Wyatt decided to bail on the hike and spend the day at the Park Lodge swimming pool.  I can't say that I blame them and then I realized this arrangement would let me attack the loop at my own pace and get in the zone as they say.

I filled my camelback bladder with 70 ounces of water and stowed a bag of pistachios as a salty snack. I set out into the forest sometime before noon.  Extreme heat does not seem to bother me and long ago I learned how important it is to stay hydrated.  I enjoy the cleansing effect of a good sweat brought on from intense physical exertion.  I certainly got my fill of both this day.

The trail followed densely wooded ridge tops where a cool breeze always seemed to be blowing and descended into steamy and moist ravines where the air was stifling and still.  I knew it was hot when I saw the exposed tops of rocks buried in the trail sweating like water pipes on a humid day.

At about the three mile mark I encountered a young woman hiking the opposite direction.  We exchanged a quick greeting and continued on each going our separate ways.  I was beginning to think I was the only one hardcore or perhaps crazy enough to be out on a day like this and not relaxing poolside or in the lake.

I continued on pushing the pace enjoying the much different physical challenge offered by this hike as opposed to my usual cycling efforts.  Climbing is tough be it on a bike or on foot but descending steep rocky trail is extra strenuous and taxing all the while using caution to avoid turning an ankle.  I love the solitude of being out in the wild on my own but at the same time I am well aware of the risks.

In the distance ahead of me I began to here the distinctive sound of a chain saw.  This did not surprise me as had I read a small sign posted near the trail head warning that work was being done by the forestry department.  As I drew nearer I could hear the saw suddenly idle down followed a sharp cracking sound then a dull ominous thud.  Hearing it in person has much greater impact than watching that show on the discovery channel. 

Rounding a bend in the trail I came upon the work crew sitting down taking a break.  When I reached them one of them asked "A pretty hot day to be all the way back here isn't it?"  That's funny I thought to myself as they were decked out in work pants, hardhats and heavy leather chainsaw chaps.  Being on the clock though they had a reason for being out on such a hot day.  They were good guys and even offered me some water from their big orange water cooler. 

With my senses heightened from the exercise the smell of the freshly upturned soil was intense.  Walking on the loose ground did become annoying when I had to periodically stop to remove chunks of clay and pebbles from my lowtop hikers.  mosquitoes, flies and gnats attacked each time I came to a stop.

At about five miles the trail split right down the middle of a huge black raspberry patch.  I had walked almost half way through the patch which sat on the top of a long ridge before I noticed it.  I was busy looking for photo opportunities and nearly missed the berries all together.  This unexpected find made the whole day worth it.  Some of the fruit was just coming ripe.

I gathered and ate four or five handfuls of the delicious fruit and within minutes I felt the energy from the natural sugars coursing through my body.

The trail followed raspberry ridge steadily downhill and with a few more ups and downs I finally found my self nearing the end of the loop.  I passed this odd stone structure shortly before meeting back up with the short connector leading back to the trail head.  A chimney maybe but strange with no mortar between the stones.

Everyone has their own idea of what an "epic" day is but for me this was it.  After putting in an all day effort like this I have a new found respect for those who carry their gear, hike, camp and then get up the next day and hike some more.  Back at the campground I put on my bathing suit and took a long cold shower.  Returning to the campsite I sat down and enjoyed a beer happily reflecting on the days events before starting my spaghetti dinner at sunset. 

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