Hot yoga is silly. But at least it’s over in an hour or two. Hot hiking – say, for example, taking on 24+ mile trail on the hottest and most humid day so far this summer (temps above 90 in the valley, I think) lasts a whole lot longer. But this was the day I had dog care lined up and could go do a hike that is so long and arduous, my dogs cannot hack it. At age 49, and not exactly in the best shape of my life, I didn’t know if I could hack it either, but I really wanted to try.
I didn’t wear yoga pants. Too hot. I wore hiking pants and zipped the legs off. I have NEVER done that before. I have never hiked in shorts before. That’s how hot it was. I didn’t wear hiking boots either. Too hot. I wore these low trail runner shoes that were super light and very ventilated. They performed well, although I did change socks at about mile 20. Fresh socks helped my toes survive those last few miles.
Why? Why hike a 24 mile trail end to end in a day? Bragging rights, mostly. And knocking off a rather large section of trail right smack in the middle of that 24 miles that I need to complete my “All Trails” effort. And that fascination with my own ability – I guess I have a need to prove myself and this was a test. I passed.
I went alone. I would have gone with other people but that would have meant advanced planning and communication. My favorite hiking buddy won’t do this kind of insane hiking. She has good sense. My next favorite hiking partners were either busy or a little under the weather… and quite frankly I didn’t want to wait. I have 2 more long hikes I want to accomplish this summer so I have to strike while the iron is hot. It definitely was hot yesterday.
For those detail-oriented numbers types: I hit the trail at 7:20 a.m., at Schutt/Scutt Road. I sat down at the Route 23 Parking Area in Windham, NY, 24.7 miles later, at 6:50 p.m. The extra mileage is from hiking down the Dutcher Notch trail to the spring.
The ascents were hard – it was like I never got my “sea legs” and was out of breath and struggling for air (quite possibly because of the humidity, there really wasn’t enough air!), feeling exhausted and dragged out the whole way up every single one. But the downhills were much more punishing – on knees and toes mostly. I fell twice, and banged up my hand pretty thoroughly. I hiked the next 10 + miles with my hand elevated over my head to help minimize swelling.
The deer flies were maddening. The entire second half of the hike was a biathlon – hiking plus swatting. Deer flies, house flies, mosquitoes – I am amazingly not very bitten up at all, considering their fervor.
Also in the amazing category – I did not get dehydrated. Given the sauna-like conditions, this is pretty impressive. I drank about 6 liters of water, one of them spiked with a Nuun electrolyte replacement tablet. I ate food, drank water, and moved steadily. I completed the hike with an average speed of just over 2 mph. In hiking, that’s pretty good.
I saw a bear, a broad-winged hawk, a doe, and a ton of fungus. I saw almost no people; no one on all of the popular lookout ledges near the campground, no one on North point, and no one on the summit of Blackhead. It was a full day of solitude. One exception – I stopped in the campground to use the facilities and chatted with a staff member there. I can’t say enough good about the North/South Lake experience: the place is clean as a whistle, the staff friendly and helpful, and what a fabulous resource: flush toilets, running water, a beach with a lifeguard for swimming, TONS of picnic tables and pavilions… the place is a freaking gem. If I had young kids, I’d probably be there every day.
It never rained. I was kind of counting on a good downpour to rinse me off so I could go have a beer in public after the hike. Since that didn’t happen, the hubby just poured water on me in the parking area. Best idea ever – an impromptu post-hike shower and towel-dry and a change of clothes. My hubby is a good man. My daughter went with him to get my car from the Scutt/Schutt Road parking area so that I wouldn’t have to drive home. She’s a damn good egg too.
We hit Cave Mountain Brewery in Windham for a beer and a meal on the way home. This place has a great vibe and a tried and true formula for success – decent homebrew, nice quality pub food, TV with the game on, and loud music. My one complaint about Cave Mountain is that it’s too loud in there. But that’s part of the charm.
It was a real thrill and also an honor and privilege of sorts to complete this hike. It required the hubby’s driving and sluicing and dog babysitting involvement, and also his supreme toleration of distress. He hates it when I hike alone. He double dog hates it when I hike alone on such a long and challenging adventure. But he gets it. He understands my competitive spirit and nurtures it. He gets why it’s a need and a thrill and he supports me, despite the pain and suffering it causes him. I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: back when I was with a Bad Boyfriend, I used to wonder what I would be like if I didn’t expend so much energy on anguish. All that time and effort spent being miserable – what would I be like if I could have that time for me, to do with as I pleased? My husband has helped me to answer that question: I have never been more successful, triumphant, fulfilled, or happy than I am now. And I feel like the sky’s the limit.