Saturday, February 09, 2013

I Keep My Eyes Wide Open All the Time

I started this on Thursday, but ran out of energy...

Right now I'm one tuckered out little trooper.  I just got back from walking over seven miles out on the local greenway, and I have to toot my own horn because seven miles is a new personal best for me as far as distance goes.  The most I've walked at one time since I embraced this form of exercise was five miles, and that one wiped me out.

This hike didn't really kick my ass, but I sure took a few punches. I was thinking earlier of strapping on the full backpack and doing a six-miler down at Beaman Park, but that seemed a little bit too ambitious for me at this stage in the game.  Instead, I did an easier hike with a longer distance, and instead of my full-on 36 lb. expedition pack, I just took my daypack.  With water, a snack, a rain jacket and some other essentials, it tipped the scales at only eight-and-a-half pounds.

Walking the greenway is fairly enjoyable, and while the pavement harder on the feet, it's much easier on the knees, ankles, and lungs.  I think it was designed so that people in wheelchairs can enjoy it, so it's an easy stroll for the most part.  However, there are a couple of pretty steep hills along the way, so that would explain why I've never seen anyone with a wheelchair out there hiking with me...

I caught a break in the weather, too--all the predictions were for overcast and rain all day, but even as I type this it's still 66 degrees and sunny out.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.

I parked my car at the trailhead in town, and did the exact same walk I did last Thursday--three and a half miles along the Honey Run Creek.  This time, however, I stopped to eat a coconut/chocolate chip Cliff bar when I got to the trailhead at the far end, rested for about five minutes, and turned around and started the long walk back.  It was motivation in the purest form--there was nobody around to pick my tired ass up, and my car was three and a half miles away.

Like a wise man once said, It's just walkin'...

The first half took me about an hour and twenty minutes, on the way back, however, I stopped for a couple of three minute rest breaks, and my pace was definitely slower on the way back, and over all it took me right at three hours to do the entire seven miles.

Yeah, I was wiped out when I was finished, and my right foot was on fire.  I had the beginning of a blister that wanted to form, but didn't quite make it.  I wasn't smart enough to bring tape and moleskin with me this time, but on my next hike, it's definitely going along for the ride.

I credit my lack of blisters on having some good gear.  First of all, everyone has their little quirks and things they obsess about.  Some folks like jewelry, some have to have the latest electronic gadget, others are particular about coffee--everyone has their oddball triggers that put them in their happy place.  I may be weird, but I swear, one of life's simple pleasures, the thing that presses my button, is wearing high-quality wool socks.  Not just any socks, but the expensive stuff.  Yeah, I know it doesn't have the cache of a Coach bag or Gucci sunglasses, or even an expensive post-Rolex watch, but I love me some Wigmam silk-and-merino wool socks.  And Darn Tough Vermont Boot socks, too. I think I have about four or five pairs now, and while they range in price from $16 to $25 a pair, they are worth every penny.

First of all, I've spent the better part of the past twenty years living in the desert.  Phoenix, Vegas--both extremely hot locales.  I've also lost about 150 pounds, and I'm now on blood thinners.  So let me share with you a bit of my daily misery--I am COLD all the time. I may be living in the South, but it still gets damn cold here in the winter time, and everyone makes fun of me for bundling up like Randy in A Christmas Story every time I venture outdoors between October and March.  And half the time I'm home watching TV down in the den, I've got the space heater cranked on, I'm under a sleeping bag on the couch, and I'm wearing a knit beanie on my head. 

So I started buying wool socks to keep my feet warm.  Once I got into hiking, I decided to invest in the ones that would last, and, well, here we are.  I put a couple of pairs of Darn Tough socks on my Amazon wishlist, and a generous soul got them for me for Christmas.  And every long-distance hiker I've talked to swears by them.

So I wore some on this hike, just to see how my feet would hold up.  I also wore a pair of synthetic undies that Reverend Dave swears by, along with my favorite hiking shorts.  Imagine, if you will, a pasty white guy huffing and puffing down the trail wearing a fleece jacket two sizes too big and a pair of old cargo-style swimming trunks hiked up above his belly button yet still hanging down below his knees, with the crotch blown out.

Sexy, huh?  I know, ladies, try to hold back your orgasms!

But it worked for me. I was plenty warm (even ditched the fleece halfway through).  So while it was a shakedown on socks and underwear, (both proved to be up to the task), it was an enjoyable hike also.  Besides being great exercise, I saw all kinds of excellent wildlife.  Every time I go, I always see plenty of cool birds and squirrels, and this time I saw some sort of hawk, a blue heron, and the usual assortment of robins and cardinals.  But the absolute coolest thing that made me damn near freak out was I saw a real-live bobcat for the first time ever. At first I couldn't tell if it was just a huge rabbit or possum or something when I first saw it creeping through the underbrush, but then it jumped out on the trail, stared at me for about two seconds, and then darted off in the woods.  Not nearly enough time to get my camera out and snap a picture, so hell, it may as well have been Bigfoot, but still, that's one of the reasons I love wandering around in the woods.  Oh, and that picture above, the one about watching out for snakes, yeah, there are four of those signs along the entire seven miles.  I didn't see any, luckily, but I was on the lookout.

It was a beautiful day out, too.  While the weatherman called for rain and overcast all day, it was sixty-plus degrees and sunny--perfect weather.

Even though it was a gorgeous day out, and I really wasn't that far from civilization (I mean, the trailhead is right next to a Sonic fer cryin' out loud), I only encountered a few other people the entire time I was out there.

One of the things I learned, however, is that using the Motion-X GPS app on my iPhone for three hours will completely drain the battery.  I like to use it as an accurate way to track my time and distance (and also upload it to Facebook to brag a little), but it's too much of an energy suck to use it for that long.

I'll probably stop using it on longer hikes altogether, and when I head out into the 'real' woods, not along a paved greenway, I'll ditch my iPod, too.  I love having music to motivate me along, and it's fine for a paved track that's relatively civilized. But whenever I'm way out in the middle of nowhere, I never use it.  First of all, I want to hear if there's anything else out there with me--human or animal, and second of all, it just seems like blasphemy to do so--like talking on the cellphone in church or something.  On the uphills, however, it was an awesome tool to have at my disposal.  Just as I started up the steep hill near the end of the first half, Joaquin Phoenix's cover of Walk the Line came on, and that two-step country bass line mirrored my pace almost exactly, and that extra 32 measures at the end of the song where there is no singing and it just drones on and on, well, that got me to the top of the hill. I got a kick out of that--it was some great unplanned timing, but I think the all-time greatest hill climbing music has got to be Promontory from Last of the Mohicans:

Can't help but motor up the mountain when hearing that, especially if you remember the movie.

On Sunday, Scottie and I were planning on doing a six-and-a-half miler down at Garrison Creek on the Natchez Trace, but doing my pre-hike planning, I found out that part of the trek involves a knee-deep creek crossing of about twenty feet.  Ain't gonna do that in February!  I bitch about being cold enough already, so I think we'll just go to Beaman Park instead.  I know I won't have to get my feet wet there--it's nothing but hills.

More in a bit...


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