20 miles and a revelation

I groggily swiped at my phone, trying to snooze my alarm. It was already 4 am, and I was supposed to get up and leave for the trailhead in 30 minutes. I didn’t have much time, but I didn’t care. I turned the alarm off, knowing another was set to go off in another 10 minutes. The second and third alarms blared; I finally gave in and stumbled out of bed.

I quickly put on my hiking clothes and fed the dogs. Once they happily had their fill of water, I ushered them back into our bedroom. I laced up my trail running shoes, grabbed my pack, and groaned, telling myself, “This sure feels heavy.” I didn’t remember at the time, but the pack was 34 lbs.

Suddenly the cabin was filled when I exclaimed, “Shit!”. I had forgotten to get food for breakfast and snacks while on the trail. Quickly running through the options that I had available, I settled on a convenience store. I was going to pass a 7-Eleven on my way out of town, so I wanted to get one of the refrigerated burritos and something to drink. I pulled into the parking lot, and a homeless man was walking towards the front of the store, just as I was. He called out to me, “Spare some change?” “I don’t have any change, sorry about that,” I replied. Soon after entering the store, I regretted apologizing. Why am I apologizing? It’s not my fault that I don’t have change.

After perusing the refrigerated section, I left disappointed. The store didn’t have the burritos, so I wandered through the rest of the aisles, remembering what Malto ate on his training hikes in 2011. In his blog, he described eating donuts every mile or so and said that food consumption was tremendous in his continual performance. As that memory ran through my mind, I grabbed a couple of packages of Hostess Coffee Cakes and a Body Armor for hydration both before the start of the trail and when I got back to my car. I saw the sandwiches and grabbed one. “Hopefully, I won’t regret this,” I murmured, half smirking at the thought of a “gas station sandwich.”

With those purchased I exited the store, quickly glancing towards the homeless man, then headed directly to my car. “Hey, garbled”  I heard him calling after me. I didn’t know what he said and ignored it. Again, he called, but this time much louder, “Do you have a smoke”? “NO,” I roared back, “I don’t smoke.” I was pissed. I’m unsure if this feeling was primarily because I had been working from home for the past 3 years and had significantly fewer interactions like this now, but I felt accosted. I feel for women who go through this.

Back in my car, I headed towards the mountains; they were calling me, after all.

Looking at the time, I realized I wouldn’t reach my destination at my planned time, but I didn’t care; I was close to schedule. 

I pulled into the parking lot, where I would leave my car for the next 10-12 hours. As I stepped out, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be taking off my jacket any time soon. In fact, I’d need my hood from my shirt for additional warmth, as my hat is very thin on top and is for the sun, not cold.

I quickly packed my newly obtained snacks, wolfed down my fig bar, and finished off my Body Armor before heading down the trail.

The trail would be easy terrain for the first five miles or so, and then we would climb. I was in great spirits. In fact, when I was making my way towards the Wind River, I saw a herd of elk out of the corner of my eye. I stopped and watched for a few moments, then realized that I should take a video of this. I rarely see animals when I’m out, so when I do, I generally just watch.

I started recording just in time before they finally moved off through the brush. One, partly blocked by the trees, was standing with its head towards me, suspiciously watching my direction.

When I reached Panther Creek, I stopped for a break and to eat my sandwich. I glanced at my watch and was pleased when it read 8:25 am. I was on track. In another 5 miles, I would hit my turnaround point, but after this break, I would climb around 2800 feet in elevation.

I took my shoes and socks off, letting their air out while eating my sandwich. I massaged my feet, thinking Mat always states that he “babies” his feet. On this trip, I would adopt that stance. The body is as important as the Mind.

While deep in thought, something caught my eye. A hiker was crossing the bridge above me. It looked like she had a full pack, not unlike me. I wondered where she was going. Was she on a training hike like me or staying the night out here? You would inevitably run into snow up the mountain I was about to climb.

I finished my gas station sandwich, again amusing myself. I tied my laces and threw my pack on and off. Then I went across the bridge and up the mountain.

It wasn’t long before I saw something on the trail. ” Was it a hat?” I thought to myself. Every time I think I see something odd in the forest, it turns out to be a boulder or a log, so this time, I was skeptical and refused to believe what I thought I saw until I was closer. “It is a hat!” I exclaimed out loud to no one in particular. It must be the solo hiker that I saw 30 minutes prior. I picked it up and continued down the trail. Noticing that my hand was quite warm. “Wow, this is a pretty warm hat,” I thought.

After another 15 minutes or so, I caught up to her. She had slowed down considerably, and as I continued towards her, she decided to take a break and sit down. A few moments later, I called out, asking if she had lost her hat.

Surprised, she looked at me and what I held and slowly said, “Yes, I guess.” I eagerly exclaimed, “I found your hat!” and returned it to her. Finally, I get an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone else and help them out. 

We chatted briefly, wished each other well, and I was off. I figured we’d run into each other again, but it wasn’t the case. That would be the first and only chance that we would have to chat with each other.

I reached my turnaround point at mile 10 with little fanfare. My feet were still feeling pretty good, but again, I turned to the ritual of taking off my shoes and socks, massaging my feet, and letting them air out for 10-15 minutes.

I wished I had more time because the sunshine felt great, and taking a short cat nap would be great. But alas, it wasn’t to be; we had miles to cover! Before I knew it, I was crossing the bridge at Panther Creek again. I wouldn’t be stopping here again, though. I liked the idea of stopping only a few miles away from the finish, so I continued on to Wind River, another two miles away.

Before long, Wind River appeared, and a lovely log presented itself—a perfect break spot! This time, the chill in the air was gone, and it was fairly warm. My feet were starting to bother me. I used multiple stretching techniques and cursed myself for not utilizing all of them every time I stopped.

I ate my last Hostess Coffee Cakes, drank water, and continued down the trail. It wouldn’t be long before I was back in my car. The last mile or so was lovely, easy terrain, wandering through forest and meadows. It was pretty chill and a fantastic way to end a 20-mile hike.

I would call this training hike a success; my body felt great most of the day, I exposed a potential weakness with plantar fascitis, and I had no blisters.