Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Second Test Hike
Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. ~ John Muir
So from my first test I learned a lot about how my body would respond to the stress of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT). One thing I found out was that my hip abductors were weak so I started hitting the hip machines. The other thing I became concerned with was how could I work the muscles needed to descend because they had been incredibly sore. In doing some research I found out something surprising, the elliptical machines in the gym, when operated in reverse, hit the muscles you use descending. I was a bit skeptical but one session and I was convinced and so I switched up my gym routine to include these new workouts.
So I headed back up to the Armstrong Reserve I talked about in my first test hike post and this time the plan was to do 5 days in a row. I was curious to see how I would respond after really upping the intensity of my gym workouts including targeting some areas I discovered needed work during the first test hike. At the gym my workouts have including three consecutive days with one to days off afterword. The first day is a high intensity 75 minute workout, 25 minutes on the stair machine (level 9), 25 minutes on the elliptical (forward – level 22) and 25 minutes on the tread mill (15 degree incline and 3.2 miles per hour). This workout burns over a 1000 calories. The second workout is strength focused, hip abductors, biceps, deltoids, bench press, a couple of back workouts and squats. The third day is a longer and lighter version of day one, same workouts at lower intensity but also I alternate the elliptical modes 3 minutes forward and 3 minutes reverse, all of these workouts are 30 minutes in length.
As always a hectic three hour drive from home and then right to the trail head. A quick nearly six mile loop, the same loop I did on Day 1 last time. Obviously training has had some impact, I did the loop a little bit faster with a pack about 5 pounds heavier than last time and I cut about 20 minutes off of the loop. That first night I felt good as I sat in front of the fire place in the cottage I had rented.
The most beautiful thing I saw today was a spread of bright yellow leaves framed against the rich dark soil.
What made me happy today was being out on the trail, I’ve been so busy with selling my house, packing, wrapping up my job it felt absolutely great to be doing nothing but walk! I also met a couple of other hikers, not tourists, but hikers who are also traveling nurses. It’s always great to run into fellow hikers and have those wonderful trail conversations you always have.
Woke up and I could tell I walked the day before but wasn’t particularly sore. I did a long loop around 8 miles up the Pool Ridge trail to the Gilliam Trail Head and back down. It was a good workout, I had obviously strained something or tweaked a nerve on the inside of my thigh. It didn’t constantly hurt but it would tweak out and cause me a really sharp pain every time the terrain flattened out, a couple of the times quite badly but it was really intermittent and so I motored through.
Motor was the word of the day, a little over 8 miles in less than four hours with a 35 pound pack and about 2000 feet in elevation gain. I was a little more tender at the end of Day 2 than Day 1 and went to bed a little tentatively wondering what the morning would bring as far as how physically sore I would be.
The most beautiful thing I saw on Day 2 was the view down the valley when I hit the high point of the hike, a beautiful sunny day with fog flowing up out of a valley in the distance.
What I learned on Day 2 was that my training was working, I felt a lot better descending and at the end of the hike didn’t feel bad, as a matter of fact the last mile or two I was actually cranking along and smiling I felt so good.
What made me happy today was that I was able to stop a number of times and experience natural quiet. A point where you can hear nothing man made what so ever, there isn’t much more relaxing than standing in a dark redwood forest hearing nothing but the sounds of nature.
Today I came up the backside of the hike I had done on Day 2 and the last mile is an amazingly steep and consistent climb. The nerve I had tweaked the day before seems to have calmed down. I walked the entire climb with one small break, marking myself against the last time I did this climb where I had several stops. I felt good, a little faster than I had expected to be although nothing anyone would consider speedy. I stopped and had a really pleasant lunch, I had forgotten I had thrown in a couple of peanut butter cookies and it was a very happy surprise.
The walk down was pleasant and fast, I must be feeling really comfortable in the grove as when I hit the valley floor and the wave of tourists I’m suddenly getting peppered with questions about the park. I happily answer them as I walk along, a really great day.
The most beautiful thing I saw today was a friendship. Two friends who I leap frogged on the trail, one an avid hiker the other being pushed a bit. At the top of the trail they stopped for lunch where I did and I heard the newbie thank her friend for pushing her.
What I learned today? My preparation is really on track, I feel good and am starting to pick up my speed.
What made me happy today was really starting to feel like the smallest bit of a thru-hiker, getting back into the multi-day hiking swing of things.
A reverse of the previous days hike, a fast and comfortable 8 miles and I really feel like I’m hitting my stride. The most beautiful thing I saw today was a really brightly colored garden snake, about a foot and a half long and skirting along a little rock face.
What I learned today was how different life on the trail is for some of us. A lot of tourists today and they are loud and bouncy and really not taking time to soak in the surroundings. Not a judgment but a really different experience than the one I’m after.
What made me happy today was walking my fourth day over big hills with little pain, I’m tired but I feel really good.
Day 5 is a quick little 6 mile loop before I make the drive home. The most beautiful thing I saw today was the Russian River as I crossed it, really calm and beautiful. What did I learn today, I guess that transition days suck, already missing the trail as I drive home. What made me happy today was just the knowledge that I’ve done nearly the equivalent of what I’ll do from start til my first reply on the AT, I feel good about my progress and am starting to get excited for the real deal and many happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane