Boy, was it hard to type that number. That’s my expected total running and hiking mileage for the year, combined. 64 miles hiking, and 800 miles running (might end up with 801 or 2, but I’ll use the round number for now).
Back in the marathoning days, double that number in running miles was an average to below-average year. But wanting to cut back to save my body and simply stay in shape for hiking, I figured a minimum of 1000 miles per year running/hiking would be a good baseline.
I didn’t even hit that.
Of course, moving had something to do with it. And living the first three months of the year in Maine and struggling to want to get outside in the winter months (seasonal affective disorder is REAL, people!) didn’t help. But living in Virginia means that I’ll have NO excuse to NOT hit that easy-peasy 1000-mile minimum, given both the milder winters and my proximity to so many great hiking trails, including the AT, of course.
2018 is the year I’ll find my stride again.
…but luckily for me, it was in this case. Let me back up: I revisited the Blackwater Creek Trail a few days after last week’s post to take it for a run. The goal was an easy six miler from the Awareness Garden (mentioned in my previous post) to the start of the downtown Riverwalk and back.
Well, the first half went as planned. I enjoyed taking in that stretch of tree-filled solitude that slips through the woods, across a wooden traverse, between small cliffs, beneath a couple of high bridges and through a well-lit stone tunnel before it crashes into the bustle of downtown. I made the turn and headed back. About a mile into the return trip there’s a confluence of three different trails. On my way towards the Riverwalk, I paid attention to the well-placed signage and chose the correct route. On the way back, I was daydreaming and veered left. A quarter of a mile or so into this side journey the trail started going uphill (there are none on the usual section), and I knew I’d made a mistake. I kept cruising along to make sure, and a few hundred yards later blasted out into an area with buildings and chain-link fencing. Chagrined, I turned back. I buzzed down the hill and, once back at the junction, made the correct turn and finished what had inadvertently become a 7.2 miler. I shared a good laugh with a few folks when I fessed up, but it sure did get me to thinking about how easily I had missed a pretty obvious turn because I dozed off mentally for a couple of minutes.
I immediately thought of the good people who have missed a turn, gotten lost and paid the ultimate price for that while hiking. The saddest one for me is the story of “Inchworm”, Geraldine Largay, who stepped off the AT into the Maine woods to answer nature’s call, couldn’t relocate the trail and ultimately died alone in the wilderness. It took nearly two years to find her makeshift campsite and remains:
You have to hike the Appalachian Trail in that area to understand how easy it is to go off-trail and lose your bearings. The trees, the understory, all of it looks so much alike along several sections of the trail in Maine. When I day hiked short sections in and south of the Hundred Mile Wilderness I kept my feet on the trail, or well within sight of the trekking pole I planted on the trail’s edge as a marker, for that very reason. “Inchworm” had hundreds of miles under her hiking belt and lost her way. As a novice hiker/backpacker, I wasn’t taking chances.
So while my little turnaround during an easy run on a well-marked and well-traveled trail system was funny to me and others, it also served as a reminder to keep my head in the game when, in the near future, I’m enjoying the outdoors in a place that is miles from civilization in every direction…
…the young couple whose exploits I was following, they who vanished from their online AT thru-hike journal for over five weeks, materialized from the internet mist three days after my post here last week, delivering multi-day chunks of news in an effort to catch up those of us following them. It was a relief to see that they were still in good health and spirits! The pair had, since their last writing, hammered through New Hampshire (those Whites!) and had made their way up and down the bulk of Maine and into the Hundred Mile Wilderness before their journaling ended. Their last entry was dated September 21st, so I’m assuming they finished their quest and took their photos atop the “Northern Terminus” sign on Katahdin.
I’ll be checking back to make sure, of course. Just like I did during their five weeks of silence. In the meantime, fall hiking season, my absolute favorite, is upon me. I need to start planning some disappearing acts of my own…
(Update, September 29: They did indeed finish, and posted a photo of themselves smiling on top of the sign yesterday. Well done!)