hiking log, 5/27/17

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(there was definitely a 6 mile hike on 5/21 that I can’t be bothered to log. It was a good hike though.)

  • Location: Batsto, Blue & White Trails (Wharton State Forest)
  • Time: 7:40 – 9:40 a.m.
  • Distance: 5.42 mi
  • Pack Weight: 20 lbs
  • Time on Trail: 2:03:02
  • Splits: 
    • Mile 1: 19:57
    • Mile 2: 19:27
    • Mile 3: 19:47
    • Mile 4: 30:32
    • Mile 5: 21:15
  • Weather: 59° mostly sunny

Hiking with: Andy

Notes: We aimed to do 6 miles today, but I overextended a muscle/tendon in my right leg and had some soreness coming up on mile 5, so opted to end early to avoid injury.

Beautiful weather, nice and cool with a slight breeze by the lake. Was really trucking for the first three miles, then stopped to eat something and lost momentum. Have to figure out how to prevent that in the future.

Highlights: Ate one of the best nectarines of my life on the trail this morning. The mountain laurel was riotous.

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hiking log, 5/7/17

  • Location: Franklin Parker Preserve, Yellow Trail
  • Time: 10 am – 1 pm
  • Distance: 6.00 mi
  • Pack Weight: 20 lbs
  • Time on Trail: 2:40:40
  • Splits: 
    • Mile 1: 21:56
    • Mile 2: 25:55
    • Mile 3: 34:50
    • Mile 4: 27:04
    • Mile 5: 27:02
    • Mile 6: 26:04
  • Weather: 54° mix of clouds and sun, slight drizzle around mile 3

Hiking with: Andy & Adria

Notes: The trail is marked on the map as a 5 mile loop; my iPhone’s GPS said it was actually 6 miles. Still, one of the best hikes we’ve had. Franklin Parker Preserve is beautiful and we found a lot of weird stuff to look at today. The first 2-3 miles of the trail ran through an area that had a recent controlled burn (I’d guess within the last two weeks). The ground was a bit muddy in places after this past week’s rain, but we were able to find a way through even the worst sections.

We found a rabbit’s leg bone, a set of front teeth of some kind, a long trail of coyote tracks, a bunch of old structures, a huge beaver dam, the remains of a snake, and some really good tent caterpillars. We definitely didn’t rush today, taking our time to look at what we were hiking through. The trail itself is not difficult and I imagine when the controlled burns are not happening, it’s well-blazed – but the blazes are plastic diamonds attached to the trees, so they melt when the fire comes through.

Our feet were yellow by the end of the hike from all the pollen we picked up.

I’m sore this evening, but nothing unbearable – left foot more than the right.

And no ticks today. 🙂

hiking log, 4/30/17

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A week late this time.

  • Location: Batona Trail, Ong’s Hat (Wharton State Forest)
  • Time: 10:45 am – 12:30 pm
  • Distance: 3.02 mi
  • Pack Weight: 20 lbs
  • Time on Trail: 1:18:04
  • Splits: 
    • Mile 1: 23:47
    • Mile 2: 30:45
    • Mile 3: 23:07
  • Weather: 59°

Hiking with: Andy & Kay the greyhound

Notes: Cool and windy. Brough Kay the greyhound along; she was interested in everything! I stepped off trail to go to the bathroom and found 3 ticks crawling up my pants. Found a handful more over the next 24 hours – a mix of lone star, deer, and dog ticks. The trail was pretty much empty, nothing specific of note. Walked out 1.5 miles to the road, then back again. Easy hike, no stress.

kay

hiking log 4/23/17

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A few days late, but…

  • Location: Batsto Village, White Loop (Wharton State Forest)
  • Time: 11 am – 1 pm
  • Distance: 4.50 mi
  • Pack Weight: 20 lbs
  • Time on Trail: 1:40:00
  • Splits: 
    • Mile 1: 21:14
    • Mile 2: 26:44
    • Mile 3: 20:01
    • Mile 4: 21:31
  • Weather: 58° rising to 62°, sunny, low humidity

Hiking with: Donna, Andy & Adria

Notes: Beautiful day again. Managed to drag Donna out for a walk; despite early resistance, she was feeling good by the end. Lots of people on the trail, including a scouting group that was full of eager looking boys and grumpy dads. Kind of funny. I thought the trail would be swampy because we’d had some significant rain before, but it was clear.

So far, feeling good. The left foot is probably always going to be sore at this point, but nothing unbearable.

No wildlife of note, but also no ticks.

hiking log 4/9/17

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After a long (long long) hiatus from blogging, I’m going to try again.

I started a hiking log by hand and filled that up pretty quickly; I figure it’s actually a bit easier to try to do this digitally now.

  • Location: Batsto Village, White Loop (Wharton State Forest)
  • Time: 10 am – 12 pm
  • Distance: 4.39 mi
  • Pack Weight: 20 lbs
  • Time on Trail: 1:43:56
  • Splits: 
    • Mile 1: 21:40
    • Mile 2: 19:18
    • Mile 3: 26:54
    • Mile 4: 27:36
  • Weather: 56° rising to 62°, sunny, low humidity

Hiking with: Andy & Adria

Notes: Gorgeous day, very few clouds. The trail was a bit soggy after a couple days of rain (big thunderstorm on Thursday; some of the trees were down along the trail). The parking lot was about half full at 10 a.m., and completely full when we finished up around noon. The trails were crowded – which means that we saw close to a dozen people along the way, hah. A couple of people asked if we had camped overnight, since we were carrying big packs.

Wore my Keens and felt pretty good. A bit of soreness in my left foot between .5 and 2 miles but loosened up after that. I used my poles the whole time, and I definitely noticed that I was wobbly by the end.

Best part of the hike: we paused around mile 3 for a quick rest and watched a small group of Pine Warblers flitting around. Two of the males appear to have been trying to intimidate us, based on this description of their behavior from the Cornell bird lab:

Males are aggressive in the early breeding season, in fall, and in winter. They chase other birds and indicate aggression by gliding or flying with stiff wingbeats toward and then away from their opponent, in a circle. Birds sometimes fight by flying toward each other and locking bills in the air.

They checked us out for quite some time – we must have been standing there for close to 10 minutes. Fun to watch, even if what they wanted was to eat our faces.

A few pictures:

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To be clear: the goal here is to start training for a Batona Thru-Hike again, tentatively scheduled for October 2017. I want to feel strong and flexible again, and hopefully make it through the training season without hurting myself so we can tackle the trail in October!

 

thru hike prep: August

The entire month of August slipped by without an update. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t busy training!

I’ve upped my distance in the past month – I regularly did roughly 9 miles throughout the month of August, hiking at Belleplain State Forest and in Wharton again. I completed the Mullica River Trail (the yellow trail on this map), which was a goal I’d set for the month. There’s a pretty good description of the trail here – this site describes it as “Moderate to Strenuous,” which I scoffed out before setting out – what trails in the Pine Barrens are strenuous?! Oh. This one. The first 6 to 6.5 miles were gorgeous, and we noted that each mile looked different than the last, moving through bogs, cedar stands, and plenty of pine-and-oak mix. We stopped around 5 miles in and had lunch – I broke out the BioLite Stove that Karen gave me for my birthday last year, and we cooked up some chicken sausages using Light My Fire’s Grandpa’s FireForks, for what was probably the easiest camping meal I’ve ever made. The BioLite cooled off and was ready for repacking within 20 minutes of the fire going out – I was pretty impressed.

The last 3 miles or so were a different story – primarily on the soft sand roads that the Pine Barrens are so well known for, the hike was still beautiful, but much more difficult. Imagine hiking on the beach well above the high tide line for 3 miles with a full loaded pack – only there’s no water in sight! It was a rough go for the last stretch, and there was even some rerouting of the trail, so we ended up on some of the old roads behind Batsto Village. I managed to empty my hydration pack just as we entered Batsto Village; fortunately the awesome hot dog guy that usually appears in the Batsto Village Visitor Center parking lot was there, so we were able to refresh with some extra water and an ice cold root beer. That guy is awesome.

I also hiked a section of the Batona from Route 679 to Buttonwood Camp that was marked at about 8.5 miles, but actually ended up being close to 10 miles. The last mile or so was a connector trail that took us off the Batona – this was fine, except that it was absolutely drenched in spiders! Every three feet or so, we had to stop and disentangle ourselves from a giant web. At one point, I didn’t spot the web until it was literally in my face – spider included. I jumped and yelled so loud just from being startled by the feeling that I scared Don, who was a few feet behind me.

This weekend, Andy and I are setting out to do something like 11-12 miles along the Batona, from Buttonwood Camp up to Quaker Bridge, which is roughly five miles back into the woods beyond the Atsion Ranger station. My friend Lynn, who is a triathlete, is going to brave the woods with us for the day – it’s going to be an awesome day!

Tonight I’ll post an update to the mapping page with distances between landmarks and some info about the campsites we’ll be at in October. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from our August adventures – and visit my event page to donate to support us in October!

batona

somewhere along the Batona

beaver pond

Beaver Pond

bed o moss

Again, somewhere along the Batona

fire forks

Using the BioLite and FireForks!

snake friend at belleplain

Snake!!!

sunrise on the way to belleplain

Sunrise on the way to Belleplain

turtle friend outside batsto

Making friends on the way to Batsto

wtf

Whaaaaaaaat.

thru hike prep: July

We’re about 11 weeks out from the thru-hike, which is almost no time at all.

The first two days are going to be long ones – 17 miles each, we’re estimating. In order to build up stamina, I have moved toward 6 miles at a minimum. Up until today, that’s about all I’ve done – 6 miles at a pop, coming in at just around the 2 hour mark. Today, though, I did about 7 miles on the trails around Batsto Village, still coming in at around 2:20.

We also took a trip up to New Hampshire for a week this month with some writer friends. It was intended to be a writing retreat (you can read about it over here) – but of course I managed to sneak some hiking in! One of the trails we attempted was a 2-mile trail – sounds easy, but it was actually straight up the side of Black Mountain. Oof. It was beautiful and challenging, and to be honest, we didn’t quite finish. But it was good to be out there and moving.

Next weekend, I’ll be heading down to Belleplain State Forest to do a 7+ mile trail, and then it only goes up from there. I’d like to do the Mullica River Trail in its entirety before the end of August – that’s a 9-ish mile trail. And then start tackling the southern end of the Batona in September, so I have an idea what I’m working with there before I set out in October.

I’m also trying to keep myself on track at the karate school – I fell off the wagon pretty hard and was lucky to make it to one class a week. But I’m building back up with a goal of doing at least 4 classes per week by the end of August, and maintaining that through September. That should help with the stamina AND the strength, since the instructors combine cardio workouts with core/strength exercises that rely on body weight.

In terms of gear, I bought myself a nice set of trekking poles and a new pair of Keen boots, which are super comfortable. I also signed up for a subscription to Cairn, one of those monthly box services. Cairn is geared for outdoorsy things, and so far I’ve managed to score a titanium spork, a backpacking pillow, and some delicious snacks from Simple Squares and Bricks Bars.

Upcoming posts: figuring out what the heck I’m going to eat on the trail, more training notes, and some hacks I’ve managed to pick up over the last few months.

As usual, consider supporting my hike with a donation to the National MS Society! Details here. 

the surprisingly wild

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More than a year ago, I posted this entry, where I set a goal for myself to hike the Batona Trail from end-to-end. I failed the Krav Maga training I attended last spring, and that failure demolished my self-confidence. I wanted to set – and conquer – a goal that felt good and that I knew I could complete. I had a lot of work to do to get ready, and I really had no idea what was on the horizon for me.

Five months and one week after setting this goal, I married Donna. We had an incredibly fun celebration at Camp Ockanickon, where we were surrounded by friends and family. It was a perfect day.

party about love

Three weeks after that, my hands went numb. I thought that I had slept on them, but when the pins-and-needles feeling didn’t go away, I decided maybe it was a pinched nerve, or an injury from karate. After a few days, the feeling had spread – I couldn’t feel the texture of objects I touched, I couldn’t grip properly, and now my feet were giving me trouble, too. Eventually the feeling spread up my legs and into my abdomen. I visited 3 doctors and one emergency room over the next few weeks. I had tests, tests, and more tests: blood work, evoked potential testing, MRIs.

Brain

Seven weeks after my first symptom,  received a diagnosis: Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. I learned a lot about MS very quickly, but mostly I learned two very important things:

1. My prognosis is excellent. Because I paid attention to my body, and didn’t ignore it when I felt something was wrong, we were able to identify very quickly what was happening. The neurologist I am working with now is confident that we found the illness very early, and he describes me as a “textbook case.” This is good news.

2. I am very lucky. Many, many people experience symptoms far worse than I did – vision loss, cognitive impairment, loss of motor control, partial or total paralysis – the list of symptoms is seemingly endless. My symptoms were not severe – in the grand scheme of things, they are annoying and inconvenient, but that’s about it.

So what now?

Well, the hike is still on. My mobility, balance, and strength are good right now. That might be the case for years or decades; that might be the case only for a few months. There is no way to tell, though at this point, all signs point to good things. But while I have the opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of feeling good.

The trip is scheduled for October 9-12, 2015 – Columbus Day weekend. My friends Andy and Don are going to join me on the trail, and we’ve started inventorying our gear.

gear

I’ll be doing the hike now as a fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; check out the Batona Trail section of this site for details on how to support me by making a donation to the NMSS.

Screenshot 2015-07-06 15.23.54