Monday, January 20, 2014

Bright Hope Trail, Pocahontas State Park

Thursday at work, my hiking buddy Hawkeye suggested that a few of us go for a hike Sunday (yesterday).  So we agreed to meet up at 11:00 at Pocahontas State Park, southwest of Richmond.
At the parking lot, there was a guy and his five Samoyed sled dogs getting ready for a wheeled sled ride along the trails.  How those dogs could bark!  They were so excited, and deafening.
Hawkeye selected our route, the Bright Hope Trail, which made for a pleasant and easy 5.4 mile hike.  It was a good first hike of 2014.  We started and ended at the orange star and walked counter-clockwise.
You can see that while there was some uphill and downhill, it was pretty minor with total elevation loss and gain of less than 400 feet.  Plus the trail was nicely graded and smooth, with no roots or rocks to trip over.
This was my first chance to try my new trekking poles.  The photo shows one folded up, with is a big reason that I wanted this pair.  They will easily fold up into a pack or suitcase.  They don't have shock absorbency, but I really liked them.
My hiking comrades, Hawkeye and Larry, pose near the start of our hike through the Piedmont forests of Virginia on a beautiful winter day.
There is an old cemetery along the way, the Gill-Dance Cemetery.  It was sad to see tombstones of so many very young children, many under six months of age.
I laughed when I saw an old man in this tree (with a distorted nose).  I could see an eye and mouth.  It reminded me of the ents in the "Lord of the Rings" movies.
Most of the hike was forest just like this.
At the end of this hike, Hawkeye suggested we do another shorter hike of about 2.5 miles around Beaver Lake, but I foolishly declined.  I wanted to get home to watch the AFC Championship Game, which I thought was going to be a great game and a classic quarterback duel.  I was wrong.  It was a one-sided game and only one of the quarterbacks played great.  I was really annoyed with myself to not go on the second hike.  But anyway, I had fun hiking the Bright Hope Trail on a pretty day.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ultimate Hiker or Ultimate Camper?

I recently began reading a great book that I bought a few months ago: "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" by Adventurer (the Capital "A" was intentional, cause this guy is a real Adventurer!) Andrew Skurka.  I mean, this guy has done 30,000 miles of long distance hikes, including the 4,700 mile Alaska - Yukon Expedition!  He once spent 11 months traveling 7,800 miles coast to coast, including 1,400 miles on snowshoes through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northern Minnesota.  So yeah, Adventurer! I highly recommend this book to any hiker or backpacker.

In the first part of the book, the author discusses backpackers as being either Ultimate Hikers vs. Ultimate Campers.  One of the key characteristics separating these two groups is the type of fun one loves to have in the outdoors.  Type 1 Fun is fun at the time and fun to talk about later.  Type 2 Fun is not really fun at the time, but fun to talk about later.  And then there is Type 3 Fun, which is not fun at the time and not fun to talk about later, although how can that be considered "fun?"  In my mind, type 1 fun might be a back country trip with great weather, great scenery, or great wildlife where you are never too exhausted, wet, cold, or hot.  Type 2 fun might be the same great scenery or wildlife, but maybe the miles are long and exhausting, or your tent fails and you are soaked for days, or a bear eats most of your food with three days to go.  Type 3 fun?  Well, that probably has some element of tragedy, like you lose fingers or toes to frostbite, or someone on the trip dies - not fun in any respect, I should say.

Among other things, the author characterizes Ultimate Hikers as wanting trips dominated more by Type 2 fun, whereas Ultimate Campers are more into Type 1 Fun - fun at the time, and fun to talk about later.  Some other key differences: Ultimate Hikers tend to want tough challenges, they have a long hike with very long (20-30 mile) days as their primary objective, are more knowledgeable about being comfortable and safe in the outdoors, are very gear conscious and scrutinize every item in their pack, and tend to arrive in camp late and leave camp to hit the trail very early.  Ultimate Campers tend to have some other kind of objective as their primary goal - birding, hunting, photography, backcountry cooking - as opposed to just wanting to do a long and arduous walk.  They tend to carry more gear to be prepared for anything that could reasonably happen, have a more relaxed daily itinerary, and don't have as high a skill level because they carry gear and supplies that don't require high skills to use.

I have to say, I am more of an Ultimate Camper, although I would like to acquire more trip knowledge and gear knowledge such as the Ultimate Hikers and ultra-light backpackers have.  But I am definitely more into Type 1 Fun, that is for sure.  Of course, I've had my share of Type 2 Fun at times, and enjoy recalling it.  The time I camped out without a tent and got eaten alive by mosquitos all night while a fox crept up in the dark to sniff my face.  The time I spent hours drying out from a hellacious thunder and hail storm only to fall into a river trying to photograph a moose.  The many times when I packed stupidly and staggered for miles feeling like an abused pack mule, reaching camp too exhausted to do anything but put up a tent and crawl inside.  I could go on, but won't.  So anyhow, yeah, it is mostly Type Fun I am into when I hike and backpack!  However, I am willing to become more of an Ultimate Hiker and do some longer trips, which pretty much ensures at least some Type 2 Fun.  So a trip with a mixture of type 1 and type 2 fun would be all right.

What about you? Where would you fit in this categorization?  Would you be more of an Ultimate Hiker or an Ultimate Camper?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Trail Miles

My friend Hawkeye and I were chatting the other day about hiking and the new year, and he told me, "I've set a goal for 2014.  I want to hike at least 100 trail miles."

And that got me thinking - in all my hikes, how many actual trail miles do I get in on my feet?  I keep track of my steps, over 5 million of them last year, and that translates to over 2,000 miles on my feet.  But how many of that is actual hiking on trails?  Well, because of this blog, I can go back and see.

So I looked at each blog post, and added the miles for each hike.  I am counting only actual hikes, not miles spent beach combing, for example.  The answer for 2013 is that I took 22 hikes for a total of 90.7 trail miles.  In addition, I took seven "urban hikes" for a total of 35 more miles.

Using Hawkeye as an example, I am going to add a goal for 2014 to hike 20% more miles than I did last year.  I'll round that up to 110 miles in actual hiking on non-urban trails in the current year.  As of today, the actual number of trail miles for the year stands at 0.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Hiking Goals

Happy New Year!  Welcome, 2014!

As I have done recently, I am going to start the year out with some hiking goals to expand my horizons a bit and make sure that I get out there.  Here they are.  Do you have any goals for the year, some places you would love to hike to?
  1. Hike at least eight places I have never hiked to or not hiked to in 10 years. The hike must be at least four miles long to qualify.
  2. Take at least five hikes in Shenandoah National Park or the immediate vicinity.  I am setting this goal because I only got there once in 2013, which is ridiculous!  I live just a two to three hour drive from must trailheads, and I finally got my lifetime National Parks pass a few months ago.
  3. Hike in at least two states in 2014 that I did not hike in during 2013.  At least one of these must be a state that I never hiked in.
  4. Hike in one foreign country this year.
  5. Volunteer to lead a hike with a Meet-up group.
  6. Go backpacking at least three times.  I have a couple of specific places I want to go, including perhaps one of the trips that I had to scrub last year: and one bigger adventure that would require a long drive heading north.  I'll see what I can do.
  7. Enhance my map and compass skills by practicing some navigation and also by trying orienteering again.
  8. Hike at least 110 miles on non-urban trails, which is a 20% increase over 2013.
  9. Keep writing about my hikes in my Oh, To Be Hiking blog.
Wishing you a healthy and happy 2014!  Now, lace on those boots and get out there!