Monday, July 9, 2012

Burp-chunk and Swatchel Day Hike

 “Just another one of Robin’s crazy ideas” was Rachel’s response to a recent facebook post. I love it. Although, I have to say, she didn’t seem to hesitate at the idea of hiking 32 miles either. So she’s just as crazy as I am… and that’s why you’re going to see the two of us hiking together so often. It’s been a great summer so far. It’s nice to use just a day or a day and a half, for a long day hike like this, then go home, shower, eat and rest for an entire day before heading to work again on Monday. Normal weekend backpacking trips usually involve leaving as soon as we can on a Friday, being out all weekend and getting home late on a Sunday, quickly unpacking gear and hanging tents and sleeping bags to air out and dry, then getting to bed late, waking up early and struggling through the next couple of days at work. It’s always worth it, but these day hikes still get us out there, make us “feel” like we’re on a bigger trip, keep our legs in shape for bigger upcoming trips (Pictured Rocks over Labor Day, for example), and give us a good opportunity to truly test out some gear. And this all gives me a little more time with Adam, which is super-nice. We miss each other when I’m away on trips, so this is kind of a compromise for us, too. And it’s working pretty well. So that’s what this spring and summer so far has been about. And I have to say… it’s been a blast.

We ended up hiking 30 miles in 15 hours (including our breaks). Not bad averaging 2 mph over a long, hot day! We were on the trail from 5:30 AM - 8:30 PM.

We woke up at 3AM on Saturday so we could drive to the northern-most trailhead (Hwy P) of the N. Kettle Moraine Unit of the Ice Age Trail. We left Appleton about 4AM and were on the trail at 5:30AM. Not bad! It was cooler than the previous days have been – but it was still very warm and already starting to feel humid. We were both sweating in no time at all.

We hiked like pros for the first 7 or so miles as the morning sun peeked through the leaves overhead and lit up the woods in patches of orange. Morning hiking is incredible. Our first break stop was for a quick second breakfast about 3.4 miles in. Our stop after that was at the Greenbush picnic area where we made use of the pit toilets and had a snack while sitting on a picnic table. Rachel texted Randall to let him know where we were because he was hoping to meet up with us at some point along the way. We hiked on feeling good.

Our next break was just after the Parnell shelter. Again, make use of pit toilets when available, right? There was also a bench at the top of the hill we were able to sit on and enjoy. We were sweaty, hot, hungry, thirsty and getting silly. We laughed hysterically pretty much the whole time we sat there. I had indigestion and somehow made up a random new term. I think what I meant to say was, “I’m burping up chunks,” but instead I said, “I’m burp-chunking.” And that stuck the rest of the hike. Rachel was sweating all over, so instead of just swass, it was swatchel. These became our daily nicknames, or trail names. Once we were rehydrated and fed, the giggling subsided a little and we got down to business and moved on down the trail.

Break on the bench near the Parnell shelter. About mile 11.

Rachel fashioned a makeshift knee brace with duct tape, but it didn’t work. Her knee was pegging on down hills, so it was worth a try! So many uses for that stuff! We also came up with a warning when people are approaching on the trail. Last weekend we had a few embarrassing moments when someone would come up over a hill as we were discussing something like poo or airing out our pants. So we came up with a secret code word that we would say to warn each other. Conversation could stop and resume once the stranger had passed. It came in handy a few times! Also works when one is using the facilities just off-trail. They’ll know when to hurry it up or duck down further and hide. These are the fun sorts of things we learn on day hikes.

We had to stop and quickly put on our headnets at one point because the mosquitoes came out in force. They and the deer flies teamed up and swarmed our heads and bit at us where they could. We quickly covered our heads and slathered on some repellant as quickly as we could so we could get moving again. I learned that my new spring ring headnet was not working for me. The mesh was shimmery, so when the sunlight came through the trees, it would reflect off the netting and I couldn’t see, and the seam and the ring were both in my line of vision. One when I looked down at the trail and the other when I looked straight ahead. It was irritating, but I kept it on to keep the bugs off of me. I decided I was going to go back to my cheap Walmart bug net. It did the trick just fine. And it’s lighter.

We hiked on anxiously looking forward to a longer break at Butler Lake. We even thought about walking in the water at the boat landing there. Just before we got there, we hit the bridge with the overflowing creek again – same one as last weekend. Without any hesitation we walked right through. That water became more swampy, gunky and muddy over the super-hot week so it was smelly and not as cold as last weekend, but we trucked right through anyway. We got to Butler Lake and found the water at the landing to be kind of mucky and nasty, too, so we just walked in a little way to rinse off the mud. That water was warm like bathwater, too. So much for cooling off the feet!

We set up under a shade tree by pulling out our Z-Lite Thermarest pads. We pulled out all of our “lunch” food, took off our socks and shoes and relaxed. I discovered I was getting a pretty heat rash on my waist line where my hip belt sat. I was blotchy all the way around, and I had patches on the backs of my arms, my feet, my calves and my thighs. It didn’t hurt, burn or itch, it just looked nasty. And with the heat, humidity and sweating, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. I put some of Rachel’s Lanocane on it, but I don’t think it did too much. Worth a try… 

Nature's clothesline at Butler Lake. Drying out the socks and gaiters.

As we were eating a guy walked up to us and started to talk to us about how he and his wife (I assume) were section-hiking the entire IAT. He saw our big packs and thought maybe we would be heading the same way and hoped we could all hike together for a bit. Which would have been pretty cool, but they were heading north and we were heading south. Very cool guy, though!

Randall also met us at Butler Lake and sat with us until we had to head out. He gave us cold, clean water to fill our bladders with, as well as a few snack-size Snickers bars. Randall was Snickerlocker. It’s always great to get the chance to be Snickerlocker – and it’s great to be on the receiving end of that deal, too. He hiked with us for quite a ways after our Butler Lake stop, which was really nice. We talked and chatted about all kinds of stuff, and it really helped pass the time. We were starting to feel the fatigue of little sleep and a very early rising that day. After he left us we just trucked on, still aiming for 32 miles.

Our next break was at Mauthe Lake. We enjoyed the toilets, snacks and electrolyte-spiked water, as well as a sock-change. It was a much-needed break. We had another 9 miles to go, and we both knew this was where we were going to struggle. Our feet were hurting and we were just feeling exhausted overall… the constant extreme sweating wasn’t helping our situation, either. But we kept hydrated.

Spectacular wild tiger lilies along the trail.

We took another small break at an overlook and pushed for our last stretch. Our plan was to call Randall when we reached Hwy 28, which is 2 miles from our intended finish point. About 2 miles from Hwy 28 we were talking about all kinds of fun stuff to keep our minds off of our aches and pains. We were still giggling and having a good time, but we knew we were pushing it a little bit at this point. But in order to improve, you need to make your body uncomfortable, right? Well… I suppose to an extent. We were still doing pretty well. We had no blisters (yet), and no pains that felt as though they’d cause any lasting damage. Just tired muscles, fatigued minds and sore feet.

I think it was maybe 2 miles from Hwy 28, so about mile 28, I realized I had a hot spot on my heel. I was kind of bummed at the thought that my “perfect” shoe could have caused its first blister. But then again, I did have 35 pounds on my back for 28 miles, so I couldn’t really complain… or blame my feet, or my shoes. It wasn’t long after that when Rachel and I both contemplated calling it quits at 30 miles. We decided we’d stop, take off our shoes, eat, drink and see how feel. We’d decide from there if we’d go the extra 2 miles. The decision to go on would also put us finishing at about 10:00PM. When we got to Hwy. 28 we both felt 100% satisfied with what we’d done with our day, and I think we were both dreaming about Randall’s camp that he had set up for us in his backyard. So we called him and had him pick us up.

We were pretty proud of making it a 30-mile day! Just enough energy for a crazy photo with our packs held over our heads.
He drove us back to Hwy P where we picked up Rachel’s car, and followed him back to his place. We took a shower (which was AMAZING!), headed out towards his tree farm in the back of his house – and he had a tent already set up for us. We threw our sleeping bags and pads in and the beds were made. Instant camp – yay! Then he started a fire for us, and we had cold water, cold beers and he brought out some chips, salsa and bean dip. A little while later he cooked brats for us. I kept falling asleep in my camp chair, so soon after the brats were gone, Rachel and I both hit the tent. I was out before my head hit my dirty-clothes-stuffed stuff sack-pillow.

Randall's 5-star camping accommodations.

In the morning Randall made us breakfast. What a guy! He made us beer banana walnut apple pancakes and bacon! After breakfast the sun came out and I think our bodies were rebelling against the heat. We had to get going. Thanks to Randall for the amazing trail support!!

It was a great hike, and it pushed us to a quitting point, which is pretty awesome. It’s Monday now, and I’m feeling really good. I did have a teeny-tiny little blister starting on my heel where I had that hot spot, but it’s already nearly non-existent. It was a good time for us to stop. If we would’ve decided to move on and try to complete the last 2 miles, I would’ve slapped some duct tape on there, but I’m glad we stopped. The blister forming was definitely not my biggest concern… fatigue was. So I’m recovered with only a few sore muscles here and there. The bottoms of my feet even recovered quicker from this trek than the 23 we went last weekend. This makes me believe that with more and more hiking, hopefully this will bother me less and less. If not, I will get insoles. There’s always options.

Here’s to happy hiking, a warm summer, great hiking partners, a supportive husband and great friends/trail angels!

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