Monday, July 2, 2012

Day Hikes

At the beginning of this year, I decided I was going to try to get in as much hiking and backpacking as I could. But it’s hard to be away every weekend since Adam doesn’t share my passion… well, obsession with backpacking, so I always try to balance my free time between my two loves, but that can be difficult sometimes. To solve this problem, I decided that on some weekends, instead of traveling hours and being gone all weekend, I’d just take day hikes with a full pack. It was kind of like I was pretending I was on a bigger trip, so I’d get my “fix.” And I figured these could be sort of like training hikes for the weekends I do go away and hike back-to-back days. I also thought it would be interesting to see how my hiking fitness improves.

Well, it’s now half way through the year. I’ve done a few weekend trips, one that was particularly tough, and I’ve done three “training” day hikes. There’s one more planned for this weekend, too! Rachel has been my partner in crime on these day hikes, as our schedules seem to match up, and it’s always nice to have someone to laugh and complain with on longer hikes.

Day Hike #1: High Cliff State Park
10 miles
April 7, 2012

I met Rachel at her house really super early. It was like 5:30am or some crazy time like that. And it was April (Easter weekend), so it was still dark when we started out on the trail. I didn’t have a completely full backpack, but it probably had 20-25 pounds in it. I was wearing my running tennies because I was thinking about switching over to trail runners instead of heavy hiking boots. I thought a 10-miler would be a good test to see if my feet were okay with something with less support. I think, or I hope, that running in FiveFinger shoes has helped with this, because it went quite well. The running shoes weren’t big enough for hiking, though. Whatever I ended up getting, I had to be sure to get at least a whole size bigger.

I remember it was a pretty chilly morning, so I was wearing my jacket and hat the whole time, but I was comfortable. We cruised through 10 miles in just under three hours.

Taking a break.

Hiking in running shoes.

Day Hike #2: Southern Unit Kettle Moraine, Lapham Peak segment of the Ice Age Trail
10.5 miles
April 14, 2012.

It was the next weekend, and we both had another Saturday free, so Rachel and I head south. We went to REI first thing in the morning so I could return my too-small Merrells. I tried on a shoe that I had done a ton of research on and was very excited to try out. Brooks Cascadias. I tried them, they fit, they were comfortable, and I got them! Rachel tried them on, too, and was also convinced, so she got the same pair! I did try on a few others to be sure I wasn’t just settling for the first pair I tried, and they were the best fit.

After our REI visit we hit the trails. Full packs this time. I didn’t weight mine, but I guessed it was about 25 pounds with water and snacks for the day. These little day hikes were sure teaching me a lot about my pack weight, got me thinking about how I can minimize some of my gear, and I was finding out some things that worked and some that didn’t. Maybe by summer’s end I’ll have it all figured out! Haha, doubt it!

Anyway, we hiked 10-1/2 miles in about 3-1/2 hours and had an unusually hot day for mid-April. We were hiking in shorts and short-sleeves and we both got a light sunburn from the day! The trails were new to us, so it was really fun.

Best part of it was the new Brooks Cascadias passed with flying colors! No blisters. Just a little foot fatigue was felt at the end, but having not only new shoes, but an entirely new shoe style, and just starting out on these day hikes, I figured that was to be expected. The hope is that maybe by the time our big Pictured Rocks trip rolls around in September, our feet will be seasoned and ready to roll so we can dance around the fire when we get to camp each night!

Trying out the new shoes - Brooks Cascadias

I love breaks.

Day Hike #3: Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine, Ice Age Trail
23 miles
June 30, 2012

Between our 2nd day hike and this one there were a few backpacking trips sprinkled in. One was a biggie – an 18-mile day followed by a 12-mile day. Again the shoes held up great, no blisters, just sore feet that was better the next day. I also did a few smaller trips (lower miles) in Kettle Moraine with our Meetup group – well, one of them had a couple of 12-mile days, so I guess that’s something! Each time I felt as though I was “testing” my shoe/sock/gaiter combo... and each time I was really happy with it.
This day hike was again a “test” of these shoes, and after this one I am fully convinced I found a happy situation for my feet while backpacking. This is a super-hard challenge, so the fact that I think I have it figured out makes me so, so very happy!

Rachel picked me up early and we drove to Mauthe Lake Campground where we parked and left for our 23-mile out-and-back hike. We hiked 23 miles in 12-1/2 hours. Not a great time, but we weren’t shooting for speed records on this one. We had distance to cover and that was the goal.

It was buggy, so we wore our bug nets on and off through the day, and it was really freakin’ hot out, so we sweat buckets. We drank lots of water and took a few longer shady breaks.

We hit a spot in the trail that was flooded from a creek, so we walked right through with our trail runners and continued on with wet feet. There’s some controversy with this hiking style. Some say it’s a really bad idea because the moisture in your shoes will cause blisters. Others say that’s why you wear trail runners – because they breathe so well, they dry out in no time as you hike. I’ve read about so many other backpackers that swear by this strategy, so we tried it. Guess what!? It worked! We hiked on with our wet shoes, and in about 30 minutes, while our shoes weren’t completely dry, our feet inside our shoes FELT dry. No blisters, either! We stopped a couple of miles past our turnaround point and changed into dry socks and that felt awesome.

23 miles was sure a hike. We were sore and tired by the end of it, and we’re looking forward to doing another long one like this next weekend. It’s fun to get out into the woods, and each time we go, we learn something new. Like the wet shoes thing. What a great time to test that out.

Not this weekend, but next, I’m going to the Porkies for my birthday and hiking for 4 days. 2 days solo, then I’m meeting up with some meetup peeps and hiking Sat-Sunday with them. I cannot wait, and I’m looking forward to seeing if these day hikes help my performance on a multi-day trip! More on that later!

Mosquito net. Bugs are out!

Overflowing creek on trail.

Testing out the trail runners in the water with great success.

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