Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hiking Training Plan, Week #10

Week: August 19 - August 25
Miles Hiked (Week): 5.28
Miles Hiked (Month): 13.53
Miles Hiked, (Month Goal): 15
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 38.58
Pounds Lost (Week): 0.8
Pounds Lost (Total): 18.6
Nights Camped (Week): 1
Nights Camped (Total): 4
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

So this week is going in the right direction, if not as quickly as I'd like. Still, any progress is good progress. I'm now slightly less than 1.5 miles away from my goal for the month, with one hiking day left to go. Unfortunately, it looks like this Saturday is going to be a warm one. However, it won't be that much warmer than this past Sunday, and I walked over three miles that day. As long as I stay out of the sun and take enough water it should be fine.

As you can see in the running totals, I spent a night camping this weekend. This time it was way up in Northwestern Wisconsin at a campground high above the Eau Galle Reservoir. It was supposed to be two nights, but the threat of storms (and the incoming warm front) led me to break camp on Saturday and hole up in a hotel. It was a nice campground, quiet and secluded, with a nice shower and restroom nearby. The trails are pretty limited, although it was a fairly steep walk down to the shoreline and back. I actually had fun making my way back up on a very steep trail. Now, if the trail had been longer, or had it been the end of the day rather than the beginning, I doubt I would have enjoyed it so much. Still, that is a rare thing for me to enjoy walking up a hill.

Although I did stay in the air conditioned and pizza filled comforts of a hotel Saturday night, I made up for it on Sunday, walking the most difficult trail at Mirror Lake State Park.* I'll share more about this eventually, as it is one of the hikes that will be part of my "Hiking the Lists" feature. Suffice it to say that it wasn't overly difficult, but it sure had plenty of ups and downs. Though short, they got kind of tiring, particularly since most of the trail was without anything approaching a view of the lake. Still, two down, 58 to go in Wisconsin.

So once again, I am trying to hit my exercise and calorie goals this week. Saturday is the last day I have to hit my hiking goal, and I'll be down in Ridge Farm, so it will likely be Forest Glen that I'll be attempting to do that. Next month the goal number goes up by another five miles, so I'll have to get at it to hit that for September.

*According to the park.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Adventures in Camping - Table Rock Lake

You know you're going camping with a good coupla people when the first thing you do, gearing up for the four hour car ride, is blast "On the Open Road" from a Goofy Movie.

Yes, a couple of coworkers and I were headed four hours south of St. Louis to Table Rock Lake in Southern Missouri, where we hoped to have a relaxing weekend filled with camping, scuba diving, and s'mores. We'd spent the last couple weeks planning this adventure and couldn't be more excited - the days at work leading up to the big trip were spent with high fives and random shouts of "WE'RE GOING CAMPING!". No WAY our other coworkers could have been annoyed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hiking the Lists #4: Garden of the Gods Observation Trail

Hike: #4
Title: Observation Trail
Location: Garden of the Gods Recreation Area
Hike list: Illinois
Difficulty: Mostly Easy (a few uphills and downhills, and some awkward rock steps)
Duration of Hike: A short walk amongst interesting rock formations

Between the 320 million year old rock formations, and the panoramic views of sizable hills, Garden of the Gods feels hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from the flat prairies and fields that cover most of the state. Although short, the quarter mile loop is a good workout with plenty of odd looking rocks and scenic vistas.

Because much of the path is stone, it can get slippery when wet. The most recent time I visited here* parts of the walk way were slippery, but nothing too hard to deal with. After a short uphill climb (or a longer one, if you go clockwise from the parking lot), you come to the rock formations. These sit high above the valley below, so mind your step. Plenty of the boulders and rocks can be accessed without equipment, so if you are looking for a chance to do some boulder hopping, this is a good place to do that. 

Many of the rock formations have names, which I did not write down at the time I walked it. I recommend that if you are looking for a weekend trip from St. Louis or Chicago, or are traveling through Shawnee National Forest and are looking for something to do, to make time for Garden of the Gods. There's a campground nearby, and many other trails in the area if you are looking for a longer, more challenging hike. 

*The only time I've visited as an adult.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hiking Training Plan: Week 9 Recap

Week: August 13 - August 18 (6 days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 0
Miles Hiked (Month): 8.25
Miles Hiked, (Month Goal): 15
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 33.30
Pounds Gained (Week): 2.4
Pounds Lost (Total): 17.8
Nights Camped (Week): 1
Nights Camped (Total): 3
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

As expected, this week was my first week in a while that things went the other way. Eh, what can I say, it was a birthday weekend, and hiking and healthy living were not part of the plan. Instead, it was a weekend of beer, cheese, and driving through the glacial features of Central and Southern Wisconsin. Along the way we crossed several trails, most of which appeared to be trails for hikers, walkers, joggers, and bikers. At least one brewery (Central Waters in Amherst) was just a short distance off of one of the trails, which would make for an interesting day of bicycling and beer.

And so, this week it's back to business. I'm going camping up in Wisconsin this weekend, the first time I'll be doing it two days straight.. Well, assuming the first night goes OK. I have three weekend days left to go to get that 6.75 miles, and I hope to at least get 4 of those this weekend. Hopefully I'll have more good news next week. After all, it isn't the weekend gone astray that kills the plan, it's failing to get back on track.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Further Thoughts on Hawk Hill at Forest Glen

It's not the longest incline I've ever walked. It's not the steepest, and certainly isn't the worst footing, or most dangerous incline. Heck, it isn't even the highest or steepest climb at Forest Glen. All of that given, why does Hawk Hill (a.k.a. the path to the Vermilion River and the tower), give me such fits?

I've written about this little trail before, and how it humbled me after a few hikes which had given me confidence in my abilities. With even more distance, I continue to take a positive outlook, and have accepted that what's more important is getting to the top of that hill, even if it takes one (or more) stops to get there.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hiking Training Plan, Week #8 Recap

Week: August 5 - August 12 (8 days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 7.25
Miles Hiked (Month): 8.25
Miles Hiked, (Month Goal): 15
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 33.30
Pounds Lost (Week): 2.6
Pounds Lost (Total): 20.2
Nights Camped (Week): 1
Nights Camped (Total): 3
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

So after a down weekend last week, I got back on track with a fun weekend in the St. Francois Mountains southwest of St. Louis with Erin. None of the hikes were too strenuous (I bowed out on the Mina Sauk Falls trail once it started getting too rocky), although there were a few climbs. It was interesting how much better I took those inclines than I would have two months ago. It appears the daily uphill walks up the ramps at the parking garage at work have paid off. The picture above is one of the rocks that give Elephant Rocks its name.

Because I didn't get back from the trip until mid-morning on Monday, this week was one day longer than normal. Having eaten breakfast and a couple snacks before getting back up to my apartment, it didn't make sense to weigh in then. As such, the upcoming week will be one day shorter. I'm going to try to keep up the progress, but this upcoming weekend may cause a temporary setback, seeing as I'm taking a trip for my birthday that will involve very little hiking. As long as I get back to it next Monday, I'm not too worried.

As you can see, I've added some additional statistics. This includes the number of nights I've camped out since starting my hiking training plan. Counting this past Saturday at Silver Mines Campground in Mark Twain National Forest, that brings it up to three nights for the year. I've yet to do a backpacking hike, but my goal is at least one or two nights before winter. Stay tuned for more details about that trip, when it happens.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A record breaking week on the AT and the PCT

At 7:20 PM EDT this past Wednesday, Matt Kirk reached the summit of Springer Mountain, better known as the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. With his final step on that trail, he became the record holder for the fastest self-supported hike on the Appalachian Trail. During his 58.4 day hike, he dealt with the wetter than normal summer along the East Coast, a twisted knee, and a pace that averaged over 37 miles per day. Even if the trail was graded like it is along the B&O Towpath for its entire distance, that would be a tough undertaking. And as anyone who has walked more than a few yards on the AT knows, it is rarely flat.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shark Week (and Reflection on Hard Work)

I know it's almost over, but I've been meaning to write SOMETHING in honor of Shark Week. It's been really busy at work, and I've come home every day absolutely exhausted because -no lie- at least 2 hours of my shift has been dedicated to dancing around in a shark costume.

I have never felt more fulfilled in my life. 

Hikin' It Easy: Anna Ruby Falls

Hike #: 2
Name: Anna Ruby Falls
Location: Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
Distance: 0.8 miles (one way)
Difficulty: Moderate

I'm not going to lie, the walk up to Anna Ruby Falls is fairly steep. It's not hiking up to Blood Mountain, or even as bad as the walk up to the top of Clingman's Dome, but you are definitely walking up hill. However, the walk is short, the path is paved (and thus easy footing), and the view at the end is well worth it.

The neat thing about Anna Ruby Falls is that it isn't just one, but two creeks that make up the falls. From one direction comes Curtis Creek,, and from another comes York Creek. Both make their short journey from Tray Mountain, before going over Anna Ruby Falls. Below the falls they come together to form Smith Creek, which continues on its way to the Chattahoochee River, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

Unlike DeSoto Falls*, Anna Ruby Falls is frequently busy, even in the winter. It is up a short road from Unicoi State Park, which has a large campground and a lodge. In addition, it is just a short drive from Helen, a popular tourist town that is kind of like a North Georgia Gatlinburg. When I went it was February, so it wasn't packed, but there was plenty of company.

There are many great falls to see in the North Georgia Mountains. Some require considerable effort to reach, but many do not. Anna Ruby Falls should be on any persons list of Appalachian water falls, especially considering how easy it is to reach. Provided you don't mind a bit of an uphill walk.

*This may make this feature, although it will also be in "Hiking the Lists"

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hiking the Lists #3: Volo Bog Nature Boardwalk

Hike: #3
Title: Volo Bog Nature Trail and Boardwalk
Location: Volo Bog State Natural Area
Hike list: Illinois
Difficulty: Easy
Duration of Hike: Half hour walk

Before I begin, I have to declare something, in the interest of full disclosure. Volo Bog is not a bog, at least not in terms of how a bog is defined. To be a bog, a wetland must get its moisture solely from precipitation, which is why bogs are so nutrient poor. However, there is at least one inlet into Volo Bog, and at least two outlets, which means water flows through here. Thus, it is actually a "fen" and not a bog.

Sure could have fooled me. It definitely looked like a bog, with the sphagnum moss, tamaracks, poison sumac, and various other water loving plant species to be found. Like bogs, this is a place where carnivorous plants live. I'm pretty certain I saw a few pitcher plants hidden beneath the tamaracks.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hiking Training Plan: Week 7 Recap

Week: July 29 - August 4
Miles Hiked (Week): 1.00
Miles Hiked (Month): 1.00
Miles Hiked, (Month Goal): 15
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 26.05
Pounds Lost (Week): 2.2
Pounds Lost (Total): 17.6

Well, this week was certainly a mixed bag. I did fairly well in regards to hitting my calorie goals, but not so much with the weekend hiking. In fact, only two trips around the Volo Bog Nature Trail and Boardwalk kept this weekend from being another shutout. I guess they can't all be like last weekend.

Although this was always going to be a down weekend, I had no intention for it to be this devoid of hiking. Most of this was caused by me tweaking my back while getting ready for work Wednesday morning. It is feeling considerably better now, but it kept me from doing too much walking until the weekend. I have slowly started working my way back up, but I don't think I'll be pulling off 40 mile hikes any time soon.

I'm hoping to add to that hiking total this weekend, as I go down to Missouri to visit Erin and camp out in Mark Twain National Forest. Here's hoping I can keep up the momentum, and that my body continues to cooperate.

Friday, August 2, 2013

In Rememberence of BioWeekending.

So, let's talk about college. I'm not going to lie - I kind of miss it. But I miss it for the nerdiest reasons imaginable; I miss going to class. I miss the procrastination of putting off an essay or project (although I guess I can simulate the experience by putting off posting on blogs...). I miss doing kickass stuff in class and thinking "Damn, I have the best major ever." And while I still have yet to turn those things I learned into a viable career, at least for now I have some good memories and some solid wisdom to lean on.

How is this relevant to wetlands? Simple. My last semester in college, I took a course called Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife. I camped in a biological station near Gainesville and went shinin' for gators, had an awkward encounter with a Cottonmouth in the Everglades, and adopted a Crawdad in the Hillsborough River. Oh, and then there was the tour of the Tampa Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hikin' It Easy: John Muir Memorial Park Loop

One of the big reasons I enjoy hiking is to see things you just can't see from the road, a pulloff overlook, or a parking lot. Sure, some of those things take a long time, or require considerable effort. However, many great natural places and experiences can be reached by short hikes. "Hikin' It Easy" are posts that share these short and/or easy hikes. All of them will be less than 2 miles long, and most will be either flat or mostly flat. A few might have some stairs and may require a little exertion, but these walks will be very short distances.