Monday, September 30, 2013

Hiking Training Plan: Week #15 Recap

Week: September 24 - 29 (6 Days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 6.49
Miles Hiked (September): 30.49
Miles Hiked, (September Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 70.93
Pounds Lost (Week): 5.8
Pounds Lost (Total):  22.0
Nights Camped (Week): 3
Nights Camped (Total): 7
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

After two weeks that weren't so great (at least as far as the weight loss portion of the plan goes), this past week effectively cancelled them out, as I am back to where I was on September 9. Now that I have negated those two weeks, I think I can move on and start a winning streak.

The biggest reason this was a successful week was almost certainly that 6.49 miles of hiking. That hike, which I did with my brother, my cousin, and five friends from high school, wasn't necessarily hard, but it was by far the fastest pace I've hiked, with only one real break. Those 6.49 miles is the farthest I've hiked in one session since I did the Lake Mingo trail last year. It was a beautiful day for a hike, part of what was mostly a great camping weekend. At least until the rain came Saturday evening*.

Beyond that, I'm a little surprised at how well I did. I did mostly OK during the week before the camping trip, and I suppose I didn't overdo it on food and beverages outside of a few meals. Also, I crashed pretty early on Sunday evening, thus skipping out on dinner and only having one real meal. In addition, I'm pretty convinced that my weight last Tuesday was an anomaly.

This week begins a new month, and a new commitment. In addition to keeping up my monthly hiking goals (which jumps to a ambitious 30 miles this month), I'm also going to add weight goals. These won't always be the same amount, as I will adjust up or down depending for circumstances. For example, if it is a week where I plan on hiking both Saturday and Sunday, I might adjust it up to 4 pounds. On the other hand, for Thanksgiving week, I might be content breaking even. Most weeks it will be about 2 pounds.

*Stay tuned for a subsequent post about the camping trip, as well as a "Hiking the Lists" entry for part of the hike we did on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hiking Training Plan Week #14 Recap

Week: September 17 - 23
Miles Hiked (Week): 8.51
Miles Hiked (September): 24.00
Miles Hiked, (September Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 64.44
Pounds Gained (Week): 4.8
Pounds Lost (Total):  (16.2)
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 4
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

I know I ate poorly over the weekend, but good lord I didn't think I did THAT bad. After all I did hike 8.5 miles, some of which was consistently going uphill and down. I'm hoping that this an anomaly, that for some reason the scale was off by a couple pounds, and it will be back to normal the next time I get on it.

However, anomalous readings can't account for everything. There is little doubt I got off my plan this past week. I've yet to figure out how to get myself up to exercise before I go to work, which makes it much easier for me to hit my daily exercise goals. Also, I got off schedule on the nutrition side, in part because of a messed up schedule and stresses from work.

Still, those are all excuses. A plan isn't worth much when it is easy to keep to it. No, the problems start when things start making it hard to fit your plan into it. Obviously you have to be flexible, but that flexibility means sometimes making other things flexible to fit to the rigidity of your plan.

There really isn't anything I can do other than continue to improve and do better. It's not all bad, as I passed my September hiking goal with a weekend to go. This weekend I should tack a few more miles on, and perhaps I'll be able to right things. I've done it before, so I'm confident I can do it again.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Getting back to Real Hiking

As readers of the blog know, I have been plugging along with my Hiking Training Plan the last fourteen weeks. Most of them have been pretty good weeks, especially when it involves getting out to hike. However, most of those hikes have been missing...something.

That isn't to say I haven't had some workouts, or seen some great sites. I've walked up several hills, a few steep inclines, and done more than four miles in one hike multiple times. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, on days both perfect for hiking and some that weren't quite so perfect. Still, there has been a significant lack of challenge in the hikes I've done.

Part of this was intentional. Considering I had been out of hiking practice for several months at the beginning of this, I figured it would be best to start off with easier hikes. Jumping straight to hikes like Blood Mountain or the hundreds of stairs at Amicalola Falls would not end well, and perhaps discourage me from continuing. In addition, for a couple weeks my back was kind of tender, limiting what I felt was doable. As such, I stuck mainly to hikes that never ventured far beyond an easy to moderate difficulty level.

This is why I enjoyed my hikes this past weekend at Pictured Rocks. Now most of them were comparable to previous hikes. For about 90% of the time the path was flat, the footing was good, and the weather was great. It wasn't much of a challenge, although it most certainly was tranquil and scenic.

However, the other 10% was plenty challenging. Because of the nature of Pictured Rocks, the Lakeshore trail can greatly vary in difficulty. You can go a long distance on flat ground, either along the shoreline of Lake Superior or high atop the escarpment, without much of a change in elevation. However, going from one zone to another you can travel climb or descend over 100 feet in a very short distance.

In some places (like at Sable Falls), the descent is done on a nice, even stairway. This is somewhat strenuous, but the nicest way to make that descent as you don't have to worry so much about footing. When making the ascent, there are several landings to stop at and catch your breath, or take a seat and enjoy the nature around you.

In other places, such as the end of the connector trail from Sand Point to the North Country Trail, the ascent (or descent, depending on your direction)  also goes up and down stairs. However, these don't niceties like even and stable steps, or handrails to help you along your way. Most of the time, these steps are larger than a regular step that you would take, or the trail at the bottom of it has eroded somewhat. These can give a great workout, and are not for the faint of heart or the weak kneed. Still, they break up the grade and are better than a dirt path going straight up or down the hillside. These can be actual wood or stone stairs, water bars to control erosion, or just large roots and/or rocks in the trail.

The worst type of descent is when the trail just goes straight over the hillside. I say descent here, because it can be difficult to ascend, but downright problematic going down. This is where trekking poles (or a good walking stick) is essential.

It was the descent of the third type that I encountered between the Logslide Overlook and Au Sable Lighthouse. For some stupid reason I didn't take my trekking poles with me, so I had to overcome the descent by moving slowly and stepping carefully. In one place I was extra cautious, sitting down and scooting on my posterior. Other than a dirty seat of my pants, this worked out well. In another place, I sat down and put my feet over the edge of a steep step, turning it from a difficult step down to just standing up.

As annoying slow as this could be, it was still enjoyable, as it showed I was still up to a real challenge. In addition to the descent, there were several downed trees along the way. Some were easy to step around, or step over. But one required me to sit on the downed limbs as I swung my legs over. Had I not kept my balance on the three limbs, I could have got caught in them, which would have been the lamest search and rescue situation ever.

A little bit later along the trail, I had to take my pack off, get on my hands and knees, and crawl under a downed tree. This was a challenge that only applied to those who were tall and/or not a skilled at doing the limbo. Those who were shorter could likely have bent down and got under. Not me, however, I had to get on my knees to get under it.

Although I was glad to finally reach the Lighthouse, where my parents were waiting*, a part of me wanted to just keep walking. Granted, I knew I didn't have the supplies or equipment to continue hiking much farther, I was having a lot of fun. I had met the challenges, few though they may have been, and succeeded. Perhaps that sense of accomplishment is one of the reasons I enjoy hiking, despite the heat, the bugs, and so many pointless ups and downs. It doesn't hurt when the you look to one side of the trail and see views like this.

* After we had parted at Logslide, they had driven to the Au Sable trailhead and walked the mostly level path from the parking lot to the lighthouse.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

(Belated) Adventures in Camping - Elephant Rocks, Taum Sauk, and Johnson's Shut-Ins

Note: This post is a joint post by Andrew and Erin. Andrew will introduce the post and give his impression of some of the places we visited on our camping trip, and Erin will join in the middle to talk about her hike at Taum Sauk State Park..

For me, the second weekend in August was a chance to do something different. After several weekends spent in Wisconsin's glacially molded terrain and the beautiful north woods, bogs, and rock formations of the UP of Michigan. However, this weekend he'd be going the other direction, south to the St. Francois Mountains in the Ozarks of Missouri. The rocks, animals, and plants would be different. Unfortunately, so would the climate.

However, the most important thing about this trip was that I would not be doing it alone. Although I was curious to check out Elephant Rocks, Johnson's Shut-Ins, and the views atop the St. Francois Mountains, my main reason for the trip was to visit with my sister. The last time we had camped out did not go so well, so I was hoping this time would be better.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hiking the Lists, #6: Springer Mountain and Benton Mackaye Legacy Loop

Hike: #6
Title: Springer Mountain and Benton Mackaye Legacy Loop
Location: Springer Mountain and surrounding land, Chattahoochee National Forest
Hike List: North Georgia Mountains
Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
Duration of Hike: A few tough hours

This marks the first of the hikes in this feature to already have been written about before. There isn't much in the way of specifics to add to her tale. In short, the hike is well worth your time, is moderately challenging, and lets you say you were a section hiker on two different long distance trails on the same day. Since time has passed since that hike, I thought I would add a few additional thoughts.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hiking Training Plan: Week #13 Recap

Week: September 9 - 16 (8 days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 7
Miles Hiked (September): 15.49
Miles Hiked, (September Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 55.93
Pounds Gained (Week): 1.0
Pounds Lost (Total): 21.0
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 4
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

Well, looks like I didn't have to worry about getting some hiking in this past weekend. Turns out I was able to get two separate hikes along the North Country trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, as well as two short hikes on boardwalks on Friday. All in all, I ended up walking more this weekend than last weekend, although it was over two days as opposed to one day. Save for a steep downhill from the rock escarpment to the lower land around Au Sable lighthouse, a few tricky places where trees blocked the way, and about 150 steps to the base of Sable Falls, it was mostly easy walking. Although I walked about 2 miles by myself from Logslide to Au Sable Lighthouse on the North Country Trail, they made it from Hurricane River to the lighthouse (over three miles round trip), and both traveled the stairs with me as well. In addition, my dad walked with me from the Visitors Center near Sable Falls to the Falls parking lot, about 1.2 miles. This, coupled with 1.5 miles of hiking on boardwalks (and a very short walk in the woods at Horicon N.W.R.) on Friday meant we all walked at least five miles.

As for the other part of the equation, well, let's just say it was good we got all that walking in. I suppose we didn't do that bad, particularly when it came to snacks and breakfast. Still, it's hard to get back into the swing of things with so many weekends centered around travel.

This upcoming weekend I'll be out of town again, but once again it will be a weekend chock full of hiking. I plan to check off at least two more trails on my Wisconsin sixty, and maybe a third (depending on how long and arduous the other two are). Between the preparations for the trip to the UP and a crazy week at work, I kind of fell out of my walking routine. This week's challenge is getting back into it, as well as trying to get a handle on my eating so I can really take this to the next level.

* The shipwrecks were covered by the waters of Lake Superior, which was much higher than the last time I visited.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Introducing the Red Faces, White Blazes Good Hiker Guide

If you look up in our blog's header, you should notice a link below the banner link. It's a link to our brand new Good Hiker Guide. This is a list of things we here at Red Faces, White Blazes consider the basis for being a good hiker.

Right now the list in very short, with only two guidelines (OK, one guideline and one steadfast rule). However, this is a work in progress, and we'll be continuing to update the list. If you feel we are missing something, please feel free to let us know, and we'll try to add it. Also, if you happen to disagree with something on the list, or think it needs clarified, you can just go jump off a cliff feel free to discuss it in the comments of either this post, or the actual page with all the guidelines.

Hiking Training Plan: Week 12 Recap

Week: September 3 - 9 (6 days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 4.30
Miles Hiked (September): 8.49
Miles Hiked, (September Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 48.93
Pounds Lost (Week): 4.6
Pounds Lost (Total): 22.0
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 4
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

Week 12 was a course correction, getting back on track after the disruption of Labor Day weekend. I didn't get as many hiking miles in, but I did do a better job of watching what I ate. All in all, it was a good week.

I ended up getting only one hike in, but it was a good length. It was a hike at the University of Wisconsin Madison's Arboretum. I'll have more about this hike when it's time comes up in the "Hiking the Lists" feature, but the short story is that it it's a pleasant hike through some beautiful trees, over a big spring, and around a historical tall grass prairie.

We'll see how much walking I'll get in this week. I have another trip coming up this weekend, this time returning to Munising and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with my parents. It won't be a complete weekend of hiking, but I hope I'll get some of it in this weekend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hiking the Lists #5: Grand Sable Dunes and Logslide

Hike: #5
Title: Grand Sable Dunes and Logslide
Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Hike List: U.P. Michigan
Difficulty: Easy
Duration of Hike: 30 minutes

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a great place to hike. Not only is the scenery stunning, it has a great variety of trails, in terms of length and difficulty. From short, flat trails less than a mile, to a rugged 42 backpacking trail that is part of the North Country Trail, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy.

Today's hike is certainly not a long one, and it is fairly easy. There isn't much to it, just a walk from the parking lot to a sand dune and an overlook of Grand Sable Dunes and Lake Superior. At least if you stick to this trail.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hiking Training Plan: Week 11 Recap

Week: August 26 - September 2 (8 days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 6.05
Miles Hiked (August): 15.39
Miles Hiked (September): 4.19
Miles Hiked, (August Goal): 15
Miles Hiked, (September Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 44.63
Pounds Gained (Week): 1.2
Pounds Lost (Total): 17.4
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 4
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

Stupid holiday weekends, with all the things to eat and drink. I'm sure it didn't help that the cookout was the day before I weighed in, but I still could have done better. Fortunately, this is the last holiday weekend until Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there are going to be a few more weekends that will effectively be short vacations. I just have to be smarter, and keep going out on the trail.

Speaking of the trail, it wasn't a complete failure of a week. I made it out to Forest Glen on a warm Saturday to walk the Old Barn Trail, clinching my goal of 15 miles for August. In addition, I went up to Kennekuk County Park on Monday and walked the Windfall Prairie and Collins Area trails. All in all I walked over six miles for the long weekend, getting a good start on my September hiking goal.

This week will just be a pretty standard week, with this weekend being a good chance to rack up some miles on the trail. I'm planning on hiking in WI and northern IL, hoping to knock out at least a couple of hikes for "Hiking the Lists". Hopefully it will go as good as this past week in terms of hiking, while improving upon the "getting into shape" part.