Tuesday, April 11, 2017

--- Field trips, hikes, and endurance hikes ---


I made the decision to let go of my van back in 2014 and I haven't really regretted the decision. There are some down sides. If I leave the house, I do so on foot (unless it's a group activity, and those are fairly rare) and I'm limited to how far I can walk in a day or two or how many bus tickets I can afford, and the money has been rather scarce since I moved to south Denver.

But, on the whole, I prefer walking to driving for reasons I've mentioned. Most importantly, I miss too much when I'm driving.

There are three kinds of walking I regularly do.

Field trips have an end goal. I walk to get somewhere and do something at the farthest point of the walk. That might be a museum, a point of interest, or an activity, like a street festival or market. I guess my regular grocery runs could be called field trips.

For a hike, the walk is the goal. I regularly walk Bear Creek Trail, looking for particular things along the way. I rarely walk to Morrison to see something in Morrison. Morrison is only part of the reason for the walk.

Once or twice a year, I take endurance hikes - particularly long or grueling hikes. I joke that it's my annual stress test. I have a heart condition and I'm not sure how much it really effects me. The only thing I can say for sure is that working in a horizontal position or on an upside-down incline doesn't work too well for me. I figure that, if I can survive one of these endurance hikes, my heart must be in pretty good condition.

But, to be honest, I just like pushing myself occasionally. I've been doing this for some time. I met my long-time hiking friend, Paul Holm, in the early 70s in a biology class at Auburn University. Our first distance hike was a walk from the West Point exit of I85 at the Alabama-Georgia state line, across Pine Mountain, to Warm Springs, Georgia, a distance of over 27 miles. That was the longest day hike we took. The Dreaded Mid-Summer Death Hike became a tradition.

Our last long hike together, before I moved to Colorado was from the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail in Alabama about seven miles up and across Rebecca Mountain. It was a hot, dry day that improved when a line of thunderstorms moved in. When we were almost back to the cars, we found a patch of particularly juicy blackberries. That, by itself, made the pain worthwhile.

At the end of the hike, he went back home and I drove up to Mount Cheaha to camp over night. I ate at the restaurant on top of the mountain (one of my favorites), and the next morning, I checked out the Kymulga Covered Bridge, between Sylacauga and Talledega, and went to First Baptist Church in Sylacauga for Sunday School and the preaching service. After that, I drove back to Auburn and spent the rest of the day hiking and dining out with Paul.

Since moving to the Denver area, I've kept the tradition every year. In 2014, I walked from home in Broomfield to Flatirons Junction and then up the Coalton Trail, almost to the Flatirons before returning home. It was almost exactly a 12 hour walk with few short stops, so it was between 38.6 kilometers (24 miles) and 58 kilometers (36 miles). That hike was all high plains.

After moving to South Denver in 2015, I walked from home to Kipling Trail and from there up to Jewell Avenue; then I headed west to Green Mountain and across Dinosaur Ridge to Red Rocks park. A short road walk brought me to Morrison and Bear Creek Trail, which brought me back home.

After it snows a couple of times, I plan to walk to Waterton Canyon, which is south of the Denver area. One of my packmates works at River Point Shopping area, at the head of the trail system that leads to Waterton so I can start very early and cut off the Bear Creek portion of the hike. Still, it'll be well after dark before I get back home.

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