Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Practice Hike #3: Three Ridges


Peter Jefferson (Tommy's brother) referred to the Blue Ridge Mountains as "The Devil's Backbone."  There's no doubt that Three Ridges Mountain is related to the Devil....


If you want to experience the hell of 13.5 miles of (seemingly) 80-degree inclines and declines littered with ankle-breaking boulders, then Three Ridges is the hike for you.  And if you crave an extra challenge, do the hike in one day of steady rain.

A couple of weeks ago, Corey gave us a dire warning: Three Ridges will break some egos.  No sh*t.  It broke more than my ego—it’s two days later and I’m still crawling up stairs.  You can bounce quarters off my tight hamstrings.  I'm a mess, but thankful that I did this hike.

The trail started with a steep three-quarter mile climb up Bee Mountain, followed by a steep three-quarter climb down Bee Mountain.  When we reached the first shelter, Corey said, “I promise that was the worst of the trail.  I’m pretty sure he had been hitting the flask since dawn.


The climb up Three Ridges Mountain
 After a tough two mile climb, we reached the first overlook.  As you can see below, it was a breath-taking view of the surrounding valley and neighboring Priest.  This overlook made our strenuous hike worth the effort. 



Oops…I stole this picture from VirginiaTrailGuide.com.  This is what we saw when we got to the summit.



That’s right. Nada. Zip. Zero. Jack. 

We're smiling because Corey told us the worst was over
And here’s a photo a little further up the trail from one of the “best views on the trail” (near Chimney Rock). 
Corey & Bob taking in the stunning views
We hiked through fog and rain the entire day, and didn’t see a damn thing.  Actually, the rain turned out to be a blessing.  While it obscured the rewarding views we had come for, it was fantastic hiking weather.  I’m pretty sure I would’ve died on the trail had it been the hot and humid conditions of a typical July day.

After the (supposedly) amazing overlooks, we descended another two miles to the Harper’s Creek Shelter for lunch.  The rocky descent was absolutely brutal, but the waft of the shelter's campfire gave me hope that the bottom was near.

The descent from the summit
Someone thought it would be funny to blaze a pile of rocks and call it a trail

Keeping the fire lit for us @ Harper's Creek Shelter

At the shelter, I plowed through half the food in my bag, refilled my bladder, took a shot of Jack, and then we hit the trail again…

After seven miles of relentless hill after hill, I really thought the worst was over. I thought our hike through Campbell Creek canyon would be a scenic walk with lots of pretty waterfalls and swimming holes. 
Pretty waterfall on the Mau-Har Trail

But some masochist named Angelo Filippi 'designed' the Mau-Har trail as a cruel joke to punish hikers.

The Mau-Har Trail destroyed me.  I’m writing this entry two days after the hike, and I’m still having waking nightmares of the first hill we climbed after lunch.  I don’t have words (or pictures) to describe how stupid this hill was.  But that was only the beginning…Angelo had some more in store...

As we hiked through the canyon, I didn’t appreciate the beauty of the canyon's waterfalls because I was too busy climbing boulders and trying not to bust my ass.  And despite my increased awareness of the terrain at my feet, I still managed to submerge my shoe in a stream (multiple times).  Once my shoe got wet, I thought it was game over. It was only a matter of time before blisters would spontaneously combust around my foot—but somehow I finished unscathed.  I love love love my Oboz Sawtooths—three big hikes and my feet are still intact.

The rest of the Mau-Har trail was a blur. I just wanted to go back to the parking lot and cry.

Once we finished our 12-mile loop and returned to the first shelter in Maupin Field, Corey gave us the options to leave the trail via a FLAT service road or to leave the way we came in.   Instead of taking the "easy way" out, Di and I climbed over Bee Mountain again (we're so macho!)  Almost nine hours after we started, we were back at our van... and ready for hard ciders at Bold Rock.

(As a side note: I haven't mentioned my teammate/wife much in this blog...she doesn't like the attention, but let me state for the record: she's amazing. She doesn't eat or drink water on these hikes, she doesn't break a sweat, and she waits for me...I'm starting to suspect that I married a cyborg.  I'm so thankful that she's been able to hike with me. When I started to fall behind mentally and doubt myself on the final hills, she was there to give me the boost--and WATER-- I needed.)

Di owning the Mau-Har trail
Despite the difficulty of this trail, this hike was an amazing experience.  Something everyone should do at least once. This was a HUGE accomplishment for us, and a great bit of momentum as we head into the final two months of training.  For weeks, the anxiety of hiking Three Ridges had been building...we weren't sure if our bodies or minds could handle it...and I'm proud to say WE KICKED ASS. Bring on Massantutten Mountain.


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Thursday, July 18, 2013

10 Things I Learned on Dobie Mountain




#10 There's a secret date for hiking naked on the AT... but you can hike it in your underwear any day of the year.

#9 Bill Bryson’s description of the rat-infested AT shelters was vivid, accurate…and a nice place to stop for lunch.


#8 Make sure your bladder (aka: water sac) is full before hitting the trail.

#7  Bang rocks together, shout, make yourself look bigger, and try not to poop in your pants when you run into a bear.

#6  Apparently, I’m doing shots of Jack at the top of Three Ridges…and then hiking another 6 miles of
hell.

#5  I may not need sunscreen while hiking through the woods, but it comes in handy when drinking a post-hike beer at a picnic table in the middle of a field.



#4 I saw more animals in my yard this morning than I’ve seen on our last two hikes. Of course, I prefer our bunnies and squirrels to the bobcats, bears, and snakes we could potentially see.



#3  Hiking 31-miles in one day is the equivalent to running TWO marathons. Does this mean I can put a 52.4 bumper sticker on my car afterwards?

#2  Two months of walking everyday has really helped my endurance, and the hills are becoming much easier, BUT….

#1  I need to spend more time training on the stationary thing that you run on (aka: treadmill).  This week I’m hitting the workouts hard to prepare for our next hike.  Corey encouraged us to use muscle confusion during our workouts…and my muscles are totally perplexed.  Yesterday, they asked me why I was climbing the stairs of the West Broad Village parking garages.  (They asked me why the garages in front of Chuy’s and Kona Grill smell like a sewer too.)  Corey’s been warning us about Three Ridges, and I want to be ready on July 27.


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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Practice Hike #2: Dobie Mountain

Practice Hike #2 (Dobie Mountain) turned out to be another fun time with great views and company!  Originally, Di and I were planning to skip this hike to see Jimmy Buffett in Virginia Beach... but somehow we ended up in the woods of the Shenandoah instead!

A morning on the AT
Our morning started with a kick-off meeting led by Kim and LaDonna from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Corey, our guide from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports.  During the pre-hike meeting, Bez shared a testimonial about her son's battle with CF-- he was diagnosed at age 9 when doctors tried to figure out why he only weighed 45lbs.  Her son has his good days and his bad days, but he's 23,  graduated from George Mason University, and will be hitting the trails to practice hike with his mom in a couple of weeks.  When I hit my wall on 'hike day,'  stories like this will be the fuel I need to help push me towards the end.
Bez sharing her son's story

Thirteen of the twenty-six registered Xtreme Hikers hit the Dobie Mountain trail this weekend.  Our practice group added three nurses who treat CF patients at VCU Medical Center, their significant others, a cousin of a CF patient (who is recovering from a recent ACL surgery), and a guy who wanted to match his passion (hiking) with philanthropy. We have an amazingly fun and dedicated team of hikers!  I wish we had MORE practice hikes between now and September!



The Dobie Mountain hike was a little different than the first practice hike (Mt. Pleasant).  The DM grade was much gentler than MP-- there was more of an elevation gain/loss, but the switchbacks were a blessing on my old knees.  The stretch we hiked was on the AT, and the trails were maintained much better than our previous hike-- no hiking through waist-high weeds this time around.  Even though I preferred this trail to MP, the overlooks were a little underwhelming when compared to the .  amazing panoramas at Mt. Pleasant's summit.  The overcast skies probably didn't help the views either.  Overall, there weren't a ton of sights on this trail, but it was a nice workout and a great way to spend the day.


After our morning in the woods, we took the party to Blue Mountain Brewery for some food and beverages-- craft-brews plus a Jack & Pepsi. 

In two weeks, we'll be hiking Three Ridges Trail... and I'm preparing for hell.  It's 13 miles of unforgiving rocks and hills.  During Corey's pep talk to our team, he told us Three Ridges will "break some egos."  Based on everything I've read...I believe him.
Coming Soon: Three Ridges

If you'd like to support our adventure, please click on the link and donate!  We're HALFWAY to our goal, and we could use your help! :)


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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Practice Hike #1: Mount Pleasant, VA

Already falling behind in my posts!  Here's a summary from our first practice hike a week ago...

The Mount Pleasant trail was an amazing way to kick-off our team hikes!  We were rewarded by amazing views from the 4,012-foot summit-- and by the stories told by our fellow hikers.

We hit the trail with a mother of a 24-year old CF patient and her best friend, a father of a 4-year old with CF, a sister of a 24-year old CF patient, a mother motivated by her friend's daughter who has CF, and our trail guide (Corey) from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports who's been inspired to donate his time to nonprofits because of his disabled mother.  We're all motivated-- inspired-- enthusiastic-- but none of us (with the exception of our guide) are experienced hikers.  We have some huge challenges ahead, but it's going to be so rewarding to watch us grow, learn, and accomplish something as physically and mentally challenging as the Xtreme Hike.





The hike was a moderately-easy six-miles that included some amazing views from the top of Mount Pleasant.  The weather was absolutely perfect for a summer day-hike-- mid-70's, slightly overcast, and even a CHILLY breeze at the summit. 










The first couple of miles were a gradual ascent to a pair of overlooks.  The climb almost felt too easy, like I should have been working harder for the views.


We spent a half hour at the summit, eating lunch, taking pictures, and listening to our guide's search-and-rescue stories.  Speaking of our guide, I feel MUCH better about the hike knowing that he has experience on the trails as paramedic and search-and-rescue volunteer-- plus, he has a great sense of humor and stories that will make the hiking a little more entertaining.  And when I started to feel a hot spot in my boot, I kept thinking, "It could be worse...I could be the guide who's hiking with a 4th degree burn on his stomach that he got from laying out on the beach with Jack Daniels the day before the hike..."Poor dude looked rough.

Corey pointing out the sites

The second half of the loop was much different than the first.  The terrain was much steeper and uneven.  Walking downhill on a rocky slope put a lot of stress on my knees, but it would have been MUCH worse without hiking poles.  Now that I've used the poles, I can't imagine hiking again with them-- they provided an amazing amount of stability on the rougher parts of the trail.  


Since the Mt. Pleasant hike, we've been back on the hills at Deep Run Park (in Richmond) and walking the neighborhood.  The neighborhood walk has been a letdown since getting into the mountains...but it's the best we can do right now (unless we neglect the kids and work!).

This weekend, we'll be returning to the Blue Ridge to hike Dobie Mountain with the rest of our team.  Looking forward to another weekend on the trail!

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