The Trail to Philmont, July/August 2020

After six months on the trail to Philmont … we finally got on the trail. In August, we went hiking twice: first a 5-mile day hike on the Monocacy Creek Trail in Bethlehem, Pa., then a more rigorous 5-mile day hike on the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail and Appalachian Trail (AT) in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

The later hike was supposed to be an overnight backpacking trip on the AT, but with the remnants of a hurricane moving through the area, we decided to scale back to a day hike. Although disappointing, it was a prudent move as it gave some of our crew time to run to REI (an outdoor gear store) for additional hiking supplies, and allowed a new member of the crew to join the hike.

Finally, I went on a 10-mile canoe trip with the scouts, once again in Delaware Water Gap. It was a great trip; the Delaware River there is slow-moving enough that the scouts were able to get comfortable with controlling their canoes, and we got to pass through the always-impressive high-cliff walls of the Gap (something that always reminds me of the heroes paddling past the Argonath on Anduin River during The Fellowship of the Ring). The biggest challenge wasn’t navigating the river; it was the wall of wind we ran into at the Gap after a big thunderstorm went through. The wind turned around out canoes, and we ended up paddling upriver, getting to the shore, and then waiting for the wind to die down so we could continue downriver.

The Appalachian Trail hike taught me something about my own preparedness to get on the trail. For that hike, my son and I went with backpacks that were three-quarters full. I carried my standard gear (tent, sleeping bag, stove, a change of clothes) but was light on clothes, water, and food. I didn’t expect any problems with the pack or carrying it, and I didn’t have any – the pack felt great. What did surprise me is that my healed right ankle – largely silent through all my runs and strength training – ached at the end of the day.

My ankle being sore after a work out isn’t new, but I hadn’t experienced that in a long time. In retrospect, it makes sense. The New Jersey AT has a lot of rocks (though not nearly as many as on the PA side) and they are an inherently uneven surface to walk on even without a pack. Throw in a backpack with 50 lbs. of gear in it, and suddenly my ankle needed to work far harder than it has in months.

Thankfully, two ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep took care of the soreness, but I learned my lessons:

  • Workout consistently before going on a strenuous hike – before this trek, a week of poor sleep had me off my game and I hadn’t exercised in days.
  • Stretch before hiking – I got up at 6 a.m. for our 7 a.m. departure; I need to add at least 15 minutes before the start of the trip for stretching.
  • My ankle is going to be sore at the end of the day and – if I have to guess – it’s going to be inflamed as well. My right ankle is already a little bigger than my left because of the break, so I need to be mindful of the potential for blisters on my right foot.

In addition to finally getting on the trail, I continued my 10K training program in July… and bought a new pair of sneakers after my current Hoka sneakers ripped in nearly the same way as the previous pair. The first rip I chocked up to use – I’d had them for a year – but these were only 4 months old. Hokas are good sneakers – really good sneakers – and after destroying the second pair, I started wondering what I was doing wrong.

The answer? Taking them off wrong. Or at least, I think that’s that problem. I kept popping my sneakers off without unlacing them. Tired from a run, I kept popping them off by pushing at the heels. My theory is that action, plus the increased mileage from my runs killed the sneakers. Time will tell if my theory is correct.

As for the 10K training program itself, I hit pause on it at Week 4. I felt like I was pushing too hard and starting to feel it in my knees. Rather than do something stupid and hurt myself, I took a break. I may restart it in the fall (beginning at Week 1 again) but I may also go back to my old  3-4 mile runs and switch to cycling. I’ve said this a few times before, but I need to take the time and get out on my bike.

I need to reestablish some sort of routine. Since mid-summer, when I went on vacation and paused the 10K training, my exercise program’s been erratic. So have my sleep patterns, and one tends to feed (or disrupt) the other. As a result, I feel like I’ve hit a plateau on the trail to Philmont; in September I need to figure out how to get motivated again.

Maybe I should get some more Legos.

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