Hike of the Week: N’s Death March (almost)

Today I headed out with a couple friends to my local mountain park to hike. It didn’t really go as planned, but it was still good.

Okay, first things first: last night my coworker’s wife sent me a text to ask if I wanted to go with them (and their adorable dog) on a hike today. My coworker and his wife (we’ll call them N and H) are super-fit people, and the hike they wanted to do was 12 miles. It’s 90F out today. I still said yes, since I was planning to go on a hike anyway, but I was kind of worried.

I like to start early, especially when it’s hot. They said let’s meet up at 9 (for a 6-hour hike, that’s still mostly in the hottest part of the day) and they didn’t actually arrive until 10. So it was already pretty hot, but luckily we were under the tree canopy for the most part.

I have new backpacking boots to break in, and I took a daypack and filled it with my hammock kit (for testing), an emergency pair of comfy running shoes, lunch and about 5L of water. That’s a lot of water, and it was really heavy! But I easily drank 3L on my last hike, which was shorter and cooler. Better safe than sorry. Plus I drank my pack weight down as I went along.

N and H had done this hike before, and it must’ve been rough for them because they’ve nicknamed it “N’s Death March”. The first mile was a rocky climb up to the ridge (predictably brutal), where there was a big rock cliff that we scrambled to the top of and stood there for a while, admiring the view. Then it meandered for a while on some little dirt trails, which was nice for a change. After about 4 miles we descended to the creek and had lunch on a rock, and I set up my hammock to try out (it went up in like 30 seconds and worked great, super comfy, I didn’t want to get out).

After lunch we set off again and started to get grumpy at the miles of rocks and the elevation changes and the heat. About 6 miles in we came to a crossing and had to decide to keep on going or bail. Bailing was still another 2.5 miles to the cars, but going on meant another climb up to a ridge, and then another 6+ miles. H was ready to bail, I was on the fence but it was already after 2 and we wouldn’t finish until the evening if we went on. Plus, their dog was tired.  So we decided to call it and head back to the car– and on the way we passed the park visitor’s center, where there was a real bathroom, so we took a quick break there too before setting off again. (I’ve gotten used to peeing in the woods finally so I didn’t need a bathroom too badly, but #2s are still going to be a challenge on the backpacking trip.)

At the end of the day the hike totaled 8.5mi– plenty respectable. My boots are workable, I did in fact drink all that water, and I could keep up with my super-fit friends for the most part, though I was slower on the climbs and descents. N and H were both using trekking poles– a bit of kit I’ve been resisting buying because it feels so extravagant– but H let me borrow hers for a bit and it really helped a lot on those rocky descents. The poles gave me another place to put my weight so I could balance better and find my footing. So, I guess I need to go to REI again before their sale runs out.

Now I’m home, and enjoying a beer and a nice foot soak.

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