24k, 30k . . . Whatever It Takes

26k_0

What’s 4k Between Friends?

So it turns out my 30k test hike plans were based on a bit of a mapping mistake. AllTrails made it out to be a 23k hike that ended at a point where I thought (based on another map) an additional 7k trail picked up. Alas, that was not the case.

Because I was linking two maps, neither of which had the start / end points of this alleged 7k trail labelled, I assumed they were the same point. Nope. There was actually another 7k between the end of one and the beginning of another. This resulted in serious confusion when I found a sign about three hours into my hike that effectively said I still had 30k to go! Had I been walking backwards???

No one I met on the trail was doing the whole thing. In fact, no one even seemed to know what “the whole thing” was. Oh well – I decided that since I apparently didn’t know the real distance, I’d just press on until I couldn’t go any farther or it got too late. In fact, I ended up going off trail and walking the lake shore instead of cutting through higher up on the canyon wall. Doing so added distance and the trail turned into muddy sand, but it was beautiful. I even saw a bald eagle!!!

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The Hike

It was a perfect day for hiking. Temps ranged from the low 40’s to mid-50’s. Sunny in the morning, overcast in the afternoon. The trail had minimal elevation change and I only brought the bare minimum in my day pack, so this basically turned into a good distance-only benchmark.

In the first half, I took my time and stopped whenever I wanted so as not to risk burnout. When I took my lunch break I had hiked for about 2 hours and only gone 5.5 km. Yikes! I started focusing more on pacing and eventually kept it between 5 and 6 km/hr. I ended up hiking from 9am to 4:30pm. Because of the mapping situation I have to kind of guess at the total distance. It was at least 24km, but was likely more because of the lake shore detour.

Also, at one point, the AllTrails gps map showed me underwater, so I am not 100% confident of its accuracy.

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Gear Eval

My standard long underwear, convertible hiking pants, quick dry T-shirt (long sleeve in morning, short in afternoon) did just fine. My fleece jacket came off about 15 minutes into the hike. I used Body anti-chafe balm on my feet and wore lightweight sock liners, and medium weight Darn Tough merino wool hiking socks.

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I used my hiking boots for the first half and changed to the trail shoes for the rest. Overall both functioned about the same. The shoes did feel lighter right after changing, but I didn’t experience enough of a difference to really think they were a huge advantage over boots. I did feel some hot spots starting up, but none got bad. I ended up taping the ball of one foot just to see what that did, and it was fine but no blisters showed up anywhere.

I am pretty much a confirmed fan of hiking poles at this point. They came in handy numerous times and helped with both pacing and hills (up and down). The only annoyance was that on tight single track trails, they are difficult to place because there’s just no room for them. On trails where the sides were high or covered in plants they’d even get knocked around or tangled.

Coffee, eggs, and toast started my day off. Half a quart of my custom GORP (Kirkland “Extra Fancy Mixed Nuts” plus raisins) and a few Nutter Butters were my food source. It was plenty as I don’t tend to eat much on hikes. I did, however, easily finish off the 48oz of Gatorade in my Nalgene Silo (the last 3oz at trail end). Had it been much hotter, I definitely would have needed more.

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Conclusion

I felt surprisingly physically strong the whole hike. It’s a relief to know that I can still do a long day hike and have something left at the end. My legs were definitely sore, but I was able to keep a 5k/hr pace to the end. I also remained mentally positive the whole trip, and did not end up using any digital entertainment on the trail.

I started off the next morning with a 2k without too much trauma. For the rest of the day, I was reminded that I was not 20-something anymore each time I got up – but I made it through OK.

Again this was a low impact hike in perfect weather with minimal gear, so I won’t extrapolate too much from the experience. But so far so good!

Debriefing

My cousin and I had a long talk afterward and made a few decisions about planning. Although we both know the Camino is a pilgrimage and not a vacation, neither of us want it to turn into a painful, miserable slog either. What would be the point? We want to be able to stop and see places and things along the way (maybe even take a day or two to recover or explore a single locale), and we absolutely do not want to spend every day fretting over hitting a distance goal.

So we’re going to play with the route maps and aim for a more moderate pace – somewhere in the “difficult-but-not-miserable” range. Just a few extra days could make a huge difference, and given that we’ll likely only ever have one shot at this, we want to do it right.

“Buen” is as important as “Camino”!

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