First hike of the season

May 22, 2011

So today I went hiking with my son.  Backpacking season starts next weekend, and I needed a shakedown hike.  You know, a hike to evaluate things. To figure out how aggressive of a backpacking trip to take on Memorial Day weekend.  To evaluate our physical condition.  And to test new gear.

This hike was a 8.0 mile hike in the Lost Creek Wilderness, just south of Bailey, Colorado.  The first thing to test was my memory.  The last time I hiked this trail was about 20 years ago, so at times it was a challenge to recognize the various landforms and features along the way.

Most startling was a giant rock that I used to pitch my tent on top of.  Back in the day, this rock was gigantic and stuck into the side of the mountain, forming a nice flat area perched about 40 feet above the trail.  Today it was hardly recognizeable, and after a while I figured out why.  The rock had moved.  The best I can tell, it has moved about 20 to 30 feet!  It is no longer stuck in the side of the mountain but out some distance.  The dirt on the previously flat area has slid down the mountainside– no longer flat.

Another change in the past 20 years is that this area was once lush, green, and had a giant canopy of trees that were hard to look through.  Today, many of the trees have fallen down.  The wide expanse of sky is easily visible.  It wasn’t so green, but that’s not surprising given the time of the year.

Next up to test was the physical state of my son and I.  Due to an injury last summer, I didn’t do much physical activities.  In the winter, same story– although there was no injury to use as an excuse.  So I was not expecting much.  Still, I was hurting.  What was more surprising is that my son basically whooped me.   In past years, I always had much better endurance.  No so this year.  I’ll have to start working out more.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new pair of hiking shoes.  I was trying an experiment out.  Basically, I wanted to know if the $50 pair of breathable and waterproof shoes were as good as the $100 pair.  Um, no.  No, they are not as good.  Not even close.  They were waterproof, but not so breathable.  And the pressure points on my feet were making me seriously consider doing the last couple of miles barefoot.  Lesson learned:  you do get what you pay for.  Now it’s time to go get a new pair before next weekend.

I was curious on how the snow conditions were, and I found out.  At 8500 feet there were loaf of bread sized patches of snow in the shadows.  At 9050 feet the trail was covered in 30+ foot long patches.  We didn’t try to go higher, as another hiker reported that at about 9500 feet the trail was not passable to people in normal shoes.

Probably the most interesting thing was comparing this hike with the backpacking trips up this same trail 20+ years ago.  To make a long story short:  it is a lot easier now than it was.  What would have taken me 4 days to hike before, I’m confident my son I could do it in 2 days now.  But I’m not quite sure why.  Maybe I was a wimp back then.  Or maybe it’s because my backpack is half the weight.  It’s not age, as my son can do it way better than the younger-me.

So, thus begins backpacking season.  If anyone wants to go backpacking on Memorial Day weekend, just yell!

EDIT:  I checked the GPS log and it reports that we did 8.0 miles, not the 7.5 mile estimate I originally wrote.


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