Last Saturday, I was so proud of myself. I recovered from two weeks of utter laziness and actually went out for a hike. Having loaded up a new pack I wanted to test to a weight of 30 pounds, I drove out I-270 in Maryland until it ended, took I-70 for a few miles, and ended up off US-40 where it intersects the A.T. around the area of South Mountain State Park. I planned to do a 7.9 mile out-and-back hike, stopping along the way to take in the vistas at Annapolis Rock and Black Rock Cliff (recommended on the Hiking Upward website).
As I was driving, there was a point during which my car was grumbling about going uphill that I noticed light patches of white snow on the banks of the highway. A smile spread across my face as I naively thought, “Oh, so pretty! I can’t wait!” When I arrived at the parking lot at about 10am and opened the car door, the frigid air took my breath away. And yet, I still thought, “This’ll be great for cold weather training.”
By the way, weather.com tells me that it was 27 degrees but felt like 15 degrees out there at 10am on Saturday. My ego and I had a conversation about it and decided that I had to share that part considering what then transpired.
I quickly realized that I should have brought my heavy winter mittens instead of just gloves. Within a couple of minutes, as I was lacing my boots and donning my pack, my fingertips were screaming at me. It felt like a combination of stabbing knives and throbbing. I looked at my hands and noted that at least blood was still circulating so that I could justify continuing on. After all, I’d just driven all the way out there; I wasn’t going to turn around now.
From the parking lot, I headed in the direction of the connector trail along a short paved path. The path itself was effectively covered in a sheet of snow and ice. Optimistic (or delusional, you pick) as usual, I figured that the pavement made formation of ice easier. “I’m sure it’ll abate once I hit the connector trail.” I carefully put one foot in front of the other, aided by my trekking poles but still slipping here and there, for the short stretch to the connector trail.
Once I hit the blue blaze, the ground did become less foreboding, if not still a snowy and icy patchwork. After the short walk (75 yards) to the A.T., I turned right to head in the direction of Annapolis Rock. I saw a sign that specified 2.2 miles to my mid-point destination and decided that my 7.9 mile hike would instead be a 4.4 mile hike. At my slackened pace, I figured it could take me two hours just to get there.
I then passed a hunter coming from the other direction, who – with a concerned look on his face – thoughtfully warned me away.
“It’s really icy up that way. Might not be the best for hiking.”
“Does it get more icy than it is right here?”
“It’s patchy. There are places where you have to go onto a bank to pass the ice.”
“OK. Thanks for the heads up. I can always turn around if I have to.”
And, despite his kindness, I stubbornly thought, “I can handle this. What does he know?”
For the next fifteen minutes or so, I carefully hiked along, using my trekking poles to test every step and still slipping here and there. My thoughts alternated between “I can do this” and “Holy crap, my fingers hurt.” And I kept thinking, “It’ll get better just ahead. I’m sure of it.” I finally acknowledged that it was too dangerous for me to continue. If I encountered this icy situation while actually thru-hiking, maybe I would have chanced it, but I don’t need to risk injuring myself before I head to Georgia.
I turned around and headed back to the parking lot. The return proved even more difficult since I was going downhill. Every step felt treacherous. By the time I made it back to my car, I’d hiked for just over an hour. Just over an hour doesn’t justify a cupcake.
(What’d she say?)
I’ve been so good since New Year’s about getting back in pre-ice cream shape. This hike was my one chance. I had a Groupon for a (big) salad and a cupcake, and I wanted to use it.
Oh, and also I wanted to get a good feel for that new pack. That’s right. That’s what I meant to say first because (of course!) that was my priority. Justifying a cupcake was just an afterthought, I swear.
I ended up driving home and “hiking” 6.3 miles around my neighborhood with the loaded pack. I figured my neighborhood is hilly enough to count for something. The weather was a much warmer 45 degrees and sunny. It might not have been as scenic, but at least I came out in one piece…and, as a footnote, I got to eat that cupcake too.