Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Trails

We're fixin' to be OCD about hiking again. For the past 9.5 years, we've had this on-again, off-again obsession with day hiking. I wish it was "on again" all the time but, alas, circumstances conspire to change pretty much any favorite OCD activity.

We started day hiking on December 7, 2001. We had a great run of day hiking clear through September 2002. In fact, we had a "streak" going of 125 straight days of day-hiking. Our streak broke in Red Bluff, California, when we rec'd news that our house had been flooded.

We got another streak going in 2004 that lasted well into 2005. I think my streak then was over about 300 consecutive rain or shine days. It's in my log book someplace. There have been other minor streaks but nothing to compare to the 2004-2005 epic. Heck, I even taught a community college class called "Day Hiking for The Elderly" in March-April 2005.

We had a good run in 2005-2006 but nothing to compare to previous streak. After I herniated my L5 disk in May 2006, my hiking came to an abrupt end. It never really fully recovered as there simply wasn't enough time with the 2.5 year job, etc.

We've discussed how to get ODC about hiking again. And therein lies The Tale of Two Trails.

One trail is the world famous Bell Rock-Courthouse Loop Trail (BRCT). The other is a short section of the Long Canyon Trail (LCT). The BRCT parking lot is typically jam-packed by mid-morning. The first half-mile of this trail is teeming with people and it's often near gridlock from bicycles and people. The LCT is almost always deserted. We've only seen people on it once and that was yesterday.

The BRCT is about 4.5 miles. The section of the LCT we do is less than a mile.
The BRCT is mostly flat and all the grades are either short and or gentle. The LCT is a steep, steep hill that is a 100% climb all the way. Both trails are the closest two official trails to our home. The BRCT is smack-dab in the Village of Oak Creek, a suburb of Sedona. The LCT is more or less nowhere. Luckily, it has a parking area alongside the road to a rich kids school-Southwest Academy.

We've found that the best way to get back into hiking is, well..., to hike. Who'd a thunk it? The second ingredient is to hike every day. And the third ingredient is to really press ourselves to work a little harder each day. These two trails possess all of the above qualifications. They are endearing and compelling trails.
They are easy to access. Plus, both of them are great "timing trails." What's a timing trail? A timing trail is one that lends itself to timing yourself.

The Long Canyon Workout Hill is a classic example. There's an obvious starting point--the iron gate. There's an obvious finish line--twin juniper trees at the top of the hill. Voila, you simply time yourself between those two points. You aim for a faster time for each hill climb. No lolly gagging allowed!

Ditto The BRCT--you can really make that trail a tremendous workout trail but aiming to reduce your loop time. Two days ago we were slightly over 2 hours. Obviously, we are out of hiking shape. My best time there was 1:37 as I recall.
Yesterday on The LCT, I surprised myself with a 27 minute time. Susun was 32 minutes. My best time there was I recall was 23 minutes. I will check it in the historical log book but I am pretty sure that's accurate.

So, we've decided to simply alternate--BRCT one day, LCT the next, aiming for lower times each day. We plan to keep up this routine until the day before we depart Arizona. We know from past experience that this regime will put us back into credible hiking condition.

A classic past example of similar OCD behavior was in May-June 2004. We were coming off a very slacker-sluggish period in our lives. We'd started the Atkin diet on April Fool's Day and lost a bunch of weight. We were headed to our first summer in Idaho. We went into Garfield County, Utah, out by Bryce Canyon and camped one night at a place call "Red Canyon Equestrian CG." Nice place and free.
One night turned into 11 nights and each day we hiked for hours in the free Forest Service "mini-Bryce" area of Red Canyon. The main red Canyon (fee) campground had pay showers so we could wash off the red dust each afternoon. It was great. By the time we left Red Canyon, we were fully back in hiking shape once again. That was the beginning of our extended epic hiking streak.

Well, I write all of this rambling mumbo-jumbo for a simple reason--we're challenging ourselves to "stand & deliver" on getting our hiking groove back. By putting it out here on the blog, it's kind of like, well....what happens if you DON'T follow through, huh? We'd just look like foolish exaggerators, that's all. Our friends would say, "Yeah, they sure talk big sometimes, but where's the delivery, huh?" I think I will even start a public spreadsheet to hold our feet to the fire.

Hiking is not only fun--hiking is life. The more you hike, the healthier you are. it's a widely recognized fact these days. Practically the whole medical establishment is on the "walking is good" band wagon. I'm sure you've noticed that phenomena.

Well, got up late today--7 instead of 5 so we have to shuffle along and ride today's wave. Surf's up, let's go!

Cheers, jp

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