A Walk In The Woods

I’ve got friends at work, and friends around the neighborhood. I have friends to bike with, or go on a walk. I’ve got friends to wine and dine, or even offer a dance lesson. I’ve got friends for all times and places, but today I want to talk about a few of my “grow buddies” and our hike this past weekend.

Meet Mark and Isaac:

All three of us have birthdays within a few weeks of another. So this year, we wanted to celebrate together by backpacking almost 60 miles on the Knobstone Trail from Deam Lake heading north towards Salem, IN at Spurgeon Hollow and Delany loops. However, that wasn’t the plan originally. At first, we planned on doing 32mi to Elk Creek in 1.5 days, but given the circumstances…the opportunity to do the entire trail presented itself. And we just couldn’t resist.

Having only one backpacking experience under my belt (this past fall), I severely underestimated the difficulty of repeating 20mi days on the roughest terrain in Southern Indiana to complete this in 3 days.
***This is important to remember later when I illustrate how gassed we were***

Well the time had almost come for the hike to begin. It was Thursday night and we set out to drop off a car at the finish and then drop supplies (food and water) in two locations on our way back home along the trail. Everything was going according to plan. We even got back to my house around 11p, which I was happy about because it was less time I laid awake in bed anxiously waiting for the morning to come.

I wore my lucky Arnold tank top, best hiking pants, and had my boots tied tight. My trophy wife dropped us off and we hit the trail just before 8a! Perfect start, just as planned.

We were all giddy and set off in high spirits. We played a few games of rock, paper, scissors to see who was our elected “De-webber” first. This is the person that collects all the cobwebs and clears the trail for the everybody following. We ran an Indian style rotation every mile where the leader dropped to the back and next in line sets the pace. This is a great strategy for knocking out a large distance as a team effort.

The first few miles seemed to go by slowly. Mainly, because I am used to running the first 4mi. So naturally, walking with a forty-pound pack seems slower than my usual perspective. By the time we made it to the first vista around the 6mi marker, we had already survived our first few major ascents and descents.

Woo! Welcome to the hike, boys.

As we sat and ate lunch, I started to notice a few things…
1) I was regretting a tank top due to the straps already rubbing my shoulders raw. Time to switch my shirts while it was early.
2) Maybe I wasn’t wearing merino wool socks. Maybe I grabbed cotton socks, because my feet felt sweaty. But not horrible, probably nothing to worry about.
3) I was not acclimated to the warmer weather yet and the black backpack riding on me wasn’t doing me any favors of cooling down.
4) This was only the tip of the iceberg.

Until that day, Isaac and I had been as far as the 8 mile marker and Mark to the 15mi marker. Today was the day that all of us were going to see new territory! We made the first supply drop and then set up camp shortly afterwards finishing at 21.5 miles for day 1. Woof!

It feels satisfying to know you are doing something new, or better than before. And cranking out nearly a marathon on the first day was not an easy feat. All three of us were gassed and our feet had blistered so badly that I limped to avoid putting pressure on the affected areas. I stripped my boots and hobbled over to the nearby stream for nature’s ice bath. All was well for the night after that. We were some real cavemen. We made fire, we feasted, and then passed out!

The morning of day 2 came quickly, which was about the only thing moving fast at the moment. The first few steps of the day down right hurt. But, it soon passed and our bodies set back in. Until the going got tough. Not to mention the Indian style rotation had now been working against me as Isaac ate some Beanies and Weenies the night before…you get the idea. I was extra happy for when it was my turn to lead the charge!

I don’t think I will ever forget the two climbs in mile 28! We climbed up, up, up out of the pits of hell only to get hotter as the day went on. It was defeating. Just over half way done and we were fighting for every step.

We ended day 2 just over 39mi into the hike and we felt close! By the time we made it back to the car the next day and dropped off our packs, we had two more loops to hike before calling it quits. However, our feet were toasted. My toenails were red like they were bleeding underneath, I had callused in between every toe, heel, and arch. We knocked out one of the loops and then called it quits after 53 miles.

Now if you are like my wife, you may be wondering “How does this sound like a good time?” On the surface level of the physical pain, it wasn’t. But it was awesome to experience a long, quiet time to pray and listen. There were plenty of SOS prayers for strength over those 3 days!

But more importantly, I wanted to be the fearless leader of our 413 Family to show that even when we don’t have the fancy equipment of a gym, we still have opportunities to get better and to prove ourselves strong and able. Things will not always go according to our plans, but times like these are when we can also develop a stronger “faith” muscle and look for blessings in disguise.

Maybe it is the freedom of time to go on an extended hike. Maybe it is being home more often to love on your spouse and kids better. Or maybe it is time to rest and not feel rushed from one meeting to the next. God gives us seasons for a reason. We just have to be present enough to understand why.

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