Here We Go!
Or, what the hell have I gotten myself into and how can I arrange for sherpas to get me up this mountain?!
It was my lucky day. Tuesday, May 17, 2016. I was aimlessly scrolling through facebook (why do I do that?!!), barely even watching as one post after another did their laps across my screen when a post by Yosemite National Park caught my eye. “The Tioga Road will open at noon tomorrow, Wednesday, May 18th!” Perfect. I was heading to Joshua Tree a day early anyway – why not go up and over the pass, taking advantage not only of the incredible drive through Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows, but also of the route down 395 vs. Interstate 5?
Couldn't be better. I have driven the stretch from the Bay Area to Yosemite enough times that I know almost every stretch of road and the familiarity of the ride out to Big Oak Flat has become second nature. Once I pass Oakdale I know I am well on the way, and when I glide through the National Park entrance gate, the blood pressure goes down (well, hopefully not too much as I tend to already have low BP). I am a proud, card carrying annual National Park pass holder and I can't imagine anywhere I would prefer my money to go. With few people on the road on a mid-week non-holiday Wednesday, it was even more pleasurable. I stopped a few times to look at the beautiful cascades of water that were flowing more strongly than I have seen in a lontime, but was mostly wanting to beeline up to Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows.
The scene never disappoints, nor does the fresh mountain air that I gulp deep into my lungs. It was chilly up at 9,000 feet, but the crispness only made the contrast from my everyday environment more delectable. It is up here, at elevation, feeling the power of the river, that I come alive. Sitting by the Tuolumne River, swollen with spring runoff, I was reminded that it is these precious places that our youth must experience and this is what drives my efforts to raise money for Bay Area Wilderness Training. As incredible and as rewarding as any life can be, I most fervently believe that getting into places such as these and experiencing the wonder, the power, and even the harshness, allows for a greater understanding of all that we encounter internally and externally in this existence.
Sunday I decided it was time for a more serious hike. Something that involved elevation changes, had some substance as far as distance, and would include carrying more weight than my typical day pack. I wanted something local, but away from the city streets. After a cursory google search, I settled on Redwood Regional Park right up the road from me in Oakland.
The park is 1,830 acres and includes a wonderful forest of redwoods (well durrr, Adina, just look at the name of the park), but also opens up at higher elevations to grassy overlooks. There is a total of about 36 miles of hiking with more narrow hiking-only trails criss-crossing between the wider biking and hiking East and West Ridge trails. This is perfect for my training because I can tailor any given hike to the amount of elevation gain and loss I may desire that day.
I did manage to haul out of bed at a reasonable hour for a hiking day, albeit not so reasonable for my preferred sleep schedule on a Sunday. I was at the park around 9:45, and laid out a cursory hiking plan, subject to change if needed. I wanted to make sure I got in some decent hills, and to push myself more than I had up to this point. I filled my hydration pack, which holds 3 liters of water, and filled an extra water bottle, to bring the total up to about 4 liters. No, I did not think I would be that thirsty! But water is a smart thing to carry when working up to carrying weight in a pack because if at some point it gets too heavy you can just dump some of it out. I also threw in a 5 pound weight. I debated putting 10, but decided it is still early enough in the game and my muscles really are not in great shape just yet. So with 4 liters of water at 2 lbs/liter, and the 5 pound weight, plus some miscellaneous items, I figure I was carrying about 15 pounds. Not much by backpacking standards, but more than I have carried in some time.
Turns out, it was a good thing I didn't carry more weight. More on that later.
My hike, in total, was just over 7.5 miles. Not as long as I had planned, but nothing to scoff at either. With the route I chose, the total elevation gain (and of course loss) was about 1200 ft. Some of the trails were incredibly steep, and others had a more easy grade over a longer distance. Overall a great hike!
So why would I say that it was a good thing I didn't carry more weight?
Well, what with not working out much in the past several years, the body finds ways to let one know, in a not so pleasant fashion. The first problem I encountered was expected. My left knee can sometimes get gimpy on downhill walks and this was no exception. Usually I can find a way to appease it by walking a different speed, or adjusting my posture. Unfortunately, my knee was in cahoots with my hip that day and they were having none of it. So what I had planned to be an 8-10 mile day quickly was adjusted to something more doable. Then my feet started complaining. This is also a new development. Oh boy. Isn't 50 going to be something ... anyway ... I sashayed and limped and awkwardly but carefully made my way back to the trailhead where I put my feet up and enjoyed the snack I had brought, before driving back home.
Now, it is two days later and I am pleasantly surprised to find that my legs are not really sore. Unfortunately, my feet did not fare so well and my right arch now finds it quite beyond it's ability to hold up under my weight.
Walking is a privilege.
Take care of your feet, people.