Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thornton River Hike

Had a lovely night at Matthew’s Arm! It was dark and quiet and chilly!  A nice change from the Wal-Mart! :-)

The great part about camping in the park is that I can get an early start on my hike!  I was up by 7 and on the trail by 9!  It was a chilly morning and I was kinda wishing I’d brought my fleece pants to put on over my shorts when I was eating breakfast!  It was comfortable as long as I was moving, but sitting at the picnic table eating it was really cold!

I checked out of the campground and moved the van over to the Elkwallow Wayside.  They had some nice parallel parking spots just perfect for Roxy!  I got the rest of my stuff together and headed out. 

The 1st mile was uphill and it was nice because it warmed me up!  I was moving at a good pace and the first few miles just flew by! I was 1/2 way though the hike and it was only 11:15! When you estimate hiking times you assume a 2 mph hour pace and then add an hour for each 1,000 feet of elevation change.  This hike was 10.6 miles and had 1,100 ft of elevation change so it should take about 6 hours to hike.  I’m usually a slow hiker so I figured it would take me at least 6 hours, probably more like 7 or 8 to finish the hike.  You can imagine my surprise when I was back at the van at 2:30!  10 miles, 1,100 feet, in 5 1/2 hours! WOW! I didn’t even feel like I was hiking super fast, it didn’t tire me out like I expected it to. 

While this hike was rated as “strenuous” in my guide book, I will say that it was A LOT easier than some of the shorter hikes Dad and I did in the Adirondacks!  1,000 feet of elevation change over 10 miles is a lot different than 1,000 feet over 2.5 miles!  And, interestingly enough those short steep climbs took almost as much time as my 10 mile loop!

The 1st half of the hike I saw no one! I had the woods all to myself!  I could tell that I was the 1st one to come down the trail too because of all the spider webs! Luckily the sun was hitting them just right so they glistened and I could see them in time to swing my hiking stick at them!  Walking into a spider web is never fun – you have to get that invisible web off you and then you always wonder if the spider might be crawling on you!

Just passed the halfway point in the hike I crossed the Thornton River for the 1st time.  I decided that it was a good place to stop for a rest and to eat snack so I puleed up a log and sat by the edge of the river.  The river was almost dry, mostly just a bed of rocks, but it was still a pretty spot in the quiet peaceful woods!

Not long after I sat down another hiker came up the trail.  He was wearing a fanny pack and had a large stick, almost more of a branch, stuck in the waist band of the fanny pack.  The stick was about 5 feet long and sticking out in front of him.  It looked rather dumb and I was wondering what purpose the stick was serving.  It was too flimsy to be a hiking stick, and it looked like he’d clearly put it there on purpose.  I was wishing I could have gotten a picture of him but there was no way to do it discreetly.  As he headed up the trail I was glad I’d stopped so he could pass me, now I wouldn’t walk into any more spider webs, he’d break through them 1st.  And that’s when it hit me what the stick was for!  It was sticking out just enough in front of him that it would hit the web before his face did!  Genius! 

A few minutes after “Spider Web Stick” Man passed me a group of about 15 Asian Women came along.  They were in the middle of crossing the creek when the rest of the group – the 15 Asian men, came along.  They were all yakking with each other in their language, although a few did say “Hi” to me.  One even peeked in my backpack and declared my carrots, sugar snap peas and hummus healthy. (Thanks, I was unsure until I got your approval!) I was sitting on a log, mostly in the middle of the trail so I was suddenly surrounded by a huge crowd of folks all speaking in a language that I didn’t understand.  One minute I was enjoying a quiet morning by a peaceful river and the next I’d been transported to a busy park in Tokyo or something.  It was a little “Twilight Zone”.  The large group had finally passed me by and I was planning on sitting there a bit longer to put more space between us, but I could sit hear them so I looked over my shoulder and discovered they’d stopped for lunch a few feet from where I was sitting.  I quickly threw the rest of my carrots in my backpack and started hauling ass up the hill to get away from them.  I never encountered them again!

Quickly I arrived at Skyline Dr and then the harder part of the trail started.  Hiking is 95% mental and 5% physical (or something like that), and that’s what happened after Skyline Dr.  There was a spur trail up to the AT, and in my head “spur trail” = “easy”.  Ummmmm…no.  The spur trail was steeper than the trail up out of the Thornton Hollow!  And it was longer than I expected!  Also, I had in my head that once I hit the AT I was almost done.  Again, not quite, it was still 2.6 miles.  And, most of those 2.6 miles were downhill. 

I’d hiked this section before and I knew how grueling that downhill was but I didn’t remember until I was about 1/2 way through it.  The last time I hiked that section I’d done an 11 mile day hike (and I was not in the physical condition to handle that) and I had crappy boots.  It was during that downhill that I seriously considered taking off my boots since I was pretty sure walking on the trail barefoot would have been less painful.  And then I saw a bear!  My 1st “on the trail” bear!  So it was an exciting day!

Today however, there were no bears along the trail and my feet weren’t hurting as bad, but my legs were! I ended up pulling out my phone and playing a little Dave Matthews Band to cheer me along.  I didn’t use my headphones, just the external speaker and dropped the phone in my pocket. I didn’t see any other hikers so I didn’t disturb their enjoyment. 

I was really excited when I got back to the RV at 2:30!  A big hike like that in just 5 1/2 hours is HUGE for me!

The RV was sitting in the sun so was hot, hot, hot.  Just because I could I decided to take a shower!  So fun to just be able to shower where ever, when ever! 

Once I was cleaned up I started driving home.  I didn’t want to leave, but I knew I needed time at home this weekend. 

I got home around 6 and quickly unloaded and took the RV back to Holly Acres, dumped (I filled the tank this trip!  I’m pretty sure I put in a lot more water than I needed to (for the toilet chemical) after the last dump), and was home by 7:00! 

It was a great quickie trip & hike! Looking forward to more fall camping in the coming weeks! :-)

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