This past Saturday Mike and I did our first joint training hike for our upcoming mid May Appalachian Trail section hike. We hiked at Giufridda Park in Meriden for about 4 hours in the rain covering 5 miles and approximately 3000 feet worth of elevation gain and loss. Our purpose was to test ourselves and our gear and get a better idea of what our average pace will be. This is important because we need to cover 10-12 miles each of the three days of our trip so knowing our pace will allow us to make sound decisions about when we get up and how long we take for meals and breaks along the way. Of course the whole reason for hiking at all is to have fun but that goes without saying now doesn’t it.
My REI Flash 45 pack was loaded with 29 pounds of gear and old camp t-shirts to simulate my estimated pack weight at the start of our 3 day trip. I also lined it with a trash bag and everything in the brain(top portion of the bag) was in a ziplock bag. I wore my Icebreakers merino wool t-shirt, LL Bean Cresta zip-off hiking pants, Outdoor Research Swift Hat, LL Bean long sleeve running shirt, Chaco Z/1 Unaweep sandals, Marmot Precip rain jacket, and REI Powerflyte gloves. I took the running shirt off at the top of Chauncy peak because I was too hot but my rain coat, zip off pants, and merino t-shirt kept me comfortable in the rainy 50 degree temperatures.
Neither of us had ever done an extended hike in the rain but we both had fun. Our only moments of discomfort came when we stopped moving and sat down for lunch. We both tossed on a warmer layer but the damp cold did catch up to us a bit. Fortunately, by the time I felt cold I had my chili/oriental mix of ramen flavored noodles cooked up and half in my belly. I also brought along some powdered hot apple cider that helped warm us both up. I cooked the ramen in a quart sized freezer bag instead of a bowl. I tossed it in a neoprene pouch while it cooked and then ate right out of the bag with my long spork. It worked great but I will have to figure out something to put the bag in to shape it and make it a little easier to hold. I also uses my Alight Monarch chair during lunch to relax and get off my feet for a while. There is nothing quite like sitting on top of a mountain in a comfortable chair eating a hot meal. I think this picture of me setting up my chair is going to become a staple of these trips. The picture on the left is from October and the one on the right is from this weekend.
On thing I learned(again) is that I have a tendency to pack way too much food. The pretzels, peanut butter single, granola bar, half of my trail mix, and a third of my water went unconsumed. This may not sound like much but if you multiply the weight of all that by three days and add it to an already heavy pack you’ll have issues. I’ll have to remember that when packing for our trip. Mike brought along a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and he was finished eating almost as soon as I had my water boiling so he decided to do a little exploring around the summit area of Lamentation Mountain. I have no idea how this thing got up there but I imagine it involved a lot of booze, a lot of determination, or both. The Goat Lives!
Thanks to my insistence on cooking my lunch we stayed up there about 15 minutes longer than we had planned so I packed up as quick as possible and we started back down the mountain. I kept my wet swift hat off in favor of my dry merino beanie. I also kept my merino buff and a lightweight LL Bean fleece pullover on to keep the chill away on the way down. The wind picked up a bit as we started hiking again but I still assumed I would shed the fleece layer before getting back on the lake trail. I was wrong but happy to be so since I was comfortable and warm as we worked our way down the ridge. We had to stop several times along the way so I could check the map and verify which way to go. The trails intersect in confusing ways as you traverse the near side of the ridge so I thought taking extra care here was a good idea. We made good time down the ridge and zoomed our way back to the car. One handy tip for day hiking is to bring a water bottle to drink on the way to the trail head and another to drink after you finish. Sometimes I use a large water cooler for this but I didn’t want to bother with it this time.
All in all it was a good day despite all the rain. We learned that we can hike for 4 hours in the rain and still have a blast and that the gear we brought worked well for each of us. We also learned that with minimal breaks and a 45 minute lunch we can cover 5 miles in 4 hours under challenging conditions. I swam laps and stretched yesterday with no soreness and I feel great today. I would call our first training hike a success!