Inspired by a rewatching of Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and by temperate weather, I set out on another hike early Sunday morning. I wasn’t as trepidatious about setting out as I was last week. I new better what to expect this time, though I intended to hike a different trail at the State Park.
The park’s trail map showed the Loop Trail as following parts of the Mountain Bike Trail and the Sandhills Trail before taking off on its own to finish, from the opposite direction, back at the trail head. The map noted that the trail wasn’t marked with signage (blazes), which I thought odd, but it was only 3.5 miles in length, so I thought it would make a good “second foray.”
I reached the trail head earlier than I had last week. Once again, the weather was cool (about 57 degrees F) but I was warm enough in long-johns, hiking pants, and long-sleeved (cotton) shirt. The sky was clearer than I’ve seen it in a while, though there were still the ubiquitous jets flying at high altitudes in crazy patterns spraying their poisons. Their chem-trails weren’t persistent this day, however, and if I didn’t watch the sky too much, things felt almost normal.
The Loop began with the Mountain Bike Trail, so I found that trail head a couple of miles or so from my previous week’s start. It was in a copse of pine trees next to a small parking area beside the park’s Retreat Center. I paused to snap a photo of the big wood-and-glass sign marking the hike’s start, then headed down the trail behind it.
The trail, at this point, was wider than the start of the Sandhills. It was not paved, but once out of the woods, it was covered with white sand. I figured that was to accommodate mountain bikes, but I was to find that the sand stretches were intermittent over the course of the trail.
I quickly noted that this trail was marked with blue blazes (I.e., black arrows on a blue field of diamond-shaped tags nailed to trees). Like the Sandhills trail, this one was well-blazed. It would be easy to follow to the point where it joined the Sandhills, then to where it split off into the Loop (which the trail map indicated was not marked; I wasn’t sure how that would work).
The trail was wide at this point, and surrounded by pine woods. It was pleasant, walking through the cool morning amongst green trees under the bluest skies I’ve seen in two years. I didn’t quite have the feeling of breaking new ground that I did last week. I wasn’t anticipating what I’d find around the next bend as I was before. Maybe one trip was all I needed to develop a sense of familiarity. This hike would reveal it’s own sense of ice-breaking, however.
The sun peeking through the trees to the northeast of me was inspiring. It prompted thoughts of the “Life magazine motto” from the Walter Mitty movie: “To see the world…to see behind walls.” I snapped a photo, but it didn’t do the moment justice. My little digital camera is easy to hike with, but it has it’s limitations with regard to lighting, and feelings.
I soon found the point where the Sandhills Trail joined the Mountain Bike. From there I carried on over ground I had hiked (twice) last week. A little further and I noted where the Sandhills turned away from the Mountain Bike and towards the lake. This time, though, I followed the blue blazes rather than the white ones.
Somewhere up ahead, should be the split of the Loop from the Bike, and I looked for indications of that split. I never found any, just the blue blazes. After a while, it became evident that I was simply following the Bike Trail to the eastern extremities of the park. I didn’t mind. I would just have a longer hike than I had planned.
I was well into the woods now, though I never lost the sound of the Interstate traffic. The trail narrowed quite a bit and there were far fewer stretches of sand. Lots of little splits, though, and a lot of steep inclines that I imagined would be rough going for a mountain bike. Actually, I would only see four people on bicycles this day (two were together) and I had to wonder at their perseverance over this terrain. I don’t think I would have done it, even in my youth (and I was a bicycler then).
After about an hour and a half on the trail and my back was complaining. I had to stop for a water-and-trail-mix-bar break. I was in a clearing filled with what looked like clumps of moss growing on the ground. The moss was like, dried out, and it crunched as I walked over it as if I was walking on corn flakes. This area was very sunny and I wondered if the historically high UV in the sunlight coming through geoengineered holes in the ozone was burning these moss clumps to crisps. It sure looked that way.
After I had been on the trail over two hours, having hiked some four miles, I was tired, aching in my back, and feeling the need for lunch. I was still in the woods and it didn’t seem I would pass any picnic areas, so I stopped at a fallen tree. I sat on the trunk, and ate my cajun-turkey sandwich. That ten minute break gave me a second wind and I started again in good spirits.
I soon reached a “4 mi” marker and felt the vindication of my distance guestimate. Just a couple of more miles. I could handle that. Should just take another hour. I kept walking.
I passed a few people on the trail. Not many. The four I saw on bikes, I saw at this point. One yelled at me from behind as he approached on a narrow space of the trail: “Behind you!” and I leaped to the trail’s shoulder. Another time, I passed a couple of guys with some well-behaved dogs that looked to be some kind of large terriers.
When I reached the “5 mi” marker, I felt I had done it. Just another mile. I could do that. I passed a few other people at this point, coming from the way. Late starters, but some had backpacks and I thought, “Yeah!”
That last mile was the toughest. I was going to make six miles which is my personal best, and about a mile-and-a-half longer than I anticipated making this day. The last mile was up-hill and over more stretches of white sand. I stayed to the side of the trail where the footing was firmer.
I was approaching the trail head, so this hike, though it made a big loop in the northside woods, was really an out-and-back one. As I entered the copse that held the trail head sign, I passed an older couple just starting out. The woman was older, and carrying a daypack.
I was feeling good about my accomplishment when I reached my car. I was tired, but not devastated. I thought again about the Life motto from the Walter Mitty movie:
To see the world, things dangerous to come to…
At this point, I feel I can keep going. It may be that whatever I see of the world, may often be from a backpacking trail. Perhaps I’ll even dare those “things dangerous to come to.”
If I do, I’ll write about it.