Pour Some Sugar On Me

The days are getting shorter, the trees are rapidly being stripped of their leaves and all too soon, hiking trails here in Wisconsin will turn into powdery XC ski trails.

But today was one of those summer days we rarely – or never – get in November. 75 degrees. In the morning I took the canoe out for a 9.5-mile urban paddle and made it back in time to hit a yoga class. Biked back home and worked three hours sending final art files off to a printer, after which I then headed to the YMCA for my 5:30 p.m. Group Power Class. Am I physically (and mentally) prepared for hiking? We’ll see.

Let’s first set the record straight: It’s flat here. There’s no way I can begin to pretend that any of my summer and fall outings is akin to tramping the trails of Appalachia. When I first heard the term “PUD,” I had to look up what the acronym even meant (that’s “Pointless Ups and Downs” for my flyover state friends), since this geographic featured is non-existent here.

But hike I have. My husband and I are sectionally working our way along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail. I’ve done a few shakedowns, the longest being a modest 42.5-mile long Pictured Rocks segment of the North Country Trail. And I portaged my canoe and gear.

Say what?

This summer, in addition to a few hiking trips, I also did a lot of canoeing. Portage trails are used to connect unconnected bodies of water. Portaging is like a series of mini hikes, interrupted by lakes and rivers. The biggest difference is that paddling gear usually isn’t approached with quite the same obsession about weight as backpacking. Heck, most canoes alone weigh 50 pounds or more. But you still need to carry everything when you aren’t on the water. Portage distances tend to be relatively short (or at least the preferred ones that sane people follow), perhaps a quarter mile or less.

However, I took the “opportunity” to traverse a nearly 1.5-mile portage during a remote September solo canoe trip this year. Comparatively short as hiking trails go? Absolutely. Challenging? You bet your sweet gorp it was.

For those of you who don’t exactly know what portaging might feel like, consider trying this for 1.5 miles: Carry at least a 35-pound, fully loaded pack using only your shoulder straps. You are not allowed to use trekking poles. Now do this while keeping at least one hand, but preferably both hands, above your head for the duration of the carry. Also do this while balancing upon smooth granite rock faces, scrambling over fallen trees and avoid tripping on the exposed roots of the forest floor. Just like backpacking…not!

A 1.5-mile long portage is atypical, but it reinforced that I possess the mental and physical fortitude do the hard work. And for that I deserve a little sugar.

Oh, I’ll continue to get outside once the snow falls, but realistically, physical preparations for next spring’s thru-hike will be moving almost completely indoors.

I currently work out eight to 12 hours a week through daily classes at the YMCA, accumulating miles on an inclined treadmill (easily done while watching back to back episodes of Law and Order SUV), and practicing yoga two to five times a week. It’s all adding up to something, if not trail hardiness. (Or maybe I’m only acquiring useless trivia about the life and crimes of the Special Victims Unit of the New York City Police Department and in particular, its empathetic acting commander, Sgt. Olivia Benson.)

And then there is Frank. One noon, back in January, I espied Frank looping around the YMCA indoor track, with what appeared to be a fully loaded pack, while I was being forced to rock out to Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me during a Core Class. (Let’s just say I’m not a fan of 80s rock. But it’s another one of those mental tests I’m passing—I’ve been showing up at this class for years despite the sound tracks.)

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Frank and I take a break from hiking rugged indoor YMCA trails.

I never had noticed Frank before. Of course, it might have been the novelty of seeing an indoor backpacker that drew my attention. I caught up with him in the hallway and learned he was leaving to hike the Camino in Spain in April. From then on, we’d meet up once or twice a week and “hike” around the Y’s track with our packs talking gear and past trips. Since his successful completion of the Camino in July, we’ve met up to hike a few miles along real trails, outside, heading to a favored restaurant for lunch and back again. Come this January, I’ll be the one…Lookin’ like a tramp, like a video vamp*… infinitely looping around the indoor track with a fully loaded pack.

I realize that none of the best-laid plans and preparations guarantee ultimate success, but it’s time to wrap this post up. Def Leppard is calling.

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* Apologies to any Def Leppard fans, but the lyrics Pour Some Sugar on Me make no sense. Whatsoever. It is true—this is one of the heavy rotation “Group Core” songs (ACDC’s Thunderstruck is another fine tune I get to hear during the Group Power Class’s “chest track.” Repeatedly.) I looked up the lyrics to Pour Some Sugar on Me thinking I might be able to liberally sprinkle them into this post, but what can one do with phrases like “Livin’ like a lover with a radar phone”? Seriously. A radar phone? What does this even mean? Look it up and try reading the whole, um, “song” out loud. You’ll end up sounding just like William Shatner “singing” Mr. Tambourine Man.

Photo credit: Flickr Commons

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Comments 2

  • The Chief : Nov 4th

    Don’t be hatin’ on the Def now 🙂

    Reply
  • trailhermit : Nov 5th

    Have you looked into packrafting? The rafts are a bit pricey, but you can rent them. You wouldn’t need it on the AT of course… but where you are it could be a fun.

    Reply

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