Not too “Tired” to Hike

Sometimes the most hazardous and problematic part of hiking is just getting to the trailhead. For example, I recently set out to drive thirty-five  miles to my favorite nearby state park to undertake a five and a half mile circuit hike in near freezing temperatures. Since I had gotten a late start, I decided to stop along the way to grab some lunch. Hoping to find a Subway, I pulled into an unfamiliar parking lot. I misjudged where the curb angled down to road level at the entrance, hitting the curb so hard and fast that I blew out the sidewall of the right front tire.

I was able to park right in front of a Subway. Not to be deterred, I took the damaged tire off, stressing and straining my lower back muscles as I struggled to loosen the lug nuts, and installed the donut spare. Then I went into Subway, washed my hands, ordered lunch, sat down, and enjoyed it. I contemplated bagging my hike, turning around, and heading home so that I would not have to drive farther than necessary on the spare. I decided to proceed on to the park and go hiking.

After lunch and dispelling my doubts about continuing on, I drove the last fifteen miles on the spare, limping along at 50 mph on a four lane highway while others zoomed by at 60 to 70 mph. I arrived at the trail head a little before 1:30 PM, later than I had hoped, thanks to having to take the extra time to change the tire.

Soon after I started hiking I passed an older man and his golden retriever heading back toward the road. It turned out that they were the only beings larger than birds that I saw the rest of that afternoon. It seemed like I had the park and its trails to myself.

The breeze was chilling enough that soon after passing the man and his dog, I stopped to put on my Marmot PreCip jacket and a pile neck gaiter for extra warmth and protection from the wind. With the Marmot pile gloves and a wool cap I was already wearing, I was as warm and snug as a bug in a rug the rest of the afternoon. Keeping warm while hiking seemed less challenging than having to deal with the flat tire during the drive to the park.

The trails alternated between muddy and partially frozen with snow still covering some sections depending on their exposure to the sun. Three times I had to climb over or hike around downed trees that were blocking the trail. Enough water was running through one of the small streams that I was not able to cross it without walking through shallow water. Nevertheless, those trail hazards caused fewer complications than earlier misjudging the curb when turning into the parking lot at Subway.

A little over two and a half hours after I started my hike, I was back at the car, my leg muscles feeling a bit sore, but the rest of my body generally feeling renewed and refreshed by the cold air, brisk breeze, and winter scenery of the circuit hike. It also seemed that hiking had helped relieve the stress and strain I had been feeling in my back muscles. There was no longer any doubt that I made the right decision not to turn around and go home after the flat tire.

I imagine some of you have had your hiking or backpacking plans delayed or thwarted by any number of unexpected problems otherwise beyond your control. Or maybe, like me, you just misjudged the approach to the trailhead. Leave a comment and let me and others know what non-trail problems and hazards have impacted or interrupted your approach to the trekking trailhead.

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