Pre-Hike Gear Trial
I’m supposed to be in Florida right now. I had a plane ticket, and I had a plan. I was excited to see my friend and her husband and meet their new daughter. However, I left my house too late and ended up missing my flight. So, after driving to the airport and back (a 3-hour endeavor), I got home, had a mini pity party, and then decided that I would make the best of my newly free weekend. After my pity party, I set aside some clothes for a hiking adventure.
New Day Hike PR
I have about a month and a half before leaving for New Zealand to hike the Te Araroa. Quite a few days on the Te Araroa will be 25+ mile days, and the furthest I’ve ever hiked previously was 17 miles in one day. I thru-hiked the Ouachita Trail at this time last year, but we averaged about 12 miles per day. It was time to increase my PR.
With my lack of daily mileage, I’ve been feeling ill equipped (and somewhat nervous) for the long days of Te Araroa. With this in mind, I decided that today I needed to:
1. Make sure I’m able to complete at least 20 miles in one day
2. Test out some of my new gear.
Saturday morning, I woke up and drove up to Lake Georgetown. Lake Georgetown is 26-mile loop operated and owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers. I’ve hiked it a few times. (This is the place where I was hiking – back in October – when I decided that I was going to go to New Zealand!)
In planning for today’s hike, I thought about hiking the full 26-mile loop. Then, I thought better about it. I haven’t prepared. I ran 3 miles yesterday and did CrossFit twice this week. That’s not enough to make me ready for 26 miles of hiking. I don’t want to injure myself, so my goal for today was 20. I’d hike to mile post 10 and turn back around.
Going to sleep on Friday night and thinking about how I had 20 miles to walk the next day, I was a little intimidated. My alarm went off on Saturday morning, I grabbed my gear, and drove up to Lake Georgetown. I began my hike at 7:30.
Just as planned, I stopped every 2.5 miles or so to rest my legs and have a quick snack and water break. One hour for me is about 2.5 miles; so, for this 20-mile hike, I’m looking at about 7 breaks and finishing in around 8 hours. It was nice to stop every hour, and it forced me to think about my watch situation once again. I’m still undecided on whether or not I’ll bring a watch. The reason it would be beneficial is that I tend to push myself and not take breaks. When I have a watch on (I wore my Apple Watch today), I’m able to stop every hour on the hour for a quick break. I wonder what I’ll do on the trail. Will I simply fall into a rhythm of stopping when I need to? Or will I fall back on old habits and push too hard? At this point, I’m leaning away from bringing a watch simply because I want to learn to hike in a way that forces me to listen to my body rather than a timepiece.
Let’s talk gear. As previously stated, today I have my Apple Watch. I definitely do NOT plan to bring it on my thru hike. It needs to be charged every night; that’s way too high maintenance. So, along with my watch, I have my AirPods, iPhone, Osprey 3L pack plus 2L water reservoir, a few bars (nocow and Kate were my go-to today!), Patagonia capilene top, North Face cap, Goodr sunglasses, Buff CoolNet UV+ Insect Shield, Dirty Girl Gaiters, and Hoka Speedgoat Trail Runners. (When I finalize my gear, I’ll share my gear list!)
The new gear I’m trying out today are my injinji hiking socks and lululemon shorts.
The first piece of equipment that I want to review is the Lululemon shots. The things that I liked about them on today’s hike:
- The length – the material was long enough that it covered my legs and my thighs didn’t rub together. No chafing today!
- I also appreciated the zipper pocket. When the rain started coming down, I was able to remove my AirPods and put them into the zipper pocket.
- The high rise waist was nice, because they felt secure.
Despite this “pro” list, I don’t think these will be the shorts that I’ll be taking with me to New Zealand. First of all, when it started raining, the material seemed to absorb rather than repel the rain. Second, I didn’t like the built in underwear on the shorts. I’ll be wearing my exofficio underwear on the trail, and I don’t need a second layer of underwear attached to my shorts. I’m glad I tried them out today, but they didn’t make the cut. I’ll keep my Lululemon’s for running and stick with my North Face and Patagonia for hiking.
Second, my injinji toe socks. I’ve used the injinji toe liners before, and I’ve loved them. I usually would wear them with Darn Tough socks over top. This new pair is made to be worn alone for hiking. Even though it rained, and my feet got damp, the injinji socks helped to prevent any blisters from forming. I like the above-ankle cut, because they fit nicely under my dirty girl gaiters. When I got home, they peeled off nicely, and my feet had no signs of wear from a 20-mile day. I’ll definitely be bringing these socks with me on the Te Araroa.
20 Miles in One Day
Now, onto a quick overview of the hike! The day started out nice: 70 degrees and overcast. It was a quiet morning. I love a quiet morning on the trail. I had time to think, remember, dream, and plan. I eventually saw other hikers on the trail: a few solo backpackers, a family, a Boy Scout troop, some mountain bikers, and a large group of senior hikers.
Around mile 5, my knee started bothering me. I’ve felt this pain before on hikes, but usually not this early on in the day. I knew I was ill-prepared, and I didn’t know if I should continue on or turn back. I decided to push on since I have the whole weekend to rest. I put in my AirPods and ignored the pain.
Around mile 8 or 9 it started raining. I was grateful for the rain, because it was a better test for the gear that I had on. It also made the ground muddy. From everything I’ve ready about the Te Araroa, the trail is extremely muddy. I was getting a small taste of that today!
I made it to the 10-mile marker, took a quick break, and turned back around to head back to the trailhead. The hike back was nice. More hikers were out, and the sun even came out for the last couple of hours.
I ended up hiking almost 21 miles today in 7 and a half hours. My knees aren’t super impressed with my decision, but I’m glad that I was able to push myself today.
I’m still sad that I’m not in Florida, but I’m glad I was able to make the most of a missed flight.
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