So in keeping with my training effort of hitting at least one new trail per day to get in shape for the PCT, I hit the road early this morning.
It was 17F out, with a wind chill of 10F. I intentionally went with less warm clothing, using just a base layer, a small packable puffy down hoodie, a pair of sweats for pants, some North Face fleece gloves, and a beanie. I wanted to see how well some of my trail clothes worked in windy cold weather, and knowing it was a shorter hike today at just 1.5 miles I would be ok either way. It turned out that I would end up too hot while hiking actually.
I had first planned to hike to a spring called Lane Spring at a recreation area, and then to do Cedar Bluff Trail nearby, but when I arrived the road gate was closed with a sign ‘closed for season’. Just my luck after an hour drive! I went off to the gas station and on the way noted a sign to a state park. I asked the cashier if the state park was open but everyone there said no.
I decided to go check it out anyways, and I was in luck. The park is home to a trout farm and is popular among fishermen, but not open for fishing this time of year. It was, however, open for camping or hiking. The park was deserted however and as I made my way through the park there were no people, no cars, no campers, no tents. I made my way to the Montauk State Park office and the door was open, went inside where two rangers were surprised to see me. I asked if the park was open, to which they replied “Not for fishing”, and I said “Actually I was hoping to hike a trail or two.” They smiled at this, probably thinking I am half nuts for wanting to hike their trails in these temperatures, but they quickly handed me a trail map and explained how steep and difficult it would be. I said ”Good, that’s what I am looking for, I am training!”
I believe I was the only non-worker in the entire park, which was kind of nice. I made my way to the trail head and hit the trail. It was indeed steep and difficult for the first 1/3 mile or so – and the normally wet ground was frozen and slippery, I had to pay attention, and my trekking poles were great to have on this day. Atop the ridge things were easy going, and later a steep descent led me back to the pavement.
It was a good workout, and something new. I did see an eagle and a hawk today so that’s something.
The North Face gloves were useless, my fingers were frozen, but I was otherwise much warmer than expected, so that was good news.
My backpack setup, which is probably a bit different than anyone else uses, worked out very well – I am managing to carry a heavy load, with near zero downward pressure on my spine via my shoulders (necessary due to a previous back surgery and sciatica that results if my spine compresses). I am accomplishing this by adding a second hefty hip belt, made by Kifaru, on my hips before putting on the backpack. The added hip belt adds cushion, raises the pack up higher than it would be normally, and I can adjust that belt separately from the one that comes with my HMG 4400 Southwest 70L pack. It’s working so well I think its brilliant, and well worth the added weight.
They say it will snow tomorrow – I have no idea if I will be able to drive anywhere, where I may go, or whether the trail will be open – my fingers are crossed that I don’t end up hiking on the treadmill.