Monday — never an easy time for the outdoors enthusiast. After a weekend of adventure, returning to the humdrum work-a-day world can make one melancholy. To help ease the transition, every Monday we feature a 90 Second Escape — essentially, a 90-second video or slide show of a place you’d probably rather be: a trail, a park, a greenway, a lake … anywhere as long as it’s not under a fluorescent bulb.
Today’s 90-Second Escape: Summer Hiking: Better When Wetread more
Saturday is National Trails Day, a day set aside for us to appreciate the more than 200,000 miles of trail in the U.S. Officially, National Trails Day dates back to 1991, when the American Hiking Society deemed that one day a year be set aside to honor our trails; the first NTD, however, didn’t occur until June 5, 1993.read more
When I first started writing about fitness and the outdoors back in the early 1990s, there were a handful of ways you could welcome the New Year in most communities. There was usually a 5K run, a bike shop sponsored a casual ride, canoe clubs held members-only paddles, there was a hike or two, and some oddball group was jumping into a local lake (and jumping right back out again). You had options for welcoming the new year, but not a lot.read more
Last July 23, a Saturday, I was standing in front of about 40 people in the parking lot of Historic Yates Mill County Park in Raleigh. It was shortly before noon, the temperature was 101, and Allen Davis and I were on a 12-week mission to lead these hikers to ultragreatness. But first, we needed to lead them on a mile and a half march around the lake.
“Follow me!” I yelled — and promptly led our charges down a dirt path that dead ended within 50 yards. “Follow Allen!” I yelled, pointing to the back of the pack, where Allen exhibited the international palms-up sign for, “Me? Where?”
It was an inauspicious beginning to a journey that would affect, to varying degrees, the 28 who would make it through basic training.
The group was the inaugural Raleigh contingent of Ultimate Hikers. Ultimate Hike is the fundraising genius of CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a non-profit that until recently relied on grants and philanthropic donations to raise funds for research into children’s cancer. Three years ago it started doing fundraising walks, then hit on the idea of the Ultimate Hike: Train for 12 weeks, then do a monster dayhike. In the case of the Raleigh hikers and hikers throughout the Southeast, a 28.3-mile stretch of the 77-mile Foothills Trail, which straddles North Carolina and South Carolina.
A few of the hikers who showed up that first day were of the hardcore variety, athletes in search of a good challenge made all the better by the chance to help a good cause. But the vast majority seemed drawn more out of curiosity: Could I possibly hike 28 miles in one day? Me? Most had never hiked more than 5 miles. For them as well, it was a test.
To get them down that trail, Allen and I led them on increasingly longer hikes throughout training. After our get-acquainted sweatfest at Yates Mill, we did 6 miles at Harris Lake, 10 miles at Umstead, 14 miles along the Eno River, 15 at Hanging Rock (our “elevation” hike) and 20 on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at Falls Lake. Allen would typically lead the adrenaline junkies off the front, I hung with my stop-and-smell-the-flowers gals in the rear. We’d swap Clif Shot Bloks (“Trade you a citrus for a strawberry”), “we” talked about how uncomfortable female undergarments could get on a long, hot hike, we stayed as a group when one of us was dragging and needed encouragement. I assume the folks at the front of the pack, who typically were driving home by the time we finished, had a good time. We had a great time.
When Oct. 1 and the Ultimate Hike rolled around, we were ready. We got up at 2:45 a.m., were on the trail by 4:30. The speedsters were done by 2 p.m. I came in with the last hiker just before 7 p.m., with precious little sunlight to spare. We partied that night (until 9:30!), we dragged ourselves to breakfast the next morning, we drove home. We’ve kept in touch.
It’s an experience I would repeat in a heartbeat. And lucky me, being the hiking coach for Raleigh, I’ll get to, starting two weeks from today with our first information meeting for the 2012 Ultimate Hike season. Here’s part of what we’ll be telling you at the five sessions slated for the Triangle (see details on each meeting below):
Sign up and you’ll get:read more