Last week, I wrote in the High Country Newsabout why closing the gender gap in the outdoors is important and steps women can take to reclaim the outdoors.
This weekend, I joined women around the country (and world!) in an effort to do just that. Hike Like A Girl Weekend, May 14th-15th, was designed to encourage women everywhere to push outside their limits. Whether that means going to a new area, going solo for the first time, or hiking an especially difficult route, women all around the country joined to show their presence.
Walking and marching have long been a part of protest. But if a protester walks in the woods, does it create any change?
On my hike, I saw women of all colors and shapes reaching for new heights. Although I was hiking solo, I eavesdropped on a few groups and heard women say, “Who knew that hiking could be so much fun?” and women say, “I never knew the mountains could be so beautiful!” These women’s minds were changed.
Hike Like A Girl Weekend changed women themselves, too. I heard so many people say, “I never thought I could make it all this way.” In fact, I was one of those women. My original hike (trip report to follow later) was an ambitious 6-peak, 8,000 foot gain hike over 25 miles. The full extension of the hike—which I’ve only done once, 10 years ago—adds 3 more peaks and seemed far out of my reach. But, on Hike Like A Girl Weekend, I surprised myself. I was faster than I expected and added on those last 3 peaks with relative ease. I found out I was stronger than I thought. I know other women discovered their strength this weekend, too.
While upping the number of women in the outdoors is a great help in closing the gender gap, a more equal and just outdoors world is impossible without cultural change. This means not just changing the way that women think about the outdoors, but changing the way that men think about women in the outdoors. It means changing media portrayals of women outdoors. It means changing perceptions of what it means to be an outdoorsy woman. It means, most importantly, removing barriers to entry for women in the outdoors, especially legal and professional obstacles.
I’m talking about how women get paid less than men—even in the outdoor industry: how women have to work harder to prove ourselves as able as men in a series of outdoor jobs, from rangers to gear sales reps to athletes. I’m talking about women rangers still getting harassed in this day and age. These are the real obstacles to society’s perception of women being equals in the outdoors.
Hike Like A Girl Weekend was Step 1. Now, asking demanding more for women is Step 2.
The first Saturday of June is National Trails Day, an annual celebration put together by American Hiking Society to celebrate our public lands and national trail system. Each year, 150,000 people from all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico participate in National Trails Day events. I was honored to participate in a National Trails Day event held by Backpacker Magazine in the Heil Valley outside of Boulder, CO. The event was fun, completely free, and everyone walked away learning something about trails. It was wonderful to see so many people of different ages and backgrounds all hiking together and enjoying nature.
What I love about hiking, is that it gives me the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. Hiking is the great leveler—nature is a place where the CEO can be best friends on the guy out on his luck, the elderly can befriend teenagers, the one place in my life where I meet kids, and where Americans can connect with people from all around the world—foreigners here to enjoy the high quality and unique trail and landscape system found only in the US. In my everyday life, I rarely interact with children, and National Trails Day was so heartening to see so many kids getting out to explore the outdoors.
I know for a lot of people, especially families with small kids, the idea of hiking or going outdoors can be intimidating, especially if you never did it as a child or if you grew up in the city. If you’ve ever wanted to adventure, explore, and have fun in the outdoors, but aren’t sure how, I can’t recommend National Trails Day enough. It is great way to get out there in a safe and fun way, with experienced people who want to share their knowledge with you, no matter your experience level.
For seasoned hikers, National Trails Day can be really rewarding because we can start off the summer right by volunteering to work on the trails that we’ll be using later in the summer. By volunteering at National Trails Day events, we have a chance to spruce up trails, give back, and put a little love and sweat into something that we care so much about. Later this summer, when we finally do hit the trail, it’ll feel good to walk past a spot that we worked on and know that we contributed to making a little part of the world a better place.
So whether you’re curious about what this whole nature thing is about or you’re already an outdoors junkie, chances are there is a National Trails Day event tailored to your interest. There are gear demos, guided plant and wildlife hikes, wilderness skills and training—and it’s all free.
Although National Trails Day has passed, there are National Trails Day events all through June.
The Adventure Sports Podcast is an interview-based hour long, Colorado-based podcast that tells stories about all sorts of outdoor adventures. I had a lot of fun taking a break from my Denver-Colfax urban thru-hike to sit down with Travis from the podcast and talk about hikes, projects I’m working on, and why I love hiking.
I’m finally getting around to writing up about some hikes in 2014, and one of the most memorable happened on a cold, rainy mid-October day in Central Oregon. I was visiting my good friend, Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa, and our original plan had been to hike the Timberline Trail, but 50 mph winds and rain that resulted in swelling of Big Sandy River and the other creeks made us change our minds to the good-in-any-weather Opal Creek Wilderness: the largest intact stand of old growth trees (500-1,000 year old trees are not uncommon) in the Cascades.
When we pulled up to the Opal Creek trailhead, the parking lot was fairly crowded—with good reason. The trail itself starts with three miles of wide, family-friendly, easy-graded former gravel road to a rustic, adorable eco-friendly camp (the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center) that provides organic, vegetarian meals and adorable housing. For those with kids or family members who want to overnight in the woods, but don’t want a long hard walk or to carry a backpack, the hike to the Center may be the most perfect overnighter in the world.
On the way to the camp, we passed multiple brilliant blue swimming holes and cascades that would have begged a swim had it not been October. Not far from the Opal Creek camp is Opal Pool, a turquoise cascade, with an ideally placed bridge over it to take photos.
Though I knew Opal Creek would be beautiful, what intrigued me the most about the Opal Creek Wilderness was its history. Two miles up the trail at Jawbone flats, hikers walk past remnants of an old milling plant. It’s humbling to look at these huge metal forces of manmade-ness standing alongside the forest, which is slowly taking over the old plant. Together, they give a beauty to Opal Creek that is haunting.
The most striking history of Opal Creek, though, is its battleground status during the logging debates of 1990s. In 1993, a logging company applied for a permit with the Forest Service to log old growth forest in Opal Creek area. Environmentalists, in protest, chained themselves to trees and lived in trees.
Eventually the place was saved and in 1996, all privately held land in the area was turned into the Opal Creek Wilderness, Opal Creek Recreation area, and the Elkhorn River that runs through it was designated a Wild and Scenic River. To learn more about Opal Creek’s history, check out David Seideman’s Showdown at Opal Creek: the Battle for America’s Last Wilderness.
Opal Creek is the setting for another favorite story of mine: In January 2013, Allgood set aside a weekend to hike in Opal Creek with some friends, but at the last minute, found that he was the only person who could make it. He headed off nonetheless with his four-footed companion, Karluk. Unexpectedly, Allgood rolled his ankle, and years of backcountry medical training came back to warn him that this was bad. He knew he had to get to the car back. Yet the trail was covered in blowdowns. Karluk knew something was wrong, and Allgood says that he guided him through the blowdowns, waiting as the injured hiker hobbled along. As Allgood hobbled 20 miles on steep, wet, raviney, rooty, rocky terrain, Karluk provided companionship and encouragement. To read the story in Allgood’s own words, check out his amazing story of his dog’s backcountry skills and faithfulness.
Allgood and my trip to Opal Creek was his first time back since he broke his ankle, and while it was fun, it was not without trouble. After a climb up to Thunderhead Mountain, a rocky and windy summit that used to house a lookout tower, Allgood and I took a side-trail to a spring, setting our packs down by the intersection. When we returned to our packs, however, some local residents were not so happy about our pack placement: Allgood and Karluk was attacked by wasps. I escaped their wrath by running away. Allgood concluded, “Every time I come to Opal Creek, it shows me that it hates me because I’m in the lumber business.”
Although we packed gear and had every intention of turning Opal Creek into an overnighter, towards the end of the day, we had no luck finding a flat spot to camp. As we continued on our path, searching for campspots by headlamp, we realized we were ¼ mile from the car. Pretty soaked from the day’s adventures, we opted to head back to the heated car and hit up a Dairy Queen. Nonetheless, I felt humbled and honored to walk in the presence of not only such great trees, but in the footsteps of those who worked to save such a magical place.
All the good photos in here were taken by Allgood.
Despite my declarations that the Selma to Montgomery Hike took me over my Pavement Walking Quota for the year, this past weekend, I headed off again on another hardpacked adventure. This time, I completed my first significant urban hike in the town where I live, Denver. I’ve done a fair amount of walking in Denver before, but nothing to this scale and magnitude.
My long distance hiker friends Steven “Twinkle” Shattuck, John “Cactus” McKinney, Johnny “Bigfoot” Carr, Samantaha “Aroo,” and Nathan “Cookie” Harry, Swami and I started off on a two day, 66-71 mile long hike from Waterton Canyon—the start of the Colorado Trail—to near Denver International Airport.
The Highline Canal was created more than a century ago to bring water from the South Platte River to settlers and farmers. Now owned and operated by Denver Water (who even puts out the guidebook for the trail), it is now open to hikers, cyclists, runners, and equestrians. Because the irrigation ditch was leaky, an entire ecosystem sprung up around it.
Until 40 years ago, there was no public access to the canal—even as it remained a skinny natural park in the middle of the city. With the hard work of residents who lived anywhere near the 71 miles of trail, the canal opened to the public and is now listed as a National Landmark Trail. Now the trail is protected by the Highline Canal Trail Preservation Association.
Although this is an urban hike, the Highline Canal Trail ecosystem boasts 199 species of birds, 28 mammals, and 15 reptiles. I was expecting the trail to be mostly paved or gravel, but a majority of the miles were on dirt or had a dirt path next to it.
Our wildlife highlights included seeing a bobcat (a first for me and many of the other serial hikers with us!), great horned owls, two types of snakes, numerous deer, squirrels, praririe dogs, and rabbits. The HCLT underscored that though humans have claimed significant land from animals, that we don’t own it completely. Our habitats coexist.
The HCLT was such a cool way to see the city and general metro area of the place that I’ve called home for the past few years. We ventured through neighborhoods I didn’t even know existed, and places I had never been before. The route finding was not as straightforward as one would think for a bike path in the city.
There were intersections that required navigating, and we were happy to have our map and guidebook. Additionally, certain sections went through private property, and we had to navigate—sometimes even cross country through fords and swamps—in order to keep the route on open land.
The HCLT ended up being not just educational, but a lot of fun, providing some clear bonuses, especially compared to most other thru-hikes. We had pizza delivered on trail and actually had to pass up many restaurants and convenience stores because we were too full.
It was easy for friends to join in for a few miles and Twinkle even met a friend randomly who was going for his morning run right on our trail. Because we could take advantage of the limited amount of gear required for an urban hike, we packed heavy food and beverages and ridiculous luxuries like Frisbees. Traditional trail towns rarely have ethnic food, but on the HLCT, Cactus and I had Pho for lunch—a first for both of us on a long distance trail.
Much like my Selma to Montgomery hike last weekend, I was struck by the level of economic inequality the trail highlights. In the Cherry Creek Village area, we woke to houses that I didn’t even know existed in Denver—Hollywood-esque mansions, castles, villas. By the end of the day, we were walking through immigrant neighborhoods in Aurora and Section 8 housing in Green Valley Ranch.
In my everyday life, I would never visit either of those neighborhoods, and yet the HLCT brought me through both. No matter how much our modern society tries to insulate social classes from one another, that such disparate places are close enough to walk from one to the other underlined for me that Denver is one community and not just a collection of rich and poor neighborhoods.
The best part of the Highline Canal Trail was the opportunity to have 48 hours to talk with, laugh, joke, and accomplish something cool with friends. For two days, we set aside the distractions of the modern world and just lived. I’ve enjoyed urban hiking for a couple years now, and it was so cool to expose the idea to some of my thru-hiker friends. I was so touched that they not only took it seriously, but had a great time. At a time of the year when long mile days and thrus aren’t as possible, we got to feel like we were back on the PCT again—if only for a weekend. On Monday, we all woke up and went back to our spreadsheets, but even as we squirmed in our desk chairs, relished the memories of a weekend well spent.
For more info on the High Line Canal Trail, check out these links:
If you’ve ever thought about switching to Altra Zero Drop trail running shoes for your backpacking season, now is the time to start getting your foot accustomed to the shoe. I find that switching to hiking in the Altra Lone Peaks has increased my stability, reduced my strike impact, provided comfort for hours of hiking, eliminated long term hiker issues like plantar fasciitis, and increased my efficiency. That being said, hitting the trail with a brand new pair of Altras if you’ve never worn them before may not be the best idea because there is a transition time associated with switching over to a Zero drop shoe.
Fear not, though—the benefits of switching over are HUGE for long distance hikers. Zero drop shoes help align the feet, reduce the impact of each foot step, and increase your stability. The foot shaped toe box—increases balance and efficiency, while reducing blisters and chaffing, maximize shock absorption and allows toes to spread out naturally. What this means for hikers is day-long comfort, increased stride efficiency, and less foot pain.
So, why should you start transitioning to Altra shoes now instead of say, a few days before my hike most thru-hikers (myself included) do the bulk of the trip planning? Because we’ve all spent years wearing high-heel like elevated trail runners, our feet have been trained to be lazy (in scientific speak—has neutralized our Achilles and lower calf muscles). If you hit the trail doing 15s, 20s, or 30 milers in a zero drop shoe when you’ve never worn zero drop shoes before, your Achilles and lower calf muscles are going to feel the burn. The muscles in your feet are going to be confused. It’s best to give yourself at least three weeks to strengthen your legs and feet before your hike.
Pre-hike training schedule:
Before you get your shoes (or during week 1): Walk around barefoot in the grass or the beach or your bedroom for 30 seconds, adding a 30 seconds per day.Week 1: Wear Altras around the office and running light errands (they sell a “work appropriate” show called the Instinct Everyday that has many of the same features as the running shoe, but looks like it’d work with a suit). At first, the Toe Shaped footbox may feel too roomy and weird. After a few days, your toes will start relaxing and will start spreading out naturally.
Week 2: Do a very short hikes (whatever that means to you). Start without your backpack and give yourself a rest day to assess how your feet, joints, Achilles, foot muscles, and lower calves feel. If everything seems great, slowly increase the mileage and add weight to your backpack, being sure to build in days in between for rest and recovery. On a thru-hike, it’s near impossible to take zero days every day, so let your body take advantage of rest days between hikes to build muscles and strength. Let your body also take advantage of the muscle building fuels that you can get from living off trail. Building muscles on trail when you’re living on instant mashed potatoes and ramen is going to be a little bit more difficult.
Barefoot Jake.Week 3: Up your mileage slightly, being sure to take days off in between. Take note of any excessive soreness or discomfort and rest up more. Week 4-6: Do a few hikes of the approximate length that you would wish to start a thru-hike. Take some days off between. Assess how you feel. Try doing that distance with a full pack of gear.
With this training system, your feet will get stronger and reduce the chance of getting bone fractures. Your lower calves will be ready to hit the trail (relatively speaking). And you’ll enjoy the natural alignment benefits of wearing a Zero Drop shoes. Wearing Zero Drop shoes is like long distance hiking: once you start doing it, you’ll have a hard time thinking of life the same way. If you’ve ever thought about it, I highly encourage starting now before hiking season gets into full swing so that you can maximize the benefits when you’re on trail. (P.S. I’m not a doctor. Legal says that you should consult with your physician before doing anything physical or changing your life in any way).
Since urban hiking Los Angeles last year was, I hadn’t ever really gotten around to urban hiking back at home in Denver. Sure, I did a lot of in town walking, but I ambled for transportation and not as part of a hiking group. This weekend, that viewpoint changed when I met with Jonathan Stalls from Denver’s Walk2Connect, an organization geared towards changing how people think about pedestrianism. In 2010, Jonathan walked for 8.5 months from Delaware to San Francisco with his dog as part of KivaWalk. He took the lessons he learned from that journey to create Walk2Connect, a Denver-based group that leads urban walking adventures. Despite extreme weather over this “long distance” urban walk, I learned a bit about how walking in the city can be used to connect people to self, place, and others.
Although originally 17 people signed up for the excursion, temperatures in the 20s kept all but the bravest warm at home. Our trip started at a Denver-landmark, the independent bookstore Tattered Cover. After meandering through downtown and crossing the pedestrian bridge over the South Platte River, we caught a few more hikers who met us at the bikeshare station in front of Denver’s enormous flagship REI. From here, we headed on a 13 mile Platte River trail to the historic town of Littleton.
When construction closes down roads, planners always designate well-signed reroutes for cars to get back on track. When bike paths or sidewalks get closed down, though, these closures can be especially inconvenient. A break in the route around 6th avenue led us into residential and industrial parts of the city. We wandered for more than a mile to get back on route. At one time, we realized the path continued on the other side of the river with no pedestrian-accessible bridge in sight.
This detour may have been a bummer if we were in a car, but at 3 miles per hour, we had time to appreciate how the city transitioned away from the commercial and residential parts of downtown. We could afford to notice the colorful murals vivifying industrial buildings. We were treated to the aromas of large scale bakeries.
Back on the path, we spotted riparian wildlife of the South Platte unfazed by the weather. Using birding guides, we identified great blue herons, buffleheads, and the ever present Canada goose. Soon, snow started coming down hard on us, but we were warm from the walking. It was invigorating to explore the city in such weather and to have the path to ourselves.
The best part of the Walk2Connect experience was getting to meet new people and talk in a relaxed, low pressure atmosphere while enjoying the beauty of the city. As we finished our walk at the famous Littleton breakfast café, Toast, I felt a bit like we were all on a team that went on a long, snow-filled adventure. Our waitress had noticed us walking earlier that day and it was neat to share our adventure with her.
Before this hike, somehow, the distance between Denver and Littleton had seemed vastly larger in my mind because I had only ever taken that trip by car. Indeed, I would have guessed the distance between the start and end point as 25 miles. Walk2Connect allowed me to realize with others how small and linked the city actually is. I look forward to exploring new places in Denver with them soon.
I missed the memo on the dresscode for the Winter Outdoor Retailer show. Down puffy jackets are the dresscode here so much that the local restaurants are playing on the uniform to attract customers.
Meanwhile, of the 25,000 people here, the dress is gendered: men are wearing jeans and trail running shoes while women are wearing tights and high boots.
I guess I dressed like a man accidentally?
Given that there are scantily-clad models walking the floor at OR, the pressure for ladies (who make up less than 50% of the attendees here) to look their best is pretty high. To compensate, I’m wearing my “going out” make up.
The guy OR attendees here are debuting men’s fashion trends for this fall—“rustic-hipster” with a skinny hipster silhouette thing going on.
What’s up with the guys in suits? Older East Coast types must sell gear, too.
Ladies fashion for fall is going towards what the OR Daily calls “demure earth tones,” which IMHO, is no good for taking photos of women in the outdoors (blends in too much with the background). I guess outdoor designers aren’t actually planning on women going outdoors…just looking like they do.
Unlike Summer OR (where people actually bring extra clothes and even costumes for going out), the best style for hitting the (mostly) free evening entertainment at the Show is in an ultralight pack.
Twenty eight isn’t a particularly old age, but as a pre-teen, it was an age I never thought I would reach. I wasn’t an adventurous or fit child—a topic I stress during my hiking presentations in an effort to inspire the inactive—yet, I was sure that I would die at 27—or younger. I had no real justification for this premonition. I was plagued by no major health problems. Perhaps it was because Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin snuffed it at 27, or because I’d be that age at the Mayan’s predicted apocalypse. My rapidly approaching demise continued to be a belief I accepted as fact for the next 15 years, and as my hobbies became more and more dangerous, it seemed like my premonition had become merely a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Despite rock climbing falls, vehicle collisions, numerous strolls above treeline during lightning storms, and biking a LA highway at night without a headlight, somehow, I survived. One year ago today, as I celebrated my 27th birthday in Denver over vegan Chinese food, I knew my days were numbered. The idea that I would live another year, or another 70, was inconceivable.
For nearly two decades, dying before 28 was a tenet of my existence. As a teenager, I was consumed with dreams of freedom from school and parents and of the epic adventures I wished to do in my remaining decade and a half. I had never heard of thru-hiking or even considered that long distance walking was a thing people did, but my teenage self was fixated with capturing a feeling which I could not describe in words, a feeling that many years later, I found by thru-hiking. Now, I would describe that emotion using words like: flow, freedom, self-sufficiency, mind-body-place connection, and elevated heart rate—but even those descriptions don’t seize the true meaning. We use words to communicate ideas to other people, yet, in the case of this emotion, although words fail me, I’ve still been able to communicate it with a few people. When I describe this feeling to other thru-hikers, they know what I mean, even if words fail them, too.
With the knowledge that my trips around the sun were limited, I spent my time in college seizing opportunities that maximized my immediate happiness while also providing financially for medium term goals. By this time, I had learned what thru-hiking was and walking the PCT was on my ever-increasing bucket-list. During my summers in college, instead of pursuing a job-ensuring networking internship at Goldman Sachs like my colleagues, I lived alone at a research station in the Sierra, sometimes going days without talking to another person. The job put me in a place I loved where I could hike and climb, but it also provided a moderate income that allowed me to squirrel away for my big hikes.
As a hiker, I’ve heard the whole round of criticism from friends and family wondering what I will do about retirement, how I will manage to get enough funds together to buy a house, and when I will have kids. They say I’ve been so busy hiking and living in the moment that I haven’t saved for the future. Sometimes I would respond, “What if I don’t make it that long?” Instead of worrying what will happen to me decades from now, I’ve lived for mid-term aspirations. Living in the day can lead to recklessness, but living in the decade—living as if the next decade is all I’ve got—has taught me to live a goal-oriented life. I’ve been more places and seen more things in my 28 years than I ever would have had I thought I’d live longer. An imminent death motivated me to do all that I could ever want to do such that, when I finished the Triple Crown weeks after my 25th birthday, I wondered what could occupy the rest of my existence.
To my failure, finishing off my bucket list—which included walking the Triple Crown—became such an obsession that I sometimes made poor decisions in its pursuit. I surrendered a social life in the now to save money for walking. I compromised the quality of my hikes so that I could hike this summer instead of waiting for more favorable hiking situations. I hiked with people who made life difficult because I didn’t think I could achieve my goals alone, and if I didn’t walk now, then when? I sacrificed the quality of my life—arguably, my reason for living—to knock a goal off my list, and am ashamed of it. This is the danger of rushing life’s goals.
As years pass and I continue to breathe, I have learned to add to my bucket list and revise and amend it as my interests change and as I meet my old goals. Even though I’ve made it to an age I never thought possible, I could still die at any moment. Yet, there is some security it knowing the old omen was wrong. I’ve spent my first 28 years learning about the value of living in the relative moment, but also the danger of focusing on narrow goals. Instead, perhaps, I will spend the next 28 aiming for a broader mission, this time, striving simply to live well.
Famous among Olympians, ultra runners, and other hardcore athletes, the Colorado Springs/Manitou Springs based Incline Trail is among the hardest miles one can hike anywhere. The Incline trail follows an old cog railway route up Pikes Peak, gaining 2000 vertical feet in one mile. I’m always up for a challenge, so went out to the Incline this past weekend with my friend Pi, an accomplished long distance hiker and ultra runner and his friend Frederick from Sweden.
When we got there at 11 AM, the parking lot was full. From the base of the Incline, you can see the steep cut in the mountainside where the trail goes straight up covered in brightly colored outdoor attire-wearing people. Although some people on the trail are clearly in shape, few people are running or even jogging up the Incline. I’m most impressed by the diversity of people: far from my impression of the Incline as being a extremists’ training ground only, the path also is visited by families, couples, people in jeans and t-shirts, and dogs.
The Incline features more than 2,000 “steps” made of old wooden railway lines and the occasional rusted pipe. The steps are far from even—some are only a few inches higher than the last and some beg for me to use my hands on the way up (at least when my legs are too tired to do it all themselves).
For almost the entire hike, the top—and all the uphill to it—is visible. The hardest part about the Incline is mental; by seeing how much more is left, it can feel a bit like the end will never come. I love hiking the Appalachian Trail because the trees and twistiness of the path keep the future a mystery. With the Incline, the future is uphill and everyone there knows it. A false summit was a bit disheartening—nothing like pushing hard to come up over the bend only to realize there is more to come. But the reason it looked like a summit was because the trail flattened out at this point, a reprieve to keep pace while lowering my heart rate.
When I finally reached the top, I was exhilarated. I loved watching all the people come over the top with big smiles. The thirty people on top made it feel like a party of people overwhelmed by their accomplishment. Far better than a gym, we all shared the camaraderie of taking on the same challenge. The stunning view of Pikes Peak in the background and the Garden of the Gods below us made the finish feel all the more festive.
Although the Incline is about 2 hours from where I live, I’m already planning a second trip. It was inspiring to watch old timers and Incline regulars go up and down the path. I can’t wait to have the Incline down pat—to study and know every step and where to place my feet and relish pushing myself just as hard, but watching my time go down. The incredible toughness of the terrain, the community, and the support of strangers I felt going up the wooden railbeds was not unlike the feeling I get while thru-hiking. Yet the easy access, diversity of people, and promise of BBQ when the day is over made it unlike any other place I’ve been before.