Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Hike

Last year Brian and his buddies did the crazy muddy Spartan races together to challenge themselves and their workouts (and friendships). This year, a new challenge. Hike 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 3 days. This is a lofty, and nearly impossible, goal. Especially for non hikers/campers like most of this crew.
Our very own non-camper, fixin' his hair, of course:-)

They set off for the Maryland/West Virginia border (about 4 hours away) on Wednesday afternoon. They camped the night and started early on their way - I believe they had to make it approx 22 to 26 miles on the first day, and then each day would be slightly less...
They had prepared as best they could, and got all the gear they needed. Each man had to carry his own things for the 4 days/3 nights. The goal was around 30lbs each, including water. Some men were slightly over, some slightly under. Brian came in around 28.5 including almost a gallon of water. He was one of the lightest packs I think, this was mostly due to his sleeping arrangement, which ended up being a blessing for light weight to carry, but a curse for comfort...
Nate, selfie. Brian and Matt in the background

Much of the terrain was crazy difficult to navigate

They ran into a few complications fairly quickly on Thursday - the terrain was rough. And all the hiking boots, though worn in, were starting to abuse their feet. Hot spots and blisters started coming up fast. Other things (packs, clothes) started chaffing certain ones also, and so it became a painful test of endurance for many...
Some were carrying less water than others, and Thursday was a scorcher of a day. There was a little bit of a water crisis (not enough of it collectively), and they pressed forward through 19 miles that day, and had to call it quits before meeting their rally point. 

Nate, Brian, Pete & Paul
Many spots on the trail are near roads and small towns, and a few guys (incl Brian) walked into town and carried back 20 gallons of water from a convenience store to water the beleaguered troops. It was a hard day, and there was just no more gas to make the rally point - where they ended up having to stop was also a never ending bed of poison ivy. They all had to set up camp virtually on top of each other - the only patch of ground that could be found, ivy-free.
They had two men scheduled to drive up each night and give them spiritual encouragement etc. The guy that drove up on Thurs night was a ray of hope - there were a few guys that were just *done*. The thought of another 2 days of this was just too much, and they were going to hitch a ride home in the morning. So they decided as a group to scale it way, way back. Not to worry so much about the mileage, and take a more comfortable pace.
Gear piled up. 13 guys, and gear, in a 15 passenger van!
This gave the guys who wouldn't have survived another 40 miles a bit of encouragement. They did about 6/7 miles on Friday, nursing their wounded feet, and then about 8/9 miles on Saturday to finish off the trip. Everyone stayed, no one went home
These guys were all in decent shape, some, in exceptional shape - but many things play a factor in things of this nature. The weather. Mental toughness. Injuries. Lack of water. Some could've gone on to do the full 60mi, others were tapped out, for a variety of reasons, at 19. Brian, although his feet were very sore, was sure he could've gone on to complete the entire challenge. He was able to get duct tape on his hot spots before they became too bad (only ended up with one blister), and although his feet were in pain, it was okay.
The weather was HOT. Brian brought, for his sleeping arrangement, a bivy sack and a sleeping bag. This was way too hot, and he would have preferred it be 30degrees at night, instead of 85. Just too hot to get comfortable! Those who had brought hammocks or 1 to 2 man tents had a little more breathing room and slept a little better.
Taking a slower pace allowed for a little more fellowship and camaraderie, which is always nice. Some of these 13 men are really good friends, some barely know each other, so it was good male bonding all around I suppose:-)

They can appreciate like non-other: The young men of the Civil War. Stonewall Jackson required his troops to march 25 miles per day, right through this exact region. (They passed right by a battle spot). 25 miles every day. Not with fancy packs, hiking poles, yummy freeze dried camping foods, relatively comfy bedding packs, and $200 boots. The foot cavalry. It's amazing to get a small taste of the past. What people were convicted to do. What others were made to do, and did it still. They gave what was asked of them. Every last one. Willing, or unwillingly, it didn't matter. They all fought.
The big black snake!

The Siege of Harper's Ferry, September 13-15 1862. The South won this battle when the Union surrendered its garrison here, of more than 12,000 men.

Setting up camp on Friday night. One of the guys dad's came up that night to talk to the guys and encourage them.
They had a great time over all - some were disappointed the 60 mile goal wasn't reached, others, relieved. But at the end of the day, everyone thought it was 'just right', as far as I can tell, from all the stories they're telling.
They had to hike through the town of Harper's Ferry.
Until next year's challenge...

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