Friday, June 22, 2012

K is for Knocks

The trail abuses you.  You take your knocks every day.  I painfully stub my toes, usually on protruding rocks, at least once or twice every day.  I get slapped in a face by an unseen overhead branch while I'm concentrating on my footing - many times every day.  I struggle through obstacle courses where the only dry footing is on scattered rocks and roots above standing water in swampy muck.  I fall about once every two or three days.  Flat-on-my-face fall.  There are three common causes for falls.  One: you're not watching your footing carefully enough and step on a slippery slanted rock.  Two:  you're not watching your footing carefully enough and step on a slippery slanted root.  Three: STICKS!  Who would imagine that a simple 18 inch long loose stick on the trail could be such a serious major hazard.  It is.  The stick is oriented roughly length-wise along the trail.  You step on the front of it with your forward foot.  This subtly lifts the back end of it while holding the front end firmly in place.  Your trailing toe catches on the lifted back end of the stick while the front foot prevents it from moving, causing the back foot to trip just as your body weight has shifted in preparation for that foot to move ahead and land.  Fail.  Fall.

If you haven't done a lot of hiking you might think this is a ludicrous joke.  Loose sticks are ubiquitous, and when you are taking ten million steps, a tiny statistical minority of them are going to set up this bizarre hazard.  You need to trust me on this one.  The long distance hikers are merely nodding their knowing agreement.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012:  The trail here in the northlands is finding a new way to dish out its knocks.  Beavers.  They have a habit of flooding the trail, forcing ad-hoc reroutes to avoid wet feet.  I did just seven miles of trail today (fourteen miles of walking) and ran into two beaver issues: a totally  flooded section that the guidebook warned me about, calling it 'beaver challenged puncheon'.  The boards were floating in a foot of water.  There was a walk-around - rough and hard to find, but it was there.  The other  was much more fun - a long section of puncheon installed right below a beaver dam, such that you were walking along with the beaver pond surface at waist-level.

It rained all night and drizzled until 11AM.  But the forecast was for steadily clearing weather.  So I delayed the start of my hike and reaped the benefits late in the day.  Harmon Hill was socked in with fog on my way outbound.  On the way back, it presented me with all the splendor of its magnificent view - a great place to watch the sunset.

But I couldn't linger.  Places to go.  Things to do.  Tomorrow promises to be a long trail day.  Time to get some rest and prepare.


Below is a map showing today's route with link to more photos:

AT Day 151 - Harmon Hill at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find hiking trails in California and beyond

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