Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Next Hiking Goal - a virtual Around-the-World Hike

Here is where I hiked yesterday—the Blue Ridge of Virginia.  It's not just about the miles!

The distance around our planet Earth - its circumference - is HUGE - 25,000 miles, more or less.

The exact distance depends on where you measure it, and for us number geeks, the exact number matters.  It is defined by the current accepted standard, called WGS84 (The World Geodetic System, 1984 version), and it is what your GPS uses to tell you exactly where you are.  These guys measure this stuff down to an accuracy of 2cm—that's less than an inch. 

The bottom line is that the exact distance around the world ranges from 24,901.461 miles measured around the equator, where the centrifugal force caused by Earth's rotation bulges it out, to 24,859.734 miles measured through the north and south poles.  As of this morning, as I write this (13 December 2023), I have a documented total distance hiked of 23,098.916 miles.  

To complete my virtual hike around the equator, I have just over 1800 miles to go.  That's the distance between Miami and Minneapolis.  It's less than the length of the Appalachian Trail.  If I decided to do a NoBo (northbound) thru hike starting at the southern end at Springer Mountain, Georgia, I'd be celebrating completion of my Virtual Hike Around the World here:

That's Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, one of my favorite places on the trail, and a place I just hiked again back in June.

Since I was born, I've definitely already walked around the world virtually, and I'm on my second circuit.  But I'm only counting the miles I've actually documented since the day I got my first hiker's GPS unit, back on June 12, 2010.

As part of these 23,000 miles, I hiked the Appalachian trail twice in one calendar year and I've hiked to the front door of every place I ever lived—everywhere from Colorado to the beaches of North Carolina.  I've connected 28 states (if you count DC as a state) with a continuous string of footsteps:

I've hiked the Florida Keys, the Swiss Alps, the tundra of northern Svalbard less than 600 miles from the North Pole, and as close as 2433 miles to the South Pole at Ushuaia, Argentina on the southern tip of South America.  I've climbed a 20,000-foot mountain in Argentina, summited Pequeno Alpamayo in Bolivia and Huayna Picchu, the jagged peak overlooking Machu Picchu in Peru.  I've hiked Sankei-En Gardens in Japan, the Blue Mountains of Australia, and extensively hiked Easter Island for 11 days, the Big Island of Hawaii for two months, and much of the interior of Moorea, French Polynesia during a memorable week there.

Wildlife.  I've hiked with Walrus, musk ox, and reindeer on Svalbard, Polar Bears in east Greenland (not recommended - they want to eat you, and they will.  We beat a quick retreat back to town, our shotgun toting guide bringing up the rear), met the legendary Lagarfljót Worm of NE Iceland and one of their famous Trolls.  (I'm leaving the Troll story for the end of this post.)  I've seen Moose in Maine (including one this past July, which I didn't get a photo of), and in August I hiked literally under a bear in an overhanging tree just ten feet up, directly above the Appalachian Trail:

The day before yesterday I visited with a Great Blue Heron fishing.

I could go on.  You might say I've been around.  But not quite yet.  Not all the way around.  So that's my current goal.

Sometime in the new year, I'll cross the finish line.  It might even be in Madagascar, where I've booked a trip to visit the Baobab trees.  But more likely it will be closer to home.  Winter is here.  The leaves are all off the trees and yesterday I shot this one, generously dabbed by frost.

'Tis the season, as they say, and one of the trails I hike takes me directly beneath a three-foot ball of Mistletoe, perched high in its favorite host tree, a red maple.

So far, I've only walked here alone.  No chance to take advantage of the situation.  But be forewarned, ladies, if you get an invitation to take a hike with me!  LOL.

And now the Troll story from Iceland.  It's a seasonal thing too.  In the caves at Dimmurborgir, thirteen 'Yule Lads' seem to magically appear around this season.  The first appeared just yesterday, on Dec 12th, and the last will arrive on Christmas eve.  Each one can be spotted for only thirteen days.

And, although it was August (2022) when I was there, our group managed to capture one of them on video:

Quite the project - a Virtual Hike Around the World.  It's the ultimate circuit hike—the longest way home!  It's the kind of huge goal that obviously takes time.  I haven't set a deadline, *yet*, to get it done.  If I do decide to make it a sprint to the finish, you'll be the first to know.  Keep an eye right here on this blog.

I'm going to try to keep this post updated daily with my progress, then hand off to a new post after a week or so.  Please do stay tuned for the LIVE UPDATES (or nearly so):

  • Wednesday, December 13th, 2023: 4.254 miles.  After I published this post, I went out and hiked some woods roads around The Cloister at Three Creeks, the destination being 'Half-Volcano Rock', where I once built a seven-stone cairn to top it off.  The photo was taken back in October.  Total miles: 23,103.170

  • Thursday, December 14th, 2023: 4.536 miles.  Just a two-hour ramble during the best part of the day (11AM to 1PM) on some fairly flat territory, visiting an old homestead site for the first time.  This was a two-story house (note the second fireplace halfway up), probably abandoned no more than a century ago.  Total miles: 23,107.706

  • Friday, December 15th, 2023:  3.006 miles.  A short ramble through my *infested* little valley.  The last weekend of deer hunting is here, so they'll be gone.  But bear hunters are the worst.  They hunt with packs of dogs wearing GPS collars and drive all over the place tracking them.  My peaceful little valley will not be peaceful until bear hunting season ends on January 6th.  I can't wait!  Meanwhile, here are some Osage Orange fruits under the tree that dropped them. 
    They just sit.  They will sit there all winter and slowly rot.  No creature eats them.  Their wood was prized by our First Peoples as the best wood by far to make bows.  Meriwether Lewis reported in 1804 that the people of the Osage Nation "So much ... esteem the wood of this tree for the purpose of making their bows, that they travel many hundreds of miles in quest of it." A good bow made of Osage Orange wood could be traded for a horse and a blanket.  Because no living animal consistently touches these huge fruits (the size of a softball), and because their range had become limited to east Texas despite it happily able to grow nearly everywhere in the US, it has been speculated that their seeds were once spread by one of North America's extinct megafauna species.  <<<That article in the link is a great read.  Please take a look.  Have pollen studies been done to establish the range of Osage Orange 15,000 years ago and longer?  I'd love to pursue this speculation further.  Total miles: 23,110.712
  • Saturday, December 16th, 2023.  3.643 miles.  Just a relaxed early morning ramble in nippy, frosty weather.  Started out in the mid-20s F but was warming nicely under the bright sun.
    I wanted to get out early to beat the buildup of clouds and enjoy the prettiest part of the day.  There's a serious storm currently forming just north of the Yucatán Peninsula (southern Gulf of Mexico) that is going to rake up the whole US east coast bringing heavy rain and strong winds tomorrow and Monday.  The highlight of the morning hike was a close inspection of the important Monarch Butterfly attractor, Climbing Milkweed, also called Honeyvine even though it's toxic to humans.  The name refers to the fact that it often gets infested with oleander aphids, which do what most aphids do—secrete a lot of sugar-rich 'honeydew' that ants love.  Ants then protect and defend the aphids to preserve their food source.  The web of nature's interactions is just fascinating.  
    Here the climbing milkweed's dead winter vine sports its big seed pods under the bright blue sky with a seasonal color scheme.  Some pods have opened and released their seed, and others are still closed.  Each seed looks like a perfect little medallion.  Its fibrous 'parachute' strands seem spring loaded.  They spread out instantly once they are freed from the pod.  They are so light that they can drift on the wind for miles, and the geometric pattern the seeds create while packed into the pod is truly magical.  Total miles: 23,114.355
  • Sunday, December 17, 2023.  5.571 miles.  Storm looming!  I headed out before sunrise and tried to beat the rain.  Didn't quite succeed, but only got damp.  I hiked under the open sky early on and captured a pretty good photo of a multiple-layer cap cloud.  Total miles: 23,119.926
  • Monday, December 18th, 2023.  Today I concentrated on a photography mission.  It's fully documented in this new post. Just a reminder: I live within a couple miles of the Appalachian Trail, and in a certified Trail Community.  Miles hiked today: 3.562.  Total miles for this "new" project: 23,123.488
  • Tuesday, December 19th, 2023.  2.112 miles, rambling around the Cloister at Three Creeks on a cold day.  Total miles: 23,125.600

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