The weather was so questionable yesterday (Saturday). The temperature prediction fluctuated right around the freezing point which might have resulted in beautiful snow or face-stinging sleet, or bone chilling rain. The precipitation level was at 100% so I was pretty confident that one of the three was going to greet me on the trail. As it turned out, all three shook my hand at one time or the other during my trek.
A few inches of snow already covered the path when I pulled into the parking lot around 9:00 am. Light snow continued to fall for the first several miles. By the time I reached my lunch spot (about 9 miles from the trail head) the snow was a sleety mix that was soaking my clothes pretty good. During my lunch break I put on my rain coat, replaced my rain-drenched beanie with the raincoat hood and got ready for the final five miles of the loop trail. By the time I reached the parking lot the rain had turned the trail into a challenging slushy stream.
I was so happy for three pieces of gear yesterday. The first was my trekking poles. I love to walk with hiking poles even on the nice sunny days, but on snow covered trails they saved me from a face-plant on several occasions. I discovered that walking on wet snow on top of fall leaves is like passing through a mine field. A major slip and fall is just one step away.
I got quite a calorie burn yesterday including an upper-body workout. There were several times when I was glad that I have been downhill skiing. Sliding down the hills and using my trekking poles for balance I imagined myself as an Olympic Mogul Skier. I utilized the trekking poles almost the entire hike –no wonder my arms were a little sore in this morning.
Second, I decided to try hiking boots instead of my Chaco sandals. I was not concerned about the temperature – sandals and my warm socks from REI keep me toasty even in 20 degree weather. But the potential of snow and freezing rain increased the possibility of wet cold feet. I was so glad I tried the boots. Although the boots were not as comfortable as my Chaco’s, they kept me warm and drier longer. By the end of the loop my feet were wet (I had to ford a stream about 2 miles before the end), but I am not sure that I could have completed the hike in sandals.
What a wildlife day! I saw deer, raccoon, rabbit and wild turkey…. tracks. It is amazing how many critters there are on the trail and how effective they are at hiding from me. I could tell that the tracks were fresh but the animals seem to be bigger introverts than I am.
Third, I heard lots of gunfire out the woods. I couldn’t tell if they were duck hunters down on the lake or small game hunters in the woods, but I was so happy for my bright orange backpack cover that screams my presence with color.