Although the temperature on Saturday morning was in the teens (wind-chill into the single digits) and despite the fact that I don’t like to hike when my nose freezes together when I breath in, the sun came out enough in the afternoon to attempt a hike. I went to Sugar Creek MetroPark about 2:00 and I was so glad I did. The weather was beautiful – low 20’s and loads of sunshine – and I was able to get in 9.3 miles before dark. Sugar Creek is so nice because it has a 3.1 mile loop (5K) providing me an opportunity to get off the trail every hour. I completed three loops while enjoying the snow covered trail. The cold temperature kept the trail frozen so there was no concern about muddy, wet trails. Despite the snow covered path and having to rock-hop across a stream six times, I did not fall, slip, or even have to use my trekking poles.
Sugar Creek is a popular place to hike and run. Being a 5K loop, quite a few runners like to work-out on the trail. There were several folks enjoying the winter wonderland of Sugar Creek while I was there. I typically get some questioning looks as I pass people carrying my 30 pound backpack. I passed one young lady twice on the trail. She was walking her dog and we said “hi” to one another as we passed the first time. On the second connection, she stopped and asked me if I were training for a hike. I told her about my Appalachian Trail adventure. She was very excited for me and asked some good questions about my plans. She shared that she was hoping to do the Pacific Crest Trail someday. I asked if she had read, “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, a story of one woman’s journey on the PCT. She had heard of the book but had not read it. I shared that I have not read it either but have it on hold at the library [I was told me later that I should be careful not to recommend the book until I read it because it contains some rather intense situations – so this is not an endorsement or a recommended read]. The hiker wished me well and encouraged my efforts – I echoed encouragement for her future plans. These kinds of encounters on my local hikes are quite meaningful to me. They minister to my heart and affirm my goals. I’m sure she has no idea that her encouragement made my day and my hike.
A few friends have told me how crazy I am to hike in sandals. This wacky practice is one of the main reasons that cold temperatures are such a discouragement. However (learning from a previous hike), before driving to the trailhead, I put on a pair of lightweight socks, a plastic grocery sack over them and then my warm REI socks over the bag to create a water-resistant barrier for my toes. The preparation worked well and my feet remained quite warm. During the walk though, I noticed that my left foot seemed colder than my right foot. When I had completed the afternoon’s adventure and made it back home, I discovered why. The bag on the left foot had split allowing moisture to soak the inner sock. Next time I’ll check my socks on the trail and try to repair or replace the split bag. I always carry extra plastic bags with me – they weigh almost nothing and they come in handy in a variety of ways.