It was a bizarre weekend, weather wise, here in the Northeast and promises to get a bit weirder with temps forecasted to be in the upper 60s for Monday. Saturday I spent most of the day working on the Team Liver Lovers sweaters for the big hike in two weeks. I made good progress and I am hoping to have them all done over the holiday weekend. Derek did some homework, then we both went for a neighborhood walk and did a couple laps up the big hill. The Logan M. Shannon, patent pending, “better late than never” training routine is finally happening.
My main concern for this hike is going out too hard. I always joke that I am a big old diesel engine when it comes to hiking. When I start the hike I sputter and cough, I feel lightheaded, my legs feel like they’ve been injected with a lead slurry and my lungs burn. In those first moments of any hike, I stop a lot. I consider turning back, I lament my fitness level, I feel pitiful. Derek is patient and gives me time.
On Sunday it was in the 50s and many of the ski resorts have spent the last few cold weeks blowing snow to build up a good base. Some are even open for skiing, but we call that the “white strip of death.” No good for skiing, but great conditions for hiking. We made our way to Sunapee which we knew was not open for skiing. There was one other car in the parking lot, and a guy doing maintenance on some snow guns. There was a brief moment when we considered hiking up the legitimate trail around the back side of the mountain, but the truth is, we need the practice going up a ski hill; hiking trails use different muscles.
There were mounds of snow around the chair lift, but we walked up a main trail that was still mud and grass. I went out way too fast, got winded immediately and overheated. Derek went ahead a bit and I did my typical sputter, start, stop, keeping my head down, trying to get my engine to warm up. I met up with Derek a little ways up the hill and he coaxed me along, saying: “Let’s just get to that big pole up ahead, then we can stop….OK now let’s just get to that third pole.” He is patient and kind with me on every hike, but I was especially grateful for his patience on Sunday. I was starting to think there was no way I was going to make it up Aspen. I turned the music up in my headphones and looked at my feet, willing them forward, slow and steady.
We made it to a junction in the ski trails and found where the Sunapee snow magicians had been doing the majority of their snowmaking. It seemed like the perfect chance to try out the Kahtoola Microspikes we bought for the hike and we were immediately impressed. Gone was that nervous feeling that you might slip and gone were those little mini slips that make your muscles tense up. They are so great, we couldn’t stop talking about how helpful they were. Plus, my big diesel engine had warmed up and I was moving at a decent pace and breathing steadily. Things were looking up!
When ski mountains make snow in the early season they build it up in big mounds so it won’t melt too fast, eventually moving it around and building up a base. As we made our way up the ski trail we saw larger and larger mounds of snow. Derek, feeling a new found confidence with the magical spikes, hiked up an especially steep mound. I stuck to the grassy/muddy/patchy snow area. We took a right and hiked up a trail that was free of snow and made it to the lodge at the top of the mountain. As the sun came out we sat by ourselves on a picnic table and munched on our sandwiches–almond (me)/peanut butter (Derek) on one slice, chocolate peanut butter on the other and strawberry jam in between. Back in late July we took a ride up the chairlift and then hiked down Sunapee and it was hard for both of us. As we made our way down the front of the mountain yesterday, we were both in much better shape, all smiles and moving at a good clip.
I’ve been joking about my lack of an exercise regimen leading up to this hike, but Derek and I have hiked more in the past few months than I’ve ever hiked in the past. I am not in perfect shape, not by a long shot. This hike will be a challenge, but as long as I can drown out the sound of my own sputtering, I should be able to warm up and finish strong. My ultimate goal is to not cross the finish line dead last. (Hopefully my sis will cooperate and let me finish ahead of her if it’s looking bleak.) For Derek, I think the goal is just being there, hiking up that mountain, meeting Chris Klug. Finally in the happy place he dreamt of while he was lying in that hospital bed all those months ago.