Mission: Difficult

Yesterday I decided to challenge myself with a preparatory hike that I tried to make as rigorous as what our hardest day on the WAND will be. I have probably been less diligent about training hikes and more reliant on my natural physical abilities (and what I have cultivated while living in Colorado) than my fellow WANDerers so far, so I thought it was time to see what I could do. In the end, I think I succeeded given how much I underestimated the walk, but I learned some important lessons about what happens when you push your body too hard on a hike, and how much more difficult it will be to cope with hikes like this one without access to a bed or a shower the night of. It’s definitely time to start thinking about how we’re going to be careful out there and take good care of our bodies so we can actually make it to the end.

My route was a section of road between my front door and the turn-off to Lory State Park road which is a ways up into the foothills to the West of Fort Collins. I measured the distance at about 8 miles. So I knew the trip was going to be about 16 total miles and a significant chunk (about half) was going to be in the foothills with steep graded roads that are more difficult to both ascend and descend than most of what we will be facing in ND. I also knew starting out at 12:15pm on a beautiful Summery day that I would be feeling the heat more so than most of our trail in ND, which we will be doing in the morning hours.

Here are some of the interesting statistics from the hike, as well as a list of some advantages and disadvantages that may or may not be there on any given day of the WAND:

16 miles
5.5 hours
2x 2min breaks
2x 5min breaks
2x 10min breaks
Total breaks: 34 mins.
2.5 miles were uphill
Drank 100oz. of water (of 134oz.) drinking freely and often.
Temperature ~75 degrees, some breezes, some cloud-cover shade and usually a shady rest spot.

Was only carrying about 37-40 lbs. (Actually pack weight will probably be greater)
Was totally fresh starting out, I wish I would have stretched though.
Had full water at my disposal (134oz.)

Walking in Mid-day, the hardest part was under the hottest sun (12:15-5:15)
The hills comprised ½ of the walk. Both up and down were unpleasant in different ways.
Consumed a sandwich early on in the hike, and then nothing
Hurried, took very few breaks, no lunch breaks, left boots on the whole time except 10mins.


For the most part my gear performed wonderfully. I became very sweaty during certain stretches of the walk, but my wicking garments kept the moisture off my skin, leaving some salt deposits on the clothes, but not too many. All the friction areas felt fine the whole trip, chafing was prevented. When I took breaks I felt my clothes were dry and refreshed a bit upon restarting.

My boots were great. Aside from some bruising sensations in my feet due to the mileage being done all at once, my feet never got too hot, they haven’t formed any noticeable blisters, and they were pretty well protected from some portions of gravelly/rocky road.

I was pretty tired at the end of this walk and all I could really think about was delicious food and what would be the best thing to have for dinner in huge quantities. In hindsight, I can better appreciate how bad my situation was upon finishing than I could at the time. I felt like with rest and a big meal I would readily recover from my exhaustion and that was somewhat accurate. But, I also found that I was unable to eat the way I wanted to. I had some food that was both rich and somewhat spicy (what I was craving) and it really did a number on my stomach. I nearly threw up and I started to feel as if I needed to sleep more than anything.

Instead of showering and napping right away though, I tried to stay awake for awhile and I left myself dirty, because on the WAND we will just have to stay dirty much of the time and it will significantly effect our comfort level, most notably our skin in the ‘frictional areas’.

In hindsight, I think I pushed myself too hard on this walk, and making this kind of effort during the trip would probably have repercussions that would last the entire duration of the WAND. I could easily see myself getting sick and/or being unable to perform the next day, if we do such a hard day on the WAND. Therefore I will try to employ a keener sense for when and where on the WAND we can afford to exert ourselves and when we need to take it easy. Fortunately I believe we have incorporated some of these considerations into our route plan already.


About rhoberg

I'm a Leo who likes long walks in the mountains and sweet nature whispered in my ear. View all posts by rhoberg

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