Author Archives: rhoberg

About rhoberg

I'm a Leo who likes long walks in the mountains and sweet nature whispered in my ear.

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:

Stats:
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.

Advantages:
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.)

Disadvantages:
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.

Gear:

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.


Nodaiku: “You are a harsh friend”


Nothing Quite Like This…



The prospect of carrying a heavy pack for eighteen straight days through hills and valleys, prairie and roadside, all under the summer sun, is a daunting one. So, I have to ask myself—“Physically, have I had the kinds of experiences that lead me to believe I can complete the proposed trip?”  And honestly I have to answer, “Nothing quite like this…”

When I think back on the majority of my hiking and camping experiences I want to say that I have a fair amount of experience doing activities along the lines of what we are attempting with this hike across North Dakota. But as I’ve gotten more serious in thinking about what a trip like this is going to be like, it’s occurred to me that most of those experiences aren’t exactly relevant. Most of them include gearing up the day of, driving out to a park or reserve of some kind, spending the majority of the day hiking and looking around, setting up camp, sleeping, and then getting up and going home. Obviously, this is not that kind of trip. This trip involves getting up, packing up, hiking, resting, hiking, setting up camp, sleeping, getting up, finding time to eat in-between, and repeating that routine eighteen (or so) consecutive times. Doing that, say, five times in a row would be a significant challenge, eighteen times will certainly exhaust us.

Now, most everyone has been on a day-hike. I’ve done a ton of them. Honestly, at least a hundred. They are a fun, healthy way to get out of the house, exercise, and check out nature. But I suspect that when it comes to hiking for more than one day in a row, fewer of us have gone the distance. And, as much as I’d like to cite my experience, I can only think of one trip where I for more than 3 days (1/6 of the proposed trip); two years ago I went on an eight day backpacking trip on the ‘North Shore’ of Lake Superior with Jeremy (also a member of this expedition.) I can safely say that that was a rigorous trip, and seeing as this upcoming trip will be twice as long, I might have reason to be worried. After all, even if one can cope with the sheer physical demands of the trip, there’s always the additional risks of getting sick, breaking or spraining a limb, getting severe blisters, getting lost, losing appetite, losing motivation, and (heaven forbid) having animals interfere. Many of the things in this list did happen to us on the Superior trip.

For some (perhaps foolish) reason, I’m not too worried. And neither, I think, are my cohorts. Maybe it’s because the prospects of adventure and achievement have, so far, masked the need to carefully think through what lies before us. Maybe we’re better off not worrying too much about what can go wrong. Either way, by my estimation it seems that this trip is going to take a combination of idealistic adventurousness, reasoned concern, and probably even flat-out stubbornness to get us started and get us to the end. I hope we will be willing and able to give it. In some ways, it already seems to late to turn back (and I like that.)


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