The Venturing Hike

We went hiking day before yesterday. It was beautiful. Granted, we’ll have to call it something other than “hiking” next time if we want certain people to come with us again.

It was a perfectly balmy day; I regretted many of the things I had brought “just in case.”  My possessions included:

a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, two walking sticks, a backpack, a canteen, two sandwiches,  a small first-aid kit (including matches, a needle and thread, and a signal mirror), a compass, a roll of tp, a pocketknife, an LED light, an emergency whistle, a poncho, a roll of duct tape, the bottoms of my zip-off pants,  an extra pair of socks, an extra windbreaker-(maybe)rain jacket, and a large bottle of sunscreen.

As noted in my previous post, I don’t “do” concise.

Pleasantly surprised by and attendance of thirteen (!), we set out from our rendezvous in two cars. This was all fine and pleasant. With a minimum of delays and a good bit of The Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, we arrived at our destination within the hour. It was cloudy, but humid and hot. I ditched the jacket and the sunscreen. I loaned out my hiking sticks. The beginning of “Pigeon Trail” has an angle of ascent of 45 degrees. “That’s not so bad;” thought I, “we did worse than this at Philmont.” Indeed: it was so. I made it with small trouble. I have, however certain advantages in being lightweight. I was somewhat out of breath at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, one of the members of our group has asthma; this was not good. In addition Sarah got poison ivy. At least the first aid kit came in handy.

It was a lovely place. It was truly woody in a way that only the south can be. The site of a decisive battle in the Civil War, the terrain contained a liberal amount of plaques and informational boards. I’m not much of a historical enthusiast for the Civil War specifically, but it got to me. Against the advise of a tactician, the southerners cut a swath through the forest and nine hundred men pulled nine cannons to the top of a somewhat insane incline–overnight–and defended themselves. If that isn’t tenacity, I don’t know what is. Especially exhilarating to me was looking back at the view half-way up a mountain, and realizing that we had just climbed up and come down the mountain behind us. I never knew how much ground I could cover in an afternoon: according to the map, I believe we covered five miles; counting in switchbacks and vertical distance it was longer.  

We lunched at the half-way point, where all the tourists were getting off their buses to see the view. We had reached the peak of the second mountain. My sandwich was mushed. Oh, well, I worked for my supper and I bet it tasted a lot better than it otherwise would have. We started the descent, our group splitting in two by pace. Sarah and Sarah were in the front. One of them happened to notice a vine some kids were swinging on. It did look like fun. Unfortunately, Sarah’s trip ended mid-swing when she landed in a patch of Virginia ivy interspersed with poison ivy and got scratches up and down her leg. Ouch.

We reached a fork in the trail and got our bearings; the trail led through the visitors’ center.  Since it was Memorial Day weekend, the visitors’ center off the trail had a uniforms exhibit. It was really neat seeing all the soldiers’ stuff from the world wars. Then came the informational video, which was more informative, big-picture wise than all the informational boards. After this, we continued happily down an easy path that skirted the battlefield: truly beautiful. I began to berate myself. I hadn’t even used most of my stuff! Sarah came into contact with roughly twenty-five dogs on the trail. She petted all but one or two of them, and that wasn’t for lack of asking. There were also lots of boy scouts with loaded backpacks training for Philmont. The trails weren’t a bad simulation of Philmont either. Then it started to sprinkle. We doubtfully pulled on our ponchos; “It wasn’t going to last that long in all probability, was it?”. Then it poured. My poncho hood came up, and my wonderful cowboy hat went on. We slogged  through the rain looking like a group of flamboyant Keebler elves in our brightly colored ponchos.

And then, we were back at the car. After ten minutes, the rather damp and tired second half of our group happened along and we set off. I lent out my dry extra pair of socks; my initial pair had been protected by my duct tape adorned boots and were quite dry.  So in the end, I ended up using everything in my pack when we set out but my roll of tp, pocketknife, LED light, emergency whistle, trusty roll of duct tape, and the bottoms of my zip-off pants. I’ll leave some things off the list next time, but others it’s just good having. I had a good time.

I would like to thank the veterns for fighting for all of us. 

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

~Joanna

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