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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Slip Sliding Away but not the Paul Simon Song

            It’s been a while since I did a real long distance hike. In fact, the last time I did a real hike was in the summer on the Greenwood Spur at the top of the Standing Stone Trail. Connecting the old end of the Standing Stone Trail at Cowan’s Gap State Park to the Mid-State Trail, there’s a huge mountain, the biggest on the Standing Stone, which just goes up and up to come down in serious rocks on the northern side. Kristen Joivell and I went there to see the sights, and it was a great time save the feeling of descent on the knees. She mapped her campgrounds, and I took my pictures. Life is good.

            However, when it comes to stone field walks... you get triple credit on distance. Pennsylvania rocks suck like that. That's not even mentioning potential rattlesnake sightings, of which I've only seen one in the wild in my life. I can't buy a sighting, it seems.
            Since then, I’ve done several other hikes, but none of length, other than a few longer rails to trails hikes, which don't count since they're flat, until yesterday when I decided it was time to push myself somewhere. This was definitely helped by my wife who told me to get my butt out exercising. My choice was the exercise bike, which I am bored by, or the outdoors. 
             I chose the outdoors.
            When I got up, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drive an hour to get to the Pinnacle. Something about the distance and the cold and my apathy, which has led to being out of shape and the like. Instead, I had thought about doing the Horseshoe Trail instead. That’s not a bad hike, and it’s 15 minutes away, but it doesn’t have spectacular views. Yes, it would get me between trees, which is always cathartic, but it doesn’t have one of my top 5 favorite views in the state.

            And so I was screwing around on Facebook when I looked at my messages, and a hiking friend named Daimon asked if I was going to hike this weekend, and I realized that I needed to hike today. I looked at the weather, and it said 23° now with a high of 36° later in the day. Thus, I grabbed my water sleeve, fluorescent orange hoodie, gloves, hat, and polar fleece lined underwear (damn warm, I must say), and headed out to Hamburg, Pennsylvania for my adventure.
            The trail to the Pinnacle begins at Hamburg’s reservoir. After passing through a locked yellow gate, the road leads up and over a small bridge to the actual reservoir, which is clearly marked to stay out of. I’m not sure why people would want to swim or let their dogs play in a drinking water reservoir, but yeah. After that, it goes up an ATV / 4-wheel drive road that leads to another trail. All things considered, it’s pretty civilized in nice weather without much steepness at all. However, yesterday it was definitely snowy and icy. The key for that is to have snow chains for the boots and to step on the crunchy white, not the slick gray.

            I hadn’t realized how much slick gray was out there until I got out of the car and slid onto my butt immediately. Fortunately, I was OK, but the theme for a lot of the hike was that I should have had chains for this (in Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction voice) and that I was slip sliding away (not the Paul Simon version) as I looked like a sumo wrestler trying to do the Baby Bird on those Geico commercials. Fortunately, I’m good on the Black Diamond walking sticks, and I can slam one into the ground relatively quickly to hold myself up, at least most of the time.

After stopping at the top for water and turkey sticks, I took off my hat, and to my surprised eyes, there was steam coming off of my hat! My heart still felt good, and I wasn't winded. In fact, the cold didn't bother me at all until I stopped too long and my sweat started cooling off.
Time to walk!

The top trail into the Pinnacle was a series of flat walks and low degree ascents that went through frozen lakes on the trail. There were many places that were deep enough for Kahtoola Microspikes with their half inch dig (pictured). Nevertheless, I just had my naked Keens to push through the crunchy white snow and to bushwhack the trail sides.

Throughout the hike, my balance was pretty good, but I didn’t tempt things near the Pinnacle’s edge. I’ve been there before, and to be there solo save 4 people I saw on the entire 8 miles wasn’t worth risking it. While I did hear voices as I was leaving the Pinnacle, that was a 4-mile walk back, so it wasn’t like I wanted to wait for a rescue if I fell off the edge; well, that and the fact I never liked heights even before I got a name for all of my symptoms.

The view at the Pinnacle was and is sweet. It was definitely sweetened by the fact that I felt much better than I have in ages. My knees didn’t ache like they have been, so yeah, here’s to doxycycline! My left arm, tremors, and knuckles still feel the cold pretty significantly and they shake like Taylor Swift removing the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world from her life, but at least I can hike with that. I couldn't hike with a long-term IV. 
As I type this, my left hand feels very slow, but that’s OK. I’ll push through it because I have no worries on needing an IV for 4 weeks (and all the dependence / inability that comes with it). The celebration of Sunday night can move through the next few weeks to get hiking again while I can. This finite time needs to improve me from the 45 extra pound me to some version of the guy who was pushing 204 miles in 33 days in July / August 2014.
I feel like 25% of him, but I feel good, too, because better days are in my head.

Everything begins with a single step. Yesterday’s journey begins with 8 miles of them.