Hike Distance: 3.57 Miles.
Location: South Boulder, Colorado Stranahan North and South Trails
Start Time: 7:30AM
Weather: Clear and COLD
Lesson 1: Lay out your clothes the night before, because you'll be stumbling around in the pitch dark so you don't wake up your spouse.
I grabbed a T-shirt and a long sleeve fleece, found a pair of thicker hiking socks by feel, and grabbed the blues jeans I had worn the previous day and a belt. I took them into the bathroom and got dressed. I bumped into tons of stuff and had no idea what shirts I grabbed so I had I guess officially decided that fashion was not the soup of the day. I brushed my teeth and got dressed, went downstairs and consulted my book and map to decided in the trail. I am using Best Boulder REgion Hiking Trails by Bette Erikson for a book, and the skyterrain.com Boulder Nederland Flatirons map.
I found a trail in which the description started out saying it was for people that usually sat on the couch and ate potato chips and thought, "I feel personally attacked". I then realized this would be the perfect start for me. I also knew the area where the trailhead was, because it was near a school I do work for. I made a note on my map, and placed a bookmark in the hiking book saying the date and what trail I was taking. I've read too many books about how you should always tell someone when you go hiking alone. I know that it's usually in reference to actual mountain climbers and back-country trailblazers, but you never know if I might get lured into a witches cabin with the promise of candy.
Lesson 2: Eat Breakfast
Okay, you all get to laugh at me now. I'm a fat guy, going on a multi-mile hike by myself and I was dumb enough to not eat food beforehand. Hear me out though: I wasn't hungry. Seriously though, I don't eat breakfast often. My stomach gets upset if I eat too early in the morning, and so I wait a little bit and usually make a bagel when I get to work instead of eating as soon as I wake up. I also have a fear of eating right before I go or a hike, because I'm afraid of "nature" calling me if you get my drift. So I didn't eat this morning. To my credit I packed a Nutri-Grain bar and Two Granola bars, so I didn't keel over or anything stupid. I just had to stop a lot earlier on the trail and eat something as I was getting lightheaded.
Okay, we're finally leaving for the hike. I got in the car and was excited to get going. I looked at the thermometer on the dash and it said 29 degrees; a little chilly but nothing too bad. I'm good. Then I pulled out of the garage, and along the 20 minute drive to the trailhead I watched the temperature drop...and drop...and drop...and drop. Then I go to the trail, it was a balmy 14 degrees out. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon and the flatiron mountains were getting lit up. I had two layers and good socks on so I'm ready to go, except....
Lesson 3: Bring Gloves
I swear I told myself as I left the house to bring my gloves. I know I did, but I got caught up adjusting and sizing the straps on my new Camelbak and got distracted. It was especially distracting when you realize the waist and chest stabilization straps might not be big enough for you. Oof, fat guy alert again. It was okay, but I'm glad I'm headed in the other direction or I might have to find a Big & Tall Sporting goods store to sponsor me. Luckily, my wife is smarter than me and always has a small pair of gloves in the Glove Box for emergencies. These were some awesome Basic knit Bright OSHA orange gloves. These were going to have to do, I wasn't turning back now.
Holy Crap was it cold to start out. The wind was cutting through my jeans and the gloves were doing next to nothing to start with. My beard immediately started frosting up through my panting and wheezing while moving at altitude. I wanted to try and take some pictures, and some people might be smart and get some gloves in which they can operate phone screens through them, but I had these orange ones, so I set up the phone to go directly to the camera app, and then used the external volume button to snap pictures. Score one for me!!
Did I mention I'm out of shape? Like really out of shape. It was painful to gulp down that cold air as I started ascending towards the foothills. The trail was easy, and there was no shortage of fit people running, I kid you not RUNNING, past me. Who runs? I think they just were there to make me look bad and they secretly had golf carts around the corner as soon as they were out of my sight. No one could be that in shape. SO I'm starting my climb on what was called the couch potato trail and it's beating me up. I'm really glad I did this one alone, because I was embarrassed to even be outside.
I stopped up the trail about a quarter of a mile that seemed like 16 and had a granola bar. I was getting a little lightheaded either from the lack of oxygen, the cold or the lack of nutrients, so I thought it prudent. After that surge of calories I was good to go and trudged forward.
The hike was gorgeous. The sun was coming up and so every few minutes the look of everything around you shifted. The colors changed, the shadows creeped along the ground, and you could just feel the world waking up around you. I was actually glad that I decided to hike by myself. Not just because I would've felt stupid in front pf people, but because I was the first quiet time to think I'd had in a long time. No one calling me, No one asking me questions, and just walk alon and enjoy myself. It was in this silence and reflection that I learned my next lesson
Lesson 4: Whatever song is the last one you hear on your radio, will be the only song on repeat in your head throughout the entire hike.
I need to plan this better next time, because 2 hours of Carly Rae Jepsen's, "Call Me Maybe" in your head is not the ideal soundtrack to a morning of reflection and exercise. I don't know how I feel about bringing music or headphones with me. A lot of people on the trail had their music on. I prefer to just walk and be quiet, but I need to program a better soundtrack for my internal monologue.
The hike was uneventful in general. It was a well groomed trail made for service vehicles for a good 2/3 of the trip with the connecting Mesa trail, being more of a hiking trail. The signs coming into the park advised to wear traction devices for ice and snow, but we hadn't had any snowfall for a couple weeks, so I ignored it. For the most part was okay, and at no time did I feel like a section was too dangerous. Ice can stay in areas that are continually in shadows for a long time though, so be cautious. Depending on how much winter hiking I do, I might look into something to assist. The one thing that I found though that's worse than a regular icy area is.
Lesson 5: Dirt and Dust can settle on top of icy patches, so I looks like normal trail but will trick you immediately.
It's not the hazard you can see that'll get you but the sneaky suckers. A couple of places had ice and then through wind or gravity had got covered up with a fine dusting of dirt. It looked just fine but almost had me landing on my butt. If it weren't for my trusty trekking poles I would've wiped out. I'm sure I'll talk about it at a future date, but I don't care how dorky Trekking poles are, I won't leave the concrete without them.
The trail looped south and started heading back to the parking lot. The uphill part of my journey behind me I was able to start enjoying myself more. I had been getting a lot of water at the beginning of the hike but after I caught my second wind, my body wasn't aching for more, so I had been a little while since I took a sip. It was then that I learned another important lesson.
Lesson 6: The tube from you camelbak to your mouth will freeze solid in 14 degree weather if you don't use it regularly.
Yup, I grabbed the tube to take a sip, and it had a crunching crackling sound to it, and NOTHING. No water. I tried sucking on it harder and it was solid. Earlier in the hike I had taken some slushy sips, and that should've been my clue and warning, but I'm not that smart. So I've got about mile and half left, and a sold drinking tube. I was doing okay and I wasn't worried, but I filed that in the back of brain for longer more intense hikes down the road. Remember those crazy runners I saw earlier? I rarely saw them with any water on their persons, and I'll guarantee they went farther than I did that day. Doesn't seem like a god plan, but I guess if you get home in under 45 minutes, you'll be okay.
I finished the hike with the sun high in the sky, and me feeling pretty good about myself. I really enjoyed seeing so many dogs off leash in this area. They were so happy to be trotting alongside their owners. Many of them stopped to sniff and say hi. I wish my dog was in better shape to hike with me. I mised the idea of him being there, but he's older and has arthritis and a knee injury so I think he'll be waiting for me to snuggle when I get back.
Not many other lessons or things to talk about. I had a bunch of friends say they want to join me next time I'll pick some hikes to do with friends, but I think I'll still keep some for myself . Thanks for reading, and I'll be back soon with more tales from the trails.