Snow Day


Well Known Rokslider
Feb 15, 2018
*I don't really ever write but figured why not give it a try today. Here's a story from today's hike. Hope someone enjoys it.*

I have been alternating working out and hiking the last couple weeks trying to get into shape for hunting this fall. It just so happened that today was my Hiking day. The last couple days we have got about a foot of snow. Today it was a little chilly at 8F with 20 mph winds and 35mpg gusts. As I sat in my chair drinking my coffee I couldn’t help but to think... There isn’t a better day to replicate late rifle conditions than today.

I don’t live in the mountains by any means and the closest steep hills around here are probably 50-60ft from bottom to top. My elevation is just over 1100ft so, for me, whatever is hard here is 4x-8x harder in the mountains. I've hunted Montana rifle a couple times so I have a baseline knowledge of what the hikes will be like this fall.

I set out on my hike with enthusiasm in mind thinking that this will be a great time to test clothing choices in applicable weather. The last few weeks, with only 6 inches of snow, I’ve felt like I got this hike down to something of relative ease. So, in my mind, this will just be a hike. As soon as I get out of the yard and onto my path I, and the dogs, soon realize this will take some work.

Today, the snow is over my gaiters and the dogs are dragging their bellies. Each step through the new 10-12 inches of snow I hit a hard/uneven layer from previous hikes. This breaks and I step through a few more inches of snow. Each step up the first, and longest, hill feels harder than the first time doing this, with my pack weight. I remind myself that these are bitch hills compared to the mountains and stopping on them only makes the mountain climb harder, so I get to the top winded and cardio-crushed.

The last few hikes I have not been challenged like this in a cardio sense. It’s been more of a light/barely painful experience. I have wondered on these days if these hikes were too little or not enough for an actual workout. Although, my hips think so. In my head, I convinced myself to do these hikes to shakeout/test my gear, with a subliminal thought of it as a workout.

A decade ago, I would have set out on the hike like a dog on a scent trail. Attacking the notion of pain as merely a weakness that I shouldn’t have. I have pushed through pain. I have ran farther, longer, harder than anything that this can give me. In my head this is nothing compared to what I used to do. Comparing my hiking pace to my youth I tend to call my current pace one of wisdom, albeit very limited wisdom. Its slower than it used to be but I still have the drive to push until I die, if I have to.

Atop the first hill I sit there breathing, HEAVILY. I try to asses my current clothing choice and see how it works out in the wind. For this hike, I chose to wear a merino base top, with a wool type vest. My bottoms are a wool outer with a UA base 2.0 under it. I have gaiters over my woolies and my super discount pronghorns on my feet. For socks, I'm wearing some rocky hunting sock my mom got me for Christmas one year. This setup is more of an average joe type setup, but it seems to have worked well. I have a slight sweat that is soon wicked away and evaporated by the wind. There is no drenching and no chilling cold. I did weigh my vest, pants, and boots when I came home at 8+lbs, with whatever's in the pockets.... The weight must make for a better workout. I am also wearing some cotton hat and slightly thin camo gloves. I feel like this setup isn't internet acceptable, but it seemed to do me well thus far.

From this hill, I look at the next half mile of rolling hills thinking "this isn't going to be like before." Each step through the snow is like a mini-lunge. As I come off the back of this knoll I instantly remember.. This is where it drifts.. a lot. Soon the dogs find themselves bounding through the snow as they wrestle one another, as always. Although, in my head, I find it cheating I wade through the snow following their tracks. The next half-mile of rolling hills the snow continues to be over my gaiters and I find my cardio workout commencing. As go up every hill I tell myself “this is nothing compared to the mountains so stopping midway is only cheating myself for what real work will be like.” On the next knoll I ponder taking the short route back... But that turn-off is another half-mile ahead.

After going through the steepest hills around I find myself in the pines. There’s hardly any extra snow and the ground is hard. I can't believe how easy it is to hike there. This is what I’m accustomed to after the last few weeks; 6 inches of mostly hard snow. As I go through the pines, I realize that I am at the Y. Go home and cut the trip in half or go through the woods and double my trip. I stop for 20 seconds to ponder my decision.

This last week I listened to a podcast about quitting in the mountains early during an elk hunt. As I recollect what they talked about I can apply the ideas they talked about to my current outing. Its windy and cold and walking isn't easy. I'm gassed, my camelback keeps freezing up, its just plain hard today. Then I think, what a better day to challenge my fortitude for elk hunting. Quitting now, would be like quitting in the mountains. The thought of going home and being comfortable feels nice, but that's not why I'm out here. I'm out here to get stronger. I guess today I'm not only getting a physical workout but challenging my mind as well. So, I head towards the longer wooded path.

To my surprise the deciduous forest has just as much snow as the field. Thinking back, it would only make sense, but the pine forest kind of had my hopes up. As I walk along the trail I'm amazed at how much snow there is. The dogs are wild as always, even if it means dragging their underside as they make a path ahead of me. Each step here is.. annoying. The trail I am on is one I have been previously walking. Every step is half in a footprint and the half-hard under layer makes walking a challenge. I half-slip every time I hit the hard layer, before breaking through.

The wooded path has minimal hills, compared to the field, but walking through the snow and drifts is still taxing on me. It's not like lifting weights until you shake, wondering if you're going to make this set or drop the weight on your head. It's more like sprinting on a stair-stepper and making it a marginal distance before wanting to just lay down. I do think about sitting down or just falling over on my pack and just lying there, but I know that would lead to a wet ass in these wool pants. Just that feeling alone keeps me from doing so.

My wooded path is one that goes around a large marsh-like pond. It's about a half-mile walk from one side of this to my house. I know its frozen enough to walk on I could walk straight home. There's been plenty of deer on it and the dogs occasionally wander on it, but I know that would be cheating myself, so I press on.

As I reach the farthest point from my house, I climb a small hill, but my body thinks it’s much bigger. Atop this hill I pause, to keep my heart from exploding. While I’m getting more air in my lungs I stop for a second and just listen to the wind in the forest. For a minute I don’t here semis on the road. I don’t hear snowmobiles on the trails nearby. I just hear the wind. This sound, or lack thereof exposes a raw part of my soul and I just.. listen. I find myself at peace for 10 seconds, while I just listen to the wind. Internally, I know this is why I have come here. It's not often I find this part of myself, and I think for a moment that the pain of the hike only enhanced that moment. Maybe, just maybe, the mountains will grant me more of this.

From here I move onto a most flat forest journey, which is surprisingly drifted. As my rifle, which is tied to my pack, keeps getting caught in branches I tend to wonder how the dogs are so damn happy. Their walk looks tougher than mine, but they just love it... Maybe I am jealous of their exhilaration.

The last half mile-ish of my trek is somewhat normal now. It's the same 1-2ft of snow, but not really any hills, just leaf-less forest. Normally, I pull my trekking poles out here, just to get some familiarity with them. I know they can be helpful in the hills and steep country, but I feel like using them in my hills will only cheapen the workout I am after. I just don't want to cheat myself. I do not fear the hard and painful, although sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm thinking. For today, I keep the poles stowed and march on.

As I approach my house, I get the rifle caught in the clothesline and think to myself "That wasn't so bad, I could triple that." Maybe it’s because the last half of the journey didn’t have hills or maybe it’s because I wasn't in immense amount of pain. intense pain means I’ve worked hard enough, doesn’t it?

My trip today wasn't anything special per-se but as I came inside something just said I should write about it and maybe somebody would get some entertainment on this snow day.

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