In life we often have these things that we would like to do. They float around in our minds and we think of them often. They are things we think we would enjoy but they require some level of planning and commitment to actually do them. They are things that we think we will enjoy and genuinely want to do for our own enjoyment. But often we never get there. These things never get realized. They just remain free-floating aspirations in our minds. There just never seems to be a right time to do it.
One of the biggest challenges in life is realizing there is never a right time to do anything. We just have to go out into the world and make things happen. If we wait for the right time we will never do anything.
For several years now one thing that I have wanted to do was go on a long point to point hike over the course of an entire days worth of daylight hours and see how far I could get. I love hiking. I go hiking frequently. I have gone on some fairly long and challenging hikes up the mountains of the Adirondacks. But all of these have been relatively short round trip day hikes in comparison to what I really wanted to do.
There really has been no reason for me not to do this. There is a great trail right nearby. The Finger Lakes Trail, which traverses NY from east to west, runs right through the area where I live. But I have never really even been on it. As I my interest in really doing this has grown I even bought maps of the Finger Lakes Trail so I could plan. But still nothing happened. No hiking the Finger Lakes Trail ensued.
Recently I decided there had been enough sitting around and thinking about this great hiking opportunity that was so near at hand but still seemed so unreachable. I decided that I was going to do it. With the addition of trail running to my skill set I decided that undertaking this hike made even more sense and I decided to make it more challenging by starting farther out than I would if I was just going to hike the whole way.
I was taking some vacation time and I was setting aside one day just to hike. I asked for advice from others that I knew who had some experience hiking the trail. I gathered the necessary equipment and made the needed plans. I was nervous and excited because I had never done anything like this, but I was committed to doing it.
The plan was to leave my car outside Robert Treman State Park where Enfield Creek leaves the park and to be dropped off to start my hike in the Finger Lakes National Forest near Burdet, and that is what I did. I packed my Nathan hydration pack full of food, water, maps, GPS, compass, and a few other basics and I was off.
The beginning of the trail in the Finger Lakes National Forest was an incline in the begining, So I started out with just a fast hike to get warmed up. But the trail quickly became more runable. So, I ran. I decided at the outset that given the distance I was planning to cover and the fact that I had never run nor hiked that far in my entire life I was going to take it relatively easy and not push myself up hills or push the pace too much on flat lands. The goal was to make it to the end not to have a fast pace. So even if I was running at the time and I came to a hill and I felt good I hiked up it instead of running to conserve energy for the long haul.
When I first started thinking about doing this I had no idea what the terrain would look like or feel like to my legs. I was expecting a lot of hills and elevation changes that would require me to walk or even stop all together and rest. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how runable much of the trail was. So that led to the next challenge for me. When you are a trail runner and also a photographer you are of two minds. You want to run and get in a good flow and keep moving when you feel good. You don’t want to stop unless you need a rest. But as a photographer I kept seeing things that my photographer mind would say to me stop and take a photo of that. There was obviously great scenery everywhere. I saw several little orange newts, a small turtle along a roadside, a 12 week old Shar Pei puppy and innumerable other photographic opportunities. But as you don’t see it in this post, I did not photograph it. I included every photo I took in this post. I am amazed at how low a number I kept it to.
This being my first time doing anything like this I learned a lot. And as we all know we learn the most from our mistakes, of which I made a few. Mistake number one, over packing. I had no idea how long this would really take me. I had an idea of what I thought I could complete it in but I didn’t have any real experience to base that on, so I wanted to be prepared and pack things I could need. This over packing mostly came in the form of food. I had way more food than I needed. I only ate two Cliff Bars and a small amount of trail mix the entire way. That brings me to mistake number two. The food. I love Clif Bars. They are great food for before or after working out or hiking or any kind of adventuring. They are not great for eating while on the move especially when you have been running and breathing hard and your mouth is dry. Trying to eat a Clif Bar under those conditions was like trying to swallow glue. Each bite required a sip of water to wash it down. This was also true of the trail mix. And this in part lead to mistake number three, not enough water. I thought it would be likely I would run out during the trip, but I also thought that I had enough to consume that I would not be in danger of dehydration. My Nathan pack holds 2 liters and I had that completely filled. I also was pretty sure I would be able to refill water somewhere along the way and I was at Robert Treman State Park. However, I ran out of water much sooner than I thought I would around mile 18 or 19 and due to that I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to keep running and just decided to hike the rest of the way, which made the trip last a lot longer than I expected. Mistake number 4 was foot care. My feet took a beating, as is expected on a long trip like that, but I think part of it was self-inflicted. While I was running I accumulated a significant ammount of gravel in my shoes rolling around under the balls of my feet and toes. Eventually after I couldn’t stand it anymore I decided to empty the gravel out of my shoes, also around mile 18 or 19. It was at this point after emptying the gravel out I realized I had another foot related issue, blisters. The balls of my feet felt pretty swollen and painful. I was pretty sure my feet were getting blisters, my right foot worse than my left. I didn’t stop to confirm this until I got home, what good would that have done. I just pushed on. I am not sure if the gravel caused the blisters or my shoes just weren’t fitting right. I hadn’t gotten blisters previously in these shoes but this was by far the most miles I had worn them for at one time. So, I will have to figure out a solution for preventing blisters on my next trip. The blister problem slowed me down considerably each step became increasingly painful, but I was determined to get to the end of this trip. The blisters really sucked a lot of the joy out of this adventure. It became more of a battle of will than a thing to enjoy. I just had to force myself to keep moving. I kept thinking I was close to the end but it seemed like it kept getting further and further away. I was so happy when I finally saw a sign for state park lands, because that meant I was entering Robert Treman State Park and I really knew where I was and knew the end was in sight. These mistakes cost me a significant ammount of time. I am pretty sure I would have been done much faster if I had not made these mistakes. But you live and you learn.
I am not normally much of a selfie taker, I always feel uncomfortable with it and I feel like that often shows up int he photos and as a photographer I hate that. But as this was my first trip of this kind I decided it was a good idea to take some photos along the way and text them to my wife and post them to Facebook so people would know I was OK. My wife is supportive of all my adventures but she does worry, as I am sure all wives do, and she always tells me to be careful and not get hurt and I always tell her I will. But I wanted her to be as at ease as possible so I tried to stay in touch to some degree. It was also a nice break
The elevation changes were really not too bad. A little over 4,000 feet, which in total sounds like a lot but spread out over 31 miles is really pretty manageable. I am planning to run a 25k trail race that will feature 4,000 ft of elevation in just 16 miles. That will be a real challenge. But I will say no matter how relatively little elevation change there is once you are at mile 20+ and have blisters on your feet you groan everytime you see a hill.
I was really happy with my paces through mile 18 when the blisters and lack of water became an issue.
The first half of this trip was great fun. The second half was a huge physical and mental challenge to overcome. At the end I wasn’t truly enjoying myself anymore, but I was pushing myself across the finish. It was one of those things that you are not enjoying in the moment but you know when you are done you will feel completely satisfied and happy that you did it. And that is exactly what it felt like. I was so happy that I decided to do it and that I finished my trip despite the challenges along the way. I definitely want to do something like this again. Probably not soon, but definitely again.