Monday, April 23, 2012

Hikes: Dancing in Landsford Canal State Park

Yes I danced on a trail, but saving that for the end of the post...

My hiking shoes are always in the back of my car.  Why would things never used in the house (tennis racket, yoga mats, beach chair, picnic blanket, DEET, and so on) need to come inside?  My dad calls it being junky.  I call it being prepared.  Listening to him I would not have been able to explore a new-to-me SC State Park this past Saturday - Landsford Canal State Park

A friend and I decided to meet for an impromptu Saturday night away after my hike in the Upstate was cancelled.  Fifteen minutes into my drive I decided I still wanted to get some outside time in.  After some fiddling with my phone I decided on Landsford Canal State Park.  I followed Google navigation and arrived on the side of the park that has no public roads.  My only way to the trails would have been to leave my car and swim across the Catawba River - probably illegal, definitely dangerous, and well just not going to happen.  So using the real paper map I keep in my glove box, I eventually made it to the park. 

Then I did what I would not recommend to anyone.  Despite being prepared with trail shoes, I did not have trail clothes.  All I had were the workout clothes I'd tossed in my bag on the slight chance that I decided to use the hotel gym Sunday morning.  I went into the ladies room and changed into a run skort, Dri fit tank and requisite palmetto tree visor.  I had a lot of skin out for the trail. One very appropriately dressed trail lady let me know that my outfit was more appropriate for the tennis court than the trail.  She of of course was sporting non cotton loose fitting pants, a shirt with 30 pockets, a wide brimmed hat, and a walking stick with the appearance of being hand-hewn from the original tree. 

The Canal Trail is described as an interpretive trail beside a 19th century canal built to bypass the Catawba River rapids. There are signs along the way explaining different areas of the canal.  A part of the trail takes you into the canal bed and through the remains of old structures like this mill takeout.

After discovering that the trail is fairly flat and free of tree stumps and rocks, I decided to do more of a trail run interval workout.  Great workout but even with stopping and doing the 'keep my heart rate up' wiggle at each sign, I still reached the end of the trail too soon.  The trail terminated at a lock and dam system that was used to raise boats 32 feet.  It appeared to be a pretty cool piece of engineering.  This is what remains of it now.
After talking with a man having lunch on that end (you can park at this end too), and reading a little more about this history of the area as a trade route, I headed back the other way.

Halfway back, I veered off of the Canal Trail and took the Nature Trail back to the parking area.  There's an overlook where the Canal Trail and the Nature Trail leave each other.  The rocky shoals in this part of the river are supposedly home to the largest area of Spider Lilies in the U.S. 
I have no way to confirm if this is the largest growth of spider lilies in the U.S. but to the naked eye they were gorgeous. 
The nature trail leaves the canal and follows the edge of the Catawba River.  It was beautiful.  I was so happy to have taken a brief detour to experience this that when Chairmen of the Board's 'Carolina Girls' rolled around on my playlist my run deteriorated into a skip and then a full on dance routine.  Me and the kid that came bounding around the corner behind his dog and away from his parents had a good laugh at me.  The major lesson learned this weekend was that my dad is not right nearly as often as he thinks he is ;).  Until next time y'all. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

A Pearl: The End Is Nice Too!

How many times do we hear (and say), 'it's really about the journey'?  This is generally the statement that follows an account of either a disappointing end or a failure to finish at all.  I agree that the journey is important but I also accept that there is value in the conclusion.

The hiking journeys over the past few months have been amazing.  I've viewed and touched new flora and fauna on each trip.  Despite primarily hiking in only two states, no terrain has become boring.  Since I am drawn to water, each bubbling creek or waterfall has been a treat.  That being said, I also enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing the hike that I set out to do.  And yes I know that I have few options other than completing it (government funding is down so I can't depend on finding park rangers and other personnel responsible for rescuing city dwellers lost in the woods), but still, I do my own inner victory lap when I do finish.

This was the end of Part 1 of our Foothills Trail series.  My car was 7.5 miles back at Oconnee State Park.  You could not tell me I was not 'winning' after getting this one under my belt.
 Perhaps this is because so often in life, I tell myself and others to should savor the process and learn from it.  Valuable advice but if I'm honest with myself, I need to recognize that my affinity for 'the process' is sometimes my excuse for an undesirable outcome (not finishing or poor product).  If the outcome of the process is desirable I am a lot less likely to spend a significant amount of time discussing the fabulous process or better yet the outcomes that are secondary to the target outcome. 

So yes, the journey should be savored, but maybe we should start giving the end a little love too.  Until next time friends.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hikes: Raven Rock State Park

Trying to get all three of us in a picture.
 Hiking with friends...otherwise known as naively walking around the woods with people you laugh, cry, and argue with.  It can be disastrous or wonderful, but it will always be an EXPERIENCE.  This past Saturday I had the pleasure of hiking with two grad school friends during one of our sister girl weekends.  We chose Raven Rock State Park in Lillington, NC because of proximity and newness to us all.  We woke up that morning with the intention to do the 5.1 mile Campbell Creek Loop, the .5(RT) mile Lanier Falls Trail, and the 2.1 mile Raven Rock Loop.  We completed the first two and left the park because frankly barbecue and the outlet mall were calling.  So a little about the park and the trails and then to the fun stuff.

Raven Rock State Park runs along the Cape Fear River and boasts of a new visitors center.  The building may be 2 years old but it still has that new construction smell.  It's manned and there is a museum inside.  I picked up a copy of the Jawbone Trail Cookbook which is a compilation of recipes from park staff, family, and friends.  Imagine a church cookbook, but instead of grandmother Sally's best punchbowl cake recipe you have park ranger John's recipe for bean burgers.  The park staff person shared with us the pros and cons of taking the loop in either direction.  We chose to go left where the loop begins so that we could do most of the uphill hiking before taking the Lanier Falls spur for lunch.  That also meant that the last portion of the hike was along Campbell Creek.  There's no avoiding the descent to the beginning of the loop or the climb back up it at the very end of the hike.  As always, going down was way more difficult than going up.  However this time I was wearing a knee brace which I think made it better for me in the end.

We had lunch at the end of the Lanier Falls spur down on some rocks.  When the water level is low, I suppose it would be easy to cross out to the boulders in the middle of the Cape Fear.  We saw a couple of young men traverse the "falls" to get to the rocks, but one of my friends noted that they definitely looked like they knew what they were doing.
Lanier Falls
 All in all the hike was a good workout and it was a gorgeous day in North Carolina.  Now on to the fun stuff.  We did laugh and challenge each other, but most of all we cut up.  The evidence is below.

Getting There
Riding along in her automobile...

Fuel: Coffee and a green smoothie (ask and I'll tell you what's in it)

Perhaps he was heading to the farm equipment auction we passed on Raven Rock Road.  Ladies take note, men bidding on farm equipment also drive really nice, amazingly shiny, large pickup trucks. 

Causing Another Park Guest to Crack Up
I don't know why that guy (not pictured) thought it was funny when one friend pointed out the benefits of a beaver as a husband (hard workers, build things, pretty fur etc.).
Excited About the Hobbit
Hobbit hunting!

Wait why do I have to squat so far when she could stand straight up under here?

Post Lunch Yoga Photo Shoot (Please note this sloping rock does not just run into the water.  There is a substantial drop off to the rapids below and we decided to do this anyway...).
Take the picture already.  This is not remotely close to level.  Oh hold your horses and straighten out that back leg.
That's all you're going to do?
Fine! Here's a hurt knee Warrior II.
That's not a smile friend.
If I lose my balance are y'all coming in to get me?  Sorry I'm not a strong swimmer but I will holler across the river to those folks fishing to see if they can help.
Hiking Hotness (with all this energy post hike we probably should have done the Raven Rock Loop but we felt this was a better use of our time)
Welcome to the wild side! The Zebra is just the beginning...
Sir what are you staring at? Don't all hikers stretch with their heads thrown back?
I know the state park system wants this one in their marketing materials.  We are a part of a...
Fun times were had by all and only six legged animals were harmed in the making of this weekend. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hikes: Kings and Crowder's

Last fall my first two hikes were at Kings Mountain National Military Park and Crowder's Mountain.  Both were enjoyable but Crowder's was a better experience for me for one main reason that I'll mention below.  First things first though - the hikes.

Kings Mountain National Military Park is along the North Carolina/South Carolina border.  We hiked the Brown Mountain Trail in and out for a total of 5 miles.  With the exception of a hill towards the end, the hike itself was not too strenuous.  This was the fall so the leaves were changing and falling.
The sky is amazingly clear in this picture considering the fact that it was cold and drizzly when I left my house at 6 a.m.

Crowder's Mountain is near Gastonia, North Carolina.  We hiked the Pinnacle Trail in and out for a total of 3.4 miles.  This hike was a bit more strenuous than Kings Mountain.  There was a climb towards the end of the trail going in that concluded in a scramble over some boulders.  I would have felt bad had I not completed the boulder scramble so I did it.  But I was beat and clearly, woefully, dreadfully OUT OF SHAPE.  The boulders at the end were not the only rocks we had to contend with.  This brings me to a decision I made after the Kings Mountain hike that made the Crowder's hike much better .
What do you mean I just have to scramble over this?
The payoff!

My feet were killing me after the Kings Mountain Hike.  I wore sneakers.  These sneakers are plenty supportive for cross training, walking, and jogging.  As a matter of fact they took me through the Bridge Run this past weekend.  They are not 3 hour shoes though.  RueLaLa put Columbia on Final Sale and I was able to snag hiking sneakers for a very small price.   So I went from this
Hurt feet!

To this!
Happy Feet!
I was constantly running my toe into rocks and boulders on the Crowder's hike and would have spent the remainder of Thanksgiving weekend nursing black and blue toes had I attempted to do this in regular sneakers.

Both hikes were instrumental in me committing myself to at least one hike a month and so despite drizzly weather and hurt feet, I was hooked.