Monday, April 15, 2013

Laguna Mtns PCT Training Hike

Sunday, April 14 - 5:30pm:  I wanted to write this post while I'm still conscious. Sitting at the computer isn't too much of a strain, but the two balls of meat at the end of my legs are throbbing incessantly, reminding me that merely standing up would be painful.

Just 3 hours off of a 2-day backpack trip, I'm more sore and have more blisters than I can literally ever recall in my life.

It all starting out innocently enough: Two gorgeous weekend days on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), mostly downhill from the Burnt Rancheria campground in the Laguna Mountains to Lake Morena back down at desert altitude. About 22 miles.

We would be self-contained, carrying tents, sleeping bags, food, stoves, and water in our 35-45lb. packs, but it all seemed to fall into place. One of our ASMs (asst. scoutmasters) would take the drivers & cars down to the rendezvous point at the end of the hike (and bring them back to the start). We were committed. ;-)

The point of the trip was to continue training for our mondo Philmont Scout Ranch trek taking place starting in late July for 9 days in Northern New Mexico, near Cimarron, NM

Then reality set in: The original campground was closed on Friday night, despite several assurances by government officials.  This prompted us to camp at the Laguna/El Prado campground, some 3 miles downhill from our original starting point.  The crowded campground was a bit noisy and the ground was a bit "slopey" there, but most of us reported getting some sleep.

On the trail.
Our legs were fresh the next morning so the uphill climb was merely, *ahem*, invigorating. Then the downhill stretch came into play. Dave, the hike leader, had met the night before with some of the ASMs to re-route us to a new campground for Saturday - Cibbets Flat campground - then downhill on Sunday winding by Kitchen Creek Falls to the cars at a new location - Boulder Oaks off of Old Highway 80. I was familiar with some of the latter area having motorcycled through it a lot over the years.

Rest stop.

I knew the downhill portions were going to result in sore knees and quads, and probably some blisters, but didn't think too much about my toenails. I had left them a little too long and my big toes were smashing into the front of my boots just enough to be a real problem. I had purchased some high-tech teflon powder for my socks and toes to keep the blistering to a minimum, but these mostly failed. I'm going back to sock liners.

Just what you want to see...
We arrived in Cibbets Flat about 4pm after nearly 13 miles on the trail - long day!  My favorite sign was the one about avoiding "unexploded ordinance."  We'd also passed a lot of hikers who were planning to hike major portions of the PCT as well as trail runners traveling fast and light.

Arriving in the afternoon gave us plenty of time to set up camp, relax, eat dinner and commiserate about our various injuries before retiring. I think my head hit the sack at about 7:30pm and other than a couple of twists and turns in the mummy bag I didn't wake up until dawn!

On Sunday, the plan was to do an easy 8 miles down to the cars with a side trip to the Falls. The state of my feet though made this segment anything but easy. The toenail on my right foot was in miserable pain, while my left foot had a massive blister on the sole behind the big toe and a pinky toe looking a bit like hamburger. It was going to be a long day. ;-/

Video: On the trail!

On these hikes, we designate a pace-setter (hike leader) and a navigator. The rest of us just fall in line. So... with the rapid recovery of the boys after the previous day, they set a torrid pace coming right out of the blocks. Several of us old guys were hard pressed to keep up, probably resulting in the additional knee pain I'm feeling right now!  The sights and skylines over the desert were beautiful however and compensated somewhat.

Ethan showing off his bouldering skills.

Meal time at Cibbets Flat campground.

Gorgeous coastal desert vistas.

After a short side-trip to Kitchen Creek Falls (which I passed on), in the end we made it to Boulder Oaks Campground. Everyone was relieved and talk quickly turned to milkshakes and hamburgers in Pine Valley. As usual, Major's 50's style Diner did not disappoint!

Trailing down towards Kitchen Creek.

Coming away from this, it's clear that if Philmont is to be enjoyable for Ethan and I much more training is needed. Stamina wasn't a problem, but making sure the feet are in good shape over the long haul will be critical. It will come down to simply putting training miles on our bodies *with pack weight* as often as possible.

Dave memorializes the trek.

Me and Lewis on the trail.

Da Boys.


Jody said...

Oh my gosh, so sorry about your feet. Hope my nephew did better through this!

Kevin La Rue said...

Oh yeah, he was totally fine on the hike. Strong, tireless, etc. Although this morning he DID have a big 'ol blister on his pinky toe. ;-)