Standing Indian Loop, Take 3

(I didn’t write about Take 2, so you didn’t miss a post!!)

I leave for New Hampshire in 21 days. That’s insane!! I’m obviously freaking out a little bit, and needed to get into the woods this weekend to see if my legs would hold up.

Since I last wrote, I’ve done Standing Indian a second time

And met up with some internet folks in Georgia for an AT/Benton Mackaye hike.

I drove to Standing Indian after work. I had a rental RAV4 the last time I came up here, and sleeping in the back of my Prius C after the spaciousness of the RAV4 was…disappointing. Between a summer cold and a cramped backseat and a metal loop sticking in my hip, my Apple Watch said I only got 4 hours of restful sleep.

But Saturday morning came and I was up at 6am, and hiking by 6:30, powdered donuts in hand. My plan was to hike 25ish miles, or until 7pm, whichever came first.

Regardless of how far I’m going, I always plan on only going 2mph. This means I don’t have to account for elevation or breaks or picture stops. If everything went well, I should make my 25 miles no problem. The real test would be my feet, my knees, and my desire to keep walking.

I had some new gear on this trip. The biggest one was my new pack- a 35L framed bag by Superior Wilderness Designs. I’d picked out everything I wanted, and then waited 9 very long weeks for it to arrive. I’ll probably ditch the remaining hip belt pouch for my fanny pack, but it’s great that they’re removable, so I can always stick it back on if I want.

I’d recently replaced my hiking poles after the locks got rusted and difficult to adjust. And I had a new umbrella and poncho combination I’d pull out in case of rain.

Well friends, it didn’t rain. It was bright and sunny and hot all day. And this pale redhead forgot a hat.

I watched this little bird grab some dead leaves for a nest. He worked hard at tugging them free!

The wildflowers were blooming and it felt like summer. Honestly, it was beautiful out.

I stopped for a long break at Standing Indian Mountain. The blue blaze up to the summit was definitely worth it.

It’s been about 3 weeks since I’ve hiked this loop (this is my third trip; I didn’t write about my second trip). In that time, the bubble has moved on and the trail was largely empty. It was a nice change from the crowds the last two times I was here.

I also felt completely unhurried. I spent over an hour and a half at a shelter, just resting and eating and helping a first-time hiker with her feet. There’s something very liberating about planning to spend your whole day hiking. Usually I feel pressure to get done by 4pm, make sure I claim a good spot, feel like I can’t rest until my “work” is over, forget that the sun sets later, I don’t know. But today I was planning on hiking until 6:30, so why did I need to hurry? Besides, I was tired and struggling with sunburn, so time in the shade from 12:30-2:30 was probably wise.

But I hiked on, determined to at least get over Albert Mountain. I stopped for water and a quick rinse off just before Albert Mountain. It was hot, but with so much sun I needed to keep long sleeves on. I was sweaty.

I did hike with my umbrella for shade for a while, but I need to work on how it’s attached so I can hopefully go hands-free.

I tried to do a time lapse of the climb up Albert Mountain but it didn’t go well. More experimenting to come 🙂

Once on top, I ate. And drank all of my water. And ate more.

I thought I might stop at the shelter 2 miles down from Albert Mountain, but it was early when I got there, so I kept hiking.

And wouldn’t you know, I was at Glassmine Gap, my turnoff to get back to my car, by 6:15.

That made 22 miles down, and just a couple more to get to my car. I did some quick math, decided getting home by 11:30 pm sounded good, and set off.

It was around mile 20 that I started to get hot spots in my new shoes. I’d done pretty well avoiding fatigue in my feet, so that was great. But it appears I can’t have it all. I have another pair of shoes to try out (maybe a quick trail run in Tennessee next weekend when I’m up at the lake), but likely, the La Sportiva UltraRaptors will be my New Hampshire shoes. They’re burly enough for rocks, super sticky, and comfortable. And despite the hot spots, no blisters!

I made it to my car, changed pants, chugged some water, and headed home. The mental hurdle has been cleared. 25 miles is completely doable. I have 21 more days to make sure my knees are in the best condition they can be in, but I don’t have that sort of panicky feeling I used to. I’ll be fine. New Hampshire is just another state to walk.

I am currently planning on a Memorial Day weekend trip, one last chance to test gear and put in some miles. I’m not 100% sold on the idea, so…until Memorial Day hike or New Hampshire, whichever comes first!!

Miles: 25!!

MVP: new pack. Love it.

LVP: honestly…my pale, easily burned skin? Idk, I feel like we held together pretty well in general. Feet were ok, knees were ok…my ring broke (it’s ok, it was $2, but I really liked it) so I guess I’ll say my ring.

Calico Tanks: Red Rocks Canyon

So I just got back from Las Vegas. I know- if you’re following closely, that’s Pennsylvania to Virginia to Tennessee to Mexico to Tennessee to Virginia to Nevada. All since January! (Technically I guess I was already in Virginia by January 1, but let’s go with it, ok?)

Quite a life for an engineering student.  
This trip had a specific purpose though. My school has been selected to host one of three ASME E-fests in the world this April, and one of the other two was taking place at UNLV, so I, along with another student and two incredible administrators from the Mechanical Engineering department, went on a benchmarking trip. 

But because of how our flights worked, we had a bit of extra time, so Josh, the other student, and I headed out to Red Rocks Canyon on Sunday afternoon. 

How did we make this happen? Well, I googled “best day hikes near Las Vegas” and did a lot of reading. And then I googled “how much is an uber to red rocks canyon Nevada”. And then I asked a bunch of Lyft drivers how much it would cost, checked the Lyft app, tried to compare it to the cost of renting a car (but the hotel Enterprise was completely sold out, so we scrapped that), and then googled “Best red rocks trails” and did a lot of reading. 
It sounds like a lot of work, but all in all it wasn’t much more than what I would have done for a weekend section, I guess. Being completely unfamiliar with the area made it a little more difficult. 
We decided on Calico Tanks, a trail rated “moderate.” That was a solid choice, as it turns out. Lots of rock scrambles! 

The trail was utterly foreign. As Josh and I set off, we remarked on how different it felt from the trails back home. Josh doesn’t hike the AT like I do, but he’s spent some time in the Smokies and like most Tennesseans, he’s spent a lot of time in the woods- walking between trees and creek hopping, wandering for the sake of wandering. It is, I think, what draws most of us together in the engineering department. We may not all be athletic (though some are), and we may not all be hunters (though some are), and we may not all consider ourselves outdoorsy (though some are), but we all appreciate time outside for no other purpose than time outside, it seems. 

I have found that to be universally true. 

Anyways, the day was warm, with a bright sun and a vividly blue sky that drew all moisture from your skin. The “dry heat” thing is true. Where the heat in the South will settle on you, a warm, heavy blanket; out west it’s light and pulls your breath out of you. No matter though. We took the time to drink water and appreciate the sights. 

The trail was an out and back, and once we’d done our out and back, we followed calico 1 and 2 down to the visitor center (closes at 4:30) and then to the gate to wait for our ride. Once night fell, the heat of the sun was gone. It disappeared from the asphalt even. It was chilly, and there weren’t many stars to watch. 

All of the light was down on Fremont Street, I guess. 

So, if you wondered how much I could write about 7 miles, or how many pictures I could take, now you know!

Miles: 7ish

MVP: water

LVP: some dude with a drone