I had originally planned to build trail with the Ozark Trail Association, (OTA), this past weekend, but it was cancelled due to inclement weather in the forecast. As a result, I saw a perfect opportunity to do some rain hiking to test my gear and skills. Embracing the suck was my attitude going forward. This took place on the Taum Sauk Trail, which is a part of the Ozark Trail, (OT). Many refer to this trail as the stairmaster from hell, due to it’s steep ascents and descents, along with intense rocky terrain as a bonus. I had hiked this trail last Fall and it totally kicked my ass and water sources were limited. That was certainly not the case this time.
I slept in my van at the trailhead the night before as 2.5 inches of rain fell during a adrenaline happy thunderstorm. I stepped onto the trail at 7:00 am the next morning and began the best hike I have ever experienced. The trail itself was stream-like, and after a short distance, I accepted that my feet were going to be wet. I forded powerful, gushing streams that day hikers wouldn’t even contemplate. Sometimes, I found myself stomping in trail water and finding a childlike amusement doing so. Many times, while walking in the pure ecstasy of Nature, I was experiencing tears welling up in my eyes to a rapture like joy. The whole experience was so invigorating, that there were no breaks in the ascents. And the descents were adrenaline filled challenges, knowing that one mistake could be detrimental.
I came upon four guys in their early twenties that looked like they were in good shape. They seemed to be struggling, except for one of them. He nodded his head and flashed me a casual peace sign, and instantly I knew that he totally ‘got it’ and was embracing the suck. One of the others seemed puzzled and asked: ‘why do you seem to be faring better than we are’? I assume that he was referring to ‘them’ as being thirty years younger than myself. Fifty-five is the new twenty, I thought to myself, but replied: ‘I’m just really enjoying this whole experience’. We departed with happy hiking like goodbyes and I continued with more pep in my step from that moral boosting exchange.
Flashback to last October… my pack weight and my body weight was 15 pounds heavier. Hiking this same trail, but in only one direction, had taken an afternoon and 9 hours the following day. My soreness that followed was debilitating for a couple of days. > This past weekend’s journey had been an out and back in basically the same time frame. And my soreness is almost unnoticeable today. I hate to toot my own horn so I’ll just briefly bump it in saying that my conditioning seems to paying some handsome dividends.
I feel as though I’m as ready as I can physically be to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. But the main ingredient will be how psychologically conditioned I am. This past weekend I discovered that by embracing the suck and knowing why I’m going to hike 2,189 miles in the wilderness, which I’ll explain in another post, will definitely play a huge advantage while I attempt to be successful at roughly 5 million goals (steps) that are coming up in 27 days.
These pics can’t possibly describe what I actually experienced, but do enjoy them nonetheless.