The Chances

How a 250+ Pound Couch Potato Got Healthy

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Feather Falls 7-24-10

Every time I hike to Feather Falls, I wax emotional about my ill-fated hike in 2003. I realize it gets repetitive, but it must be stated: it was significant. It's also become sort of a fitness indicator for me.

I also realize that I just had the same sort of experience two weeks ago on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Here's the thing though: I feel as though if I don't share these things, I'll forget. I'll forget how it felt to not be able to do what physical things I want to do, when I want to do them.

That brings us to Saturday's hike.

Shortly after I joined Pro Fitness, they posted a flyer around the gym promoting this hike. Little did they know that this is one of my favorite activities! I put my name on the sign-up sheet as #2 or #3.

As everyone assembled at the gym on Saturday morning, I started to realize that nobody had much hiking experience. Nobody but me had been to Feather Falls, so I became the lead car. A few people tried to name me the hike guide, but I explained to them that the trail was straightforward enough that a guide really wasn't necessary.

Chris, the owner of the club who also teaches my circuit training class on Wednesday mornings, came along. Debbie, the spin class instructor, was the organizer. Among the others were a bodybuilder and his girlfriend, an older woman with her 12-year-old granddaughter, Debbie's 5-year-old daughter, a 17-year-old girl, and a 19-year-old guy who looked to be in great shape. Before we left, Chris told me I could make fun of him as we hiked if I wanted.

At the trailhead, some of them were making fun of me for my gear. The bodybuilder called me "REI Guy", everyone wanted to know why I was carrying walking sticks, and Chris made some comments about my hat. We put on bug spray and sunscreen, I reset the GPS, and away we went.

Debbie wanted to know the opposite direction I've always taken along the trail, which was in the "hard" trail and out the "easy". I told everyone, the word "easy" isn't a good word for it, that "easier" is more appropriate. It's not quite easy, it's just easier than hard!

Once we started down the shorter, but harder trail, it became mostly downhill. I couldn't help myself and just punched on the gas. The signed trail says 3.3 miles, but it's closer to 3, and I decided that I wanted to make it to the falls in an hour.

I stopped to let the others catch up at the Bald Rock overlook, and to tell them about the Dome Trail, which leads to the bottom of the canyon and, if the river is crossable, over to Curtain Falls. The people who were hiking just behind me at that point were the 19-year-old guy, 17-year-old girl, a man I didn't remember when we started but obviously was there, and the 12-year-old son of a couple who met us at the trailhead.

I wish I remembered peoples' names! Everyone was keeping up, but the teenagers were struggling. The girl told me she didn't think it was going to be as difficult as it was. When we finally stopped at the trail convergence (it's a loop with the final half-mile leading to the overlook), we drank fluids, and I asked if everyone wanted to wait for the others. The man said no, let's go onto the overlook, so we did.

We made it to the overlook at 10:30, almost exactly an hour and a half after we started. The Garmin said that our moving time was an hour, meaning that I met my goal! This is the fastest I've ever made it to the falls.

After 10 minutes, a few others made it to the overlook. Everyone was astonished at the beauty of Feather Falls, the 6th highest waterfall in the continental US, and something extremely unusual outside of Yosemite.

After eating lunch and hydrating, Chris polled everyone to see who wanted to go to the top of the falls. Almost everyone wanted to go, except the older woman, her granddaughter, and another woman who had two children. I told them that if they headed back now, we'd meet them on the trail.

Once at the top of the trail, everyone's spirits lifted at the thought of a swim. I'm not sure why this is, but I'm just not into swimming on hikes, so I was the single holdout, while everyone else took a dip.

When Chris took off his shirt, I hate to say it, but his belly was every bit as big as mine. It actually made me feel good to realize that someone much fitter than me struggles with some of the same issues I do! The bodybuilder was reluctant to take his off, because, in his words, he had "moobs". Obviously I'm not alone with my issues!

2.5 hours later, we were ready to head back. I tried to filter some water, but my MSR pump wasn't working. I just used it on the Tahoe Rim Trail, but for some reason, it didn't work now! I had plenty of water in my hydration pack, but the other people didn't.

The bodybuilder started giving people crap, asking them if they wanted to run the entire way back. I'd been thinking of some trail running before, but now? It was on.

Once past the trail convergence, I asked the 17-year-old, do you want to run? She said no, and I said ok, I'm going to see how far I can make it, and headed down the longer, easier route.

I'll be honest though, it wasn't a perfect run by any means. I only ran 1/4 mile or so before hitting a hill, and my heart rate hit 160. I decided that I should slow walk up the hill. For the the next 2.5 miles, I ran down the hills and flats, while I walked uphill when it hit.

After we passed the Bald Rock sign, I was done running. Shortly thereafter, the others in my little group caught up with me. About a mile later, we caught up to the older lady, her granddaughter, and the woman with the two children.

When we were back at the vehicles, once again, it had taken us an hour and a half to hike the trail. It certainly seemed a lot longer! After about 15 minutes, everyone else started coming in.

Come to find out, Chris had only taken about 20 ounces of water. The other people were in similar situations, so everyone was dehydrated. They had some extra water in the vehicles, so they were able to drink plenty. I think next time, they'll bring more.

Overall it was a great trip. I've been sore today in my hip flexors, something that hasn't been a problem before, and I think it's from the trail running. I need to get some trail runners, so if anyone has suggestions, by all means, let me know.

I'm also hoping this isn't the last hike the gym will put on. It was great fun.

From Twitter 07-24-2010

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