Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ridley Creek State Park, Oct 25, 2009

...or, I Hiked and It Didn't Kill Me.

[Apologies in advance about the smudged pictures - I didn't realize until after we were done that the lens of my otherwise reliable digital camera was badly smudged on one side]

With the weather forecast for this coming Wednesday looking iffy, and being anxious to get out and hike somewhere, I called Dave this morning and told him that I was thinking of heading over to Ridley Creek State Park for a while. The day was looking nice from a weather perspective, with highs expected in the low sixties, and the leaves were very colorful in the woods behind my house. Dave said he had been thinking the same thing, and we agreed to meet at parking area #9 at 12:30 and kill a few hours.

I arrived at about 12:20 and got my shoes on, threw a few snacks and drinks into my day pack, and waited for Dave to arrive. I was wearing shorts, a poly short sleeve shirt as a breathable base layer and a t-shirt. I had a fleece vest in my pack, more for bulk than out of any need, and figured I would be ditching the t-shirt soon. I would be carrying a single trekking pole, more for fun than necessity. As a kid in the woods around home, I always liked picking up a walking stick, so why not...

While waiting for Dave, I admit to being a little apprehensive. I've spent way too much of my adult life sitting behind a desk or on a couch, and wasn't sure how my legs would react to even a modest bit of fairly easy hiking. Not worried; just a little apprehensive.

Dave arrived promptly at 12:30 and after a few minutes of small talk, off we went. He knows the park pretty well and has hiked most of it, so I said go wherever you want at whatever pace you want and I'll try to stay behind you. The goal was to fill about 3 hours.

The First Third - Lot #9 to Sycamore Mills
We went down the blue trail from parking area #9 to the creek itself, and then turned right and followed the white trail along the creek for a little bit before the trail turned and headed back uphill away from the creek. [The first bit of this, down the blue trail to the creek is what I walked with Julia and Grace a few weeks ago.] We talked a bit at times, but the weather was perfect, the woods were quiet, and Dave and I both seemed content to walk in silence as often as not, soaking in the sounds of the stream, the birds and the breeze in the leaves. There were a few others on the trails (mainly with dogs), but not too many. At this point I'm feeling great, having a blast, and very happy to be out in the woods. The new shoes are incredibly comfortable and seem to require no breaking in at all, which is a relief.

At the top of the hill, we turned left onto the yellow trail and followed it to a spur trail through the corner of Tyler Arboretum and downhill to the Sycamore Mills Historic Area on the creek. We rested for a minute and turned around to head back.

The Middle Third - Sycamore Mills to Lot #16

Climbing back out of the stream valley, we doubled back the way we had come on the spur trail and rejoined the yellow trail heading left along the edge of the arboretum. After a while we made a left on the white trail to loop around south of lot #17. I'm still feeling wonderful, the day is perfect, and I am being careful to take the time to look around and enjoy the sights, of which there are many.

There were a number of things I noticed throughout the day. Moving from area to area, the types and colors of leaves on the ground changed noticeably. We went through patches of a specific kind of yellow leaf, then different shaped yellow leaves, then red maple leaves, then one stand of very tall scraggly looking evergreens of some sort, and so on. Dave and I both agreed that it would be nice to learn a little bit more about the different kinds of common trees in the area so that we would know what we were looking at. All we could do today was say "hey, these yellow leaves are different than those other yellow leaves we went through a while back". Also, there were some birds out and about, but I was surprised at how relatively few we heard. At one point we heard and saw a screechy blue jay right above our heads, and I think he was trying to drop berries on our heads, but it was certainly not a forest full of birdsong today.

The Final Third - Lot #16 back to Lot #9
We arrived at lot #16 at around 2:20, or 1 hour and 50 minutes into our day. From the area of lot #16, we used a combination of red and white trails to get back to the blue trail, which we would follow down a feeder stream valley back down to Ridley Creek, meeting up with the trail we had started on. From there, we would double back on the white trail to where we had originally joined it not far from lot #9, and would loop around the hill that lot #9 sits on, climbing up to it from the far side and completing our hike.

At lot #16, beginning the final third of our hike, I am feeling like a million bucks, and think I could do this all day.

Maybe 10 minutes later, we have reached the blue trail for the descent down the feeder stream valley. It is a nice section of trail, with large groves of beautiful beech trees (one of the few types Dave knows). We stop for a minute to watch a chipmunk running along with a nut in its mouth, and when we start moving again, I realize that my right knee is a little sore. Nothing serious, but I know it's there, and feel a little twinge with every step along this section of downward-sloping and side-sloping trail. When we rejoin the white trail at the base of the hill and are on mostly level ground, it bothers me less, but I am still aware of it. The final few hundred yards up the white trail to the back side of lot #9 is really the only strenuous climb of the day, and even at that was very short, but was really the only point in the day where I felt even slightly winded.

In summary, it was a great day, my new equipment seems to be good, and I think I held up ok for not being in the greatest of shape. My feet feel perfect, ankles are good, hips are good, leg muscles are good. The only issue is a sore right knee, which while not bad, is certainly noticeable. Left knee is fine. While typing up this recap on my laptop, I am sitting in bed with an icepack on my knee, and will be interested in how it feels tomorrow.

Most importantly, I really enjoyed myself.

UPDATE (Monday 10/26) - I woke up and my knee felt ok. As I began moving around, though, it is definitely still sore. Nothing horrible, but noticeable. Now I am wondering how long it will be like this, and how easily it might get back to feeling like this when getting active again. We shall see.

1 comment:

  1. Very fun hike, and a nice trip report. I'm sorry about your knee today - we were probably a little over-ambitious for your first time out....

    Looking forward to hiking together again.