Please help.

I am training to do a one-day 28.3 mile hike in support of children's cancer research -- and I plan to do the entire hike BAREFOOT! Please SPONSOR ME in the Ultimate Hike and help support this great cause. Thanks!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Catching Up

Resting at Moore's Knob in Hanging Rock State Park
The big weekend is finally here!  The Ultimate Hike is tomorrow!  It's a good thing that I've done a better job training for the hike than I did blogging about the training.  Things got extra busy with family, work and training so the blog had to take a back seat.  Let me try to catch you up a bit on how things have gone for me over the last 2 months. 

When I last left you, my longest hike to date was 11.5 miles and I had just finished a chilly, wet short hike of 6 miles.  Over the next 8 weeks I managed to get in one long hike each weekend with progressively longer mileage each week.  The one notable exception was that I missed our team's longest training hike of 20 miles because I can down with a bad sinus infection and cold.  As a result, my longest training hike was 17 miles (which was followed by another 5 miles on each of the next 2 consecutive days).  I'll find out tomorrow whether that's going to be enough to get through the 28.3 mile Ultimate Hike.  There are options for shorter distances if that becomes necessary.  My plan is to push on through being tired and sore, but stop short of getting injured.

Here are a few highlights from some of those training hikes.

These pictures are from a 14 mile out-and-back which included a couple of miles of off-trail hiking each way.  The bare feet held up well even off trail on the way out.  On the way back I was with a small group that had gotten a little bit lost and I opted to put on my light sandals for the off-trail part so I didn't slow down the group as we tried to find our way back.  Once we made it back to the trail I went back to bare feet.

These pictures are from my longest training hike -- 17 miles.

This final group of pictures are from the beautiful elevation hike we did at Hanging Rock.  The picture at the start of this blog post was also from that hike.  It was 14 miles with quite a bit of climbing.  I did fine on the uphill.  I found the downhill very challenging.  I am told tomorrow's hike won't have any elevation changes of this magnitude.  Thank goodness for that!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Barefoot Limits

The end of a rainy 6 mile hike.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is whether I go barefoot in the cold and snow.  You'd already know the answer to this if I had posted that Barefooting FAQ I promised. --  It's coming soon.  Really.

The answer is, "It depends."  Not a very satisfying answer, I know, but an honest one.  If it's snowy or icy outside and I just have to walk a short distance, such as from the parking lot to a building, I'm fine going barefoot.  If the air temperature is at or near freezing but there is a strong sun and I'm on pavement I find, surprisingly, that it's actually warmer to be barefoot than to be shod!  The pavement holds the heat from the sun and warms my feet. 

Waterproof SealSkinz Socks
However, if it is in the 40s (°F), rainy, wet and I'm on the trail, I find that the earth will suck the heat right out of my feet.  If the ground isn't too saturated, the rain is light, it's still daylight and I'm moving quickly on a vigorous hike or trail run I can do OK barefoot.  If, on the other hand, I'm hiking in cold, rainy conditions and have to wade through sections of trail under water as I did today, that's when I pull out my trusty waterproof SealSkinz (aka Hanz) socks.  They feel like a normal thick pair of socks and provide a hiking experience closer to barefoot than any "barefoot" shoe can offer.  To be clear, I'm talking about wearing JUST the socks, no shoes.  Of course, the socks aren't designed for this type of use and they have some limitations.

Hiking in waterproof socks today.
My first pair bit the dust after a very cold night hike that included a lot of jagged gravel.  It wore several holes in the soles.  The socks don't have much traction so it's important to be extra careful on slippery, muddy trail conditions.  And, of course, they aren't going to last hundreds of miles.  But the winters in NC tend to be fairly mild and with some fair weather planning for hikes I can avoid having to use them often so they last long enough to make them worth the cost for me.

Steps along the trail during a break in the rain.
But training for the Ultimate Hike means following the training plan regardless of weather.  Today, that meant meeting the team on a cool, rainy Saturday morning for a 6 mile hike on a section of the NC Mountain to Sea Trail.  Despite the rain and temps in the 40s I was doing OK barefoot for most of the first mile.  Then we hit a section of the trail where there were so many unavoidable large puddles that the trail might as well have been submerged.  At that point I hit my barefoot limit.  I finished the rest of the hike wearing my waterproof socks.  They held up well and my feet were toasty warm and dry after 5 more miles of mud and deep puddles. 

View of the Eno River during today's hike.


Thanks to our wonderful Ultimate Hike leader, Joe Miller, for the pictures of today's hike!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Long Hike: 11.25 miles at Bond Park

Bridge on the Lake Trail
I haven't done a true long hike since before vacation so it was long past due.  I went to a local park yesterday for a solo hike and covered a total of 11.25 miles, my longest distance ever.  I carried a 12 pound pack for the first 8 miles then dropped off the pack before finishing the last loop.  The weather was fabulous for hiking, sunny and mid 60s (°F).  There were lots of birds and flowers along the path, reminding me that despite the recent drop in temps that it's finally spring.  Enjoy the pictures.

Sunshine on the creek

Love the color of this feather found on the trail

The lake in the background

Azaleas in bloom

Considering whether to go for a swim.

The path winding along the lakeside

Pretty wild flowers

A few ducks around the kayaks and canoes

Beautiful blue spring sky

Taking flight

My special gift from a sweet young boy
Near the end of my hike I came across a young boy about 2 or 3 years old out with his father.  The boy was running joyfully through the park.  I smiled at them and the boy ran straight up to me as if he had known me all his life.  He held out his hand to show me an acorn cap he was holding.  He said something that I'm sure was incredibly important though not quite decipherable to my ears.  I smiled and commented encouragingly.  He made it clear that he wanted to give the acorn cap to me.  I took it gratefully and told him how special it made me feel that he wanted to share this gift with me. 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Elevation Hike: 5 Miles at Occoneechee Mountain

At the overlook with the Eno River behind me
Occoneechee.  It's fun and easy to say: O-ka-nee-chee.  Try it.  Occoneechee, Occoneechee, Occoneechee, Occoneeeeeeecheeeeeee!

But the other half of the name -- Mountain?  We don't have mountains in the piedmont!???

I had never heard of Occoneechee Mountain until it was posted as a hike location for my local meet-up group.  About 50 hikers from the group met at Occoneechee last Sunday to enjoy a wonderful afternoon hiking together in the sunshine.  Occoneechee Mountain is in the Triangle area of NC, just a little more than a half hour from my home.  We have hills around here, but I wasn't aware of any mountains (and you'd think a mountain would be something that you notice).  So I was surprised to discover something near home with "mountain" in it's name.

The group gathering at the trail head ready to hike.
For those of you that live around actual, proper mountains, our little bump reaching an elevation of 867 ft might seem laughable.  But as the highest point in the NC piedmont it offers a real opportunity to do some elevation training close to home in preparation for the Ultimate Hike.  It's not hiking 28 miles in one day that concerns me (though that's still more than twice my longest hike to date so I know I've got a lot of work ahead of me), it's hiking that 28 miles IN THE MOUNTAINS that makes me wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew.  How can I train for that in the piedmont?

The Answer: Occoneechee Mountain.  The backside of the main trail at Occoneechee includes a climb of over 300 vertical feet in less than a half mile.  Believe me, after several ascents up that incline on this hike, my calf muscles were easily convinced that the word "mountain" belongs in the name.  Occoneeeeecheeeeee!

Looking up at the summit from a short way down at the old rock quarry.
We started with the main 2.2 mile outer loop and then added in a few side trips and inner loop to get in 5 miles of hiking.  It was a great hike with some beautiful views and gorgeous weather.  I made a lot of new friends from the meet-up group.  A few people took interest in my barefoot hiking and accepted one of my carabiners in exchange for a promised donation to CureSearch.  I'm giving a big shout out to Carol for being the first of the group to make a donation.  Thank you so very much!!!

Following the trail along the Eno River.

Enjoying the scenery from the top of a big rock before the main ascent.

View of the Eno River from the rock.

Second day in a row with some barefoot rock climbing. :)

Made it down safely.  Now up to the summit.

Seriously?  We have these in the piedmont?!!  I had no idea!

Enjoying the view from the overlook.  What a great day!


PS -- If you're wondering what ever happened to that Barefooting FAQ I promised, I haven't forgotten.  I'll get that posted within in the next 2 weeks.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

On Belay

My daughter taking a break on the ledge
I took my daughter to our local indoor rock climbing gym yesterday so she could take a belay class.  We used to go to the gym often to climb but haven't gone much over the last year.  Now that she's old enough to belay I thought it would be a good time for us to resume the activity.  It's also a good way for me to stay active while training for the Ultimate Hike.

In case you're not familiar with rock climbing terms, here's how belyaing works. One end of the climbing rope is attached to the harness of the climber.  The belayer stands on the ground with the other end of the rope threaded through a belay device on the belayer's harness.  It's the job of the belayer to exert friction on the climbing rope so that a falling climber doesn't fall very far.  In the picture to the left my daughter is the climber and I'm the belayer (not shown) at the other end of the rope.

My daughter did great in the class and quickly learned how to belay.  The first several times she belayed for me I had her catch me in a fall while I was still low on the wall.  She did well each time.  It didn't take long before we were both confident in her abilities and I was scrambling to the top of the wall, literally putting my life in her hands.  We took turns climbing/belaying, had a great time and got in a good work out.

Later in the afternoon, we joined some friends at a local park where there is an outdoor man-made climbing boulder.  We hadn't planned to do more climbing that day but we didn't shy away at the opportunity.  Bouldering, which occurs at lower heights, doesn't require ropes so no one had to belay.  Just grab on to the rock and climb!

I do wear rock climbing shoes when I'm at the climbing gym because they require it.  When I'm bouldering at the park I climb barefoot.
Barefoot bouldering at our local park.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!

You know it's spring in NC when everything is suddenly covered in a  thick yellow-green layer of pollen.  It may be true that a rolling stone gathers no moss, but it turns out that bare feet on a hike do gather pollen.

I joined a local meet-up group for a fitness hike yesterday after work.  We covered 7.5 miles at a pace of about 3.4mph, which is a good clip for me.  I was carrying a 10 pound day-pack.  There was no time to stop for pictures during the hike.  Back at the trailhead several people asked me about barefoot hiking.  I looked down at my feet and discovered they were covered in pollen.  It was probably also true of everyone's shoes but not nearly as noticeable.  The hike organizer snapped this picture and shared it on the meet-up page.

I answered several questions about barefoot hiking.  A couple people said they might give it a try.  One thing everyone wanted to know is if my feet ever get cut while hiking barefoot. (Answer: One small cut in 4 years of barefoot hiking -- knock on wood.) Ironically, my feet made it through this hike fine but I cut my finger getting into my car to drive home.  Perhaps I should think about wearing gloves to protect my hands?


Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Carabiner Campaign

Did you get one of these carabiner keychains?  Please read on...

It's not uncommon while I'm out hiking the trails or walking around town for passers-by to stop me and inquire about my bare feet.  It occurred to me that I could use these opportunities to spread the word about the Ultimate Hike and CureSearch

I had considered getting business cards made but ultimately decided to get some carabiner keychains printed with this blog address so I could hand them out to people who showed interest in learning more.  They're easy to clip-on and carry, even if you're on the trail when we meet.  They're useful to hikers and non-hikers alike and there's no paper waste.  And when you get home the carabiner will be there, visible, reminding you to go on-line and find out more about the crazy barefoot lady who's doing that really long hike to help fund childhood cancer research.

The down-side is that the carabiners are much more expensive than business cards.  The cost is coming out of my own pocket, not from any of the funds donated to CureSearch.  The good folks at provided me a discount on the carabiners since they are for charity but they are still a significant cost to me.  It is a risk.  I could have donated the cost directly to the cause.  My hope is that the carabiners will generate far more funds for CureSearch than the price I paid for them.

Please help make my "Carabiner Campaign" successful.  If you're here because you accepted one of my carabiners, please consider sponsoring me in the Ultimate Hike by making a donation.  Look at the great work CureSearch is doing.  See how highly rated they are as a charity.

Consider that a carabiner keychain similar to the one I gave you would cost you $5 to buy at REI.  Perhaps you can donate $5 today?  Perhaps more?

Childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States. Every day, 42 children are diagnosed with cancer and the average age of diagnosis is 6. Cancer affects all ethnic, gender, and socio-economic groups and more than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year.

All types of childhood cancers combined receive only 4% of federal funding for cancer research.  Pharmaceutical companies allocate almost no funds toward childhood cancer research because childhood cancer drugs are not profitable.  This is why private organizations like CureSearch are so important to finding a cure for childhood cancers.

Whether or not you choose to donate, I thank you for stopping by and learning more.  Make good use of the carabiner -- and walk around barefoot every once in a while to feel like a kid again!