Sunday, February 17, 2019

2.5 Miles

There were a couple of choices: red or yellow; left or right.

We went with yellow and took a left.

That was the trail that was supposed to be 2.5 miles. We didn't know how strenuous the hike would be or what we would run into, but 2.5 miles was completely doable. How bad could it be, right?

Fort Pillow State Park is about 40 miles north of my front door, up the Mississippi River. It was built in 1861, a fort on a bluff overlooking the river, making it ideal for the Confederates to do their thing and try to hold off Union soldiers. That didn't work well for the Confederates at first, but they got their fort back at the Battle of Fort Pillow, which is highly controversial in and of itself due to the number of African American soldiers killed.

Today, all that history was the backdrop of my second monthly road trip of 2019. My ride or die partner Krista and I planned to do some hiking, some photography, and a little birding (I can't help myself).

The trail started out easy enough. Even after a morning of pretty heavy rain, it wasn't too muddy. We chatted about life, goals, the soggy ground and how slow we were moving. No big deal though. We weren't in a hurry, just taking in the history, the nature and the calming quiet.

As relaxing as it was, the hike turned into a serious calorie burn when we reached the first hill. That slope was no joke as we crept upward, arms out for balance. Dead leaves covering the ground were saturated from the morning rain, offering no traction as they squished under our feet. We took some deep breaths, tried to find solid ground and pushed on.

Then the mud. We could see where hikers before us had put a foot down only to have it slide out from under them. We were no exception to mother nature's sloppy sense of humor. More than once, one or both of us misjudged the stability of the dirt and detritus and almost went flying.

It's a wonder neither of us ended up on our behinds.

WHY did we choose the yellow trail??

We caught our breath and kept walking. The trail dried out in some spots, and got soggier in others. And of course, there were more hills. We followed the yellow blazes and kept going left, certain we were walking in a giant circle back to the trailhead.

About 1.25 miles along, cell service kicked back in, so we checked our progress. The trail map loaded and reality became clear: the yellow trail was not 2.5 miles, but more than five, winding from the trailhead around the entire park and back to start.

Face palm. How? Hadn't the sign read 2.5?  It must have been a marker for the halfway point.

And so came another decision: hike the entire trail, or head back the way we came.

In the end, we turned around. We were not speedy and there was no way to know what was ahead or whether we would make it to the end by dark. Let me tell you, the trip back didn't take nearly as long as the hike out. Knowing what to expect made things a lot easier.

Despite the damp, chilly air, the soggy ground, and what seemed like "uphill both ways", I loved every second of it! We were surrounded by serenity and beautiful scenery, chirping birds, and at times, nothing but the sound of our feet on the muddy, mossy, rocky paths.

Trail takeaways:

  • I can't wait to hike the entire 5+ miles when the weather gets warmer (and greener).
  • I climbed up many hills today and not one of them defeated me. I was strong enough from start to finish, with plenty left in the tank for more!
  • I trusted my feet to carry me where I wanted to go, and they did not protest. No pain!  

That said, I'm going to hurt tomorrow.

Krista and the crazy tree

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