The phrase generates a tone of animosity. Take a hike. Get outta here. GIT! Whereas, quite the contrary, it was an invitation. Getting away isn’t a bad thing. “Here” is the daily grind. Now you Blue Gritters might be getting confused. Isn’t ET all about that grit n’ grind? Well, of course. But we need to get away. From the routine, from the noise.
I'm talking a temporary escape (not leaving poor, little Timmy on the front porch with a baseball glove and empty promise). More of a regroup to get back to tackling the things that are your life.
It was my day off, sans daddy daycaring. I was envisioning a day of productivity. Chores. Yard. Car wash. Groceries. Lifting (GTL). Maybe even slotting aside a morning session of blogging at a coffee shop (hey!) But something was nagging at me. No. Do what you can’t do unless totally free. Untethered. Get away from your work. Your phone(s). Your social media, which bleeds directly into work (sorry Blue Grit, but it often does). Sigh. Anyone else feel compelled to “productive” all the time?
Well a hike is something I can’t do unless completely off the hook from my child and other responsibilities. But if I’ve gonna do it, I’m gonna do a good one. I’m going to make it count. I’d heard Mailbox Peak was a regional, well-reputed hike that was equal parts beautiful and challenging. 9.4 miles roundtrip, 4000 ft elevation gain. And there’s a real life mailbox at the top! Hard sell.
As much as I want to say I was all about it, committed from the get-go, I wasn’t. I hadn’t gotten out on the trails much lately, and as the avid Gritters out there know, I’m not much a fan of traditional cardio. It’s easy to come up with excuses. The total duration. I could get a good workout in faster, and get other “stuff” done. I still had to fit it in between daycare drop and pick up.. not to mention a drive out there and back. On top of that, what if I go super slow? How long is this supposed to take, anyway?
But alas, the morning of, I committed mentally, dropped the kid at daycare and hit the highway into the mountains. I resolved I would just have to maintain a solid, challenging pace and I’d be fine.
What I brought
Backpack with camelback, full-ish. Should have made it actually FULL.
Kid apple sauce pack
Low carb bar
Tupperware of “trail mix” which is really a hodge-podge of leftover kid snacks
Hiking poles (snow shoe set, like any good PNW suburbanite I own snow shoes, which I’ve used like 8 times)
Boots that were either not broken in yet or are just not great. What brand you ask? I dunno, Stupid-Stiff boot brand.
I was getting all pumped up. I had started my morning with coffee, one cup of which included a teaspoon of olive oil and half a scoop of protein powder. A modified version of Bulletproof Coffee meets Nick the Tooth’s Gorilla Coffee. Essentially just a bit of fat and tiny bit of protein to provide some satiation that should last a while if you are decently #fatadapted and not overexerting yourself. I’m by no means #keto , which becomes clear later… but I try to mix #lowcarb and #highcarb meals and days to promote #metabolicflexibility . (check out my IG for more on this)
*The before pic
Anywho, caffeine, sunny weather and driving on the freeway to beats like RZA, Rakim, and Redman (I wasn’t going for all R’s, but who doesn’t love a little alliteration (there we go again)) had me super amped up. I got to the trail and resolved to maintain as brisk of a pace as I could while maintaining nasal breathing.
I was moving at a good click (Like that, military dudes and dudettes? I have no idea what it means).
I started passing some people, which wasn’t as much inspiring as it was nerve-racking since I had no clue if I was pacing myself. I kept motivated with the goal of feeling isolated, so I had no choice but to leave others in the dust of my clickity clacking hiking poles, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let them catch up.
I got about an hour and a half in before I felt I was tanking ( #notketoadapted ) . I crushed a low carb bar that I won’t mention here due to its crappy ingredients and not wanting to give people the impression I’m promoting it. (maltitol, yuck).
I met some military peeps (gear was a dead giveaway). These youngins were good company, and I had lost some steam so I didn’t mind hanging. For the locals that know what’s up, the last ½ mile (according to some avid-ass mega hiker I saw walking back down) is just rocks. It’s a rock staircase, and then essentially a scramble upward.
I was already frustrated for bringing pretty stiff hiking boots. My heels were feeling to be in blister mode from going up the incline, and by the time we got to the Stairway to Hurtin’, my quads started locking up. I had flashbacks to high school cross country (preaching intense hydration) and then rolled my eyes to myself. I was sweating a storm and hadn’t prepped up the day prior.
I then had flashbacks to police bike patrol class, a weeklong certification course where I put more volume on my quads than I had in years. Then came a couple hour ride up and down hills… I was running a #ketodiet and the lack of carbs ran me straight into Bonkland and Legcramp Village.
Undetermined, I doubled-down on my arms and grip strength picking up the slack. The poles came in handy, and I turned the journey upward into a tricep workout (no gravy upper-arms here, ladies and germs). I told the young soldiers I’d see them at the top after telling them I’d connect with them about potential police careers (Always Be reCruiting).
* Hella rocks
I kept up the climb. Quads continued in and out of cramping, now my feet were completely aching). I tried to channel my inner Dave Goggins; he has an alter-ego, “Goggins” which knows no hurt, no quit, and no limits (if you don’t know, look him up NOW. He’s all over podcasts like Rogan, his book is fantastic, you get it). I figured this meant my alter-ego would be “Tungins” and found it wasn’t effective AT ALL as it sounded more like a Pokemon than an inner fiery demon of baddassery. Regardless, my mantra became putting one foot in front of the other, up a mountainside that seemed to know no end. I pounded a kid pouch of apple sauce which was like NOS (Fast/Furious OG fans, what’s up?).
Eventually, as you’ve probably guessed, it did have an end. I took my obligatory proof photos with the literal mailbox and found myself a little lookout to enjoy my stale-ass toddler trail mix. Pumpkin seeds, pork rinds, brown rice crackers and apricots. All stale. As if I wasn’t tired enough, now my jaw got a legit workout, especially having limited water supply left. But like any food after an arduous endeavor, whether exertion or fasting, it tasted amazing and I had no complaints.
I soaked it in the views and was happy with getting up in just over two hours. I don’t know if it was a good pace or not. But it felt good for me. I passed a bunch of young Army dudes (confirmed around 18 or so). Here I was, nearly double their age and doing okay. This isn’t to disparage them, they were doing much better than I would have done at 18. Turning 36 this month bears significant weight to me, I’m sure you’ll read about it in an upcoming post. All to say, I felt proud with my physicality at this age. It’s okay. We should be proud of ourselves at times.
After one more gaze into the horizon with a heavy dose of reflection, I resolved to start back down before my legs locked up. I kept on my water until it ran low and hoped for the best. My toes felt crushed with every step, my quads throbbed each minute on and off. One of my hip flexors felt pulled, as I kept waddling down the steep grade with awkward form. Tungins! Engage! You have almost five miles of this!
Sometimes you have to find comfort in discomfort. Sometimes you have to find pleasure in pain. I can do that lifting weights. Each set is usually only 8-20 seconds of grinding. The length of time for discomfort is pretty short. Cut to the hike. Each step down was uncomfortable at best. Painful at times even. But here’s the thing. It WAS easy. Because I had no choice. The trailhead wasn’t going to come to me. I had to return to it. When you don’t worry about things you can’t change, it all gets easier. I couldn’t change my situation, other than taking one step at a time, and playing around with what I was thinking about or how I walked. Not to mention, I had a timeline.. the kid wasn’t going to check herself out of daycare. Lezgo.
* After pic
I ended up varying my gait as well as sitting back on my heels, essentially holding a quarter squat down a lot of it. This took pressure off of my toes. Of course this sucked in a different way, but I told myself it made for a better workout. I also leaned into any flat or inclines to alter where the pressure was hitting. I thought about how I wish I brought a pair of light trail shoes.. then I pulled out my phone and made a note of it. Then I pondered if I would throw my flip flops on if they were with me. Maybe…
*Wondering if these were the kind of 'shrooms that make the schnozberries taste like schnozberries, or if they make my feet feel like they're on a bed of marshmallows.
Things I wish I Had on the Hike
Light trail shoes
Mustard packets (when the cramps hit, I thought about what endurance racers use. I would have downed a packet of two, no problem to get my legs looser)
Another packet of apple sauce (super hydrating and a nice easy boost)
More water in the camelback (I could have fit another pint or two if I had actually paid attention to it)
Bandages (absent the shoes, this might have helped. I saw another older dude patching his feet on the way down). *not Goggins approved
I would be lying if I said I didn’t periodically look down the hillside, trying to find a glimpse of roadway or flattened earth through the trees. I would lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I saw only faint lines of other trail switchbacks as my view continued down the slope. I switched up with bouts of jogging downhill, which felt great when the ground wasn’t too steep.
I gave everyone a greeting and words of encouragement that I had passed on the way up as I progressed back to start. A few asked how far it was. It was far. Too far for them to be asking. So I replied with a “man, I dunno, a long ways… but you got it!” as I hustled on down.
After about an hour and a half, I made it back to the roadway. Victory was mine, the clock was in agreement, and thoughts of my flip flops and some more water sounded like absolute wonder. Taking two hours up, I had hoped for a quicker descent, but there was no disappointment. I had accomplished what I set out to do.
Wonderful Post Hike Items in Car
Baby Wipes (for face, neck, feet)
Laptop (hidden under stroller and towel so I could hit a brewery and get some blogging done, and here we are..)
So that was the end. A task accomplished in respectable time and fashion. Physical exertion was achieved; mental fortitude was bolstered. I got into nature and soaked in amazing sights. I got to disconnect. And true to one of my ongoing goals, I added another experience to the tome that is my life. Sometimes you have to literally prescribe yourself what you need. And this was it.
And the icing on the cake? Since I pushed such a hard pace, I had time to stop at a new brewery on the way home to sip on a hazy pale and work on this post.
* Beer goes, words flow
Cheers, Blue Grit Nation. Now, take a hike.