They Don’t Call It Killermonjaro for Nothing

While I was away, my friend Chelli decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this summer. To get in climbing shape she’d been taking Mrs. Rootchopper and other friends on hikes in the Catoctin Mountains and on Sugarloaf Mountain. Yesterday, a day that will live in humidity, I joined the fun as the gang returned to Sugarloaf.

Sugarloaf has been the scene of two of my past misadventures. Five years ago I hiked the yellow trail with a ninja and a golden retriever. The experience left me cripple for days, and oddly marked the beginning of the end of an eight-year friendship. Another time I rode bikes around the base of the mountain with Science Mom. She somehow managed to end up falling ungracefully into a mud puddle. Our friendship survived even with her temporary loss of face.

Getting back to yesterday, Chelli parked strategically below the peak of the mountain. We started hiking upward on the blue trail, transitioned to the purple trail, and returned to the blue trail. After forty seven miles, we stopped at the white rock overlook to munch on pita sammies that Chelli had prepared. Paul chipped (sorry) in some Nacho Cheese Doritos. It was a lovely view and even lovelier breeze. 

Somehow the hike managed to seem all uphill. It took three hours and at least five gallons of sweat. Did I mention the humidity was off the charts?

 

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Hiking with sticks on Sugarloaf – photo by sneaky Chelli

A few years ago I did a hike in Shenandoah National Park with Kirstin. She used hiking poles and highly recommended them. On a whim, I bought a pair of poles on sale this spring. I have to say they are a big improvement over pole-less hiking. They kept me from turning my ankles and from putting excess impact stress on my knees and back. It only took about a mile for me to get used to them. When the hike was over, my wonky knee and hip didn’t have their usual crippling pain. I’d been wary of hiking in recent years but now I’m eager to get back out there.

I still can’t get over how hard hiking is. When I was younger I could run and jump and scramble and feel perfectly fine afterward. Yesterday, we were passed by a number of energetic young folk during the hike. I had to resist the urge to bludgeon them with my poles.

It turns out that hiking is deceptively hard work, made all the harder by aging. And it’s probably good for you. All the same, I’m glad Chelli is hiking Mt Kilimanjaro and not me.

 

Sugarloaf with Ninja Lady and Dog

The day dawned crisp with a blustery wind. The leaves had begun to turn. And I was itching to go for a day hike. Lucky for me, my friend Florencia and I had planned exactly that. Florencia is always full of surprises so today would be no different: we were bringing a dog.

I picked up Flor and Sundance, a golden retriever guide dog, at Flor’s place in McLean and headed out to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. We took our time to allow for conversation and maximum leaf peeping. Once we were off the interstate, we drove down country roads through farmer’s fields stripped of their summer bounty.

We parked on the uphill on the road up Sugarloaf. I didn’t realize how far from the top we were but it barely mattered. Walking up the road was a good warm up. After listening to a family bitching and kvetching at an overlook near the road, we headed for the nearest trail to escape. We chose the blue trail in what we later learned was a counter clockwise direction. Flor, dressed in ninja black, and Sundance led the way. Sundance was a pretty methodical  hiker dog. Since he is a guide dog, he tended to stay very close to Flor and got tangled up in his leash quite a bit. Other than that quibble, he was a mighty fine companion making friends with people and other dogs throughout the day.

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The trail goes up and down the sides of the mountain, with occassional overlooks of the surrounding countryside. The clear air made for great views of the valley below and the foliage all around. At one overlook we were treated to the aerial acrobatics of two hawks riding the updrafts. Top of the food chain, Ma!

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The hiking trail itself was a bit rocky. I had to keep my eyes on the ground so as not to turn an ankle, trip, or slide down and land on my posterior assets. (I seriously need to get some proper footwear for these hikes.) Whenever I looked up it seemed that the woods around us seem to go on forever. Just as she does in cycling and rock climbing, Flor moved uphill without the slightest regard for gravity. I, being somewhat more Newtonian, had to put my butt in gear to keep up.

The blue trail ended with a steep section straight up to where we started. I have to say the length of the hike was just right for me. I was plenty tired but not really wanting more. We hoofed it downhill to the car which seemed suspiciously farther down than where I recalled parking it.

We drove home, stopping for some munchies and a pumpkin at a country store. Once back on the road, Sundance fell sound alseep. It was a good thing Flor and I had each other to talk to because I am pretty sure that the both of us could have used a good snooze as well.

Many thanks to Flor’s American mom Tracie for lending us Sundance and the use of her car, a little Subaru station wagon that I really enjoyed driving.

And, of course, thanks to the ninja lady, Florencia, for another excellent day moving through the outdoors. Who knows what surprise our next adventure will hold.

To see some pix from our outing today, check out this set on my Flickr page.