The first time I tried hiking Mount Heinen, I only made it 2 miles in before turning back. On that trip, I wore the Softstar Switchback boots and found myself disappointed that my toes felt so banged up by them, especially when hiking that steep downhill. I also felt how lacking full gusseting impacted the amount of dirt that managed to get inside the boot, though I think a combination of gaiters and proper lacing will mitigate that significantly.
So for the next hike, I wore my Lems Boulder Boots to see how those would do. I had to figure out some lacing tricks, especially for the downhill parts, where I undid the top two lacing holes so my ankles had more room to bend. But on the downhill, once again, my toes were just banging up against the end of the boot.
Now, this hike is not an easy one. The downhill sections can be super steep and a bit ridiculous. So I decided on the third trip to wear my ol’ reliable Altra Lone Peaks. If my toes still felt banged up using those, then I could lay blame solely on the trail, since they are mostly quite comfortable.
And so, it came about that I wore my Altras to hike Mount Heinen.
Ambrose and I also made a few changes to our hiking plan, because we didn’t want to be quite as wrecked as we were after the first full hike of that trail. We both planned to eat more frequently and intentionally on the trail itself, and I suggested we have a meal at the trailhead after we finished. We also decided a Saturday hike would be a smarter move for us than another Sunday, so we could use Sunday as a recovery day.
On Friday night, after eating dinner at home, we drove out to the trailhead. This time we didn’t drive down towards the beach, because it was much more crowded. Instead, we parked closer to the road, and then ended up laying our tarp out just behind the car. Even though we could hear music being played at the beach, it wasn’t loud enough to disturb our sleep, and we had a good night.
Up at 5 the next morning when a pair of hikers drove into the trailhead. Ambrose asked them the time, and they apologized for waking us, but they hadn’t. Ambrose was already up and so was I. We packed up our sleeping situation and ate breakfast, again getting started just before 6 in the morning. I headed out to try and beat last week’s time. Ambrose had the same goal, but I’m still faster than him (for now).
I got passed by two separate hikers before I even reached the two mile mark, which made me feel quite slow. But at least it wasn’t Ambrose passing me.
I was able to go faster than before in part because I now knew where I was going, and had somewhat of an idea of what to expect as I hiked. More uphill, that worst downhill section of the back, Heinen in sight.
The day was cool, and I made good time as the sun rose. I tried to pay a bit more attention to the terrain as I walked the ridgeline so that I would recognize my landmarks on the way back. The Altras were doing well on both uphill sections and downhill sections.
Every now and then I’d look back to see if Ambrose was about to catch up with me, but I didn’t see him behind me this time. For the most part, I hiked as though completely alone. I knew there were the guys ahead of me, and I wondered when I’d see them coming back.
That made things complicated when I needed to dig a hole. I didn’t want to be caught in sight of the trail while doing my business, not with people certainly ahead of me and behind me. Though if Ambrose were to come upon me, I wouldn’t have an issue. Luck was with me, and I managed to find a spot on the ridge where I could walk into the trees and be concealed from the view of the trail for my hole digging.
This time, I knew better than to rejoice at the top of the hill with the hitching posts. I knew which peak was the peak I wanted to reach. And not long after I caught sight of Heinen, the early bird hikers came back from the peak and passed me.
And while the steep uphill hiking wasn’t that much easier, I was keeping up with my snacking and hydration. It was much easier to keep up with drinking water when I was carrying 4 liters to drink instead of just 2.
For this trip, I had my first 2 liter bladder filled with caffeinated electrolyte mix (Nuun Fresh Lime), and the second 2 liter bladder had herbal tea. And this time I took the tea bags out after the 2 liters were brewed – last time I didn’t remove the tea bags and they obstructed my drinking tube.
As I reached the final line of the ridge, the first guy to pass me hiked down, and, shortly after, the second. No one was left between me and the peak! I didn’t spend much time at the peak, just long enough for a picture and some admiration of the view.
I passed Ambrose right at the edge of that final ridgeline. He was making good time and looked like he was in good shape.
I didn’t end up finishing the first water bladder by the time I reached the peak. But at my next snack break, I checked the level and found that I had just managed to finish it! I swapped over to the full water bladder and ate my snack before continuing on.
I relished the remaining climbs, knowing that I would soon be on a steep downhill stretch. I managed to find another place to dig a hole that was mostly not visible from the trail, and no one came upon me while I was doing my business.
But more people were coming up by this time. A couple of solo hikers and several pairs were headed up, along with some dogs. But after I got to that last 2 miles, I didn’t see anyone else coming up on the trail.
I got focused on the extreme downhill. And while I didn’t appreciate how much my toes were hurting as I went down the trail, I did appreciate that even the Altras banged my toes coming down from Heinen. My experience with toe banging with the Lems and the Softstars was nothing to do with them, necessarily. It was the trail!
I took my time on the downhill. I didn’t want to slip and fall. Not when I had a meal waiting for me at the car.
The timing was just about perfect. I made it back to the car, spread out the tarp and got myself set up to cook. I made Minute Rice and Dinty Moore Beef Stew, and just as I finished, I saw Ambrose making his way down the trail. I started eating, of course, but I didn’t eat all of it before he got there to grab a bite.
We finished eating just before the rain started to fall, forcing us to retreat into the car. I drove us home.