I know that I have to train to get myself ready for my solo hike this year. There’s no getting around it. I have to put in the work or I’ll be having a struggle in the Frank Church Wilderness.

6125 is a good training hike, but it takes about 3 hours to drive out there, and then 3 hours back, so it’s not always the best choice for a weekend training hike. Lucky Peak, on the other hand, is a 10 minute drive from my apartment, and features almost as much pain as 6125 if you take the right route.

Usually, I sleep in a bit on Saturdays, but not this time. I got up early and ate breakfast and got into the car, though it took me longer than Ambrose would have preferred. Still, we got to the trailhead around 6 am and I started out while Ambrose changed from shoes to boots (he can’t safely drive with his hiking boots on, big feet problem).

I started off into strongly blowing winds. I figured it would die down as the sun rose above the ridgeline. The trail climbs from the start, but it isn’t too bad for the first mile. At least, it isn’t usually too bad. On this day, I did not want to keep hiking.

Good morning trailhead!

My first mountain to climb was purely mental. Every step was a conscious choice, and a hard one. I didn’t want to be there, in the dark, in the wind, with this heavy pack on my back that hurt my shoulders and wasn’t fitting quite right. I was using my turquoise pack for training so I could load it full of sandbags and leave it that way instead of loading and unloading with my regular pack. I’d loaned it out to a friend over the winter for a snowshoe trip and I hadn’t really dialed it back in for my body.

But the physical discomfort was only a small part of it; just something else for my mind to whine about.

When I’m running, I try not to pay attention to myself when I want to stop within the first mile. After that first mile, I’ll consider stopping for various reasons, but not before. On this hike, I got to the first mile and still wanted to turn right back around instead of continuing on.

While I ate a pretty big breakfast before leaving the house, I think it didn’t actually fill me up somehow. It’s kind of funny, I didn’t feel better about hiking until after I ate a Snickers – though likely any snack would have done the trick.

I snacked right before my trail intersected with the new archery range. I could see a couple of guys using it ahead, and I spotted a few of the animal targets – though I missed the cougar right near the road because I caught up with the archers right there.

Once I was on the road I was in a better mental state, but still not quite happy to be there. I promised myself that if I just made 3 miles, I could turn back. When I got to 3, well, I had to go on all the way to the pit toilet near the top, right?

I took minimal pack-off breaks, and very few standing breaks. There’s a lot of climbing to do on this road, and I try to maintain momentum as I move instead of starting and stopping.

Limiting the breaks also gave me something to look forward to. Small goals to keep my feet moving. I know this trail pretty well, so I could make good estimates about when to take a break and when to power through. For example, there’s a part after the 3rd mile that intersects with a trail (Hornet Loop). I promised myself I could take a break after I finished mile 3, and then I decided to just get to the place where Hornet Loop rejoined the road.

I had forgotten how long that stretch is, though I remembered how awfully steep it was… I trudged and sang to myself and tried not to despair when I looked up and saw yet more steep road curving ahead.

Yay, made it to … a spot.

The overcast day threatened rain, but never followed through, thank goodness. 

And, of course, when I made it to that point, I could see the winding road ahead of me continue the climb. But I didn’t think too much about that when I dumped my pack on the ground and sat.

When my app announced that I’d completed 4 miles, I wrote a big 4 in the road to help me determine how far Ambrose made it. I didn’t expect him to see it, because he NEVER sees when I write things in the trail dirt for him to find.

By that point, I was much more content to continue hiking. The backpack was still heavy and painful, my feet were sore and my right thumb was hurting from rubbing against the trekking pole grip. But I knew that I could make it to the top. And I was looking forward to stopping at the pit toilet by this point. Sure, I could dig a hole out there, but I really would prefer not to…

There was a niggling worry that the pit toilet wouldn’t be unlocked, but I had no need to worry. No toilet paper, but I’m a backpacker – I had that covered along with hand sanitizer.

From the pit toilet to the top is super short; I made it no problem and spent some time enjoying the view.

I love the contrast from looking east across mountains that look untouched and the city to the west.

The more I visit the mountains, the more I don’t want to live without them.

Benchmark at the peak!

Peak selfie!

Of course, once I turned around to head back to the car, my trip got a lot more joyful. Not only was I going home, but I was excited to see where I’d run into Ambrose. I expected he’d get farther up the road than in the past, not only because he’s been doing the work, but because I really dragged on my first couple of miles.

I ran into Ambrose when he had come close to completing 5 miles and we took a short break together. Then I continued on ahead while he started back. I thought he could have gone on to the peak, because he’d gotten so far, but he turned back.

Here’s Ambrose!

He not only met me past my 4 mile marker – he also actually SAW it on the road!

From there, it was, not exactly easy, but doable. My body hurt – though my feet were doing very well in the Altras compared to how they usually did in boots. But my mind was well-yoked to the task at hand.

Plus, it was almost completely downhill. There are three major places where the trail going down goes up, and I know the precise position of each of them. They are all short and only one is steep. So I made it down to the archery range, pausing to take a picture of the cougar to prove to Ambrose that I saw it.

Archery range station with a cougar target.

Sometimes, the last mile of a hike is the hardest. Not this time. I was so happy to be done with the hike. I got back to the car, dumped my pack into the trunk and relaxed in the front seat until Ambrose got back to the car.

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