I admit, I felt a little silly putting on my weekend pack, brimming over with weighty and unnecessary items, for a day hike. I felt silly to put on my gaiters when I knew I wouldn’t need them for the trail I was hiking. I even felt silly knowing that I carried spare clothing that was far warmer than I’d conceivably need on this altogether lovely day in early March.

But I want to do a radical increase in my distance this summer. I want to do 20 mile days, three or even four days in a row. I’ll need to carry a lot of weight in food and I’ll need to be prepared, even in August, for the possibility of snow.

I repeated to myself, though no one else asked, “I am training as I mean to hike.”

On this hike, in addition to schlepping 30 pounds to the top of Lucky Peak, I also tried a route variation. I took Hornet Loop, which adds about half a mile to the one way trip. I thought that since it was a non-motorized vehicle trail that it might have a gentler grade going up.

The start of Hornet Loop

And at first, it did seem that way. The trail was pretty, if a bit overgrown, and meandered below Shaw Mountain Road in a way that made me wonder when it was going to get to the business of climbing, and how.

I came upon a four way intersection and made an educated guess as to my route, based on the direction of Lucky Peak. I also checked my map on my phone, but the trail did not show up on it, so I still had to guess. I will have maps on my trips in the summer, though they’ll be a little bit harder to pull up than the one on the phone.

I picked the right direction, but the trail did not switchback its way gently to rejoin Shaw Mtn Road. Oh no, it chose the direct route – nearly straight up.

Going up!

I think it’s called Hornet Loop because it stings you in the end. . . 

This is almost vertical! 

Of course, at the end of the loop Shaw Mtn Rd just keeps going up. 

Part of the reason I was taking that route was to extend my distance, but I also wanted to explore new terrain with a heavy pack. I will not be scouting my trail beforehand, and so I must get used to encountering new landscapes and navigating through them.

I made it to the top of Lucky Peak and settled down to wait for Ambrose to catch up, because this day we decided he would make the summit. I chatted with a few other intrepid day hikers before he showed up and then we feasted on the food I had packed. The weather was fine, sunny and on the warm side of cool. The breeze had a bite, but the sun’s heat compensated well for it.

Ambrose’s final approach to Lucky Peak

Ambrose, conqueror of Lucky Peak, with his foot on the benchmark

We also learned how Ambrose’s new running shoes handle snow. 

On the way down, Ambrose got a head start, because I stopped to use the toilet. And he had an advantage, because I was going to take a route with an extra half mile. I dared him to beat me to the car, and then I dared myself to catch him.

Hornet Loop does offer some nice views. 

The four way intersection is easier to see from the top. 

As I headed down, I told myself that I would have to catch him in the last mile. I kept my steps quick, but not so quick that I would trip or slide on the loose dirt of the trail. I might have gone a bit too fast, considering my hip is still sore days later, but I caught him. So it was worth it.

Almost got him…

Got him!

And I know that despite soreness or mild feelings of embarrassment, I’ll be back, kitted out for a bigger hike than I’m taking. Training as I mean to travel.

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