I feel like I’m so behind on sharing my hiking adventures. I’ve been hiking more frequently these days, especially now with the warmer weather… well, some days have been warmer than others. I’m hopping out of order to share with you an adventure I took this past weekend in the Catskills. Paula and I set out to hike Graham and Balsam Lake – both count toward the 35er list and Balsam Lake also counts toward the fire tower challenge. Win!
I don’t mind hiking in the cold and I’ve certainly hiked in colder conditions (higher wind temps, below zero starts) but golly, this hike had me freezing! My core was nice and toasty (as it should have been with a layer of tech-wick and two wool layers under a shell) but my legs were cold. I mean really cold. No matter how fast I hiked or how steep the trail got, I just couldn’t warm them up. And I was moving at a good clip despite having sore legs from a 10 mile run the previous morning. I knew I was short one base layer when I never took my gloves off… which I never wear on the trail. Paula knows I never complain about the cold and I just couldn’t shake the topic; later in the day she admitted to watching for signs of slurred words and slower movements – she was worried about me too!
Now before I get you all concerned, we weren’t ever more than four miles into the woods. I had my emergency shell with me and hand warmers and I never needed to break them out. We were both more than prepared. And I mentally kept telling myself: if you don’t warm up, get out.
We started on the trail right at 8AM (the car said it was 3 degrees outside) and got moving right along. We both kept a pretty consistent pace because of how cold it was and before I knew it, we were at the junction where a side trail heads to Graham. This is an unmarked trail and you’re required to call the owner of the property for confirmation of use; Paula did this for us. Being typical Jona, I hadn’t researched anything about this hike – I had no clue the total distance for the day, to the junction, etc. The trail to Graham was a pleasant surprise despite the cold and never really got steep. The last up got me warmed up a little and I hollered down to Paula as soon as I could see the summit structure, 10:16 AM.I snapped a couple of photographs – we could see the fire tower atop of Balsam Lake – and zipped back down onto the trail. I did grab the map to see how many miles we had traveled and was surprised to see it was almost 5. At this point my hands were coooooold from taking photographs and I decided I wasn’t going to eat until we reached the car. During this trip back to the junction I seriously thought about heading out of the woods. I didn’t feel like myself but kept quiet because I didn’t want to worry Paula; she had already hiked BL in the past so it wouldn’t have been a “loss” for her.
But I’m pretty stubborn and when I saw that junction, I got a jolt of energy and forgot about my hands and legs. THEN I saw the sign to Balsam Lake and it said .75! Holy smokes, I can do anything for that short period of time! This section of the trail seemed a little steeper, I was probably just a little more tired, but it did the trick and warmed me up! When we arrived at the summit at 11:49 AM, the sun was shining and we could barely feel the wind. Oh the sun never felt so good!
I had ZERO desire to hike up that fire tower and plopped down at a picnic table to jot down times and started hounding my lunch: chickpea and carrot salad with a bagel. Probably would have been nice to have a hot meal and I’m usually good about that but I was craving chickpea salad. Ha! Within ten minutes we were back on the trail and passing the Ranger’s cabin. Yup – it was 4 degrees.
The trip out was swift in microspikes and I did manage to stay fairly comfortable temperature wise. We were back and sitting in heated seats by 1:20 PM. I’m happy I made the decision to continue on but I did learn a valuable lesson: my legs get colder than I anticipate on shorter hikes! Wear a layer of tights – better to over dress than under dress.