Week Summary: 6/17/19 – 6/23/19

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Monday 6/17 – Rest day

Tuesday 6/18 – 7.5 miles. Hill Repeats up Maryland Heights

3 repeats up and down the lower portion of the Maryland Heights trail. The turnaround point is the marker that’s exactly half a mile up the trail. So a repeat is 1/2 mile up, 1/2 mile down.

Felt pretty good tonight, definitely fitter than a few weeks ago. My breathing in general is miles better than earlier this year and orders of magnitude better than in Florida last year. So that’s good to see.

Good banter out on the trails with this group –>

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Wednesday 6/19 – Rest day

Thursday 6/20 – 7.8 miles. Stone Fort loop

Connected with Josh from the HURT crew (Harpers Ferry Ultra Running Team) to run a loop around Stone Fort, including the lookout. Great run.

Feeling little fitter again, but legs are definitely feeling the strain of all the vert that’s been suddenly imposed upon them. The volume of my running has also increased, as my lower legs and knees are telling me.

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Friday 6/21 – Rest day

Saturday 6/22 – 4.1 miles. Flat and Fast

Wow, shins and knees are a little sore, so no chance of Loudon Heights this weekend. Instead I ran out and back along the C & O canal. 1 mile from home to the canal, 1 mile out along the canal, and then same way home to make a 4 mile round trip.

I ended up running instead of jogging tonight, averaging around a 7min 30sec mile pace, which is about as fast as I can go at the moment. Wasn’t planning to do this, but legs felt good so I just smiled and enjoyed the moment. Felt exhilarating compared to my usual plodding.

Beautiful evening, as the following picture from the river’s edge shows:

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Sunday 6/23 – Rest day

Sore shins and knees. I will have to go easy next week and be patient. My legs need time to transition from low volume, flat Florida runs to higher volume, trail runs with real vert!

Summary – 19.5 miles

Two long(ish) runs (at least by my standards) and one fast run (again, by my standards). Absolutely loving the trail running but my exuberance has gotten the better of me, and my knees and lower legs are aching. They’re simply not strong enough yet.

Looking forward, I’m going to need to rest for a bit, then scale back a little and just do easier runs on mostly flat terrain to build up to 20+ mile weeks and beyond. The goal is still to run Ultras of course, but that is a loooong way off at the moment 😉

Week Summary: 6/10/19 – 6/16/19

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Monday 6/10 – 2.4 miles AT + River Trail around HF

Out along Appalachian Trail to Harpers Ferry. Return via River trail. Last minute decision to head out once we’d put the kids to bed. No one out. Had Jefferson Rock to myself so I phaffed around and balanced the camera on a rock to get the shot above. 👍

Tuesday 6/11 – 5.1 miles. Hill repeats up Maryland Heights with the HURT club

Went at my own pace as I get used to trail running again.

Wednesday 6/12 – 2.5 miles. Hike/run with Lex along AT + River Trail around HF

Both testing out our new trail running shoes: Altra Lone Peak 4. They feel like a pair of slippers. Ridiculously comfortable.

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Thursday 6/13 – 7.3 miles. Murphy’s Farm loop with the HURT club

Wow, who knew Harpers Ferry had so many local trails? Discovered lots of new trails and another fabulous lookout tonight. Longest run I’ve done for a long time…

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Friday 6/14 – Rest day

Saturday 6/15 – Rest day

Sunday 6/16 – 6.9 miles. Cruise up Loudon Heights.

Pretty hot out! Hard work on the uphill to the ridge. Felt smoooooth along the ridge to the lookout. Chatted to a friendly hiker there for 10 minutes. Bonked a little on the orange trail but came back after 10 mins or so.

Legs are getting a little stronger and more accustomed to trail running. It’s much, much more absorbing than road running, which means less time daydreaming because I have to focus on where to put my feet 😉

The lookout at Loudon Heights is 🔥🔥

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Summary: 24.4 miles

For me, this was a solid week of trail running. I haven’t had a week of runs like this for a long, long time. I can feel my knees starting to ache though – they’re not used to the hills yet!

 

The Next Chapter: Harpers Ferry, WV

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In May 2019, I finally realized a long-held dream of mine of moving to a mountain town, in this case Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

There’s an abundance of fantastic trails with plenty of vert. The Appalachian Trail runs past our front door. We love it here!

I’m going to keep a basic log of outdoor activities here, although all the boring details like pace, splits, elevation etc. are kept on Strava.

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Week 1: 13th – 19th May 2019

Wed: Hike up to Maryland Heights overlook, 6.8 miles
Fri: Run around HF on river trail/AT, plus river trail out to NP visitor center, 4.6 miles

Week 2: 20th – 26th May

Tues: Run around HF on river/AT, 2.4 miles
Thurs: Run around HF on river/AT, 2.4 miles
Sat: Out and back along the AT by Loudon Heights area, 3 miles

Week 3: 27th May – 2nd June

Tues: Loudon Heights hike with mum, 6.1 miles
Thurs: Stone Fort Loop with Harpers Ferry running group, 5.4 miles
Sat: Stone Fort Loop hike with mum, 8.2 miles

Week 4: 3rd – 9th June

Mon: Hike up to Maryland Heights overlook, 6.8 miles
Tues: Loudon Heights overlook, 6.7 miles
Fri: Flat run to Brunswick bridge and back, along river then C&O, 4.2 miles
Sat: Slow out along river, back along AT, 2.5 miles

City Hike #1: San Francisco

I love visiting big cities. I love the energy, the vibrancy, the creativity of people in the big cities. And I believe the best way to soak it all in is by walking the streets.

I’ve done this ~16 mile hike around San Francisco twice. Once in July 2018 with my brother, and once in April 2019 by myself. Both times I was in San Francisco for the Google Next conference.

Click here for technical recaps of Next 18 and Next 19.

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Approximate route of the San Francisco city hike

San Francisco Hike July 2018 (with Pete)

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“An army marches on its stomach”. We began the day with a monster breakfast at a cafe in Hayes Valley

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Example of the gorgeous Victorian architecture in San Francisco

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Our walk took us from one end of Golden Gate park to the other, passing most of the major attractions. It’s a fantastic public space. Shown here is the Conservatory of Flowers.

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One of the many old gnarled trees in Golden Gate park

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Two brothers standing at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. He lives on one side and I live on the other. For now.

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Sea stacks in the Pacific Ocean

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We explored the ruined Sutro Baths, as our route hugged the coast north towards the bay.

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Catching an early glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge, with “Karl The Fog” obscuring the top.

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Loving the trails around Lands End. Amazing for a city hike!

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Passing Lands End

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Looking back at SF.

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Pete along the Batteries to Bluff trail, with the flowers in bloom and that bridge in the background. It really is a fabulous hike.

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Just two goofballs

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It never fails to impress me!

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Beyond the bridge, the path follows the top for a while through old fortifications, before dropping down to Crissy Field. .Hard on the knees and back now we’re old buggers!

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What it’s all about… a good walk, good nosh, good beer, good chat!

San Francisco Hike April 2019 (solo)

I enjoyed this hike so much last year that I decided to repeat it again this year.

I was staying in roughly the same area and followed much the same route, so it was probably around 16 miles again.

An excellent day out! (Although it was more fun with my brother!)

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Past the Conservatory of Flowers in the Golden Gate park

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Golden Gate park goes on and on and on! Really fantastic place.

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Walking along the beach on the Pacific Ocean

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Past the Sutro baths

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Sutro Baths and the Pacific Ocean

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Along the Batteries to Bluff trail

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The weather was perfect, with the bridge peeking out behind the clouds.

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You get a different angle of the bridge around every headland.

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The bridge from near Marshall’s Beach

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The clouds completely cleared as I got close, to give me one of the best views of the bridge I’ve ever had.

Mountain Climbing in Tasmania, 2018

Frenchman’s Cap

2nd – 4th January 2018

An account of a week in Tasmania with my brother, in early 2018.

Day 1: Trailhead to Lodden River Camp (6.5km)

The rain that had threatened all day finally arrived, just as we pulled into Frenchman’s Cap trailhead car park, in the heart of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. We packed our gear between rain showers, taking three days of food with us.

Ahead lay 23km to the summit of Frenchman’s Cap, and another 23km return to the car.

The weather was kind enough to briefly grant us several minutes of sunshine as we took our first steps on the trail (who likes setting off in the rain?). To say we were giddy with excitement would be an understatement.

Frenchman's Cap trailhead

The initial km of trail passed easily beneath our feet as we conversed, chewing the fat like long-lost friends. Rain showers came and went. Jackets were donned. The mist obscured any long distance views but the atmosphere lent an air of mystery and suspense to our project.

Above all, it was terrific to simply spend time with my brother out in the wilds again.

Frenchman's Cap trail near Franklin River

Still all smiles about an hour into the hike. The packs were not too heavy and the trail was easy on day 1.

Happy hikers

Camp was established alongside the Lodden River, amongst the trees. There was no-one else around and the only sounds were the occasional bird song. The river was wide, slow and meandering, and made no audible sound at camp.

Campsite at Lodden River

We turned in after a couple of welcome brews and a surprisingly good hot meal. (We always have an interesting debate after these trips with friends and spouses about the actual quality of camp food. Is it only good because of the setting and one’s hunger? Or is the food half decent in its own right? My brother and I are probably of the latter opinion: I think we’d both still enjoy a camp dinner at home!)

That night I found a leech gorging itself on my leg, which caused a ripple of alarm between us. He was easily burned off with the lighter, but we were more careful to check for them at day’s end during the rest of the trip.

Day 2: Lodden River Camp to summit of Frenchman’s Cap and camp at Lake Tahune

We struck camp by 8am after a morning brew. Joints were stiff. Eyes were puffy. I was plainly not used to this camping malarky anymore. It had been almost 3.5 years since I last slept in a tent. (Just the way the cookie crumbles. I still see lots more hiking, camping and mountains in my future.)

Wild Tasmanian Forest

It was still misty as we traversed above the Lodden plains on the new trail (avoiding the infamous and suitably named ‘Sodden Loddens’, of old). Our path was wet enough thank you very much!

We stopped at the Lake Vera hut for a hearty cheese and ham lunch. Then it was back into the thick forest and shortly after, the steep climb up to Barron Pass. It was tiring work with the packs and general lack of mountain fitness.

The climb is relentless and, just when one is getting utterly tired from the exertion of it, one emerges onto the chilly pass and a sweeping new panorama of lakes and mountain summits.

Frenchman’s Cap summit was still slumbering under a cloud when we passed through Barron Pass.

Barron Pass lookout

An open path traversed across the shoulder of Sharlands Peak and onto the ridgeline adjoining F.C. It was a superb section of walking that we romped across. Some more ups and downs before the path deposited us at a misty, atmospheric Lake Tahune:

Mist at Lake Tahune

The situation was wild!

The Lake Tahune hut was in the process of being rebuilt, so it was a construction site up there, but we found a tent platform and pitched our tent as the rain fell. The trees provided some welcome cover. The wooden tent platform had an innovative chain & nail system in place of using pegs. It took a little while to figure out but we soon had the tent pitched taught.

After a brief rest and refuel, we decided to go for the summit that same afternoon, given the weather was relatively good (only cloudy and showers, but little wind). Who knows what the next morning would be like?

On the shoulder of Frenchman's Cap

Best of all, we could leave the bags at camp and travel light, just taking a water bottle and snack in our jacket pockets. The climb began up a steep gully from the opposite shore of Lake Tahune, with a few scrambly sections. Beyond it was an airy, zig-zagging path over rocky terraces, which reminded us of days in the Dolomites, with the swirling mist.

Summit signpost

Sadly there were no views at the summit. We were still elated though. It was the first summit we’d climbed together in years and it’d been quite a journey to reach the top.

It had all the classic elements of a good backcountry adventure: enough hardship that we felt like we earned the summit, enough beautiful scenery to remember for years to come and, of course, the (literal in our case) brotherhood of the shared journey.

Summit of Frenchman's Cap

On the way down off Frenchman’s Cap we dipped beneath the clouds and enjoyed the most spectacular views of the trip thus far. Just stunning!

View from shoulder of Frenchman's Cap

Looking down on Lake Tahune. Our camp was at the L edge of the lake, hidden amongst the trees.

View from shoulder of Frenchman's Cap

Day 3: Lake Tahune camp back to Trailhead (camp at Franklin River)

Not many photos from this day on account of the heavy rain that persisted until lunchtime.

I did not have such a good day. My left knee gave me pain on any downhill section (overexertion, given my lack of backpacking in the last few years) and I had an annoying headache all morning. No choice but to trundle on though.

The dreary day matched my mood. Soon though, one emerges from the other side of such a mood and takes a perverse pleasure in just putting one foot in front of the other and making progress, despite the discomfort.

A hearty lunch and a lie down at Lake Vera hut restored me and I very much enjoyed the easier afternoon walk out to the trailhead. The sun shone on us and mostly dried us off. That night we camped next to the Franklin River, just a few hundred metres from the trailhead.

Franklin River suspension bridge

(Day 4 transfer south, including stop for fish & chips in Hobart.)

Mt Anne

6th January 2018

Our initial plan of trying the whole circuit had been scaled back to just a day hike of Mt Anne. The weather had other ideas.

We sat in the car at the trailhead, listened to the rain falling, and willed ourselves to just get on with it. After some deliberation, with the rain easing, we set off and headed up the mountain.

My knee gave me no problems thankfully. The wind nearly knocked us off our feet in places however!

Mt Anne trail head

There is a small hut on the shoulder of Mt Eliza, which is a satellite peak to the south of Mt Anne. We stopped and enjoyed this convivial, little shelter, chatting with other hikers over lunch. Some had been camped up high last night and told of a wild night.

We set off into the roaring wind once again, getting blown up the ridge in places, but never in any danger. It was enjoyable and refreshing, but we were doubtful of summiting Mt Anne in this weather.

Windy!

One enjoys tremendous views out over Lake Pedder the whole way up Mt Eliza:

View from shoulder of Mt Eliza

Hunkered down on the summit of Mt Eliza, behind a boulder to get out of the wind. It was actually a little less windy on the summit compared to the ridge line, so we spent a little time up on the plateau, exploring the next bump and enjoying the incredible views.

Summit of Mt Eliza

The scenery was simply magnificent (click to see larger):

Panoramic view from the shoulder of Mt Eliza

Prudence is the better part of valor, so we abandoned Mt Anne for another day. It gives us reason to come back to the magnificent mountain region.

Mt Field West

7th January 2018

Our final mountain day was a long walk over the high plateau of the Mount Field National Park, to the summit of Mount Field West.

It was a gloriously sunny day, quite the contrast to the weather so far. Buoyed by the sunshine, we set off in high spirits and travelled light, with the minimum of kit.

Sadly this didn’t include any painkillers and I soon developed a headache again. Nevermind, the scenery was stunning. This was mountain walking at its finest.

Lake Seal, Mt Field National Park

Navigation was easy with Mt Field West visible most of the day. It was deceptively far away though, so we were both pretty tired by the time we reached the summit plateau, dotted as it was with many tiny ponds and scenic tarns.

Tarn near summit of Mt Field West

I had a little nap on the summit (it was that kind of mountain day) and we enjoyed the 360 degree panorama of mountains, forests and lakes. It was the sort of day we live for, and reminded me of our climb up Black Peak in NZ, and also closer to home, of Munro summits.

Summit of Mt Field West

I’m not going to lie, the last few hours of the day were tough for me. My headache worsened and made the walking rather grueling. This selfie just about captures my feeling at the time:

Selfie with a headache

Despite the headache, which faded upon taking painkillers back at the car and descending to lower altitudes, it was still a top-notch mountain day with my brother.

I have extremely fond memories of the entire trip, of all the high and low points. Memories I’ll cherish for life.

Links

Frenchman’s Cap Trail Notes

Mt Anne Circuit Trail Notes

Mt Field National Park Notes