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A Hiker Who’ll Become a Runner for a Day

LAST UPDATE: I finished the race! I did it. I completed in 3:00:19, which was definitely not my target, but I’ll take it. I started out very strong, but by mile 9 lost some steam and watched the 2:45 pacer whizz past. I kept up through mile 11, and then had extremely painful charlie horses in each of my calves, which forced me to walk the remaining 2.1 miles in. I’m sure the photo of me at the finish is a great one. Still got my finisher medal. Would I do another half? I don’t know…maybe next year, just to beat that three hour time. We’ll see.

UPDATE: I ran my final “long” training run a week ago–one week before the race–10 miles (taper? what taper?). It actually wasn’t bad at all and I felt very confident and happy with my progress. I felt as though I had this Half in the bag. Then, the next day, my hips and knees were hurting badly. I shrugged it off as post-run soreness and figured I’d be fine by Saturday. Well, as I write this, it’s Friday, the race is in the morning, and my right knee is still really hurting. I have a feeling it’s runner’s knee because it feels fine when I’m using it (i.e. running or walking), but at rest or sleeping it hurts pretty badly. Now, I am completely freaking out about the race tomorrow.  How am I going to possibly do 13.1 miles on with this pain? What’s going to happen when I’m finished? The very last thing I want to do is permanently injure myself, but from most things I’ve read I won’t. I know many runners have pushed through the intense pain and gone on to finish their best race. But, everyone is different. Am I making a terrible mistake? Someone pease talk some sense into me or cheer me on. As of right now, I plan to do this thing, whether it’s running or walking it. I’ll let you all know how it goes 🙂

In exactly two weeks, I will be participating in my first-ever half marathon. It’s one of the biggest marathon events around with something like 15,000 participants. It covers some neat (and usually off-limits) areas at the Air Force base right near my home. I am super excited. Unfortunately, I don’t feel in any way ready. I won’t go into the circumstances of how I ended up getting signed up for this race, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. The opportunity came and I decided to do it.

I am NOT a runner. I am a hiker. I have hiked easy trails and difficult ones. I have hiked 26 miles in a single day in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve hiked 13 miles at a local state park in under four hours (including scenery watching, backtracking for a lost piece of gear, and stopping for lunch). Three months ago, I hiked a good sized-chunk of one of the most rugged sections of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Some of those extensive hiking trips were back when I was in absolutely terrible shape and had no conditioning. I know distance. I know leg pain. And, I know how to push through it when there’s no other option than to just keep going.

For some reason, though, running 13.1 miles on pavement has me intimidated. Like, really intimidated. That should be much easier than a rocky, steep trail, right?

I have completed races before, including a 5K and a 10K I ran/walked three years ago. I finished both events–one in the top of my age group and the other right in the middle. The problem is, I really don’t enjoy running. I’d much rather walk or hike. I’ve been “training” by walking 2-5 miles every day for the past several months, but I haven’t done any long runs or extensive endurance training for this. Will I regret it? Probably.

I’ve got most of the philosophical stuff down. “No new stuff on race day”. Got it. “Hydrate heavily before, during and after the race”. Got it. “Wear loose-fitting clothes”. Got it. “Be able to run without walking for at least 10 miles”. Ooooh, don’t got it. Walk it? I can do that with my eyes closed. Who said I can’t walk it, anyway? No one.

I think what intimidates me most is the thought of being in a race with other people who treat running like it’s their job. In a 5K or 10K, there are hundreds of other walkers, but in a half or full, it will be mostly runners. I might be surprised, but that remains to be seen. This IS considered a “walker friendly” race, with a finish cutoff of six hours. I intend to come in WAY under that with a goal of three hours or less. I know I can do it, but my body might not. Ha.

I may run this thing. I may walk part of it. I may walk most of it. I’m not doing this race for a PR or to try to prove anything crazy to myself. I’m doing this race to get my finisher medal and prove that this 42-year-old guy can do it. I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose. I  know it’s going to hurt. A lot. But I also know the feeling of crossing the finish line and getting that medal and an ice-cold beer. And, you know what? I can’t wait.

Everyone say a little prayer for me. 🙂

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Caesar Creek State Park – Perimeter Loop

Not every adventure has to be planned out months in advance. Sometimes, the most spontaneous can be the most rewarding. In my case, it was an impromptu decision to go for a day hike on a warm late-winter day to a local state park. It was a great decision. The trail was both a challenge and scenic adventure that I may have never known about had I stayed home on the couch.

On this sunny Sunday in early March, I decided at last to hike the Perimeter Loop Trail at Caesar Creek State Park in southwest Ohio. I had been wanting to do this for years. The loop is roughly 12 miles and travels the circumference of the western half of a small man-made lake (the flooded Caesar Creek). The trail traverses the lake shore, deeply wooded ravines, alongside waterfalls, over a suspension bridge, and past ancient fossil beds. The trail can be day-hiked or split up into a backpacking overnight–depending on what the hiker wants to do. The day hike option is definitely doable, but plan for a long day and be sure to bring lunch, snacks, and water. There are many parking areas along the trail, and if you decide you just can’t make it all the way through, you can always have someone come pick you up.

On a recommendation from a friend, I decided to start at the Fifty Springs Picnic Area and do the loop counter-clockwise. This would take me over the road crossing and past the rougher areas of the trail first. From here, the trail immediately starts out north on Route 73, along a busy road and across a bridge. Once over the bridge, the trail descends west down into the woods.

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One of the many lake views on the western side

For the next few miles, the trail is easy/moderate with only minor elevation changes. There are beautiful lake views all along the way. After a couple miles, there is a little spur trail that leads down to a beautiful beach with a picnic table on it. This would be a fantastic place to have lunch. For me, though, it was much too early to think about stopping. I still paused for a quick photo opp and to shed my first layer. The tranquil sound of the water lapping the shore was very nice and the sun felt warm.

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Beach with picnic table just off the trail

From there, the trail goes through beautiful woods and up and down ravines, including a few stream crossings. This trail is shared with a portion of the Buckeye Trail, so just follow the Blue and Yellow blazes. The trail is mainly single track with a few wider areas in places. Along the way, I dropped my Gorillapod and GoPro into the mud. Not realizing it at the time, I lost one of the legs to the tripod. I was frustrated with myself for a bit, but then realized it was just too beautiful of a day to let it be ruined by that.

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Blue and Yellow Blazes along the western half of the trail

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The trail on the western side

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Views through the trees

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The glistening lake

I hiked on through the woods, up and down through ravines. The trail then dumped me out on a very neat little peninsula where I got another great view of the lake. From there, I stopped at the visitor center to rest and eat my lunch. I stopped in to talk to the rangers to let them know about the tripod leg I lost at point M. I had packed in my stove, titanium pot, and some cheeseburger soup from a company called Camp Chow. If you’ve never had their bacon cheeseburger soup, go order it right now. Feeling refreshed, I scarfed down my soup and pineapple coconut Spark, filled up my water bottles, and headed back down the trail.

From here, it was more road walking across the dam and spillway, and then past a parking lot and back into the woods. The next section of the trail is amazing. The trail opens up into the spillway/fossil collecting area. It is wide open for several hundred yards and very neat. Here, hikers can walk right up to the rock walls and observe the fossils in the rocks. In these rocks are millions (billions?) of Ordivician-period fossils, including Horn Coral, Crinoids, Brachiopods, and the Holy Grail of fossils in this area, Trilobites. In fact, the largest Trilobite in the Western Hemisphere was found here, measuring over a foot in length. This area is right off the road so there are a lot of people just here rock hounding. Fossils may be collected with a free permit from the office. Don’t collect anything without a permit here, though, unless you want to be fined.

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The fossil-filled cliffs in the spillway

The trail then ascends steeply to the right up the side of a huge hill. You will see the blaze on a tree half-way up to affirm this is the right way. I can compare this brief single track section to some places I’ve hiked in West Virginia. It’s breathtaking in more ways than one.

The next mile or so was my favorite part of the entire hike. The trail traverses cliff tops, and, from the top, there is a great view of Horseshoe Falls. The falls can actually be heard from quite a distance away. A few yards further is the brand new suspension bridge that crosses the creek. This bridge is so much fun and reminiscent of those found in much more remote areas. I actually had to pause for a moment and remind myself that I was in Southwest Ohio.

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Horseshoe Falls

Past the falls, the trail continues back up into the woods with some nice lake views and flat terrain. Beware of mud along this section, as it is plentiful here. The trail passes through the pioneer village, a historical wonder and very neat place. This location has pioneer-era recreations and festivals, including a Maple festival.

The trail twists and turns through the woods, but mainly remaining steady and flat. It even crosses an old service road for a few hundred feet. It then continues on past a few other, smaller waterfalls, and passer over the top of Crawdad Falls–an unspectacular but pretty falls.

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Crawdad Falls

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The trail then wraps around the woods and back through the Fifty Springs picnic area, where my journey came to an end and my Jeep was waiting. I was both relieved and a bit sad that the hike was over.

In an area of Ohio that does not really stand out for its outdoor offerings, Caeser Creek State Park and lake delivers. The lake itself is perfect for boaters, fishermen, swimmers, etc. The trails are long enough and have enough diversity to satisfy most hikers. Rock hounds and fossil lovers will be giddy in the fossil beds. And, history buffs will love the pioneer village. There is a little bit of something for everyone, here. If you’re in the area, make sure you check out Caeser Creek. If you have the day and like to hike, be sure to do the Perimeter Trail!


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Backpacking Hanson’s Point – Red River Gorge, Kentucky

The Red River Gorge National Geological Area in Kentucky is by far one of my favorite places to hike and camp. At only 2 1/2 hours from my house in Ohio, It’s a quick and simple drive to some of the most dramatic scenery in the East. This area has been dubbed “Moab with trees” due to its numerous arches, bridges, and cliff faces. It is rugged and sometimes dangerous–making it even more alluring. It truly is one of the most wild and awesome places to get up close with nature. Unfortunately, the attractiveness of this place draws many people each year, and some are careless. There have been many wildfires started here due to people being careless with campfires. Just in the past few weeks many acres have been burned due to unattended fires and extremely dry conditions. I fear sometime in the very near future Hanson’s Point might be completely closed to outside traffic because of the carelessness of a few. In fact, there was just a forest fire there in the past few weeks due to careless campers not putting out a fire.

On a gorgeous weekend on September 10, 2016, my friend Robb and I decided to do an overnight backpacking trip up to a “secret” hidden spot known as Hanson’s Point. This location isn’t officially recognized by the Daniel Boone National Forest, but is on numerous maps and quite easy to find. I was first introduced to this location about five years ago when I did my first backpacking trip here with the Dayton Hikers Meetup Group. I had been here enough to know how to get to it.

The hike to the Point starts easily enough. We parked at the Gray’s Arch trail head, which is one of the most popular and frequently visited areas. From there, we took the road back a few hundred yards until we reached the Sheltowee Trace trail. This hike is fairly easy (for this region), and covers a ridge with gorgeous views and dramatic slopes on both sides. There are many campsites along the path, but resist the urge to camp at these and go for the big prize–the campsites at the top near Hanson’s Point.

Jeep Renegade with Gear

The new Jeep Renegade on its first road trip with gear!

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Gray’s Arch trail head sign

The hike along the Sheltowee ridge is fairly easy, with only a few minor ups and down and rocks to scramble. It could be muddy and difficult after heavy rain, but not dangerous. There are many vistas and views to the surrounding mountains from here.

Robb on the Ridge

Rob posing on cliff’s edge on the Sheltowee Trace trail

Once we made it to the connector for the Rough Trail, we veered left. After about a quarter mile and on the right we found the unofficial Hanson’s Point trail. This trail is fairly steep, but not hard. It’s more difficult because it’s not maintained, and the hardest aspect is the blow downs and overgrowth. It seems to be getting more difficult every time I visit–which, in all honesty, makes me enjoy it more. You really have to work to get the payoff here, like many places I have been out West.

Sheltowee Trace Trail

The Sheltowee Trace trail

We finally made it to the top, after scrambling through brush and over logs and under wasp’s nests. The large group camp at the top of the ridge was a sight for sore eyes. I wanted to press on to a campsite closer to Hanson’s Point, so we passed a few other backpackers and pressed on. Finally, we found the spot, dropped our gear and set up our hammocks, and then hiked over to the Point. We knew storms were on their way in, so we wanted to be sure to get out to the point and back before they slammed us.

Hennessy Hammock

The Point was just as beautiful as I remember. With sweeping views across the Gorge that are reminiscent of deeper wilderness. This place is wild and rugged, not for the faint of heart. There are plenty of things that can kill you here–bears, snakes, stinging things, and steep dropoffs, which are the biggest killer of all. Hanson’s Point is beautiful but dangerous. There are no handrails here, and nothing to protect you from falling several hundred feet to your death. If you come here, be smart, be safe. Don’t take risks, and don’t overestimate your abilities.

After our visit to the Point, we headed back to camp to chill out and enjoy the scenery. Our relaxation was short lived, however, after a cold front swept through and brought howling wind, rain, and lightning for the next few hours. We sheltered in place under our tarps and stayed perfectly warm and dry. The rain blew by and finally stopped after dark. We were even able to get a small fire going with some wood we had collected and kept dry under our tarps.

The next morning we were greeted by beautiful fog that blanketed the Gorge. It was absolutely beautiful, and I was able to capture some amazing shots with my phone.

Sunlight in the morning

We had breakfast and coffee and headed back down the mountain and back to the car. The hike was beautiful, and I never get tired of being in “the Red”. As a customary measure, I introduced Robb to Miguel’s famous pizza, which was absolutely fantastic after a weekend in the woods.

Miguel's famous pizza

Red River Gorge is wild, dangerous, and beautiful. It’s one of the only places within a two hour drive from my house where I feel I can experience “real” wilderness–like that of being in the Appalachians or out west. I never get tired of coming here, and love bringing new friends who have never experienced it before. This is my kind of place, and I plan on being back many more times in the near future.


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Big Hollow North and South Loop – Mammoth Cave National Park

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. We were there for 2 ½ days of car camping and day hiking. The campground is amazing, and the Park Service does an amazing job. On day two, we hiked the Big Hollow North and South Loops.

First off, I will start by saying this is not the most scenic or challenging trail in the world—especially by National Park standards—but it is still a nice hike, and if you’re quiet and look around, you just might see some very cool things.

The trail starts from the Maple Springs trail head on the western side of the park. To get to it, you will have to take Maple Springs Ranger Station Road from the east and cross the Green River Ferry. The ferry is free but SLOW, so allow for some time to get across. Once at the Maple Springs trail head, find where the connector trail starts and follow it for about a mile. There, it branches off to the North Loop. We decided to take the loop clockwise, so basically just stayed to the left the entire time.

The ferry across the Green River

The ferry across the Green River

The start of the loop

The start of the loop

The flat trail

The flat trail

this is not the most scenic or challenging trail in the world—especially by National Park standards—but it is still a nice hike, and if you’re quiet and look around, you just might see some very cool things.

This trail is a shared mountain bike trail. Unlike other trails in the park, it is not shared with horses, so mud and ruts are minimal, but so are changes in scenery. Elevation change is nominal as well, with only very minor ups and downs. The South Loop is more exciting than the North, since it gets fairly close to the bluffs of the river with a few glimpses of the hills across the gorge. Still, the trail never offers any true vistas, and doesn’t have much in the way of geologic features. There are no caves, sinks, waterfalls, or any such features expected in cave country or even Kentucky in general. In fact, this trail reminded me very much of trails back home in Ohio–only with the presence of Rattlesnakes and Copperheads.

Hiking with the guys

Hiking with the guys

The South Loop sign

The South Loop sign

The view across the river from atop the bluff

The view across the river from atop the bluff

There is a nice spot in the middle of the South Loop that is a bit rocky, and we stopped here for lunch and I hung my hammock on top of a small rock outcropping. This was the only real boulder field type feature I remember seeing on either loop.

Stopped for lunch

Stopped for lunch

Hammock hanging on top of a rock outcropping

Hammock hanging on top of a rock outcropping

Blue blazes along the trail

Blue blazes along the trail

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This area offers some very nice flora and fauna. We saw at least two snakes and lots of birds. We saw a Scarlet Tanager which is hard to describe it’s so beautiful. This bird is in the Cardinal family, and is a bright red with stark black wings. Unfortunately, none of us were able to get a good photograph of it. There’s a lot of other wildlife in the park which we witnessed at the campground, including deer, pheasant, and turkey, to name a few.

I had hoped to get to check out the Sal Hollow Loop while at Mammoth Cave, but it did not happen. Fortunately, we did get to do the heritage trail and Mammoth Dome Sink on the last day. These trails are stunning, with enormous trees, caves going straight down into the earth, bluffs along the river, and much more. I will do a separate trip report on those.


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How Do You Find Time to Go Backpacking? Part 2

This is part two of a three-part blog written by three backpackers (Dane, Rob and Lance) all answering the same question:

“How Do You Find Time To Go Backpacking?”

Finding Time To Unplug From All Things Needing A Plug

By Rob (Backpacking Adventures)

Find time to go backpacking? Time? You think I can find time?

I am a husband, and the father of two daughters ages thirteen and seventeen. My career requires about thirty weeks a year on the road. Then, there are my other hobbies of golf and playing music. There is no chance of me finding time to go backpacking…I have to MAKE time.

Actually, WE need to make time.

A number of years ago, one Saturday afternoon, I was having a glass of wine with my wife Angela, and our conversation ended up on backpacking. Her question was innocent and simple, “when was the last time you went backpacking?”

My answer was frustrating and now hard to imagine.

“I don’t think I have been on a trip since…wow, I think it was the first weekend in June!” I said in astonishment.

This realization wouldn’t have been so bad if we were having our conversation on July 27th, or August 27th or even September 27th. Instead, it was late November. The Saturday before Thanksgiving.

robThe enthusiasm that you see in my videos is genuine. I love the trail. The physical exertion, unplugging from all things needing a plug, and the sense of accomplishment all play a part in building my enthusiasm. I enjoy only having to focus on sleeping, walking, and eating. The trail is my happy place.

We are only on this great earth for but a short time, shouldn’t we be spending as much time as we can by doing what we enjoy?

Now, back to the conversation with my wife.

At some point that afternoon we agreed to the fact that when there is a goal, with a plan that makes it achievable, the goal is usually accomplished. We proved that point to ourselves by sharing examples of our own lives as well as that of our children, family, and friends. That is when it happened. Somewhere between talking about learning how to ride a bike and how to plant a garden is when my wife gave me a goal and a plan to make it happen.

robcal“At least twelve nights a year in your hammock. There are 365 of them to choose from, pick twelve” Angela said.

I sat and listened.

“You will go on one backpacking trip each of the next twelve months.

It may only be a quick overnighter to Morgan Hill (our local State Forest) or it may be a multi-day trip in the Adirondacks, but you are going to go backpacking every month. We will not be sitting here a year from now having this same conversation” she stated.

How could I argue? Why would I argue? What should I say?

“I may not be great at math, but 12 nights out of 365 isn’t a big percentage,” I said with a smile.

We continued to talk about sacrifice, support, and doing what we enjoy. Together we even figured out (with the help of a calculator) that 12 nights is just 3% of all the nights in a year.

Just 3%.

Could I commit 3% of my year to do something that I loved?

That’s how I find the time to go backpacking. My family made it a goal, a simple goal – make the time to do the things you love to do.

What % of your year are you willing to commit to doing something you love?

Please share your answer or how you find time for backpacking in a comment below.

I hope to see you on the trail,

~ Rob

Connect with Rob at Backpacking Adventures or on FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter.

Hi everybody, Rob here. I am a backpacking enthusiast who started documenting my trips via video in 2014 on my YouTube channel. This is when Backpacking Adventures was born. Since that time I have had the opportunity to interact with so many like minded people and the Backpacking Adventures community has become a very important part of my life. To learn about what we are trying to accomplish read more.


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How Do You Find Time to Go Backpacking? Part 1

This is part one of a three-part blog written by three backpackers (Dane, Rob and Lance) all answering the same question:

“How Do You Find Time To Go Backpacking?”

Make the Time to Do What You Love

By Lance (OutLan)

I have always loved camping and hiking. Since I was a little boy, my favorite thing to do was to go on hikes with my family on the trails around my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. I wanted nothing more than to go camping, though my parents were never really the “outdoorsy” type. Their idea of roughing it meant getting a hotel room each summer in Gatlinburg near the Great Smoky Mountains. At the age of 10, all I wanted to do was explore those mountains–to hike, camp, and spend time deep in those woods. Backpacking, I thought, would be the way to really do it. To me, that was the answer. Unfortunately, I never got beyond the planning stages.

OutLanFast-forward to five years ago, after many years of getting tied to desk jobs, starting a family, and not being out in the woods other than car camping, my friend invited me to an overnight “survival” camping trip in November. My gear was old and not up to the task of the snow, sleet, and 18 degree temperature I experienced that night. It was both a horrible and exhilarating night, and I knew I wanted to make a regular a habit of getting outdoors. I wanted to get into backpacking. This would mean getting all new gear, gaining the experience, and making the time to do it. This, I thought, was not going to be easy.

My kids were just two years old when I came to this realization. My wife realized how badly I wanted to make this a part of my life, and reluctantly supported my crazy expenditures and weekend trips out in the woods. Being the father of twin boys, it never really felt right to leave her alone with two babies, but my wife let me go anyway. I know she was not always happy with me going out to the woods, but she also I knew it’s what I loved and was my release from the everyday stresses.

These days, there are multiple things that pull at me on a daily basis. Though my kids are older, it is just as challenging – if not more so – to get away. I have work responsibilities tugging at me almost 24/7, the kids have school and extracurricular activities, and there are the common but important household responsibilities and chores that every husband and father has to deal with. It is never easy to find the time to go backpacking, so I have to make the time. This starts with strong communication with my wife, letting her know when and where I’d like to go, and making sure there are no conflicts in our schedules. She is disinterested in backpacking, and is fine with me going off and doing it alone or with friends. To keep our schedules aligned, we make use of available technologies, like mobile apps, to sync our schedules. There is never really a convenient or “good” time to do it, but certain times are better than others, and it always comes down to timing. Not every trip comes to fruition, but the ones that do are always great.

Time is the most valuable thing we have, and though it’s sometimes hard to balance all of our priorities, it’s still important to make some time for ourselves. This year, I encourage you to try making getting outdoors a priority. Get out there, explore creation. Hike, camp, backpack, and just take in the beauty that’s around us.

Connect with Lance at The Outlan Channel or on FaceBook and YouTube.

Lance enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking, and a wide range of outdoor activities and gear. He discovered YouTube a few years ago as an infinite resource filled with other people who love the same things he does. He decided to turn his passion for photography and the outdoors into an official channel and it has become an addiction for him. He is striving to consistently produce more high-quality content and gain a larger subscriber base from whom he can learn from as well as instruct and entertain.