The days are getting longer. Not super long, but it is still light out at 6:30 in the evening. So I made a decision. When I got up this morning and finished sharing an indulgent breakfast with my bride (the only day I eat bacon and eggs!), I tossed my backpack in the hatch and sped down the road toward Morgan Monroe State Forest. I’d been debating whether to hike both the Low Gap and Three Lakes Trails in one day. It may have made more sense to put it off until the days were even longer, but frankly? I was itching to catch up with my hiking buddy in Texas, my son Aaron. He did a section hike of the Lone Star Hiking Trail north of Houston and got in a twenty mile day. I haven’t done that since I was a teenager in Scouting, and certainly not since I turned 50.
I went for it. Now I ache. Not so much because I’m old, which I’m not – not really. I don’t feel “age” day in and day out. But I kept a 3 mph pace most of the way through the hike. Yep, that is the normal human walking pace. But these hills. Both trails I hiked are rated “rugged” and they don’t even recommend that you thru-hike them if you aren’t in shape. Good shape. Bordering on really good shape. I’m in good shape, non-bordering.
I hiked hard. And I hiked for 8 hours including breaks every 5 miles. I usually do a short break every three miles, but I was racing the sun down, and the sun won.
I night-hiked the last mile, without my headlamp on. I brought it, just did’nt use it because the half moon was out and I could see the blazes. I couldn’t see all the roots and sticks, but I tread carefully and didn’t fall down once. I stumbled a couple of times, but my trekking poles kept me upright. My legs feel awesome right now. No, really. It’s a good burn. And with the pack on, I burned nearly 7,000 calories.
Hiking the Low Gap and Three Rivers Trails in one day is no longer on my bucket list. I did it, and I didn’t kick the bucket. There is this surreal feeling of peace and wellness that washes over you at the end of a good day of hiking, when you get to camp or to the trailhead and it is time to get on with the next thing. For me, it was getting a shower, eating, and coming back here to tell you about it.