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Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Year Ago Today

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So, no hike this week. It decided to both snow and be incredibly cold, and although I had planned on visiting a museum to make up for the lack of a hike, it seemed with all the ice that it would be a better idea to just stay indoors.

So I did, and tried to work extra hard on the elliptical machine.

Then

So, a year ago today, I decided to start logging the food I ate with a little app called MyFitnessPal. I had been feeling pretty crappy about my weight for a long time, and had taken some tentative steps towards correcting the problem, but this was my first real effort in a long time.

“I’ll just start seeing what I eat and see how badly I am doing,” I said to myself. Boy, was I being bad. I mean, it could have been a lot worse, but I generally dislike most fast food, and I pretty much cook dinner every night.

However, when you cook dinner for 4 for two people and eat it all, you have a problem. I’d often eat whatever leftovers my SO hadn’t eaten either, so I was often eating enough food for 3 people at a time.

I hate wasting food, and I love eating, so that was a big issue. I also love to bake things, and baking a batch of cookies and eating most of them was also a problem.

So, I started taking steps to correct things. I had pretty much given up on soda and coffee for a while by this point, only occasionally drinking them. I also cut out fruit juice, as drinking it with breakfast often left me feeling dizzy by lunchtime. I limited myself to tea and water as my main beverages. I started eating a regular breakfast of oatmeal. I started cutting down the portion sizes at dinner.

And I started walking. At first, it was only 30 minutes of walking, but as time went on, I moved it up to an hour worth, and then I added in my weekly hikes. Walking every day and listening to audiobooks while I did it really helped, along with the portion size changes, and the tinkering with menus to eliminate high calorie foods.

I think the difference now between when I tried to do this before, is the change in technology. My phone is with me all of the time, and I can even scan barcodes, and look up foods in the database, so I can make better choices. This gave me no excuse to not log my food.

As I lost the weight and as I exercised more, I felt some of the symptoms of my depression lessen. It’s not totally gone, nor is my anxiety. I am not sure if I can ever stand a stressful environment again. But I am trying.

One year ago, I weighed 248 pounds. Today (well, as of last Saturday, actually,) I weigh 159.

Now

I still have a bit to go: I would eventually like to hit 140 pounds. I feel like I’ve come a long way. I can hike 10 miles up and down a 1500 ft incline. I have more energy. I don’t feel like I’m dying when I go up all the stairs in the house I live in.

Here’s hoping another year will be as productive as this last one has been.

Riverbend Park

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Hike Summary

It’s been a rough week. I’ve been moody and irritable and starving the whole time. The weather people said that Thursday would be snow, but there was no snow, so I decided to shuffle things around and go for a hike on Friday.

I almost think I should have stayed home. All the stress and frustration was getting to me, and it was magnified on the hike. The guide I followed was once again out of date, but I didn’t handle it well, I would often get frustrated trying to search for where I was to go, or indecisive on which route to take. I really should have just gone with my first impulse, which was to follow the Bootlegger trail all the way down south, but my indecision made me stubbornly try to follow the directions.

It was actually a pretty day — the sun was shining, the Potomac was rushing swiftly by, making susurrating noises. There was a lot of wildlife. I really should have taken time to appreciate the hike, but I really just wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

So I cut it short, at “only” close to 5 miles. It’s funny to think about, when I first started hiking, 5 miles would have been a good hike. Now, it felt like just a mere warmup.

I am determined for the next hike to be more prepared for my route, although actually the place I have in mind I have hiked before, but I haven’t chronicled on here. We’ll see how the week goes.

More Pictures of Riverbend Park

Mason Neck State Park

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Hike Summary

After the previous week’s hike of exciting snowy wilderness, I decided to try something different and headed in the opposite direction, through suburbia, to Mason Neck State Park. It’s located in Lorton, VA, a little foot that kicks out into the Potomac as it starts to turn into the Cheasapeake Bay.

I’d been holding off on some of these hikes in this direction, because I had been saving them for winter time when they’d be less crowded, but also because I was a tiny bit leery of driving in the direction of DC during commute hours. I do almost all of my hiking during the week, and that has its pluses and minuses.

Still, it was not a problem, although there was traffic, none of it was particularly nasty, and I took an alternate route and avoided the crowded and busy interstates on the way.

It was a blustery winter day as I arrived, only one of a couple of cars there in the parking lot at the visitor’s center. The gift shop was closed (only open on the weekends,) but there was a ranger there who helped me out with my out of date map from my guidebook, and also pointed out that their website map is out of date as well. They’ve added an additional trail, the Meadow View trail, and she showed me where it linked up to the others.

The sun was starting to burn off the early morning haze as I set out. There were a few birders along the way, who gave me slightly dirty looks, as I had a dog with me. I try to be very accommodating towards other people when I am out hiking with my dog: I never let him off leash, I curb my leash very short when I see other people, and I yield to hikers automatically. The only thing remotely naughty that I do is I use a flexi-lead leash, which breaks the “6 ft rule” of many parks, but I also keep a 6ft leash in my backpack in case anyone complains. I always make sure my dog stays on the trail with me and doesn’t go running off to chase anything, as much as he would love to. I know that dogs and dog owners often get a bad rep because of their misbehavior, and I definitely don’t want to contribute to that.

So I make a squid like route on the map this day, first following the Bay View trail out to the first observation blind, that looked out over a salty smelling marsh area. Not much in the way of wildlife was immediately visible, but I could hear plenty around me, particularly the distinctive knocking of woodpeckers.

Back around I went, and then turned onto the Dogue trail and then the new Meadow View trail. You could tell this trail was relatively new, as it was very well maintained with a lot of gravel strewn along it. I kinda think that there were a couple of approaches where they could have been better served by using a switchback instead of a steep climb, but none of them were particularly insurmountable. Compared to the hikes I’ve been on lately in more wilderness areas, this was … a walk in the park.

The sounds of civilization were never very far away as I continued on my way. The railroad was near, and there were often small airplanes flying overhead. I could hear cars at times. Such is the drawback of being close to suburbia.

On I went to the Eagle Spur trail, that led out to another observation blind. I had kind of been hoping to possibly see a bald eagle or two, as they supposedly nest in the area, but there were none to be seen. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled in other parks along the Potomac, as winter is supposed to be a good time to see them.

In my efforts to get as many miles as I could out of this hike, I hiked almost every trail in this park, even the little paved beach trail at the end. It was worth going on, as there was a nice view at the end, made a lovely end to the day.

Hopefully some weekend soon, I can try to make a super long hike, something around 20 miles or so. The registration for the One Day Hike is coming up, and they say that if you want to do the full hike you should be able to do at least a 25 mile hike to test yourself.

More Pictures of Mason Neck State Park

Elizabeth Furnace to Buzzard Rock (mostly) – GWNF

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Hike Summary

The first hike of the new year was an interesting one, and one I took away several lessons from.

  • When in doubt, don’t.
  • In the winter, warm temperatures can be more dangerous than cold ones.
  • Listen to your dog.

Nothing bad happened on my hike, but if I hadn’t been careful, and possibly if I hadn’t turned around early, it could have.

This hike is one of at least five different ways up to Buzzard Rock, I hiked a much shorter route from the north side earlier in the autumn.

The beginning of the hike was a little confusing for me, as I had to park outside of the closed Elizabeth Furnace picnic area and hike a little ways in. The directions from the site I was using were a little vague, but the hike begins at the Northeast side of the main parking lot, and follows an interpretative trail (The Pig Iron trail,) north to Elizabeth Furnace itself, which was a furnace that was used to smelt pig iron before and during the Civil War. It looks like a big fireplace, which is more or less basically what it was.

The trail takes a meandering route along Passage creek before slowly climbing up the hill. There are a couple of little spots where it crosses creeks and such, and there are some junctions with the shortcut trail that canĀ  be used on the way back. The blazes are Orange and Blue to indicate that it’s the Massanutten/Tuscarora trail most of the way.

I found that hiking uphill in the snow wasn’t too difficult, particularly because the way had been broken before me by some hikers as well as a mountain biker. Usually I am one to shake my fist and curse the name of mountain bikers, but in this case I was thankful for the extra traction (and, as far as I can tell, they’re allowed on these trails, so it’s all good as long as they don’t run me over.)

I even ran across a few people that had the gumption to be out camping in the snow. I know, even me hiking is somewhat ill advised, but camping in the middle of winter with snow on the ground is not something I expected to see.

The trail eventually wound up to Shawl Gap, and the four-way intersection there. There are signs pointing the way towards Buzzard Rock, and the trail blaze changes to white. I took some time to stop and try out one of my Christmas presents, which was one of those steel thermoses. My tea was nice and piping hot, and it was a welcome thing to be drinking in the cold.

The sun was higher in the sky by this time, so as I set out towards Buzzard Rock, the air became warmer. I didn’t give this much thought at first, until I realized that my footing was getting less sure, especially as the elevation dropped towards the rock. My dog was less surefooted as well.

I started to be a little unsure as I went, and when at one point I took a sudden slip and tumble into the snow, I decided that the intelligent decision was to turn back. I took some time to stop and eat some lunch and admire some of the views towards Front Royal, and then turned around, encountering (and warning) some fellow hikers/campers (they may have been the same ones I saw before, even) that were headed towards Buzzard Rock as well.

The hiking directions I had been using mentioned that there was a shortcut trail on the way back, but warned that it was much steeper than the other trail. I decided to give it a try, but the trail was far too icy and steep, so I had to backtrack. This happened twice on the way back, and it tired me out quite a bit. My dog was also getting pretty tired as well. I kinda wished that I had a sled that I could use to make the way back quicker, but we soldiered on. I was finally able to make one last cut over to the Charcoal interpretative trail.

I think, that if I am going to hike any more in the George Washington National Forest in the winter, I need some crampons for my boots. I think I am going to try to stick to lower elevations for now, where there isn’t snow and dangerous footing. Still, it was a fun hike in the snow, and I’m glad I did it.

More Pictures of Elizabeth Furnace

Looking back on the Year Past

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Yes, I am still here! The holidays kept me from hiking, and all the busy times preparing for Christmas dinner (I cook) left me too drained to even make a little blurb, my apologies!

I am still here, I plan on continuing to hike as much as the weather will allow me to in winter time. I also plan on posting more than just hike summaries in the days to come, to keep things more informative.

The Year Past

This last year, I looked at myself, weighing 248 pounds, feeling like crap all the time, feeling crushed and hopeless from depression, and I decided to do something about it.

I started walking. I’ve made a couple of attempts at this before, but nothing really seemed to work. I tried making it a habit, I tried making it fun. It took me really committing to it, making it the first thing I do in the morning, and eventually adding in hiking to get it to stick.

Although I started walking in February or March, I didn’t start tracking it until April. There are also a few times where my phone has died and I’ve lost how far I’ve gotten, but keeping that in mind:

  • Distance traveled: 794 miles
  • Total Time: 281 hours
  • Calories Burned: 104, 783

When I started walking, I averaged 2.56mph. In December, I averaged 3.14mph. I also lost 85 pounds during that time, and I’m feeling a lot better.

I still have a ways to go, but I think that all in all, the previous year was a good one.

So, what to look forward to in the coming year?

My goals are to lose 23 more pounds, continue to hike as much as I can (weather allowing) and to walk or use the elliptical every day. I’d like to expand my blogging some, branching out into possibly writing my opinions about some of the equipment I use. I’d like to maybe get my own domain going as well.

The year looks great from here!