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July Jubilation

A delightful couple of days last week – my daughter in law came down to take care of some odds and ends here in RI and she brought my three grandkids with her. So we had our grandkids sleep over two nights – what a wonderful surprise! And the timing could not have been better as my fourth grandson turned two on Thursday, which allowed all of his cousins to be there for his celebration. He had a party last Saturday and of course, we all missed the loved ones from Maine, so having them here for his actual birthday made it so special for all of us, but especially Teddy as he absolutely adores his cousins. Such a wonderful three days!!

I also got off an awesome hike last week and one that was a personal best for me; I logged 18.2 miles. Now I just called it a personal best but that is not exactly accurate – it is the most I have ever logged with either my iPhone, FitBit, or AllTrails – which covers the last ten years or so. But I did have a hike somewhere around fifteen or twenty years ago that I believe totaled a little over twenty miles. But…that was determined using trail guide distances, not by GPS or step counting. Often the trail distance in the guides or books are not accurate. But that was all I had before the digital age of hiking and the sum total of the trails I hiked that day added up to over 20.

The hike was not too difficult at all; there is some elevation changes but nothing really steep or really taxing as compared to other trails here in RI. For comparison, my previous best on AllTrails had been 16.1 miles. On that hike I gained 1365’ in elevation. On last week’s hike I hiked 2.1 miles farther, but only gained 778’ in elevation. So from an exertion perspective this hike was less taxing than the 16 mile hike despite being longer.

It also helped that this hike consisted of two distinct loops: north and south. So I parked the truck and did the south loop, which is around six or seven miles. I then had to pass by my truck to head over to the north loop and that allowed me to stop and drink half the bottle of water I left in the truck. Then on the longer north loop I was able to find several spots to grab some fresh water to drink along with some awesome blueberries that always offer both hydration and energy. The only difficulty I encountered was a bit of discomfort in my right hip, not really a cramp and not really a strain, just muscular (I assume) discomfort.

There was a stream crossing out in the far end of the north trail, a section of that trail that I have never hiked so have never crossed it before. So I don’t know how it is normally, but after the torrential rain we had experienced earlier in the week, the stream was swollen and not crossable without getting wet. It was easily 20’ across at this point. There were a series of rocks that went all the way across and I suspect that during normal times, you would be able to easily cross using this “rock bridge” and keep your feet dry the whole way.

But on this day the rocks were a half a foot to over a foot under water – fast running water at that – the current was really quite strong. I crossed balancing on the rocks and between the current trying to push each foot away from the next rock with every step and trying to tug my legs downstream with brute force, it was a difficult crossing. I did not fall, but I sure came close to doing so!

And of course, being a loop, I had to cross this stream again to get back. For the second crossing I chose to just walk on the stream bottom and not balance my way on the rocks again. That meant deeper water, around two or three feet deep, but easier walking. My feet were already wet and I only got the bottom few inches of my shorts wet so I wiser decision than trying to balance on the rocks. It also meant that I had to hike around six miles with soaked shoes and socks. (Although that actually felt kind of good!)

Challenging yourself is important, it stretches you and that always results in growth; often growth in many aspects – mental, physical, and even spiritual. Unfortunately challenging yourself as you get older can pose difficulties. When I did the 20-mile hike I was in my early fifties and now I am in the latter part of my sixties. And at this age, that makes a big difference. None the less, this one is documented and now becomes the baseline for my next challenge (which will likely be trying for twenty).

Since I started this post I got out for another hike. I intended it to be a short hike, maybe in the 8–10 mile range. But as is often the case lately, I struck out with a general destination in mind with no real plan for the overall hike. What that means is that I start at point A and wish to go to point B. I look at the map and pick a route that gets me there, but usually no real plan to get back. When I get there, I look at trails that will get me back, preferably in a way that jumps from trail to trail where they interconnect. And the ultimate goal is to do so on trails I have not hiked before.

In this case, I had a decent plan to get there, but around the 5 or 6 mile mark, I hit a snag. The trail was to take a sharp righthand turn onto a half-mile stretch that led to a road I needed to cross. But at that turn was a sign stating that the trail was closed. Instead, scan the Q-code for a detour map to follow – a 2.5-mile detour! So right off the bat I was adding 5 miles to the hike were I to do an out and back (i.e. return on the same route I went in on).

I ended up finding some trails that got me back to the truck without retracing my steps, but it involved a little more paved road time than I prefer. And it ended up at 15.9 miles, more than I had planned. Not that it mattered, the hike was a bit strenuous with 1,200’ of elevation change, but I was not spent at the end.

In our state, all historical cemeteries are listed in a database with a tremendous amount of detail on each one. And each cemetery has a sign posted at it listing the town and cemetery number allowing you to learn about it on the website when you get home. I have always had an itch in the back of my mind to find and report an unmarked cemetery. Spirit of discovery I guess! And on this hike, I found one – sort of.

It is definitely a cemetery, there are at least twenty headstones in it, and it is not marked with a sign. But, as I “dropped a pin” in Google Maps to mark the spot, I realized that it was just over the state line into Connecticut. Since it is immediately off a trail that runs through RI, it is likely that the community that created and used it were mostly living in RI. But the graves are not in RI, at least according to the state line on the map. I don’t know how accurate the state boundaries were back then, but I am sure Google Maps is correct as of today!

I’ve reported the cemetery to the RI historical cemetery folks, and told them that it is likely in CT. They told me that they would forward the info to an associate in CT for review. I searched the web for a CT database similar to our RI database, but did not really find a definitive site. Since I began writing this, both RI and CT historical cemetery folks have reached out to me and we are hoping to schedule a phone call within the next week to discuss further.

Also since I began writing, I’ve undertaken yet another hike. This time I used two GPS apps and compared the two at the end, with surprising results. I have used Alltrails for a few years now; I like the features and the interface. I’ve had a couple of issues with it but overall it has been my go-to for hiking. Earlier this year I downloaded Strava. I signed up for a hiking challenge and they preferred each entrant use Strava to submit their results. And while I had used both apps simultaneously several times, I had really examined the actual data from each afterwards. I did this time.

Alltrails recorded me at 13.7 miles with 1,411’ of elevation. When I checked Strava, it recorded 15.06 miles with 1,586’ of elevation – a substantial difference! So I began to research it and I quickly learned that Alltrails is generally considered to be 10%-15% short on distance measurements – consistently. Wow! So my 18.2 mile hike may well have actually close to 20 miles, if no a bit over.

The idea of challenging yourself, of stretching yourself, of improving yourself completely relies on goals and data that can be used in comparison to those goals. If your data is wrong, it naturally affects your measurement of performance against those goals. But – if the data is consistently incorrect, e.g. it is always low (or high) – it really isn’t of consequence. If my personal goal is 20 miles, and my mode of measurement turns out to always be low, I may indeed have already hit my goal but not known it. That doesn’t matter; what matter is that I set an arbitrary value and my data indicates that I have not yet achieved that goal. The fact that perhaps I did actually hit 20 miles is irrelevant. Because one I hit 20, I will simply raise my goal and continue to challenge myself.

So, I may well continue to use Alltrails despite the knowledge that it is under-recording my mileage. Note though: I use the word “may”. Because besides liking to challenge myself, I am also quite competitive and I won’t really be happy posting that I hiked 18 miles when in fact, I actually did 19 or 20 miles! I will add that I used Strava data for my last hike….

We are seeing the grandkids again in a week – we’re heading up to Maine for a baby shower for my niece so we will definitely see our grandkids there. We will only stay the day, then we’ll head for Salem where we’ll spend a couple of days. Then on the following Thursday they are all coming down to our place for 3 or 4 days to visit. Our big annual fair is that weekend and we have always taken the grandkids so as of right now, we won’t be breaking that tradition!!

I need to wrap this up and stop adding to it. Stay well dear reader!

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