Training hike: Horseshoe Trail

Well, I took another training hike yesterday. This time I tried the Horseshoe Trail, starting at the Valley Forge trailhead. It was a rainy, chill fall day—a great time to test a few pieces of gear in conditions that at least approximate what I might run into in spring.

The Good
The height of the Black Diamond trekking poles is about perfect. I’m not going with the Z-poles for the thru attempt, just because they feel a little… flimsy. I mean, they’ve been doing great. They’ve held me up when I needed them to, and they’ve proven themselves sturdier than the Loca Rotura (or whatever that brand is that used to be TiGoat), which had issues within the first couple of hikes, and the locks of which broke within 25 miles. My hardcore poles will be Lekis, because I’ve read that they’re the easiest poles for gear replacement on the trail. But I digress.

The shoes were good. I did have to change out the insoles a couple of times because of foot pain, but it was manageable. I don’t know how many miles the hike was, but driving from point A to point B, according to Google, it worked out to 14 or so. I hope that’s the case. I’ll verify when my Horseshoe Trail guidebook gets here.

The Bad
I had high hopes that the Horseshoe Trail might work for a training ground for me for the next five months. Alas, it won’t.

The first part—the part through Valley Forge—was actually excellent. A little uphill, a few rocks, and woods. (There was even an old house that reminded me of Blair Witch. Spooky!) I saw some deer, which is always outstanding. But… after Valley Forge, the trail basically turned into a track that wove through rich people’s backyards. I felt… intrusive, just being on it. And after that, the rich houses turned into actual mansions. Mansions with so many “DO NOT TRESPASS” signs that I kept waiting for the long arm of the law to jump out and put me in handcuffs. That, or the local old-money millionaires would slip out from behind the trees and shoot me with very expensive guns.

Not fun.

And the track itself wasn’t much to speak of: a lot of road walking, mud, places that smelled enough like shit that I knew I was walking through rich people’s sewers. And speaking of shit… horseshit aplenty. Which made me realize that even though the trail was made for ‘horses’ and ‘shoes,’ it has the feel of a place that was basically made for rich people to ride their horses.

Upshot? I won’t go back. I might try it from the other side—the Appalachian Trail side—once I have the guide book.

Valley Forge park itself still might be useful for those long training days under weight.

The Ugly
The leaves are problematic, what with the Pennsylvania rocks. I took one nasty fall after I rolled my ankle. Nothing injured and no ill effects this morning, but I have to take these trails as they are, and what they are is pretty much dangerous during leaf season. And it’ll be hunting season in a few days anyway. I don’t like to hear the gunshots in the woods. It makes me feel sad for the deer.

Upshot
I’ll probably stick to the Farm Park for the rest of October. I might use the wider paths of Valley Forge for the long walks. But mostly, why bother? Unless I can work out a 20-mile loop.

No pain, no Maine. Hell, no pain, no Neels.

Oh! Which reminds me! My left knee continues to hurt on the downhills. I tried out the Cho-Pat braces and they didn’t seem to help much, but they did do a ‘gate control’ number on the pain, so it was less noticeable. And they provided a certain degree of stiffness that helped with favoring the knee. Note: This just feels like the old arthritic-type pain, not anything related to an injury. I know what this sort of discomfort feels like after fifteen years of martial arts training. I don’t want to take the Cho-Pats because they weigh about 75 pounds each, but I think I’m going to take them anyway. I’ll want to have them when I’m most vulnerable to injury, at the beginning of the hike. If I don’t use them, that’s great.

I’ll put photos of the hike on the flickr site, when I have time to upload them.

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