“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Friday, July 12, 2013

Great Seal State Park Hike

Last Sunday, my long hike adventures brought me to Great Seal State Park.  It was a very wet and rainy day and if Sundays weren't my only option for long hikes, I might have been tempted to reschedule.  Of course, it's been raining for most of the month of July here, so I probably needed to just be grateful there was no lightening and go with it.  :)

The Great Seal State Park is about 1.5 hours drive from my house.  As has been my tradition since my long hike with Richard, I stopped at Tim Horton's for my pre-hike bagel, coffee and donut.  (A drive is always better with sugar and caffeine, right?)
But Mommy, how can I blow on your coffee if you don't drink it at home?
Unfortunately, when I got to the trail head listed in my hiking book, I saw a mailbox holding map signs, a picnic table and the trailhead.  NO BATHROOMS.  I immediately perused the map to locate the nearest bathrooms.  (because coffee and breakfast always help the GI tract move along, this was a necessity).  The bad news?  There were no bathrooms on my entire hike route.  There weren't even any bathrooms on this side of the state park.  I weighed my options.  One of the things I always carry with me for hikes is toilet paper.  I confess, I hiked down the path to the creek, hiked upstream a ways and found a safe and sheltered spot on the side to do my business.  No, I didn't take pictures of that, but I did get a shot of the trailhead.
Let's do this!
All the rain and moisture in the air caused problems with the focus on my iPhone camera, so a lot of my hike photos have a nice blurry character to them.  My plan for the hike was a 5 hour hike.  The guidebook recommending this hike said that this loop took 5-6.5 hours.  I'd bought a new audibook for the hike, and it was a fascinating one.  Perfect.  The hike started with a loop up Mt. Ives.
Pictures never do hills justice, especially when the rain makes them blurry.
The black things on the right edge are my trekking poles, I actually brought them this time.
I turned onto the Lick Run trail, the Grouse trail, the Shawnee Ridge trail and the Rocky knob trail along the way.  The state site describes the Mt. Ives trail as a strenuous trail that winds along Mt. Ives and provides several scenic vistas.  I saw a couple of trail runners in one of the stretches and had to pull aside to let them by (it was definitely a single track kind of trail).  It was kind of cool, they were definitely hardcore in my book!  After that, I didn't see anyone else until the very end of my hike back near the trailhead again.  (That's when I saw a couple of people on horses and some mountain bikers).
One of the wider sections of trail - maybe not so bad for running.  Lots of horse tracks too.
It's actually the start of a long hill, but it doesn't look that one in the photo.
I took my first break an hour and 45 minutes in at some nifty tree stumps that seemed set up for that purpose.  It was also immediately after a long upward climb, so I was ready.  I was also very thirsty.  The tree canopy kept the rain from really falling on me, but the humidity was ultra crazy. (It was also around 80*F).   It actually looked ghostly and foggy - and I had to snap some blurry photos.  (Note to self, next time, bring fancier camera).
I could come up with some great ghost stories to go with these...
The next section was a lot of up and downs, but no super long climbs, so I decided to go 2 additional hours before my next pack off break.  Unfortunately, I turned on a user path that looked like the actual path and got dumped out onto the road.  Part of the trail goes to the road, so I wandered up and down the road before deciding I'd definitely taken a wrong turn and worked my way back to the trail I was supposed to be on.  I stopped and took off my pack for my break.  That's when I noticed my cell phone was no longer in the side pocket.  Oh Chicken Feathers!  (my new favorite curse courtesy of watching Micky Mouse clubhouse with Avery).   The biggest issue with the missing phone was that I had told my husband that I would check in every couple of hours via text message because of how isolated the hike was.  No check in would be bad.
I left my pack at the main trail and dashed down the user trail.  I'd gotten tangled in brush several times on that trail and hoped that is where I'd lost the phone.  I may have been muttering a few prayers as well. Luckily, about 10 minutes down, I found it.  Double lucky - it hadn't landed in mud or water.  (There were plenty of both along the trail).
As an example of both...
After a break and a text to the husband, I continued for another half hour of hiking, and then I was back near the trailhead and my car.  Yikes.  I'd only hiked for 4 hours and 15 minutes at this point.  I felt that was too short of my intended 5 hours, so I decided to be hardcore and added the Mt. Ives loop again.  I looked over the map and had a good plan.  So good, that I decided I no longer needed to confirm direction at each lettered intersection.
An example of one of the lettered posts and a trail sign tacked to a tree.
One challenging navigational aspect of this park is that there are a zillion intersecting trails, both official and user made.  Unfortunately, given the isolated nature of the park and the ruggedness of the trails, both the official and the user trails all look the same.  Each official intersection is labeled with a letter that is clearly labeled on the trail map.  Most of the user trails are not labeled however.
One of the clearer trails
For most of the hike, I stopped at each intersection and confirmed my direction of travel before proceeding.  I got overconfident when I repeated this section though and simply made the turns without confirmation.

So, it finally happened.  The next letter was not the letter I was expecting to see.  Out came the map again.  That's right, I'd traveled the exact OPPOSITE direction of the direction back to my car.  I'd climbed an unnecessary hill, AND I was now at 5 hours hiking and probably still 20 minutes from my car.  My mental state deteriorated quickly. I texted my husband what had happened and triple checked my direction of travel on my compass before returning back the way I'd come.  I winced a little with each step because the bottoms of my feet were now rather sore too.  Amazing how different things can be from one second to the next when you through yourself a workout curve ball.
Ok.  Back on track.  Right?
Nonetheless, I made it back to my car safe and sound and only 20 minutes long on the 5 hour hike.  I'd gained 2142 feet in elevation, slogged through endless mud and water, made my own trailside bathroom twice and thrown my mental state for a loop several times.  (All good training for the mountain really).  I stopped at a fast food place on the way home to utilize the bathroom facilities and change my soaking wet clothes.  I also treated myself to a chicken sandwich and a chocolate milkshake.  Suddenly, I was all smiles again.  Amazing how little it takes to change my outlook.
My boots weren't necessarily all smiles...
I choose this hike form my book because it claimed to have 2000 feet in elevation gain.  It is billed as a good training hike for the Appalachian trail.  The forest was beautiful!  After the hike though, I realized, with all that climbing, I never really had any scenic views.  A chart in the front of my book has check marks for things the hikes are good for.  Views, dogs, nature, etc.  The Great Seal loop ONLY was marked as good for nature lovers.  I have to say then, that the Great Seal loop was as advertised!
One of the few open views along the way - that is NOT the trail behind me.
Next Sunday though - I think it's back to Tar Hollow State Park for a crack at the South Logan Trail loop (one I have not done yet) and hopefully some awesome views.

Do you ever throw yourself unexpected curveballs while training?  Have you ever experienced that sudden "everything sucks" mindset when it happens?

Do you have any pre-long workout routines?

Would you have gotten back in the car to drive another 10 miles to go the port-a-potties and driven the 10 miles back to the trailhead, or just made your own like I did?


  1. What book are you using? I need a copy of that book! I love reading about your hiking adventures!!!

    1. The book is a Falcon Guide, entitled Best Hikes Near Columbus by Johnny Molloy. It caught my eye at Costco a month or so ago and has definitely been worth the impulse buy!

  2. What a great adventure! Be safe out there!

  3. Thank goodness you found your phone! I would have been freaking out!

    I love hiking! I haven't gone out yet though...somehow there just doesn't seem to be enough time. It is always nice when there is a big payoff (i.e. a gorgeous view) on a hike. I wound up buying a book called Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies that breaks down great trails with big rewards and ones you don't want to waste your time on because they either aren't spectacular or they are super popular and way too busy.

  4. WOW!! Youre my hero!!!
    Sometime, can you do a post about your gear? Like what shoes, and socks etc. and safety. I have lots of parks around here, but Im so afraid of bear and snakes!!!

    1. Thanks! Of course I can! I've been planning a post on what I always put in my pack and it would be super easy to include the rest of that in there too!


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