Today was an unusually beautiful day in Wisconsin. It was sunny and warm with a high in the mid-40’s. It was the perfect day to do some real trail miles instead of my urban trail hike.
I took this as an opportunity to adjust the weight in my pack and stretch myself out and see what I could do. I took out the thirty pounds of water bottles I normally carry and put in my 13.2 pounds of gear, a half empty gas canister, two liters of water and some lunch. I parked my car in the Emerald parking lot near the Monches segment, my favorite segment, and hiked south for seven miles. I hiked at a backpacker’s pace. I wanted to see how I felt after it was done. I committed myself to hike to 11:30, make myself some lunch, and hike back. I needed to be home by 3:30 p.m.
I wore what I intend to wear on the trail, a base layer shirt, my outer shell, and a pair of quick drying athletic shorts. In about twenty minutes into the hike, I was glad I was wearing shorts as my outer shell was unzipped because I was so warm. I easily made 7.5 miles by 11:30 and sat down on a bench a Boy Scout built for the trail.
As I cooked, I felt a sting. It was a mosquito.
Let me put this into perspective. I was hiking in shorts and I was bitten by a mosquito. In Wisconsin. In the middle of January. I may have been the only person to ever say that they were bitten by a mosquito on the trail in Wisconsin in the middle of January.
I hiked back at an even faster pace. The 25 pounds on my back felt like nothing after hiking with 35 pounds I normally carry. I stopped briefly at the end when a small group stopped me to ask if I was training. I said “I am. I’m hiking the PCT this year!” We talked for a little bit. I think at least some of them will go some day based upon their interest.
When I got to the car, I was barely even sweating after 15 miles. I drove home, took a shower, and then took my son and his six friends to laser tag where I ran around for an hour-and-a-half.
That is where I am. I can hike 15 miles of trail with 25 pounds and still have plenty of energy to play laser tag. My concern is that even the Ice Age Trail is pretty flat compared to the PCT. There just isn’t a place around here to get that up-and-down. Still, 15 miles like it was nothing gives me some good confidence that I’m close to where I want to be.