Hey, it’s Zach again. Even though Parker and I went on a lovely little hike with our hosts in Canada a few days ago, Im going to consider today as the day the Hike Potatoes took their first few steps into the wilderness (contrary to what Parker says, but he’s not the one writing this). After going about our morning routine of breakfast and cleaning camp, we visited Allegany State Park to hit a few trails with Parker’s mom. We decided to take it easy and found a nice 2.5 mile trail that went straight up the foothills before turning around into a relaxing, drop-off of a decline. It was a sunny, 80 degree day and the forest was brightly illuminated, beams of sunlight streaking through the leafy canopy. The trail itself was of worn clay, trampled roots and stone scoured smooth by hundreds of footsteps and wound tightly up a hill that was just smaller than that of Spirit Mountain (with the same incline). After a short climb of about 200 yards, Parker and I decided that the terrain was the perfect setting for a jog in the woods. We took off with a hindered stride, our legs burning with the effort of powering our bodies uphill. The impact of our footfalls were felt in our knees and our calves strained to propel us forward. I could feel the weight of the water that I carried in my backpack sloshing back and forth and the constriction of the bag’s straps against my chest and around my waist as my lungs sucked in dry, hot air. We slogged up the hill for a good mile before coming to rest, breathing heavily, at the apex of the hill only to run back down again to rendezvous with Parker’s mom, who we had left far behind. After regrouping, we casually navigated the remainder of the trail before exiting the forest and grabbed a quick bite to eat.
Here’s a nice pic that demonstrates the product of running up a hill:
“Beehunter” was the name of the second trail that we took, a 6.5 mile hike around the foothills that surrounded a small lake in the center of the park. This turned or to be a much more mild hike as the topography was more planed out than the previous hill, though we did have a steady 75 yard climb to begin with. Greenery surrounded us, the forest itself was not infested with undergrowth and the moss-covered trunks of trees and huddles of boulders were easily seen. Sunlight blossomed overhead and illuminated the forest floor. Birds called to each other overhead, interrupted by the occasional slap that sounded the death of a mosquito, and small animals rustled amongst fallen leaves and branches. Chucks of stone, like the building-blocks of some fantastic castle, settled on either side of the trail, combined with the enormity of the trees they gave the environment an almost ethereal feel.
Our progress slowed as the forest thickened during our decent. Parker and I took turns leading the way, clearing unseen spider webs from the path with our face and communicating the footing of the trail by slipping on a loose stone, stumbling over a root or crying out as our foot was caught in the sucking mud. Eventually we came upon a wide ravine cut by a river that puddled between the bedrock. Undergrowth was entirely absent here and we walked on a carpet of rust-colored bark among immense trees that soared over head.
The combination of the river, the size of the trees and the general emptiness of the forest gave one a feeling of insignificance among nature. I spat in rejection of the feeling and moved on. A few hundred yards further in, the forest became more constricting and the mud more frequent. Flies buzzed around our heads and moths and lesser bugs stuck to the patina of sweat that formed across our arms and faces. We continued to slip through the mire and fumble across uneven ground. As I attempted to navigate a corroded decline I stumbled and split my knee open against a stone. Picking myself off the ground and confirming that I wasn’t injured more than a moderate scrape and a few minor cuts I noticed a bright lizard, no bigger than my index finger, looking up at me. It was as if Mother Nature had slowed my trek that I might notice it.
From that point the rest of the hike was more or less uneventful and we exited the trail about an hour later. Overall we hiked a good 11 miles. Aside from a slight limp and a dull throb in my knee, I’m glad to be out and moving again and Im sure Parker feels the same way. Tomorrow we plan on either going for another hike or connecting with the Buffalo YMCA where we hope to organize a day trip in the foothills and have a few YMCA members join us. Now that you’ve heard about our wonderful day of walking up steep hills in the muddy and bug-infested wilderness, go ahead and treat yourself to a nice bowl of vitamin-stocked fruit. If you’ve eaten anything along the lines of a doughnut, candy, fast food, fried food, chips, soda or any sugary desert, you should probably go for a 5 mile run. I’m out, deuces!