I've read a lot of "why I hike" blogs and contests recently. I wrote this article for the February edition of Giant News - the Sleeping Giant Park Association newsletter. You can read that beautifully edited version by becoming a member and picking up a copy. In the meantime, scroll through this one - I've put links to some of my favorite Sleeping Giant photo pages at the end...
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I want Candice’s autograph. If you remember the last issue of the Giant News, Candice hiked all the trails on Sleeping Giant in one day to earn the distinction of Giant Master Marathoner.
I started hiking again last year just to get off the couch and do something. And since Sleeping Giant was nearby, it was a great place to start. I checked the web site looking for hike dates, and read about the Giant Masters program, recognition for hiking all the nearly 30 miles of blazed trails. Great, I thought – a goal (and a neat looking certificate at the end!) As it turned out, there was so much of the mountain I hadn’t bothered to explore before, the hikes were really enjoyable. I got the exercise, and I got to see a lot more of the park. Along the way, I met a great group of people dedicated to bringing out the best of Sleeping Giant.
Near the end of spring, I filled in the hiking log with trails and dates, sent it in and soon received that certificate and Giant Master Patch, along with a beautiful letter of congratulations and encouragement. And then the chatter started – “Congratulations, that’s great. But you don’t really know the trails until you’ve hiked them in both directions!” That led to another round of hikes, proving on the Giant’s head that there really is a difference which way you go – I found that up the quarry trail is a lot easier than down! Another log sheet, another certificate – and even more chatter: “good for you, but hiking in fall and winter you really get to know your way around the mountain”.
So I set another goal – the Four Seasons Giants Master, hiking each trail in each season. But there was one more classification in the program, the Giant Marathoner. All the trails in one day? My head (and knees) said there wasn’t a chance I could make that. But just to make sure, I hiked all the trails over one autumn weekend. I want Candice’s autograph – she’s a rock star! Because hobbling around stiff and sore on that Sunday I decided the two day hike had been a crazy thing to do.
By now, I had started to notice the little differences in the trails and the mountain. Waterfalls and streams swollen in the spring were nearly dry in summer. Trails that were impossible to miss in the summer were hidden under the fallen leaves in autumn. I saw where a new tree blaze might be a good idea since the snow had covered the ones on the rocks. I had the opportunity to test what’s better for climbing rocky trails on an icy day – microspikes, YakTrax®, or maybe crampons and an ice axe.
But the part I really enjoyed, and what I missed as I hurried through that autumn weekend power hike, was stopping to talk with other hikers along the way.
- Meeting a proud Eagle Scout candidate as he put the finishing touches on a set of stairs at the Yellow Trail, and his dad, prouder still.
- Finding a couple of kids arguing about the bird they just saw – was it a hawk or an eagle – and holding an impromptu birding lesson for them on the under-wing design of turkey vultures and red tail hawks. Then reminding them as they hiked away to look down at the trail, not up in the sky as they walked!
- Meeting a couple crossing one of the red trails, trying to figure out which way it was back to the main entrance – and jealously looking at the photo of a three-point buck they were just able to shoot.