Monday, June 03, 2013

Knapsack 6-6-13

Notes from my Knapsack – 6-6-13
Jeff Gill

Vertical challenges in Our Fair Village

Philmont Scout Ranch is out in the northeast corner of New Mexico, on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range that you look at from the west if you're in Taos.

75 years old this summer, the property was given to Scouting by Waite Phillips for exactly the purposes to which a group of some seventeen youth and adults will put it in a few weeks: backpacking and hiking. All our food and gear for sleeping and cooking will be on our backs, 35 to 50-plus pounds worth.

And the hiking starts at Base Camp outside of Cimarron, NM at about 7,000 feet of elevation, and our trek (Trek 22 for those who know the process) will cover 81 miles over ten days on the trail (plus a day of orientation at the start, and a day of celebration and check-out at the end, for twelve days total).

The high point on our ten day journey is Baldy Mountain, 12,400 feet, and we don't just hike from 7,000 steadily up to 12,400 and down again over the trek. It's up and down and the whole Grand Ol' Duke of York routine. So training for us tenderfeet is important.

You can put on miles in Ohio, but what about building up those muscles for going uphill, and even more critically, downhill, with loads of water and gear on your back – and properly stowed, on your hips, weight-wise?

For that, you need vertical elevation, and that's not what central Ohio is known for. Add in a busy schedule of clearing the decks so one can be gone for almost three weeks (we're taking the train there and back), and there's not much time to go to places like Zaleski or Shawnee State Forest's rigorous backpacking trails, or put in sharp steep hikes at places like Fort Hill. So what to do?

First, they tell us that eastern woodland hikers sometimes run afoul of thinking their bodies are trained, but hit challenges and injuries because they were in woods on dirt trails for their mileage pre-Philmont, and out west the trails are hardpan and rock. So they actually recommend lots of miles on pavement, and stair-climbing.

Two places I've made extra trips when I have just a spare moment, and my ministerial schedule permits: Licking Memorial Hospital, from the cafeteria area in the basement to the stairs above the sixth floor, gives you virtually nine levels of double staircases from bottom to top and back again, and a second loop for luck; also the Don Hill County Administration Building in downtown Newark gives me five (ten with twice). So there's some stair-based endurance and pounding for my joints.

But right here in Granville, I've found a ten mile loop that gives me almost enough vertical to be challenging, although the real test will be when I hit the true mountain trails, and I'll let you know how it compares.

Anyhow, if you go to the Bryn Du Mansion, head down Jones and west on the walking path; take the side spur after The Colony, then the first turn left, into Bryn Du Woods – bear steadily west, across the main drag to the road that curves up towards Alligator Mound Hill, and then take the emergency access road, walking around the two gates, wheezing your way up to the ancient Alligator itself. Enjoy the view, catch your breath.

Now head down (a couple ways to do this, some of them legal) but end up at College and Granger, turn south, cross Broadway and go up Mount Parnassus; down the backside of it to the gates of Maple Grove, west on Maple to the Pearl St. connector to the bike path, bike path to Main St., and turn right, up the hill past the Old Colony Burying Ground.

Through the Four Corners, up President's Drive to the crosswalk, up the stairs to Swasey Chapel. If you're lucky, the chapel doors are open, and you can go up the steps to the balcony, across, and down the other steps. Then down to Slayter and the stairs behind the commons to Deeds Field and Piper Stadium, wend your way around to Washington, and out Pearl, now North St. to the Bioreserve. Take a loop there, then back to Bryn Du by as much more of this as you can stand, or the direct route of Pearl to Broadway and home.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your favorite local hikes at, or @Knapsack on Twitter.

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