For the past three Junes, near to the Solstice to take advantage of all the daylight, Nick and I have hiked out-and-back on the Siltstone Trail at Jefferson Memorial Forest.The trail is 6.7 miles one way, so round trip it’s 13.4 miles up and down knobs.
This year, our June calendar was stacked, so we went early on June 12th, because we had the day free and the weather looked favorable, although hot. With highs in the 90s, we set off early, loading our packs with plenty of water to get us through. We got on the trail just after 7:00AM and were cruising for a while. Unlike in other years, there was another group starting off with us, and they soon passed us. They had backpacking bags, and looked pretty serious. Nick and I continued on our way, with regular water breaks and tick checks. Since we’ve been on this trail multiple times, not just our two complete journeys, we are pretty familiar with the terrain and knew when to expect big climbs and when we’d get a break.
We were shocked when we hit the trail’s end about two and half hours after we started. In the past this trail has taken us 6-7 hours to complete, and we were way ahead of pace without trying. I think that shows just how much our shorter hikes, and trail running, have improved our strength. The other hikers, who had taken their break earlier on the trail, caught up to us and decided to continue onto Scott’s Gap, a strenuous 3+ mile loop that begins on the other side of the road. We wished them well, and after a short lunch break we turned around to head back before it got too hot.
About this time we got passed by a trail runner we had seen on his way out. As he moved around us he said, “That Scott’s Gap will eat you alive!” I laughed and said that’s why we don’t do it. (And then I worried that he had enough water to get back #trailmom.) Nick and I resolved to go Scott’s Gap on its own someday, before ever tacking it onto our Siltstone hike.
The remainder of our hike went pretty smoothly. I had a momentary panic attack when I saw a bushy tail ahead of us running away on the trail, but we decided it had to be a fox and not a coyote, although it would be strange to see either at that time of day. By the time we were less than an hour from the end, we were starting to feel a bit fatigued, so I used my iPhone to play some music to rally us. We finished the hike in just under 5:10, a new record for us. We were astounded at the pace we kept without trying, and it made us feel more confident about the trail race we hope to do here in November (although I’m still a bit nervous about running along some of those narrow ridges…)
Post-hike, and post-victory photos, we immediately went to the nearby Dairy Queen to celebrate and cool down with some Blizzards. Once home, we crashed on the couch, but both of us were surprised by how “good” we felt. In the following days, I didn’t feel nearly as sore as I had the previous year, though my legs remained fatigued for the better part of the week.