I am an impatient hiker. I have heard other trail runners describe themselves similarly. Running trails synthesizes life-giving activities for me--the activity and high of running with being outside and taking in beautiful places. Admittedly, toward the end of a 20 -30 mile run, the aesthetics can be a bit lacking--pain and suffering can trump a Patagonian sunset, I would guess. In those cases, the mind's eye is where the landscape lives. And post-long run, on Wye Island, eating and unlacing running shoes among the geese, dwells in the sublime.
You read inspiring accounts of hikers and backpackers covering 15 miles in a day, which is considered cooking in many circles. Running trails, those miles cruise by in 3 hours, and then you've got the rest of the day to spend with family, friends, or getting up to speed on the impending March Madness this time of year. I've often thought at Tuckahoe, how much I enjoy being able to see so much of the park without having to be there all day to do it.
All this is a factor as we consider and map out routes for a summer fast-packing excursion to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The trek looks to be four days and three nights, staying each night in one of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)'s great huts. This allows us to carry packs with just water, easy-to-pack and eat food for the days (the huts provide dinner, lodging, beds, and breakfast), minimal clothes--windshirt, rain gear, etc.--and not have to sweat hauling tents, sleeping bags, stoves, etc. Light and fast is the name of the game.
Mountain miles are not the same as Eastern Shore miles. This will be my first trip to the Whites, though Mike Keene knows the terrain and trails well. Having just read David Horton's experience in the slow-going White Mountains in his record-setting thru-AT run in A Quest for Adventure, I know we've got to be realistic in what we can accomplish in a day. Hut reservations depend on it! But the point will also be to push the pace, acclimate to the terrain, and work on tired legs, knowing that the JFK will creep up on us in the fall.
It is a blast to think about it all. Anyone with thoughts, experience, suggestions as to White Mountain routes, speak (comment) now or read what we come up with.
In other news, I had a great phone interview with Don Marvel last evening--a true ultra-running legend, who is under our noses in Easton. In high school, where Don taught for many years, we knew him as the insane teacher who would run from Easton to Salisbury, roughly 50 miles along Route 50. I have seen Don from the back and near turn-arounds in 5 and 10K races in the area for a few years. It wasn't until talking with him last evening--in the light of having ultra-marathon aspirations of my own--that I got a sense for the truly remarkable accomplishments he has logged on his legs. Stay tuned--Don's story is going to be a topic all its own.