This Saturday's San Jose Stay Fit walk was our first real test. The trail was an "A" (extremely hill infested) and the forecast was for significant rain with the high temperature in the low 50s. And some wind.
The saner members of our group managed to come up with perfectly valid reasons for not being able to make the walk. Llib (not his real name) does not like lightening (which was only a very slight possibility), Eve (not her real name, but sort of...) had to go out and murder a tree, one had choir practice (really!), another had shoe issues, and so on.
The one guy who had a really good excuse, Coach Truc (who had come back from a vacation at some exotic place or other a few days earlier, only to find his house flooded due to a ruptured water line, forcing him to stay in a motel) was there bright an early. As were the several other hardy group members, including probably most surprisingly, Mrs Notthat.
Here we are gathering in a school parking lot. A special guest walker was Ijus and her wonder dog Razz (his real name). Truc is the one in shorts - exotic vacations do things to a guy I guess.
It was a short hike from the parking lot to the head of the trail where Ijus was able to dispose of a gift that Razz had left on a lawn along the way. (Note 1: I'm pretty sure I have included a picture of a porta-pottie in every one of these posts. You're welcome! Note 2: this "short hike" between the trail head and the parking lot is only short when starting. When you are returning, you swear that the school has been moved at least six blocks further away.)
Here we are warming up. Uidualc is studying the park map, verifying the complete lack of formal bathroom facilities once we leave this point. We were in Almaden County's Quicksilver park.
A lot of the hike was spent avoiding the trails. Actually, a lot of the trails were not all that bad, mud-wise, due to them being too steep for water to hang around long enough to make mud. Flat and muddy or steep and not so muddy - pick your poison!
Here we are at an overlook (there was a lake you could look at, but it was extremely low and depressing). I love that only Razz was willing to get on that soaked bench. The rest of us saw it as an opportunity to scrape some mud off our shoes.
There were many impromptu creeks that had to be forded. Note that Truc, the one in shorts, also is the only one with walking sticks. Soon Mrs Notthat is going to wish she had a pair of these.
The thing about the mud is that, no matter how deep the lugs on your shoes are (and both Mrs and I wore our hiking boots), they quickly fill up and you end up sliding around in this stuff. Plus so much mud sticks to your shoes and pant legs that it is like wearing twenty pound leg weights. It is a challenging workout.
This is the scariest wild life we saw on the hike. Everything else (mountain lions, deer, bobcats, the moose that Razz caught scent of and chased through the hills) stayed tucked away somewhere. They're not stupid.
Here's Nonra, a coach with a running group from San Jose Fit. His group ran past us, but he stopped to take our picture. (Is he prepared? His camera battery died and he had a backup with him. No, it would not occur to me to carry a backup.)
And this was a surprising thing - as miserable as the conditions were, we were far from alone on the trails. We were met by a woman probably my mother's age who was cheerfully walking her dog. She was coming the other way - she had already been to where we were going and was returning! There were people on bicycles and quite a few runners, and not just from our group. And all of these people seemed happy. Weird.
Mrs Notthat pauses for a picture. She was doing really good at this point. She had even been seen skipping down a hill (which apparently inspired Truc to do some skipping as well - that is a picture I am seriously disappointed to have missed).
Me. What you can't see is that I have a backpack on with shoes for Mrs and I (in case the hiking boots turned out to be wildly inappropriate), a spare raincoat, and Mrs sweatshirt that she took off after getting too warm. I was hugely disappointed when I got home to find that this 20 pound (at least) backpack actually only weighed 10 pounds.
Sadly, Mrs Notthat managed to somehow hurt her right knee, which made it painful to bend or to put weight on when going downhill. Coach Luap had a band of some sort that, when strapped below the knee, helped a fair amount. But we still turned around and headed back. The walk was to be 11 to 13 miles and we were only about halfway into it at this point. By taking shortcuts back we still ended up going about 8 miles though (maybe more - I never heard an official estimate).
I'm walking alongside her. It was slow going which led to the next problem - the lack of vigorous walking meant she could suddenly really feel the cold and wetness. Plus it started raining harder (off and on) and the wind gusted a bit more often. But she was determined to get back to the car and actually managed to go faster than I would have expected.
Finally we started going through the neighborhood to get to the school parking lot. We found an unexpected bonus - the water running through the gutters provided a good place to get a lot of the mud off our shoes and Razz. (This dog absolutely loved this walk and could have gone on all day. And all of us were happy that Razz was not having to ride in our car - that was one wet and muddy dog, even after the gutter bath.)
It's not easy to see, but that hill you see in the background was where we had just spent five and a half hours sloshing around in the mud. The thing is, I can see why people do this. After a while, the wet doesn't matter much and you get better about dodging the worst of the mud. The air is fresh and the hills are glorious. And the accomplishment, the refusing to do the easy thing and stay in a warm house watching TV, makes you feel pretty good.
I asked Mrs if she would go on another of these very moist hikes and she said no. But then, well, maybe if she had better pants and walking poles.
That's it - move along...
PS: We got our winter shirts! They are so cool. Note the stocking cap, scarf, and the splashing in a puddle.