Typically, I start a hike with a particular milestone in mind. I want to complete a particular trail or log a certain number of miles. Typically, I end up on a completely different path. Kind of like life, right? You start out on a path with your entire trajectory planned – if you’re me, anyway – and end up in an entirely different place. Hike five of my 52 Hike Challenge was sort of like that.
It was a breezy Saturday morning. Birds were singing. Curtains were wafting in the breeze. I was blinking into the bright light – of a computer screen.
Last Saturday was the first really beautiful day of the year. The temperature made it to 70 degrees, the sun was shining and a perfect breeze was blowing. Why did I shove myself into a corner with a stack of claims to process on such a gorgeous day? Honestly, the prospect of some overtime and extra money was nice. And then the sun lured me outside. But the problem remained: Where should I hike?
And then it hit me – like my excited dog nearly knocking the wind out of me when I get home – why not go back and show Kincaid Lake who’s boss? What better way to kick off the warmer weather hiking season and shake off the winter blues than by revisiting the site of my last 2015 hike?
The last time I attempted this hike it was in the heat and humidity of late summer … and I forgot water. That hike was doomed from the start. This one was different. I had everything I needed for a perfect afternoon out.
Emme and I arrived at the park – with plenty of water and oxygen – intending to hike the same route as last summer. (The same hike that is outlined in the “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles” book.) We started down the hill, me letting Emme take the lead. I have a tendency to wander off-trail, while Emme follows the trail of other hikers ahead of us. Hiking with a hound comes in handy when you aren’t sure which trail to follow.
Once you get down the hill, you hang a Louie at the creek, following it down to a suspension bridge that separates the stagnant piece you just followed with a much prettier, babbling piece of the creek. When we came to the bridge, the hound wanted to cross so she could follow the hikers in the hills above us. It took me about a half a second to override that decision and take a disappearing trail just past the bridge that followed the creek.
Whether this is actually part of the Spicebush or Ironwood Trails that the park advertises, I don’t know. After I crossed the first drainage pipe, I lost all semblance of a trail, but kept following the creek – much to the delight of my water-loving dog. (And no trip around water is complete without Emme nearly dragging me face-first into it.)
We eventually came back out and crossed the suspension bridge. The trail we planned to take went right – following that stagnant part of the creek again before heading up another hill. But going straight took us along the babbling, pretty part of the creek. Guess which way we went?
One thing to note about the hiking trails at Kincaid: They aren’t extremely well marked. There are arrows at various points along the trail telling you which way to go, but the trails aren’t often travelled, making it easy to lose track of where you are between the markers. This phenomenon is a little worse right now because we’re still in winter – even if Saturday’s perfect weather didn’t know that.
For much of the trail we covered, the only trace of a path was a barely perceptible dent in the leaves carpeting the ground. I could only see it from a distance, and once I started following it, the wind was the only thing guiding me. That’s how I ended up thinking I was all cool, blazing my own trail, only to look a back and realize that I had been following a time-worn trail all along.
I didn’t face down my nemesis from last season, but I had a fantastic afternoon trying to not get pulled in while my dog played in the creek like a puppy. While a big part of my 52 Hike Challenge is pushing myself harder and tackling more difficult hikes, the bigger part is enjoying the adventure.