What an awesome holiday weekend it turned out to be…well, for the most part. I have to say that I definitely took some mental notes and learned a lot this Labor Day weekend. It was the first weekend in a while that I actually had time to myself to do whatever I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I missed them dearly, but my wife took the girls out of town to her sister’s house in Ohio, and I had the run of the castle (except for the dog).
I did have to work during the day on Saturday, but after work, I sat at home, ordered a pizza, and hit up the good ol’ Redbox to rent and watch Avengers: Infinity War with the surround sound on almost full blast. It was a very nice relaxing end to a long day of work. On Sunday, I slept in without the sounds of the kids running around downstairs screaming and playing hard as they usually do. I sent out a couple of emails to a couple of the brewery owners that were on my list of Trail Brews: Breweries of the North Country Trail from my post a couple of weeks ago, letting them know that I was planning on visiting their breweries later that afternoon.
At my own pace, I packed a lunch and some snacks, filled my coffee mug with cold brew coffee, using my new Arctic Cold Brew Coffee System by ICOSA Brewhouse, which I would definitely recommend, and hit the road to visit New Union Brewery in Lowell, Michigan and Cedar Springs Brewing Company in Cedar Springs, Michigan. I wasn’t able to meet with Tyler at New Union but was able to taste a couple of their beers while watching the first few innings of the Detroit Tigers game before I purchased a growler and headed over to Cedar Springs.
Here, I was able to catch Dave Ringler, the owner, as he and a group of other local brewers had just returned from a local beer festival. He was an awesome host, allowing me to have the full line-up of tastings, giving his own presentation of each. After a bunch of laughs with the group, I ordered the Original Wienerschnitzel to fill my belly, purchased a growler of the Küsterer Original Weißbier, a six century old recipe, and hit the road to head back home so I could quickly load up my pack, get on my bike and ride a couple miles to downtown Royal Oak to meet up with my second cousin, Chris, whom I have not seen since we were kids. I enjoyed a couple more beers at the beer tent he was manning for the Arts, Beats and Eats Festival, volunteering his time for the US Postal Service and raising money for muscular dystrophy.
Monday, I still had the morning and most of the afternoon, as my wife and kids were due to be back from out of town around 4 pm, so I could take them to a family barbecue. I woke up, grabbed some more cold brew coffee and sat down to decide what I would be able to do with my first half of the day, and almost immediately, I knew that I wanted to get out on a hike.
I jumped on alltrails.com and began searching for a hike that wasn’t too far of a drive and one that I would be able to do in about 3 hours that I had available. I came across the Bald Mountain Blue, White, and Orange Loop Trails, a 6.7-mile hike about a half hour drive from home. Bald Mountain Recreation Area is located in Orion Charter Township, Michigan. Hastily, I jumped up, got ready as quick as I could, laced up my hiking shoes, packed some snacks and filled my Camelbak hydration bladder, and took off toward Bald Mountain.
Usually, I have my hikes planned further in advance, taking time to check the weather and make sure I have everything I need before I leave the house. Today was not one of those typical times. As you read further, you will understand why it is important to take at least a little bit of time to plan your hikes, and I will not make this mistake again.
I pulled into the small parking lot at the trailhead, grabbed my pack, locked the car, and began my hiking journey along the trail. It felt good being able to get out on a solo hike in the woods again. It had been months since my last solo hike. I have gotten out hiking more recently, but with my family. A solo hike was just what I needed to clear my head.
I began on the trail, basking in the solitude it provided. I paid close attention to the different sounds the breeze made either whistling through the underbrush or through the tops of the forest canopy. I listened to the different songs of the variety of birds that inhabited the area. I could hear the warbler’s warble, the woodpecker’s wood pecking, and the bunting’s bunting…well, you know what I mean. I could hear the squirrels and chipmunks rustling through the grasses and leaves of the thicket.
The trail was well groomed, a mix of shortcut grass on the edges with a dirt and sand main path down the middle. Parts were rocky or filled with tree roots sticking up out of the ground. The path was wide enough that I didn’t have to push my way through the brush or have to deal with limbs scraping my arms as I hiked through. The elevation changes were great with many steepish rises and drops, some even taking you up almost 300 feet. I understand that this may not seem like much, but for metro Detroit, Michigan, this isn’t too shabby.
I was able to catch a few glimpses through the trees from the trail of a couple of small lakes, such as Heart Lake and Carpenter Lake, but not really any spectacular overlook views, which would have been really nice.
For the first mile and a half, I had only crossed the path of 2 other hikers, hiking the opposite direction of myself, without a second thought. It was at this point that I began to hear a rustling of something coming quickly toward me from behind. I quickly stepped off the path and turned around to see a mountain biker barreling down the trail. He waved and said “hi” as he passed, but I soon realized that it was also a mountain bike trail I was on, and I was hiking the wrong way. It’s a common courtesy and an unwritten rule that if there is a specific marked right and wrong way to ride a mountain bike trail, that hikers should hike the opposite direction in order to be able to see and notice oncoming bikers.
I was already almost 2 miles into my hike and didn’t want to turn around and miss the part of the trail that I hadn’t encountered yet, so I just made sure that I kept my senses sharp to listen for riders coming from behind so I could step aside on the trail, wave and say “hello” to each biker that passed by.
It was also shortly after this that I began to feel a slight burning sensation on the bottom of my feet. It immediately came to my attention that in my haste to leave the house quickly before my hike, I failed to pay attention to the socks I was wearing. Yep, even a seasoned hiker as myself has bad days and forgets that regular cotton socks are not very good when hiking, especially in the heat of summer. The temperature was in the mid-90s and our feet sweat. Cotton holds in the moisture which causes blistering as you walk longer distances.
I had forgotten to wear my Darn Tough merino wool hiking socks which are designed to allow the moisture to evaporate instead of holding it in like cotton, causing the blistering. I knew that it would only get worse as I continued on in this sweltering heat. I had to push through it and continue, however.
There was one good thing about this almost 7-mile hike, as I began feeling the heat on the balls of my feet. This specific trail was comprised of 2 loops which met in the middle. Usually, a 7-miler is easy for me to complete. However, due to my hastiness and unpreparedness, which is uncharacteristic of myself, I would have to cut this one short. Not only had I forgotten to wear my hiking socks, but the beer from Labor Day Eve was beginning to turn a knot in my stomach, I could feel it begin to churn deep within the depths of my belly. I still was just a couple of miles into the trek, and still had another mile and a half or so before I had the opportunity to get back to my car.
Beginning to feel uncomfortable in more than one way, I toughened up and pushed myself a little harder to pick up my pace a bit and continue. My surroundings were beautiful, the nature sounds were peaceful and music to my ears, the sensation of solitude was welcomed, yet there were other factors that were infringing on my repose. More mountain bikers came up on me from behind, as I would swiftly step aside to allow them to pass, even though they didn’t display, I could feel their frustration as they passed, knowing that I should be hiking in the opposite direction.
After almost a couple more miles, I was delighted to see trail marker number six, meaning that I had arrived back at the mid-point, and could cut across back to the parking lot where my car awaited. My feet were screaming at me in anguish. My stomach was grumbling at me in displeasure of what I had just put it through after the prior night’s shenanigans. I raced back to my car, threw my pack in the back seat, and drove off back home to deal with the repercussions my body was about to unleash on me.
Just minutes after I got back on the road heading home, I noticed ominous dark clouds in the sky, and almost immediately, the rain began to come down. I thanked my lucky stars that I had not continued the second half of that hike, as I would have been stuck out in the middle of the woods without any shelter, umbrella, raincoat, or pack cover. I wasn’t wearing my waterproof hiking boots, and my shoes would have allowed the rain to seep through, making me even more uncomfortable that I had already been.
I finally got back home, kicked off my hiking shoes, and peeled the damp socks off of each foot carefully, already feeling the skin begin to fold over itself in the spots where the blisters had begun. A burning sensation ensued as I flipped up the leg rest of my favorite recliner to allow my feet to get some air. I closed my eyes and began to take mental note of the mistakes I had made so as hopefully, not to make those same mistakes on future hikes.
Let’s break it all down now. Preparation is important before a hike.
Take the time to understand and study the map of the area you are planning on hiking. If I had done this in advance, I would have realized the direction I should have been hiking on the shared mountain biking trail.
View the weather forecast before your hike. It’s okay to hike in the rain if you are prepared with the necessary equipment such as waterproof hiking boots, raincoat, waterproof pack cover, etc.
Wear the proper foot gear. Merino wool hiking socks would have saved my feet from the torment I put them through. My feet would not have blistered after only a couple of miles, and I would have been able to complete the full 7-mile hike painlessly. I highly recommend Darn Tough brand hiking socks. They hug your feet perfectly and keep the moisture out so well.
Don’t drink copious amounts of beer the night before a long hike. Most stomachs can’t handle this very well. Especially in over 90-degree weather on constant terrain level changes. Treat your body well, and it will thank you.
As I stated before, I learned some very valuable lessons during this short three and a half mile hike in the woods. Mistakes will cost ya’, but we are all human. We live and we learn, hopefully. I know I did. My next hike will be much more enjoyable, I can promise you that. I’d love to hear about your hiking mistakes and stories. Comment below and tell me about it. Now, plan and prepare for your next hike and take your soul outdoors. If you’re prepared, it’ll thank you. Ta-ta for now.