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Barbara Clough

Switching it up

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This week I put all my good CrossFit training and weight training to use by hiking for two days. I remind myself - and others - that I lift weights and do CrossFit so that I can do all the other stuff I love, hiking, sailing, bicycling, and so on. I don't do CrossFit just for the sake of doing CrossFit, but so that all the other activities are supported and my body is strong all over. 

I drive through the pounding rain along a road with signs stating "Road closed at the Connecticut Line from December to April." It is December. I'm nearly in Connecticut. And I am on this road. Do I need to be worried about something? If the rain keeps coming down like this, regardless of the fact that it is a balmy 60 degrees, there is not a chance in hell I'm hiking six miles up a small mountain. 

I'm the first to arrive at deserted parking area, and I turn the car off so I can better hear the rumble of thunder and then count slowly until the lightning flashes across the rain drenched sky. Uh, no, hiking in pouring rain with thunder and lightning over - no chance. As my fellow hikers from the Appalachian Mountain Club pull into the lot, we all wave and nod to each other, safely dry behind windows tightly rolled up, waiting for the storm to pass over. And it does. In 15 minutes, the rain has stopped although the sky is cloudy, and the threat of rain remains throughout the four hours it takes us to get to the summit and back. 

The trail is rain soaked with slippery spots from the mud and a few creek fords that would normally be dry creek beds, but we're okay with that. An experienced crew, we've layered our clothes to keep us warm, hard shells to keep us dry, gaiters to keep the rain from getting into our boots, and hats or hoods to stop it dribbling down into our necks. But  the rain stays away, and half way in, we begin to remove layers what with the warm air and humidity. I can hear the wind whooshing through the treetops, and word from the trip leader is that conditions at the top are wet, windy and unpleasant. We manage to make the top of the hill, wander around for a few minutes saying "We made it" and then quickly heading back down as the wind lifts our hats off our heads and drives the moisture into any jacket not zipped up tightly.

Luckily, just a few hundred yards below the summit is a primitive cabin with a wood stove, four bunks, and a collection of votive candles left by previous hikers. There's also a stash of dry wood if we need it. We don't as we're not staying that long - just long enough to get a hot drink and a snack down before we make the descent. Going down is often trickier and can be more difficult because the downward pull and the rain-soaked mud creates unstable footing. But we're a hardy and experienced group - happy to turn the heated seats on in our dry cars and strip off damp outer and under layers. Even nicer to know there's a hot shower and hot soup back at the inn.

As I assess how well I did, I realize that for the next trip in February - when it will be colder and snowier - it's time for me to buy some new gear. "There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing." Words to live by when hiking New England in the winter.  

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