Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Woman, A Trail, A Probable Knee Replacement: Wildwood

The Wildwood Trail is the backbone of Portland, Oregon's Forest Park. It zig zags through the Tualatin Mountains for 30.2 miles from the Vietnam Memorial in Washington Park to the surprisingly unassuming terminus at Newberry Road.

At some point in the last year, I started thinking about hiking the whole Wildwood in a day. Had anyone done it before? Was it even possible?

A quick internet search revealed the answers to those questions as yes and yes.

I had hiked parts of the Wildwood Trail before. It was generally pretty level and I thought, "how hard can it be to walk for nine hours?"

My plan was to hike in the summer, when I could start around 6am and finish before dinnertime. But I never got around to it. Then, in January, my good friend and neighbor, I-Shuan, said she'd like to hike it with me, and why don't we just go for it, and, you know, hike 30 miles next week.

But her husband, an occasional marathoner and someone who likes to ride 60 miles on his bike just for fun, suggested we work up to it.


We started slow, with a Newberry to Germantown Road hike on January 26th that logged in at 6.4 miles and took us just under an hour and 40 minutes. It was a great hike that was just the tiniest bit challenging towards the end. It felt great. I could have gone farther, but was happy to stop.

The next week we upped the distance to 12.74 miles by hiking from Germantown to Saltzman Road. This took us just under three hours and resulted in a pain in my right hip and knee along my IT band. The end of the hike required a steep, one-mile trek up a fire lane to the Saltzman Road parking spot. It was most definitely not my favorite way to end a hike. I thought I was going to die.

The next week we planed for a 17-miler, but the weather was nasty and we decided to shorten. It was a good decision because this turned out to be the hardest hike yet. We started at Cornell Road, near the Audubon Society and hiked back towards Saltzman Road. I thought to suggest we start at Saltzman and walk DOWN that nasty fire lane instead of end with the the hike UP. Later, I regretted not saying anything. It rained the entire time and despite my wicking clothes and Columbia jacket, I was soaked by the end. The wind was blowing and at one point, we heard a loud CRACK and a large tree branch came down right behind us. The trail was muddy and the going was tough. The hike turned out to be 12.48 miles and it took us a thoroughly miserable 3 hours and 58 minutes to complete. There were blisters involved and a long, hot shower was required to stop shivering.

Next up was a short hike on President's Day. We started at the Veteran's Memorial and hiked just 5 short, but beautiful miles down to the Cornell Road trailhead near the Audubon Society. The weather could not have been better and the view from Pittock Mansion was gorgeous. After finishing that hike, I-Shuan and I had hiked—in sections—the whole Wildwood trail.

Now it was time to step up our mileage and work towards the elusive 30.2 miles. On February 20th, we started at the Saltzman trailhead and walked down hill (we're finally learning) to the Wildwood Trail and hiked 15 miles to Newberry. That took us a whopping 4 hours and 41 minutes. I got blisters in new places, became acutely aware of my knees and promised myself I would take some pre-emptive Advil before our next hike. 

Unfortunately, by the next week, I'd forgotten all about the pre-emptive Advil. We started at 8am and hiked 20.58 miles in 6 hours, 37 minutes from the trailhead at 53rd all the way to Newberry. The last five miles were difficult. My knees protested with every step down even the slightest of inclines. My feet were burning with new blisters on top of old blisters. And my fingers had swelled up like little sausages making any attempt at manual dexterity laughable. At least I-Shuan and I still felt like laughing. The first thing I'd do when I got home, I told myself, was buy a knee brace.

Now, separated from that hike by a day, a long, hot shower and some Advil, I realize my desire to hike the whole Wildwood in a day was naive at best. Thirty point two miles feels ridiculous and possibly dangerous. But almost more than that, these hikes are knocking out almost a whole day. The question isn't "am I going to do the whole 30.2" but, "can I just get it over with next week?" 

I'm ready to be done with this challenge.

**Update, March 8, 2015**

Tomorrow is the day. 

At 6:30 am, which is still dark, I-Shuan and I will make our way to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington park and embark on our 30.2 mile journey along The Wildwood Trail to Newberry Road. 

I've packed my bag with a peanut butter sandwich, two Cliff bars, six Advil, two hiking poles, two liters of water and one GoGirl. My phone and the back up charger are charging. My new knee brace is laid out and ready to go, along with my clothing. (I still haven't decided between the short or the long pants.)

This is the first Wildwood Trail hike since I started prepping that I am truly dreading. Do I need to hike the whole Wildwood in a day? How, exactly, did I come up with this idea in the first place? Would it be so bad to quit now, with a respectable 20 miles under my belt and call it good enough? Why am I doing this?

**Update, March 12, 2015**
If you'd like to read about the actual hike, click here.

1 comment:

Super P Force said...

Great Post and nice article.Thanks for sharing.