Monday, January 19, 2015

After the Inman 300

It's been 3 days now since I completed the Inman 300. I took two days of rest and recuperation, during which I caught up on sleep, my online classes, laundry, grocery shopping and letting my mind wander. I needed time to let the logistical parts of my brain rest. In order to do this hike, I had to figure out busses each day to and from new locations, as my stopping points were different each day, and often our hotel location was as well. Reed & I managed to share a hotel, while we was working in the foothills near Irvine and I was hiking across Los Angeles proper. We tried, and mostly succeeded, in choosing hotels that would allow him to drive to and from work in about the same time that I bussed to and from my hike. That meant that we each spent about four hours per day on transportation.

My hours spent on public transportation allowed me time to figure out other logistics while en-route - like where the bathrooms and food would be located along my hiking route for the day. Reading Bob Inman's guide helped a great deal with this, and then I did additional research by looking on google maps, zooming in close on intersections or areas that looked like they might have a park or cafe. I tried to figure where I could guzzle water (when an available bathroom would be in the near future), and when I needed to grind through the miles in order to get back to services like bathrooms, grocery stores and cafes. Inman's guide provided an excellent overview to each section, so that I had an idea of what the overall day would entail, and what I would see within each subsection. I'm a person who likes to figure some things out for myself along the way, so his guide was just the right amount of information, and allowed me to feel elation when finding or coming upon a surprise treat - like a cart selling fresh sliced fruit in a bag one afternoon, and another, a cart selling cold whole coconuts for drinking their coconut water.

As I mentioned earlier, I slept off-route each night. I think it would be possible to stay in hotels and motels on-route at least half the time, especially if one had the finances and flexibility to alternate between levels of price and comfort. Some areas had inexpensive looking hotels that would have seemed like luxurious palaces on a long-distance hike, but might seem less that way to normal hotel-goers. In other areas, there were upscale hotels that likely would have cost quite a bit. If a person wanted to push through the route quickly, and was willing to vary their daily mileage totals, they would have more options for where to stay. My point is, although I didn't do this as a pure thru-hike, staying on route each night, I think that it's possible to do so.

In regards to food, this hike was quite different than the 210 mile John Muir Trail, or others hikes of comparable distances. Food was overall abundant, one of the benefits of urbanity. Each day I ate a big breakfast before getting on the bus, then brought along extra breakfast items to have as my second breakfast after getting on trail: yogurt, fruit, muffins. I often would buy a coffee or tea when transferring busses, or soon after arriving at the start of the day's route. This purchase would also buy me an opportunity to use the business' bathroom. In my pack, I carried along snack items and protein bars including my favorites, Cliff builder bars. This allowed me flexibility about where I would buy food during the day. I wanted to buy food along the route because I wanted what was offered, or because I needed a break or to fill up on water or use the bathroom. I didn't want to buy food simply because I needed it at the time and it was the only thing available. This policy allowed me to sample some of my favorite high calorie foods, that I can't usually eat: pizza, burritos, horchata, bubble tea, a rice crispy treat, and juice. I even ate sushi with a spoon one afternoon, while walking through a neighborhood. I find that having a few food items in my pack puts me at ease, because I know I can feed myself when I need to.

This hike was different in another major way: I carried a tiny day pack instead of my house on my back. My pack weighed roughly 3-7 pounds throughout the day, depending on how full my 1-quart water bottle was and how much food I was carrying at the time. It usually felt like I was carrying nothing on my back. In fact, I had a large number of items in my pack to help me through the day. Some of the items that I either carried in my pack, hands or pockets were: small sunscreen, extra phone battery (Anker) & cord, ear buds, emergency blanket, thermal shirt, thermal hat, lip balm, sun hat, food, trekking poles, first aid kit & pain relievers, headlamp, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, sunglasses, toothbrush & paste.

I'm excited about this route getting better known for how it can potentially start a whole new area of long-distance hiking. I love the idea of using our cities, and the transportation routes that they already have to explore. I love the way that walking, biking and running my city of Seattle has allowed me to know it in ways that I otherwise wouldn't. Urban hiking is so much more practical, over all, than wilderness hiking. One can launch right into it, without the requisite drive to a trail head. It's excellent exercise, especially when tremendous numbers of stairways are thrown in along the route! And it's possible to see one's city from a truly human pace and at eye level. I hope for urban hiking to continue to grow. I'd love to see more urban long-distance hiking routes created. I'm grateful to Bob Inman, Andrew Lichtman & Ying Chen for being the creators and first hikers of the Inman 300. They have inspired and encouraged me and many others to get out and see our cities.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

All the Way to the End - Day 12 on the Inman 300

Waiting for the bus - final day. 
I adapt quickly to new things - jobs, living situations, activities. etc. It usually takes me two weeks to a month to feel that my new way of life is normal. In walking the Inman 300, it took about a week. At the end of nearly two weeks of walking, it now feels normal to me to fill most of my daylight hours with walking. Tomorrow will be a welcome recovery day. And then after that, I will feel that sometime is missing when I don't walk all day. And then, in about 2 weeks, I will once again think that it's normal not to walk all day. And so the ending of this route is full of mixed emotions. I reached the end around 3pm this afternoon, near Cabrillo Beach. I was accompanied the last 8 miles with three new friends, Carey, Dean and Amy who provided delightful company as we wove our way through San Pedro, collecting a few stairways amidst the miles. This was a tough hike. Only now do I feel strong enough to take it on, as my body has adapted over the last 12 days. Sometimes the doing of a thing is the way to prepare for it. Many thanks to the people who helped me complete the trek! 
Sidewalk stamp - hard to believe how well these sidewalks have weathered the years

Views all the way to Angeles National Forest

Walking by a farm - what variety the miles have shown me

An old carriage? 

3 foot high field of clover demonstrates how well plants grow in this climate, and why it's such a challenge to keep the stairways free of overgrown vegetation. 

A truck brimming over near the Pacific. 

At the base of the final stairway. After this, just a few hundred meters remained to walk down to Cabrillo Beach and across the sand to touch the Pacific Ocean. I took it one step further and dunked myself three times in the cold salty water, allowing myself to be enveloped in the fact that I had completed all the stairs and all the miles. I feel satisfied.

Celebratory Dinner with my new friends. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Feet in the Sand - Day 11 on the Inman 300

I am at the end of another long day, which included over 10 hours of being on my feet. Today's 22+ mile Section J included some of the softest miles thus far. These miles provided a welcome respite for my feet, ankles, knees and hips. This morning, I walked for a few pleasant miles on the wood chip path known as Veterans Parkway alongside other walkers and joggers. Over the course of the miles, the pounding in my feet departed. I no longer had to caution myself against taking ibuprofen too early in the day. In this fact, I found the answer to my wondering whether the pavement was responsible for the extra foot pain over what I have experienced in the past while hiking long days. When I returned to concrete, it wasn't long before the pounding was back. A number of miles later, the route took me across the beach, minus a concrete path, and down to the ocean itself. I took off my shoes and socks and tentatively stepped into the salt water. Cold! The water provided a cold soak for my feet and a change in my mood. I felt gleeful at being there, right where I was, soaking in the beauty of a southern California beach. I breathed and spoke gratitude, and then kept walking. 

Tomorrow will be my last day on this route. I hope to complete section "K," perhaps with a bit of company. I am reminded of my last night on the Pacific Northwest Trail, when I said goodbye to my summer of solo hiking and thought excitedly about each member of my family that would be meeting me the following afternoon. There is a sadness to ending a trail, and a satisfaction as well. It's difficult to relax into the journey while it's happening. I want to know - will I be able to finish. I lie here tonight, spent and weary, at the end of 11 days of pushing myself physically and mentally. At the end of tomorrow I will hope to feel satisfaction. For tonight, I feel gratitude. 

Veterans Parkway walking path

Redondo Beach

Cold sand and water massaged my aching feet

Beach Refuse in the intertidal zone in Malaga Cove

Unusual stair construction in Palos Verdes

Stairs carried me up for views of the the whole LA area

Flowers above where surfers were enjoying the waves

This is why southern California

More soft tread for my feet

Sunset & still walking

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Beach Walking, Pointed South - Day 10 on the Inman 300

This morning I was met by Bob Inman himself, for which this route is named, at the start of section "I." We wound our way around through two drainages in seaside Santa Monica, gathering up stairways along the way. The beach was bright with sun and bustling with energetic people out to exercise and enjoy the weather. The even ground and paved path made it easy to get ahead of schedule, even with my frequent bathrooms breaks, which I took for fear that each one would be the last for many miles. The stairways were tucked away and concentrated mainly on the early miles. I wish that I could say that I rushed easily through the latter miles, but I can't. Although I did make decent time over the course of the day, I struggled with foot pounding and pulls in alternating muscles and tendons of my legs. This hike is pushing my physical limitations. At the end of the day, my muscles aren't weak from exertion, and cardiovascularlly, I could be pushing harder. But overall, I am worn thin and will benefit greatly from a couple of rest days once I finish this route. I'm still glad to be out there, pounding my feet against the pavement and seeing what this area has around each corner. Tonight, shortly after dark, I was walking with Dan on a road directly adjacent to one of LAX's landing strips. A plane rushed over our heads, 40 feet, Dan said. It felt like 10 to me. A few seconds later, it landed. That was awesome, in the sense of tremendous power. I haven't had such an experience before.
One of Santa Monica's stairways

Tribute to Starry Night in Venice Beach

Walking with Bob Inman - see our shadows. 

Venice Canal District. 

Walk Street in Venice, houses oriented towards this. Alleys in back for cars. 

Front Yard Art Installation.

After walking all day I wanted veggies ! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

City to the Sea - Day 9 on the Inman 300

Tonight I am once again exhausted, and there were only nine stairways in today's route, section H. I got a late start, about 10 am and walked continuously through the day, minus a few stops to use bathrooms, refill water and purchase food which I can eat while continuing to walk. A few food highlights were a pizza slice, sushi eaten with a spoon, a can of cold coffee with milk as well as a couple of protein bars. Honey packets and bites of cheddar cheese allowed me to push through the final 4+ miles, which were done in the dark. I had to push myself, especially near the end as I wanted to stop when the light drained from the sky. 

Today's section started near the Sunset Strip. I took a detour to walk it, where I came upon this clever window display, 

Walking the median trail along Santa Monica Blvd.

More trail in the city

Narrow shoulder & puddles makes for a challenge. 

High-rise apartment and hotel buildings make for different street life

One of my meals, which fulfilled a couple of cravings & gave me a boost. 

Sunset Blvd climbing up. 

LA seems to be full of great architecture. 

On the 9th day of walking - the Pacific! 

One of the few stairways on this section. 

I caught the sun setting just in time. 

I'm looking forward to more ocean views in the coming days. 

It's hard to believe these stairs have been around for over 80 years.