Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Learning a New Way to Hike

Mark and I hiked to Angels Rest today, in the Columbia River Gorge. What a beautiful hike! The trail is 2.3 miles to the top, with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. This was perfect, as we need to be training on hills for our August hike up Mount St. Helens.

We set out this morning at 10:00 am. The temperature was cool and enjoyable for hiking.  Most of the trail is in the shade, but we enjoyed the sun on the talus slopes.

We took this shot when the trail came out from the trees for a bit. That's Angels Rest up at the top of those rocks! We still have a ways to go.

Back under the trees, we saw this fellow - a Banana Slug as long as my hand! Hooray for the rainy Northwest. :)

Lots of wildflowers in bloom. In addition to this iris, we saw columbine, sweet pea, wild rose, larkspur, white & yellow daisies, penstemon, and tiger lilies.

Stopping for a break - you can see how shady the trail is. Sorry - the angle is a little strange because we set the timer, with the camera on a nearby rock.

Getting closer to the top - that's the Columbia River below us, and Washington across the river.

Here's the top of Angels Rest. We stopped and ate lunch here. We could see Mt. Adams (in Washington) from here, and Mark included it in the photo, but the mountain is kind of mixed in with the clouds because it's high enough to be covered in snow. It's way off there in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. Trust me!

A photo of my handsome hiking buddy, with the river and Washington in the background.

Another shot of us on the top of Angels Rest, looking toward Portland. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can barely see some buildings in the far distance. That's Portland.

I took this photo while we were eating lunch. We had a great perch on the edge! That's the toe of my shoe in the bottom center of the photo, and from there it's a steep 1500' drop down to the river level. The swallows were swooping and diving beneath us, skimming the tops of the Douglas firs below.

After lunch we relaxed a bit, then headed back down the trail. And on the hike down, I learned to do something I have never been good at: hiking downhill!

It's hard to appreciate how cool this is, if you're not a middle-aged hiker with iffy knees. Usually, even though I pick my way carefully down the trail, my knees start hurting before I get to the bottom, and they ache for the next couple of days. It's actually more uncomfortable for me to hike downhill than uphill -- downhill is much harder on the joints.

Until today.

On the way up, Mark mentioned that he had been trying to use his glutes to help with the uphill climb, and I told him I had been doing that, too. From taking yoga, and doing the Curves workouts, I am learning to pay more attention to specific muscle areas in my body.

Well, on the way down, Mark was hiking behind me at one point, and he said, "Use your large muscles." I thought to myself, how can I use my glutes when I'm going downhill?

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I was taking l-o-n-g steps, making sure to use my glute muscles to extend my stride. In order to make that work, I had to suck in my belly button, which shifted my center of gravity just a little.

All of a sudden, going downhill was so much easier! And faster! And because I was taking longer steps, I was taking fewer steps, which meant less wear and tear on my joints! Wow!!!

Three hours later, I'm still not sore. Just a little tired. And I can't wait for my next hike with Mark!


Dorothy said...

Wow, what a great hike! (Yuck-o slug, however...glad you didn't step on it!)

I'm intriqued by your downhill hiking method. Can't quite picture it, though. You'll need to teach me that one in person...I need a real live demo. :)

Sierra said...

Shonee and I recently hiked up to Devil's Rest using the Wahkeena Trail. Which way did you go up? It is so beautiful up there, especially when you get onto the ridge and the going isn't so tough. I'll have to try your downhill method on my next hike.

David Mayer said...

Despite all the beautiful scenery in the other photos, I have to say that the banana slug photo is my favorite!

I'm glad you found a better way to go downhill. Like Dorothy, I can't quite picture it (not that I spend a lot of time trying to picture my parents' glutes) but it sounds like it really worked out for you!

This yoga class you talk so much about seems to have really impacted your life! (So much for being a "low-impact" workout!)