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Hiking

My Slowest Mile - A Story of Pain, Suffering, and Mild Stupidity

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Two links of boudin, a pop tart, and some cheese sticks, plenty of calories. Hell, it was just a few mile hike. Who cares about the 10,000 calories I was deficient of over the last 72 hours. I had an hours rest and a pop tart, I had done more with less. I loaded my pack. I packed food, clothes, shelter, a sleep bag, and a few essentials. I loaded the camera gear, my bow, binos, and a kill kit. Food and water rounded it all off. I was set. It was 56 pounds when all was said and done. Just shy of some training hikes back home. So off we went.

Mile one - it was a good one. I saw a mama moose and her calf, the aspens were beginning their seasonal change, and the mountains surrounded the horizon. It was my favorite part of the hunt, leaving the comforts of base camp, heading into the true wilds of the wilderness. I was headed to my home away from home.

Mile two - things began to turn.  I realized I left some stuff. First, it was my tarp stakes. After that, para cord. It was one thing after another. Everything began to weigh me down. Anger began to creep in. I stopped, and I told myself, "Suck it up buttercup and soak it in. Look around. You are where you love. You are in your sanctuary." So I pulled up my big boy pants and did. I looked and gazed in all directions. I took my camera out to distract me from the negativity of my mind. I looked up, turned around, and twisted my knee. It was bad, I must of torn something. It burned. My thought were racing "Now what? First the tarp stakes and now this. Eff my life. Why did we even come here today. There are elk in a drainage near camp. Why did I agree to this. We had already spent the day climbing a mountain tracking a dead elk that was nowhere to be found. I climbed up and down all day for nothing." I was pissed. I hated the thought of bivy now. My mind was completely in the gutter. Each rock that bumped my toe was on a hit list. Each change in elevation was torture. I hated the world and everything in it. I just wanted to go home. 

Mile 3 - bivy camp was less than a mile ahead. Each step was Torcher, I wanted the button. You know that button. That button, on Alone, where a helicopter flies down and sweeps you away. That button that takes you to the best steak dinner money can buy. The one that makes everything disappear. I wanted that one. I was in total despair. I wanted off the dang mountain.

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Oh wait... 

I forgot, I wasn’t on the mountain. I was on the valley floor, the least strenuous trail I had been on. If I stretch the truth, It may have been 500’ of elevation gain over 3 miles, and that is completely reaching. On any other day I could do it all in less than 40 min. Even worse, If you were a bystander watching me, you would of seen a snail tied to a tree. Painful to me but more painful to watch. Each step was harder than the next. One step, two steps, then three. I needed a break. My heart was racing, legs burning. Everything hurt. I repeated this over and over again. I took everything I had to put together a forward momentum of 5 steps. My mind was fighting itself.  The irrational side of me took everything I loved of the outdoors and made me hate it. I hated the trees, the trail, the mountains. I hated my backpack, my bow, and friends. I hated my food and I even hated my water bottle. My Water bottle? My Friends?  I was a failure in pure misery. As I slothed my way into bivy camp, I already wanted to leave, I wanted to go home, and I wanted nothing to do with the outdoors. I was done.

.86 miles took 48 min and 35 seconds. I stopped 31 times. My heart rate was 162 beats per min and I gained 217’ in elevation. It was my slowest mile. I stopped just feet from bivy as if the last five steps would have killed me. I felt like death, a zombie. I had bonked, I hit the wall in full stride. 

Bonking to me was somewhat a myth up until this point. I heard of it, thought about it, but never experienced it. By definition in the endurance sport arena, it is a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy caused by diminished glycogen stores. However, I think Paul Scott of Runner’s World Magazine, defines it better as a “collapse of the entire system: body and form, brains and soul.”

I was broken, I hurt emotionally, and I hurt physically. It scared me. I thought I had really screwed up. I sat and moved around slowly at camp. I ate, and ate, and ate. 2 days of food to be exact in a matter of hours. Those friends I hated no longer looked like the devil, they became the support I needed. I relaxed, built a fire, and even use the sat phone to call home. Hour by hour I regained my legs, my mind, and my soul. I was okay.

Note: this was totally preventable. What happened to me was exactly what will happen when you forego your natural instincts and exert yourself past what is considered normal. Listen to your body, slow down, eat, and rest when due. Preventing this is as simple as eating proper nutrition a few calories every thirty minutes to an hour while maintaining proper hydration and electrolytes. I fully understand this concept and practice it during training, yet failed to mimic it in the field. I learned a lesson that I hope to never repeat. Having someone with me that understood this first hand was an important factor in recovering quickly. The next morning I was back completely and put a full days work into our hunt.  

How To Find Water

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I was piddling around with some Go Pro footage from a past trip and decided put together this quirky How To Video. Enjoy!

Lake Martin, LA

Boat ramp view of Lake Martin during a summer storm.

Boat ramp view of Lake Martin during a summer storm.

A water wonderland that captures the imagination and allows relaxation to set in. From gators to birds this place is as eery as it is beautiful. A paddlers paridise and a day trippers dream this is a place that makes me excited to call Lafayette Home. You can bet I will continue exploring this place in more details as the weather continues to cool. 

- Daniel Underbrink

The boardwalk at the Cypress Island Preserve maintained by the Nature Conservancy.

The boardwalk at the Cypress Island Preserve maintained by the Nature Conservancy.

The best time to visit is during is beginning late January when large flocks of birds come to rear their young. The 2 .5 mile levy trail is open from fall to spring and is an easy hike for mosts abilities. For more information please visit www.nature.org

Alligators are a common  sight along the 6 mile loop around the banks of Lake Martin

Alligators are a common  sight along the 6 mile loop around the banks of Lake Martin

Backcountry food the ever evolving question.

Most of us have lost the art and knowledge of foraging for seeds, fruit and roots in the places we explore. We become reliant on ready made meals to fuel our excursions that usually end up wrecking havoc on our bodies. Over the years I have utilized many different food products, brands, and whole foods. Some have been great and others not so much, with a bit of ingenuity, research, and preparation food can be just as much part of the experience as is the journey itself.  Whole fresh food is not totally out of the equation if you know how to prep and handle the food. On our most recent trip we brought steaks on a multi night trip in 100 degree weather. To do so we planned in advance, vacuum sealed, wrapped in paper towel, and foil and packed against our water bladders (we froze our water bladders too). This allowed for a slow and delayed thaw while being slightly refrigerated. Result,  fresh ribeye after a hard training hike on the trail. When your trip doesn't allow this method due to the length of stay outdoors or having to keep a minimalistic pack. Finding companies like Heathers Choice or dehydrating your home cooked favorites allow for comforting, great tasting, healthy foods not loaded with preservatives and high doses of sodium that can truly make an already uncomfortable situation worse. (Hint, stomach issues)

Daniel Underbrink

Luke Kulbeth on our WAT training hike

Luke Kulbeth on our WAT training hike