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Date Sent:      April 10, 2008
Subject:           Why the Hike Leader is not always the Lead Hiker
From:               John Bondon
I am not a fast hiker. As a matter of fact, most of the time I tend to bring up the rear. Ironically, even on days when I am "hike leader", I may be one of the last people to finish the hike. Sure sometimes my being in the back is on purpose, but other times, I just can't keep up with the faster crowd. Usually this fact doesn't bother me. After all the point of founding a "casual" hiking group was to allow everyone to hike at their own pace.

But this past Sunday, I was in the back not by choice. And as hard as I tried to quicken my pace, I simply wasn't physically able to keep up. As a matter of fact, I hadn't ventured more than a quarter of a mile when the heavy breathing started and my lungs were screaming for me to quit. With each step my calves angrily asked, "what have you gotten us into?"... This experience was a farcry from my former glory days of 2005, when I successfully played and won two back to back tennis matches AND hiked the 23+ mile Four Peaks Hike on the same weekend. Clearly my level of fitness is no where close to where it was just 3 years ago. I was now a good 15 to 20 minutes behind the rest of the group. Yet I continued to try to ignore the pain and push on and move faster than I normally would, to try to keep up. But at about the 2 mile mark, something scary happened. I started to feel my heart pounding -- in my head. I could literally feel every beat of my heart reverberate inside my skull! I stopped and started feeling around my skull for a sign of a pulse to try to figure out where that sensation was coming from. Finally I placed my finger to the side of my neck where one would normally feel for a pulse, but before I even made contact with my own skin, the side of my neck literally lept out toward my finger. You could actually SEE my pulse pulsating outward from th side of my neck! And it was STRONG, very strong. I've never felt it so strong before. The rhythm matching perfectly to the pounding in my head. That scared me. At that moment, I realized I could no longer continue trying to keep up with the rest of the group. If I was to continue this hike, I would have to further reduce my already slow pace. Which is exactly what I did. Every few minutes the pounding would return, so I would stop, feel my pulse, and wait for my heart rate to stabilze before proceeding. This is the first hike I've ever had to do that.

The reason I am sharing all this with you is my experience makes for a classic lesson in not only knowing your limits, but also what to do when you find yourself in a situation where you are pushing those very limits. The last thing I wanted, especially being the official "hike leader" for the day, was to pass out or suffer some type of medical emergency on this very remote trail. The simple remedy: slow down. Shorten your steps. Take frequent breaks. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Tell someone that you are having difficulty. Don't worry about how slow you are going.. go at whatever pace you're comfortable with. And most importantly, know when to say when. Know when to stop.
Reports from last weekend's hikes:

Evan reports of last Saturday's Deer Flat hike: "Several people showed up for this hike. The weather was nearly perfect and the wildflowers were in full bloom. The pace was relaxed and everyone socialized the entire way."

Andrew reports of last Sunday's early morning Murietta Falls hike: "We had 7 hikers, One newcomer and 6 regulars. We did 13 miles, 4,300 feet of total elevation gain, and it took us 6.5 hours. The Falls are not easy to see because they are not easily accessible. They are actually dangerous to get close to. A very steep single track trail to get to them. Earl trailblazed for us. We decided it wasn't worth the risk. Mars also hiked through the rocks to get pictures. My, how the weather can change. It was warm and pleasant below the Ridgetops. It was freezing and very windy on the Ridgetops. What a beautiful park!"

We had 5 hikers initially for our late morning Murietta Falls hike, with one turning back early. 12.8 miles and 4583 feet of elevation gain in about the same 6.5 hour timeframe. (Well 6.5 hours for me, probably closer to 6 hours for the rest of the group!)

A Preview of our upcoming hikes, by the hike leader(s):

MARS says of the upcoming black diamond #2 hike on Saturday, April 12 at 9:00 AM: " It is going to be hot compared to last weekend so come prepared for a very warm and windless day with very little shade on this 7.5 mile loop through Black Diamond Mines. Your dogs are welcomed in this park but please be aware the rattle snakes are active and there also are cattle areas we will be traversing. No fee by avoiding the main park entrance kiosk by meeting at trail head on Frederickson Lane in Antioch. ".

Earle says of the upcoming Earle's Diablo Endurance Hike on Sunday, April 13 at 8:00 AM: "Join this scenic endurance hike and experience springtime on Diablo. The trail begins at the Livorna Rd Trailhead and proceeds along the ridges above Borges Ranch, then up Stagecoach Rd to BBQ Terrace and the Summit Trail to the top. We'll break for lunch at the top, then head back down to Rock City, then Wall Point Rd, and Little Yosemite trail back into Pine Valley to Borges Ranch, then the Twin Pond Loop back to cars. Email me for directions on what food to bring and my suggestions on pre-hike energy prep.".

John says of the upcoming Alamere Falls hike on Sunday, April 13 at 10:45 AM: "This is an EXPLORATORY hike of another popular Bay Area waterfall hike. Dress in layers and allow extra time for travel. Carpool option from Walnut Creek available. ".

John says of the upcoming Four Falls at Big Basin Redwoods SP hike on Sunday, April 20 at 10:45 AM: "Come join us for our final waterfall themed hike for the season! But why visit just one fall, when you can visit 4 at once. This will be a strenuous 11-mile hike. Bring a lunch or snack; dress in layers.".

You'll find more details about each of these upcoming hikes, including starting time and directions to the trailhead, posted on the East Bay Casual Hiking website. In the event of rain, please check with the hike leader as to whether the hike will proceed as planned.

Happy Trails! :)

Happy Trails,

John




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