Homer's Travels: Tale Of Two Hikes

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Tale Of Two Hikes

This week was dreary, drizzly, and a bit of a downer.  The light snow on Wednesday and Thursday didn't nelp.  Gloomy weather always dampens my mood.  I sometimes wonder how I survived California's June Gloom.  I countered the gloomy cloudscape with a couple of hikes.  The first was an urban/urban park walk through Council Bluffs, IA.  The second was a nature hike along the Wabash Trace Nature Trail.  Would you like to guess which walk had more wildlife?  If you guesses the Nature Trail you would be ... wrong.


The first hike was on Tuesday.  I expected this to be a rainy and wet hike.  It turned out to be a drizzly wet one but, fortunately for me, it never got above a heavy mist.  The umbrella I carried hardly was used but my rain jacket was and, surprisingly, I did not overheat like I usually do when I wear it.

The urban hike took me across the John Kerrey pedestrian bridge into Council Bluffs and up into the Loess Hills.  My original route would have taken be through a cemetery on top of the hill and would have been about two miles longer than what I eventually did.  Google maps let me down when an intersection turned out not to exist ... or once again I missed it.  When I hike my mind tends to be a million miles away and missing a turn would not be a surprise.

I'd never really walking up into the hills in Council Bluffs before.  One thing I discovered was, as you get closer to the hills and start climbing, the property values and the size of the homes climb as well.  On the top of the ridge the houses appeared to be a bit out of my price range.  Along with the expensive homes I saw wild turkeys - the first wildlife of the hike.

I went down the other side of the hill (and watched the home values decline as well) and went to the nearby Big Lake Park passing a curious deer along the way.  Big Lake Park actually has four lakes or, more correctly in my opinion, ponds.  One of the smaller ponds is open to fishermen though this cold, drizzly day kept the fishermen away.  The others serve as habitat for all sorts of birds and animals.  This time through the park I saw two types of birds that I usually don't associate with land-locked Iowa: Pelicans and seagulls.  At first I thought I was seeing snow geese, more common in these parts this time of year,  but the long bills gave the pelicans away.

Pelicans ... in Iowa.
From the park I walked back to the car. The wildlife filled urban hike turned out to be 11.32 miles (18.2 km), two miles shorter than what I'd planned.  Despite this It was a satisfying hike and my spirits were lifted.


The second hike was a bit more substantial.  While the urban hike was just a simple walk, the walk I did on Friday was a full blown training hike.  I had my poles and, more importantly, I carried a full pack on my back.  This was the first time I'd carried a pack since my last walking day of my Camino (23 June 2011).

My backpack was packed with essentially the same gear I'll be taking in September.  I ended up over packing.  Instead of using a water bladder I used a one liter bottle and, thinking it would unbalance the pack, I put extra weight on the other side of the pack to balance out the bottle.  I thought the extra weight would be roughly the same as some of the stuff I had not yet purchased.  The final pack weight was 17.6 lb (8 kg).  I think this weight was about one or two pounds heavier than my pack will actually be.  I overcompensated for things I hadn't bought yet.

The hike was along the Wabash Trace Nature Trail (The three pictures in the slide show on their home page are mine - others can be seen here).  I started from the Council Bluffs end and headed in a roughly southern direction down the flat, straight trail.  I started out pretty good.  The pack did feel heavier than I expected and I will have to rethink how I pack things in the backpack.  The smaller pack size carries a bit differently from how my older pack did.  The older pack seemed a bit more forgiving.  The new one will require some thought.  I ended up shifting a few things around in the pack part way through the hike which made the pack ride more comfortably.  Carrying water in a hydration bladder will also shift some weight closer to my body and show help it ride better.  Next time I wear the pack I will use a bladder.

View from a bench along the a Wabash Trace.
Despite being overcast and gloomy, Friday was probably the best day of the week.  At least it wasn't raining.  The trees were leafless and, frankly, the Wabash Trace can be boring in spots - too straight and flat.  Having said this, there were still nice views from the trail and the new bench they added on the trail looked very welcoming.  I'd seen a similar bench in another part of the Wabash back in 2010.  I didn't try it out because I was afraid I would never want to get up.

A welcoming bench along the Wabash Trace.
When I planned this hike I didn't take the pack weight into account.  I planned for a 14 mile hike which would have been fine without a load but with a pack, especially when you take into account that it had been a couple years since I walked with a pack, I should have shortened the hike.  Around the six mile mark my legs started feel a little achy.  I turned around at mile seven.  My legs complained quite a bit the seven miles back to the car.  They're still complaining today.  It's been awhile since I've had aches and pains the day after walking.  In the end I hiked 14.09 miles (22.7 km).


  1. Oh, man, that bench just begs to be sat upon on a sunny day. Preferably with a good book in-hand.

    Sounds like a good couple of hikes, despite the weather. Just don't go wearing yourself out BEFORE you get back on the Camino!

    1. GH: It soes, doesn't it? I had to keep my distance to prevent me from being sucked in.

      I'm trying to pace myself ... though I did over do it a bit on the second hike.