When you put a lot of time and effort into working out—doing lunges and burpees until you drop, slamming the medicine ball, holding planks, dead-lifting and inch-worming, battle-roping and multiple rounds of conditioning exercises—can you find a motivation to keep going, besides health?
Not that health’s not a worthy motivation—it’s the best, actually. But personally, I find additional motivation in doing something with the increased strength and vigor I’m achieving. Hiking, for instance.
This last Sunday in a long weekend broke cool and sunny, prompting Donna and I to hit the Little Gap Trail at the Dreher Island State Park in the midst of Lake Murray. It’s just over a couple of miles in length and we had never been there. We wanted to check out the Lake Murray area, anyway. It would also be another little gauge of how much our improved fitness levels help us with physical challenges in the real world.
So we packed a lunch and drove northwest for about 40 minutes to reach Dreher Island. It’s actually three islands in a chain separated from the shore by short bridge-spans. Still, it’s fairly large with camping grounds, boat launches, picnic areas, cabins-for-rent, and the Little Gap Trail. We picked up a map at the front gate and had no trouble following it to the trail head.
Traffic was light, especially foot traffic. I’m sure it being Sunday morning in mid February kept people in. Also, since it had rained the previous evening, people expected the trail to be muddy. It was, though not much.
Little Gap is an “out-and-back” trail to a loop that makes up over half its total length. Dogs on leashes are allowed but not bikes. The latter restriction might account for the trail’s good condition. It was well-kept and well-blazed. We had no problem staying on it. It wound through pines, sweet gums and pecan trees and up-and-down some considerable hills. The going was not overly tough, but I think it was the most hilly hike we’ve done. The AllTrails website notes the trail elevation change as 400 feet, but the recording of it only indicated a 184 foot change. That’s about 20 feet less than Peachtree Rock, but it felt like more as we were walking it.
As we hiked, I noticed the abundance of white, quartz-like rocks everywhere. These are the same rocks you find all over Harbison State Forest and are apparently a major feature of the South Caroling geology. The boulders at Peachtree Rock must be the large versions. Indeed, we saw a few really big such rocks in the picnic areas.
Overall, the hike was fun and invigorating. The hills didn’t phase us as we made the loop around the southeast end of the island. At the island’s furtherest point into the lake, we noted the rich people’s houses across the water. I think Lake Murray is mostly a place of private developments for the one-percent-wannabees. You see these big McMansions with boat slips in the back yards all along the shoreline. They’re picturesque, in a way, but also indicative of something “not real.” They strike me as pretenses at riches, surely financed by some very deep debt. Compare them to Biltmore, which is what you get when money is no object, and the builder-owner is a person of learning and imagination.
We completed the trail, logging 2.3 miles and keeping a pace of 2.1 mph. I thought we did well keeping up that pace (though we weren’t trying to do it fast) and managing the hilly, wet, and rocky parts without problem. We were not fatigued at all and could easily have kept going. In the past, that would not have been the case. In fact, we went on to have a picnic lunch and then explore some more of the park on foot, including the Billy Dreher Nature Trail. The Billy Dreher is only about one-half miles long and loops around what was apparently Mr. Dreher’s homesite 150 years ago. A big stone fireplace is all that remains.
So we made this trail and explored its environs with no sweat. It was a restorative hike for us, with even the geoengineers cooperating and giving us day without spraying and near-normal cumulus clouds. Mostly, it indicated to us what we can do and that we can handle more challenging trails. Eventually backpacking? We’ll see. Backpacking is defined by the addition of camping to your hikes and some preparation and equipment is required.
But I don’t doubt that we can do it.