Ultimate Hike Update

Ultimate Hike Update

Earlier in the week, I emailed Coach Mel and told him I had broken my ankle and would not be able to hike. He responded with concern and compassion. He was less charitable when I said "April Fools"...he mentioned the boy who cried "wolf". What Mel didn't realize is that many of my donors have made it clear that I need more of an excuse than a broken leg if I do not make the full 28.3 miles on hike day!

We met Saturday morning at Harbison Forest. We still have a larger Columbia team but have trouble getting very many people together at one time. This week's group was Coach Mel, Paula and me...each of us has done the Ultimate Hike before. We did nineteen miles concentrating on the mountain-like portions of the trail. Nineteen miles is long enough to begin to be a strain...I will walk as often as my schedule allows during the next 40 days and put in a couple of hikes over twenty miles to make certain my muscles and my feet are ready for the big one.

The forest is changing from week to week. Last week the Jasmine and redbuds were blooming, this week they were mostly gone, replaced by dogwoods in white contrast to the dark trees. The photo, above, does not show the beauty of the creek. The forest floor is brown but the creeks are lines with a snaking path of green mosses and grasses (note the white flowering plant in front of my outstretched boot). Speaking of snaking, we saw one of those along the path (harmless but, when it moved suddenly, brought out an unknown tree-climbing ability in Paula). We also saw a variety of wildflowers and an unusual bright red honeysuckle.

This one gives you a better picture of what I am talking about with the green next to the creek. In addition to being a tiring day, this training shoots an entire day. We met a little after seven and finished walking about 4:00 PM. We walked a little over nineteen miles at a rate of 2.9 miles per hour not counting the times we stopped to adjust gear, take photos or enjoy the scenery...we never stop to rest, we keep moving.

The river was dark and the rocks were yellow from a coating of pollen. I did get out of the woods in time to have a glorious hot shower before seeing Duke dominate Michigan State to qualify for the NCAA National Championship game. My daughter, Hilary, and I have followed Duke basketball for twenty years or so. Many of you have heard this story but this is the main reason I do the Ultimate Hike and have so much empathy for parents with a sick child. Hilary was born with a very rare eye condition. After a quick circuit of all the local eye doctors, we were sent to the Duke Eye Center the first time when she was thirteen days old. She had four operations on each eye before she was two years old. The one I remember most was her first; the doctors had me hold her tiny body in my lap and talk to her as they administered anesthesia. I was in the room when a man was shot dead and I have wrecked on a rain slick Interstate Highway but I have never felt the sheer terror I felt as I held that tiny helpless child that I loved dearly.

Thank you for being a part of my team and sharing this journey with me. -James

About the Author

James A. Brannock

James A. Brannock

James Brannock is a Columbia personal property appraiser (furniture, silver, art, antiques, etc.). He began backpacking when his son was in Boy Scouts and spent 10 days backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch...he continues to backpack once or twice a year with friends from those Scouting days. Brannock and his son, Calder, walked the Coast to Coast Trail across England in 2010 (see the photo from the Lake District). On the Ultimate Hike for CureSearch-Children's Cancer Research, Brannock walked over 30 miles in one day...some eight miles further than any previous single day personal record.

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