Great South West Walk

This was to be the longest self supported hike I’ve done, the 253 kilometres of the Great South West Walk which is a big loop starting and finishing in Portland. I was excited but rather anxious, with most of my camping gear being very new and with not a great lot of experience under my belt in what I see as my second hiking life. I hadn’t hiked this far in my first hiking life either. (That life had concluded with the Queen Charlotte Walkway (NZ) in 1995, and my new hiking life began with the Kumano Kodo last year.)
April 12 I packed up my tent at the Portland Bay Holiday Park, had a quick coffee and muffin at Maccas and headed to where I intended to start the walk by the obelisk marking the foundation of Portland. As I stood waiting for my satellites two guys came past and asked where I was hiking. I ended up walking the first 500 metres of my hike with them. I was out of Portland quite quickly and most of the day was on the clifftops. Two snakes, of which the first was in a stupor an…

Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 miles, Utah

My second hundred miler, the Antelope Island Buffalo Run at Antelope Island State Park in the middle of the Great Salt Lake just outside Salt Lake City. I wasn’t so nervous this time but at the same time I remembered the duress of my previous effort very well. I hoped my slightly different training campaign of doing my heavier training some way out from the race would not prove to be a mistake. I knew it would be a long day, or more than a day. I expected bad weather. I planned my drop bags carefully, I reviewed the route map carefully but I did not plan a timing strategy. For me I think this just adds pressure with little other benefit. 

We had two loops of a fifty mile course. Not sure if I’ve done a race on Friday before. It was a curiously late start, 10 am and a small field that seemed to be entirely locals who were acquainted with the course. Afterwards when I checked the race results I saw all their ultra resumes and realised I was very much the novice in the field.
At the very l…

Hiking around Moab, Utah

I’ve had a great time hiking at Moab. The weather has been nothing but sunshine and after chilly early mornings it gets warm in the daytime. The distinctive red rock has been weathered into dramatic shapes everywhere you look, literally everywhere. Unlike Monument Valley where the unusual formations were isolated among the desert landscape, the formations are prolific, often within canyons, but still surrounded by the desert scrub. I’m surprised at how busy it is everywhere; the hotels here are full and the trailhead parking areas are packed. I’m also surprised how many huge trucks are rolling through the town because it is in the middle of nowhere and it isn’t on the way to anywhere apart from a selection of national parks. I came through here before on the way to and from Monument Valley when the weather wasn’t good.

The day after the half marathon I headed back to the same area to do a couple of hikes that were off the canyon road. First I hiked in Grandstaff Canyon four miles out a…

Canyonlands Half Marathon, Moab, Utah

Perfect weather and a spectacular course. What more could I ask? Here I was, back in Utah and only a hundred miles from Monument Valley to run a half marathon in Moab as part of my final taper for this year's big dance. With over a thousand runners it was going to be a lot different from my other races this trip. I only intended to use it as a training run but, as always, when the gun goes off I suddenly switch to trying to do it as fast as I can. Which, for a half marathon, is not fast. But I got third in my age group at a distance I rarely do so I must have done something right.
It was absolutely freezing - read about minus five - when the school buses deposited us near the race start ten miles up the canyon we were going to run. But what a place. The first rays of the sun were lighting the tops of the canyon mesas and the effect when the mesas were reflected in the Colorado River was magical. The river is an unattractive shade of brown but it holds a good reflection. I tried to …

Shawnee Forest hikes

After my muddy run at Land Between the  Lakes I did some short hikes in Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. My first foray failed: I drove a bunch of back roads trying to reach the Rim Rock area in the western part of the forest and after a lot of messing around and having to retrace my route I ended up on a road leading directly into a lake. The lake must have expanded with the flooding. 
The next day I took a better route and was able to hike the Indian Point Trail and the Rim Rock Trail, with add-on to Pounds Hollow. Both were in the deciduous forest and featured huge rocky bluffs pitted with holes. The trails went right under the bluffs. There were some impressive caves dripping away, and balancing rocks. The Rim Rock Trail came highly rated but I was alone there. I continued beyond the major rocks to the lake at Pounds Hollow. The lake was pretty but the beach looked rather forlorn, damp and deserted, although capable of holding a big crowd in high season. On the return …

Land Between the Lakes 60 km ultra, Kentucky

The day before this race I decided to go for a short run in the same area as the race, but further into the park called Land Between the Lakes where we were going to run. There had been a lot of flooding in this part of Kentucky and all week I had been getting emails about what the race organisers were doing to ensure we could run the race despite many of the trails still being waterlogged. Soon enough I saw what the problem was. I was intending to run the Honker Trail around a small lake. When I parked the car it was raining so I coated up and set off; there was nobody else around. I ran down an access trail and found my Honker Trail. Within twenty metres the trail disappeared under water and I could not see it emerging ahead. So I ended up running on 4WD roads and wound a nice, muddy, out and back route in forest to a further away point on the lake shore.
Afterwards I had to go to Waffle House to get warm. In the afternoon they were forecasting heavy rain and strong 40 mph winds with…