Two backpacking trips in two weeks! Must be some kind of a record, and definitely an excellent birthday present from A. Having had such a good time on the previous trip, and constrained by the same considerations of time and planning, I had no choice but to return to the regular R.C.S.P. loop. Differences from last time: warm up activity, shoes, heat, wildlife.
R.C.S.P. is a twenty mile loop, but I upped the ante that morning by running a 5k race held by the YMCA in our neighborhood. Thanks to our friends for helping out with moral support, technical advice, and babysitting! We've been practicing on the 5k route, but this was the first time we ran a race on a official timer and without the baby, stroller, dog, poop breaks, stop lights, pedestrian traffic, etc. We squashed our previous time into pulp. A. and I are doing this as a team sport, so we stick together even though she's working harder at it. The upshot is that I had some energy left over, and plenty of time to rest and eat before making a late start on hiking.
On the second day of the last trip I kicked a big pointy stick and tore a big hole between the sole and fabric of my right shoe. It didn't stop me from finishing the walk, but the shoe was pretty badly damaged and I didn't trust it to hold together for another 20 miles. Just to be clear, I've been using two pairs of running shoes, the newer comfier ones on concrete, and the cheaper thinner older ones on trails. I could probably get away with just one multi-use pair, but I don't spend a lot on shoes, so I think it's ok. The newer ones have nice support and padding, which is good for jogging pace on hard concrete, and I don't want to get them torn, scratched, and muddied on the trail. The older ones were super cheap, so I don't mind punishing them on rough terrain, and I don't think I need as much foot protection going at a walking pace. In any case, I'm now down a pair of sneakers, and I decided to go with the medium hiking boots I got last year.
The boots definitely didn't slow me down the first day. I didn't feel quite as light on my feet as on the last trip, but I didn't have any trouble keeping up a good pace, and didn't have any discomfort. I do think that everything was a little more damp by the end of the day, and I don't think they dried out as well as the smaller shoes did. The second day I was little slower, but that probably wasn't the boots' fault.
The weather was not any hotter than the previous trip, but it was a little more humid. I definitely felt it on the trail, ended up drinking some more water than before, and had a much harder time cooling down and drying off in camp. Last time I slept really well and was comfortable inside my bivy and under (not in) my light sleeping bag, but this time I was too hot. I'm ok without a tent, but I'm scared enough of bugs and critters that I really want the bivy zipped closed, and with the small mesh face panel it doesn't ventilate well. I'm thinking that a bug bivy with a waterproof floor might be an appropriate choice for this warm weather. I was not as well rested as last time, but I did get to bed early, and I was ready to get up at 5:00 AM.
I saw a lot of wildlife on this trip. At the beginning of the hike there is a stream and marshy area below the dam. I saw some enormous fish swimming in the shallows of the stream, and I saw a largish bird swoop out of a tree. A birdwatcher I talked to later suggested it might have been a green heron. Later on I watched a family of raccoons cavorting around a tree a little way off the trail. At dinner a deer walked slowly through the campsite, 20' from where I was sitting. At night I heard something scratching in the bushes and scared it off by rustling my sleeping bag. The next morning I surprised an owl that had been munching on something on the ground, and it took off noisily before gliding silently away.