I look at my watch. It is 8:50 A.M. Still, I stop and take out the Gatorade bottle from my pack. I take a few sips. "This tastes better than the expensive glass of wine I had last night", I mutter to myself.
Joy and I had begun our tenth 20-mile hike less than an hour and a half ago. We were in Henry "Killer" Coe State Park, so nicknamed for its tough terrain. The weather forecast for the day's high was in the low eighties. Could be, but the forecast was for the nearby town, not the park. And, when the thirst-quenching Gatorade tasted so good at nine in the morning, it was a sure sign that a very hot day lay ahead. It certainly did. We ran out of water well before finishing the hike, in spite of carrying two gallons of water between us. The saving grace was the three miles of mostly downhill towards the end of our hike.
Joy and I had set out to hike 12 different 20-mile hikes. Why 20 miles and why 12 hikes? This was the year 2012 and that was our inspiration. Our self-imposed rule was to hike at least 20 miles on each of our 12 hikes. Most of our planned hikes were out and back, except for a couple of loop hikes. On the out and back hikes, we had further decided not to turn around at ten miles, but to reach some significant point such as a peak or a camp. The result was several hikes longer than 20 miles. The longest was 23 miles.
My first thought was to do the 12 hikes in 12 consecutive days. It would be tough on our bodies, but I thought we probably could manage it. In the end, though, I opted to do them every other day. The main reason was my worry about possible sleep deprivation. We both need eight hours of sleep a night; maybe even more after 20-mile hikes. After several days of less sleep, our physical and mental abilities to do the strenuous hikes could have been adversely affected. We would be on the trail for ten to eleven hours, spend a couple of hours driving to and from the trailheads and spend time doing our daily chores. In addition, we probably would wind up spending time icing or bandaging our sore spots. We could have finished five or six hikes consecutively, but 12 would have been a stretch. I didn't want to bite off more than I can chew.