Thursday, July 21, 2016

There and Back Again (with apologies to Bilbo Baggins)

"He [Bilbo Baggins] used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'"- Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

So when I was planning my vacation for this week one of the first things that popped into my head was to finally walk the entire Cumberland Valley Rail Trail from Shippensburg to Newville, something I've wanted to do ever since I first discovered it. And looking at the weather forecast for the week, yesterday stood out as perfect for hiking - cooler than the rest of the week, with low humidity. So at 6:00 yesterday morning I headed out.

It was a great hike. Lots of things to take pictures of, interesting bits of history learned from the information posts they have along the trail, and new vistas to look at in the part of the trail I hadn't walked yet. But I made a mistake deciding to walk up to Newville and then walk back; that's 10 miles (16 km) up and 10 miles back, a 20 mile (32 km) total. I figured if I took a long, maybe half an hour, break to eat lunch and relax at the Newville trailhead everything would work out. More fool me!

The 10-mile walk up was fine. I was a little footsore, but not markedly so. I took my boots off and ate lunch, and then stretched out on the picnic table bench and rested in the shade. Then after that half hour rest I put my boots on and started to head back. After just two miles my feet were hurting, but the nearest bench in the shade was about 3 miles down, so I made it to that and took a rest with the boots off again. And I continued that way all the way back to Shippensburg. By the time I got home my feet were killing me, my hips and calves were complaining, and I was so tired I think I might have looked drunk as I slowly made my way through town to my home.

Did I learn anything from this? Yes. Age definitely puts limits on activity, and at 63 it looks like 20-mile hikes are beyond those limits. Ten mile hikes are fine, though. Also, some of the problem was due to the fact that my new hiking boots weren't as broken in as I thought they were (well, they're broken in now!), so the lesson in that is to wear only well-seasoned boots on long hikes. And finally, if I ever want to visit the entire Rail Trail again, I need to make arrangements with someone either to meet me in Newville and give me a ride home or drop me off at Newville and I'll walk the trail back to Shippensburg.

After a good night's sleep I'm back to normal today; I expected to be stiff in the hips and legs, but that doesn't seem to have happened. And I've gone through the shots I took and processed the ones I liked best, so here they are for your pleasure. Enjoy!

Looking north across the valley in the early morning
The Sensenig's Purple Martin high rise (at Duncan Rd.) is certainly full up and busy!
Another view of farms and mountains
A spiderweb along the Rail Trail
This brave little Chipmunk waited until I was almost up to him before he scuttled off
This baby Eastern Cottontail also waited until I was right up to him; he didn't take off until some bicyclists came whizzing by
Fields and mountains - a typical Cumberland Valley scene
A serene pastoral scene captured during one of my rest stops on the way back home
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 


  1. Great shots of the chipmunk and the rabbit, both brave souls.

  2. Nice images, Roy, and congratulations on your hike. For what it's worth, I'm 73 and frequently do 15-20 mile hikes with no foot problems. I don't say this to boast, but simply to suggest that taking your boots off during the hike might have contributed to your problems. While I have seen people do that with apparent success, I never take my boots off till the end of the hike, because, in the few times I did it early on, my feet became swollen and it was impossible to return them to a comfortable fit within the boots.