November 16, 2018 ~ The Alexander Murray Hiking Trail is an 8km trail in the Newfoundland town of King’s Point. [King’s Point on Google Maps] The trail has three waterfalls, quite a few grouse, and about 2000 wooden stairs to help get folks up to a summit named the ‘Haypook’, which is an impressive 1100 ft up.
I’m lucky to live very close to the trail.
I decided to hike to the top 50 times in 2018.
The first of the fifty hikes was on May 12th. There was still snow on the trail, and fallen trees. (The trees were later removed by Trail Committee volunteers.)
That first hike was a cold hard slog on the partially snow-covered path and stairs. As beautiful it was, I was sore enough I could barely walk for a whole week afterwards. Getting up and off the bed in morning was squealing torture.
That made me angry at myself. I should have known better. A hiking season should start with a few shorter hikes.
It was a painful lesson learned.
But I healed up and, again and again, my hikes continued through June, July and August, through flies, heat, rain and sore heels.
Sometimes I hiked up to four times a week. These were peak tourist months and I often met travellers on the trail, often from different countries.
Hikers are just the best kind of folks to meet. No one is ever unhappy up there in all the fresh air!
The more I hiked, the more I wanted to hike. I craved the fresh air and solitude.
Summer 2018 was dry and the Alexander Murray Trail’s three waterfalls dried to almost trickles.
The dry weather, though, made for many hiking opportunities that carried on through September. October brought rainy days on the trail, and even some periods of snow and hail, and the hikes were fewer and for the most part had to be squeezed into fair-weather windows.
The truth is anyone who hikes an 1100 ft trail 50 times in half a year will notice a few body, and mind, changes.
Here are mine.
1 ~ Size Loss.
I write ‘size’ because I don’t own a scale. (I don’t want to ever own a scale.) I have no idea what I weigh now, and I don’t care to know. But I know I feel more comfortable and nearly all of my clothes are too big.
2 ~ Hunger!
Before this 2018 hiking season, I can say I was often not actually hungry but I ate anyway. And I was never hungry in the morning. Breakfast never happened because I couldn’t eat.
During these past 6 months I have often been ravenous. Now a meal of eggs might see 6 of them on the plate. I eat any amount of food I want, but I usually want vegetables, lentils and nuts. My body craves healthier things.
Looking back on the 6 months, I can I say I didn’t eat enough for the amount of exercise I was getting, and I certainly didn’t eat enough protein.
That was the most interesting change for me. I went from thinking, like many of us do, that I should cut down on calories to thinking I must eat more.
3 ~ Better Sleep.
My sleepless nights were wiped away by climbing steps on the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail. If I could bottle hikes, I could make a fortune.
Hiking is a huge mood boost.
4 ~ Better Posture.
I would never has guessed that would happen, because the hikes were pretty much all lower-body workouts.
I can easily feel, though, that I ‘stand taller’, have a stronger stance and I move more easily. My balance has also improved.
5 ~ More Confidence & Clarity.
A two to five-hour hike alone two to four times a week can give a gal a lot of time to think, and to mentally put all her ducks in a row.
There is peace in quiet. One day on the trail it was so still, so windless and so deathly quiet that I could hear the distinct sound of a crow’s wings slowly flap as it flew past me overhead. Like time had stopped except for that bird, it was the only sound.
That written, remember that it is always safer to hike with a friend.
I myself prefer the solitude, self-reliance and self-care that comes with hiking alone. (If there’s no one to go for help, you darn well make sure you don’t slip.)
After all the huffing and puffing to reach the top, the 360 degree awe-inspiring view at the summit helps give good life perspective. Worries about bills, work and personal relationships can all disappear at the top. Being 1100 ft above the sod is a really great feeling. Getting up there is a workout with an accomplishment, whether that accomplishment feels big or small to you.
The view at the top of the Murray goes out to the ocean, back to the Gaff Topsails, over to Halls Bay and on far past South Brook but the only communities you can see are King’s Point and Rattling Brook. Looking at rows and rows of blue hills going back for probably 100+ kms, though, simply never gets old.
What did I learn from all that hiking?
~ I learned that a walking stick is very helpful, especially for balance when you’re tired.
~ I learned to carry a little of everything I could need in my backpack: from a change of clothes, to fly spray, to flash light, to bandages and more. And taking more water than you think you’ll need is a must.
I learned from meeting folks of all ages on the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail that getting to the top is a relished accomplishment for many people. I met someone there who decided to do it for his 65th birthday. Others were cancer survivors. Some hikers were locals. Some were from far away. Nearly everyone wants a photo of themselves at the top, next to the flag and in front of that now iconic view out the bay. The photo is their ‘look-at-what-I-did!’ for social media.
I also learned age is truly only a number, having met folks in their 80s from Oregon who clipped up that trail better than many people half their age. And when I meet someone new now, and they learn my age (which, sorry, I’m not telling you), they often get a very surprised look on their face. It seems I may have walked 10 years off myself in 2018. (I’ll take it, I think!)
I have been asked often how long it takes me to do the whole 8 kms. I can honestly say timing doesn’t matter to me. I just want to get up there to sit at the top. My best time, though, is 2 hours. That’s nothing compared to the gods-like French couple I watched on August 27th while I drank a fattening beer up on the Haypook. I watched them quickly run up the ridge and then down again on the other side with their two dogs. I assume they ran the whole trail. My gob is still agape.
I am also often asked if I worry about the wildlife. I am more worried about getting clipped by a car when walking in town. On the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail I have only usually seen squirrels and grouse. I rarely see signs of bears. I saw only one caribou this year and didn’t see any moose at all.
But, in the end, what does a person do after hiking the King’s Point Alexander Murray Hiking Trail 50 times in 6 months?
Go up for the 51st time, of course, which I did early this month!
See you on the Murray in 2019.
[Above piece was written by Deb Cakes]
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