In just a little over a month, Cole and I will be officially taking off on our journey of a lifetime. The journey will include biking, kayaking, photography, and climbing, but above all – hiking.
We want to have the energy and stamina to pull 10-mile hiking days often enough to make the most of our time in the National Parks. In order to do that, we think a little training is in order.
To kick off a year of hiking, I thought I’d start with 5 days of hiking in a row. There are many great trails around KC, but I’d never hiked them for a week straight. If I can do 5 days, I can do a year, right? #fingerscrossed . To make it a little more fun, I turned this goal into a challenge, and began right away.
Day 1: Parkville Nature Sanctuary
I kicked my challenge off with a home-field advantage, so to speak. Although it’s technically four trails, I love this park because it is only 5 minutes from my school, it provides beautiful scenery, and the grades are steep enough for me to feel like I’m working hard. I also love that the trails are well-maintained and marked.
After parking below the Health Center, I hopped on the 1.5-mile White Tail Trail (going to the right), which includes fairly steep hills/steps and loops deeper back into the woods. This then links up to the .9-mile Old Kate Trail, which (for good reason) is the most popular trail in the park. The Old Kate takes hikers past a beautiful waterfall and stream, as well as across a bridge that overlooks the sanctuary area. (They call one short off-shoot an “overlook,” but don’t get too excited.)
I finished my afternoon hike with the two short (.1 and .3, respectively) Butterfly Pass & Bluebird ADA Trail, which cut across the Old Kate Loop. Together, I walked about 4 miles, but it seemed like less, as there is much to see in the small park.
Day 2: Shawnee Mission Park
Day two of my challenge was a bit of a letdown. Cole and I love Shawnee Mission Park for its mountain biking trail system. I have hiked them often as well, so I was happy to go here for this challenge. However, it has been a summer of constant downpours so far, and the trails were closed.
The good thing, though, is that Shawnee Mission Park’s bike trails aren’t their option. I drove a bit around the lake and joined the Gary Haller National Recreation Trail, which connects to a parking lot in Shawnee Mission Park. Although the path was paved and not liking the majority of the “hiking” I enjoy, it’s a great long trail that provides ample space for biking, jogging, or strolling. I liked that there was a loop from where I parked, because I so prefer loops to out-and-backs. The loop, plus the spur that led to the road, came in at about three miles, if my phone calculated it correctly. There are mile markers along the main trail, which goes north or south of Shawnee Mission Park, but the mileage on the loop was a bit more unknown.
Day 3: Smithville Lake
Another day, another paved trail. Accidentally. I didn’t do too much research before heading out to Smithville Lake, which is a 25-minute drive from my school, and I probably should have read a bit more about the trails I was heading to. Again, the trail I was aiming to hike, Crow’s Creek, was shut down due to high water levels.
Thankfully, trails at Smithville Lake are also plentiful. I headed across the parking lot to a trail called the Anita B. Gorman Trail, which is 1.9 miles one way. It is paved and in great shape, but again not exactly my normal “hiking” or what I had in mind for this challenge. Oh well.
The trail winds around the edge of the lake, providing a few clear views of Smithville Lake. There is a covered picnic table shelter about halfway in, so picnics would be great here. The path was lined with trees and often wildflowers, and I saw several woodland critters while I strolled. Overall, it was a very pleasant afternoon, and despite the awesome weather, I only passed one adorable old lady running in a sports bra. We chatted about the nice breeze and I left with an inspiring image that I won’t soon forget.
Day 4: Roanoke Park
If the first day of my challenge was my comfort zone, Roanoke Park is like my security blanket. I can walk to the trails in Roanoke Park from my house, and I have been on these trails at least a dozen or two times. Each time, I find a slightly different path, and I love them more and more.
I didn’t have too much time before I was meeting friends for a movie, but I wanted to knock out a few miles after school. I started near the Roanoke Community Center, and quickly ascended into the overgrown trail. It had been a few weeks since I hiked here, and it obviously needed a bit of a trim, but I didn’t mind too much. Once I trekked around the hillside and out to the road, I crossed and continued on the other side. The good thing about these trails is that there are several interconnecting paths, and you could do a different hike each visit.
Day 5: Blue River Parkway Trail
Alright, I almost made it. I approached Day 5 kind of cocky, since it was a Saturday and I had not a lot else to do that day. I was confident I would be out on the trail for several hours, knock out at least five miles, and return home feeling accomplished.
Well, I felt accomplished at least.
I entered the trail at the main trailhead off of 118th Street. Not knowing exactly where I was going, and hoping the trail would be somewhat marked and maintained, I took a left when I came to the main trail. Turns out “well-marked” was wishful thinking, and I instead started paying attention to where I was turning. The main trail got really confusing really fast, as side trails criss-crossed the path many times. I stayed fairly straight and hoped I wouldn’t get lost.
I am not one to panic about many things, but when it comes to getting lost, anxiety creeps in almost immediately. That, combined with the muddy patches and extreme bugginess, led me back to my car much faster than I had anticipated. I still hiked for about an hour, but with the turning around and taking pictures, I estimated I only knocked out about 2 miles on Day 5.
Day 5 was over and I had finished my goal of hiking 5 trails in 5 days.
So what’s next?
My Training Plan
I need to keep training for a year of hiking, so I am going to maintain my after-school hiking plan and increase my mileage each week until I am hiking about 35 miles each week. (During our year in the Parks, we estimate we’ll hike about 40-50 miles each week, so this will be a good way to ease into it.)
I totaled my mileage during this challenge and it was about 15, so that’s where I’ll start. Here’s my plan:
- Week 1: June 15th – 15 miles
- Week 2: June 22nd – 15-20 miles
- Week 3: June 29th – 20 miles
- Week 4: July 6th – 20-25 miles
- Week 5: July 13th – 25 miles
- Week 6: July 20th – 25-30 miles
- Week 7: July 27th – 30 miles
- Week 8: August 3rd – 30-35 miles
- Week 9: August 10th – 35 miles
- Week 10: August 17th – Departure 🙂
Once summer school ends next week (my training Week 3), I am confident I’ll be able to reach this goal. I will try to hike on actual dirt trails most of the time, but I may trade a few for paved paths to ensure I’m getting the mileage in each week.
Overall, my main goal is to be extremely active this summer to prepare for a year of activity, so as long as I’m doing that, I won’t worry as much about not reaching my goal miles. But I will let you guys know how things are going with a few updates.
Here’s to an active summer!
Read about our favorite hikes in KC here.