The Long Walk


Last week I posted about the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and some walks I took on it recently.  Since I learned of it, the trail beckoned me to do the whole thing.  During the week I asked myself, what was I waiting for?  In fact, for the summer, construction on the trail would shut down a major section for the rest of the season starting Tuesday.  So it really was, now or never.

So yesterday, I left the pup at home, parked the car downtown, and walked the whole of the trail.  As I mentioned last week, the trail includes a scale model of the solar system, so that was the measurable goal, start at Pluto, end at the Sun.  Today’s post is more of notes from the log I kept on the walk, peppered with comments and thoughts on the trip.

For starters, this is a “no turning back” way of hiking – to quit on this trail means I have to call a cab to get to my car.  I wasn’t going for time, just to finish.  The trail was advertised as 11 miles and 5-1/2 hours.  I expected it to be further in length but shorter in time.  In the log below, the First Number is the mileage covered to that point based on a phone app that I have (not necessarily the true mileage or mile marker on the trail) — but be warned, the phone died near the end, so things get squishy.

0 — Pluto — 10:30am — Start the Clock; Unloaded and strapped up ready to go.  Leaving Kincaid Park, which starts up by the ski chalet and descends to the coast.

0.73 — A Big Bull Moose is chewing away on grass just off the trail.  And I MEAN BIG

1.04 — First view from the coast, surprising that it took a mile to get here.

1.58 — Leaving Kincaid Park grounds now entering Airport Land.  Feeling alright early on, but feeling out of shape too.  When I walk during lunch at work, this is as far as I usually get.  I guess what’s different at this point is that I know I have to be settled in.  Whatever it takes, I am covering this distance, and at this point I still have 10 miles to go.

1.78 — So, up to this point, you can basically say the trail is in a forest. surprised to find an open area with a lake and hills.  This is still in Anchorage City limits, and its like we are in the wilderness out here.

1.88 — The wilderness interrupted … a Big Asian Cargo Jet buzzed me coming in for a landing.

2.57 — Crossed my first bridge on the trial.

2.64 — 1st Hour complete.  Knew I was going a bit slow to begin with, but was hoping to be closer to 3 mile by now.

3.13 — I don’t know what happened, but there is a 2 story tall dead tree pile about 200 ft off the trail.  Looks like a clean-up thing.

3.28 — Neptune.  From my other trips on the trail, this is the only planet I hadn’t visited.  I knew it would be a ways, but I’m surprised there was 3+ miles of this trail I hadn’t been on yet (that is a foreshadow by the way, wait to you hear how far I got to get to something I knew)

3.54 — Light traffic up to this point, nearly all bikers.  Ran off the trail for the first time … the guy was wearing a Chicago Bears hat, figures.

3.61 — Tourist stopped and asked if I saw  a moose, I told them about the bull at mile 0.75; though that is 3 miles and an hour ago.

4.15 — Bad sign of how far away from roads that I am, there is a Helicopter Cross on the trial, for an emergency landing spot if needed.

4.24 — End of one phase of the construction plan, they will be redoing the trail from Pluto to here starting Tuesday.  As it happens a dude was out spray painting the work that would be done next week.

4.71 — After almost 5 miles, I see the first thing, a railing and a bench, that looks like a spot that I had seen before.

5.03 — A Couple with a Garmin eTrax around their neck.  Geocachers surely.

5.27 — Crossed a road, literally the first such crossing since Pluto.  If you do this section, it clearly is a massive out-and-back.

5.42 — The Two Hour mark clicks over at a landmark.  2.78 miles in that hour, but more importantly I need to start thinking about a break.  This is close to a good one.  Point Woronzof Park, the furthest west park along the northern coast, and typically seen as the last rest stop when you head the opposite direction than what I am doing.   Still, it’s practically the theoretical half-way point.

5.5 — Theoretical half way, if 11 miles is the whole way.  Just 2 minutes past 2 hours on the trail.

5.65 — Pee break

5.73 — You know that plane that buzzed me at 1.88?  Just buzzed me again taking off.

5.93 — Stopped for a 10 minute lunch break.  Being a very healthy day, I had a healthy lunch — Cold Pizza and an Energy Drink.  Could have stood to sat for a while longer, but just past half way my phone is down to a 45% charge.  Starting to work on “plan b”.

6.07 — Uranus — Six Miles, and only 3 planets in.  That’s a bit mind blowing.

6.65 — Airport Park, a nice view of things here, but after just finishing a very long downhill I want to keep moving to keep from getting stiff.

6.99 — End of the “already done” phase of construction

7.12 — Passing the Slant Totem at Earthquake Park, which means I am going to be hitting the rolling hills of section of town worst hit by the Great Alaskan Earthquake.  Which also means I am starting to hit the wall.

7.84 – Down in the mud flats and ponds of Earthquake Park.  Good news is the terrain for here on out is relatively flat.  This trail would definitely be tougher going in the other direction.  That hard hill from Airport Park to Uranus would be a wall breaker, and Earthquake Park has a nasty one to warm them up.  That doesn’t count that last stretch in Kincaid, which would be uphill for the last mile.  Here on out, the only real hill I have waiting is going from Mars to Earth into Downtown.

7.72 – End of Hour 3.  Slow hour, but I did take a lunch in there.  There is a Richard Bachman (pen name for a young Steven King) book called “The Long Walk”, where teenaged boys are in a contest of who can walk the furthest.  If their pace ever dropped below 4 miles an hour, they were given a warning.  After three warning if they haven’t improved they are “given a ticket”, which means they are shot dead in the street.  The most disturbing thing to me about the story wasn’t the brutality or the psychological destruction of those kids — it’s the 4 miles per hour.  Let’s face it, my 5-1/2 foot body is mostly torso, it takes 30 steps to walk what a long legger marathon can do in one.  Here I am doing splits of about 20 minute miles & being happy — no way can I keep a 4 mile per hour minimum, ever.

7.89 – I smell fire, not sure where from.

8.21 – The trial really needs work here, almost hurts to walk over the grooves and rolls in the pavement.  Or maybe I am just complaining that my phone is down to 20%

8.31 – Split in the road, that I recognize but hangs in my head.  Long walks, there is a physiological burn to them.  Going this far is painful, I can feel it in my calves, my feet, my ankles.  Things are starting to cramp a bit in the legs.  None of it, though, is going to do any long term damage, and its not so much that makes the walk unbearable.  In a way, it is thought.  It hangs in my head like a demon that could emerge at any point.  A long walk isn’t about the exercise, it isn’t about a race, it’s about crossing a distance.  Stopping for a rest, taking time to stretch, even taking time to smell the roses — it all is a delay.  The goal is to make it to the end.  The only way … ONLY way … is to put one foot in front of the other.

8.61 — Saturn, and I realize that with all my wondering about how long this trail is, I am not even half way through the solar system.  Four planets down.  Five planets and a big ball of fire left.

9.19 — This far in and this is only the second bridge?  It’s the damn bridge too.

9.40 — Going thru a Tunnel

9.45 — Starting the Westchester Lagoon stretch, beginning with Bridge #3

9.69 — Salmon Counter to the Lagoon, and phone just hit 10%

9.76 — Jupiter.  For the coastal trail this also “Mile 0”, the trail mile markers that go out to Kincaid (and they say it’s just 9.5 miles); stop for a quick Clif Bar and to shake out the legs.

9.81 — Bridge #4

9.83 – Tunnel #2, and the end of Westchester Lagoon

9.91 — Sewage Pump Station, if you been out here you know what I mean

10.36 — End of Hour 4, going 2.64 miles in that time … as it turns out the same length as my first hour.

10.60 — Phone finally dies, and I go off of my pedometer here on out.  So close too, because downtown is clearly in view.  Last straight stretch before the end begins.

10.85 – The trail continues, but I won’t.  On plan, to be honest.  To finish the planets, I leave the trail (though the trail only goes another 1/2 mile).

10.90 — Mars, God of War.

11.07 — It is city streets from here on out, and there were these really weird trucks with German plates.  They looked like they could have sailed here.

11.09 — Earth, and tourists trying to figure out the thing.

11.13 — Venus, and the planets are clicking by

11.28 — Mercury, more tourists who are calling the thing “Mars”.  From here, the end is in view.  I just have one block to go, cross kitty corner, and that big ball of flame is mine.

11.40 — The Sun, and it’s Done.  I walked the whole thing.  Holy Crap, I WALKED the whole thing!  Now, where did I park my car?

11.75 — Stop the clock.  4 hours, forty minutes, and I covered nearly 12 miles.  My pedometer said that I took nearly 30,000 steps this day.  That’s … well … alot.

At the end of the day, it was a long hard walk.  Besides my ankles and knees looking for an excuse to move to a different body, I was feeling pretty good.  Now that a day has passed, I am sore and tired.  But its over.  Done and dusted.



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