We love telling stories! Especially stories from other hikers and backpackers we have or are making a personal journey to and on a trial. We’ve recently connected with Denny Mrozinski and talked to him about his upcoming thru-hike of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT). I am looking forward to meeting up with Denny on the trail during my own adventure coming up this April.
Brian Ford invited me to share some thoughts on preparations for my upcoming April LHHT through hike, leading up to an Appalachian Trail hike (Harpers Ferry to AT Southern terminus in GA). I’ll try to be brief, but I think a little background would put this journey in perspective.
My preparations started in earnest in the Spring of 2015. “Why prepare so far in advance?” you may ask. I have years of hiking experience, but my backpacking/camping license has long expired. My equipment is outdated, low tech, and pretty smelly! Then there’s my legs. I retired in 2014 at age 58 from a high intensity career. A desk, stress, and age had taken its toll….not to mention a torn meniscus and the onset of arthritis in my knees. The surgeon who fixed up my left knee about 5 years ago said that focused effort to build up the muscle in both knees could avoid future problems. So, in the Spring of 2015, I started that process by hitting the trail…truly hiking by faith as I often prayed along the way, or shouted “Oh God!” as I badly twisted my ankle on a rock 3 miles away from the car.
Harrison Hills Park in Allegheny County has been my preferred training venue. I have hiked there several times per week on average….hikes ranging from 3 to 10 miles. You can do a 5 mile circuit around the park with some good hills for a challenge. But hiking in circles at the same park can get old after a while. Enter the LHHT.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the trail or what the trail would expect of me, so I approached the first section hike with apprehension. It was Oct 2015 from Seward to Decker and back with a 6 pound day-pack that contained water, Kleenex, a couple of Cliff bars, and bear spray! At the finish, I was tired but now realized I was back in the game. I did some research and ordered new gear, mostly on-line.
The second hike over this same route was much more relaxed and tested my ability to hike 10+ miles with a 25lb pack. After that, I had the confidence in my newly regained physical abilities to tackle the entire trail this April, then in July, the Appalachian Trail.
Thus has been a retired guy’s journey leading up to this point….and the knees feel great!