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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Views From The Training Road - Hiking Up The Palm Springs Tram Road 4-15-11

By Keith Brock
April 16, 2011
Photos by: Keith Brock



Gasping for breath was all I could do, and then only for one mile up the road.  It doesn't look like much when first starting.  The rising road means what when driving it in a car with your foot pushing the gas pedal to the floor, taking so little effort - something I have done for over 20 years of driving this road for pleasure to get up the lower tram station so I could hop a tram-car to 8,000 feet on a hot desert day of 118 degrees in the depths of summer.  My legs, carrying an extra 80 lbs of body weight and a pack with another 13 lbs of water and oddities, soon had my ankles and shins screaming at me to head immediately back to my truck and straight home to my easy chair.

This past December I decided that the 100 extra pounds I put on sitting in an easy chair over the past 36 months were just taking a toll I wasn't willing to pay.  I have been active all my life via work and had joined a gym close to my office before closing it 3 years ago because I seemed to be bulging out over my belt and needed to fight the Michelin-man look.  Once I stopped working and sit down at the computer all hell broke lose around my middle and belly.  My body seemed to have a mind of its own.  This could not stand - or I wouldn't be able to myself.  Getting out of that easy chair seemed to be getting harder and taking a lot more arm strength.

Needless to say, I joined a gym and set a goal of walking the Appalachian Trail as a thru-hiker starting next spring.  Wow!  What a goal for someone with an recliner stuck to their butt.  A journey of a lifetime starts with a single step and I took that step. First I joined a local gym with lots of great equipment.  This helped me drop 30 lbs in approximately 3 months so I could start doing more upper-body training vs just elliptical and walking up to 11 miles on stationary walkers a day.  Of course I was killed after ten minutes when I first started.  I decided there is no gain without some pain when you get into my predicament from being non stationary.  I had to move or be frozen in place for life.

I don't know what led me to the Palm Springs Tram road.  Early in the morning, as I drove by it - sometimes before daylight on my way to work over on the Ocean, I would see people heading up the road.  I always admired that kind of commitment, but in the summer you have to go really early before the heat goes out of the 90's into the hundreds.  I think what drew me to the road was my growing depression of watching MSNBC and CNN as I walked for a couple hours or split the time between walking and the elliptical.  The news on these channels are so depressing that I want to go out and sink lots of money, if I had it, into pharmaceuticals that market anti-depressants! I was getting physically healthy relative quickly - 30 lbs in a little over three months isn't too bad, but I was growing increasingly mentally ill because I couldn't take my eyes off the rows of TV screens - even if I didn't plug in my earphones my eyes would end up reading the words - like driving by a train wreck - I had to look!  I couldn't help myself.

The Tram Road is everything I thought it would be, and a lot more.  All I felt in the beginning was the pain, barley being able to suck in the next breath before raising and driving another foot under me to carry me up the ever increasing inclines that seemed endless and with so few minor flat spots you can count them on three or four fingers over the four miles.  It is relentless.  But in just several weeks I walked to the top once already without stopping once in one hour and 48 minutes - which is excellent for me.  And slowly things began to change.  Instead of looking at every rock and stone in the pavement I started to get to a point I could actually look up and enjoy the scenery.  It is still brutal walking up but I find a lot more enjoyment and stopping to enjoy the surrounding scenery now.  At first I never thought of pulling out my digital to take a picture - I was sweaty and I could care less.  My feet hurt, my back hurt, my body ached - I just wanted to go home and go to bed.  In fact, the first trip up with no hat, no water, no sunglasses, no scarf put me in bed for three days.  I could hardly walk for five days because I was so stiff.  But I couldn't let the mountain win.  There always has to be a beginning and this was my beginning if I were to ever walk the Appalachian and then Pacific Crest Trails (which I live on near).

Each trip something new reveals itself - no two days are the same.  I am now hearing the myriad of bird songs I have never noticed in my early trips - fleeting because some will probably be moving north soon with the warming weather.  Some will stay on and I will get to know them better in the coming days.  Also the colors and plumage I never noticed before, there are many different kinds of birds I became aware, especially in the trees near the ice-cold snow streaming gurgling down from thousands of feet above in the still melting snow.  They had water, their own air conditioned stream to cool their living area in the thick overgrowth and trees, and lost of insects to eat.  Perfect winter home.

The latest impressions are the wonderful flowers blooming all around, including things I never knew that lived here in the desert in the wild.  And then there is the ever changing impressions of the towering rocks and mountains above me.  They change with the time of day I walk from the sun's-slanted rays, the type of day whether it is windy, clear, dust rising from the valley floor, cloudy and even snowing at the top of the mountains.  Some days feet of snow pile up while down below I trudge through desert scenery.  There are even a few cool and sometimes downright cold days, but not many. What I would call a cold day you would laugh at if you lived in Michigan,  though.

I would like to start sharing some of photos I am starting to take along the way and share some of the observations that come to me.  Also, I will hopefully introduce you to some of the characters that pit their body against the mountain everyday.  The ones who ride bicycles up are the most amazing!  In the coming training, enjoy the photos and do leave comments.  Share the site and get others who love the outdoors here to encourage me on.  Only 70 more pounds to go and a whole lot of training.  If I can get to eight miles a day, four of them up over 2,100 feet, I just might be able to get to the point I will be able to enjoy my walk on the Appalachian trail from day one!  That is the goal.  Again, enjoy.




All blends into a mosaic of beauty!

1 comment:

  1. I like your blog and respect your training and ambition to tackle the tail. I live within a few miles of Harpers Ferry near the half way point. We see los of hikers come thru. Day hikes on the trail is about all I can do with my knees the way they are, but I'm envious!

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