## 2 years on a virtual hike

I used to do real hikes, and backpacking, and cross-country skiing, and bicycle, but now I’m reduced to a “virtual” hike, just on a treadmill and a map. Doing real exercise was easy and fun when I lived in a place where my body and the climate were in sync. But now in a place where I’m not in sync real exercise is difficult. So I get virtual exercise instead.

[Note: I consider this post to be on the last day of Jun2012, but WordPress seems to have moved it to July. It’s not quite 1July for me, yet, so please consider this as a post on the last day of 20112Jun.]

When I first moved here the lack of immediate places to go really began to weigh on me. In  the Bay Area I could drive short distances, even walk less than a mile from my home, to be “outdoors”. Here I can drive for hours and still be in corn. So I went a little crazy from the monotony, being used to outdoor exercise. One xmas my wife bought a top-of-the-line treadmill. For a while I managed to keep that up briefly, but always quit, bored with stationary exercise. Long ago while I was training for a triathlon I developed the trick of keeping lots of statistics on my computer and then lots of computed metrics from those statistics. This always gave me some “goal” of something I could bet by just a little extra effort. A good training technique. So I tried the same thing on exercise on machines in the basement, but never could keep it up.

So this time I set up a virtual goal. Of course I dumped all my statistics in Excel so I could compute some numerical goal, but the real thing was to try to transfer exercise to the real world. I found a GPS track for the John Muir Trail and then the entire Pacific Crest Trail. So I converted this data to Delorme format and entered the trail on the Topo software. Then I could take my daily miles on the treadmill and convert that to latitude and longitude on the actual trail. Then I could take those coordinates and go to Google Earth and thus “take a look” at my virtual hike. That plus some photos gave me some sense of where I could have been had my distance on the treadmill actually been hiking along the trail. That was enough to provide the incentive to keep going.

Now I’ve actually backpacked bits of the John Muir Trail so seeing the sights on Google Earth had some real meaning to me. As I found it Wyoming geodash however, it’s not quite the same to do treadmill distance in the basement at 1000′ elevation and actually climb a real hill at 8000′ (or worse, up Mt. Whitney on the first part of the trail). But it worked and I kept going.

I was working during my first year of the virtual hike and so my time was restricted, leading to only 239.8 miles, but some of the second year I was in my “retirement” so I managed 580.3 miles (counting the miles on elliptical as well as treadmill) for two years. [I’ve got lots of other stats, which I hope I won’t lose, but I wont’ bore you with these] Now translating this to a map and route that means I completed the John Muir Trail within a year (of course, real hikers have done this in as little as 4 days, but more typically two weeks). So having completed the JMT I’ve move on to the Pacific Crest Trail, a dream (doing it in a season) I always had but actually had no chance of doing. So now I’m a bit north of Chico and I guess this means I’ll trudge on, virtually, until I get to Pasayten Wilderness where I’ve actually backpacking and one of my favorite places, Chuchuwanteen).

After a while I started translated my distance to driving as well as hiking trails, striking out from Omaha. So in two years I’m a little further east (staying off interstates) than Chicago, so I’ll continue to Boston, one of the important places in my life. Meanwhile along I-80 west I’m just in the outskirts of Cheyenne, Wyoming, a distance and more (to Laramie) I made in one day in a car. And I’m nearing Hot Springs, South Dakota, via Chadron Nebraska, the second route I took upon going crazy here to get out in the wilds. The virtual route I’m taking to Big Bend, Texas, my first actual escape from Nebraska, I’ve altered to pass by my ancestral roots, so now I’ve “walked” past my mother’s and my father’s home in Oklahoma. And staying off interstates I’m now slightly further east than Chicago on my route to Boston, my first real journey of my own in the earliest independent days of my life.

Now there are few milestones to achieve in the next year. I have virtual routes continuing along the Pacific Crest Trail and roads continuing toward Many Glacier in Glacier National Park, toward Chisos basin in Big Bend, toward Back Bay in Massachusetts and toward Los Altos in California. These are the axis of my life and I shall trudge on toward them. But those are far enough away that even an optimistic projection of my third year’s distance mean relatively few tangible goals. In fact it’s now about four years away, extrapolating these two years before I reach anything. We’ll see if I can keep this up without those achievable goals, in relatively short term.

So what’s the point of a virtual hike, either on a trail or along roads. Well, nothing, actually, but we do what we can do. I’m stuck with a treadmill in the basement or no exercise at all so I use my virtual hike, mostly along paths I already know, as an incentive to not be a total couch potato. Miles on a treadmill and elliptical may not be the same as when I used to get real exercise, but it’s better than nothing and the best I can do.

So tomorrow I start a new set of statistics and I can only guess what I’ll be saying after three years of this virtual hike.