Brandywine Trail End to End - The hike from hell

It hadn’t rained on the east coast for about a month, the place has been dry as a bone.   This last week had been a very busy week for me, I finally did my taxes, got ready for 3 trips, one to the Brandywine, one for 2.5 weeks in Guatamala and the third is going to be a two week work trip to Florida.  Friday morning I woke up early and packed the car to head for my last day of work at my present job.  I had planned to hike the somewhat flat Brandywine in my trail runners, but hearing the forecast might be for rain right before I left my house on Friday morning when it was still dark, I decided to grab my hiking boots in the event it rained.

The folks at my job threw me a little goodbye party and wished me well.  I headed up to Delaware in the beautiful warm sunshine; things were looking good.  I spent the night at the hotel d’Minivan at the Red Lobster parking lot in Talleysville, DE.   I woke up at 4AM to head toward the meet-up area for the race event.

The Brandywine Trail End to End is sponsored by The Wilmington Trail Club.  Now, before you run out and start thinking about hiking this 36 miles of suburban fun, the only people allowed on the trail are member of the Wilmington Trail Club because some of it is on private property and you need special permission.  It starts somewhere in Pennsylvania and ends at the Brandywine Creek State Park in Delaware.  About 120 hikers were to load onto buses at 5AM and be driven in pitch dark to the trail head in Pennsylvania, where a whistle would be sounded at 6AM for the start of the race event.  

Before our bus left a nice man from the club informed us that the temperature was going to drop 10 degrees from where it was at now (50 degrees F) and it was going to rain all day.  Nobody left the bus, but I was a little suspicious because the 3 busses for the event didn’t seem very full.  I also don’t own any real hiking rain gear. As I had dressed earlier for the race event, I reached for my hiking boots only to find that in the Friday morning darkness I had grabbed two left-sided hiking boots from different pairs.  I was forced to work with the trail runners.   I had on my fleece jacket under a water-resistant bike jacket with my polyester-cotton blend yoga pants….and the trail runners.  I opted not to take the poles.

As soon as the whistle went off at the start it started to pour.  By mile 3 my feet were soaked.  Although the website described 12 miles of this trail was going to be on road, they really meant roads like with a double yellow line and cars and trucks.  What they didn’t tell us was that quite a bit of it was going to be on dirt roads, packed gravel roads and paved bike paths.  There were splashing cars, splash trucks, puddles, mud and more mud.  I had no poles so I couldn’t steady myself on the trail that was quickly turning into a very long slip-n-slide.  Conditions were harrowing.   Those that did take their poles found their fingers freezing into position around them due to the pouring cold rain.

Somewhere between checkpoint one and two, I don’t know whether it was when I fell on a slimy stream bank in the mud, when I had to traverse a freshly plowed field of mud (some farmer who owned land on the trail thought he’d show the hikers who was boss), or when I realized I could no longer feel my legs, I came up with the idea that I wasn’t having any fun.   At the checkpoint at mile 23, I (and just about everyone else who didn’t have proper raingear) opted to drop out.  The good news was that during the six hours that I raced participated in these hellish conditions, I managed to cover 23 miles, rendering my speed to be 3.83 mph.  During the shuttle back to the parking lot we passed Karen dressed neatly in hiking raingear who was still on the trail, she would have been maybe ½ mile ahead of me had a stayed in the race event.   I introduced myself to the other  drop-outs in the car and found out that 2 hikers, Tom and Barb, who I hadn’t met before but had heard legendary stories about their hiking abilities had also dropped out at the same place and time.  Barb was chattering pretty badly, Tom was doing his best to warm her up.  The hike organizers had told us they had to administer first aid to somebody on the trail who was suffering from hypothermia.  I am sure some more stories will be coming my way from this race event in the near future.

I just hate to have the words “dropped out” next to my name.

Update: They posted the picture album of the hike here.


Broadsheet said...

You changed jobs? I thought you just got promoted a month or so ago.

Oh, and the hike sounds like the Bataan death march.

tfg said...

Where's you new job?

Cham said...

The Bataans had it easy. Word is filtering back, it looks like 50% of the participants dropped out and they didn't write "dropped out" next to my name so I am feeling better about the situation. The down side was that if I had kept going and held my pace, I would have placed near the top.

If you remember correctly, sure I got promoted but former bossman failed to provide me with mas dinero. I was recruited recently by a competing company. Fancy titles don't pay my bills.

The company is in Florida but I am staying here, I get to work out of my house. So I don't care if gas prices go to $100/gallon, also I gain an hour per day since I don't have to commute.

tfg said...

Are you selling anything cool?

Cham said...

I shall be crowned the queen of Product Lifecycle Management in the Mid-Atlantic area.

tfg said...

If it actually says that on your card, I'll buy from you.

Double Dogged said...

I got cold reading about the rain and the temps dropping. Brrrr

Good Luck on your new job.

Unknown said...

I was on that event. You forgot to mention that the temperature dropped continuously throughout the day. My friend and I were dressed in the thinnest running shirts and shorts because we planned to stay warm by running the thing. My friend's knee suddenly went out around half way and we had to slowly walk the remainder! Now, whenever I am cold and tired, I think back on that day and realize how much more comfortable I am!