(AKA Beware The Ides Of March)
Click to enlarge photographs
Every year the civilian Mountaineering Unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team has a number of sessions of hasty deployment training. Once a year, each civilian team member is required to hike a loop trail in the San Joaquin River Gorge. Each participant has a backpack with a minimum weight of 20 pounds and must cover the 8-mile loop trail in less than 3 hours as part of the “mission ready” requirements. There are rattlesnakes this time of year.
The trailhead begins at about 1,000’ and drops down to where it crosses the San Joaquin at an elevation of 600’. This is the low point in the trail as you cross the footbridge. From there the trail rises to about 1,800’ at about the midpoint of the loop with a great view and then begins descending toward the river again. As you cross the bridge, you are facing the 400’ climb on legs that are no longer fresh.
Loop Trail Across The San Joaquin River
While this hike does not duplicate some of the trails in Eastern Fresno County that exceed 12,000’, it is still an excellent measure of cardiovascular fitness and sound joints with the steep punishing downhill sections. I was happy to complete it this year in 2:23, which is about what I have done for the last five years. There are some who have done this trail considerably under two hours and a young lady Amie, who is also an ultra runner finished first Saturday with a 1:59.
A secondary benefit of the hike is revealing to some that their footwear may not be suitable for prolonged searches on single-track trails. Off trail footgear is another matter entirely.
There is no way the second oldest member of this team at age 69 (me) could complete this arduous hike without training every single day. I mix it up with swimming, biking, ‘running’ (I still call what I do running), back country skiing and weight training. I believe the team can only be as effective as the slowest member. I call this “real world fitness”. All this training is not for posing in a mirror.
Note: The loop route graphic was a download from my Suunto Ambit GPS watch to Movescount.com and then a screenshot converted to a Jpeg. I had my heart monitor strap on with an average pulse of 128 and a maximum of 158. The Suunto Ambit is an altimeter, barometer, compass (ABC) watch with a GPS and heart rate feature. It is an excellent ‘adventure’ device for SAR operations.