(Editor’s Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ODH has been cancelled for 2020. It will take place again in 2021. Stay safe.)
The 47th annual Sierra Club One Day Hike (ODH) takes place on April 18th.
It’s the ultimate hiking challenge. Walk 31 miles (50K) or if you’re feeling frisky, 62 (100K), all in one day. You hike from points along the C&O Canal Towpath, so it’s mostly flat and the scenery is often incredible. The 100K starts in Georgetown, while the 50K starts at White’s Ferry.
The event is exceedingly well-organized each year. The volunteers make the event happen. They operate all the support stations, plying you with snacks and drinks, plus there are medical volunteers ready to help if you get blisters, or if you have other issues. At the end of the hike, traditionally you will find chili, pizza and sodas.
I’ve done the 50K seven times, but I skipped 2019 because the Towpath was damaged during a storm, so the end of the hike had to be rerouted. Typically the One Day Hike ends at the Bolivar Community Center, just up the road from Harper’s Ferry. Part of the charm of the overall experience is staying nearby and hanging out in Harper’s Ferry for the evening, sleeping like a champion, enjoying coffee and breakfast, then taking the train back to DC in the late morning.
This year the footbridge (also part of the Appalachian Trail) that crosses the Potomac River into Harper’s Ferry was damaged by a derailed train. Drat! Although it will be fixed at some point, the 2020 ODH again needs to be rerouted to end at Brunswick Family Campground (BFC) after a backtrack (to get in the appropriate mileage). There is a train station in Brunswick, and the town may be an interesting place to explore, so I am seriously considering doing it again this year, despite not ending in Harper’s Ferry.
Here’s the thing: Practice, practice, practice. Don’t take on such a long distance without doing a good number of training hikes. Hike in the gear and shoes you will wear to break them in. Blisters would be your number one reason for not finishing.
Here’s another thing: Try to mix in some jogging. Not too much, but it helps get other muscles in on the action. (See additional tips at the end.)
Regular registration opens on February 6th @ 5pm and caps at 350 hikers. (Note: People that have finished the ODH five or more times can pre-register starting January 27th.)
Register here (opens 2/6).
(Note: Usually registration re-opens after any cancellations, so if you miss out on one of 350 slots available, usually 40-50 people will cancel before the actual hike, so you’ll still have a chance.)
Tips for the 50K
* Training: Do at least 3-4 training hikes between 10-16 miles. More is always better, but ensure one hike is 16 miles or longer. Note: If you’re doing the 100K, without question do longer hikes, at least one 30-40 mile training hike would be the best strategy.
* Attire: Wear the shoes, socks and clothing you’ll use for the ODH on the training hikes. Helps identify blister hot spots and areas of chafing. Many people wear cross-trainers or running shoes. Hiking boots are also fine, but the terrain is flat and you may want to jog a bit.
* Prevent chafing: Use an anti-chafe balm (like Body Glide) in places that rub together.
* Foot care: Use moleskin on your feet before you start on your blister hot spots. Using the Body Glide on your feet also helps.
* Medical: Take a couple Advil at the first support station or after the first 1-2 hours. If you start to get blisters, have them treated at the next support station. Don’t wait, remember blisters are the primary reason people don’t finish the hike.
* On the hike: Try alternating between running and walking for short distances. For example, jog 1 minute and walk 3 minutes for a few miles. It helps to use different muscles. Drink a lot of fluids and eat a lot of salty snacks (conveniently supplied at the support stations).