So when I am on the trail I come up with all sorts of stuff to discuss in my blog and by the time I get to the computer to write, I have to think really hard about what all that great stuff was I wanted to share. I am going to have to download a voice recording app for my phone or something. Although, that might not be the answer either as I had intended to do a lot of writing on my phone at night in the tent. However, my phone eats power like crazy, so I have not been using it for that. Or watching NBA playoffs.
I am in Franklin, NC tonight. Took a zero today. A zero is a day of no hiking. A chance for the body to recover and repair. This is my second zero. My original plan only had one zero in this stretch, but my body had other ideas. I am really trying to listen to my body as it can send me off the trail very quickly if I don’t. I am getting stronger though. I can see the improvement daily, which is wild. And I am down about 10 pounds so far, which is ridiculous weight loss honestly. I suspect I am not eating enough, but it is really hard to eat after some of the brutal hot hiking days. Ah well, I will keep trying to better about it. For now, the body is rebelling, but adapting.
One thing that struck me about GA and now NC is that the trail goes up and down so much that we are literally walking in and out of seasons. At altitude we are hiking through very early spring. The trees are just beginning to bud and everything looks like it is ready to wake up. When we lose that altitude in sections we are hiking through very late spring, or maybe even early summer. The contrast in a day can be very striking. However, when I mentioned this to Crooner, my 21 year old hiking partner from Milwaukee, well, he had not noticed that. 🙂 I also had to point out an entire hillside painted in pink and white flowers. He would have walked right on by…
OK, so I am going to jump around a bit. One evening we were talking about stupid things that we have done. Of course, I had very little to offer to the conversation, but I can listen anyway. It reminded me of Cole’s Law, “Be smart about your stupid stuff.” Which of course means if you are going to do something stupid, that is fine, but be smart about the how, where, when etc… Well, out of the mouth of babes and Crooner says the one thing you should never do is break more than one law at a time. In other words if you are driving around with illegal substances in your automobile, do not speed. Ever. Or have a broken tail light or any number of other possible violations. The more laws you break at once the more likely you are to be busted….for several at once. Ugh. That can put a real damper on plans. Good thing I learn from others mistakes…Anyway, these are the deep conversations that happen sometimes on the trail.
The last couple of days saw a couple of milestones fall. The first is we finished our first state. Georgia is in the rear view mirror and North Carolina and Tennessee in front of us for the next 400 or so miles. We will be crossing in and out of the the two states numerous times before we finally leave them behind and hit Virginia. About a fourth of the trail is one state. Virginia. Over 500 miles. Then Harper’s Ferry. That is the first big big goal of the trail. However, I cannot think about that. These milestones will come, but only if I take care of what is in front of me right now. The two toughest climbs of the trail so far happened right here in North Carolina. The first was at the end of a tough day and had there been cab service I would have been on a plane to Milwaukee. The second was earlier in the day and I handled it just fine. (slow, but fine) But that is what it is all about. Literally one step at a time. On the ups I will frequently look up and pick a tree in front of me and make that tree my goal. When I get there I can stop for a short break. Then another short term target. And so on. If you start thinking in terms of Harper’s Ferry or Mount Katahdin, forget it. You won’t make it. It is all about short term goals and daily improvement. That is the only way to eat an elephant…one bite at time. If that was not the case I could work myself into a real funk at this point realizing I have almost 10% of my time goal spent, but only about 5% of the distance covered. In fact, if you look at an AT map the amount of distance covered so far is similar to the width of a hair. Ugh. One step at a time…..
The people everywhere so far have been amazing. I have joined several facebook groups related to hiking the trail this year and it is amazing the amount of judgment that goes on on those groups. People seem to believe that if it works for them, it must work that way for everyone on those groups. Out here, that is not the case. I have a feeling the people on those groups doing the judging have never hiked a step on the AT in their lives. Out here for the most part acceptance seems to be the case. And being helpful. If you need something, everyone is willing to pitch in and help out. What is it about the outdoors that brings out the best in people? How can we bottle this and bring it home to all?
Speaking of people, have not met any real characters the last few days, but will update my “people” page anyway. In terms of soundtrack, been listening to a lot of Mother Nature the last few days, but did spend an afternoon listening to Kurt Vile. If you like music you should check him out. Very fun stuff, and great guitar work.
Still figuring out my gear as well. I have sent several things home and I think I have most of it dialed in. I received my new tent today and it looks amazing. This is interesting. Last fall I did a post on the Big Three: Backpack, Tent and Sleep system. I thought I had that dialed in. I now have replaced two of the big three and saved over four pounds of weight by doing so. And the sleeping system I posted was brand new, never used at that point in time. And I love it. I did not want to replace the tent, but it leaked…straight through the silnylon. That is not an easy fix of seam sealer or anything so if I need a home for five months, I guess it was worth replacing. I got a Zpacks Duplex tent. It weighs less than two pounds and has a ton of space. I cannot wait to get back out there and really test it out. So in terms of the big three, I have all new stuff since my last significant backpacking trip. Usually testing new equipment on a thru hike is not advised. One really should do field testing prior. Oh well, my first 30 days are a test on several levels, so why not toss equipment into the mix.
As far as other gear goes, I am waiting until after the Smokies to send another box of warm weather gear home because it snowed in the Smokies just a few days ago. If that happens while I am going through I will survive, but I won’t like it.
And I think I finally have a way to attach the camera strap to my backpack so that the camera sits comfortably on my chest. It bounces, just a little, but enough that I have developed a hard spot on my stomach where it hits. I’ll have to figure that out, because I don’t think that can be good. On the rainy days I have kept it in my pack, unfortunately. But honestly when exhausted hiking up a mountain, the last thing I want to do is crouch down and try to get the perfect camera angle for a shot. I still have been shooting a bit. Sometimes we hit a stream crossing and depending on depth of field I could probably take 50 shots in that exact same area and they would all be amazing and different enough that you would not think they were taken in the same area. For pics I cannot wait until we get into the balds. They are coming up with the first being Siler Bald. They got their name from the fact that they are bald, no trees or significant bushes on top, so from the summit you can see forever. I pray that the haze that has been present the last few times I have been up high dissipates so I can get some good pics.
I have done a couple of Facebook Live videos. They are kind of fun to do, so I’ll keep looking for opportunities to do those. Going to be entering the Smokies soon so I will not have as much time to update the blog. This is kinda how it is going to go though. Early on, will spend less time hiking as I get into shape and have more time for blogging. Also, early on, there are more trail towns etc, because there are more hikers. As people drop out because it is more difficult the hiker places to stop are less and things more spread out. I am about to start to enter the second phase of this adventure and time will be spent on hiking more than anything else. In another 30 days or so I will likely be walking from seven am to seven or eight pm as the days get longer. That is how you do long mileage days. Not about the speed, but about the time spent doing the walking. I am going to kill Virginia. I would like to get through there in 30 days, but probably closer to 35ish.