Well, we made Atlanta and are sitting in our hotel. This is now finally becoming real for us. Someone asked me a while back how I was feeling and at that point I was in prep mode and had not really thought about it. I wanted to be done prepping last night at 6 pm. It might have been closer to 8 pm, but when I awoke at 3:30 am this morning was the first time I felt much of anything. And it was fear.
Originally Posted at: https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/you-are-going-to-do-what-are-you-nuts/
Start Day Approaches
I am less than 30 days from Springer. Less than 30 days from leaving the life I built for myself behind and heading into four plus months (perhaps up to six months) of a very different life. Some would say insanity has set in. Others have said I am adding the spice to life. Almost all, however, have been supportive.
Seriously? You are doing what?????
I’ll be giving up solid shelter from the elements, refrigeration for my food and drink, convenience of a bathroom complete with a door, shower enclosure and running water, and unlimited changes of clean clothing. I’ll be giving up spending each evening for a couple of hours with the love of my life and then laying down beside her on a queen size mattress with several pillows and drifting off to sleep. I’ll be giving up the adoration of two cats, well, one cat really, the other is Leslie’s cat. I’ll be giving up evening fires in the backyard with a nice cabernet. I’ll be giving up complete and total emersion into an electronic world that seems to find each one of us and envelope our world.
OK, OK…so why?
So why on earth am I doing this thing? The biggest reason is the challenge of it. Can I hike from Springer to Katahdin in one summer while carrying everything I need on my back? I used to run track and cross country (in a previous life it seems as it was so long ago). Then after college I got into and did several triathlons (not iron man distance, short course stuff). Since then I had kids and a job and a family to support and the challenges became different. The seeds were replanted for this epic adventure a few years ago and now I have the opportunity to do it and I am taking it. Am I mentally tough enough to endure the challenges this hike will put in front of me so that I can gain all the advantages of being a thru hiker of the Appalachian Trail?
Love of Outdoors
If it was just the challenge, I could choose to run a marathon or some other physical endeavor. However, there are other aspects to this particular challenge that I love. I love hiking and in particular I love the raw power of being in hiking shape. They call that getting your trail legs. With trail legs, nothing seems particularly daunting. I recall at Philmont that we would hike five or six miles just to go to another staff camp to borrow a cup of sugar or play a joke on the staff at that camp or something equally as irrelevant. It was nothing to do that distance and back. I also love the outdoors and most things about living in the outdoors. I love camping and cooking over a camp stove, sleeping in a tent and hearing the wind through the trees. I love the vastness of the views and the wonderment of seeing wild animals in their home. I love the smell of the pine trees. There are times when I even love walking in the rain.
Recharge, Refresh and Reenergize
Another reason I am doing this is I love the idea of a sabbatical. Frankly, I think everyone should have a chance at doing one. Although it is not paid, I am blessed in that I was able to take one. And I think at this time of my life, (read: age) the timing is perfect. It will give me a chance to reflect on my life to date, to recharge my batteries and to refocus my mind. This is an opportunity to renew and refresh and come back a better person, spouse and father.
The key to making a trek such as this has very little to do with physical fitness or camping skills, and more to do with mental strength. Another thru hiker I have spoken to says you have to be stubborn. And I believe you have to have some degree of luck. Luck can somewhat be controlled…don’t do stupid things, but somewhat it is a roll of the dice. Injuries and illness happen. Do what you can to prevent these things, but they may happen anyway.
My biggest Challenge
I think the first 30 days will be the hardest. Three things will make the first 30 days the hardest. First, I will be getting into trail shape and I will have a lot of aches and pains. I was hoping to have gone into this past that point of physical preparation, but tax season has set me back in that department so I will have to deal with that on the trail. The worst for me is right hip pain, but I am learning some stretches that will hopefully help with that. Second, will be I am going to be learning a lot of my gear. I have done enough backpacking and camping that I am not a rookie at it, but there are several brand new gear items that I will be learning on the fly, like my umbrella. Never hiked with one. Read about how great they are for hiking and want to try it for a variety of reasons. It will be challenging though as I am used to knowing my gear and how it works and setup properly. Third, I am going to miss my wife. I think this is going to be my biggest initial challenge on the trail. She will have the same issue as she flies home and leaves me behind for five months. We will do our best to mitigate this through connectivity on a daily basis, but alas, it will be a very different existence for both of us, for a while.
Start day approaches.
I decided to apply to become a blogger on the website http://www.thetrek.co. (no, that is not a typo, it is co, not com). Part of my decision in applying was I was hoping to reach a wider audience and have a home base where they took care of the behind the scenes software and site issues. The benefit to them is more eyeballs on their site and more people that see their brand.
Zach Davis is the owner of the site and from what I can tell an all-around nice guy. He wrote a book that I have read and would highly recommend, called Appalachian Trials. The main focus of the book is the mental preparation that must take place in order to complete a thru-hike.
However, once I was accepted and read their terms, I realized it would not become what I had hoped, a complete repository for my blogging posts. Part of the deal is they do not want me to repost stuff from a prior blog onto the Trek blog. They desire new content. So, all the posts I have made over here so far, would be lost to the system unless I was willing to rework them. I am not.
So I have decided that instead I will maintain this site, and post everything I do over here. That includes what I decide to post at The Trek and several things I decide not to. They ask that I post at the Trek first and a day or two later I can post on my blog or I can post on my blog immediately if I include a link to the Trek’s post.
For now, I will post to the Trek things which I think reach a broader audience, gear reviews, trail tips, things like that. I will post that stuff here as well, but in addition over here I will post the more personal stuff that friends and family would likely find more interesting. As Leslie has stated before, no one wants to read about the benefits of merino wool over synthetics. J Leslie – the pulse of my blog.
For those of you interested in fabric blends, pack design and other equally as riveting topics, here is my blog page at The Trek. You can bookmark it or sign up and get emails when I post there.
Last of the generally sporadic updates!
From this point forward, they will be very sporadic, if at all. It is entirely possible that I don’t post anything until I actually hit the trail at this point. We will see. So rambling thoughts about what I have been up to, what I am about to be up to and having Tom Petty perform a concert in honor of my hitting the trail.
The holidays were insane. Leslie and I had something going on virtually every single day. It was a fantastic time. We saw family, family and more family, some old friends and kept up some traditions. We cooked and ate a lot of really really good food, helped to train a celebrity chef in the making (go Connor!), spent two nights seeing Lucinda Williams in concert, and finally I spent a full day just packing up 100 days of meal replacement and vitamins, which I am calling my daily nutrition bomb!
The daily nutrition bomb has several components. It has a meal replacement, which generally has protein, veggies, probiotics, vitamins, and fiber. The main one I used was LIVfit Superfood Blend, which blended well in my shaker and did not taste hideous (which is about as high a bar you can have when dealing with meal replacement mixes). The other one I used, since I had two cans of it, was Vitacost Earthblends Whole Food Shake. This one is close to hideous, but since I had two cans, I’ll choke it down. The one I did not use was the Vega One All In One Nutritional Shake. Thankfully I did not have extra as I was able to purchase sample packs. Gross. The next component is an additional scoop of protein powder. I got mine from Life Extension Foundation. Then a Comprehensive Nutrient Pack, also from Life Extension Foundation. (http://www.lifeextension.com/Vitamins-Supplements/item02098/Comprehensive-Nutrient-Packs-ADVANCED) This pack is great, not only covering the essential vitamins and a health booster but also omega 3 oils, CoQ10 and curcumin. Finally, two more components to help my body recover from the daily grind, extended release magnesium and l-glutamine capsules. I have put together 100 of these packs, which is designed to be 5 times per week for 20 weeks on the trail. I am going to put together 40 individual vitamin only packs as well for the other 2 days per week. The thought there is that at least a couple days per week I will either eat in town or be at a resupply location where I will bring real honest food with me. These nutrition bombs are around 160 calories, weigh on average about 2.2 ounces per bomb and when vacuum sealed are quite small. Hopefully they will help with recovery after each day.
Another thing I did over the Christmas break was to replace my phone. I ditched my LG 4 and upgraded to an LG v20. I thought long and hard about going to the iPhone 7, but given that my background is Android, I decided to not poke that bear. The reason I am doing this now is that I need to get up to speed with the applications for the trail and camera control. I can have my GoPro4 Silver attached to my pack above my head and control it with my phone. It is pretty slick. I also have downloaded several location, information and weather type apps. The last thing I downloaded which should be very cool, is an application called Hikerbot which is a crowd sourced app where users update information as they come across it. If enough use this, it should be very helpful on the trail with respect to water availability, campsites, shelters, and other activities along the trail. You can apparently also share location data with other hikers that you meet along the trail. I understand that there is an amazing “telephone line” up and down the trail in terms of information exchange (kinda like the old tin cans with the string in between them I think), and I would think that applications such as Hikerbot will completely revolutionize the exchange of information up and down the trail.
On the physical training front, I recently read an article, and I cannot find it again or I would link it here and give them proper credit, which suggested a training program to get ready for a thru hike. It was quite simple and frankly makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. It is a twelve week program and it is broken down into two week sections. The first two weeks you would hike for 3 miles on three days (such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and then 5 miles on one day (either Saturday or Sunday). The next two weeks you increase the three days to 4 miles and the one day to 7 miles, keeping up with that one mile and two mile increase. By the end you are hiking 8 miles on the three days and 15 miles on the one day. I am already well beyond the 3 miles, but think I will attempt to do this as it is not overly time consuming. I am doing it with a pack weight of between 35 and 40 pounds. I am going to do Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with Sunday for the long day. I am still playing racquetball for an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Finally, I will be working on the details of my food drops so that Leslie’s job is hopefully relatively easy. For now it is all going into the chest freezer for safekeeping. Eventually I will setup a staging area for Leslie and we will lay it out in the manner which makes the most sense to her.
Oh, I almost forgot, Tom Petty is going on tour this year, calling it his 40th anniversary tour (even though it is year 41 for him). He heard about my hike starting late April and scheduled a date in Atlanta on April 27th to celebrate the start of my hike! Leslie and I will be attending that show, then staying at Amicalola Falls State Park the night of the 28th and I’ll hit the trail sometime the morning of the 29th. Hopefully I’ll have the capability to post some video of those first few steps towards Maine. The 100 day countdown is coming up pretty quick now on January 19th.
PS – For those of you who have not (which is basically all of you except Leslie), you can sign up as a member of this blog and you will then get updates anytime I post something new or update an old post. The way to do that is to scroll down to the META category on the right side of the page and click on register. Since Leslie and I are the only “members” of this blog, I thought I would mention that that is a good way to make sure you do not miss something.
The other day I made two posts to facebook about the hike. When Leslie got home that evening she asked me why I did not post them to the blog. My response was that they were just quick posts/thoughts and to put them on the blog would take more time. In between that comment and now I have thought about it some more. In the world of editing commentary I almost always go back and read what I have written and correct it before hitting send, but not always. The not always applies to text messages. I hate typing on my phone and a lot of the time will just hit send even though I see there is a typo because I know the person on the other end will be able to fifure out that fifure is figure. The point being, in that form of one on one communication, a typo or two, or maybe even a little shorthand is acceptable. In emails I tend to always re-read before hitting send to ensure it says what I want it to say and what I want it to say is clear. Facebook posts get the same consideration, a quick review to ensure that it is what I want and then send. Sometimes I miss a misspelling, especially if I compose the email or facebook post on my phone. Blog posts take longer. I tend to spend a couple hours on a blog post. Normally it is written, and then re-read and edited about three times. Finally, my book that I am working on takes the most time. I posted the dedication and introduction the other day. All told I probably have about 7 or 8 hours into those 2434 words and I am still not completely happy with it. The majority of the dedication was written in July of 2015, but it has been edited and expanded since then. The introduction was written the morning I posted it and I spent 4 ½ hours on it that morning. So depending upon the audience, the time it takes to properly communicate increases. The more people you communicate to, the more time it takes (or should take) to make certain you say what you want to say. Sometimes wish politicians would consider this…
So anyway, here are the two posts from Facebook and the expanded commentary. (read and re-read this introduction to this post five times now. Wow.)
The Appalachian Trail is 2,200 miles and crosses numerous trails and paths along the entire route. There is no way the trail itself can go to all places magical. This is where some research is due and necessary. I am putting together a list of side treks that are really cool so that when I get to these places I can make a reasoned decision based on time and other constraints as to whether or not to enjoy the side trips. This morning I added these “blue blazes” to my file. (Four part series)
Blue blazing refers to going off the Appalachian Trail proper, on a side route or alternative route. White blazing means to be on the official Appalachian Trail. The reason for this is that the trail itself is identified by a single 2 by 6 inch vertically painted white line which is placed on trees, rocks, and even the bottom of a canoe to mark the official Appalachian Trail. Blue blazing means a side trek off of the Appalachian Trail. In some places a blue blaze will loop back around to the Appalachian Trail, meaning the blue blazer may have skipped a short portion of the official trail. Some thru-hikers view this as sacrilege and won’t even recognize the person who did it as a true thru-hiker. Others don’t care because the fact of the matter is you walked from GA to ME. There are other blazes as well:
Yellow Blazing – walking, hitchhiking or driving from one point to another and skipping a part of the official Appalachian Trail.
Green Blazing – Smoking pot while on the trail. (Some also refer to this as a safety meeting)
Brown Blazing – Leaving the trail to dig a cat hole and take care of business.
There are a ton of other blazes, and some are very obscure. The three most common are white, blue and yellow. For those of you who wish to read more about the other blazes, here is a link or you can google “blazes and the Appalachian Trail.”
Normally I am not a fan of chemicals to ward of bugs. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ll use deet when I have to, but generally speaking I don’t like the whole idea of bathing in chemicals. However, today I am sending all my AT clothing off to Insect Shield to be treated. Apparently when they treat in house it will last for 70 washings. (wonder if hiking all day in the rain counts as one wash or more than one?) Not doing this for the mosquitos, but Permethrin apparently has some efficacy with mosquitos as well. Main reason is ticks. The benefit here is that the Permethrin will kill the ticks after exposure. This takes a little bit of time, so thankfully ticks like to wander around a bit before inserting themselves into my business. Mosquitos on the other hand, like to bite immediately, so the benefit with them is a bit less.
I think it is important to keep in mind a couple of key points from the article. There were only two times that he saw ticks. First, you had to be in the time window of May 29th and July 21st. Second you had to be below 2,000 feet. From May 29th to July 21st I project I will be hiking from Roan Mountain, TN to Delaware Water Gap, PA. So it will be the month of July where I need to worry about ticks if all goes according to plan. Prior to that I should be above 2,000 feet most of the time.
Some other “take aways” from the article are that ticks were most generally found on the trail, not in shelters or in camp. That makes sense to me as that is where you will find better underbrush and overall plant (grass) growth. So really, hiking off trail (to take care of business) or hiking on trail to, well, hike the Appalachian Trail are the two most common areas to pick up ticks. Cannot really avoid either and still do a thru-hike. Finally, he wore bug pants and claimed that helped. I will not wear bug pants. I am wearing running shorts for this hike. My socks, gaiters and shorts will all be treated, so hopefully that will solve any issues. Any ticks that I see trying to catch a ride on my legs between my gaiters and my shorts will be properly dispatched. And by that I mean fire.
My plan today was to really give my new shoes (https://www.rei.com/product/781640/oboz-sawtooth-hiking-shoes-mens) a test on the trails out at the Scuppernong Trailhead with a 3 or 4 hour hike, but at the moment it is 42 degrees out and, well I am not too interested in hiking those temps so I am stalling and doing some other things. Last night I dehydrated six more cans of tomato sauce and they are ready to be pulverized into a powder this morning. I also had a thought about my recipe for the unstuffed green pepper recipe. I have been using Brown Minute Rice for the ease and simplicity. However, I bet if I cook Wild Rice and then dehydrate that I will basically have Wild Minute Rice that should work in the recipe. Leslie does not know it yet, but tonight will be another experiment. I am cooking the wild rice right now. I will dehydrate while hiking, and tonight I will put together my stove and cookware and try my new idea on this recipe. Last thing I want to do is package up 22 of these and find out on the trail that it did not work or is unpalatable. However, if it works as well as I think it should it will have a better nutritional profile and will taste better to boot! All good things. I think I better stop by the store and get Leslie a nice tenderloin for dinner or I’ll be in the dog house. She doesn’t go for this dehydrated stuff.
For those of you following my posts on Facebook, this won’t be news. Yesterday I posted that I was done with REI. Purchased over $500 of of stuff there on Monday. On Tuesday got a 20% off coupon in the mail for one regularly priced item (I purchased a down jacket for $219 that will be fantastic for the cold mornings and evenings in the Northern states on the AT. The credit would have amounted to $43.80). Had no idea this was coming and the sales guy never mentioned it to us. I further find out I have a $21 dividend credit that the sales guys never mentioned or applied on Monday.
So yesterday I did three things. First, I did the live chat thing and asked them to apply the 20% coupon and she said she could not. So then I called and talked to someone who then talked to their supervisor and the answer was still no. At that point I asked the person on the phone to cancel an order I had just placed online for a Delorme Inreach SE Satellite Communicator ($220). As an aside, the Delorme will give my wife and Mom peace of mind and will allow me to post real time my progress on the trail so you can follow along. Anyway, I would have thought at that point they would have realized they had seriously irritated me, but nope. She just canceled the order and I ordered off of Amazon for the same price. Finally, I sent a rather stern email informing them that they lost a long time customer, one who has not taken advantage of their return policy (only returned one item in all the time I can remember), and the utter ridiculousness of making me spend 2 hours driving to Brookfield and back to have the coupon applied. Well, they apologized, are sending me my $21 dividend credit in check form and sent me a $45 gift card. So this brings up a question…..
</rant on> Why? Why on earth does it have to get to the point of irritating me so that I never want to step foot in your store again? This simply reminds me of the stuff pulled by Directv and others. When you call to cancel service, all of a sudden they have a deal for you. Wait a darned minute here. You mean I have been a steady customer for the last ten years, paid my bills timely and now all of a sudden you have a deal for me? So basically you have been screwing me for ten years. Overcharging me. Why don’t corporations treat their current customers like someone they would like to keep? I just don’t get it and it is part of the problem out there. For all of the great things about free markets, I really wonder sometimes if these big multi-state corporations in the end are really worth it for society. The short sighted goal of cash immediately has driven a lot of very very bad policy decisions for society. </rant off>
Anyway, other things I have done this week is order a couple of different types of protein powders (meal replacements). This is the one I am most interested in:
It has protein, vitamins, greens, minerals, fiber, omega 3 and probiotics. Sounds too good to be true. Probably unable to choke it down. Well, we shall see. I ordered up a few different flavors in their sample packs. If this is a go, then I’ll probably start each day with one packet of this stuff. Beats dehydrating and mixing my own and it has a better nutritional profile. Yup, costs more.
Finally, last night I tried something new. I am a regular reader of Andrew Skurka’s website and he recently posted a cookie dough snack recipe that I had to try:
It has oats and cashews and CHOCOLATE! Good stuff. And the recipe is good. I like them. However, they are really sticky. I don’t know if it was the brand of maple syrup, or too much maple syrup, but going to have to work on that a little. If I can shape them up and make them less sticky and figure out how to package them so Leslie can include them in my resupply boxes I will make a ton of these. They are that good. If I have to, I’ll try a different binder, perhaps rice syrup or honey.
Anyway, that’s all I have for this morning. Time to pulverize some tomato sauce leather, dehydrate some cooked wild rice and get ready to hit the trail.