Sunday, December 30, 2012

a moment of panic

Things have really picked up around here, hiking wise. I've got everything I need (and more). We have made plans to slackpack the first week of our trip, and have made hotel reservations for our partners (who are kind enough to take time off work to drive us around!). I have come up with the perfect after-dinner dessert (equal parts vanilla protein mix + nesquik) and have made a list of 46 dinners to dehydrate and/or assemble.

I am going to try to do mail drops for meals - at least for the first half of the trip. We will be coming home for a few weeks in June - OWL had a already-paid-for vacation planned - and so that will be plenty of time to figure out what I want to do for the second half. The plan, as it looks right now, is oatmeal (homemade with chocolate chips, peanut butter powder, and coconut cream powder) for breakfast. Snacks (gorp, honey wafers, goo bars*, cheez-its) through lunch. Hot meal for dinner.

*goo bars are a special combination of peanut butter, bacon grease, chocolate chips, evaporated milk, coconut flakes, and dried fruit. Basically a homemade energy bar. They are delicious!

Most of the planning left is making the meals (so all Em. has to do is assemble the mail drop boxes), and figuring out where they should be sent to. Sort of waiting on the 2013 guide to get here. (I'm using AWOL's guide because I like the elevation profiles).

I had a moment of panic this morning. I've 4 days off this past week, and have been basically piddling around the house the whole time. Went urban hiking (with backpack) one day and put up the tent in cold and wind - just to practice. Have fiddled with my gear a little bit, and went walking today for a few hours. Other than that I have just been has been wonderful! But I did have a moment of doubt. Is hiking from GA to ME really what I want to do? Couldn't I do something more ... comfortable with my brave new world? Like maybe go teach English in Costa Rica, or learn to surf or something? What am I doing??

The reality of it is - I want to hike. Part of why I want to hike is purely the challenge of the trail. Am I strong enough - mentally and physically? What will I learn about myself, from myself? How will I handle being cold and wet and exhausted when my sleeping pad decides to spring a leak? (I know, I know, don't speak it into truth). The truth is - I don't know. That's part of the challenge. I want to learn how to rely on little to nothing. I want to prove to myself that I can finish what I start. I need some time to re-evaluate my career. I need to refocus on being awesome, instead of just focusing on being awesome at my job.

I know that it will be hard, but I also know that I can do it. I am not attempting a thru hike. I am thru hiking. I think there's a difference.

I wrote my letter of resignation last night. Maybe my moment of panic has more to do with that than anything else.

Monday, December 24, 2012


I think I have finally found a pair of boots! Merrell Moab Ventilator Mids. This is very exciting because I was getting a bit nervous that I had tried on all the boots in the world without finding a pair. They are not waterproof, so I am going to have to hike a bunch in January & February to make sure my feet will stay warm in the cold temps. (I think they'll be fine).

I'm wearing blue superfeet insoles for now. Still trying to get them broken in.

I need to start walking more.

Friday, December 14, 2012

ShakeDown Hike: Lessons Learned

I certainly learned a lot about how awful blisters are, and how important footwear is to a successful thru hike. I had a pair of waterproof lightweight hiking boots that I *thought* I really liked, but it turns out my feet sweat too much to be comfortable in waterproof boots. (What keeps water out also keeps water in). I also wore a pair of SuperFeet insoles that may have contributed to my blisters. I also forgot my liner socks (it's the trifecta of blisters).

Monday, December 10, 2012

ShakeDown Hike Day 4: AT Approach Trail (Springer Moutain to Amicalola Falls State Park)

I slept awful in the Springer Mountain shelter. There weren't mice or anything (that I heard) - but it was the warmest night we spent on the trail, and I kept waking up. I unzipped my bag halfway on both sides - then I got too cold. Back and forth, all night long.

We had decided to get up before sunrise, to get an early start on the longest hike of the trip (8.8 miles from Springer Mountain; 9 miles from the shelter). Of course the blisters did not heal themselves overnight, but I didn't feel too bad. We were up early enough to cook breakfast before the sun came up, and we ate during sunrise. Put my boots on and started walking.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

ShakeDown Hike Day 3: Hawk Mountain to Springer Mountain

The plan for the third day was to summit Springer Mountain, and camp at the shelter there. It's a moderately easy hike of 7.6 miles...moderately easy if you don't have crazy blisters on your feet, that is. I woke up to blister on both heels and both balls of my feet, plus a few small ones on the toes. I felt a few hot spots on my feet the previous day, but didn't want to stop and lose any momentum that I had. That was an awful decision. I had a hard time getting moleskin to stick to the blisters, and my duct tape was really un-sticky. After forcing myself to eat the rest of last night's dinner for breakfast...I packed up and we headed out. I was feeling pretty good about my pack weight when I saw a guy carrying a pack that weight at least 100lbs - including a full size thermos and other heavy camping luxuries. There's a saying I heard that says - the less your pack weighs, the more you like hiking. The more your pack weighs, the more you like camping. This dude definitely had a luxurious camping set up, but he was NOT having a good hike.

I hobbled along for 2.6 miles before getting to the Long Creek Falls area and deciding I *had* to do something about my feet. L. had waited patiently for me at Long Creek before taking off again. I found a log to sit on, dropped my pack, and looked at my feet. They were horrendous looking. Even though I had drained the blisters just a few hours earlier they were all puffed up again. I decided to try a method I had read about - where you sterilize a needle (fire) and thread (alcohol) and puncture all the way through the blister, then tie off the thread, which will then wick all the fluid out of the blister as you walk. (L. was not enthused about this idea when I told her about it earlier - but she wasn't there to stop me). I couldn't stand the thought of putting my boots back on, so I decided to hike in my crocs. They were surprisingly comfortable and while I wasn't setting any speed records I was trucking along. I figured when L. saw the shape of my feet she might offer to hike the Approach Trail tomorrow by herself, and drive the truck to pick me up at the forest service road, but I made up my mind that I was going to hike the entire thing, even if she offered. What sort of a precedent would it set if I didn't finish the practice hike?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

ShakeDown Hike Day 1 & 2: Woody Gap to Hawk Mountain

Last Friday L. and I loaded up the packs, kissed our wives goodbye, and went on a 4-day shakedown hike. (A "shakedown hike" is just what it sounds like - we wanted to try out our new gear in real world hiking conditions). What better place to hike than the portion of the AT that we had already hiked. We parked at Amicalola Falls State Park, registered at the visitor center, and caught a shuttle to Woody Gap.

The adventure started there. The guy L. had called for the shuttle was scheduled for chemo treatment on our arrival day, so he sent his 75-year-old wife, Dixie. The first thing she said to us after "hello" was "do either of you get carsick?". Upon hearing "no" she started talking - and didn't stop until we had parked an hour later at Woody Gap. She had lots of stories about people she had shuttled. There were 40 year old "kids" who had planned a section hike with their dad, only to find out they couldn't hack it. A man in a business suit carrying a suitcase. A man dressed as Jesus who carried a hollow cross (he kept all his food & supplies inside the cross). A man who called from Savannah, GA wanting a ride. That same man made it to Atlanta with his 85-pound pack, with a machete and "enough rope to tie up the Queen Mary". When cautioned that he should save his cell phone battery for emergencies, he noted that he was just going to plug it up when he got to the shelter. (He spent one night in the woods and then called for a return shuttle the next day). She told stories of her best friend, whose 4th husband set aside $50,000 for a funeral. After he died, she spent $10,000 on a very nice funeral and then got herself a "face lift and a boob job".

When we got to Woody Gap, Dixie was still talking. She pointed at the left side of the road. "You want to go that way, but the bathroom is on the other side of the road". Thanks, Dixie. Your confidence in us is incredible. We set off (in the right direction) a few minutes later.