Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Journal: What do thru hikers do when they get together?

What do two thru hikers do when they get together?

Tough question. After all, they have backpacked for a long time. They love the outdoors. Nothing inspires them quite like sunrise from a mountaintop. Being out in the wilderness with cuddly bears, cute raccoons, fleet deer, and smelly hikers is what they do. It's in their souls. So of course we watched some holiday movies. Silly ones.

And then we went backpacking.
Stealth site on the ridge in New Jersery.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Journal: When is Yoga harder than the Appalachian Trail?

Now that I am off the trail I have to create exercise activities. Where I am sojourning I can only build so much exercise into my daily activities. I visit the grocery store daily with a short walk a mile away. I bicycle to destinations as much as possible. But I don't always have enough destinations! This is not the reason I go to yoga. But it is one reason I bike to yoga.

So here I am biking to yoga on a cool morning. Did I say cool? I meant cold. At least I find it cold riding for six miles in 40 degrees Fahrenheit in shorts and a T-shirt. Well, comparatively. You see, I was surviving but not comfortable for those miles as I spasmed my hands on the handlebars to keep them from freezing. It works; on the trail you learn that these things are livable. But I was not at all prepared for my destination. Because my destination was . . . drumroll please . . . hot yoga. Can you say Whoops?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Journal: 234 Miles: Stage Two: Hike Like a Madman

If you missed Stage One, read it here.

Stage Two: Hike Like a Madman

It's late in the day at the Allenberry. Elvis and I have eaten dinner and now we're each on the phone. Several days ago I made phone calls and let folks know that I have decided to complete my thru hike in Harpers Ferry. Sweet is going to meet me in Harpers on Wednesday and we'll celebrate.

But I have an itch. A two part itch. First, with my cell phone out of commission and without regular internet access, I can't meet up with my mid Atlantic friends. Second, my friendship with Sweet is such an integral part of my hike and of my life that I want her to be there when I stop. She's agreed, but it sounds like there may be scheduling complications. 

I look at the mileage. Ninety-seven point nine miles to reach Harpers. And that doesn't include the mile I have to walk to get back to the trail. If I break all my hiking records I can make it in three days for a Saturday arrival. I call up Sweet. She can make it; the timing works better. I call my parents and let them know I have gone insane.

Journal: 234 Miles. Stage One: Loafing

Two Hundred and Thirty-four Miles to Harpers Ferry

Stage One: Loafing

Hurricane Sandy didn't do much harm to the trail near Palmerton. Lots of little trees fell across the trail, but because only little trees are growing there, only little trees fell. During our hike out of Palmerton Silly and I earned our merit badges for trail maintenance by removing branches upon branches and quite a few small trees. With practice, clearing the trail is little hindrance to hiking. The key is to bring the movement of the trekking pole into your stride and flick the trees and branches off the path in tune with the movement of your body. It becomes a game and is endlessly entertaining. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Journal: Trails Go Ever On

What am I doing here? No, what am I doing HERE?

I have hiked all 2184 miles of the Appalachian Trail and I am once again in a place with phones, computers, and internet access. All of those were lost to me for a week and a half on the AT. Those stories will come later. The upshot is that I lost contact with just about everyone and flew by night through the last 200 miles of the AT. And for the last 97 miles of the AT, I hiked by night too.

But I reached Harpers Ferry on November 10th and met my friend Sweet who came to pick me up. We held a quiet and perfect celebration. 
My friend and partner for 1200 miles came to celebrate with me.

My feeling on finishing the trail was one of reflection and contentment. As I organize my thoughts, memories, and photos, I will be posting here - particularly the missing post on my concluding week. And I will try to explain why I am not hiking south to Georgia after all.

The trail never ends. We just change how we walk it.
Merry trails and Love to all.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Journal: Friends and Storms

As promised, here I am in the library at Palmerton PA. It took longer than I expected to hike here but it worked out in the end.

Last time I left you at the secret shelter. The next day began my grueling trek up to New Jersey's highest point. It takes a team of twenty people with pack mules to set the stage for the three day ascent. Many perish in the attempt. I eschewed conventional wisdom, shouldered my backpack and walked up, waving and chatting to the maintenance guys near the top. I think they were working on a stuck drain. Sadly, the concessions were closed but I nearly scored a ride back down (it's a side trail to the 1803 foot tall point). But I do have to say this: either my sandals have lost all grip or the rocks in this area are very slippery. Usually I simply use the rocks to do a controlled slide for speed, but on these I slid and slipped enough to fall.
This little guy and his cousins really enjoyed the wet weather.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Journal: Trees Falling in the Forest

Reposted from email with pictures added on 10-29.

Hail from Unionville NY! I tried to find a library but had no luck. My next chance will be in Palmerton PA, so there will be no pictures this time. I'm sitting in Annabel's Pizzeria eating a salad and two slices of pizza, one pain and one mushroom. The salad was delicious and the pizza is good; I may go back for seconds. In an hour the post office will open and I'll lose 7 lbs or so from my pack. I'm sending my climbing equipment ahead to my climbing buddy in PA and bouncing some books and heavy winter supplies ahead to Harpers Ferry.

Returning to the trail was great. Rainwater sluiced down the trees and coursed through the trail as rain fell steadily. My Dad climbed up to the view above Greenwood Lake with me. I have some good pictures and he does too. I hope his camera is still functional - it decided the rain was too much for it.
Heading south from Greenwood, NY was still NY. Difficult to predict the trail and hard to follow the blazes. But a very fun element was added. Deep puddles twenty to thirty feet long spanned the trail. For over a mile I walked in calf deep water. I learned from other SOBOs that the water lasted on the trail at least two days after the rain.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Journal: Love and Giardia

I feel that I owe you folks an update, especially since I have been in town for a few days. I kept trying to write an update and it kept coming out on a different topic altogether, containing little of circumstance and occurrence. But in retrospect, what I was writing is more pertinent than a blow by blow account. So below is what kept coming out, and I expect to be able to construct a more traditional journal entry after this.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Journal: Night Adventures

In the past twelve days I have hiked from Bennington VT to Kent CT, spent a night in Boston, met up with some more SOBOs (southbound AT thru hikers), and gotten wet. Really wet.
Massachusets, poor soul, has few mountains of any size. But it does have rocks just like any self-respecting New England state should. Those rocks tend to be rather slippery when wet; at times I thought I was back in the Whites. Walking through the clouds reinforced that impression.

Just before Mt. Greylock, Massachuset's highest mountain, Piper and I managed to get lost. Between the two of us we have a lot of backcountry experience and it was rather amusing that we walked up to the top of Mt. Williams, looked at the view and talked a bit and then couldn't remember which way we walked up. Rookie mistake. The nearest trail marker was three tenths of a mile away so we each took off in a different direction and then reported back. At least we avoided the dreaded nine mile walk in the wrong direction! Yes, that happens on the trail. Apparently fairly often considering how many hikers have a story similar to that.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Journal: Experiments with Small Critters

Two Towns Later

Leaving Killington and Rutland I felt lazy. The sun was out, the day was warm. After lounging on the grass for half an hour I proceeded up the historic AT at four O'clock. Two routes run through Killington: the present day route skirting Pico Peak and the historic route going to the top of Pico. I took the historic route for views and received the extra bonus of an ice cold spring coming straight from the mountainside, no filtering required. I made ten miles before stopping in the second oldest shelter on the AT. A refreshing twilight bath in the brook made a good day better.

The next day I hiked a few miles until I reached a shelter with a lawn! Needless to say, I spent a few hours enjoying the sun. That was a ten mile day too. But I was ready for the next day. Leaving at 8 AM I hiked quickly and steadily with breaks for swimming and lounging. By 5 I had covered twenty miles. Seven more saw me to the top of Bromley Mountain where I slept in the ski patrol warming hut.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Journal: Cooperatively Wet

Reposted from email:

Hanover NH had the most wonderful coop grocery store with fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses, and a bulk food section for which to die. I loaded up on good food, tossed in some apples, spinach, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, freshly baked bread and prepared to have a sumptuous feast. I had only one problem: it was 5:30 PM with seven miles to hike and a storm in the forecast (thankfully downgraded from the tornado warning). So I went back to my spot by the athletic fields and set up my tarp on the lawn. Or tried to.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Journal: Two(ish) Days to Hanover

No, that's not the title of an Alistair MacLean novel. In Lincoln I intended to zero and take a rest day. But the day was so nice and I finished my chores so early that I couldn't sit still. At 3 PM I called for a shuttle to the trailhead and by 4:30 I arrived. Surprise, surprise, Dogger, another SOBO, was taking the shuttle back to town having almost caught the three of us (Old School, Piper, and I).

Mount Moosilauke was the first test, but fortunately I had pumpkin and banana bread from Rock Dancer to fortify me. And it was only 1.6 miles on a short day. I only left town because it was too nice of a day to take a zero. Old School and Piper - my companions through the Whites - left earlier in the day because they had to reach Hanover's post office 54 miles away before it closed on Saturday.

Journal: Clearly, I have been remiss

So no updates on either Trail Journals or Blogger. Where oh where could that through hiker be? Having difficulty staying connected! Since I write up short summaries via email - although they fit neither on a daily trail journal nor on a article basis, I am copying them here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Journal: Eat Everything

Reposted from email:

All you can eat buffet is a very dangerous thing to say to a thru hiker. I am sitting in Gorham NH working on plate number four.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Journal: New Plan

Reposted from email:

Okay! So, new plan. We are doing a true flip flop, meaning that I am sitting in Maine the day before climbing Katahdin. There was no advance notice to give since we made the decision upon walking into the ATC to register the completion of our first half. There is a new trail journals entry! Maybe there will be more than 10 for the next 1000 miles. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Journal: Flipping and Flopping

Reposted from email:

Hello! Please accept my apologies for the radio silence. Here's the scoop:
Tomorrow, Sweet n' Sour and I are hiking into Harpers Ferry. From there we will be flipping to NY and hiking north. We will summit Katahdin around mile 1900 and then have a cooldown and retrospective hike from NY into Harpers Ferry.

The last couple of weeks have been slightly crazy. It started with the storm and record heat. Then we night hiked to avoid the heat.  With stories of murder, strange deaths, and lightning storms we soon wearied of night hiking. At Waynesboro we heard that the heat was about to break so we waited it out and switched back to days. Shenandoah was quickly cleared. The one constant has been unpredictability.
We're currently staying at Bears Den hostel - run by the ATC. It's a beautiful building and a great place. More on that later. For now, sleep and hiking to Harpers in the morning.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Journal: Weathering the Weather

Reposted from email:

Merry checking in. This heat is messing with our schedules and mileage. The other day we climbed a 1000 foot mountain in 97 degrees (we carry thermometers now). There was no choice because water was on the other side. Climbing mountains in the heat is really hard and not a very good idea. So our routine has to change again - to hiking mostly at night. The first full night hike is tonight.

You may be wondering if that storm that came through hit us. That night we were turning into bed when a roaring started far in the distance. Two minutes later debris screamed through the air pelting our tents and the sound and pressure became intense. It sounded like a freight train passing only feet away. Sweet n' Sour and I fled camp, running down the mountain. We left all of our gear, the threat was so large and we had so little warning. I wasn't even wearing my shoes. 

For an hour we sat on the lee side of the mountain, only 200 feet from our camp at the ridge top, watching the flashes of lightning and listening for the roaring wind to slacken. In a lull we ran to camp, grabbed as much gear as we could and ran back down the mountain. While the wind roared and lightning flashed 200 feet away, the lee was silent and still. Very little rain fell.

Before two hours passed, it was all over. Large trees were down all around camp. The ground was a carpet of green leaves. Our tents survived and so did all of our gear. The next day we moved many trees from the path and climbed over many more that required a saw. The power of that storm was awesome.

Now I'm hiking towards Waynesboro where my new weather radio will be waiting for me. But that's not until 5 or 6 pm when the heat breaks.
Hiking on,

Friday, April 6, 2012

Odds and Ends: Trip Recording and Planning

I have some business to share today. I just completed setting up my Trail Journals account for my hike. Thus is the plan: I will post my daily reports on Trail Journals including all the gory details such as the number of times I stubbed each toe and how many goofball poses I struck. This space on Blogger will be reserved for more polished fare for a more refined palate. (Next view screen innovation: a display you can taste!) On the upper right hand side of the navigation bar there will soon be a link to my Trail Journals account.

The rest of today I am working on my schedule and mail drops. Below is a snippet from the nascent document.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Backpacking on St. Patrick's Day

We took the easy route. Rather than fight to get up blearily on Saturday for a three hour drive down to George Washington National Forest, my friend took off work early Friday and we drove down that afternoon. I'm currently employed as a through hiker in training and as such had no time constraints of my own.

Our plan was to use the Massanutten Trail to connect Strickler Knob, Duncan Knob, a hang glider launching site, and Kennedy Peak. The hike works as a point to point excursion so we set up one car at each endpoint. It was to be two nights and two days out in the forests of George Washington for my last great trip in Maryland before I head out to Springer Mountain.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mental Toughness

The Appalachian Trail is no bed of roses. (Wouldn't it be weird if it was? Tea ingredients underfoot! And those thorns would be a pain for 2000 miles.) The trail is hard work and it repeats day after day. The mental aspect of the hike is probably more trying than the physical aspect. After a while, the beautiful vistas and wonderful experience of being outside recede into the background, sometimes replaced by a longing to finish and finish quickly.

Going into this journey I know that it will not be a walk in the park. At times I will be transported beyond joy. Other times, I will shake in terror as the lightning flashes overhead and a beast of the night checks to see if I am edible. A large portion of my time will be spent walking. A lot of that walking will be in the rain. And a good portion of walking in the rain will be boring. At times I will be hurt, I will be exhausted, I will be hungry. Sometimes I may despair of ever getting to the next stream, road crossing, supply point, or summit. In order to finish I must be prepared to deal with the mental rigors as much as the physical. Below are strategies that I use and have found to work for me.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Not To Die

Okay, I figure that you are reading this because you don't want to die. Or you do want to die and don't want to make a mistake and live. I hear you. (see end note) Anyhow, if you follow this 13,562 step plan, you are ensured to never run into any risks on the trail. The reason being that you won't ever make it to the trail.

How Not To Die Step One
Know what your thingymabobs do when they are seeking attention. In other words, learn CPR and then take a wilderness first responder course. Knowing how your body works is invaluable when you're out on your own. Did you know that some dislocations, while easily fixed, need immediate attention? The way arteries run through limbs make some dislocations more critical than others. And for the most part, dislocations are easy to fix. Learn how! While you're at it, learn which internal organs you need and which you can ignore.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Philosophy of Gear or Why I Bring a Soup Strainer

Why use gear?

Gear makes it easier to perform a task. Is it possible to head out into the wilderness with only a knife and survive? With the requisite knowledge, sure. Is it more difficult? Less likely to succeed? Less comfortable? Yes, yes, and yes. For safety's sake as well as convenience's, almost everyone will carry gear of some sort. The gear may range from a rucksack and a few candy bars to a four person tent, mattress, full mess kit, books, whiskey, and a set of boules for Pétanque. Both methods are correct! The first belongs to an ultralight hiker who has extremely low risk of exposure (mid summer) and knows exactly what she is doing. She is also an expert who is taking risks. The second method belongs to a hiker who loves the luxuries and has the power to haul a heavy load. She is unaccountably obsessed with playing Pétanque on mountaintops. [Do you know this girl? Have her number?] One item both types of hikers should have brought is a towel. In fact, I don't know how they missed it. Something clearly went wrong here; I'm going to have to contact my editor. The only thing I can tell our les belle femmes at this point is Don't Panic.

Clearly, the writer has gone off his rocker. Please pardon us while we eradicate him. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Diary entry: Weekend hike

Good morning!

I have been terribly remiss in my postings here, please accept my sincere apologies. This post qualifies as a diary entry. In fact, that's a good idea. I'm going to tag all such entries such. Have I confused the antecedents yet?

Lately everyone around me has been getting sick. Folks at work are taking handfuls of days off, friends are sniffling for days on end and generally feeling pretty miserable. It took a while, but I finally caught it too. That virus was a stubborn son of a Buick and knocked me out for about eight days. I learned something important from it: my writing is shoddy when I'm sick. Go figure.

Since I was below full physical fitness, I of course scheduled a fifteen mile hike for this weekend (being certain of recovery by that date). By Thursday I was feeling back up to par but hadn't done any serious hiking for two and a half weeks. No biggie, right? Fifteen miles is a jaunt in the park.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Shelter Choice: Hammock

My journey to hammocking began with the proposition for a through hike. I knew my existing equipment massed more than I wanted to carry over some 2000 miles. One of the big three, my four pound tent, was due for an upgrade.

Whiteblaze served as the jumping off point for my research into lightening my load. There were endless posts about shelters, shelters from big time manufacturers, from the cottage industry, and from enterprising do-it-yourself backpackers. Light weight tarp tents appeared to be the shelter of choice for many. Some used a tarp and ground sheet, and some used just a bivy. Every once in a while, a poster would claim a hammock to be their shelter of choice. This last being entirely new to me, I became intrigued and delved deeper.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Delivery! StickPic

A new gadget came in the mail today. Because I am so extremely photogenic and my photograph is always in high demand, I knew I had to find a better way to photograph myself when I'm solo. Admittedly, none of that is true except the last bit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trip Report: 20 Degree Winter Backpacking with Hammock

The plan was simple. Hike nineteen miles over two days gaining and losing 5300 feet of elevation in snow, freezing rain, and rain with nighttime temperatures in the low twenties. Toss in the mile long rock scramble up Old Rag.

The first day we climbed up the classic Whiteoak Canyon trail all the way until we intersected with the AT here:
Highest point on the AT in Shenandoah at 3837 feet
Continuing up the side trail we reached Stony Man Mountain summit at 4011 feet. Since we were still shrouded in cloud we couldn't see very much. Heading back down to the AT we continued north past Little Stony Man. Here were some great views. Still shrouded in cloud, we were treated to swirling mist and cliffs that dropped out of sight. At cliff's edge the wind was strong enough to physically knock you back but stepping back just three feet put you in complete calm. I've seen this before at a steep cliff edge. The wind blows directly at the cliff but is blocked. With nowhere else to go, all that force is expended upwards resulting in an astonishingly forceful wind.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Backpacking weekend

Winter has arrived (mostly) so it's a backpacking weekend!

As you saw from my last post, my gear list is essentially complete. Tomorrow and the day after, I get to test my setup through rain, freezing rain, and fairly cold sleeping temperatures. This will be my first time carrying my quilts instead of my sleeping bag and I'm really looking forward to the reduced weight and bulk. I did follow my own advice and tested the quilts in the neighboring woods for a night. While I wasn't completely satisfied with the result I am pretty certain I know what went wrong. The top quilt is incredibly warm and the under quilt is too - as long as I have indeed figured out those pesky drafts. Plus I'm bringing my go-to-ground pad as backup.

The hardest part is going to be getting to the trail head when the roads may be icy. I think I may bring my ice axe just for fun. How could that go wrong?

Meriadoc the soon to be wet and cold

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gear Fun!

Over the past seven months I have had the luxury of playing with gear sets. My ostensible goal was to create the perfect set of gear for a through hike. Um, I'm going to stick to that story. It sounds better than being a gear obsessed backpacker. After all, it's not about the gear is it?

I'm just about done having fun. This is what my kit looks like for 20 degrees:
14.3 lbs Base weight without clothing
17.6 lbs Pack weight including clothing not worn for hiking
23.7 lbs Skin out weight including clothing, shoes, trekking poles
Add in 2 L of water and 2 lbs of food per day, and my pack weight for 5 days starts out at roughly 32 lbs with 6.1 lbs worn, including trekking poles.

And here's what each section looks like:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Risk Analysis: Hiking alone (Part Two)

First of all, what are the dangers of hiking alone?

I. If there is a critter who decides to munch on me, there is no one who can go for help.
II. If I become injured or violently ill, there is no one who can go for help.
III. If there is a moon-mad human, I am more at risk if I am alone.

I. Critters with Munchies
Along the AT the largest risks are from bears and snakes. However, these risks are pretty small. Bears tend to shy away from humans and most of the danger comes from habituated bears that learn humans are a source of food. So practicing proper bear safety technique really minimizes this danger. And then even when a black bear gets the munchies, humans are usually not attacked directly - it's usually more a case of loss of food and gear.

What do I do if a snake gets the munchies?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sorry for the Delay!

My apologies for the extended period sans updates. The holiday was as good as could be and quite long. I promise that I'll post a new post (and hopefully I don't mean posting a post through the postal service - that could be expensive - unless it was an earring post . . .) soon, maybe even tonight. Until then, know that I was here:

Meriadoc the Snowboarder