Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simple Woodcraft - The Day Two Blues

This month's article will focus on keeping the right mindset when you are on an extended backpack trip.  I'm not talking an overnighter or even a long weekend hike.  I'm talking a hike of at least a week with a lot of miles covered, ranging to more than 100 miles.

This is all about being an Outsider

I have done a few hikes that were a few days out and one that was more than a week.  This spring, my bride and I hope to do a two week or so hike on the Appalachian Trail starting on Springer Mountain, GA and finishing (hopefully) at Fontana Dam, NC.  All in all about a 175 mile hike. 

One thing I noticed during my extended hikes is what I call the Day Two Blues.  When I mentioned it to Lisa during our last hike, she recognized what I was talking about and had felt it too. 

As I have said quite a few times, I'm an obsessive planner and my latest obsession is the Appalachian Trail.  I am drawn to it every hour of every day and won't feel complete until after I have hiked a good deal of it (maybe all of it).  The first day of a hike is always full of excitement and adrenalin.  I can't wait to hit the trail.  I sleep poorly the night before as my gear list tumbles through my mind and I wait for the alarm to sound so we can get on the trail.

Once we start, the day is good, no matter what the weather.  It is the newness of the whole thing.  Every vista is pretty, every forest mysterious and every other hiker we meet is a friend.   Usually we get to our first camp in pretty decent shape.  It has been a good day of hiking, with a lot of sweating and some muscles that are complaining a little bit, but nothing too bad, usually.

After the first night in camp, Day Two starts.  It is likely that your sleep wasn't the greatest as you are adjusting to sleeping as an Outsider and those slight complaints of your muscles have grown into a cacophony of screams that are asking you what you did yesterday to make them so sore.

You pack up and head out, ready for some more miles before you can sleep again.  Usually after a few miles, the Blues set in.  Hiking can be a solitary experience.  It can be time for your mind to wander and meditate.  Even when you are hiking in a group or as a couple, there will be times when you are alone in the woods.  The Blues consist of a nagging feeling that makes you wonder why you are out here.  By now, your pains are progressing.  You may have worked out the stiffness, but the soreness lingers.  You may even be developing longer lasting pains, like a sore knee or foot.  You ask you self, do I really want to do this?  How you answer that question determines how the rest of your hike goes.

As I have said many times.  Your mind is your greatest weapon/tool when you are out in the bush.  It can also be your worst enemy if you fall victim to its musings.  The best answer is YES, I want to be out here.  I want to be hiking.  I want to spend time as an Outsider.  If you can get through Day Two, things will usually get better.  Your body starts to adapt to all you are asking it to do and your mind will clear itself and start to concentrate on the particulars of doing a long distance hike. 

Now that I have recognized this phenomenon, I will be better prepared to handle it.  Having my bride along with me will also give me someone to discuss these feelings with, so we can move on.

I call this the Day Two blues, but I'm pretty sure it can be a recurring instance.  During my eight day hike back in 2011, a few days after I survived the Day Two Blues, I felt an evening of loneliness that hit me rather hard.  It wasn't the first night I was alone overnight, but I had been gone for almost a week and I realized that I like being with my family.  Talking to other hikers is great, but when you are missing your loved ones, you need to find a way to move on from that situation too. 

The AT is a social trail.  There are many road crossings and many of those roads lead to a town where hikers and hiker friendly people can gather and relax.  Do laundry, take a shower, eat town food.  All of these things are rejuvenating and good for a hiker's mind. 

So how do you get over the Hiker Blues?  Make the day a day of wonder.  Check out the close up things.  Not every day will have a magnificent view.  I can feel a strong sense of wonder by watching a newt trying to cross the trail without being stepped on.  I can watch the water flow down a hillside as it tumbles from bolder to rock and pools under an overhanging tree.  The textures of tree bark give me hours of distraction.  Take pictures.  Take long breaks.  Give your mind time to recharge as you stretch your muscles and massage your feet.  Talk to other hikers or your hiking partners.  All will be good.  Enjoy being an Outsider.

So the best thing you can do is get through the day with the support you have and continue on.  That is why you have taken the time to get out into the woods and onto the trail.  Keep your attitude positive and you will be successful.  Get out there and hike and beware the Day Two Blues. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

13 of 13 Update

PrayerWalker started the trail on the 14th of February, but only hiked for two days.  She started at Neels Gap as she had hiked the approach trail and up to Neels late last year.  The two days she hiked (a little over 21 miles) were cold.  It is February after all and even though she is in the southern state of Georgia, up in the mountains, winter still presides.  A bad weather report brought her off the trail.  She lives in GA so getting off the trail and home wasn't a big deal.  She plans to return to the trail soon.  I'm not sure on how much she will be able to update her journals while on the trail, but for now, she remains one of my Thirteen.

Bazinga is starting his hike today (the 27th).  His last update had him at the Lodge in Amicalola Falls State Park.  Hopefully he will be updating his journal regularily.  That is his intention at least.

Next to start is Inchworm from PA.  Her plan is to start on the 1st of March. 

Hike on Class of 13...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dirty Front Door

Last night as my brother, friend and I sat drinking in my parent's living room I looked up and noticed the door was dirty.  I smiled to myself as I recalled my mother coming home from the nursing home for her last Thanksgiving dinner and pretty much the first thing she noticed was the dirty door.  I better go get a warsh rag and clean that door.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Packing it all up

Today I gathered all my gear together and sorted it out.  I took a bunch of pictures and weighed most of it and then I stuffed it all into my pack and weighed that.  Put the whole thing on and then looked at myself in the mirror for a second.  I really want to get on to the trail so bad.

The total thing with about 4 days food and 50 some oz of water came in at 33 lbs.  It felt pretty good.  If I can start the trail at 33 lbs, I will be happy.  I'm not a gram weenie, but lighter is always better.  Since I'm a "big" guy, I'm no where near 25% of my fatness. 

This is the cold weather bag.  Long johns, Under Armor Shirt, fleece hat and Wool-rich gloves

Here is how it looks all in its bag...

Next is the Electronics bag.  I keep other things in there, but this is where I keep the phone, iPod, chargers and their cables and my hat lamp and some batteries.

 Here are my rain gear.  A jacket to mostly rear around camp when I'm doing things and a poncho which can also help protect the pack a little.  I just flip it up over it. 

 All rolled up.

Here is my Big Agnes Fish Hawk 30 degree bad and a Thermarest pad that fits into a pocket in the bag's bottom.  I am really liking this bag.

 My Big Four.  Pack, Shelter, Sleeping bag and Pad.  Usually the most weighty of your gear. 

 This first picture is without the Super Shelter pad.
 And with the pad...

Some things that go in different places in the pack
Part of a drum liner, a pack towel, a Anti Gravity Gear pillow and ear plugs.

 Aqua Mira, TP - aka Mountain Money, AWOL's Guide pages, 
Compass, fire starter, lighter, mini multi-tool and hand sanitizer. 

 My clothes bag will have a fleece, LS shirt, a pair of shorts, the legs for my other convertible shorts, 2 pairs of wool socks, a pair of underwear and a bandana. 

 Here it is all packed up in its Sea to Summit bag.  

 The kitchen will be simple.  I use a Cat Alcohol stove.  One pot, cup Spork, knife, a Cozie, 
Funnel for pre-filtering dirty water, a wind screen, a cut off margarine 
container for a bowl, some spices and a scrub pad.

 Hygiene Kit.  The usual... Dr Bronners soap, tooth paste and brush, contact & glasses stuff and a mirror.  
Bandana redundancy..

 I gathered a bunch of food I had laying around to simulate about 4 days of meals.  I'm not sure it that would exactly cover it, but I have a menu already planned and this was close weight wise. 

 Food in its double bagging.  I use a scent proof ziplock bag, so we may not have to hang every night.  Water is a 32 oz Gaterade bottle and I think a 20 or so oz Nalgene. 

 This is a bunch of miscelanious stuff.  First aid kit, a 1L platypus container, a space blanket, ace bandage and compact towels.  Also the all important chafing medications. 

 Camp shoes.
Last but not least, some sunscreen and sun glasses.

33lbs was better than I was expecting, and not too bad for me.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekend Cold Weather Hammock Tests

Copied from my Journal:

Last night I slept in the hammock on the back deck. I'm not sure what the temperature was when I headed out a little after 9 pm, but when my bladder forced me out around 3:30 am, it was around 33 degrees.

Overall, I slept good. Every once and a while I would feel a little coolness around my arms where the side of the hammock touched and wasn't on the pad. There was very little discomfort that a long day of hiking wouldn't mute.

One slight concern, but not entirely unexpected, was quite a bit of condensation on the bottom of the tarp and within the hammock. The top of the sleeping bag was quite damp, but should dry quickly with the dawn. I may have to bring it inside though since that northern facing part of the deck doesn't get any direct sunlight this time of year.

After the bathroom break, I returned to the hammock, but already was feeling quite awake. I read some, dozed some and decided to get up just before 5:00 am. I felt refreshed enough.

After being inside for a while and getting a couple cups of coffee in me, I went out to the deck and the top of the tarp had a heavy frost on it.

I'm pretty satisfied with my setup down to around 32 or so. Any changes I would make would be adding weight I may not want to carry.

Being dressed well also helped I'm sure. I wore all hiking clothes. A thermal/under armor base layer, with a fleece on top and hiking pants down below. Head and feet were covered with fleece and wool respectively.

The GA/NC mountains in late May shouldn't be a problem at all. We shall see.


On Friday I made a few adjustments/changes to the setup and slept out there again.

I ran a ridge line and moved the tarp up to it to provide a little space between the hammock top and the tarp.  I also rigged the homemade woovie under quilt (UQ) between the under cover and the hammock.

I had added a loop to the edge of the UQ and leisurely adjusted it to where it covered the bottom properly.

I headed out about half past midnight after our wallyball league into a drizzling rain.  It was around 37 degrees.  When I got myself adjusted in the sleeping bag I realized the fleece was going to be too much, so I removed it for the night.  I was warm throughout the night.

I awoke some time after 7 am.  The drizzle was still intermittently hitting the tarp, but there was far less condensation this morning.  The temperature had remained rather steady during the night at about 36 degrees.  Every once and a while a drop will fall to my face from the tarp and screen, but that is mainly because I have to angle one side of the tarp rather steeply due to space limits.

This would be a good cold weather set up, but the UQ weighs in at about 1.7 lbs.

I wanted to try one more configuration, but tonight it is supposed to get into the lower twenties and snow is in the forecast. 


The temps were forecast to get into the mid 20s last night, so I decided to go one more night in the current configuration (under cover, DIY Woovie UQ, 30 degree bag with Thermarest inserted in bag sleeve).

Slept good again. No major coldness felt. No condensation problems at all this morning. Temp in the morning showed 28 degrees or so.

I have some minor adjustments to make on the UQ to make installing it a little easier, but I like it. If I can handle the weight, I may bring it. If not for me, my cold sleeping bride may want to use it.

I will do one more test with the full Super Shelter setup (add the thin under pad) and complete my research when the temperatures are forecasted to be somewhere in the 40's or so.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The 13 of 13

The first of my thirteen of thirteen (as I have decided to call them) will be starting the trail tomorrow.  PrayerWalker is the oldest of the females I will be following and is hiking for a cause.  She will hike for Homes for Our Troops.  You can find out more about it on here web page along with a link to the HFOT site. 

PrayerWalker has a very strong faith and has recently recovered from a torn tendon in her ankle.  She is scheduled to start tomorrow the 14th.  I wish her luck in this great challenge.

Hopefully she will be able to post from the trail at least every once and a while.  I need my trail fix as I make all my plans for our upcoming section hike.

Go PrayerWalker.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review: Beauty Beneath The Dirt

I just watched the AT Indie movie Beauty Beneath the Dirt which tells the story of three young people thru hiking the Appalachian Trail in the Spring and Summer of 2010.  Known collectively as the Traveling Circus and individually as Ring Leader, Monkey and Lightning, the movie follows the trio as they hike their way from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Produced and Directed by Katherine Imp aka Ringleader, with her brother Brandon as Monkey and friend Emily Ginger as Lightning, all starts out well and I actually enjoyed the movie, even though it got a little over the top with the drama at times.  I don't think any of the drama was contrived, but at times I wanted to reach into the computer screen and slap each of the three hikers to get them to get a grip.

For a low budget fiscally challenged independent movie, I thought the cinematography, editing, post-production and score was very well done.  The movie flowed well with a nice little map graphic that kept coming up giving details of each portion of the hike.

All in all I enjoyed the movie, even with all the drama.  I liked as they worked their way through each of the hardships that a thru hike throws at you along with the personal meltdowns that everyone has when embarking on a long distance hike.  I found myself laughing at times and squirming at others.  Probably exactly what they were going for.  Bravo.

One thing I noticed, Ringleader really lived up to her trail name.  Even though she mentioned it a number of times that everyone should "hike their own hike", I really think she expected the other two to hike her hike.  Being the producer, director and "ringleader" are all about vision and control and I think her lawyer came out when things didn't go just as her preconceived plans dictated.

I'm really happy that each of them pretty much ended up "Hiking Their Own Hike". 

Four Stars

ActorsKatherine Imp, Brandon Imp, Emily Ginger
ProducersJason Furrer, Katherine Imp
DirectorKatherine Imp

Class of 2013 - Supplimental

I have added a couple more hikers who I will follow as they take on the AT and themselves:

I picked Jacko and his son since they are coming all the way from Australia to hike the AT.  I followed a couple last year who made it into  VA before injury took them off.  I think they were from New Zealand.

Jack and his son Daniel
From Perth, Western Australia
Start date 22 March

Start date?

PrayerWalker seems nice, but I fear she will have quite a challenge in the hike.  I will be rooting for her.

March 6

Leah AKA Female Sasquatch is another young hiker who currently lives in Boston and sleeps on her porch in her hammock.  She has a great sense of humor and a very positive attitude for the hike. 

I will be following these three also as they hit the trail.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hiker Blessing

 ”May the sun bring you energy by day,

  May the moon softly restore you by night,

  May the rain wash away your worries,

  May the breeze blow new strength into your being.

  May you walk gently through the world

    and know its beauty all the days of your life.”

You will find this all over the Interwebs listed as an Apache Blessing or Apache Wedding Blessing.  When I first saw it, I did a Snopes search to see if it was bullshit as usually is the case.  I didn't find anything then, but have since found some references to it being from some old movie based on a historical fiction book. 

This makes no matter to me as the words them self ring true to me as a Hiker.  Each of the weather events mentioned in the saying will be encountered during a hike.  Most will make you uncomfortable in some way.  If you can take each and turn it into a positive thing, you are halfway to being successful in your hike.

Take it for what it's worth.  I like it.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

AT Class of 2013 - Showcase

One of my activities as I feed my obsession for all things Appalachian Trail is to read trail journals.  Either on the site or other blog programs throughout the Interwebs that I stumble upon in my constant search for new content.

This year I have started a list of the interesting prep logs I have found and will follow until they summit Katahdin (or Springer) or get off the trail from the myriad of reasons that cause such an action or maybe their log just fades away as they find better things to do (like walk) besides write all they have seen, ate or smelled as they hike.

It is a therapy for me.  

I have decided to profile 10 such perspective Thru Hikers here.  I know no one actually reads this blog, but maybe, someday, someone will stumble upon it and spend some time falling down my self-made rabbit hole.

My plan is to post updates of each hiker as they progress through their hike.  Maybe talk a little about what they are doing and how it affected me.  Also, I love comparing their journey to the small parts I have experienced on the trail and note what each of us did that was the same or different.

Statistically, only a few of these hikers will make it to their End Mountain, but I will wish them all the best of luck and hopefully at least some of them will make it all the way and I will be able to follow them as they make their final assent.

Here are the first 10 I have decided to follow.  It is very likely that some of these will not even start their hikes as life grabs them back to "reality" and prevents them from following their dream.  I will continue to replace or even add hikers as I find those that are making progress and blogging their accomplishments.

I will list them by expected departure date.

1.  Bazinga.  Bazinga is a 56 year old man from Southern Ohio.  He will be heading out on the 1st of March heading North.  He is a recently retired High School science teacher and cattle farmer who has been dreaming of hiking the AT for 20 years. 

2.  Inchworm.  Inchworm is the daughter of a Pennsylvania coal miner who is making her second attempt at hiking the AT.  In 2006 she walked as Root, but has decided to take Inchworm for this hike as it describes how she was able to cover distance in relation to her hiking partners, her daughter and her boyfriend.  A knee injury ended the hike of this 56 year old hiker while in Tennessee.  A couple more mishaps happened as she attempted to return to the trail in PA until she had to call it quits for that year.  She too plans on heading out on the 1st of March.

3. Karma.  Karma is from Philly and I found quite a few of the other hikers from her blog roll.  She is preparing very well and I have a good feeling about her achieving her goal.  She plans on starting on the 7th of March and is 52 years old. 

4. Infinity.  I came across Infinity's TJ a little while back and made a note of keeping track of her.  Seeing her listed on Karma's blog roll convinced me to commit.  Infinity is from Michigan and this will be her second attempt of a thru hike.  Last year she did a number of section hikes, but they just weren't enough.  She is 59 years old and is very active.  She has gathered a group of women to start the trail with which always is a good way to start.  Her planned start date is the 8th of March. 

5. 50/50.  50/50 got his trail name by being directionally challenged.  It is about a 50% chance he will pick the wrong way to go when setting out.  50/50 is 55  and a retired Air Force veteran.  50/50 lives in Florida and plans on setting out on March 15th.

6. Butter Cup. Butter Cup is 60 years old I think and will head out from Springer on March 16th.  From her prep hikes, I'm guessing she hails from somewhere in or near North Georgia. 

7. Acorn.  Acorn is the youngest of the hikers I will be following at somewhere in her late 20s.  She currently lives in Chicago and is a Microbiologist.  Her plan is to leave in late March.  She will be leaving behind a boyfriend and cat and will be taking a SPOT and harmonica. 

8. 2-Dogs.  2-Dogs is a 50 year old man from Memphis, TN.  He plans to start on April 1st.  His kids are grown, he is no longer married and he owns his own business that he can set aside for a while.  Now is the time to make the attempt.

9. Hiking Home.  Another April 1st starter is Hiking Home, another 50 year old.  She lives in NH, hence her trail name.  She has just accomplished an early retirement form her corporate job and the time is now to hike the trail. She was planning on starting in February, but a case of frost nip on her toes has delayed that for a while.  Stay tuned....

10. Long Haul.  Long Haul successfully completed a thru hike in 2005 and started another in 2009.  That hike was ended with a toe infection that cost him his toe.  In 2010 he started from Springer again and blew out a knee near Erwin, TN.  After surgery and healing he re-started near Shenandoah where an intestinal issue delayed his hike again.  He continued on through MD and into PA, but the rocks did him in.  This year he plans to start near Kincora and continue from there.  Long Haul hails from Columbus, OH and is the oldest of those I will be following at 67 years old.  He plans to start April 14th.

Good luck everyone. 

Fullfilling your Biological Purpose

During a recent drunken soppy discussion with my Sister-in-law, I started thinking about what I have accomplished on this planet in the 50 years I have occupied it.  I have thought of this subject off and on over the years and I figured I would write a few of those thoughts down today.

Basically, your biological purpose is to grow to maturity, reproduce, raise those offspring to maturity or at least self-sufficiency, then die.  That's it...

I have accomplished all but the last one...

Now, as humans, parasitically using this planet, we can do so much more.  Not all of it good, but some of us, do try to make a positive difference in the world.

Ever since I became self aware, I have always had this strong feeling that I was here for a purpose.  That I had something to do here.  Something to accomplish.  I never knew what it was, but it was always there, looming in front of me, guiding me on.  Keeping me going.  I have come to realize that having my girls and raising them into the beautiful, intelligent women they have become is a part of that purpose.

I'm not ready to say I'm done yet, but I feel a constant delight when I think of the two daughters that have sprung from my loins. 

I will continuously add to my  bucket list since I fear that if I do everything on it, it would be time to die.  My goal is to have a large list of things I'll never do when I actually do kick the bucket.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why do you want to thru hike the AT?

 “I feel like I’m meant to . . . I mean, I feel like I was made to . . . I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think I’m supposed to hike the AT.”  “What does that mean?” asked Warren. “Well, when I think about doing anything else it just feels wrong. The thought of not doing the trail fills me with regret to the point that it almost hurts inside. The idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail came to me three years ago, and since it entered my mind, not a day goes by when I don’t think about the trail. It’s not like I chose to hike the trail, but more like it chose me.” “Ah, yes,” said Warren, looking surprisingly pleased. “So the trail is a calling?” “Yeah . . . a calling.”

Davis, Jennifer Pharr (2010-11-15). Becoming Odyssa (pp. 10-11). Midpoint Trade Books. Kindle Edition.

When I first read these words...  I knew I had found my reason...

I think I'm supposed to hike the AT...

Not a day goes by when I don't think about the trail...

It's not like I chose to hike the trial, but more like it chose me...

Four Seasons in One Week

This week we got to experience a whole year's worth of weather in five days.

Monday:  Cold with sleet and freezing rain falling.  Winter

Tuesday: It warmed up some with warm breezes.  Spring

Wednesday: Warmer still and humid with strong thunderstorms in the evening and some tornadoes.   Summer

Thursday: A blustery day with the temperature dropping again.  Fall

Friday:  Snow in the morning with cold stiff winds and 28 degrees.  Welcome back winter...