Friday, April 21, 2017

Crash Brandicoot Strikes Again

Five days until we hit the trail and this happens:

This is Home Base's car.  She hydroplaned on wet pavement during a sudden traffic stoppage, clipped an SUV in front of her as she tried to avoid him and ended up taking out about 20 feet of wooden fence next to the highway.  

After ensuring that she was ok with nothing more than her pride hurt, I started trying to figure out what we had to do to get this fixed (or at least started) before we hit the trail.

A new exit on Route 100

It's weird.  When I think back at all the other vacations I have gone on, this one seems to have constant pitfalls and obstacles that keep jumping in front of us that I don't remember happening with those other vacations.  I take each issue that is before me, figure out what needs to be done and get it done.  It seems that we won't have any restful lulls before we start this Quest.  It is like we are already being challenged and we haven't even passed our first white blaze of the Quest yet.  My stress level remains high.

So, Home Base will have a few more adulting lessons to master soon, like arranging the repairs and paying the deductible.  Luckily she will have two other vehicles to use until she gets her little red Aveo back.  Hopefully it is repairable, otherwise, she will be using those two vehicles for the next six months.  There is no time in our schedule to go car shopping.  

I guess the half-full way to look at this is that it happened before we left and not some time after.  Geico has a great app and I have used it before to unlock my truck and get a tow, but I found that I was easily flustered trying to submit this claim in the comfort of my home computer room where I have great wifi and a nice desktop to use.  Luckily a couple phone calls got everything moving in the right direction.  

Hopefully, everything will be figured out (but not complete) when we fly out next Tuesday.  Until then, I avoid walking under ladders, letting black cats cross my path or open any umbrellas inside the house.  

Those damn Tentacles keep reaching for us, but we cut them off like Sam did when Frodo was being pulled into the lake outside Moria by the Watcher.  We soldier on.  Doing what we have to.  To prepare for all that needs to be prepared before we start our Quest.  

Sam saves Frodo.  Book illustration by artist John Howe.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nervousness, Anticipation, Fear, Excitement

For the past couple of years, Richard Judy has been heading up to Springer Mountain in GA, where one of the terminus of the Appalachian Trail are located and asking the perennial question from his novel THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, "What have you gotten yourself into?"

Well, LoGear and I have been working through that question every day for the last several weeks.  Are we ready?  Are we really going to head out to the trail and spend FIVE or SIX months out there?  Are we fucking crazy?  The only answer we can say for now, is yes to all of them.

Each day, we go through a mental checklist.  We fiddle with our gear.  We empty and repack our food bag or clothes bag or little bag of tricks.  I suffer a small panic attack every time I think that in X number of days (today it is 13), we will start walking down in Georgia.  Heading in a northerly direction, towards Maine and Katahdin where Pamola lives.

The things I'm worried about won't fit in this post, but some of them are: Can I get in shape before I injure myself?  Can I avoid injury in general?  Will I be able to walk through the pain that I KNOW will be flowing through my body, Every. Freaking. Day?  How bad will my blisters be?  Will I lose those several extra Kilos that I'm carrying on my body?  Can we do this?  Do we really WANT to do this?  My mind.  A terrible place to be sometimes. 

There are plenty of things I'm not afraid of.  Bears, snakes, ticks (to a point) and bad water.  We have enough experience to deal with all of that.  All we need is a bit of common sense and situational awareness.  I have been studying our Guidebooks for several years now and I have a really good idea on how to do logistics for the first couple hundred miles and after that, I'm familiar enough to have a general idea of how to do it.  I am intent on staying as flexible as I can be.  We have learned to be that way over the years, doing our adventure races and hiking the trails.  I need to constantly be aware of the things that are out there, but I don't fear them.  

My reasons for hitting the trail are purely selfish.  I'm not hiking for a cause, or to raise money for some non-profit.  I'm not hiking to bring awareness to some disease or disorder.  I don't need to walk off the war or preach any faith.  I'm doing it for me.  I'm doing it to practice patience and have an adventure.  I'm doing it to become an Outsider for a time.

I rarely refer to this Hike as a Thru Hike.  Yes, I do hope that it has that achievement as a footnote to the experience, but I usually refer to it as an Adventure or as The Quest for Pamola.  If you have been reading my stuff for any time, you may have noticed that I have developed a disdain for the term Thru Hiker.  Too many people have too many differing opinions and rules and guidelines about that term that for me, it has lost a lot of its power.  I'm happy to be a Long Distance Hiker, who is having an Adventure and is on a Quest.  

We are also funding this trip ourselves.  No GoFundMe or promise to film a "Documentary".  We will be extremely grateful for any care packages that are sent to us though, but we are using our own money to do this hike.  It sure doesn't hurt that I have my 30 year military pension to help, but we need to keep the home front going and do our hike with that money.  Both of us are leaving jobs to do the hike.  

We are also feeling a smidge of guilt.  They say that there is never a perfect time to hike the trail, but you have to take the time to do it.  Ginger (Mama Bear) is going to be really pissed when we fill up our packs and head out without her.  Hopefully she will forgive us when we show up in a couple of months and all will be well again.  Leaving our youngest daughter (Brandi aka Home Base) to take care of the house and pets is also something I have fretted about, but I know she will be up to the task and it will be some great character building with some adulting and responsibility thrown in.  It seems that leaving all the bills and chores behind and heading out on the trail to walk over 2000 miles is irresponsible, but I know that it will be an epic part of my life, no matter how long we stay out there.  (reference back to my selfish comment above)

Soon the days until we hike will be in the single digits.  Each day I'm sure I'll feel more nervous and excited as I tremble in fear and anticipation.  The day is coming soon.  I'm pretty sure that on day one or two, I will be sweaty or wet; feeling the pain in my feet and legs as it reminds me of all the extra weight (both in body and pack) that I am carrying and I will ask myself, "What Have I Gotten Myself Into?"  The answer (hopefully) will be, Having the Best Damn Adventure of My Lifetime! 

Wish us luck.

EarthTone and LoGear

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mail Drop List for Care Packages

Care Packages and Mail Drops
I set up a list of potential Mail Drops on our Trail Journals page in the event some kind soul, family member or friend wants to send us some love.  It is always a huge boost to our morale when we know we have a package waiting in the next town.  We will lovingly accept anything you send, but please take into consideration that we must carry (or give away or leave in a Hiker Box) anything that is sent.  Canned goods probably aren't the best idea.  I'll list some potential options below, but we truly appreciate anything and everything that is sent to us.  

Our List:
You can find the active list on the Trail Journal page.  These are places where the trail actually goes through the town, so it is guaranteed that we will have to pass by these post offices and establishments.  I have added addresses that cover the whole length of the trail.  I will add and edit as we move along, adding or removing drops if needed and adjust ETA dates as appropriate.  I hope to update the ETA date on the next waypoint about a week to ten days before our arrival.  If you are following along on our progress, you should be able to make your own educated guess.  It doesn't have to be perfect as the Post offices hold the package for 30 days and the other places will hold it for at least two weeks and usually longer.  

The list has a mixture of post office addresses and places that accept mail drops for hikers like outfitters, hostels and hotels.  I decided on each on the likelihood that we will stay or visit the business and hopefully we will be able to hit the Post Offices while they are open and not have to zero a day or two to wait.  

The way the list displays the address is kind of funky, but I'm sure it would work no matter how you order the lines, as long as all the important information is there.  Here is how I would rearrange the lines:

Joe or Lisa Harold
C/O Fontana Lodge
300 Woods Rd.
Fontana Dam, NC 28733
Attn: Hold for AT Hiker ETA: 5/14/2017

Mailing Tips:
If you would like to send something, I recommend mailing two weeks
before the planned arrival date. Add time to this two weeks if you live further 
from the trail. This will allow ample shipping time as well as a few buffer days 
in the schedule. Some places don't like to hold mail for longer then necessary. 

If you are mailing in advance of two weeks to a place of business other than a 
Post Office, I would confirm it with the receiver first. Space is often limited. 

It's also a necessity to let us know ahead of time that you sent us something and what it is, either a letter or a package. Often the letters and packages are not in the same place. 
If we don't know you have sent us something, we most likely won't stop by the post office or ask the hotel desk about mail.  This is very important.

We appreciate all the support we can get as we head out on our Quest.  

Here are some ideas of what you can send us.  Not all inclusive of course.
Tuna packets
Drink powders
Instant coffee packets
Candy bars
Sweet and Salty bars
Mountain House Meals
Trail Mix
Dried fruit
Real Bacon Bits
Baby Bell cheese
Summer sausage
Peanut butter
Salt and pepper packs
Knorr rice and noodle sides

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All the Ways we Share our Journey

This is most likely redundant if you have been following us on Social Media, but if you just stumbled on it and want to follow along on our Journey, here is where our presence will be known.
We are going to try and share our Journey as best as we can. I have several sites where I will possibly be posting our progress and my thoughts as we move up the Trail. I know that it is hard to walk all day, do your camp chores, then find time to write and post and signal can be sporadic at certain places, but if I am posting, then these are the possible places I will be posting.
1. Here (Our Blog: The Adventures of EarthTone and LoGear). I started this Blog about seven years ago and have more or less added to it as things happened in my life and I had the desire to write about them. If you dig down into it, you will see its theme change from time to time. Evolving into what it is now. This is my personal blog. I invite you in to check it out. Eventually this will contain a complete rendition of the hike. I will probably update this more on a weekly schedule if I can.
2. Our Facebook Like Page - Adventures of EarthTone and LoGear: This will probably be my go-to, as near as daily as possible, easy place to post. If you use Facebook and Like this page, you will see my updates in your feed.
3. My personal Facebook Page. If you are my friend (or following), then you will see it, but the above Like page will be our main depository of updates.
4. Trailjournals website: I hope to keep this up-to-date with a nice mileage accumulation and maybe a picture or two, but it is a unwieldy to use with a phone out on the trail, so updates may come late and in chunks. Eventually, it will be updated with all the data as a record of the hike. My other hikes are all documented here.
5. Instagram: earthtone923 - From time to time I might post a photo. Not my go to app, but who knows.
6. SnapChat: earthtone923 - I followed a few hikers on this for the 2016 season. It is kinda cool, but can get annoying at times. I might do a few short videos from time to time when I get the inkling
7. YouTube: I don't plan on posting many videos, but you never know. I don't plan on being a filmmaker out there, so anything I post will probably be pretty raw and in need of editing.
8. The Trek (formerly Appalachian Trials): I joined up to write a blog entry from time to time. When I have a decent topic and have the time and inclination to write something, I'll post an article.
Follow if you like.  I hope I can keep at least one or two going as we head North.  

EarthTone and LoGear

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Final Test Hike

We loaded up our packs and headed North to the AT Museum area.  We took the movable Halfway Sign up to Dead Womans Hollow Rd and erected it for the season.  Jen and Tom, volunteers from the A.T. Museum came along to help.

2017 Halfway Point - Dead Womans Hollow Rd.
After that chore was complete, we went back to Shippensburg Rd and started hiking North.  It had rained all the way up from home, but had stopped by the time we arrived in the area.  It was a chilly day with temps on the upper 30s and everything was drippy.

A misty, drippy day
We made our way down to Toms Run shelter, where we would set up our new hammocks and spend the night.  The hike in had been good at an easy 4.8 miles, but we still felt that soreness you get when you first start carrying weight along uneven terrain. 

I took a time lapse video of our antics as we worked to figure out our new gear which was amusing.  I'm glad we did this trip as it was enlightening to say the least.  We are still climbing up the learning curve.

Our hammocks await us
We ate dinner and gathered some wood for a fire, but everything was pretty wet and we were tired enough to not want to fiddle with it much, so we didn't waste the effort.  As the light faded from the misty forest, we both headed to our hammocks to read, then sleep.

My night seemed restless, but I wasn't cold at all.  LoGear didn't fare as well as she said she was shivering all night.  She is ready to go back to her warm, but heavier bag.

Eventually, a Pileated Woodpecker announced the new day.  I opened my eyes and saw dawn had arrived. 

We slowly got up, made some breakfast and packed up.  LoGear headed out first as I was puttering around, in no hurry.

She was motivated by the hot tub and warm bed back waiting at home as we headed back the way we had come the day before.

We quickly got back to the truck and started for home.  Both of us sore and tired.  This was a good dose of what we will have to face on our hike and even though we didn't get actively rained on, we were able to experience some less than ideal weather.  

We will now make our final decisions on gear, finish up our food bags and Fontana resupply and be ready for the start of our Quest.

As always, we will stay flexible and make any needed changes to gear and technique as we start the Adventure.  25 more days until the Quest for Pamola starts.

EarthTone and LoGear