Monthly Archives: September 2012


OK, so the food is almost a detail, but it’s something I need to work on. I know I’m going with the Jetboil Sol Ti, because I’m familiar with the Jetboil, it’s easy, it’s fast, and it’s one less element of culture shock that I’ll have to deal with. I might switch out to an alcohol stove later. (That’s an issue, isn’t it. I hate to just assume there’s going to be a ‘later’; it feels like hubris. But I don’t want to self-sabotage with any sort of verbal pussyfooting like “if there is a later.” I think I’ll just use ‘at some future minute.’)

Anyway, yeah. I don’t cook at home, so there’s no reason to think I’d be inspired to cook on the trail. And I’ve heard that the hunger’s going to start at about three weeks out, and after that you’re ready to chew your shoes. (A friend of mine who hiked in 2008 defined a thru-hike as a feeding frenzy.)

All that being said, there are still logistics. Even at feeding frenzy levels, I don’t want my hot chocolate to taste like ramen, so I’ll want a separate cup or pot for eating out of. I ordered a super lightweight one, which I’ll talk about when I’ve had a chance to play with it.

I’m trying various foods in various combinations now. I just got a pretty spicy noodle thing that was really good. Upscale ramen, I guess it was. Anyway, somebody somewhere said you can boil things in freezer bags and save cleanup. I can say from first-hand experience now that no, this doesn’t work very well. You still get some seepage, and you still end up with ramen in your bowl (or your lap if you’re particularly brave). Which made me realize that yeah, I do need the pot-mug to eat out of.

See? Experimenting!

Also, I’ve been trying various brands of bars and things that are organic and not reformed entirely of chemicals. (I read that the protein in a protein bar is pretty much nutritionally unavailable anyway, so I’m looking for bars that have nuts in them, that kind of thing.) Some of them are pretty good! Good enough to get me moving in the morning, anyway. I figure breakfast will be a couple of bars of something and maybe something else… not sure what. Gatorade, instant juice? I don’t know. I’ll need to do about 700 calories per meal for about five meals per day (three meals, two grazing-type snacks) at a minimum, at my projected pace. Later on in the hike I’ll be adding olive oil and butter flakes and all manner of calorie-high crap, but I don’t know how much of that I’m willing to try at home. I’m trying to get my ass smaller for the hike, not larger.

So… food experiment. Fancy ramen noodles good. Homemade boil bag, not so good.

Also, did you know that Hormel makes precooked, shelf-stable bacon? Who knew? Magic! I bought some to try. It probably sucks.

Oh! Speaking of Hormel, they make these dinners that you can microwave. I thought I’d try one. Chicken and mashed potatoes. It was wrong on so many levels, I can’t even begin. No, I’m not planning on taking a microwave. But I thought a boiling water bath might do the trick. As it turns out, first of all, they smell like a cross between what goes into a cat at the front end and comes out at the back. Second, I don’t think the boiling water thing will work. Third, what in hell was I thinking? Powdered mashed potatoes are about seventy pounds lighter.

And so endeth the food lesson for the day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Food | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The freaking shoes, they keep defeating me. The bastards.

So. I ordered a variety of socks and did a ton of research on trail runners, trying to find something that will finally take care of this forefoot pain issue. I thought it was the socks. Darn Tough Socks, which are outstanding, but during my last hike I found them tight after my feet swelled at about mile ten. That crushed my toes together, and I had blisters between my toes in addition to the ball-of-the-foot pain.

I got several types of sock liners and socks to try out. (The unanticipated costs of gearing up is the millions of dollars wasted on crap that doesn’t work for me. But yeah.) There are Thermasilk sock liners, which made me realize I can cut out the gaiters entirely if I wear knee socks treated with permethrin. So bonus there! I also got some Iniji toe socks. I think those are going to work. I’ve ordered some Iniji compression toe socks, too. Knee high. Those haven’t come yet.

For the shoes, I ordered a pair of New Balance walking shoes, size men’s 8 EE. Yes, EE. I’ve got all sorts of bizarre foot issues that are mostly concentrated in the front, and I finally realized I need EE men’s shoes. My brother was like, “Don’t you try them on in the store?” And I had to point out that I haven’t found stores that carry a wide selection of men’s size 8 EE shoes—which, for all intents and purposes, are as wide as they are long. I have brick feet.

I tried the walkers today on a regular 5-mile sidewalk walk. The size is outstanding, so that part’s figured out. However, the cushioning? Not so much. I was aware of the balls of my feet as soon as I put the shoes on (never a good sign), and my feet were sore pretty quickly. It wasn’t bone crushingly painful. I made it the five and could have gone a few more. But no big mile days in those, that’s for sure.

I deliberately wanted to try them without any insoles, to get a baseline. I have a variety of insoles on order, and we’ll see how those go. The Superfeet don’t really do anything for me. They’re comfortable enough, but no padding up front. I love the plain old Dr. Scholl heel pads, but they don’t make a forefoot pad in that thickness. People on Whiteblaze have recommended Softsol and… and… Spenco, that’s it. So I’m getting a couple of pairs of those, and also some various metatarsal pads.

Also, my last shoe experiment: I ordered a pair of Brooks something or others, which are supposed to be wide and super cushy.

I’m assuming that some combination of insoles and either the New Balance or the Brooks will work out. I’ve already spent $500 on footwear that won’t be coming with me, which is really really really problematic. On the other hand, the shoes are all good, and I’ll have them. But I’d feel a lot better about things if I knew for sure that I had a shoe that doesn’t hurt my feet. Then I could get out and train with a little more confidence.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Gear | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Potential miracle

Ohmyfreakinggod, people! I got a note in the mail from an old company I used to work for, and there may be a surprise bonus coming. This is completely out of the blue. I don’t know how much it is (or even for sure that it’s not a clerical error), but there’s a 50/50 chance that it’ll be enough for me to move my hike from 2014 to 2013. How freaking awesome is that?

How freaking terrifying is that?

I was on pace for spreading my worrying out over 16 months. Six months? Not so much!

On the other hand, it might not be enough cash anyway. I’ll know for sure in a week or so. So currently? Limbo.

But if it pans out, my training ideas have to change radically because I don’t have time anymore to leisurely look for a good trail. I think the best I can do is keep going to Eckville, but do a repeat loop from the parking lot to the trailhead past Eckville shelter, about 2 miles uphill to the Hawk Mountain trail, then reverse. The total gain is only 600 or 700 feet, but none of that section is flat, and some of the slopes are extreme enough for training. At least it’s hill walking—and in fact, it’s the site of my disastrous June hike. (That was disastrous because of the heat and the boulders, though. If I stop at Hawk Mountain I get the greatest physical benefit of the hills without the mental issues of the boulders.)

Trouble is, I need to do it three times to get 20 miles. Which sounds, frankly, like torture. Torture! Would I even be able to make myself do it three times? I mean, jeez—even a flattish road walk at home isn’t something I think I could bring myself to repeat three times. So ‘Walk four hours to your bonk place, then do it twice more’ sounds like a little more than I have willpower for. Last week I would have bailed after 11 or 12 miles. I’m thinking I might—might—force myself to go twice. But three? Hrm.

Mybe I can find a way to switch it up so each time is a little different. Do it once, then add headphones. A podcast, or some music.

We’ll see. I’d prefer a 20-mile loop rather than three 6-mile back-and-forths. On the other hand, one advantage is that repetition is measurable. I can see whether I’m improving.

It doesn’t solve the other issues—the autumn leaves littering the trail, the hunters banging away in the distance, the safety concerns about the parking lot. But those are resolveable, at least in part. The trail is hilly, so the leaves don’t pool. The trail is covered with roots, but not so many rocks, so the risk of injury is lower (and if I should trip or otherwise need to cut the hike short, I’m at most 2 miles from the parking lot, as opposed to 10). I have plenty of orange to wear. And the parking lot hasn’t given me any trouble on a weekday yet; plus, with three round trips, I’d be visiting the car twice during the hike. If the parking lot has filled with cars that make my spider sense tingle, I’ll have opportunities to just drive away. I don’t think the hunters are the problem, really. They’re there to hunt and enjoy the woods, not to smash open my car to steal my cheap radio (and I don’t leave anything in the car anyway). Plus, hunting season might deter some of the more casual vandals. If you’re going to piss somebody off by breaking into their car, do you really choose somebody who’s likely out there with guns?

I don’t know! I don’t know how it’ll work! Limbo!

Now, shit. I have to figure out how to tie a bear bag a lot sooner than I was anticipating.

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