Happy New Year!

I was out on the trail today.

Not the Appalachian Trail, mind you, but just good old French Creek State Park. I did ten miles in snow ranging from a coating to an inch. This was where I did the lion’s share of my AT training, so it was interesting to get back there for the first time since last winter.

Let’s just say I noticed a few differences.

First, I finished the ten miles well before noon—something I’d never managed to do before I started the thru-hike, and I certainly never managed to do on the thru-hike. Upshot: I still have my trail legs, more or less, and I was carrying just a daypack. Pack weight is key, as if I needed any more evidence of that. I’m planning to downgrade my base pack weight significantly in the next year, either by buying new (improved!) stuff or by dirtbagging and making my own. Frankengear!

Second, now that I know which insoles work for me, I’ve been going back through some of the shoes I eliminated in 2012 (they’re all new shoes, after all). I’m having much better luck with the Brooks runners than I did last year. If I were starting another thru tomorrow, I’d go with those. Apparently Brooks Cascadias are the most-used shoe on the PCT.

Third… well, there isn’t really a third. I was so happy to steal that time and go back out, even for just a morning! I’m going to try to get up there twice a week, or at least once, if I can jam my workload into the other five days. Because I need to work. Because I need to save money so I can do the PCT!

There, I said it. It’ll be seven or ten years, and the first step is to pay off my AT trail debt, but I’ve got some plans in the works. I’ve always been a ten-year planner anyway. I play the long game.

I’d like to do another AT hike at some point, too, I think. I know it’s about the journey, but I want to do one that’s also about the miles. You know–not a flip-flop. An April start with an October finish.

As far as reentry goes, I think I’m readjusted in all the ways that readjustment is possible. However, I’ve changed so utterly that in a lot of ways I’ll never go back to the way I was. The shell’s cracked open; the dragon can’t crawl back into her egg.

There are so many things that simply roll off my back now. It’s fantastic.

I can’t wait to hit the trail again this spring. It’ll just be overnights here and there, maybe a weekend or a week. But out there! Out in the woods!

Anyway, I wanted to stick my head in and say HAPPY NEW YEAR to everybody! It was the best year ever! πŸ™‚

Oh, one addendum. The weight. I came home and lost five more pounds. I assume that was my hard-earned trail muscle turning back to its native state: flabby mcflabflab. Since then, I’ve gained about two or three of those back—a trend I don’t like at all, but it has been Thanksgiving and Christmas (and New Years and my birthday are next week), so I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about it. I’m currently at about one to two pounds lower than where I was when I finished (five weeks ago), but two to three pounds higher than that lowest base weight. Which means I’m on some sort of a diet starting Wednesday. Less weight upstairs means less work for the knees and the feet. Also, smaller clothes, a smaller sleeping bag, smaller gear in general, lower food requirements… all of which adds up to less weight in the pack.

Got any hot plans for New Years? Or 2014 for that matter? Do they involve hiking? Because mine do! πŸ™‚ Wish you were here!

Categories: General | 43 Comments

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43 thoughts on “Happy New Year!

  1. Beth

    Karma!!! So good to see ya! Think about a section of the AT come April, our hiker boxes are full, well almost full and we are ready for the class of 2014. We’ll be at Newfound Gap the last weekend in March and the full 1st week of April. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

  2. Ginny Henninger

    Good to hear from you. Got your card early this week. Thank you. We have moved from Harleysville to Jenkintown to be closer to family. Have a wonderful holiday and look forward to hearing about your next adventure. Love.

  3. A very happy new year to you too! I just arranged a shuttle with the folks at Mt. Rogers Outfitters to the Partnership Shelter for Tuesday morning so I can hike back to Damascus (and my car) through Grayson. Passing the new year on the AT is as fitting a way to mark the calendar turn as I can imagine. I am desperately hoping to capture some pony pics worth sharing. Will be thinking of your misfortune in that regard. With luck a special pic will present itself and I can say, “This one’s for Karma.”

    • Partnership Shelter. Mmmmmm. Pizza. πŸ™‚

      Good luck with the ponies. I might be doing the Highlands this spring, to finally see them.

      • Unfortunately, I’ll be at Partnership for breakfast. 😦

      • Pizza for breakfast!

        If I were doing it again, I’d zero at Partnership and resupply from there. It’s so easy to get into town.

        Of course, it would be May.

      • Not a bad idea. I think that for the remainder of deep winter my MO will be driving my car a few days ahead, getting shuttled back to my point of progress and hiking north to my car and repeat.

  4. Lisa Milstead

    Happy New year! and Happy Birthday! So glad you are ‘acclimating’ back to life off the trail. Now that I am Finished with Grad school part 3, I was back out today, just a super easy few miles. I have no definite plans (dates, year) for a thru on one of the BIG 3, but it is there.
    Every step I take though, you are in my thoughts. You are my hero!



  5. Slo & Because

    HNY back to ya! We look forward to following next post too. May you have a healthy winter.

  6. You are too funny! Welcome home!

    • OMG – every other time I’ve been well aware and purposely type y&2#a17;8ll, but this morning I didn’t even notice! Ahhh! One year and I’m already a true southerner πŸ™‚

  7. Shari wb

    So good to hear from you, Karma!

    Just a quick note to say i wear Brooks too! The only shoe that doesnt give me knee probs.

    I love the dragon that has cracked thru!!

    Happy New Year!

    • I’m liking the Brooks! I still have my various problems so everything hurts, but they’re lighter and seem to fit a bit better than what I wore on my thru.

      I’ll keep experimenting. Ongoing, right?

  8. jim beauchamp

    Wish granted. Your post! I reread your last one just two days ago with good thoughts. Healthy food nourishes your body. All that fresh air and exercise nourishes your soul. My both thrive in the new year and all good things come your way! Happy birthday!

  9. milkman

    Hope you had a Merry Christmas and hope you have a Happy New Year. Nice to hear about your plans. Stop by the cafΓ© sometime.

  10. Great to read your Happy New Year post! Happy Birthday! Happy 2014 back at you. Pyro and I will spend time in Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe National Park in February, then in March I will be going with three other women (two of my sisters and a girlfriend) on a 20-day Tour of Australia/New Zealand. ~~Flame

  11. Glad to hear you are going to keep hiking, Karma! I’m planning to start Nobo mid-March, maybe we will run into each other on one of your daytrips to the trail!

  12. Kelsie

    How nice to hear from you. Excited to hear you plan to do the PCT. I’ve been giving that (and the AT) a great deal of thought lately. I’m hoping for one or the other in the next four years. Wishing you a Happy New Year – and happy early birthday! All the best to you in 2014!

  13. Little SAS

    Hi Karma! Congratulations on your finish! I remember meeting you at Aquone even before my hike began and then in NH. Nice karma! Do you know what ever happened to Pathfinder? Have a wonderful 2014 – hiking awaits!

    • Little SAS, hi! The last time we crossed paths was right outside Gorham! So nice to hear from you!

      Funny you should mention Pathfinder. You mean female Pathfinder, right? (I only knew one, but you never know.) I was justnreading the ALDHA newsletter and they named her as a new 2000-miler, so I guess she finished!

      Happy New Year to you and Socks! It’ll be hard-pressed to measure up to 13, right? πŸ™‚

  14. wvevie

    You go, girl!

    I just finished your journal last night. What an ending for me as it was New Year’s Day and there was your NYD post.

    Every year for probably 10 or so years I have picked out about 5 to 10 journals on trailjournals.com to follow as they hike the AT. I guess you could say I do the AT vicariously every year. Easy for me. Anyway, that’s a lot of journals. Your account has been the best I’ve read. I was absolutely amazed by your posts and pictures. Not only are you female and (ahem) older, like myself, but you were so alone for so long. My hat is off to you.

    Thru the years I have seen a huge growth in Trail Magic and many more hostels and B&Bs have sprouted up. More and more hikers are getting off the trail more often as there are so many more places to stop. Yet, you stuck it out with hardly a soul to share the trail with and I might add, very little Trail Magic. Rarely did you leave the trail. I was amazed.

    I hike a lot and a mile an hour over rough terrain is normal for me so I totally understood the frustration. Anyone I hike with always leaves in their dust. I did the Grayson Highlands loop from Massie Gap to The Scales leaving the AT to loop back around to Rhodedendron Gap and back onto the AT thru Fatman’s Squeeze back to Massie Gap. This was in September this year and (oh, I hate to say it) we saw the ponies. After I read about your section thru there, I felt very fortunate that we had such good weather.

    We’re planning McAffee’s Knob this summer. I want to do Harper’s Ferry to Ed Garvey and back for an overnight this year, too. I’m too lazy for much more than that. I’m not even a section hiker. I’m a weekender.

    You’ve inspired me. It’s not to say that anyone else’s hike was easier or better but you have so much to be proud of. You faced so much adversity and you faced the vast majority of it alone. I know I won’t forget your adventure.

    Oh, and your writing is a pleasure to read. Gutsy and witty!

    See ya outdoors!


    • Thank you so mch for the kind words! I hope you have spectacular hiking this year! With that itinerary, I’d bet on it. πŸ™‚

      Looks like I’ll be revising the Grayson Highlands in June. I’m betting there’ll be PONIES! πŸ™‚

  15. Beth

    http://youtu.be/U5I5H7EeC8k Is this the kind that chased you? Or just the cute kind?

  16. Beth

    We sure do miss you and your great writing. Bern

    • Bern! I miss writing and walking! Luckily all the happy 14ers are heading out the door (the early birds, anyway). They’ll have to keep us all entertained! πŸ™‚

      And good luck with the trail magic this year!

  17. Rebecca

    Hi there. I found your blog via a gentleman who followed your adventures last year–as I had been asking about various blogging experiences. I haven’t yet decided which blog site to use. Anyhow–upon reading of your foot issues, I just had to write you.
    I, too, have tried on several (read: hundreds of dollars worth) of boots and hiking shoes, trying to find a pair that will fit and provide support. I was diagnosed with Morton’s neuroma between digits 3 and 4, and a smaller neuroma between digits 2 and 3. The discomfort has made finding approrpriate footwear extremely problematic.
    Can you share what your foot issues are and what specifically worked for you on the trail? I sure would appreciate any advice and/or suggestions as I’m planning to thru-hike this year–beginning soon!

    • Rebecca, if I may add to this. I was in a situation somewhat similar to yours although I found a brand of boots that fit my particular feet well (Salomon). What I did was have my podiatrist make a pair of custom orthotics especially designed for hiking. They are about twice as thick as a normal pair. They keep my foot in a neutral position and absorb a lot of the punishment that leads to neuromas. I did have to increase the size of my boots by 1.5. I also wear thicker socks to counter neuropathy in one foot related to a previous nerve injury. So far I’ve logged 700 injury and blister free miles and, at this point, expect to finish around July 4 with no foot problems. You may want to consider talking to a podiatrist who may be able to help. Just a thought. Sisu BTW, my health insurance paid 2/3 the cost.

  18. Hi, Rebecca! You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime! πŸ™‚

    Shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes. I tried a lot of different Morton’s cushions and various insoles. What worked for me isn’t going to work for you, and, as Sisu says, probably the thing to do is see what your podiatrist has to say. The issue, of course, is that most podiatrists aren’t long-distance hikers, so they don’t understand what’s going to happen out there.

    That said, I have severe pain on the balls of my feet, I’ve got toes that are attached sideways, I’ve got bony bumps and protuberances that just hurt. I ended up experimenting with a ton of different models and makes of shoes. I ended up with New Balance light hikers, men’s size 8.5 DDDD to accommodate the issues in the front, but they were too large in the back and I ended up with some tendinitis. I wore those with Sof Sole Memory Foam insoles.

    That combination worked best for me at the time, of everything I tried. It still hurt, and ultimately it hurt enough that I couldn’t really do huge miles on any given day. That was that. I adapted.

    I did find that I got a “second wind” with regard to the balls of the feet. If I just kept walking, after about 30 minutes it stopped hurting for a while.

    I think the bigger issue was pack weight, though. No matter how comfortable the shoes are, a heavy pack (or even an average pack) is going to make it like there’s no cushioning at all.

    Keep experimenting! I’m currently trying for a 10-pound pack weight (for summer) and playing with Brooks Cascadias. I’m still using my Soft Soles, though. I love those. They get to stay.

    Good luck! I hope you have a great hike!

    • Rebecca

      Well, first I thank you and Sisu for your responses. Secondly, Ed asked me to say, “Hi!” for him.
      I’ve been to two podiatrists. I have a pair of orthotics that make finding shoes difficult as they tend to elevate my foot just enough that sometimes a shoe that fits in the heel then is too loose–I think because the heel then is above what is made to “cup” the heel. I keep trying, though. Steroid shots did not do anything but inflame what was already bad. I’ve tried acupuncture which initially seemed to help a bit but then another nerve pain began. I am currently receiving a series of alcohol injections–and they seem to be helping. I figure my foot may not get better than it is — and this may be better than it will be in the future. And…insurance did not cover my stuff, SIsu. Those orthotics were $400 out of pocket. Oh well…and onward. I’m excited about hitting the trail–it’s all I think about right now. I’m interested in how you feel about the Brooks. And 10# pack weight? WOW! What’s your plan with regard to that?
      Also, how do you like wordpress for blogging? I’ve never blogged and I am looking at different blog sites.

      • Oh, tell Ed I said HI! πŸ™‚

        There are plenty of ultralight sites around that have 10-pound base weight lists. Mine’s not dialed down yet, so I can’t share it. I’m assuming if I can get my Big Three under 2 pounds each, it’ll be doable. My challenge is that I hate being cold!

        I loved the WordPress app. It was easy to use, and I could upload plenty of photos.

        Good luck, Rebecca!

      • Rebecca

        Thanks a bunch for your responses!

  19. Beth

    Hey Karma! I just finished reading “Foot Path My Ass” by Terry Croteau. Aka Bluebird. Made me think you should publish your blog. Her story was good, you blow her outta the water in writing. We are 2 and a half weeks away from our trip and it’s all we can manage to talk about, ie reminiscing about past hikers. So I just wanted to say hey, hope you are well and still finding magic in life and encourage you to hike the Smokies the first week of April. We’ll have a sammy for ya. Beth

    • April’s getting so close! =D I’m wishing all the 14ers luck and sitting here wondering how the heck I can get out to the PCT!

      I hope you have a great week this year! (I’m sure you will.) Thanks to you and Bern for being such huge trail angels!!

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