Posts Tagged With: planning

T minus 8

Well, one week from today I’ll be arriving at Gainesville, Georgia—then on to the Hiker Hostel in Suches, to laugh and fret with some of my twenty or thirty fellow starters. One week from tomorrow, I’ll be on the steps of the Approach Trail (Day 0). Presuming survival, one week from Friday, on International Women’s Day, I’ll be signing the register at the first white blaze on Springer Mountain and heading north. One day at a time!

I’m thrilled, and so grateful for the opportunity to try for this this dream. It makes all those months of working multiple jobs and saving money feel worthwhile. (Isn’t it funny how easy it is to forget the pain of something like that when it’s finished?)

Next week’s weather at the Springer Mountain shelter looks to be highs in the 30s, lows in the 20s, with a fairly perpetual chance of rain and/or snow. Sounds about right. 🙂

Here’s where I get my weather info, shelter by shelter.

For now, I can’t decide whether to clean the toilet or start packing. It would be bad to get them mixed up.

Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: , , | 14 Comments


The work is finished, except for maybe a half-day job that may or may not come.

The details are in progress, pesky as puppies. Waiting on 1099s so I can do last year’s taxes and pay my estimated payments for this year. Waiting for the roofer to call and tell me when he’s coming to fix my leak. Waiting for the end of the month to cancel some things and handle some nitty-gritty, like figuring out my Smokies permit and doing my final grocery shopping.

So for now, hiking is my full-time job. Set the alarm for 5:00, get up, make meals, pack the pack, commute to the trail (an hour), then hike. Hike hike hike. Then drive home, shower, sleep. (I’m not doing full afternoons yet, so I can check WhiteBlaze and Trail Journals in the afternoon.) Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m working into the rhythm. First, it lets my body get a taste of hiking on rocks and hills for multiple days without breaks. But really, I’m trying to minimize the Springer Mountain culture shock. I’m the kind of person who gets easily addicted to a schedule. With all the other changes and challenges of Springer to Neels, it seems smart to eliminate the ones I can.

No really big miles, no big weight. I’m just trying to do 10×12—ie, ten miles by noon. Haven’t managed it yet, although yesterday I did get my ten miles by 12:15, then hiked another mile or so. I’m increasing the distance slowly.

Weather, of course, is the limiting factor. Last night brought torrential rain and high winds, and there are winds again today. That trail can be treacherous at times. The ground is frozen with pooled water. Rain makes the ice wet (and the other day I had several near falls; thank the gods for inventing trekking poles). But the winds make branches fly like broomsticks, which is less predictable than watching one’s footing. Discretion being the better part of valor, I’m planning a cozy day working through gear.

My bum knee hurts a bit, but I think it’s OK. Nothing that feels like a new injury.

We’re good to go, one day at a time.






Categories: Appalachian Trail, Planning, training | Tags: , | 2 Comments

From an email

“I’m sorry I’ve been lurking, too. I’m actually going crazy getting ready for an adventure. In a few weeks I’m heading out to backpack the Appalachian trail.

“All I have to do from March through August or September or October is walk: walk and survive the snow in the Smokies, survive the dire heat in the mid-Atlantic, survive the river crossings in Maine and the Vermont mud, survive the bears in New Jersey and the snakes in Pennsylvania and the porcupines in New Hampshire, survive the ticks and mosquitoes and blackflies, survive the White Mountains and the Virginia blues, and keep the ring from Sauron.

“I’ll send you a picture from Katahdin, should I be so lucky. Hopefully Gollum won’t chew off one of my fingers, my preciouses!


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Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future

Well… I’m as nervous as the next guy, I imagine! But here it is, January 2, and my birthday! I’m not worried about training and eating right and hike prep today. Honestly, I’m trying not to worry about much of anything today—my birthday gift to myself. 🙂

There’s a lot to be done. This week, first and foremost, I have to get the taxes together. One of the issues for a self-employed thru-hiker is that not only do I have to pay my 2012 taxes before I hit the Trail, but I have to pay my 2013 taxes, too. That’s probably my biggest paperwork issue at the moment, and it’s time-consuming. A detail, though.

Everything that’s left is a detail.

The gear is dialed down. I’ll probably dump some stuff at Neel (or Neels—I can’t decide, and sources vary) Gap. Maybe not, though. My pack weight with a max load of winter gear, five days’ worth of food, and a liter of water is 29 or 30 pounds (I’m fussing around with a few ounces). I’m fine with that, for now. (It will go down after Mt. Rogers, when I can send the winter stuff home.)

The arrangements are made. There are details there, too: extra keys to be made, that sort of thing.

And of course, life goes on. This morning my keyboard broke. I have a backup that I’m using. I’d like to not buy anything before I get back, because who knows what I’ll be thinking then? My roof has developed a leak, so I need to get that sorted.

Details, details, details.

For hiking prep… well, hiking and working are butting heads. I can’t walk every day because I’ve got February deadlines. The best thing I can do for myself is take some days (even weeks) away from the trail, since it’s all snowy and treacherous anyway, and finish up the work as fast as I possibly can. That would give me some weeks in February to start amping up the training. I’d like to do more, but I don’t think I’ll be able to—and I’m OK with that. I’m in good physical shape, more or less. The twenty pounds I’d like to lose will just have to work themselves out on the Trail.

The big issue is this arthritic knee of mine. I feel like I’m starting the hike with a giant strike against me. On the other hand, it doesn’t limit my motion in any way, manner, means, or form. It just hurts. So: will the hiking change that? Will the pain increase to the point where I can’t use it? I’m worried about that—quite a lot, in fact. But it is what it is. It hurts at home, too. The only place it doesn’t hurt is when I’m actually walking. If it drives me off the Trail, well, I suppose I’ll be a section hiker. And in fact, I think I’ll probably be fine. But I’m a worrier.

So there it is. The state of the state on my 52nd birthday, and the year in which I tackle the last thing on my bucket list. (After this, I’m going to need a new list.)

Happy 2013! May the weather be mild and the ticks be few! 🙂 (That’s an old Rocksylvania saying that I just made up.)

Oh, and by the way… good luck to Rifle and anybody else who started on January 1. I’m reading your journals while you blaze the Trail. Smooth sailing to you all!

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Training march–20 miles

I did it! I did it! Twenty miles with thirty pounds.

I was wondering about the twenty miles, given that it took me five hours, or a few minutes under. But then I remembered that my regular walks are four miles and they take roughly an hour and a half, including stopping at traffic lights and a trip into the grocery store. Plus the one thing I’ve never been accused of is walking slowly. Once I get steaming, I roll along. And this is an easy walk, too. Paved roads and footpaths. Not much in the way of uphills, but it is what it is. And I’m OK with that. I remember back in my martial arts days: one of the greatest teachers I had the privilege of learning from said something along the lines of “The dojo is where you practice under bright lights on a soft floor with friends.” The Farm Park is bright lights on a soft floor with friends. At the very least, my back and shoulders know what it feels like to carry thirty pounds. My feet know what it feels like to march twenty miles.

I feel pretty good! A little stiff, for sure. I wish I could sit on something high and swing my feet, because those dogs are barking! The only thing that’s worrisome is the same old left knee issue. It really started to hurt at the end, and it hurts now. I didn’t have the brace with me, but I’ll wear it tomorrow.

Wait. Did I say tomorrow? Yes. Yes, I did! I think the only thing I can do right now is prepare my body to do long days in a row. Three times a week is fine, but for me, I want two of them to be back to back. I want to have a little soft-floor, bright-light training with complete lack of motivation—or worse, really not wanting to go out, and going out anyway. Going out without having had a full day of rest to recover.

As far as the walk itself went, it was pleasant. Saw some dead snakes, some dead caterpillars, and some smooshed mice. On the other hand, I had a long stare-down with a deer. I love the way deer stand in the woods and peer at you. They seem wise, somehow, and serene. In the moment. They’re gauging which way the wind is blowing from one instant to the next, prepared to move in whatever direction is called for. It’s very zen. Thank you, deer.

I saw a lot of people, mostly retirees getting in their miles, and a lot of people walking dogs. A lot of dogs. And some poop. But I digress. I saw one guy who was very chatty—a World War II vet who asked about my backpack and gave me a long rundown of most of the strategy for most of the battles in most of the theaters of the War. It was interesting, but the man himself was more so—more interesting, I mean. Here he is, clearly without people to talk to, clearly deeply interested in this massive experience that shaped his life.

Will that be me, someday? An old woman meandering through a park, pinning down a stranger and talking relentlessly about bear sightings and running out of water near Pearisburg? I hope so. Because when push comes to shove, the guy had to be 80. But there he was, still fit and strong, and wandering, and having those crisp bright memories (and opinions) to share.

When he stopped for a breather, I thanked him for his service, then I slipped away.




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Pack rassling

“If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.”

(OK, so maybe that’s an unfortunate quote. But since Johnnie Cochran was pretty much a cartoon character anyway [as were all of them, with the notable exception of the vastly unfortunate victims], I guess that’s enough said.)

My beautiful, wonderful pack, which I love so much that I want to marry it… yes, my ULA Circuit: We had a sit-down, my pack and I. (I wonder if I should give my pack a name? People name their cars, they name their GPS devices, they name all sorts of things that don’t generally need names. Maybe I should name my pack “Mango.” Then again, the whole trail name issue is hard enough without compounding it by naming each and every piece of gear as though it were family. Which it is. And my phone, by the way, is “Bruce.”)

My pack—for the purposes of this post, let’s call it “Mango”—well, let’s just say that the gloves don’t fit.

And not only the gloves. The stove doesn’t fit, the sleeping bag doesn’t fit, the eight-pound bag of birdseed I’m using to simulate food doesn’t fit… it’s a giant, enormous, pretty-much-infinite mess of generalized non-fitting. In other words, I’ve got the weight manageable, but the bulk is out of control, baby.

I’ve had to cheat some. For instance, I don’t have my stupidly expensive Nunatak quilt yet, so I’m using my stupidly expensive Western Mountaineering bag as a stand-in. The bag weighs 32 ounces. The quilt is reputed to weigh 21, and I’m assuming will take up half the bulk of the WM bag. Great! I figured, because, well, there’s a whole raft of crap I haven’t figured out yet: toothpaste and such. I mean, I’ve figured it out, but I haven’t packed it up. That extra 11 ounces can represent the rest of the family.

Also, I only had a larger canister of fuel. (I remedied that yesterday, woohoo! That tiny little JetBoil canister is adorable. So adorable, that I want to take two! Which, of course, is why Monsieur Cochrane is the headline of this post.)

I was originally taking a Patagonia down jacket, plus a Montbell down shirt (7 ounces) for sleeping, given that I’m going with the quilt and starting in early March, and I sleep cold. BUT… the people at White Blaze terrified me with all the hypothermia talk, so I decided I’d better switch out the down shirt for a Patagonia fleece, just in case everything gets wet. I’ll have one piece of synthetic insulation that dries quickly and also insulates even when wet. But man, that thing is bulky (bulk, of course, being relative, in a situation where 3 ounces might as well be a half-ton)!

I could not jam all that crap into that pack.

Mango and I went through a few iterations of trying things out in a different order, as though somehow packing something on the left instead of the right would magically make it take up less space.

Oh, Mango. You’re killing me.

Thus, we’ve entered the land of Hard Choices. In the land of Hard Choices, the cute Montbell down shirt has to stay at home. Yes, honey, you pack down to the size of a baseball, but you know what? I don’t have room for a baseball, either. (That’s predicated, of course, on the quilt being warm enough. When it arrives, I’m going to do some hardcore experimenting.)

In the land of Hard Choices, I dumped my titanium coffee cup, which I love. It weighs about as much as a feather, but it takes up too much space. I dumped my polypro ground sheet (although that one may come back; I’m also afraid of three weeks of driving rain). (Also, I’m taking another, silnylon ground sheet for under my tent, so this was basically cutting out a redundant nicety.) In the land of Hard Choices, I switched out my midweight Capilene sleeping insulation shirt for Thermasilk, since I have the Patagonia down jacket. That might not work out either, once I start experimenting with the sleep system, now that the down shirt is a goner.

I’m still working on this. I’d like to get another test-pack done today and tomorrow, including all the miscellaneous toiletries and such.

Mango and I will keep you posted.

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The nerve center—new and improved

The nerve center, new and improved!

I can’t quite see how to upload a photo with this phone. That could be a problem.




Edited to add: OK, obviously I figured out how to upload the photos! On the other hand… meh. The quality really isn’t stupendous—by which I mean the quality of the photographer, rather than the phone. Still, it’ll do for a couple of daily shots, a ‘capture the day’ sort of thing, for all the people who aren’t reading this journal, lol.

Also, how the hell do you make bad photos smaller once you’ve stuck them up there? Hrm….

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Training walk. Nine fat miles, with one backtrack.

Good morning! Good afternoon, more like.

I tackled a training “walk” (not enough elevation or terrain issues to call it a “hike”), with nothing to report. The weather was beautiful: about 50 starting out at 6:30 AM, which gave me a chance to experiment with my sun-sleeves, in lieu of a long-sleeved shirt. I’m trying to cut back on the weight of my winter clothes, but alas, I’m a cold person. I think I need the layers. The sun-sleeves were outstanding, though. I needed the wind shirt early, but after the temperature rose a couple of degrees, I peeled that off. I could roll the sleeves up or down as I got warmer and colder, with much less effort than taking off my daypack and doing the jacket on-off dance.

I’m cross-posting here and to Trail Journals. I’m not sure yet about the best way to journal. Luckily that’s one of the many details that I’ll be able to fill my time with as I chew my nails and wait for March.

Hike on!

~~Karma ’13~~

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Momentary panics

At least once every day or two, I have a minute of near panic—the “what the HELL am I doing” moment.

Today it was food. I went to the grocery store and had a careful look around, and did a test shopping: basically four days or so of food. I need to check the general weight of food, I need to figure out the bear bag situation… and basically, it’s all adding up to getting an actual load into the new pack to check the fit and feel. Yes, I could throw five pounds of birdseed in there and pretend it’s food, but before I do that, I’d like to get a sense of the actual weight, in the actual pack, with the actual gear.

And panic. Grocery panic! It’s overwhelming. Who knew that buying four days’ worth of food could be downright terrifying? But it was. Now the dining room is littered with starch and receipts.

Takeaway: On the Trail, don’t go into the grocery store without a list. Not necessarily a specific list, but I have to retrain myself not to overbuy. I’ll be super hungry, too, which is just a nightmare. I don’t want to drop $200 on food that my stomach is shouting for, when I can only really carry about $50 worth.

Lists. Which means general baseline. Which means I need to do what I did today.

It’s still scary, though.

Also, I’m starting to work on quads for the 640 steps of the Approach Trail. I loaded up my old Gregory pack with 30 pounds of books (or actually, the total pack weight including the books is 30 pounds). I’m going to just go up and down my single staircase with the pack on. I did it eight times today. I’ll work up to 50. I was thinking I’d go train at the local parking garage (five stories), but I think they’d look at me funny, what with the pack and all. And honestly, just using my staircase is probably fine. I’m likely to stop and take a few breaths after every flight anyway.

I’ll do this fake stairmaster on Fridays. Saturday will be my zero. Sunday, Monday, and Thursday I’ll do nine miles in the park. Wednesday, I’ll go to Valley Forge and actually do a full day of walking, six hours and gradually increasing to eight. I’m targeting the Horseshoe Trail, but we’ll see how that goes. I don’t want to have to dodge horseshit for eight hours. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

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I’m going back and forth on journaling.

Facebook doesn’t seem to be great for photos. I did set up a Facebook page, but that’s probably only for “I’m alive” type posts, and it’s going to involve some PIA switching between accounts.

This blog is great for lengthy updates, but really… if it’s just for me, should I bother? I haven’t decided. I do want to journal, but to get deep, I’m wondering if I ought to stay private. Damn this need to process! (Not really. I kind of love processing.)

On the other hand, I really really love reading other people’s trail journals, so maybe somebody would stumble on mine. Who knows?

Meh. I think it’ll have to wait until the phone gets here. Anything I do will be done via the phone anyway, so ease of use will play a big part in figuring stuff out.

I’m actually at the moment leaning toward just keeping the blog. People can subscribe or not, I can add some photos or not, and so on—a little more user friendly than FB. Oh, and I’ve been experimenting with flickr for the majority of the photos, but I’ll have to see how that goes once the phone is here.

I might also switch this blog over to a theme that’s more photo friendly.

The experimentation goes on…

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