Scientifically

I made a decision early on when I started planning on hiking the AT, that I wouldn’t rely on mail drops for resupply. My reasons were that A) cost concerns were not something that weighed as heavily for me as it does for a lot of thru-hikers; and B) I valued flexibility, and having to schedule my stops along the way to meet opening hours at post offices impacted that. I’d like to depend on freeze dried backpacking meals for the entire journey, but that unfortunately isn’t possible. Many places along the trial where I’ll need to resupply do not have outfitters or other retailers that sell freeze dried food. So often, I will have to depend on the offerings of supermarkets or even (shudder) convenience stores.

Research the subject of trail food and it is apparent that the two most popular hot meals at the end of a long day trekking are Knorr Side Dishes, and ramen. Which is understandable, as they are easy to prepare using the resources available to a hiker, and are relatively cheap. Not to mention they’re chock full of those two essential ingredients of the American diet, carbs and fat. Both are lacking somewhat in the protein department, but that can be remedied by adding foils pouches of tuna or chicken.
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Unpacked and Packed

As the clock winds down to the two week mark, I’ve started obsessively (I do seem to use obsessively and obsess a lot) going over the contents of my pack. Take the stuff out of the pack, look at it, ponder whether or not I need this item or that item? Or do I need some more stuff?Wouldn’t that piece of equipment give me peace of mind in the case of a statistically very unlikely event? Or hey, look over there, something really shiny and high tech, and I must have it, even though I don’t really know what it is, but it’s sooo cooool! I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m actively considering getting the mini-espresso maker yet, but I’m getting perilously close.

Just the basics.

Submitted for your consideration (in my mind, that’s intoned by Rod Serling), I present the optional, yet seemingly semi-obligatory, equipment display photo. Look at it, in all its glory! Everything is there, well, mostly. In the picture, I am missing the electronics, because they won’t be in the pack till the day I step foot on the trial. So add an iPhone and an iPad, plus charger, and a supplemental battery back-up. And the A.T. Guide. Of which I will carry only the first half, at the beginning of the trail. But otherwise, the photo shows all the gear that will be in my pack when I set off on the next great adventure.

It’s bigger on the inside

There are some minor items that I’ll be carrying in my pockets, that are not shown. Like a bandanna, sunglasses, wallet, lighter, Swiss Army Knife and so on. I suppose I should have included them in the gear photo, but by the time I thought about them, I’d already packed it all up again. So instead, here’s a picture of the backpack all packed up. Note, in an earlier post, I did say I was striving to keep all my gear inside the pack with nothing hanging off. Well, I forgot a last minute addition, and that is the foam sitting pad. I cut it down from an old sleeping pad, but it’s still too bulky to fit inside the pack. I may still do some trimming on it, because it’s still a little bigger than I need, and it’s something else I can fret over for a while.

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Equipment

appalachian_trail_mapAround about now, it seems it is obligatory to post a gear list. Because that’s what everyone else who writes up a trail journal does, and I like being part of the herd. Harder for the wolves to get you that way.

I have a sleeping bag, and a tent and a bag to put them in, so I’m all set.

The end.

Details, you say? It’s a really big bag and a small tent. The sleeping bag is actually a quilt.

 

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Rocky Mountain High

Pikes SnowI’ve been able to get back on the trails this last week. Usually here in the Front Range, February is a bit of a dry month, and the temperatures are often in the 40’s and 50’s. So it’s prime hiking weather, at least as far as I’m concerned.

This February is not shaping up to be typical though. Today is the second snow we’ve had in the last ten days, and it’s a doozy. My completely unscientific analysis is that we have a crap-load of snow on the ground already, and it’ll continue to come down till late tonight, according to the forecast. At this rate I wouldn’t be surprised to see accumulations of a double, or even a triple crap-load.

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Conditioning

Pikes SnowArghh, after a month at sea level, getting used to the altitude again here at home has been a bit of a struggle. I wanted to get back out as soon as possible to my usual hiking paths, but a long walk through the neighborhood convinced me that a little acclimatization was in order. So the last few days I’ve been putting in the miles here, near the house, rather than along the trails higher up.

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Home, Again

Valparaiso Street Art

Valparaiso Street Art

The Antarctic cruise is but a memory now.

We finished up a couple of days ago, and then spent the remaining time exploring a little of Chile, well, primarily Santiago and Valparaiso. Both of which were quite nice places. We’d like to come back and spend some more time, some day.

Last night we boarded our flight back home to Colorado Springs, connecting in Dallas-Fort Worth. Not a bad flight at all, considering it was an American carrier. We were both asleep a half-hour after we took off (the flight left at 11:30pm local time), and slept through to breakfast, just outside of Dallas.

There was a four hour layover in Dallas of course, but fortunately it turns out that the new American Express Centurion Lounge has a shower. So we were able to freshen up. And have second breakfast.

And now we’re home. Finally.

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Definitively

appalachian_trail_mapIt occurs to me that my last post does contain a few terms widely used among thru-hikers, which the general public might not understand. I thought I’d add a post to shed a little light on trail terms.

Like any collection of humans interested or engaged in, a specific type of activity, people who hike the AT have come up with their own jargon. It’s how you differentiate yourself from the masses. Though in the case of a thru-hiker, the smell alone is more than sufficient to separate them from well, everyone else. But I digress, here are some definitions, as promised.

 

Thru Hiking – hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in one continuous journey, all within a single calendar year. You can get off for short breaks, but you have to pick it up where you left it. Interestingly, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the overriding authority for the whole trail does not actually recognize thru-hiking per se. It does recognize a category of hikers called 2000 Milers. These are people who have hiked the entire trail, but it can be broken up into multiple years, extending even to decades. And the designation is awarded on the honor system. In this day and age, I think that’s really kind of cool. Continue reading

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Mustachios, Muchachos!

WindyThree more days at sea, a couple of days to sample the fleshpots of Santiago, Chile, and then we’ll be winging our way home. It’s been a wonderful trip, but my sights are already set on the next big adventure. Plus, there’s only so many Chateaubriands sitting on a bed of truffle potatoes with caviar sauce one can eat. For the record, it looks like that number is seven. In case you were curious.

 

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Backpacking Gearheads

appalachian_trail_mapAnd the Antarctic cruise continues, giving me plenty of time to write between bouts of penguin, seal, and killer whale watching. Still not terribly effective as a training regimen, but the scenery is amazing!

Before dashing off for the Antarctic Circle and points south, I had finished gathering together the major pieces of gear that I will be taking on my foray into the semi-wilds of Georgia and onwards.

Gear is one of the most popular topics of discussion when two or more people who hike come together, online or in real life. Probably even in the afterlife. It is a topic that causes a considerable amount of passion. Similar to religion, or comic book fandom.

 

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Why Hike The Appalachian Trail?

appalachian_trail_mapWell, the Antarctic has been a blast. It’s not really helping me prepare much for the hike which is now just eight weeks away. The total extent of the hiking I’ve done on this voyage, consist of jaunts from the beach up to a penguin rookery, and back down again. Lather, rinse, repeat. Still, I wouldn’t have missed this trip for the world. In eight weeks, I’ll probably be rather more rueful about my lack of conditioning. I’ll definitely be missing the four course meals.

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