Monday, April 16th

The drive up was uneventful. Tom and I started pretty early, 6am, in order to swing by his parent’s house and drop off Lady dog.

With me gone and him commuting almost 2 hours one way to the job, he agreed it was best for Lady. My in-laws have graciously kept Lady several times before when we’ve gone on vacation. They have dogs of their own and everyone mostly gets along.

K and Q worked out the timing well so we hung out at the house for maybe a half hour then met them at a Mexican restaurant for lunch back in Cordele.

We hit a little traffic in Atlanta, but nothing horrible. Amicalola Falls is easy to find and the cottages are very nice and spacious. Springing for a larger cottage to have two bathrooms meant we also got a screened in porch. I’m sitting on it right now, listening to the falls and the song birds.

We drove back into Dawsonville for groceries (wine, beer, coffee, marshmallows-the essentials), had a pretty good meal at Longhorn, then got in our pjs for a fire, some wine, and some s’mores.

Today’s schedule is wide open. K and I will definitely unpack and reassess our food, hopefully lightening our load. There are some small trails down to the falls we might check out, although it’s supposed to rain most of the day.

T-Minus

We won’t get on the trail until Wednesday, but today is the day it is starting to feel real. I have packed my pack, double-checked it on a spreadsheet, and started the process of second guessing everything.

I haven’t thought much about the specifics of the hike. The day-in/day-out pains, problems, and people (it is still peak time for thru-hikers to start the AT going northbound and the shelters will be crowded). You can only plan for so much and then just get there and do it.

I know that K and I can complete this hike once we manage to figure out our rhythm and our rolls. But it’s bound to be a difficult few days at the start. I’m nervous something will happen that makes one of us give up before we get our trail legs.

(Unlike our husbands who are nervous that we won’t get off the trail if a legitimate injury occurs. They are unimpressed by our “rub some dirt in it!” wound care method.)

And yes, I am nervous something will happen where I will want to quit. I will be sad if I twist my ankle to the point I can’t continue. But I will be devastated if some unforeseen non-injury situation makes me want to get off the trail.

I’ve wanted this hike (in some form or another) for almost two years. And I’ve tried hard to not get my expectations up. But now we are here and the weather forecast calls for rain four days out of our first week on the trail and my pack is magically two pounds heavier than expected and I just know I’ve forgotten something really important.

But I will close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then open my eyes before I trip over Pixie. Because dirt can’t fix a broken elbow.

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So small, yet so heavy.

Put a Ring on It

Despite my hatred of most of the conventional aspects of marriage, I really like my wedding ring set.

I won’t change my name or raise a family, but I will accessorize in the name of love.

My rings are exactly what I wanted. Recycled (estate sale). White gold. And a low enough setting that I can wear them even on my dirtiest, clumsiest of days without fear of damage.

I haven’t been wearing them a lot lately though. I haven’t had them re-sized since I lost weight and they tend to spin around my finger in the most annoying fashion. On my bested, non-retaining days, I’m worried they might fall off.

But even if they did fit, I wouldn’t wear them on the hike. I would feel awful if they were stolen.

However, I do want something to signal I’m not available if people ever realize K and I are not a lesbian couple.

I salvaged this from a pile of junk jewelry my mother was going to give away. She doesn’t know who it belonged to, and already two diamond chips have fallen out. But when I want to tell a jerk to get lost, it gives me a different finger than the middle one to show.

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Ready to RUMBLE

Oh wait. That’s wrestling. Which I suppose I am also up for.

But I am really, really ready to hike.

I am slogging through my to do list in preparation to leave. It has some annoyingly important/expensive/time-intensive items on there, like getting Lady’s teeth cleaned.

That took on a whole drama on its own as she already went in for a dental but her blood counts were wonky. Yet additional tests showed nothing wrong so we waited two weeks and retested. Her blood won gold stars this time and yay for Lady except now we are pushing up against our leave date and I’m pretty sure my father in law will do his version of an eye roll (a complete slack face stare) if I request they whip up a batch of mashed potatoes for the dog because her gums are sore.

The rest of the prep list is very annoying in the sense a lot of things are best left to the last minute.

Although I did finally dwindle my 1,104 pictures on my iPhone down to just 50. The 50 most essential photos to have on me. They include lots of dead animals and one dead person. I plan to carry my own little funeral home. Uplifting, no?

I am balancing that morbidity with lots of musical downloads including the three best songs from “Newsies”.

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number 5 of 50. Tom with Spike, Lady, and Frisco

I’m Pregnant

Made you look!

In the same air of seriousness I have always had writing here, April 1st seems the perfect day to out myself publicly to friends and family.

I want to blog my month-long hike on the Appalachian Trail and share with everyone.  After much hemming and hawing, I decided I did not want to write anywhere but here.   So here we are.  Two weeks from my start date.  And my blog has been shouted from the rooftops for all to know and read as they wish.

To friends and family:

Welcome!  I started blogging in November of 2003, when my ex-husband (known here as W) and I started divorce proceedings.  I made (very, very, very, very) small waves in the blogging community as a romance/dating blogger.  Now that Tom and I have been together for almost 5 years, I have a much smaller readership and don’t have a particular voice or genre.  It makes for dull writing, and therefore dull reading, at times.  Hopefully the focus of the hike won’t be dull.  Although not too exciting either.  Just one bear mauling a day should do it.

To read what I’ve written so far about hiking, check out the “Take a Hike” category.

I have left up most of my earlier writing.  You are welcome to peruse or ignore as you wish.  Significant others (including W) mentioned at length know what is written.  Hell, Tennessee Guy bought me my first year of this domain.

I use pseudonyms or initials for almost everyone except Tom.  I may have gotten lazy and assigned multiple people the same initials.  My bad.  The point was to tell a story.  If you find something written about yourself that you don’t like, tell me.  It can go away.  Stories aren’t as important as you.

That said, please also don’t take anything written here that seriously.  I take liberties to tell a (sometimes, hopefully) good story.  Just call me Hyperbole in Progress.  I think you will find the person who comes off worst in my writing is me.

Lastly, one housekeeping detail…you are welcome and encouraged to comment on any post you wish.  But I suck at replying to comments.  And because of spamming, the first time you comment I must manually approve you as a commenter.  Annoying yes, but less annoying than 4,289 lexapro ads.  Since my access will be limited while hiking, if you’d like to encourage/heckle me along the way you should comment now so I can approve you before I leave.

To long term readers:

You might notice that along with some of the more critical/personal posts of exes I also removed some of the boring ones.  Artistic license!  Fingers crossed I become wittier now that I know my in-laws are reading.

To my In-Laws (all 37,456 of you):

I’m sorry.  Truly, deeply, sorry you got stuck with a damn Yankee like me who spews her thoughts on the internet for all to see, often at the expense of her husband.  But I love ya’ll dearly and it warms my heart the way you have accepted me so maybe I can make up for it.

And no.  I am not pregnant.  (Yeah, I guess I’m not making up for it anytime soon.)

The Gear Part III – Heavy Stuff Boogie

(Part I & II of The Gear Here & Here)

Where were we? Ah yes…

Hygiene – Let’s get all the jokes about how you know this is the smallest section for me over with, shall we? Thanks.

Besides TP and hand sanitizer, I carry a very non-essential but wonderful device called a pStyle. I just have to unzip, pull my underwear out of the way, and go. I may find this not as awesome on the AT, but it has been invaluable hiking/camping in Florida scrub where I’m usually walking 50 feet just to find a tree taller than me to hide behind.

(As for that other unladylike waste process – I don’t carry a trowel to dig a hole. I use the sharp tip of my trekking poles. I am hoping that the outhouses at the AT shelters aren’t so gross though and my hole-digging is minimal.)

I also carry dental floss, a child’s toothbrush, toothpaste, a wide-tooth comb, and a handful of all-purpose wipes. I plan to take my specialty vitamins (D3 and B12) every other day swapping off with a Women’s multivitamin. I’ll have prescription muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories. K will carry some SPF 30 lotion that is made for faces but we’ll use all-over as we need.

As part of my hygiene/clothing/first aid/survival I also carry two bandanas. There’s nothing you can’t do with a bandana.

Cooking/Kitchen – Along with K’s stove, we’re taking her whole mess kit since it packs together nicely with the stove. Two sets of bowls/cups that nest together and have lids.

I have a long-handled Titanium spoon which I will claim for now and forever to be the world’s most awesome spoon. Long enough that it gets into deep pots and pouches for stirring. Small enough to fit in your mouth. Titanium. ‘Nough said.

We’re taking a homemade windscreen – half a tinfoil cookie sheet – to shield the stove if needed. And we also have a designated kitchen rag.

My 2L Platypus is a hydration system that slips down the back of my pack and the tube snakes out to the front so I drink as we walk. The 1L is a collapsible plastic bottle. Very handy for late-night dry mouth.

It is generally agreed you should not drink natural water sources without treating it somehow. We have chosen to treat it chemically with drops made by AquaMira. (You can read that this is not a failsafe way to treat water. You can also read how people have died from streaming drinkable tap water through their nose and an amoeba got in their brain. You roll the dice. You take your chances. It’s your life. It’s now or never. Don’t tell me about how I’m treating my water incorrectly, is what I’m really saying.)

We’ll carry our food in a large waterproof bag that we clip to a carabiner. At night if there are not bear poles/bear cables available, we have 50 feet of paracord we can throw over a high tree branch and hoist the food up to safety for the night. We’ve used this method on a trip with both strong rain and evidence of bear activity in the area. That’s about as confident as you can get before the “I told you so”s start rolling in.

Clothing – Here, I think I am erring on the side of too much. But day 3 puts us at our first hostel stop which also happens to be a great outfitter. If I decide I have too much, they will arrange for my packages to get home. If I learn I have too little, they will be happy to sell me more.

Basically, I have 2 sets of clothing – underwear, bra, socks, pants and shirt. The shirts and pants can be worn layered together for additional warmth. One shirt is long sleeve, one short. One set of pants is convertible into shorts (women – if you’ve had a problem fitting this style of pants, try the men’s section).

I have a silk turtleneck to wear as a sleep shirt and emergency cold weather clothing. Ditto my purple leopard print fleece PJ bottoms. Hell, you know I want to wear them as my outer layer on the trail anyway. I have a 3rd pair of socks to sleep in. Kind of emergency, emergency set. These are much thinner than my regular hiking socks and can go underneath if I need to double up some day.

I top it all off with a comfy, high-tech windbreaker, a scarf (I prefer to wrap it around my ears than wearing a hat) and a pair of gloves. I’ll put extra socks on my hands if they get really cold. I also have some DriDucks which I suspect I will never use since I hate rain gear.

Oh, and a pair each of trail runners (love them over traditional hiking boots) and black diamond trekking poles. Such knee savers.

No “camp” shoes for me. When we settle down for the day, I’ll either loosen the laces on my trail runners or go barefoot if it’s warm enough.

And…That’s pretty much it. Some ear buds. Some chapstick.

I’m carrying roughly 21 pounds before you add consumables. I hope to not carry more than 35 lbs even heading into the Smokey Mountains where we’ll need about 5 days worth of food.

Again, I’d love to go lighter. I think I might not use the maps. But I’d rather have them and send them home when it’s convenient rather than decide they are indispensable and can’t move on without them. I’d love to shuck some of the clothing, but not at the risk of being cold. I have never found a set of rain clothes I liked, but I also have always come out of the rain into a dry, warm condo.

I think I’m as light as I can get without being (too) stupid. That’s as good as it’s gonna get until I get some real miles under me.

The Gear Part II – Revenge of Heavy Stuff

(Part I of The Gear Here)

After covering the big four, the rest of my gear breaks down into a few categories:

1)Clothing

2) Cooking/Kitchen

3) Hygiene

4) Survival/Emergency

5) Gadgets

6) Consumables

Let’s tackle these backwards, shall we?

Consumables – food, water, fuel.

This is entirely up to you and your trail.

I can carry 3L water total in two separate containers. I may not fill both completely in order to reduce weight, depending on how confident I get gauging my intake.

My food is where I am most up in the air. I’m not interested in pre-planning and mailing a lot of custom food to myself so I will make do with what I find available in stores along the way. Since there is a long list of chemicals/ingredients I won’t let in my kitchen at home, this may end in disaster.

As for fuel – you can find stoves that burn wood so all you need to do is pick up some sticks. Tom has manufactured several stoves that are ultra light and use denatured alcohol as fuel. For this particular trip, I’m relying on (and loving) K’s Snowpeak Gigapower stove which is basically a flow valve and pot stand that screw upon several kinds of propane/gas type fuel canisters. Yeah, the canisters take up space regardless of how full they are and you have to dispose of them, but this type of stove gives you much more control while cooking than with alcohol or wood.

(We’re taking the “cozy” – insulated pot sleeve – Tom made since it fits on K’s pot. This allows us to boil water and then let things simmer/cook off the heat to reduce fuel use.)

Gadgets – One Word. IPhone. I have a 3GS, so very outdated. Yet it will allow me 1) to make phone calls 2) text 3)email 4)pull up maps 5) update this blog 6) make notes 7) read books 8) watch movies.

It also can serve as a compass, a clock, and in a pinch, a flashlight.

I suppose the NewTrent battery charger should be included here. A pain to not be able to buy extra batteries for my phone, but this charger rocks big time.

Survival/Emergency – For true “emergency” my kit includes: an emergency blanket (those weird space age tin foil things that hold all your body heat in), a whistle that has a compass attached, a repair kit for our tent, one of Tom’s ultra light stoves and a 1oz bottle with which I can measure alcohol fuel, an extra lighter, two extra tent stakes, two extra pony tail holders (what? Unkempt hair is not an emergency?), some 1-a-day contacts in case I break my glasses, and 3 extra AAA batteries for my headlamp.

For regular old day-in-and-day-out survival, I have my headlamp and my Leatherman micra. It has the distinction of being one of the few multi-tools with real working scissors.

Our first aid kit consists of several sizes/styles of Band-Aids, triple antibiotic ointment, anti-itch ointment, anti-diarrhea meds, some non-prescription NSAIDS, Benadryl, an ace bandage, mole skin for peskier blisters and some gold bond powder.

We have some all-purpose biodegradable camp soap to use for emergency clothes/person washing (most of that will hopefully be done on our town days) and for our kitchen as needed.

I’ll also carry appropriate map(s) and sections of the “AT Thru-Hiker’s Companion Guide”. The guide has mileage, water stops, etc. Most importantly, details and phone numbers for shuttles/hostels/hotels in towns. Lots of places have shuttle service to/from the AT and a “long distance hiker” price that might also include a load of laundry, a drive to the center town for re-supply, a pizza, what-have-you.

Damn. This is long. I’m tired just writing about it, let alone carrying it.

The Gear – Part I

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness–
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!”  (Omar Khayyám)

Despite what we all know about me, I am not bringing a jug of wine.  I don’t want to carry the weight.

There is a lot of debate over gear in long distance hiking.  And let’s be clear that I camp so that I can hike, not the other way around.  Meaning, I will do without some creature comforts if it means I can lighten my pack and make better mileage.  The tent that you carry from your car to a spot 100 yards away?  Ain’t gonna cut for me.

That said, I have not (yet) gone crazy ultra light either.  You can definitely find areas where I’m redundant because I’m cautious and haven’t been out in really bad weather yet.  And there are areas where the gear could just plain be lighter but I’m not ready/interested in paying the price.  Just like the skimpiest underwear is pricier than a 3-pack of Hanes, you often have to cough up big bucks to carry less weight.

I’m going to break this into sections so the post doesn’t get unwieldy.

First off, there are the big four: Pack, Shelter, Sleeping Bag, and Sleeping Pad.  These are called “the big four” in the hiking community because they are the most essential.  You will find many a debate about whether someone needs an extra set of underwear (of even one pair – lots of commando out there!).  But few are going to argue that you need a backpack in order to backpack.

They are also called the big four because they are usually the heaviest items.  Pick these wisely in order to have a lighter experience.  But don’t necessarily think the lightest will be the best for you.  Carrying less weight is great – unless you picked the wrong pack and your back seizes up in mile 15.

My “Big Four”:

Pack – A 2011 women’s GoLite Quest.  (The newer models are heavier and have a few more bells and whistles than mine) At roughly 2.7 lbs, you can find lighter packs.  But it’s definitely not “heavy”.  The weight has nothing to do with why I love it.

First, I love the design – One large compartment, one semi-big outside pocket, one semi-big compartment in the “top”.  Then two small pockets on the hip belts that can carry chapstick, ear buds, a granola bar, etc.  It’s pretty streamlined and simple.  (Technically there are two side pockets.  But they are so shallow I would not put anything in them that wasn’t also clipped on to a strap so it didn’t fall out.  I think this is the poorest feature on the Quest and I believe newer models fix this issue.  But since I carry two large items that use side straps (tent poles and sleeping pad) this design flaw doesn’t bug me as much as it might others.)

Other people love having more pockets and compartments sewn into their pack.  Not me.  Even if an item does not get back to its designated spot, I only have three places I can look for it.  And each additional pocket comes with additional weight.

The second reason I love this pack is the fit.  Typically, a women’s pack will fit a woman better and a men’s pack a man.  Duh.  Although I’ve known a few of both sexes to prefer it the other way around.  In fact, K is borrowing Tom’s Osprey Atmos 65 because it fits her so well.  You need to be aware in pack shopping that they do come in sizes – based on torso length – and it will make the world of difference once you find the right fit.

I have a pack cover that is water proof for when it rains.  The cover squinches down into a small 2″ bag that I carry on one of the useful loops on the back of the pack.  I also have the pack lined with a regular black trash bag.  This is for 1) in case the pack cover fails/I get it on too late and 2) in case my water leaks.  A lot of hikers consider using both overkill, but since there is often not room in the tent for my pack I like to put the cover on overnight to protect the pack from dew.

Shelter: A MSR Hubba Hubba.  With an additional footprint, this weighs in on the heavy side of a free-standing two-person tent around a little less than 5 pounds.  When Tom and I need a replacement, I will definitely weigh in that we can go lighter.  But this is a great tent to have when you are partner-swapping.  Once you get your mind out of the gutter we shall continue…

The MSR Hubba Hubba is a two-piece tent.  The main compartment has a solid “bathtub” bottom (the bottom extends about 4 inches up from the ground so pooling water will not leak in) and the rest is bug netting.  This is attached to a collapsible pole that gives the tent its shape.  Over the collapsible pole, you throw on the “rain fly” – a completely solid cover for the tent to keep out, um, rain.  It will also make the tent warmer.  The fly and tent attach to the ends of the pole.  You can stake the entire thing in the ground to keep it in place but it is not necessary.  There are doors on both sides of the tent, so you each have your own exit/entrance.  The rain fly doors are very loose and you stake them out into a patio or “vestibule”.  This is useful to keep gear outside the tent dry and nearby.

The additional footprint is just another piece of solid material.  Like a little tent blanket laid down first where you set up.  It takes the brunt of whatever pokey stuff you may be laying on so hopefully the actual tent is spared.

The reason we chose to take the Hubba Hubba is that it is a completely rectangular.  (Some two-person tents are made with a larger end meant for two heads and a smaller end made for two sets of feet.)  This gives K and I the possibility to sleep head-to-feet and get some “me” time at night.  Or at least some “I don’t have to stare at your fucking face” time.  The bug netting portion on the inside has small mesh pockets to keep things close at hand so we each can have our phones/ear buds/glasses out without accidentally grabbing the others.

The Sleeping Bag – A GoLite 25 degree Quilt.  At 2.5 lbs, this is awesome for a 25 degree non-down sleeping situation.  But it’s not for the cold at heart.  I do supplement it a bit, as I explain below.

A sleeping quilt is basically a sleeping bag with no zipper.  It is sewn up about 1 foot down the back so my feet have a spot to snuggle.  The rest is splayed open like a blanket.  It has two places where you may tie ribbons through and cinch it closer to your body for more warmth but I am not bringing the ribbons.  (And in searching for the link to the quilt, I found out the ribbons are supposed to strap the quilt to your pad.  Huh.  Learn something new every day.  Still not taking them.)

I decided on a quilt after 1) being too hot in my 20 degree traditional bag 2) I saw Tom’s and how warm he stayed on a below 40 degree night on Pine Mountain in November.

I have to use a synthetic bag because I am allergic to down.  In general, you can find the same temperature rated bag in down lighter than you can in synthetic.  And please note that in the USA, a temperature rating means, “You will not die of hypothermia at this temp with this bag”.  There is no guarantee of comfort or ability to not shiver the night away.

I find in general that the material sleeping bags are made out of make me sweat.  Even when I’m cold.  I just don’t like that slippery material on my skin.  To remedy that and to help out on those colder nights, I use a sleeping bag liner.  Mine is a Sea to Summit  Reactor which is rated to add 15 degrees of warmth to the situation.  It also is great to creep into on really hot nights when you don’t even want to touch your sleeping bag.  It also doubles as a funk-compartmentalizer.  Keeps your sleeping bag cleaner and keeps you from smelling yourself (it has a draw string you can pull up around your neck).  Basically, I think bag liners are awesome multitaskers.   Some people would say it is non-essential weight (less than 10 oz) but I say they’re wrong.

The Sleeping Pad – A Therm-a-Rest Prolite Plus Women’s Pad.  A little over 1.5 lbs.  You can find lighter, and I have my eye on one about ½ lb less with just a small decrease in the insulation value.  (Although you have to manually blow that one up.  Everything has its drawbacks.)

First off, let’s agree.  A sleeping pad is essential.  It’s part of “the big four” for a reason.  Don’t try to camp without one.  The ground is cold.  Much colder than the air.  And it is also lumpy.

Second, a woman’s pad almost always has a higher insulation rating because we tend to sleep colder.  As much as I’m all about equality of the sexes, I’m not going to argue with physiology.

This pad is full size, meaning when I lay down my entire body fits on the pad.  You can cut weight by choosing ¾ or even ½ pads.  I don’t see the benefit.

It’s technically “self-inflating”.  In theory, if I lay it flat and open the valve, in a few minutes I should have a nice cushion of air to sleep on.  In reality, I do that then blow 10-20 breaths into the valve before sealing.  It works well, so I’m not quibbling.

At first, I wanted to use a stuff sack and carry it inside my pack.  I would start by folding it in thirds, rolling it up, cursing, re-folding, re-rolling, re-cursing.  And even once I finally, finally got it in the sack I didn’t like how much space it took up in the backpack.  So now I roll it up without folding and strap it to the outside.  It’s a much easier way to start the day and gives me some breathing room in my pack.  In case I change my mind about the wine.

I pair this with a Therm-a-Rest Trekker Roll Sack.  Definitely a non-essential.  But I love it.  It has a single strap to cinch the pad in a small roll.  Before I had to keep track of loose cinch straps every time I packed/unpacked.  It protects the pad a little while it’s strapped outside my pack.  Makes it easier for me to take my pack off and not worry about where it lands.  And the pocket to stuff clothes in to make a little pillow?  Awesome.  I tried using stuff sacks as pillows, but those are usually made out of similar slippery/sweaty material as sleeping bags.  The pocket is lined with fleece on the outside and feels great after a hard day.  I don’t have to take the roll sack off the pad during set-up or take-down so it’s not even like another piece of gear I have to keep track of.

So there you go.  My “big four” weigh in at about 13 pounds.  In theory, I could knock a few pounds off by having my hiking partner carry half the tent (or carry a single person tent).  I’m shouldering a bit more weight with both of my partners right now due to the fact I’ve had the ability to train and condition while they’ve done responsible things like make money.  I would love to get this under 10 pounds and have my eye on possibilities, but this gear has passed several field tests and I’m happy for now.
Next time:  All the other shit you need.

The Overview

I haven’t shared much about the specifics of my upcoming hike because to me they are either 1) very simple or 2) very boring.  But Tom pointed out that if I’m going to be directing any and everyone interested in our journey to follow along here, perhaps I should get a bit more verbose about the subject.

The hike is the simple part.  You put one foot in front of the other.  Try not to fall down.  Try to stay dry, not so stinky, and somewhat not hungry.  Repeat as necessary.

The details of the planning/decisions leading up to that first step might be deemed boring.  But since I’m not chaining you to the computer and taping your eyes open, here I go!

K and I will be starting at Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian trail.  Tom and K’s husband, Q, will drive up with us on a Monday.  It’s a full day’s drive from Tampa so we don’t plan to start out on the trail until Wednesday – giving us a day to recoup, regroup, eat some good meals, etc.

We’re staying at one of the cabins at Amicalola State Park.  There is about an 8 mile approach trail from the visitor center to the actual start of the AT.  It is a big deal with thru-hikers whether you do this approach trail or not.  Due to the fact that we want to give ourselves every opportunity to reach our destination (Damascus, VA) we will skip the approach trail.

We hope to make it to Damascus, VA before Memorial Day weekend.  About 5 weeks.  This has us averaging 15 miles/day with no zero days.  (“zero day” = a day where you hike zero miles)  Some people say this is an aggressive plan.  I can’t disagree.  But we are using a well-established day-to-day plan that has us start out hiking 7-10 miles a day and building up.  Remember: we don’t have shit else to do.  Even walking 2 miles per hour we can do 16 miles in a day and still have time for cooking/camp set-up/resting/etc.

We have tickets home from a small airport technically in TN (about 40 miles from Damascus) where Alligent Air flies to Clearwater/St Pete.  But we purchased a flex option so we can change the itinerary as needed.

A lot of people hear about long-distance hiking and their mind is completely blown by the idea at the amount of time it takes.  But the reality is, long-distance hiking is a WHOLE BUNCH of 3-5 day trips strung together.  How long you have between towns/hostels/etc depends on what trail you’re on, but most will agree that the AT is the easiest trail to thru-hike in part for the amount of civilization available to aid you.

So about every 3 days or so, we plan to sleep in a real bed.  We will either stop at a hostel or sometimes a larger town with several accommodation options.  Every time we stop we’ll also be able to do some laundry, shower, and re-supply our food.  Sometimes the options will be sparse – grabbing convenience store food or rummaging through a nature center’s snack aisles.  We do have a box of food we know we like/can’t live without (my Starbucks VIA is included) that we will ship to the first of these difficult re-supply areas.  We have a couple other locations we have in mind for the box (called a bounce box in hiker lingo because you “bounce” the box to yourself up/down the trail) but we don’t want to set too much in stone.  We’ll get on the trail and see how we feel.

That sentence sums up a lot of our plan.  We’ve done two shakedowns together and made several changes to gear/packing/clothing based on those.  We’ve scoured the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion for all the details about trail towns and where we want to stay/re-supply.  And we’ve both stressed getting in shape in general.  But we can’t know how we’ll feel, how our bodies will react.  To decide we have to stay on plan could be disastrous.  We need to just get on the trail and see what happens.

 

Fa-La-La And Stuff

Tis the season!  Except it’s 80 degrees here.  Blech.  After several weeks in NC, Tom is home for a while and loving the warm weather.

Tom will actually be home quite a bit these days.  Because he accepted a promotion which puts him back to managing a single warehouse instead of installing/training/maintaining work flow systems on warehouses across the US.

I tried to write about this earlier but it depressed the hell out of me at first.  Accepting a new position now means no hike for us come March.  And as a new warehouse won’t be opening until after 1st quarter (maybe 2nd quarter?) of 2012, it’s feeling unlikely he’ll be ready to let it go and hike come 2013.

It’s not like I didn’t just spend an entire year scrimping, going without, holding off on a real job search, and meticulously planning this or anything.  Oh wait.  I did.  AND I HAVE THE SPREADSHEETS TO PROVE IT.

I have mostly gotten over the crushing weight of a year of my life spent planning for nothing and the dream of completing a spectacular goal with my husband dashed.  Mostly.

One thing I should say is that Tom did allow me to veto this move.  If I had said we have to hike or else, he would have turned it down.  But he had already expressed concern over our financial future with the hike looming and I could not in good faith tell him we’ll be fine and let it go.  That is one “I told you so” I cannot allow him to utter if we become broke and live out of our tent on the AT for good.

Another thing Tom has agreed to, which has mostly brought me out of my funk (mostly), is that I have somewhat Cart Blanche on my 2012.  If I want to not pursue a “real” job and go hike for awhile by myself, he will support that.  If I want to take a job that means I’m traveling M-F, he’ll man the home front as I did the past two years.  As long as we have a financial plan that can support my decision, he’s on board.

Kinda hard to hate the person who’s ruined my life when he’s so nice about everything.  Hurmph.

Right now, we are very up in the air with what and when things will happen.  We will end up moving.  Right now, it looks like just here in FL.  (This is part of the depressing thing for me – I knew this was a possibility and felt the upside would be the chance to move out of the state of sun and sand and back somewhere you could hike under pine trees.)

There is a small chance we could move to north GA, near Atlanta.  This is my preference and kind of Tom’s as well.  (The area we’d move to in FL is not pretty or exciting or in a good location for anything but warehousing.)  He was hand-picked for this FL position and someone else for the GA.  But Tom feels there is a possibility a player may back out and the deck will be reshuffled in our favor.

So…we’re moving somewhere at sometime in the first 6ish months of 2012.  I may or may not still attempt some kind of long hike and/or vacation and/or travel.

Basically, everything and/or nothing’s changed!  Merry Christmas!