Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Real Trail Magic

We made it to Blue Mountain Shelter last night, and plan to push through to Tray Mountain Shelter today - 9.1 miles, with two mountains in between. Weather is outstanding for a change, and looks good for a few days.

Now, there's the kind of "trail magic" where folks set up at a gap and provide burgers and such to hikers passing by. Then there's the kind of magic that happens when you really want it most...

Yesterday a local hiker heard I had lost my food bag to a bear, and brought me a packet of Sue's Chicken! Then Shrink gave me a few ounces of olive oil. I poured the oil into my pot, added the chicken, and some chili powder, cumin, dehydrated peppers, onions, tomatoes, black beans, salt, pepper, tomato powder, brown minute rice, and water. - All stuff the bear didn't want. Best chili I've ever eaten.

Course it might just be the hiker hunger setting in ...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Please do not feed the bears!


It had been cold and wet with a hail storm thrown in when we got to Hog Pen Gap.  We found a nice campsite just a few hundred yards south, where two tents were already set up. We set up our tents, made some dinner and prepared to settle in.

I was a good doobee, and hung my food bag from a tree at least 200 ft from our camp. The limb was a little to low for the PCT method, so I did as everyone else was doing, and tied my line off to a tree.

I got up before dawn, strapped on my headlamp, and headed for the tree. when I trained my light on the limb, there were only three bags hanging.


The line was still attached to the tree, but had been snapped. I searched the area and saw where it had feasted.

Clearly, the bear liked packaged tuna, peanut butter, mixed nuts, dried fruit, olive oil, dried milk, powdered cheese and fruit preserves.

Fortunately, it didn't much care for quinoa, vulgar wheat, oatmeal, dehydrated veggies, or spices and herbs. I figure I still have a couple of days of food, so I'm hiking on.

My sponsor will appreciate that the bear liked my Emergen-C Joint Formula, and ate all the packages I had in my bag. So I feel good that it's getting its vitamins.

Friday, March 23, 2012

We Are The One Percenters

After a couple of tough climbs over Sassafras and Justus mountains, we got to Woody Gap Shelter, and it was a zoo.  Not a camping spot available.  We hiked on and found a nice spot with an established fire ring just a bit beyond.  Enjoyed dinner and a nip around campfire.

The next morning we all filtered out, made our way down to Gooch Gap for water and breakfast.

It was a relatively easy day. One tough climb, then a long, easy downhill run to our campsite. I felt like I found my legs, and stepped out.

It started to rain. I stopped, put on my rain gear, started hiking uphill, and started to sweat. I figured I'd rather be wet from rainwater than sweat, so I took it off and was perfectly comfortable hiking whilst soaking wet.

While watching for any shivering...

We stayed at Lance Creek, a campsite just outside a "temporary" area in which campers need bear vaults for their food. For that reason it was a popular stop. The weather cleared, and we enjoyed another campfire and watching each other hang bear bags. We calculated that we had completed 1% of the trail.

Woo hoo ...

It poured overnight,  accompanied by thunder and lightning. We all got up, put on our wet clothes, packed our wet tents and set out to summit Blood Mountain in the rain.

And we liked it that way!

Seems everyone stopped at the infamous shelter at the top for lunch and to dry out a bit. We were looking for a nice downhill run to Neel's Gap, where cabins with hot showers and pizza awaited us. Instead, we picked our way across slippery rock fields and down steep rocky trails. Our knees were complaining as we made our way to Blood Mountain Cabins to dry out.

Four days from Springer, five from Amicalola.  There were a few who did it in two.  But we were generally moving with the majority, and seeing the same folks each night ... Slowly breaking ourselves in as planned.

And we all learned what was waterproof, and what was water-resistant...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The train pulled into Gainsville, and Survivor Dave was waiting to take me to Amicalola Falls SP, home of the approach trail. I got my pack together as Kim showed up with her Mom. After pictures by the arch marking the beginning of the trail, we headed off for a grueling 7.3 mile clime to Black Gap Shelter.

It was near record highs at over 80 degrees, and all the warm clothing we thought we would be wearing was in our packs adding to the weight of excessive amount of food.

We were exhausted as we got to the shelter around 6 pm. We pitched our tents, made some dinner, and passed out. We were up before dawn, had camp struck, had a good breakfast, and were on the trail before sunrise.

You see, I've had this secret mission to be the first to sign the register on top of Springer on the first day of spring.  Fresh footprints made me think I wasn't going to make it!

As we were climbing, a great view of the mountains came into view to our left. But to the right was a greater view- The plaque on Springer's summit making the start of the AT!

I grabbed the log and found no one had signed it yet!  I made the first entry of the equinox, we took some pictures, and headed down the trail. We hooked up with Darkage, Damn Yankee, and Doug at the parking lot. The Asylum Train was hitched up, and we stepped out for Hawk Mountain Shelter.

The Asylum Train Leaves the Station!

The trail grade was a bit easier than the approach, but for Kim and I, it was a 9.6 mile day, and our packs were only marginally lighter. It was another day in the 80s.

We all groused about carrying cold wx gear in these temps, but the reality is that we cold be postholing thru the snow next week.

Hawk Mountain shelter was crowded with all the folks starting the trail in spring, but I was the first. The First AT Hiker in Spring

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Set ...

Grabbed my bag, kissed Mary goodbye, and got on Amtrak's Pere Marquette for the first leg of a two day trip that will take me to Georgia.

I'll get into Gainsville at 7:00am, where Survivor Dave will give me a shuttle to Amicalola Falls State Park. There I get on the approach trail to Springer Mountain.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ready ...

Saturday morning I hop a train for the first leg of a trip that will get me to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Monday morning. From there I'll start a 2184-mile hike along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, to Mt Katahdin in northern Maine.  Along the way I'll pass thru 14 states, climb a total of 629899', make 865 summits, and bag five of the 50 states' highest peaks.

If history predicts anything, I'll be one of 1150-1700 attempting an AT thru hike this year. 28% of us will finish.

To improve my chances, I'll start slow - eight mile days with lots of breaks for the first week, and build up to an average of fourteen mile days. There'll be stretches where I bang out twenty mile days, and others where I'll be lucky to do ten.

I've spent the last year putting my pack together, often changing things to get the best performance at the lightest weight. Of course, nothing's lighter than leaving stuff behind, and I'm still working on that. As it stands, outfitted for the shoulder seasons, my pack weighs 21 lbs without food and water. That will drop to 18 when I swap gear in summer.  Food weight will vary between 6 and 14 lbs based on the number of days between resupply.  Water will vary between 2 and 4 lbs depending on water conditions.  I could be humping  as much as 40 lbs, but most of the time it'll be closer to 21-35.

I'll burn 4000-6000 calories a day and will be hard-pressed to consume anything close to that. I've chosen food with the highest calories/oz.  I'll be hiking on a diet high in carbohydrates and fat, with foods selected to assure I get complete proteins, and generally eating like a Hobbit. Most everything I eat will be rehydrated, cooked over a butane stove, and eaten out of a pot with a spork.  Yum.

I scored a sponsorship from Emergen-C and I'm packing their Joint Health Formula, which provides a mix of antioxidents, B vitamins, electrolytes and other nutrients, along with glucosamine and chondroitin.  I'll also be packing fish oil and Vitamin I (ibuprofen).

I'll generally resupply at grocery stores in towns along the way.  However, I have 10 boxes of food and supplies that Mary will mail to places along the trail.  Most of those boxes just have stuff that I'm unlikely to find along the way, plus Emergen-C, Clif Bars, meds, sections of the trail guide, batteries ... There are four that have a full food resupply that are being mailed to places where resupply is limited or non-existent.

I also have a box filled with summer-weight gear that Mary will mail to me when I get past Mount Rogers in Virginia, when the chance of snow and freezing temps is low. I'll mail the winter stuff home, and she'll mail that back when I'm heading into the White Mountains in the Fall.

There's a list of milestone dates over there in the right column. It's based on past thru-hikers average pace, and is not a schedule I feel compelled to keep. It's a yardstick by which I'll measure progress to make sure I meet my one hard schedule point - to get to Baxter State Park in Maine before they close for the season, around Oct 15. Else, I don't summit Mt Katahdin.

I'm packing a camera and a Droid, so I'll be able to post updates to this blog along the way.  Hope you follow along. If you want to be notified when I post something here, put your email addy in that "Follow by Email" block on the right-hand column.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ixodes Scapularis On The AT

Adult deer tick(cropped) On a trail populated by bears, wolves, poisonous snakes and maybe even cougars, the creature that scares the hell outta me is smaller than a dime!

Ixodes scapularis, aka the deer tick, aka the black legged tick - Which in turn is the most common vector for Lyme disease along with a few other equally nasty possible co-infections.

Deer ticks have three life stages - larvae, nymph, and adult.  They need a blood meal between each stage.  As they feed, they pick up any of several  several bacterial, rickettsial, viral and protozoan diseases from their hosts, and secrete saliva and other fluids back into the host's body - along with whatever nasties they've picked up from previous hosts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Doc Says ...

Gray345 Went to see an orthopedic specialist about some pain I've been having in my knee. I considered not going. With nine days before I'm to get on a train to Georgia, I did not want to hear that hiking in the mountains wasn't in my immediate future...

Besides, I've had knee pain all of my adult life. It'd flair up, last a half hour, then go away and not bother me for months...

But this time the pain wouldn't go away. I felt twinges of pain as I walked, and it was tender to the touch below the kneecap. I called, and was able to get in today - as long as I could get there in 20 minutes...

I may have exceeded a speed limit or three, but I got across town with 5 minutes to spare.  The doctor I saw clearly understood backpacking.  He poked, prodded, stress-tested, and filled in some substantial gaps in my knowledge of the anatomy of the knee. He ruled out tears in either my meniscus or ligaments. And said I have tendonitis. While that's not good, it's not hike-ending.


Rest, ice, vitamin I, and daily stretching are in order.  He questioned me about my pack weight, and was happy I wasn't humping 60 lbs.  He likes that I'll be starting out slow and building up to big mile days, and he really liked the idea that I'd be using hiking poles!

The doctor proved he knew more than a little about backpacking when I questioned him about Advil vs Motrin.  He told me that with Aleve at 1 pill every twelve hours, vs 2 Motrin every 6, it helps lighten my pack load!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Seam Sealing My LightHeart Gear Solo

It had gotten to be mid-winter in Michigan by the time I got off my keister to do this. I figured that even if the sealant didn't need to be warm, I did. So I cranked up the heat in the barn, and pitched the tent by screwing cup hooks into the wood floor. Then it was off to my local outfitter for a couple of tubes of sealant.