Monthly Archives: June 2011

Not quite a nightmare

I had a weird dream last night so I thought I’d share it. I was on my next practice hike and somehow I had started from Springer Mountain in Georgia. Springer Mountain is where the AT begins in the south. I think my goal was to get a good idea of what the Georgia mountains are going to be like because everyone says they are a rough way to start the trail (there is debate about whether the mountains are actually tough or people are just not yet in trail shape. Southbounders, those who start in Maine, say the Ga mountains are nothing special). I’m not sure how I got to Springer to start, but evidently my wife dropped me off there for the weekend hike. For some reason I also let her pack my gear. Maybe you can see where this is going.

First, every backpacker knows that the most important piece of gear is your shoes. You can’t walk 2200 miles with bad shoes. Flip flops are bad shoes. In this dream I was wearing flip flops. I don’t remember starting the trail in the dream so I don’t know what the thinking was there. Maybe it was something along the lines of “Well, we forgot my hiking shoes but we drove all the way to Ga, might as well make the most of it with what I have.” I remember actually thinking maybe I could get someone to mail them to me.

After a few miles in flip flops I started to get a blister. Luckily there was a shelter there and I could hear people so I decided to stop. There was a big group of people doing trail magic. I don’t know if I’ve explained trail magic yet. The idea of trail magic stems from the idea that something good always happens when you most need it – someone offering a ride, or giving you a place to stay, or leaving some extra food they didn’t need for you. Over the years, this has grown from a coincidental thing into something people plan. People associated with the trail (former thru-hikers, weekend hikers, friendly people, etc) sometimes come out to the trail and spend a day giving out food, or putting sodas and beers in a cold stream for the hiker who happens to pass by, or doing other random acts of kindness. I’ll be talking more about trail magic in my post about my second practice hike, but in my dream it took the form of a large group doing a cookout at the shelter with hot dogs, burgers, etc. Now trail magic of this sort is usually meant for thru-hikers, although people sometimes offer it to weekend hikers as well. In my dream I didn’t want to take any food because I wasn’t a thru-hiker yet.

I’m not sure what happened next, but somehow I got around to opening my pack to see what other gear I had. Maybe I wanted to see if I had switched my hiking shoes and my flip flops, such that my hiking shoes were in my pack. I did happen to have my tent and sleeping bag, but no hiking shoes were to be found. Instead, for some reason I had 3 other pairs of flip-flops in my bag. I’m not sure what other gear I had or didn’t have, but as I was sifting through it all the trail magic group started packing up to leave. On their way out they asked if anybody needed anything else. I shouted “I need boots!” One of the men came over to me to try to help and looked through a bag to see what else he could find. What do you think he pulled out? That’s right, another pair of flip flops. Luckily that wasn’t all he had though! He also had a pair of sandals with the velcro straps – this would at least be better than the flip flops. He also had a pair of these – perhaps not the best option for hiking in. I’m not sure which footwear I chose because that’s about the time I woke up.

I don’t remember my dreams very often, so this one was a treat. I wonder how many other backpacking dreams I’ve had? It’s impossible to tell, but I’m guessing as March gets closer I’ll be having more dreams like this. Luckily real-life shouldn’t play out this way – I’ve done practice hikes so I know what gear I need and what I don’t need, and I have a gear checklist to make sure I don’t leave anything important. So mom, you can stop worrying 😉

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Two practice hikes down!

It has been a while since I posted last – its been busy! I’ve made a lot of progress in planning though. Here’s what I’ve done:

1) Gotten more gear. I used my REI dividend to pick up some loose ends, but I’m still thinking I need to replace a few items (more on that below)

2) Tried out some backpacking recipes. The wife is excited about preparing food and sending it to me. She has already made a few dinners that I took with me on my practice hikes. Some successful, others not. The “brick bread” will be a good joke for a long time 🙂 But that’s why we practice, right? Even when you follow recipes from books, sometimes they don’t work right without a few tweaks.

3) Created a fundraising page! Delta Society has hooked up with the online website FirstGiving. This allows me to create a personal fundraising page for my event. The proceeds automatically get sent to Delta Society. I’ll post more details in a separate fundraising link on the blog, so look for it soon!

Now, let’s get to the practice hikes. The first I did back in February, so I got a chance to try out my cold weather gear. I started out at Blackrock Parking lot in Shenandoah National Park. I got a late start to the day, only getting going around 12:45. From there I hiked north on the AT to Ivy Creek Spring where I refilled my water and grabbed some extra water for the night. At this point it was 4:30 but I decided to push on to Pinefield Hut. I got in right around 5:50 as it was getting dark, and its a good thing I did because I was bonking (for those of you not in sports, to bonk means you ran out of energy and hit the wall).

When I got to the hut someone was already there – a section hiker named Lazy River. He’s from MD and he’s a special education instructor. He’s also a big fan of Mountain House meals and was hoping to get to go to Philmont this summer as a chaperone to one of his students. I got to bed around 7:30 with the shelter all to myself since Lazy River sleeps in a hammock.

Day 2 I hit the trail around 8:15 with a goal of getting across the park over to Big Run. I hit the head of Rocky Mountain Run trail by 9:10 but was getting warm. The weekend turned out to be a terrible time to test my cold weather gear because it felt unseasonably spring-ish. I had to get a mile or so into the trail and find a good place to shed an under-layer. After that it was easy going and I got to the Big Run Portal trail by 11:40. I found a good campsite and by 12:30 I was sitting by the stream reading and snacking on gorp. Had dinner at 4:30 (actually cooked 2 dinners, I was hungry!) and was asleep by 7.

The bad thing about day 2 is that my left knee started hurting. The trail that day was mostly downhill and it seems my knee does not like downhills. I’ve never had knee problems before, so this is completely new to me. It is not runner’s knee (illiotibial band syndrome) because the pain is on the inside of the knee. However I’m sure it is a similar type of overuse injury. Because of the injury, instead of 4 days of hiking I cut the trip to 3. On day 3 I left camp at 9:30, hit the Big Run Loop trail at 11:20, and was back in Blackrock parking lot by 1:35.

Things I learned from this trip:
1) I have a knee problem. Who knew?
2) Stretch! Although I don’t know if it would have helped the knee, it doesn’t hurt to give your muscles a good stretch before/during a long day of walking.
3) If I had stayed another day I think I might have run out of fuel for cooking. Will need to be more measured in my approach to fuel and how many meals I cook.
4) Check batteries. My headlamp ran out of battery power (side note: since then I’ve decided it may have actually been a short in the headlamp).
5) Chapstick! I didn’t bring any and my lips paid the price. I’m sure Georgia will be similar, so I’ll have to remember to bring some.
6) Matches! I didn’t bring any, just a lighter. I realized pretty quickly how reliant I would be on that lighter – not a good idea to not have a backup way to cook my food.
7) Ibuprofen! For all those aches and pains, including the knee.

That’s a pretty long post. I’ll have to cut it there and post about my second practice hike another time, but let’s summarize. I learned a lot about my gear and my health. Day 1 I travelled 12.3 miles in just under 5 hours, day 2 I travelled about 6 miles in 3.5 hrs, and day 3 I travelled around 8 miles in 4 hrs for a total of around 26 miles. Using a total of 12.5 hours, that puts my average speed at just above 2 mph – not bad for someone starting out. When I hit Springer I’ll plan for 8 miles per day my first few days until I get my hiking legs under me. That means I only need to plan about 4 hours of hiking per day at my current pace, which also means I can take my time the first few days and still be on pace. Other than the knee I consider this hike a big success! Bring on Springer Mountain!

Categories: Gear, Training | 1 Comment

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