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!