I’ve posted a new gear list reflecting what actually went with me on my last trip (training hike #3). I added grams where I’ve been able to measure in grams so that I can be more precise about my weights. Since March I’ve traded out for a lighter pack, I’ve cut a bunch of miscellaneous items, and got a new stove and cook kit. My skin-out base weight (absolutely everything except food/water, including clothes) is somewhere around 20 pounds. That includes 2 pounds for my boots.
Two things about my boots:
1) I don’t plan to keep them long. I’ll probably drop them around the time I leave the Smokeys and switch to trailrunners. I want to start with them because of the colder weather and GA tends to be rainy in March. I took advantage of REI’s sale last week to buy a pair of Vasque Mindbender trailrunners (only 23 oz!) to wear around the house to try out. If I like them, they’ll be my second pair of shoes.
2) To get my legs used to the weight of boots I’m going to wear them a lot for a couple weeks before I start the trail so they feel normal instead of feeling heavy.
What could I still do? My water bladder is a little on the heavy side, so I could trade that out. I know my tent isn’t optimal either – I could always trade into a Tarptent, but I really like my tent. I was carrying an extra fuel canister because I don’t know yet how fast my stove uses fuel (The second one was unnecessary), I could potentially use a lighter knife, and I plan to drop the book in March. All of these besides the tent are pretty small changes, getting me at most a pound lighter. I feel pretty good about where I am now, and am pretty confident I could carry this gear the whole trail. I’m sure I’ll end up making some more changes, but they will likely be small.
Quick update before work:
I had meant to try to look up some of the thru-hikers I had met before writing the last post to see if they had trail journals. Turns out Manparty and Lush have what looks to be an awesome journal, complete with caption contests and fun songs they made up on the trail! Check it out:
Hobos In Love
So I was right about not being the only one at the shelter. Soon after posting, a group of 6 men arrived. They had started around Swift Run Gap and were working their way south, trying to get to Rockfish Gap by Monday. Then more came. And more. By bedtime we had a completely full camp, with the shelter almost full and all of the tent sites taken! The best part? We had some southbounders camping with us! There were about 5 or 6 of them, including Manparty, Lush, and Easy. Manparty and Lush are a husband/wife team. The husband thru-hiked southbound 9 years ago, but his wife wanted to do it too, so they’re doing it together. I got to pick their brains for a little while about thru-hiking, but didn’t get too much new info. I think that means I’m ready for my own hike!
For the last day I started out south on the AT and got to Riprap Trail pretty quickly. The plan for the whole weekend had been to stay within a day’s hike of the car in case my knee started acting up. Instead of acting up it actually felt better as the weekend went on. I think the hiking actually helped strengthen it, so I’m much more confident about starting in March with 5 months left to get the knee back to 100%. So instead of turning down Riprap for another day in the wilderness, I kept hiking another 5 miles or so to get back to the car and return home. Better to get home healthy than stay out another day and risk another injury. About the time I got to my car some thru-hikers were passing me so I gave them my dinner for the night and some of my leftover food to enjoy before heading home.
Things I learned this trip?
1) Take it easy. I’ve always planned only 8 miles or so my first week or two in March. I shouldn’t have been trying to do more than that on my training hikes. This is the first time I’ve really taken it slow, and it paid off.
2) Chapstick. I forgot it again. I need to remember it in March.
3) I’m still taking a little bit too much food. That’s better than the alternative, but only slightly.
4) Northbounders are whiners. This is according to Manparty, who has hiked southbound twice. I think he’s biased.
So, the plan now is to continue working out at the gym to stay in shape, continue fretting over every ounce of weight in my pack, and somehow stay calm as I wait for March to get here.
Day 3 is in the books! Today wasn’t nearly as interesting as yesterday. I did see 4 horses/riders on the Moorman River trail. That trail is pretty spooky – being right on the edge of the park there are more ruins along with lots of barbed wire and posted signs. I saw an old schoolbus that must have been there for years! I also noticed that some of the leaves, sugar maples especially, have started changing colors. Should be some really pretty views up here in a week or two.
The knee still feels pretty good. I’ve decided the key is going to be to take it slow the first 2 weeks (its a marathon, not a sprint), stretch a lot, and keep wearing the magical knee strap!
I’m the only one at the shelter right now but with it being a holiday weekend I don’t expect it to stay that way for long! Hoping for some good company before tomorrow’s true backcountry night!
Pretty good day today, full of odd sights. The day started out slow enough – had breakfast, got some water from the spring. Although I was the first into the campsite yesterday, I was the last to leave today. That’s ok though because I didn’t have as many miles planned as everyone else.
I was on the Moorman River trail by 9:30. Saw some wildflowers growing (see picture) and followed the river down the mountain. First I saw some ruins – if you hike in Shenandoah long enough you’re bound to see some of these. These were especially cool though because of the tree growing on top of them! (Top left of pic) Then I saw a magical floating leaf! (Note: the leaf wasn’t truly magical but had some help from a spider) Finally I was unfortunate enough see someone’s naked bum. As I came around a corner I happened upon a skinny dipper enjoying a rope swing that had been set up at one of the pools in the river. Needless to say there is no picture! Once he noticed me he was polite enough to pull his drawers back on.
Cut the day short around 2:00 and now I’m enjoying some relaxing sun on some rocks in the middle of the river next to my campsite. Knee still feels good, although some of the muscles started to tighten up when I stopped. I took some vitamin I (ibuprofen) as thru-hikers like to call it, and I’ll do some stretches/exercises in a little while. I’m optimistic that I’m back on track for March!
Time to see about some grub and enjoy the picturesque campsite a bit more!