My next post is up at Appalachian Trials!
My next post is up at Appalachian Trials!
My next post is up at Appalachian Trials!
New blog up at Appalachian Trials!
After talking with fellow hikers it became apparent that I’m not getting the whole story of what trail life is like.
Here is the link to one of my hiking partners blogs:
B: “No Shame, what made you decide to hike the AT?”
NS: “I had no choice in the matter. My mother loaded me into a car, drove me to GA, put a 5 pound pack on me and told me we were hiking 2,189 miles home. But had it been my choice, I’d still be here.”
B: “what’s your favorite part of the trail so far?”
NS: “That’s hard to say there’s the food, bush wacking, chipmunks, leftovers, running, chipmunks, food, naps, chipmunks, belly rubs, food, and then there are chipmunks.”
B: “What’s your least favorite part?”
NS: “I don’t do slow, I want to be going fast, getting stuck behind the other hikers is extremely boring. Can you believe they sometimes tie me up!? Something about not listening when the chipmunks are yelling at me. I only have two ears and they are focused on the little furry buggers!”
B: “That sounds challenging to say the least. Are there any other tough situations you’ve been in?”
NS: “Being on trail isn’t easy and I work hard to look good. The other day I was FORCED to walk through the rain and even do some SERIOUS river crossings!!! Can you believe it?! I’d just had my nails done too!”
B: “After such long periods of time in the woods are you excited to get to town?”
NS: “It depends on the day. Some town days are awesome, I get hooked up with a hotel room while mom and the crew go shopping and often times they bring me special meals like raw chicken or beef! These are the best days because they take my pack off and just let me chill out! Other times I have to hang out side of stores while they dash around getting a couple items and then we head back to the trail. These days aren’t as much fun, my feet get hot, my pack weighs more and I only got a brief break from it.”
B: “Speaking of your pack, what can you tell me about it? ”
NS: “I’m spoiled. My mom tried a number of different packs on me but the big thing she focused on was that my pack wasn’t to big allowing me to carry too much weight and that my pack didn’t create any raw spots. Mom decided to buy me a custom fit pack from Ground Bird Gear (www.groundbirdgear.com). It was a little embarrassing getting my measurements done, but it was worth it. I love my pack and harness system. And don’t tell my mom this but sometimes I fake being tired or sore so she’ll carry the saddle bags.
The worst part of the pack is it inhibits my chipmunk chasing! Just the other day I was in hot pursuit of a chippy when suddenly I was launched backwards by the rhododendron bush I was trying to squeeze through.”
B: “If you had caught the chipmunk what would you have done with it?”
NS: “Eat it! Mom says if I catch it I can eat it. The chippy ‘s down here are much plumper and slower than up north. Not that I’m lacking in the food department. Me being me, I flashed my puppy smile and got sponsored some awesome food from The Honest Kitchen. Mom gets worried because I’m the only dog on trail gaining weight!”
B: “If you’re carrying your own food on trail that means you’re a working dog. Are there other jobs which are expected of you?”
NS: “I have plenty of jobs on trail. I herd my hiking group which includes “tracking” down any group members I believe to be lost, I distribute kisses to worthy people, I guard against bears – have asked a couple to leave camp at this point, and my most important job is be on sentry duty while my mom is going to the bathroom – a slightly embarrassing job but at least I don’t have to clean up after her!”
B: “With so much work do be done do you ever find time to enjoy yourself?”
NS: “The trail offers lots of opportunities for fun. I love chasing things that move, rabbits, chipmunks, birds, grasshoppers, and more! I’ve discovered snakes do not fall in the category of moving, but turtles are fun to cuddle with. I enjoy playing in mud and shallow streams, and when the ‘adults’ get boring I find a stick, I’m surrounded by them, and spend some time chewing.”
The trail is a physical strain and a mental game. In the past three weeks more than 7 people I know have left the trail. The heat is increasing, the miles are getting longer and the people are getting fewer. Each time someone leaves it makes you question your own intentions.
The past couple days on trail have been the most difficult for many reasons; the terrain although different is no “easier” despite the chant given by prior thru hikers that “Virginia is flat and easy”, the heat and humidity has been off the charts, and my hiking group has dispersed. Now all of these have simple solutions, or so it may seem from the outside.
But trail time is different, as is the perspective of hiking day in and day out as miles pass beneath your soles. The truth about Virginia is not that it’s any easier but your strength as a hiker has increased. Hike around the heat and humidity, start early, siesta and hike into the night, but that only works if you don’t have an unfounded fear of the dark. Find a new group and redesign your “trail family”, and then hike into the night with someone you just met.
With so many thoughts coursing through my mind I felt it pertinent to share some of the wonders of my trail time. Every day is not always filled with smiles, I have cried more times than I know, both from physical pain and the mental games of the trail. Despite those moments I find extreme joy and happiness in the world and people surrounding me.
And after two fails of uploading pictures I believe you’ll have to enjoy only a glimpse of my journey for today.
Coming out here, to the AT, I was nervous. I was alone with my dog headed into the great unknown.
The trail is your teacher. No matter how much you know or what plan to gain from it, it is the trail which guides and provides for you.
I came onto the trail with a decent amount of trail knowledge already tucked into my back pocket. I understood how to make camp, hang a bear bag, cook food and respect leave no trace (LNT).
What I didn’t bring with me was a bottle of mace, a big knife, or an ego.
The first week was a learning curve as I rediscovered what legs can do (lots and lots of walking) and that it is possible to meet people and in the course of a day know you’ll be friends for a long time to come. In the same respect I’ve also met people and realized it was fine if they kept on walking.
As a person on the trail I feel no less equipped than any other person. There is a common phrase, hike your own hike (HYOH), which is repeated over and over again as a mantra. People can provide ideas, information, and experiences but it is up to you to accept them, or leave them, and move forward. Here are a few things which apply to me as a hiker, and a woman. MEN there may be more info than you are interested in knowing, than again it may provide you with a good conversation piece.
When it comes to hiking alone. Go. Do it. You will meet amazing individuals who will fill the space and you will no longer be “alone”. These remarkable people will become your “trail family” or contacts throughout your time on the trail. When predefined groups enter the trail they often interact amongst themselves and don’t reach far to make new connections
When you meet these wonderful folks on the trail do yourself and them a favor, don’t shake hands. During the first week on trail I offended more people by opting out of handshakes and here is why I opted out; having just left a privy I was headed for my tent to snag my hand sanitizer when someone asked for direction to the water source. I rattled them off quickly and was going to continue on when he introduced himself and offered a hand. I started to extend mine when I suddenly realized I hadn’t sanitized yet and withdrew my hand rapidly while explaining, “sorry, I just hit up the privy and haven’t cleaned up yet.”
The response was all I needed to know never shake a hikers hand. “That’s ok!”
I don’t touch hands with other hikers, I don’t reach into offered food bags, and I don’t accept food unless I’ve seen them pouring food from it. An elbow is the closest thing you’ll get to a fist bump from me.
The “trail diet” is a fascinating thing. You eat what you see, and anything else which crosses your path, bugs, dirt, etc. You will be counting calories but in a whole new way. When I pick an item up and the calories for a single serving are below 150 I tend to reconsider eating it. I want items where the calories are over 200 and I can make a hearty meal with over 1,200 calories. Despite this style of dieting I have dropped 30 pounds in the past 6 weeks. Town days are a thing of gluttony, double servings of pretty much any meal I order and ice cream is a must.
Now onto the good stuff!
Peeing in the woods isn’t all bad. I won’t lie, men have a distinct advantage when it comes to peeing in the woods UNLESS you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and give the Pstyle a go. I swear by this female urinary device.
There are numerous ones out there but I have heard this one has advantages, the urine doesn’t back up so it’s not a guessing game whether it is empty. BUT don’t think it’s all peaches and cream. This thing takes practice, some say best done at home, than again necessity pushes you to be more accurate. I have days which I label my 85% accuracy days. Yup, we all have a learning curve. These are laundry days. Days where I was in a rush or didn’t focus on the task at hand and ended up “leaking”. It’s ok, in my mind those days are few and far between.
The convience to be able to stand on the side of a mountain and take a moment to enjoy a “vista piss” and not worry about exposing myself to a crew above makes every learning curve worth it. Or the day I’d reached a mountain top before the rest of my group and sidled up behind a tree. Having just rinsed off the Pstyle I hear a cry “did I catch you pissing?! Because if I did you just made my day!” Glad his day was made…
Women, I know you are all thinking about the frustrations or concerns regarding menstruation while on the trail. Really it’s nothing. Yes it may require a little extra time to clean up but truth be told it’s simple. Options have changed and we are better informed. It is up to you how you want to manage while hiking, using either, pads, tampons, or the ever increasing in popularity, menstrual cup.
I hear concerns from women about how to pack out used items. Ziploc bags. Everyone has their own way, cover the bag in duct tape to strengthen it and keep items out of sight. Some use a coffee bag to store their ziplocs in, and toss a coffee bean in the bottom to cover perceived odors. Personally I don’t want to carry anything out and find the menstrual cup to be highly effective.
The concern about cleanliness and this are no different than any other situation, if your hands are in that area, you want them clean to start. Take time to plan your day accordingly, give yourself extra time at lunch to take care of business. Personally I opt out of using privys as I find the woods to be more sanitary.
If you want to go out and enjoy the trail go and do it. Become one with nature! You will define your adventures!
Today is filled with excitement! I have made it one month on the trail! I am still excited by the prospect of what is around the next bend or the view from the next rise. To celebrate my time on the trail I spent a moment and flipped through my AWOL trail guide, using a pencil to mark up the pages with notes on my journey. As days pass you fall into the routine; wake up, pack up your gear, poop, make breakfast, pee, hit the trail, eat, hike, hike, eat, pee, eat, set up camp, pee, eat, pee, and sleep, It’s hard to pick out the moment you saw an incredible view or paused to take a picture of a snail on the trail. These are memories I want to keep fresh.
A quick idea of what I’ve accomplished in the past month:
-Crossed into 3 of the 14 states the AT travels through
-Hiked more than 200 miles
-Have less than 2000 miles to reach Katahdin, Maine
-Summited the highest peak on the AT, Clingmans Dome, 6,655′
-Completed a 17 mile slack pack
-Made it up a 3000′ elevation gain in 6 miles
-Crossed through the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest
-Guided a raft trip down the Nantahala
-Combined some interesting food, seen even odder combinaions made
-Experienced amazing “trail magic”
Am living life and enjoying every second of it! So happy to have celebrated my birthday on the trail!
In the hiker world there is a lingo you quickly learn.
The ability to consume huge amounts of food without effort.
The odd combination of foods which you’d not normally consider combining, peanut butter and tuna.
There is also a point where hikers discover a whole new type of challenge, not the day to day drone back in society