My latest blog is up!
So many great things going on! I am just getting ready to complete my leapfrog and I’ll try to keep you posted!
My latest blog is up!
So many great things going on! I am just getting ready to complete my leapfrog and I’ll try to keep you posted!
My next post is 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.”
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!
The first week on the trail seems so surreal. I have done so much and yet, already, each day is blending into the next.
The names of mountains bounce around in my head, Big Cedar, Hawk, Blood Mountain, Springer, Powell, Kelly Knob. They’re are already too many for me to count.
I have gained my trail name, Bookie!
The people are amazing; Ghost, Moonlight, Rhythm, Rikki Tikki, Ambush, Arrow, Possum, Twig, and so many more!
There is something to be said for what you will eat on the trail. I have developed a trail appetite and creativity gains you points. Most common breakfast is oatmeal with carnation instant breakfast mixed in, this one thing has so much potential for adaptation!
Blisters, I know blisters, at least that is what I thought. But on day two, when between my toes was burning, I was perplexed. I had heard nothing of blisters between toes. I settled into my tent and looked at the situation, they seemed just little bubbles of annoyance, things that should go away. Go away they did. With needle and thread I punctured my blisters, leaving the thread in overnight allowing them to drain and settle.
This worked for one of them, the other two were more of a chronic issue, one where alternative options were needed. Toe socks it was!
When you’re too cold to function take care of your own basic needs. After a long day of hiking through rain and mist our arrival at the shelter was bleak as every other hiker on the trail in the surrounding 5 miles was there. I struggled to get fine motor function going, after trying to warm myself with hot food and good company I retreated to my tent to shiver through the beginning stages of hyperthermia where I dried off and regained the wonders of normal body functions.
First week in photos
In five weeks my meals will consist of food eaten out of pouches and Ziploc baggies where all you do is add water and voila! you have a meal. I have been blessed with the support of a small time local company, Good to Go. As they are less than a year old and working hard to meet the demands of their clientele I am extremely grateful for the discount they have offered me (every little bit helps!). Before I went off spending hard earned money on a bunch of food I had never tasted, and which I would be committing to eating for the next 6 months, I went out and purchased each of their flavors. All of their meals are GLUTEN FREE and VEGETARIAN. I started with the safest bet first, Classic Marinara with Penne, how can you go wrong? It was delicious, the simple marinara they used had great flavor and tasted fresh. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like sitting in my Italian grandmother’s kitchen or anything but it is by far the closest I’ll get while in the middle of the woods (my grandmothers’ are Russian and English, so I doubt you’ll find me at my Italian grandmothers kitchen any how). Make sure you allow the food to sit for 20-25min and I recommend giving it a stir half way through to make sure the water gets to all the pieces.
Second on my list was the Herbed Mushroom Risotto. This one was good but it wasn’t great. I struggled with rehydrating it, I believe it was operator error. I don’t know if I didn’t have my water at a full boil before I put it in or what but the rice just didn’t absorb the way it should have. I finished cooking this pouch meal on the stove. Once I had it all together things were better.
Third was the Smoked Three Bean Chili, this one also falls under the good but not great category. I don’t know, there was something missing and I again had operator error with the rehydration process. Problem with rehydrating food when you are hungry is you get impatient and don’t let it sit for the full rehydration period. I spent the next half hour picking half rehydrated beans out of my molars. Bonus this meal will last longer than any of the others!
Last but far from least was the Thai Curry. I was so nervous about this one I kept putting it off and putting it off but the time had come. I was in the midst of dehydrating some of my own spaghetti when I realized I didn’t have food planned out for my dinner. Thai Curry it was! I carefully opened the pouch and removed the oxygen absorber. I then took the pouch of powdered coconut milk and added it into the main meal. Poured the boiling water in, stirred it up and set it aside. I forgot about it as I spread portion sized quantities of sauce and spaghetti across my dehydrator trays. When I suddenly realized I hadn’t eaten I was trilled to see the package sitting there looking at me. As I opened it up the aroma of Thai spices filled the air, the sweet smell of coconut milk inviting me in. I looked into the pouch to see green veggies scattered across the top. The first bite was heaven! The flavors indescribable. I was excited to be sitting in my living room eating this meal out of a pouch! I was disappointed that I couldn’t scrape every piece out of the nooks and crannies of the pouch.
I have been slowly preparing meals to take on the trail with me but only in the past weeks have I come to truly understand the best way to put these meals together. I started with the concept of cooking up items individually and then mixing them in a bag to create a meal. The downfall to this is the individual parts of the meal don’t get cooked in the richness of the spices.
I enjoyed sautéing up veggies and mixing them into the store bought pasta sauce, adding egg to increase the protein and cooking the Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) right into it so it would fill with the flavor of the sauce.
When it was all said and done each tray held one portion, for the trail. The calorie count isn’t bad either. The sauce held about 140 calories, the pasta 420 calories and the TVP an additional 70 calories. With my second batch I sprinkled ground parmesan across the top adding an additional 20 calories. Each meal will provide me with @650 calories. This meal will be a “freezer bag meal” where all I need to do is open the freezer bag it is stored in pour hot (not boiling) water over it, tuck it into my freezer bag cozy and wait! Presto! meal should be done and ready to eat in 20 minutes.
My supplies are slowly making there way into my home. I am so excited to put together all of these awesome meals and start preparing my package drops. I just got my Goji berries and Figs so I can make my own protein bars! This is truly an experience of a life time!
And don’t worry in the midst of all of this food sampling and dehydrating I found time to take Star out to the woods where she could run about with a 4 pound pack on.
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