What the blazes?

Day 1

After a year of plotting and scheming I’m actually here about to walk the Appalachian Trail. If feels kind of surreal. I’m officially hiker 2288 with my own little orange badge. It’ll take approximately six months to get to Mt Katahdin in Maine.

(Obligatory pic with the arch)

I started at Springer Mountain after driving up a bouncy dirt road (thanks for braving that USFS road with me Dad!)

I’m pretty sure I was fueled by adrenaline and leftover caffeine that first hour. Thoughts of Aaaaaaah! Are you crazy? You’re really doing this!! played havoc on my brain. Thankfully that all settled at the first hill and I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

About a mile in I stopped at a shelter to finally ingest something (my nervous twittering from earlier prevented any proactive food consumption, dumb move really). There was guy from Tuscaloosa I met in the parking lot going the wrong way and so I helped him back to the trail. He suggested my trail name should be Compass. So there you go I got a trail name the first day. Which is actually really appropriate because my friends used to call me Mapquest back when that was a thing.

Up and down through bare limbed oaks with the sun in my face and light cool breeze I went. A grit mixture of old leaves and dust quickly pinpointed the hot spots on my heels making my decision to not buy gaiters an unfortunate one.

7.1 miles later I came to Hawk Mountain Shelter. I set up my tent all janky but I didn’t care because it blocked most of the wind and I fell asleep pretty early.

Day 2

I awoke to another beautiful cool day. Apparently while I was asleep a whole bunch of people came in and set up. I met up with Ree who was in the same registration “class” as me. Johnny from Arizona carried wood burning stove. Aaron proclaimed a love of all things weed. Bill was section hiking. We all fell into a leap frog group hiking, passing each other as the other stopped.

The real bitch of the day was Sassafrass mountain. A trail runner named Splitter going the opposite way said he had some cold sodas in the back of his truck at the bottom of the mountain. That Orange Crush was like a miracle to my mouth. Mostly because of the iciness I’m guessing.

Continuing on after our sugary treat, we entered back up into the pine forest laid thick with last year’s foliage. By this time the heat of the day baked the resinous needles over the hard packed clay trail and formed a distinct smell I associate with childhood memories of tromping about Pine Mountain. It’s a smell that gets stronger the louder the cicadas are.

But then we hit the damn Rhododendrons. They offered much needed shade I’ll give them that but they stink so bad. Like piss soaked cloth tarps covered in mold. Am I the only one that suffers their hellacious perfume? No one I’ve talked to seems to notice that devils waft.

The offending corridor of bad smell

Made it 7.6 miles to Gooch Mountain Shelter, where I was able to stay up long enough to do a little socializing. After the appropriate dose of Ibuprofen of course. A guy brought his ukulele and serenaded us with a Hawaiian version of “Why don’t you get a job” by the Offspring.

Day 3

I won’t say the going is easier yet, but I’ve quickly realized that going up has got to be done. So I just plod along. And that somehow makes it easier. Also the views today were motivating.

I’ve found a group of people to walk with just like I thought would happen. (See mom I’m not all alone!)

Ree the previously mentioned, who is guide for rafting and snowmobiling at Yellowstone. Dots has freckles (hence the name) and is a metal worker. Aaron, well I don’t know what he does, but I know his Mom is worried about him. Johnny was in the Army and is carting the heaviest pack I’ve seen so far.

Day 4

It’s hard to update this blog with the lack of usable signal. So I’m going to be short and sweet while I have signal.

Blood Mountain today.

Got to Neel’s gap. Ate much pizza. Am stinky. Feet hurt.

Hiker hunger hasn’t hit yet.

Gear List

This post is one of “those”.

A post about gear.

If the thought of slogging through a page of brand names and ounces makes your eyes glaze over then perhaps you should get out while the gettin’ is good.

For those of you that like to compare and contrast other’s gear lists with your own, welcome. Being that I haven’t been backpacking since I was a Girl Scout, I had to start from scratch. I scoured the interwebs for the lightest and cheapest of gear all while mentally checking off all the things I could live without. Soap, I can leave behind. But hand sanitizer, naw bruh. I’m a nurse, that’s like asking me to leave behind my legs.

 

THE LIST

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack – 32.7 oz

Six Moons Lunar Solo Tent – 24 oz

REI Joule 21 Sleeping bag – 35 oz

Sea to Summit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad Short – 20.1 oz

Sea to Summit Aero Ultralight Pillow – 2 oz

Snow Peak Litemax – 1.9 oz

Snow Peak Mini Solo Cookset – 5.5 oz

Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork Long – 0.4 oz

Fuel – 16 oz

Marmot Precip Rain Jacket – 11.4 oz

Bedrock Sandals – 9 oz

Petzl Tikka Headlamp – 3 oz

REI boys midweight long underwear (fit just fine, but was 50$ cheaper!!)

Darn Tough Socks

Ex-Officio Underwear

Hygeine (toothpaste, toothbrush, tweezers, nail clippers, foldable brush)

First Aid (Ibuprofen, bandaids, cortizone, neosporin, alcohol swabs, mole skin)

Aqua Mira Water treatment

Camp towel

2 bandanas

Sulu46 Tark Trowel

Cell phone (With Guthook’s App) and Cell phone battery

AT Guide (we’ll see how long I keep it)

Wallet

Small Journal and pen

 

Wearing:

Smartwool  Baselayer crew

Some Target exercise tights

Kuhl Shorts

Patagonia R2 Fleece

Patagonia Down Sweater

Hat and mittens

Buff

Darn Tough Socks

Ex-Officio Underwear

Salomon X Mission 3 Shoes

Black Diamond Hiking poles

20180416_145410
It looks like a lot of stuff.

Overall my pack weighs just under 12 lbs without food and water. My goal was 10 lbs, but even after paring all the stuff I thought “I might need”, still left me with things I KNOW I can’t live without.

For instance, the pillow. For some, that is a luxury, but I’ve tried to sleep with my jacket balled up in a sack, and I just can’t do it. To me, a good nights sleep is worth the extra 2 ounces.  I figure if that is what will keep me on the trail, then I’ll carry it.

When the weather warms up, I’ll be sending for my sleeping quilt which is considerably lighter (16.5oz). But the downside is that even thought it is rated to 30 degrees, a few sleepless nights in the 20s at Death Valley NP convinced me that a warmer sleeping bag is in order.

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See, it packs down pretty small.

Well, that’s it for the gear talk. I’ll post back later with what worked for me and what doesn’t.

 

 

 

 

Here I go…

If you made it to this blog, it means you are somewhat interested in my Appalachian Trail thru hike. I’ll try to not be boring, but I can’t promise anything.

The idea to hike the AT came to me while drinking, as these things often do, at an after party some time back when I played roller derby. Somebody there was planning to start their own thru hike and I yakked at them at length about their supplies and route. I get chatty when I drink.

I didn’t realize it then, but a bug got hold of me, and ever since have toyed with the idea of going myself. Life got in the way and I would forget and rediscover this latent desire of mine many times. It wasn’t until recently (meaning the past year) that I decided that 2018 was the year it is going to happen. And here I am, about to depart tomorrow to Springer mountain and undertake a monumental journey of epic proportions (for me anyway).

I’m 37 and haven’t been without a job or working towards one longer than a two months since I was 18. I have never been apart from my family for longer than three months. I’m overweight, out of shape and in no way physically or mentally prepared for this. If I waited for either of those stars to align, I’d never go.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

So if you feel like following along, check back here. I’m sure I’ll post of few times with some thoughts on the trail.