Saturday, March 29, 2014

On the road

No sleep last night too excited, I tossed and turned all night. Nerves were keeping me from sleeping as I thought about sleeping under the stars and being out on the trail, did I have everything I needed? Would I overslept and miss the alarm. I finally gave up on sleep at 4 a.m. I checked my phone to find it wasn't charging so we would need to stop at a cell phone store on the way to GA.My ride  arrived about 8:30 and we set off. Sarah, Anna, Terry and I headed south, Georgia bound.

Packed and ready

Sarah's Mom sent goodies and they were amazing! Thank you!

 We stopped and got a new cell battery to solve my phone issue hopefully and were on our way passing through thunderstorms. We stopped off for some quick drinks and gas while Sarah got a fried pie and some Limon Pepino gatorade (matched her shoes). She is very green machinish now! She broke out her harmonica and I brought a recorder we are going to come up with something fun later. We are super exhausted and going to sleep good tonight. Last night in a bed until idk when. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Two sleeps

Today was my last day of work before my first real vacation in a few years. I have taken two to three days off but never this many days unless it was for school. As you can imagine, I am very excited. I spent my evening washing my clothes for the trail, it will be the last time they probably smell this good. I switched some last minute gear selections and added a pillow to my gear list. It is so soft, definitely a luxury item and I am happy to have it because I don't usually sleep well with clothes stuffed under my head and after doing that for a year I am ready for an upgrade. 

Tomorrow I will be running errands, finalizing loose ends and putting MUSIC on the ipod my friend Mimi will be dropping to me tomorrow ;). It will be so nice to have my music to play while I am hiking or in camp, etc; and this will also allow me to do some videoing while I am out on a stickpic. I haven't found a way yet to put bideos on her from my phone, but hopefully I will be able to share them while I am still on the trail. 

I thought I would be more nervous, but fortunately the nerves seem to be fading and excitement is mostly what I am feeling. This will be a big adventure for me out of a few comfort zones for me. I will be meeting Sarah, Anna and Terry for the first time. This will be the longest ive been out on the trail or backpacking and the longest amount of miles I have done. Not to mention all the normal zones you cross just living in the woods. Some have asked will I stop at restaurants and are their hotels on the trail so I thought I would explain a little further. I will be living out of my backpack, I will be mostly sleeping in my tent or at shelters along the AT. Every few days there will be a town that we can access via hitchhiking or possibly by shuttle if available and we can get enough signal to call. At those stops we will restock on fuel, supplies, possibly do laundry and shower if it is available.  We may stay or visit a hostels and stay at a hotel if need be. When walking the trail you are forced to "go with the flow." You can set a small schedule, but it seems pretty impossible to truly say exactly where you will be in anymore than three/four days and even then it gets tricky. Therefore we arr not setting our plans in stone and we are going to decide as we go. We do know a few places we would like to visit. So hopefully we will get to those. I have sent ahead two mail drops just to help diversify my food choices and so I don't have to go into a town if I don't want to. This will resupply my food for me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Gettin' REAL

Say what? Excitement is kicking in!! 
Practicing the technique of balaclava making with my wool buff, check this works!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gear List

I will only be taking the pages I need

EMS Spindrift Gaiters Love these so far and inexpensive

Womens Columbia Rain Pants

Marmot Storm Sheild Rain/wind jacket
Cold weather running pants thin fleece like lining

GSI Minimalist cookset

Outdoor Resarch recycled reversible 2 oz. beanie

6 oz. Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

Osprey Kestrel 48L (true size 46 L)

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 degree

MSR Pocket Rocket

Above and below show the NeoAir X lite Womens, R-value 3.9

2L Platypus

Pocket Rocket (demonstrates size) Stove

Sawyer Squeeze Mini (water filtration)

Fav piece* Smart Wool mid weight

3 pairs Smart Wool Socks

Above and below show my Tent the Copper Spur UL2

* all photos are from google images and are not personal pictures and have been duplicated for the purpose of demonstrating gear*

Water dilemas and choices

Ironically it is not clothing I am having the most difficulty with deciding what to leave behind, it is not going without make up or GASP, deodorant! I am quite ready to get down and dirty on the trail so to speak, but what I am having trouble with is leaving behind one water treatment source!!!

Seriously, why can't I just decide? Well, I love the ease of Aquamira.. a few drops of this and that in a cap and walla poor into your water container and boom you are set. BUT, Aquamira can't claim it kills Giardia, and Cryptosporidium, what is that you may or may not know, but just know they make both can make you very ill. Crypto is not as prevalant as far as I know, but Giardia is. As someone who runs a dog rescue I am all too familiar with how common this nasty bug is. After doing some research I read that it does in fact kill it but after 4 hours of treatment, but the claims are withheld during a patent  period.

My second choice is the Sawyer Squeeze Mini, it kills everything, but I like to drink a lot and like my water bladder. I am just not sure I will have the flow I want with the squeeze and I would need a attachment to use it with a water bladder or filter water into my bladder ( this I think would be all too time consuming and a lot of work ). Decisions decisions! What do you guys like? Has anyone had some experience with the Sawyer Mini and a water bladder?

Oh one more thing... reason I love my bladder is because I just can't reach water bottles in my side pockets and the ease of drinking and hiking is awesome. :)

Packing and repacking

I am packing and re packing, things are coming together. I took out a few things and will be adding a few in with a delivery coming early this week from zpacks. However, with the impending snow expected this week in the Georgia Mountains it looks like I may add an additional sleeping pad. These combos are used in winter camping and help boost r-value of your sleeps system. This just means it gives you a better barrier against the cold ground.
The ziplock in the front pocket is what I a wearing on hiking day :) It will not stay in that pocket
Love this book, very insightful !!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two uses?

There is a saying when packing for the trail, if it doesnt have two uses then you probably shouldn't bring it. This post I found in backpacker magazine shows some funny and original ways to make dual uses out of some common items.

P.S. duct tape is always multipurpose. Never hit a trail without it in my opinion. It worked better for me than moleskin on blisters, cuts, etc., wrap around your trekking pole and boom your ready!

How and what do you use in two or more ways on the trail? I'd love to hear some creative ideas. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Weigh in

So I am pretty nervous about stuffing all my gear, food and water in my48 L pack. So today I decided to load up and get weighed in. I grabbed my pack, the food I bought and what I think will suit me for four days and took it down to the local trail store to weigh it and all of my gear. I am pushing this pack to its limits and have it bursting at the seems, see below. I over packed a bit to account for a few things coming in the mail still, plus some extra clothes. I basically want a "how bad" could it get estimate. You know the kind where I picture my arms falling off, my knees giving out and my body giving way like a tooth pick. Leaving me to lay on the trail like a (dirt) barbie doll that someone decided to pluck apart for fun. So ....33 pounds it is! I topped out at my max!

This is good news ....right? Well my knees are screaming already, so maybe not. I am not the strongest person in the world and my legs haven't seen the gym in a while. However, their is hope and the key word was "how bad" lets talk "how good."This means with some careful scrutiny and a personal shakedown as well as a long talk with my insecurities I should be able to drop a few lbs. I know I can get this baby down to 30, but now the mission is to get it to 27. That is 6 lbs. Almost all my food. Right now that weighs in at 5.5 lbs. This was a good test and the next step is to scale back and get creative. I will keep you posted and feel free to comment suggestion, plights and your experiences with falling apart literally on the trail due to weight as this may motivate me further. ;)
Bursting, literally at the seems

Beast of burden = ticket to FREEDOM

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2013 Adventures


UPDATE: Anna and I are going to share a tent, so that will reduce my weight for a week. I have also switched out a few things in this picture and I have added some others. You may want to take a look at my updated post "Gear List."
Ah, such neat little packages begging to jump in my bag, ready to go for an adventure. Hard to believe you can live out of a backpack with limited items for an extended period of time. I will have enough gear to be able to live on the trail for as long as I need to. Food supplies will come from various towns along the way. The only clothes I will have during this time will be two sets of clothing.I will be wearing the same thing day after day for the most part and have a second pair of clothing for camp. This doesn't leave much for decisions,  making life much easier and simple.

This isn't everything going into my bag but this was one of the first times I played around with some of my new gear eying up what I might pack, take and wear.

My pack a 48 Liter so I will be working to shove and stow what I can and minimize weight every way possible. Looks like Anna and I may be sharing the tent, if so that will drop each of our pack weights, I am super happy about that possibility. :)
From top left: Mountain Hardwear 0 degree Phantom down sleeping bag, Patagonia Down Sweater, Thermarest NeoAir Xlite, Sea to Summit dry sack (not going now), clothes for sleeping and hiking (two separate sets), Sawyer Mini Squeeze water filter, Patagonia nano puff, Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2, Paracord 50', MSR Pocket Rocket, GSI minimalist,  and Aquamira. I am undecided on water treatment but leaning toward Aquamira with cold temps I hear the squeeze freezes up. I can use that later in the spring summer on additional hikes and trips. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Georgia bound

In two weeks I will be headed off to Springer Mountain Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail starting at the southern terminus. From there I will start heading northbound with two new friends of mine, Sarah  and Anna. I met them through social media forums and the day they pick me up will be the first day we actually meet in person. I cant wait!

I'm very excited to about this new adventure as I will be hiking 100 or more miles of the trail and living in the woods  for the first time for anywhere between 10 and 14 consecutive days. Although I would prefer to be thru hiking which would mean that I would be on the trail from 4 to 6 months heading from Georgia to Maine, this is just not the right time. This will be my first 100 mile continuous section hike and will give me a taste of what I will be able to experience in the future when I do thru hike.

While I am on the trail I will be carrying roughly 30 pounds in my backpack that I will be living out of during that time. I'm hoping to update this blog as I go so you can share in my adventures with me and to also let family and friends know that I'm doing okay where I am and show you some of the things I'm going to be seeing while I am out there.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Trail food

What does one eat on the trail you might wonder, basically high calorie, high protein and high fat foods. Primarily things you would rarely or never eat in normal life. I am usually a bit of a health conscious girl but things change when you hike because hikers burn a significant amount of calories per day. The average is about 5,000 calories per day. I wont be out for quite that long so I am hoping I wont need to eat as much either.  However, I will pack enough just in case at least for the first few days. By then I should have a better feel for how and what I want on the trail. For now this will be my food...Mmmm yum right?!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Trail Terms

 Here are some terms that are frequently used by an Appalachian Trail hiker.  They can be pretty easy, sometimes outrageous and usually entertaining, it is a language that virtually everyone who has spent any time on the trail uses on a daily basis.

2000 Miler is a person who has hiked the entire distance between termini of the official (white-blazed) A.T., either by thru-hiking or section hiking.

A.L.D.H.A.:  The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association began in 1983 as an off-trail family of fellow hikers who’ve all shared similar experiences, hopes and dreams on the Appalachian Trail and other long trails. ALDHA sponsers the Gathering each October and member volunteers compile the The THru-hikers' Companion for the ATC. Membership in this nonprofit group is open to all.

Alpine Zone:  The area consisting of all the land above tree line in New England. The alpine zone is best defined by its plant life. Conifers such as spruce and balsam grow as Krumholz near the tree line, giving way to tundra-type lichens, moss, and shrubs above.

A.M.C.:  The Appalachian Mountain Club, maintaining the AT in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Grafton Notch in Maine.

AMC Huts:  In New Hampshire's White Mountains, in heavy use areas and above treeline, the AMC provides buildings called Huts for backpackers to stay overnight.

A.T.C.:  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy The Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) is a volunteer-based, private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation, management, and promotion of the Appalachian Trail as a primitive setting for outdoor recreation (on foot) and for learning. ATC is both a confederation of Trail-maintaining clubs and an individual-membership organization.

Avery, Myron:  Myron Avery, 1931-1952the first 2000 miler, and the man credited with building the Appalachian Trail. Chair of the ATC from 1931 until his death in 1952. More on early AT persons and history:

AYCE:  “All You Can Eat” Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets are very popular with hungry hikers.

Bald:  A low elevation mountain surrounded by forest yet devoid of trees on the crown. Typically covered with meadows, balds can offer great views and are a good place to find wild berries, they also attract much wildlife. A southern term.

Baseball Bat Shelter: An old style of shelter construction in Maine where the floor would be constructed out of parallel logs each with diameters not much greater than that of a baseball bat.

Baxter:  Baxter State Park, where Katahdin is, and the AT's Northern terminus on Baxter Peak.

Bear Bag:  The bag used by hikers to hang their food out of reach of bears and other critters, see 'Food Bag.'

Bear Cable:  A permanent cable rigged high between two trees, specifically for hanging bear bags.

Blackflies:  There are about 40 species of these tiny biting insects that breed in running water and flourish in late May and June in Maine. These critters are the cause for most people to hike the AT south to north; they are so aggressive that they tend to drive hikers off the trail.

Bivouac:  To sleep outdoors without a tent or proper gear, usually done only in emergency situations. Though alpine climbers may do planned bivouacs on long and difficult routes, carrying gear known as a bivouac sack.

Bivy Sack: Is a lightweight and waterproof bag that covers a sleeping bag. Simple, sometimes cramped shelter.

Blazes: Are painted, 2-inch by 6-inch, vertical white rectangles that are placed at eye height on trees and other objects, in both directions, to mark the official route of the Trail. Side trails are marked with blue blazes. You see horizontal, diagonal, arrows, and other blazes along the Trail.

Blaze Orange: A very bright, visible in low light, hue of orange. The color to wear during hunting season.

Blow-Down: A tree or shrub that has fallen across the Trail. Trail Maintainers have dozens of words to describe each kind of fallen tree.

Blue Blaze: Spur trails off the AT to bad-weather routes, views, shelters, water sources etc are often marked by AT style blazes painted Blue.

Blue-Blazer: A long-distance hiker who substitutes a section of blue-blazed trail for a white-blazed section between two points on the Trail.

Bog Bridge: A narrow wooden walkway placed to protect sensitive wetlands.

Bounce Box: A mail-drop type box containing seldom-used necessities that is 'bounced' ahead to a town where you think you might need the contents.

Bushwhack: To hike where there is no marked trail.

Cache (pronounced cash): is a supply of food and/or supplies hidden for later retrieval.

Cairn: An obviously manmade pile of rocks erected as a trail marker. Chiefly used above timberline. Should be close enough to see the next one in heavy fog, and high enough to see above fallen snow.

Cannister Stove:  The type of small backpacking stove that uses metal cans of fuel.

Caretaker: The person who maintains and collects fees at certain shelters and campsites.

Cat Hole: A small hole dug by a hiker for the deposit of human waste.

Col and Sag: Typically dips in the ridge without a road, while Gap and Notch are typically larger dips that have a road going through. Sag is a typically southern term, as is Gap, while Col and Notch are typically northern terms. Water Gap, is of course, a Gap with a river.

Companion:  The ALDHA Thru-Hikers' Companion is an AT guidebook compiled by AHLDA volunteers for the ATC.

Cove:  A Southern Appalachian word meaning a high, flat valley surrounded by mountains. Cades Cove in the Smokies is the one most people know about.

Corridor:  The Appalachian Trail is a long and narrow Park, sometimes less than 100 feet wide. The Area set aside for the AT to pass within is called the Trail Corridor.

Cowboy Camping: Where one camps without any shelter - just spread one's pad and bag out under the stars and putting one's faith in their opinion about the weather staying dry.

Croo: The crew of caretakers who man the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts. For the most part, the summer Croo will be college students.

Data Book: Published for over 25 years by the ATC the Data Book is a consolidation of the most basic guidebook information into a lightweight table of distances between major Appalachian Trail shelters, road-crossings, and features--divided according to the guidebook volumes and updated each December to account for Trail relocations, new (or removed) shelters, and other changes. Now keyed to both guidebook sections and maps.

Dead Fall: A maintainer's term for a fallen dead tree across the trail.

DEET:  A powerful insect repellant. Don’t leave home without it.
Double Blaze:  Two blazes, one above the other as an indication of an imminent turn or intersection in the trail. Offset double blazes, called Garveys, indicate the direction of the turn by the offset of the top blaze.

Dead Fall: Fallen dead trees across the trail. This term is used by maintainers all the time.

Dodgeways: V-shaped stiles through fences, used where the Trail passes through livestock enclosures.

Duct Tape:  A wide, heavy duty, and multi purpose tape used by hikers for everything from covering blisters to repairing gear.

End-to-Ender: An alternative term for 2,000-Miler.

Fall Line: The fall line is the most direct route downhill from any particular point. The Appalachian Trail runs the fall line in much of New England.

Flip-Flop: A term used to signify a hiker that starts hiking in one direction then at some point decides to jump ahead and hike back in the opposite direction. Some hikers on the AT will start hiking northbound from Springer Mt. and usually at Harpers Ferry they may decide to go to Katahdin and hike back down to Harpers Ferry, thus completing their thru-hike. This is a good way for someone to still get their hike completed if they are behind and their time is limited due to the oncoming winter.

Food Bag:  A bag a hiker carries in their pack specifically for keeping all their food in. It is typically suspended from a tree at night so bears and varmints don't get into it. Also called Bear Bag.

FSO 'From Skin Out.' When considering the weight of gear, its important to remember that your total gear weight 'from the skin out' is as important a total as what your pack weighs.

GAME or GAMER: A hike or hiker going from Georgia to Maine.

Gap: A southern term for a low spot along a ridge line, called a col by northern individuals.

Garvey, Ed:  Ed Garvey 1914-1999 Celebrated friend of the AT, conservationist, thru-hiker, author of 1971s 'Appalachian Hiker' an adventure story that offered practical advice for AT hikers, and widely credited with popularizing backpacking and the Appalachian Trail. A 'Garvey' is a double blaze where the top blaze is offset to indicate the direction of a turn in the Trail.

Gear Head: A hiker whose main focus is backpacking and outdoors gear.

Giardia: More properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines cause by the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia. Giardia resides in water so it is wise to always chemically treat or filter your water before drinking. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, loss of appetite and vomiting. Also know as, a backpacker’s worst nightmare.

GORP: “Good ole raisins & peanuts”, or some other variation thereof. Also known as Trail Mix.

Gray Water: (Dirty dishwater.) Some campsites will have designated spots to dump your gray water. Such designated spots may be provided with a strainer so that you can remove your food particles from the gray water and pack those out.

Ground Control: Hiker support that handles the 'real world' concerns like bills and pets, and mails a hiker packages. Also known as Trail Support.
Handbook: The Thru-hiker's Handbook is an AT guidebook compiled by Dan Bruce.

Harpers Ferry: The ATC's National Headquarters and Information Center is located in Harpers Ferry WV, about 1000 AT miles north of Springer Mountain. A short blue blazed trail leads to HQ, where AT hikers traditionally sign the register and have their photo taken. This is the psychological halfway point on the AT.

Headlamp: A small flashlight attached to a band or strap and worn on the head.

Hicker: A person who is still trying to figure out the whole hiker/gear thing while on the trail.

Hiker Box: A cabinet or box at hostels where hikers donate unwanted food for the hikers coming behind them.

Hammock: A sleeping system that combines a tent and sleeping bag, hung between two trees.

Hostel: An establishment along the trail that has bunks, showers, and sometimes cooking and mail drops, for AT hikers.

Hydration System: An 'improvement' on drinking out of a bottle, consists of a plastic bladder, hose, and mouth piece/valve that allows hands free drinking.

HYOH: “Hike your own hike”, and not imitate someone else's.

Hypothermia: Potentially fatal condition caused by insufficient heat and a drop in the body's core temperature. Classic symptoms are call the 'umbles', as the victim stumbles, grumbles, mumbles, and fumbles with confused thoughts.

Iceberg: Icebergs are large rocks planted in the ground at an overused campsite to discourage any more tenting.

Katahdin: The AT's northern terminus is at Baxter Peak on Maine's Katahdin. Katahdin is a Penobscot Indian word meaning Greatest Mountain.

Knob: A prominent rounded hill or mountain. A southern term.

Lean-to:  Another word for a three sided open shelter, used primarily in New England.

Long-Distance Hiker:  A somewhat indeterminate term applied to anyone who is hiking more than a few weeks, and who usually has to re-supply at least once during his or her hike; often used interchangeably with the term thru-hiker. At Baxter State Park, a LDH is someone who has hiked in from 100 or more miles south.

LNT:  'Leave No Trace', a philosophy and skill used to pass as lightly as possible when backpacking.
It also means that you pack-out all your trash and leave no visible signs that you were there.

Long Trail: Vermont's Long Trail runs from the Massachusetts to Canadian border, the southern third in conjunction with the AT.

MacGyver: Based on an old TV show where the hero would construct useful devices out of common materials. To hikers it means to build or repair gear with imagination.

MacKaye, Benton:  Benton MacKaye (rhymes with high, not hay) is the man who in 1921 proposed an Appalachian Trail as the connecting thread of a 'project in regional planning." MacKaye envisioned a trail along the ridge crests of the Appalachian Mountain chain from New England to the Deep South, connecting farms, work camps, and study camps that would be populated by eastern urbanites needing a break from the tensions of industrialization.

Mail Drop:  Mail drops are a method of re-supply while hiking. A mail drop is usually made ahead of time, before the hike starts, and a person not hiking (usually a spouse or relative, but it can be a friend) mails the package according to a pre-arranged schedule so that it arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at the post office.

Maintainer: A volunteer who participates in the organized Trail-maintenance programs of the ATC and its member clubs.

MEGA or ME-GA: A hike or hiker going from Maine to Georgia.

Mountain Money: Toilet paper.

Mouse Hanger: A 12”-18” length of cord run through a tin can with a small stick tied to the end. Hung from a beam in the shelter, a hiker will hang his/her pack on the stick. Mice, attempting to climb down the rope to get into the pack are deterred by the tin can.

Nero: Almost a Zero other words, a very short mileage day.

NoBo: Northbound thru-hiker, also a GAMEr (Georgia to Maine)

NPS: National Park Service.

Pot Cozy:  A foam or cloth wrap to keep a cooking pot warm while it finishes cooking.

Power Hiker: A hiker who habitually chooses to cover very long distances each day, often hiking late into the evening.

Privy:  A trailside outhouse for solid waste.

PUDS: Thru-hiker shorthand for "pointless ups and downs", referring to the less interesting sections of mountains thru-hikers encounter from time to time; several PUDS in a row are MUDS, which is shorthand for "mindless ups and downs".

Puncheon (also called a bog bridge) is a wooden walkway built to provide a stable, hardened tread-way across bogs, mud flats, and marshy areas.

Purist: 1. A hiker who wants to pass every white blaze. 2. A hiker who wants others to pass every white blaze.

Register: A log book normally found at a trail shelter or a trail head. The original intent was for hikers to sign in so a searcher needing to find a lost hiker could tell where they last were. Registers are now used for hikers to write information regarding their hike and other information that other hikers nay find useful.

Relo: A section of trail recently relocated.

Ridge Runner: A person paid by a trail-maintaining club or governmental organization to hike back and forth along a certain section of trail to educate hikers, enforce regulations, monitor trail and campsite use, and sometimes perform trail maintenance or construction duties. Such persons are most often found in high-use areas of the trail.

Section Hiker: A person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler by doing a series of section hikes over a period of time.

Shaffer, Earl: Earl Shaffer 1918-2002 "The Crazy One," the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Poet, WW2 veteran, author of 'Walking With Spring,' and 'The Appalachian Trail, Calling Me Back To The Hills,' and three time thru-hiker, northbound in 1948, southbound in 1965, and northbound again at age 79, 50 years after his first hike.

Shelter: A three sided wooden or stone building, spaced out a half day's hike apart, near a water source, and with a privy. The AT has many kinds of shelters, from barns to cabins.

Shuttle: A ride from town to trailhead, usually for a fee.

Skunked: Failing to get a car to stop when hitch hiking.

Slabbing: A hiking term that refers to going around a mountain on a moderately graded footpath, as opposed to going straight up and over the mountain.

Slackpacking: A hiking term coined in 1980 to describe an unhurried and non-goal-oriented manner of long-distance hiking (i.e., slack: "not taut or tense, loose"), but in recent years has been used to refer simply to thru-hiking without a backpack. Recently called "Freedom Packing".
Southbounder: A hiker who is hiking the AT from Maine to Georgia. A small minority of hikers actually hike this direction, primarily because of black flies.

Spruce Trap: When snow is deep enough that it cover the top of a spruce tree, beware. Since there will be voids in the snow pack, you can fall into those voids and get caught. When you appear to be above timberline, but you know that the trees are 8 feet high at this place in summer, then beware. Since you can't see where the trail is, you cannot stay on it, and you cannot avoid the spruce traps.

Springer Mountain: The summit is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Springer Fever: is the almost uncontrollable urge to be back on the Trail that hits thru-hikers of past years each spring.

Stealth: A manner of camping where there is no indication that you are there, and no trace of your being there is left when you've left. Sometimes used as a term for camping illegally on public or private land.

Stile: Steps constructed over a fence to allow people, but not livestock, to pass.

Swag: The lowest connecting point between two ridges in the South.

Switchback: A method of building a trail that forms a zig-zag across the face of a mountain. The strategy is to prevent erosion and to make the climb easier. Switchbacks are not made to be short cutted, although some people do, which damages trail. Switchbacks are often appreciated by hikers.
Tarp: A simple tent with no floor or door.

"Ten Essentials": Short lists of 10 or 12 items thought necessary to be carried by backpackers. An example of one list: Map, Compass, Water and a way to purify it, Extra food, Rain gear/extra clothing, Fire starter and matches, First aid kit, Army Knife/multi purpose tool, flashlight with extra batteries/bulbs, sun screen/sun glasses.

Tent Pad/Platform: At some camping sites, tenting is restricted to built up earthen 'pads' or wooden 'platforms' to ease impact on the area.

Thru-Hiker: Traditionally a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler in a single, continuous journey leaving from one terminus of the Trail, and backpacking to the other terminus.

Trail Angel: Someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.

Trailhead: Where the trail leaves a road crossing or parking lot.

Trail Magic: Unexpected, but welcome, help or food.

Trail Name: A nickname adopted by or given to a hiker. This name is used almost exclusively when communicating with others on the trail and in trail register entries.

Trail Runner: A person who runs the AT, as opposed to walking it.

Treeline: The point of elevation on a mountain above which the climate will no longer support tree growth. Sometimes also referred to as the “alpine” area.

Thru-Hiking: The act of attempting to become a 2,000-Miler in a single, continuous journey.
Tour Hiker: A person who pretends to be hiking the entire AT, as a thru-hiker, but instead skips sections and usually looks for ways to spend more time lounging in towns and less time hiking the AT; usually scoffs at the traditions of thru-hiking and thinks that the phrase “hike your own hike” is an excuse for just about anything.

Ultra Light: A style of gear or hiking that focuses on using the lightest gear possible.

Vitamin I: Ibuprofin is an over the counter anti-inflammatory drug that many hikers use while backpacking.

Waterbar:  A log or rock barrier that diverts water off the Trail to prevent erosion.
Webface:  What happens to the first person on the trail each morning – they clear away all the spider webs across the trail with their face.
Web Master:  The first person on the trail each morning – result (see Webface)

The Whites: The White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Whiteblazer: A term from the Appalachian Trail to describe a person hiking pure (see purist), that is, hiking past every white blaze - which are the standard trail markers on the AT. Also what members of are called.

Widowmaker: Limbs or whole trees themselves that have partially fallen but remain hung up overhead and so pose a danger to a person below.

Wilderness Area: An official designation for public lands set aside to be protected from humans.

Work for Stay:  Some hostels, the AMC Huts in the Whites, and a few other places along the AT allow some hikers to work in stead of paying the fee for lodging.

Yogi-ing: The good-natured art of "letting" food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (If you ask, it's begging!).

YMMV: “Your Mileage May Vary”, hiker jargon for “this worked for me, but your results/opinions might not be the same.”

Yo-Yo-ing: The act of completing one A.T. thru-hike, then immediately turning around to begin another in the opposite direction.

Z Rest: A closed cell sleeping pad that folds into a rectangular block, rather than rolling up.

Zero Day: A day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to re-supply and/or rest.

Waking up at the shelter

Sunday, March 9th

Well I made it, alive and no rats in my bag and I slept a whole hour or two I think, if that, but I didn't care I was just happy to be there. We  woke up to the dogs barking letting us know someone was near, it was just Rob he was down to make coffee, it seemed so early, so I have named him "coffee" because we all woke up for his love of java. :) Such as trail life as I am learning, there is no your time, there is shared time, shared shelter, shared sleeping, shared fire, shared camping and most important a shared PRIVY, no jk, a shared comradery that develops. Hiking is a fellowship between those who love the outdoors, the peace it instills and the adventure that it provides not knowing what will happen next.

                                                  view waking up, the same view in the dark
                                                of the food bags that were swinging last night

We packed camp, I struggled learning how to pack up my new sleeping pad, which was very comfy and almost too firm. Practice will make this perfect. We through our packs on and said bye to Rob aka now as "Coffee" Gnarly Harley who was going to take it easy and have his breakfast before getting on the trail. First Aid (Michael) showed up with his dog and we were on our way, four hikers and three dogs headed North on the AT. It was an icy and frozen morning with all the slush turning to ice making for a slippery hike. I had my Microspikes so luckily I was able to walk right on top of the ice. So worth it. :) We arrived at Annapolis Rocks, beautiful cold morning, there is just something about being out the middle of the snowy cold morning, quiet and serene.

                                              Honey Bun, cruising along sans microspikes

                                                     The pack of hikers and dogs,

Stinkbug had been talking about a breakfast out and by this time was pretty hungry so we turned around and headed back. It was a great day out, short on miles but not on fun. Perfect outing with friends, just enjoying nature, no rush to be anywhere or anything specific to do. :) Now I just need to figure out how to get soot out of my gear, it was everywhere at camp... and now all over me and my gear. If you have any tips please leave them as a comment :) Thank you!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

First night in a shelter

I am glad you are here to ride along on some of my adventures with me and occasionally my "wonder dog, " Maddie!

I am just back from an amazing weekend that included some backpacking with some fabulous people. Two friends that are former long distance "thru" hikers of the Appalachian Trail, class of 2013 known as Stinkbug and Honey Bun accompanied by their furry companion, Hunter "Maddie's man". We were also joined by a "sobo," Gnarly Harley who has just passed his half way point the AT on his way to Springer, and Rob, who I have decided should be called "coffee" for his trail name, for reasons which you will learn about in Sunday's post.

We set off on a short hike yesterday afternoon on the AT with some friends for a local short hike, about 3.8 miles. This included some of my hiking group of day hikers and my backpacking friends. We decided that the backpackers would continue on past the meeting point and further north to the  shelter for an overnight stay on the trail. This was going to be my first night in a shelter!! Whoo hoo! It is a much more official feeling to sleep in a shelter than just tenting and I was finally preparing for my upcoming journey as well as pushing through my comfort zone. Which reminds me of my favorite quote at the moment "life begins at the end of your comfort zone" -Neale Donald Walsch

It was a gorgeous day, light winds, cool, but not cold, everyone is loosing patience with all the snow so we were happy to get moving, no matter how slow, slushy and muddy it was. Even found some ice. At this point Honey Bun was the first of many victims to take a spill. It was a great hike stopping at the Washington Monument State Park before moving on to ending spot were we were going to start to set up our spots in the Shelter.

The hike took no time, trail conditions were slippery but not too bad with ice just in certain areas. Here we said goodbye to several of our day hiking friends and headed to the shelter to get a fire going. Gnarly Harley had some paraffin wax to get things moving and someone had been kind enough to leave some wood under the shelter so it was somewhat dry. While they were getting that going we ran off (unlike I will be able to later in Georgia) to get some beer. Ah... the benefits of leaving one car close to a trail head that is very close to a shelter. Remember here I am saying benefit only for now :).
We arrived back and everyone cooked ate a warm meal over our cook stoves while some of us enjoyed warming our feet at the fire. It was a beautiful night with a crescent moon, lots of stars and a view of the sunset, what more could you ask for? Gnarly left his food bag on the table and as the rest of us were making our selves comfy in our sleeping bags I heard Gnarly making a commotion and moving toward the shelter table and mumbling and grunting. This didn't sound good! Eh, I didn't know what had happened I just heard him go oh man here we go and for some dumb reason despite knowing I shouldn't ask, I did anyway. It was that kind feeling you get when in your head you're thinking don't ask, you know what the answer his, so why make sure to have him say it just so you can actually confirm yes, your fears have been realized and you are not going to escape this, your first night staying in a shelter won't be free of .. yeah you know.. RATS!

Now if you know me, you will know I am a bit of a health fanatic and I study public health, so I am basically a big GERM.A.PHOBE!Rats and mice creep me more than just about anything, as matter of fact I would rather deal with a Bear than Rodent carriers. EEK. I will not go into why you should feel the same, but just know this, you should not like them either. Especially if they are close to you.

So I am in my sleeping bag at this point and I am having a talk with myself in my head to help relieve my growing anxiousness. I begin to talk myself through my options and I am thinking that it looks like tonight will a night of rats. My mind goes wild even wilder at that point, how many, how few, where do they hide, what do they do when they come in the shelter and there are people there sleeping. Are they little ninjas, not to be heard? Will they be obvious, jumping from each person to the next in search of nibblets of food? Will they mistake my ear for food?! ENOUGH, I thought. It will be find no big deal just imagine it is a squirrel I told myself.  So I am laying there and I feel something at my back, but heard nothing, I quickly moved and wiggled down into my sleeping bag determined to hike from the varmints. However, rest assured, I have my super dog Maddie, no fear she will protect me. I relax again get cozy, Gnarly is the last to bed, Maddie still can't get comfortable and is full of soot still despite me trying to wipe her feet clean, what does she decide to do, go and lay on top of Gnarly Harley, he is a very easy going guy and welcomes her to sleep with him. There goes my rat protection. I can feel sleep is about to come when I realize why a shelter next to a road is now NOT a good thing, vs. like it was when we got the beer. Hikers, locals, boy scouts? I don't know what they were doing or why but about 11 p.m. 8 guys come by with camping gear and trudge past enough to make noise to get Hunter to bark and growl and Maddie to follow in song with him. Well, now it is not rats but other hikers to worry about because they are now making a lot of noise up the hill and sound as if they are cutting down and breaking trees.Sure enough this went on for a bit and when it seemed to settle sleep did come, at least for a little while. Then I hear small feet scurrying across the floor near my head as far as I can tell but not touching me. But wait, was it my head, or beside me, or was it at my feet, or over my head. I couldn't look. NO WAY. I wiggled as far down in my sleeping bag again curled up into a little ball of fear terrorized and determined not to make a noise to wake up my fellow hikers. Heart now racing and feeling quite alarmed I had to reassure myself, this is backpacking, with all the good there will be some bad and this is the worst for me so far, ha, everyone has something they don't like, this is it for me. I reach up trying to tighten the opening so that there was no way in my bag and to keep my face away. Is it going to go over my face, no way, I will be ok as long as he doesn't touch me I thought. I can manage if he touches my stuff, that will be bad enough, but to touch me, oh, NO WAY could I let that happen. So I can't seem to tighten my strings fast enough or tight enough, I finally reach up and squeeze the opening closed with me down in my sleeping bag curled up as small as possible so I couldn't be touched, so I thought. My plan was working, I was feeling better, getting my heart to calm down, I fall a sleep for only a short time just hear him scurry again. "UGH" I let out, well it is better than a scream. I scrunch down further. Thinking that is it...this is about to get worse. Two dogs in here and what good is this if they can't smell or notice this rat. I calm down again...finally quiet...or is it, here come the hikers now, off on a night hike somewhere around midnight or after, four of them shining their light on us inside the shelter as they go by. Maddie and Hunter awake and baying and growling, this is now a relief to me. THE RAT IS GONE! Yes...good job dogs, good job hikers... all t noise is saving me from rats. I settle down and fall a sleep. I am comfortable for maybe thirty minutes in a light sleep when I wake up because my sleeping bag is working too good at keeping me warm. I need to get layer off .. I am roasting, but I can't I will have to unzip. No that cannot happen, that rat will get me for sure. I try sleeping through it only to wake again now starting to sweat. I decide I can do this... so I open my bag very slow and take off my jacket, the cold air feeling so good against my face. I forgot how miserable it is to be hot and try to sleep. I look over to see the food bags hanging above us... it is swinging, but there is no wind? How is it? AH! Rats.. back in my bag. Needless this Heather/Rat game went on..until I was so exhausted I gave in to sleep still deep in my bag with just a small opening for air, consoled by the fact my hat would block me from the rat. At this point of deliriousness you will lie to yourself just to rest. Sleep or rat, sleep won.