How does one train for a journey like we're planning to undertake?
Right, right, hike a lot.
But we want to enjoy the winter while we're here, so we're skiing. Not that Mother Nature has been all that cooperative. While the Tahoe region is getting hammered by storms, and even southern New England has gotten a good bit of snow, northern New England is having a rough time of it so far. Rain, warm weather, ice, a little snow mixed in. Makes for interesting conditions out on the trails, that's for sure...
But that didn't stop Ryan and I and approximately 105 other people from getting out on Saturday, January 22nd to ski a 30k (18.6 mile) race in Jackson.
It was a balmy minus 6 degrees at the start, they altered the course a bit to accommodate the minimal snowpack and the frigid temperatures, and I haven't skiied since last Tuesday due to lack of snow, etc. What's wrong with that? :-) We bundled up in as many layers as we possiblely could, skiied with our friend Sven, stopped at all the "feed stations" along the course to drink the warm Poweraid they were serving, took our time and had fun. We were able to see the fast skiers as they headed back to the finish line, due to the out-and-back route of the course, and there were some good icicles going on some of those guy's beards! Of course, my pigtails and hat were crusted over with ice by the finish line, so I shouldn't talk!
So, while we might not out hiking much in these few months before our departure, we figure with events like these, we are definitely training our bodies and minds to tough it out and keep at it, which will be a big part of things on the trail. After all, it's not an adventure if you're having fun all the time :-) There has to be a bit of suffering thrown in too, just for good measure!
By the way, we were towards the back of the pack in the race, finishing in 2:52, but we got out there and we did it, and to me, that's not too shabby... :-)
Now really, tell me everyone out there creates lists like I do... I mean, isn't it normal to have a spreadsheet going with eight different worksheets that deal with money needed, what we need to do before we leave, what we need to buy, how much each piece of our gear weighs, where we want our mail drops to go, and (hopefully) where we plan to be every week or so? No, not normal? Oh well. I guess I knew that...
But seriously, there is quite a bit of planning that goes into this whole adventure!
Luckily, the Appalachian Trail is not quite wilderness. Unlike when Earl Shaffer became the first person to thru-hike the whole 2170-mile Trail in 1948, the Trail now is a well-worn footpath, that goes through many towns and near others. There is a community surrounding the Trail, as well as an endless supply of information on the Trail, services near the Trail, people's experiences on the Trail, etc etc on the internet and in books. In fact, there are databooks that are updated yearly as mileage changes, stores open and close and such. Yes, yes, we've purchased a few of the different 2005 versions to bring with us :-)
Even with the databooks and our own experiences hiking and camping elsewhere, we have a lot to plan, buy and organize before we set off on the Approach Trail on March 28th.
Hence, the spreadsheets...
P.S. Ever wonder how much a titanium spork weighs? For the record, it's not much, but we do have it recorded in our "Pack Weight" worksheet :-)
While the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail has been alive for a while, the real questions were time and money. How to make it work. And now, with the house gone, one piece of the puzzle has fallen into place. We have the means. And, well, we just plan to make the time.
While we've been reading about the Appalachian Trail for a while, we realize that some of the terminology we'll be using might sound a bit, well, odd. So, here are few things you might want to know:
Thru-Hiker - Someone who hikes the whole 2170-odd mile Appalachian Trail. This can be done in any number of ways. We are attempting to thru-hike the trail in one season. Others are Section Hikers - or people who do the trail section by section and finish after a few seasons or multiple years.
Mail Drops - We don't want to carry everything we need on our backs! So, our parents have nicely agreed to send us packages at certain designated towns along the way. Mail drops will likely contain certain foods we like, but might not find in every little town on the trail, plus extras like batteries, phone cards, etc. etc. We will likely also have a Bounce Box - or a box that we mail to ourselves from town to town with extra toilet paper, ziplock baggies, etc.
Zero Day - A day off! We can't hike every day you know... Although it may sound like a vacation, hiking every day up and down mountains and hills with our packs on our backs, through rain, snow, wind, heat, aches and pains, is going to be a lot of work. We're looking forward to it, but we'll also be looking forward to a day off here and there, in town, where we can eat LOTS along with do our errands, call friends and families, eat, do laundry, eat and eat more.
White Blaze - The Appalachian Trail is marked from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine with 2" x 6" white paint swaths on trees, along streets where the trail goes through towns, trail posts, etc. They'll help keep us on track.
Blue Blaze - Any trail that leads off the Appalachian Trail is marked with a 2" x 6" blue blaze. Just so we don't get too confused and lost and wander where we're not supposed to.
Stinky - That's what we'll be! And believe me, thru-hiker stinky is different and much stinkier than regular stinky :-)
PUDs - Pointless Up and Downs. PUDs are bumps that don't always show up on the topo maps, and which often make a long day of hiking much tougher than expected. Silly mountains! Why can't the trail be flat? It would be much easier that way... (Above, a rare flat section of the AT in NH.)
Vitamin I - Ibuprofen!
AYCE - Where hikers congregate in towns. And which often lose money on hungry, hungry thru-hikers. All-You-Can-Eat restaurants and buffets from Georgia to Maine, beware!
Trail Names - In keeping with an old tradition on the trail, many people don't go by their given name. Instead, they have what is called a "trail name." The theory is that you are given your trail name once you're out on the trail, due to a certain personality trait or some incident that happened. However, these days many people chose their own trial name before they leave, or take a nickname with them. We plan to tempt fate, and see what people decide to call us. Of course, if people start calling Ryan "Sir Farts-a-lot", we might change our minds and choose our own names! :-)
1. Are you nuts? 2. Have you read "A Walk in the Woods"? 3. What do you do about food? Do you have to...you know...kill things? 4. Where do you shower? 5. Is it allowed? (In response that we would take a break to visit people along the way?) 6. What about the bears? 7. Are you going to carry a weapon? 8. What are you going to do after?
In order... 1. Yes. 2. Yes. 3. Maybe...Danielle has a hankerin' for squirrel. 4. Why shower? Everyone else smells, too. 5. Yup, but only if you feed us...a lot... 6. Laugh as they run away from the stinky hikers. 7. Can you truly imagine either of us lugging around a weapon? Would we even know how to use it? :-) 8. TBD.