Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giving myself a little time

So originally I planned to get up to the Springer Mountain area today and start my hike tomorrow.  That plan has somewhat changed. I've postponed leaving until I can finish the website that goes long with my study.  It is very important to the study and I just can't leave it behind. This also helps me because I have more final planning to take care of for the trip, mainly my mail drops and food preparation.

How am I handling the food situation?
Well for one I'm purchasing most of my food in towns as a resupply. However there are times when getting into a town or having the necessary staples available is an issue on the trail as well. That's when mail drops become important.  Someone back home has to take the responsibility to send food from time to time to a general delivery address at the post offices along the trail.

What kinds of foods will I carry?
Well the usual healthy stuff isn't always an option.  Getting fresh fruits and veggies in town is great and probably will even be craved. I can possibly even carry enough for a day or two once I leave town.  Bringing anything that will spoil is a bad idea.  Canned goods are just too heavy. So what's left? Peanut butter, Nutella, dried goods, ramen noodles, stuffing mixes, potatoes... lots of carb heavy foods.  The general rule of thumb has been to carry 2 pounds of food per day.  That can get heavy since most foods may contain water.  I've elected to use freezer bag meals, home made versions anyway.  Put a package of stuffing, onion soup mix and butter buds into a zip lock freezer bag, then boil some water and add it to the freezer bag.  The bag does not melt as it can handle the heat.  This makes for a quick no mess dinner that can be spiced up or changed according to tastes.  I can add foil packed chicken, tuna, salmon, dried beef, or anything else easy to carry out.  The bulk of the dinner, the stuffing, can be anything that is instant or quick cooking too like egg noddles, minute rice, instant potatoes, and couscous.  I also like some powered soups.  For breakfast, instant oatmeal, grits or cold cereal with powdered milk.  Snacks throughout the day include trail mix, nuts, dried fruits snacks, snickers, protein bars, pop-tarts, crackers and peanut butter, sliced pepperoni, and hard cheeses (wrapped in vinegar treated cheese cloth).

Water is very frequent on the trail right now but may be harder to find in the summer.  I'll carry only what I need for the day for now. Once the summer hits I may bring an extra bottle.  I'm going to filtering my water using cheese cloth and a bandanna. Then I'll put chlorine drops to kill anything lurking within.

Well I need to back to planning and my website.  I post again just before I leave, probably March 5th.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preparing for My Trip and Study

As most of my friends know I have been tying my thesis in with my hike. So far I have successfully been able to do that by selecting a good topic related to my degree program. My study on pack weight will hopefully bring new data to the domain of backpack weight limitations. If not anything, I'll be able to identify the reasons hikers quit early on the AT and possibly discover new trends.

Most people who hike the trail try to be very prepared and bring as much as they want to carry. I for one will bring what I need and hope that I didn't forget anything.  The pleasurables for this trip will be at a minimum. I took care of some final gear and clothing issues this week... hoping that I'll stay warm and dry.

I recently took off for NJ to see the folks and drop of some of the gear Mom wants to send me because she's itching to do her part. Of course I had to go over all the gear with her and tag everything since I don't expect her to know the difference between a sleeping bag liner and a bivy. Anyway, she'll be ready when I need something. Support system #1 - CHECK

When I get back from the north preparing my survey announcements, I'll be going over more detailed information on the mail drops with Mary.  These drops will provide food that I will not be able to get in towns on the trail. They will even supplement some consumable items such as ziplock bags, handy wipes and   anything else I may need along the way.  Support system #2 - CHECK

Preparations for the study:

After leaving NJ I headed up to Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont to enlist the help of local businesses in announcing my survey to hikers that come through their doors.  It was a nice couple days... in the freezing cold! (Hey I live in Florida now... 26 is REALLY cold.) All the people I spoke to seemed really interested in what I'm doing and all decided to lend a hand somehow.  Great!

Even better... I was contacted by Mike, the owner of Travel Country in Altamonte Springs, FL and he is one board with sponsoring my study.  I'm very excited over this.

Off to the Mid-Atlantic states... Met with a couple business owners today, including The Doyle in Duncannon, PA.  They host over a 1200 hikers in a season. They were so helpful that I could probably never thank them enough. Vickey there even gave me some tips to look out for on the trail.  What a great place!  I'll be seeing them again in a couple months.

Tomorrow off the meet some more businesses and try to stir up more support, then back to Florida for final preparations. The very last thing will be my website for the survey, which is already under construction.


Once in a while I get asked what my itinerary looks like. So it's now posted here.  Anyone who wants to join me for a few days is more than welcome. :)

Date AT Mile Stop and Notes State and Section
1-Mar 8.1 Hawk Mtn Shelter Georgia
2-Mar 21.1 Suches - Woody Gap  
3-Mar 31.7 Neels Gap  
4-Mar 43.2 Low Gap  
5-Mar 58.6 Tray Mtn   
6-Mar 69.6 Hiawassee  
7-Mar   ZERO DAY  
8-Mar 81.4 Muskrat Creek North Carolina
9-Mar 93.9 Carter Gap  
10-Mar 109.8 Franklin, NC  
11-Mar 125.6 Cold Spring   
12-Mar 137.1 Nantahala O. C.  
13-Mar 153.1 Brown Fork Gap  
14-Mar 165.8 Fontana Dam - Get Permit GSM Smoky Mtns
15-Mar 179.6 Russell Field  
16-Mar 194.3 Silers Bald  
17-Mar 206.8 Gatlinburg, TN  
18-Mar   ZERO DAY  
19-Mar 222.4 Tri Corner Knob  
20-Mar 237.2 Davenport Gap  
21-Mar 247.7 Painted Branch or Groundhog Creek Sh NC-TN Border
22-Mar 255.9 Roaring Forks  
23-Mar 273.9 Hot Springs, NC  
24-Mar   ZERO DAY  
25-Mar 293.5 Little Laurel  
26-Mar 306.2 Flint Mtn  
27-Mar 325.1 Bald Mtn  
28-Mar 342.0 Erwin, TN  
29-Mar 354.1 Deep Gap  
30-Mar 368.2 Clyde Smith - Grassy Ridge  
31-Mar 382.7 Overmountain Shelter  
1-Apr 391.9 Roan Mtn, NC  
2-Apr 410.3 Moreland Gap Tenn
3-Apr 425.0 Hampton, TN  
4-Apr 448.4 Double Springs  
5-Apr 466.9 Damascus, VA VA - Southwest
6-Apr   ZERO DAY  
7-Apr 482.7 Lost Mtn  
8-Apr 494.9 Thomas Knob Grayson Highlands
9-Apr 514.0 Grayson Highlands, Hurricane Mtn Campground  
10-Apr 530.6 Partnership  
11-Apr 542.2 Atkins, VA  
12-Apr 565.2 Chestnut Knob  
13-Apr 589.2 Helveys Mill  
14-Apr 613.2 Wapiti  
15-Apr 629.8 Pearisburg, VA VA - Central
16-Apr   ZERO DAY  
17-Apr 653.0 Bailey Gap  
18-Apr 680.0 Niday  
19-Apr 703.7 Johns Spring  
20-Apr 722.5 Daleville, VA - Roanoke  
21-Apr 741.0 Bobblets Gap  
22-Apr 754.5 Bryant Ridge  
23-Apr 764.7 Thunder Hill   
24-Apr 777.1 Matts Creek  
25-Apr 799.3 Brown Mtn Creek  
26-Apr 817.4 Montebello, VA  
27-Apr 835.5 Maupin Field  
28-Apr 856.3 Waynesboro, VA - YMCA camping VA - Shenandoah
29-Apr 863.3 Calf Mtn  
30-Apr 883.7 Loft Mtn - EAT  
1-May 897.7 Hightop Hut  
2-May 918.1 Big Meadows  
3-May 932.5 Byrd's Nest Hut #3 - Stop Skyland EAT  
4-May 950.0 Gravel Springs Hut / Matthews Arm Campground  
5-May 963.4 Front Royal, VA - Jim & Molly Denton Sh  
6-May 987.0 Rod Hollow VA - N / WV / MD
7-May 1004.8 BlackBurn Trail Center / David Lesser - donation  
8-May 1016.6 Harper's Ferry  
9-May   ZERO DAY  
10-May 1027.7 Gathland SP/Gapland Rd/Crampton Gap  
11-May 1048.4 Ensign Cowall   
12-May 1065.3 Antietam  Penn
13-May 1078.7 Quary Gap  
14-May 1096.0 Pine Grove Furnace SP / Iron Masters Mansion  
15-May 1115.2 Boiling Springs  
16-May 1140.9 Duncannon,PA  
17-May   ZERO DAY  
18-May 1152.1 Peters Mtn  
19-May 1170.1 Rausch Gap  
20-May 1187.6 The 501  
21-May 1211.3 Port Clinton  
22-May 1233.9 Allentown Hiking Club  
23-May 1251.6 Palmerton, PA  
24-May 1267.4 Leroy A Smith  
25-May 1287.6 Delaware Water Gap - Donation  
26-May 1298.1 Mohican Outdoor Center NJ/NY/CT
27-May   ZERO DAY  
28-May 1319.0 Gren Anderson  
29-May 1337.3 Jim Murray Property / Pochunk Mtn - Donation?  
30-May 1350.9 Vernon, NJ  
31-May 1368.0 Wildcat  
1-Jun 1387.6 William Brien Mem / DETOUR LP to Lichen Tr ADD 6 MILES  
2-Jun 1394.0 Bear Mtn  
3-Jun   ZERO DAY  
4-Jun   ZERO DAY  
5-Jun 1422.9 RPH  
6-Jun 1439.7 Telephone Pioneers / AT RR Station - Trip to NY?  
7-Jun 1460.9 Mt Algo / Bulls Bridge or Kent, CT  
8-Jun 1480.6 Sharon Mtn Campsite  
9-Jun 1493.9 Salisbury, CT  
10-Jun 1508.0 Hemlock Mass
11-Jun 1524.4 Montery, MA  
12-Jun 1543.5 Upper Goose Pond - Donation or WFS  
13-Jun   ZERO DAY  
14-Jun 1561.1 Kay Wood  
15-Jun 1581.3 Mt Graylock  
16-Jun 1594.5 Seth Warner - North Adams Resupply VT
17-Jun 1616.1 Goddard Sh  
18-Jun 1635.4 Stratton Pond - Fee?  
19-Jun 1646.1 Bromley - Manchester  
20-Jun 1662.6 Big Branch  
21-Jun 1685.3 Gov Clement  
22-Jun 1705.9 Stony Brook  
23-Jun 1727.4 Thistle Hill  
24-Jun 1743.5 Velvet Rocks / Hanover NH
25-Jun 1758.7 Trapper John  
26-Jun 1765.4 Fire Warden Cabin & Tower / Hexacuba  
27-Jun 1785.3 Glencliff, NH  
28-Jun   ZERO DAY  
29-Jun 1793.3 Beaver Brook  
30-Jun 1802.3 Eliza Brook sh White Mountains
1-Jul 1813.7 Liberty Springs camp - N. Woodstock Resupply  
2-Jul 1821.4 Garfield  
3-Jul 1835.9 Ethan Pond / Bartlett, NH  
4-Jul 1849.9 Lake of the Clouds / Bartlett, NH - Work for Stay or pay  
5-Jul 1864.8 Osgood - Resupply Pinkham Notch  
6-Jul 1877.9 Imp  
7-Jul 1885.9 Gorham, NH - Hiker's Paradise  
8-Jul   ZERO DAY  
9-Jul 1897.7 Gentian Pond  
10-Jul 1907.3 Full Goose Sh Maine
11-Jul 1919.3 Baldpate Lean-to  
12-Jul 1937.4 Andover, ME  
13-Jul 1954.4 Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to / Little Swift River  
14-Jul 1963.8 Rangeley, ME  
15-Jul 1974.5 Poplar Ridge Lean-to  
16-Jul 1988.7 Crocker Cirque - Detour Sugarloaf MT / Stratton  
17-Jul 2001.1 Horns Pond Lean-to  
18-Jul 2019.0 West Carry Pond Lean-to  
19-Jul 2038.7 Pleasant Pond Lean-to / Caratunk, ME  
20-Jul 2051.8 Moxie Bald Lean-to  
21-Jul 2069.7 Monson, ME - Lake Shore House  
22-Jul   ZERO DAY  
23-Jul   ZERO DAY  
24-Jul 2088.8 Cloud Pond Lean-to 100 Mile
25-Jul 2105.6 Carl A Newhall Lean-to Wilderness
26-Jul 2124.5 Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to  
27-Jul 2146.0 Wadleigh Stream Lean-to  
28-Jul 2169.1 Abol Bridge  
29-Jul 2179.0 The Birches - Sign up at Abol Bridge  
30-Jul 2184.2 Katahdin Mtn  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Questions, questions, and more questions

While getting ready for my trip up the Appalachian Trail I spend more and more time answering questions that the average person has about the trail, gear, and what to expect. Of course some of the inquiries lead to surprise answers to my friends and family. There are a great many things they would never expect.

To the average person the Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that they have heard of, but never really thought about. So when I tell someone the trail is 2184 miles this year their eyes usually get as big as saucers. Then the basic questions come: “Where does it start? Where does it end? How long does it take?”

For the uninitiated, the Appalachian Trail runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine. It is a long distance hiking trail that runs through several towns in 14 different states. The states are Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The Appalachian Trail on average takes hikers six months to complete. Not all hikers that start the trail however get to complete their journey. Usually only half make it to the half-way point in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Even less make it to the end at Mt. Katahdin. Roughly a quarter of the starting hikers make it the distance.

The next question I usually get is: “Are you hiking with someone or going alone?” This is a loaded question. I’m starting alone… meaning I’m not taking anyone I know with me. Once I get to shelter and make camp I will meet other hikers. This may be common for me as I plan to start on March 1st. The 1st of any month in the season (March through May) is a common day to start the trail for many hikers. I expect I will meet more than my share of hikers, so I will never be alone. It is this communal experience that some hikers go for on the trail, others just wish to enjoy the solitude. I’m easy to get along with and love making new friends so this should be an interesting experience.

The most frequent questions usually concern safety on the trail... from bears and unsavory people. I get asked very often if I’m bringing a weapon on the trail. My answer… “nothing more than a two and half inch pocket knife.” Why not a gun? It’s too heavy and unnecessary. Bears, black bears to be more specific, generally are pretty docile unless you are too close to momma and her cubs. As with any animal that is capable of tearing your face off, the general rule of thumb is to give it a wide birth. Shooting at it will accomplish nothing more than scaring other hikers. As far as unsavory people on the trail… well if “unsavory” is determined by odor then I will be one of those unsavory people. Thru-hikers are one with each other and wish to do no harm to anyone or anything, but rather enjoy their peaceful sojourn in the wilderness.

Food gets hung from a tree. Anything that has flavor or wonderful aromas may need to be kept away from the hikers while they sleep. Having food nearby at night does invite a problem with black bears and other critters. Hanging food in a bear bag helps prevent such encounters. Not all hikers abide by this rule as they have other experiences that tell them otherwise, but you won’t catch me camped out next to them.

Another question: What do you carry with you?
Backpack, tent, sleeping bag (or in my case a down quilt), sleeping pad, cooking system, water filtration system, spare set of clothes, toiletries, food and water. What else do I need? I’m sure you’re thinking “that’s another loaded question!” You’re right. I haven’t a clue since I’ve never done this before. But in 25 days I will find out.