Friday, January 27, 2012


I love having a routine.  I love having a schedule.

(Unless I'm on vacation, in which case the only scheduled activities should be meals, reading, and watching animal planet.)

After Jimmy went back into retirement, I found myself a little lost in the evening.  Get home from work at 5:30 and then.... what now?  Beau has been going to the library most evenings to study for the upcoming GMAT, and the other nights are occupied by basketball.  I remember just a few months ago when I LONGED for just an hour of free time or hanging around with just Beau.  Now I find myself looking for new things. Book club? Don't mind if I do. Actually putting time into visiting teaching? Sure!

Over time, I've developed a schedule that makes me happy. Admittedly (embarrassingly?) way more chill than ever before.  Monday is library night. Tuesday is Power Pump class. Wednesday is Biggest Loser. Thursday is yoga night. Friday is make-a-treat-from-Pinterest night.

I find so much comfort in daily, hourly, minute-ly routines. After my morning workout, I set out my station at locker #94- gym bag in the middle, work clothes on the right, lotion and deodorant on the left, shower shoes on my feet and towel hanging by the door. Get to work, wake up computer, make my morning oatmeal- 1 packet + 2 handfulls oats + smidge of coffee creamer. Bed time: pack gym bag for the morning, brush/floss, roll around on the foam roller, read scriptures, read my personal book, prayers, cuddle, sleep.

I wonder what my schedule will turn into when I'm on the AT. (I was trying to keep this a thru hike free post.... nope.)  The routine I'll have for breaking camp, packing my backpack, and planning the mileage every day.  Systems for resupply and zero days.  Sometimes I think of it like any other time you have major changes in your life- things will be different, but I can adapt! I can adapt and create normalcy. A new kind of normal.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

suggestions and tips from successful thru hikers

A compilation of suggestions and tips from successful thru hikers (mostly from recent email correspondences):


"For clothing, I'd highly recommend buying as much merino wool as you can.  Merino wool is amazing for a bunch of reasons. It keeps you cool when it's hot and warm when it's cold (even when you're wet). It's very odor resistant. My friends and I would hike 5 or 6 days straight and my unwashed clothes would smell better than their freshly washed synthetic clothes.  I still wear my wool hiking clothes from my thru, and I can assure you theirs have been tossed into the garbage."

"In an effort to save weight, I got an extra-small sleeping pad, which only reached down to my butt. This was great for the warmer weather, but horrible when cold because my legs froze on the cold ground."

"I recommend wearing lightweight, wicking running shorts instead of actual "hiking" clothing. The running shorts dries much faster, weighs less and overall more comfortable"

"If I could do it over again, I would have carried a Kindle with me rather than actual books. Kindle weighs less. And I often finished my book before reaching the next town, which was very frustrating and wouldn't happen with a Kindle (read lot at night before sleeping)."

Food & Mail Drops

"My advice is at first (till you get food supply down to a science), carry "emergency food" that you haven't built into what you think you need between towns. For me, this was a packet of Raman noodles and a giant protein bar."

"I recommend AquaMira drops for purifying water. Pumps are heavy, I saw a number of SteriPens break on hikers, and iodine tablets taste horrible."

"Here are a few things I recommend getting in mail drops: roll of toilet paper (seems they only sell the rough stuff one at a time in the stores), however many multivitamins needed to get you to the next mail drop (weighs less than carrying big bottle of them), proper number of pain reliever meds (again, lighter than the bottle full), pre-measured protein powder in a zip loc, pre-measured gatorade powder in a zip loc, needed amount of calcium chews (because of the beating your body takes, especially as a woman), any food you need."

"I bought all of my food along the way, and yes mail drops are a hassle.  I used a bounce box for my laptop, camera batteries etc and it was such a pain trying to guess where you'd be in 2 weeks and then rushing to a town before the post office closed."

Mental Attitude

"Take your time in the beginning. The hikers I saw fall off the trail with overuse injuries were the ones that from Springer were trying to do 17 - 20 miles a day. Just listen to your body"

"Don't get too committed to hiking with one person or one group. I saw lots of people mess up their hikes by hurrying to catch up with friends or waiting around for friends to catch up. It's funny how bonded people get, and how quickly. Just move at your own pace. You will make amazing friends, and they will still be your friends after the hike is over. "

EDIT- Post hike, this is my FAVORITE piece of advice:
"Nothing is ever as bad or ever as good as people say on the trail. You will notice people trying to convince you that you are going to die in the Smokies, for example. Just make your own judgements and don't over-plan or expect anything too extreme to happen. "

"I wish I'd paid more attention to deteriorations in my gear and in my health. On the trail, little things tend to turn into big ones if you neglect them."

"The trail is close enough to civilization so you can make new decisions (about gear, food, etc.) as you go, so don't worry about figuring everything out perfectly ahead of time."

"It's funny how the brain works and what this trail does to you. I only look back on my experiences in a positive light, it's like I forgot all the pain and misery or maybe I like it?! You'll know what I mean once you finish the trail (notice I said FINISH!). Seriously, short of actually having a major injury, this thing is pretty much all mental."


"I would suggest starting mid week (as opposed to on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) to avoid the huge crowd and also, to be a bit later."

"Here's a random piece of advice: pee rags are awesome."

Random indeed.

Monday, January 9, 2012

AT thru hiker gear

UPDATE: to see the gear I finally decided on and my reviews after my thru hike, see HERE.
Sometimes, thinking about thru hiking gear literally makes my head explode.

Back in May when I was first entertaining the idea of a thru hike, I looked at a lot of blogs and hiking forums on Thru hikers, it seems, are obsessed with spreadsheets documenting the weight of their packs.  I had always known about the weight obsession... when you're carrying everything on your back, weight is crucial and every ounce counts.  But the endless lists and spreadsheets actually deterred me from going. All that planning looked like a headache.

Fast forward to October.  I was comparing tents and sleeping systems and things and I thought to myself, "Man, I really ought to make a spreadsheet with all this information."

So... now I'm one of them- one of those spreadsheet people.  Sometimes I get to a point when I can't figure out which specific gear item I like best and I start to go a little crazy and have to just decide I'll think about it later. I have a love hate relationship with sleeping pads right now.
In the past several years, there has been a huge transition towards ultra light backpacking.  This book (Lighten Up! by Don Ladigin) is an excellent resource for those who want to learn a little more about how to get your packweight under 20 pounds.  While I certainly won't make it under 20, anyone could benefit from the ideas he proposes.

Here are some important items that I have decided on:

Pack- Mountainsmith something or other... Got it in Utah, liked it, keeping it.  It's not the lightest pack you could find- I haven't weighed it but I'm guessing it's around 4 lbs.  If I didn't already have it, I would probably go for a frameless lightweight pack that is around 2.5 lbs.

Boots- I just decided over the weekend to exchange the Vasque Breeze hiking boots I have been trying out for a lighter weight hiking shoe, like Keen's Targhee women's shoe:

I have toe issues sometimes, and I've heard that Keens tend to have a wide toe box. And they draw me in with their cute shoelaces.

Tent- TarpTent Notch- 1 lb 10 oz, baby. This model is brand new as of a month ago, and I just got an email today notifying me that it has shipped. The genius behind the Tarp Tent (and other similar models like LightHeart gear) is in the lack of tent poles. No tent poles = less weight. Instead, you use your trekking poles as supports.

Sleeping bag- I'm leaning towards the ZPacks sleeping bag, which is only 1 lb.  My next favorite is the Te-Wa quilt, which has a friendlier price tag. It's crazy to me that the sleeping bag is by far the most expensive item! Especially since I'll switch over to a simple fleece liner for the summer months.

Sleeping pad. Something self inflatable and light. I'm up for suggestions.
Clothing... this overwhelms me the most.  One of the reasons I'm starting early April instead of mid March like most people is to avoid some of the cold.  I'm still not sure exactly how many layers I'll need to bring to be comfortable.

This weekend was lovely and my parents, Beau, and I went for a little day hike on the north end of the "roller coaster".

82 days.... aahhh!