Friday, January 25, 2013

What to Wear on the Appalachian Trail

One of the things that intimidated me when I was preparing for my thru hike was deciding what to wear.  Summer seemed easy enough- running shorts and a wicking shirt.  But packing for winter hiking looked daunting.  Take too many layers and you're feeling bulky, carrying too much weight, and spent too much money.  Take too few and you're miserable because you're cold. Or you have hypothermia. Game over!  Different materials also bring a lot of choices.  Down doesn't dry well, but is so toasty.  Fleece is kind of bulky, but is warm and breathes well.  And, let's face it, I want it to look kind of cute.  (Fact: I owned zip off hiking pants long before thru hiking and did not bring them because they are terribly unflattering.)

So, here's what I've found to be a good combination for me:
1- Running tights, C9 by Target (WAY superior to actual hiking pants- dries quicker, doesn't drag on the ground and pick up mud, more comfortable, probably cheaper)
2- Patagonia Micro Puff, (I LOVE this coat. The link is actually to the Nano Puff. The Micro Puff is warmer, but apparently no longer offered? Nano Puff would still be good.)
3- Tech tee, Reebook previously owned (I carried two)
4- Zip up tech shirt, previously owned no name brand (A full length zipper would be preferred so you can get more ventilation and take the jacket off without removing your backpack. But I already had this and didn't want to buy another.)
5- Sports bra, C9 by Target
6- Hat, 5 below
7- Gloves, previously owned cheap ones (I knew I wouldn't encounter too much snow and didn't bother with expensive waterproof gloves.)
8- Liners, REI (I had one pair of  REI brand and one pair of these Fox River. While both lasted my whole hike, the latter was more durable and comfortable.)
9- Smartwool socks, REI (Don't bother with the PhD kind- they wear out quicker. People really liked DarnTuff, too. I had two pairs of hiking socks.)
10- Keen Voyageur, EMS (I really prefer REI, but they didn't carry the ankle length option for these boots. Boo.)
Not pictured because I forgot them when I made this graphic - Underwear, Ex Oficio (I don't really know if this fancy wicking underwear is worth it, but I didn't experience any chafing, either...I carried two.)

And for sleeping and baselayer options:

1- Tech Midweight Baselayer top, EMS
2- Tech Midweight Baselayer bottoms, EMS
3- Hat, 5 below
4- Smartwool socks, REI (Separate pair for sleeping kept in a ziploc to avoid perpetually wet feet)
5- Crocs (I am really embarrassed that I own these.  But they're great for camp shoes.)
Just looking at this makes me want to do some winter hiking!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

5 Month Trail- iversary

Last weekend marked 5 months since we've been back from the trail- meaning I've been back from the AT longer than I was on it. The past couple weeks, I've been missing the trail a lot. Countless times each day I have random unexpected flashbacks and memories to specific moments. Climbing Mousilake in the Whites in the fog and mist. Finding trail magic of muffins and gatorade in a cooler on the trail in PA.  Hitchhiking in the pouring rain in Damascus. Counting miles and planning our next day in the tent each night. I don't miss the grueling day in and day out feeling of thru hiking, but I miss the overall experience and going to bed exhausted but accomplished every day.

I rediscovered that I have several unfinished blog drafts that I intended on posting- posts about food, lessons learned, clothing, etc. A year ago when I was preparing to hike, blog posts like these from seasoned thru hikers were super helpful and I love the idea of helping someone else planning their thru. But now that I've been back for so long, it feels a little overly sentimental and annoying to keep bringing the AT up.

We get it Mackenzie, you hiked a bunch of miles in the woods all summer and ate a lot and never showered. Talk about something else now.

Agh, I try. But I can't stop!

So I'm going to continue to post a few things, and I'm already putting out a huge disclaimer that I know I'm redundant and annoyingly obsessed with the AT and blah blah blah. I gave the blog a little facelift and added "AT Thru Hike Information" tab where I've linked to some of our posts, some websites and forums, and what I'm most excited about: a list of 2013 thru hiker blogs. It will be so fun to relive our experience through theirs.

Three cheers for the Appalachian Trail!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes by Cooking Light

This recipe had been sitting in my queue for a while when, miraculously in the middle of November, cherry tomatoes were a good price at Aldi. I think they were .89 for a pint, normally not anything to scream about during tomato season, but in the winter? Love it. Pair this with a bag of tortellini that had been in the freezer waiting for such an opportunity and we had the makings of a delish evening.

I am definitely not a cooking expert. But looking at the seasoning list- garlic, red pepper, basil, and salt- I thought maybe it maybe it would be lacking in flavor. Not so. Even without fresh basil, these four spices, with the help of the chicken broth, were fantastic.

Tortellini with Spinach and Tomatoes by Cooking Light

1 (9 ounce) package fresh three-cheese tortellini
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic [or a couple of cloves]
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil [or dried, if you don't have fresh]
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (6 ounce) package fresh baby spinach [or several handfuls]

  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions
  2. While tortellini cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper; sauté 30 seconds.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, basil, salt, and baby spinach to pan; cook 2 minutes or until baby spinach wilts. Stir in tortellini; cook 1 minute.
I love spinach, and you will too after seeing this infogram. But sauteing it like seen here kind of gets to me.... like seaweed. My new thing when adding spinach to dishes like this is to snip the spinach leaves with kitchen shears, like you would basil or cilantro. Then you have the color and nutrients of spinach without the wilty clumps.

Don't have tortellini? Use ravioli! Or penne! Or whatever, it'll be delicious.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

December, briefly

 I hate the cliche of "Where did the month go?"

But. I haven't posted anything since Thanksgiving. And December, being one of the best months of the year, was left undocumented. So, here are some bullet points of the last month of 2012.

- We went to some work Christmas parties

- Beau surprised me with a Garmin running watch for Christmas!

- I surprised him with a wrecked car, providing an opportunity for me to give him a great Christmas present of a new one. We now have twinner Hyundais. Good thing they are different colors. I know if I've gotten in the wrong car when I see the gear shift and realize I can't drive a manual.

- Don't worry, it wasn't a bad accident.  I swear, I JUST LOOKED DOWN FOR A SECOND and then this parked car just appeared out of no where and then I'm massively sideswiping the poor car and blowing out a tire and careening across the road. It's not hard to total a car when it's worth about $1,000. And, apparently, axles cost that much.

- Beau worked really hard all semester and during finals week and did super well in his classes. 1 semester down..... a bunch more to go!

-We got to spend almost a week in Colorado with Beau's family for Christmas. We love our relaxing unscheduled days there! Beau plays basketball and raquetball, I go for long runs, we walk the dog, play with nieces and nephews, and play games with the family. Lovely.

- We babysat for a family over the weekend. Kids this age are fun.
- Speaking of kids this age, we accepted callings in the ward to teach the CTR 7 class! We had our first class today and are excited to have the group of kids that are getting baptized this year.

- We like our apartment in Manassas and are settling in well. Does someone want to come and decorate for me? I'm getting lazy. I still have a Thanksgiving print on the mantle. Next to the Merry Christmas sign. And across the room from the empty picture frame leaning against the wall.

- To try to combat the picture I'm painting for you of my domestic prowess, I am loving cooking lately. I don't know what it is, exactly, but I just get to excited to make dinner. My "main dish" board on Pinterest is pretty rockin. Would it be weird, friends, if I started posting my favorite recipe of the week? I just get so psyched about recipes and I would love for someone else to share in that joy.

And there you have it. See you in another few weeks.