Big Questions: How (to Fly With Gear)

I’m happy to say that two soon-to-be-former friends agreed to join me for the first few days of my Appalachian Trail journey. It will be great to kick-off the walk with some friends in tow, and although I’m eager to meet others on the trail for the long haul, some known faces will be a welcome treat at the start. They’ll earn their own trail names once boots hit the ground, but for now, I’ll call them Keg and The Captain. Welcome!

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AT Section 8 Preview

Section 8 of the Appalachian Trail is another long one, covering more than 300 miles of CT, MA, VT, and NH.  There are plenty of town stops within a mile of the trail here though, so no need to worry about carrying too much food at a time.  In addition, there are some nice treats along the way to look forward to, like the Cookie Lady, Cloudland Farm, and Dartmouth College.  However, since my plan for this section calls for a lot of 20+ mile days, hopefully I won’t be too exhausted or ornery to enjoy them. Hello Neiman!

  • Start of Section: Kent / Connecticut Border (1468.4)
  • End of Section: Glencliff (1792.2)
  • Total Miles: 323.8
  • Total Days: 19.0
  • Avg Daily Miles: 17.3
  • Planned Town Stops: 6

Highlights and Preview of Section 8

  • Hiking into trail towns is almost always downhill, and climbing out again is almost always uphill. Kent is no different, seeing about 500 ft elevation gain in the first half mile. Start the day with a hearty breakfast and get a-climbing!
  • 1479.5 – If you forgot to resupply anything in Kent, you are met with a town crossing just a few miles later at Cornwall Bridge, CT.  This small town is 0.9 miles east of the trail and contains some small markets and an outfitter.
  • 1493.4 – The next small town within a mile of the train is Falls Village. Here you can find an Inn, a cafe, and a free outdoor shower on the outer wall of the vine-covered Hydroelectric Plant.  A trail journal from 2017 SOBO Hiker 12 Ounce called it “old but the shower, power outlet, and garbage can were everything a hiker could ask for.”  (side note, as I read more of 12 Ounce’s blog, I was sad to see she departed a couple days later because of how lonely the AT felt).
  • 1500.7 – One more town stop before departing Connecticut is Salisbury. I plan to stop here, where it is popular to stay with trail angels Maria McCabe or Vanessa Breton. If they have a bed available, I’ll gladly take it.
  • 1506.9 – After a quick jaunt through Connecticut, the trail now crosses into Massachusetts.
  • 1518.1 – At the crossing of MA 41 is South Egremont, home to the ATC New England Regional Office. The office is located in the Kellogg Conservation Center.
  • 1541.2 – Jerusalem Rd will take you a short 0.6 miles west to Tyringham, MA for resupply or a bed for the night.
  • 1549.2 – Check out Upper Good Pond Cabin here in the Berkshires, exclusive to AT thru-hikers and section hikers. The cabin is owned by the NPS but managed by AMC and offers six double bunks, four tent platforms, a covered porch, fireplace, and an outhouse.
  • 1560.3 – The Cookie Lady lives less than 100 yards off the trail at the Washington Mountain Rd intersection, providing free baked cookies for hikers for decades. Nearly all the hiker biographies mention her warm welcome, free water, blueberry bushes and opportunity to buy a coke or an ice cream bar.
  • 1569.8 – Another town the AT walks right through is Dalton, MA. There are a few reasons worth noting to take a break here, for me most notably being the Movie Theater and Ice Cream Parlor.
  • 1578.6 – Welcome to Cheshire, MA.  This walkthrough trail town has your typical finds (Dollar General Store, Travel Lodge, Shell Gas Station) … but also, a Dunkin Donuts! Yes, your jelly-filled delight is just a short 0.2 mile walk away. Given how
  • 1587.0 – Mount Greylock is the highest peak in Massachusetts, and it is definitely going to be a hike to get up, climbing 3,000 ft steadily over 5 miles. At the top sits Veterans War Memorial Tower, which provides a great view to the Green, Catskill, and Taconic mountain ranges and surrounding towns.
  • 1597.4 – Crossing the border to Vermont here brings us to our 12th state along the trail.  This also marks the southern end of the Long Trail, a 273-mile trail that hikes the length of Vermont in these Green Mountains.
  • 1638.1 – Stratton Mountain is another big climb, gaining 2000 ft over 5 miles and losing it in the same amount of time.  The summit of Stratton is supposedly where Benton MacKaye was first inspired to propose creation of the AT in 1921.
  • 1654.8 – If you are sick of shelters on the trail, try the Bromley Mountain ski warming hut on the mountain here.  This is a nice cabin overlooking the mountain and ski slope.
  • 1675.8 – A short blue blaze trail (0.2m) will take you to White Rocks Cliff, a stunning view and drop off for the brave.
  • 1702.9 – The Long Trail and Appalachian Trail divide here at the Maine Junction. Stay right to continue on to Katahdin!
  • 1705.0 – Just after the Maine Junction, the AT crosses through Gifford Woods State Park in Killington, VT.  In hiker talk, State Park = Showers.
  • 1731.8 – If you pass through Thur-Sat, check out the Cloudland Farm Market with local ice cream, cheese, beef jerky, sandwiches and other prepared foods. Yum.
  • 1747.3 – The town of Norwich has an inn, bookstore, library, pub and general store. But if you go just a bit further …
  • 1748.2 – The VT-NH border, state #13.  Followed shortly after…
  • 1748.8 – Hanover, NH home of Dartmouth College.  There are tons of services and offerings in this popular college town. To make it easy for you though, have your first stop be at the DOC, PO, Library or Co-Op to pick up a free brochure of all the hiker services in town, produced by the Hanover Friends of the AT Club.
  • 1754.6 – Another town stop here is Etna, NH with some resupply and housing options.
  • 1772.1 – The previous 20 miles or so provide some pretty strenuous mountain climbing, as the trail gets close to the White Mountains.  The peak of Smarts Mountain has an old Fire Wardens Cabin converted to AT Shelter, which is fully enclosed for a slightly more comfortable night’s stay.
  • 1792.2 – After a couple more vigorous scaling of peaks (Mt. Cube, Mt. Mist) you finally hike down into Glencliff, NH.  A post office and hostel meet you, though not much more unless you want to head off-trail (4 miles south) to Warren, NH for a bit more amenities.

For me, completing this section is a major milestone in my hike.  The next section is the White Mountains and the AMC managed Huts.  These are a beautiful reprieve from the normal canopy cover of the trail and dirty 3-walled shelters that hikers are accustomed to by now. The White Mountains are as close to the Rockies as I can imagine this trail gets, and hiking hut to hut for a warm bed and hot meal will surely be a treat. However, logistically, this gets a bit tough for me now, as one 1 of two things is going to happen:

  1. Assuming the timing lines up, I’ll be hopping off trail a couple days later at Franconia Notch, renting a car, and driving down to Pennsylvania for a wedding on June 23rd. After a few days celebrating, I’ll drive back up, drop the rental car off, and continue on to the Presidential Range of the White Mountains.
  2. If the timing doesn’t work out, and I’m still somewhere south of Franconia Notch, then I’ll unfortunately need to skip whatever part of the trail I have not done yet to this point (to be completed later this year). Immediately following the wedding, some family and friends will be joining me to hike parts of the White Mountains, where we have reservations at some of the huts.

I know it’s unlikely to match up perfectly with my timing, but I’m ok missing parts of the trail that I have to, in order to enjoy hiking with friends and family in the White Mountains of Section 9 coming next. Hello Neiman!

Laughter is the Best Motivation

“There’s a mountain lion nearby, but it didn’t notice you because it’s reading Facebook.”

I admit that the internet, news, and political environment of the past 12 months have fueled a desire to just get away from it all. Sounds like a dream, right? To walk into the woods for a few months and finally get a reprieve from all the finger-pointing and name-calling that has destroyed the comforting social media bubble we spent years unknowingly inflating around ourselves …

This isn’t a political post though, just a reflection on what really matters. I’m the first to recognize the need for a laugh at my own expense, so thanks XKCD for pointing out the reality of such a silly fantasy.

This trek isn’t an escape, it isn’t a vacation. Although it is certainly will be a life-changing and priority-altering adventure into the wilderness, the real world doesn’t stop. So enjoy the (2189 mile) journey, stay focused on the (Mt. Katahdin) prize, and keep an eye out for (Facebook) stalking mountain lions. Hello Neiman!

AT Gear Plan: Luxury Items

Up until this point, I’d consider all the gear I’m bringing as mandatory for the trip. Meaning, for me to successfully hike 2190 miles in 5 months, I’ll NEED it with me every day to survive.  In contrast, however, this last category represents the comfort things I may WANT from time to time, to make the trip just a bit more enjoyable.

Sure, I could live without a tripod, pillow or e-reader … but these are items I think will enhance my experience while walking 15 miles a day in the in the woods. In addition, this category has and will change the most leading up to and while on the trail. Some luxuries will no longer be desired as the temps increase (e.g. winter hat), while others may become better (e.g. brimmed hat). But that’s the benefit to having an ultralight base weight … you can afford a little extra weight here and live a life of luxury.  Hello Neiman!

Political Questions
Basically, every item here is controversial. Some may have strong opinions to leave it at home, others to bring it. Since this entire section is personal preference, there really isn’t a political stance to side with. Want to read ebooks on your phone? Do it. Prefer to read them on an e-Reader? Sobeit. There is no right and wrong answer, the only true question is whether you want it bad enough or not. The list of things I chose to exclude far exceeds those that made the cut, but here are the 1.8 pounds of junk that made my final Day 1 luxury list:

Luxury Items

  1. Winter Hat (1.2 oz).  The North Face Polartec Beanie is a lightweight fleece cap I plan to carry until Damascus or Harper’s Ferry, depending on quickly the temps allow. Some people exclude this and just use the hoodie of their fleece or puffy jacket, but I like having it be an extra accessory to throw on.
  2. Winter Gloves (1.0 oz). These REI Polartec Power Stretch Gloves are close to what I have, though mine are a few years older. Nothing fancy, but I like gloves versus mittens and these are touchscreen accessible. If the rain becomes unbearable early on, I may add a waterproof shell or switch out for a combo pair like the OR VersaLiners.  I also plan to ditch this in Virginia.
  3. Hat (1.8 oz).  I. Love. This. Hat. The OR Radar Pocket Cap is small, lightweight, FOLDS WITHOUT RUINING THE BILL, is comfortable, and if I may say so, quite stylish. 🙂  It doesn’t have a full brim for sun protection, but this trail is mostly tree-shaded anyways.
  4. Waterproof Socks (3.1 oz).  I bought a cheap pair of these after hearing recommendations online, and I was not a fan. The material felt cheap, uncomfortable, and abrasive. But then I read a great review on the 2018 Thruhiker Facebook Group and decided to try a high-quality version instead. Very glad I did, as these Dexshell Terrain Ankle Socks are extremely comfortable and very waterproof.  Yes, they are pricey for socks ($38), but they feel like normal wool socks and after running them under a faucet for 5 minutes – my foot stayed dry. On those very rainy days, I’ll be glad I have these as an option.
  5. Sleeping Pad (10.0 oz). As I mentioned in Prep Hike 1, I decided to fully “embrace the hammock” and drop a typical blow-up sleeping pad for an underquilt. But, there are still so many other reasons for a closed cell pad. Sleeping in shelters/hostels, comfort for sitting on the ground, adding extra warmth to the hammock for cold nights, and using it for packing. That last one is a great hack to know: lay a pad/towel/etc like this down every time you unpack your bag, and make sure everything touches it. Then re-pack everything touching the pad and you’ll never leave anything behind. For all those reasons, the Thermarest Z-Lite Sol Small is a great add-on, even at 10 ounces.
  6. Pillow (1.7 oz). I may still leave this Exped AirPillow UL pillow behind, as pillows are really more valuable when sleeping on the ground.  And to be honest, most times I’ll just use my rolled-up puffy jacket or extra fleece as a pillow if I really want one. But, for the same reason I’m bringing the sleeping pad, I thought it good to carry a lightweight pillow.  If I’m not using it after a few weeks, I’ll send it home.
  7. Kindle Paperweight (7.2 oz). Yes, I know I can read on my phone, but I prefer the Kindle for 2 reasons: 1) Reading long-term on this screen is so much better on the eyes. I can’t read a book on my tiny phone screen for more than a few minutes without getting a headache.  And 2), the battery last’s weeks on one charge. I will have my AWOL Trail Guide on the Kindle so I don’t have to worry about draining my phone battery to do daily itinerary planning.
  8. Trowel (0.6 oz). The Deuce of Spades weighs almost nothing and is simply a nice way to have a better experience doing your business in the woods.  Do everyone a favor and bring one so you can dig that hole deep, cover it up well, and keep the contents from surfacing.
  9. Mini Tripod (1.7 oz).  Small, sturdy, and packs down tiny. For those Kodak moments that no one is around to help you with and a selfie just won’t cut it. This JOBY GripTight Micro Stand is an easy addition to make sure I document this trip with some great photos that aren’t just a close-up of my ugly mug. 🙂
  10. Corncob Pipe (1.8 oz). I wrote about this years ago in a now archived HelloNeiman 1.0 blog post, and I’ve been packing it on backpacking trips ever since. Nothing crazy here, there’s just something relaxing about smoking a pipe in the woods among friends.
  11. Wiffle Ball (0.7 oz).  A great massage tool to rub your feet over each night for some comfort to the daily grind. Not for impromptu stickball games in the woods among new friends … though, now that I mention it … not a bad idea.
  12. Frisbee (6.7 oz). I read this article 17 years ago in Backpacker Magazine about how a Frisbee is the best backpacking luxury item. I played Ultimate for years and love the obvious fun of having a disc to toss around, but it can also act as a seat, a fan, a plate, a cutting board, a canoe oar, a stove platform, a soap dish, and a sled (among many other things). Truly the most versatile of gear ever invented!

Prep Hike 3

My prep hike started late in the day, due to a busy Friday at work and a typical long commute through Los Angeles traffic. The destination was Malibu’s Point Mugu State Park and it’s scenic 11.75 mile La Jolla Canyon Loop Trail. I finally hit the trail and was met immediately with a steady 1,000 foot climb over the first 2.5 miles. The ascent was quick but no problem because of the beautiful PCH views along the way. Ever half-mile I turned the corner of a switchback for another amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and gust of crisp sea air in my face. The west coast has its treasures, and I’ll definitely miss this part of LA when we move back east.

There were a few hikers along the way at first, but after about an hour I was alone on the trail. Sure, it’s 65 degrees and overcast … but it’s a Friday in January! I just think to myself that more people should really be out here enjoying these mountains.

After another 3 miles hiking the ridge line, the trail dropped into the valley, where I arrived at the campsite. It was empty and it was only 5pm so I decided to go exploring. The campsite had a privy and 8 small individual sites – each with a picnic table, bear box, and clearing for a small tent. And I mean small, anything bigger than a 2 person tent probably won’t fit. Each site is about 50 feet apart, but the brush overgrowth makes it tough to find them all, requiring some bushwhacking skills. The bathroom has TP, so someone must maintain this site, though clearly they don’t do much trail maintenance. Also, it looks like a fire devastated all the trees here, making my hammock setup difficult. Just when I’m ready to give up and settle for the ground, I finally find a site with 2 dead trees big enough to hold up my weight. Huzzah! … but unfortunately another big tree has collapsed on the picnic table, engulfing the entire eating area. Oh well, I’m the only one here, so I set up my hammock and then wander over to another site to eat dinner. I don’t think there is much wildlife here to be concerned with, but I like the idea of eating 50 ft from my bed as a good general practice anyway.

The view here at night is incredible. It’s like being at the bottom of a giant rocky bowl. Mountains surround me on all sides, and although the highway is only 5 miles away … I watch the sunset paint the sky a rainbow of colors amidst near silence.

The only downside is how early the sun and its heat disappeared. By 6:30, I have nothing to do, and it’s getting cold fast! I do my standard nighttime routine (wash up, change clothes, check for ticks, hang up gear), then spend the next 3 hours wrapped up in my quilt in my hammock bed. To kill time I read up on tomorrow’s itinerary, write this post, and read until I think it’s late enough to fall asleep.

Around 10:30, just as I fell asleep, I hear a group or hikers setting up camp. I have no idea how they hiked in so late, and even though they are loud, I appreciate the security of other people nearby.

The next morning I’m up at 8:30 with nothing but sun and blue skies to greet me. It’s going to be a beautiful day to hike out. After a quick breakfast (note to self, I’m not liking these instant grits so that will have to go from the resupply boxes), I pack up and hit the trail around 9:30. The day’s hike goes through the valley, then straight up to Magu Peak and down through the canyon/riverbed.

The hike up the bowl is easy, then the view of the ocean is back. It. Is. Breathtaking. The ocean waves crash up against the PCH and a small naval base. Then it’s up up up. The picture below is from Magu Peak, which took a a grueling 1000 foot elevation gain in just 900 feet. There are lots of people up here taking pictures at the flag pole, so I do too. I’m definitely not in mountain shape, as that climb winded me for more than it should. So after a short break, I climb back down and head out to finish the last part of the loop.

Remember that hike overview I linked to earlier? Well it must be very old, because it got two things very wrong. First, the La Jolla creek and Falls, the supposed highlight of this trip, are bone dry. Not even muddy. Dry dry dry. I’m long out of water and really thirsty, so this last section is tough. Oh, and second? THE TRAIL IS CLOSED! This final 2 mile section of the loop trail was devastated by storms and was closed off … in 2015. I don’t have a choice, as the only other trail is a 10 mile re-route back up the canyon. And, again, no water.

So I apologize to the State Park gods, cross the barricade, and head down the canyon. After a half-mile I hit a section destroyed by erosion and rockslides. This is why they closed the trail, as a storm knocked out the ridge path, and now the only way down is some very steep and slippery drops. I carefully make my way back down to the trailhead, cross another VERY OBVIOUS barrier at the parking lot (oops), and call it a day.

Overall, my hike was great and gear test went flawless. Only a few small tweaks to consider, mostly to food and stuff sack organization. The real learning bough, I need a lot more mountain hiking prep. I have one more overnight planned (the most difficult of these winter trips) up SoCal’s infamous Mt. Baldy next month. So that should really test me. Hello Neiman!

AT Section 7 Preview

Section 7 of the Appalachian Trail takes hikers through the entirety of New Jersey and New York. This section is unique in that it’s very easy to do as a standalone section hike as well (one I’ve considered in the past).  The start is a short bus ride from NYC to the New Jersey border and the end walks you right past a train station that takes you directly to Manhattan. Many hikers like to take side trips to the city during this section for that reason and get a vacation from the trail.  I plan to visit family near Bear Mountain … which is the lowest elevation point of the trail … but other than that, it’s onward and upward to New England.  Hello Neiman!

  • Start of Section: Delaware Water Gap (1294.7)
  • End of Section: Kent / Connecticut Border (1468.4)
  • Total Miles: 173.7
  • Total Days: 10
  • Avg Daily Miles: 17.3
  • Town Stops: 2

General Strategy for Section 7

  • 1296.0 – Delaware Water Gap is a nice sized trail town along the Delaware River. Continuing along the river for a couple miles, you have very limited elevation change and a few landmarks to look out for. The Kittatinny Visitor Center is first at 1296.0, followed by a 0.3m trail to the Mohican Outdoor Center at 1305.5.  Good place to stock up on a hot meal on the way out of town.
  • 1326.0 – After some VERY small “mountains” that see  500 ft of elevation change at best, you come to the Stony Brook Trail with a 1-mile side trail to Stony Lake and some free showers.  By this point in the hike, any excuse for a shower should be considered.
  • 1346.2 – Unionville, NY has a small village office that allows hikers to set up a tent for the night while they enjoy this small trail town.  Not too much, but does have a store for resupply, a deli or pizza place for lunch, and a tavern for dessert. I’ll need to stop here for the night and resupply for a few days.  I wonder how many people ask to fill water bottles and camelbacks from the beer taps. I’m not saying I will, but I’m not saying I won’t.
  • 1359.0 – Queue the music, because climbing up this south side of Wawayanda Mountain is called “Stairway to Heaven”.  Boardwalks through marshlands, then stone steps and switchbacks to one of the best viewpoints in NJ called Pinwheel Vista. From here you can view the Kittatinny Mountains in the distance, farms in the valley below, and on a clear day, High Point Monument.
  • 1367.1 – Cross the NJ/NY border to The Empire State, your 9th state of the trek.
  • 1404.0 – Bear Mountain, Fort Montgomery, and the Hudson River. This part of NY is an important milestone, as it is technically the lowest point on the trail. Many people stay in Bear Mountain to enjoy the many hotels, restaurants, and sights, and did I mention there is a Museum and Zoo?  I plan to meet family there for some time off-trail before crossing the Hudson River and continuing north.
  • 1411.3 – Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. Hikers are invited to sleep for free at this monastery’s ball field picnic shelter, and leverage the privy and shower.  I don’t know why, but this feels more like a homeless shelter than a hiker hostel, but if hosting hikers after 3 months of walking … is there really a difference?
  • 14325.1 – If the spiritual life center isn’t for you, walk another dozen miles to Clarence Fahnestock State Park for a free night of camping along Canopus Lake.
  • 1447.6 – Just a couple miles past Pawling, look to the north side of County Rd 20/West Dover Road to see Dover Oak, the largest oak tree on the Appalachian Trail.  With a girth of 20′ 4″, this tree is estimated to be over 300 years old and is a good Kodak moment for the day.
  • 1450.0 – The Appalachian Trail North Metro Railroad Station here will take you directly to the Big Apple.
  • 1462,2 – Welcome to Connecticut!

And that’s it!  At mile 1468.4, you can take a short 0.8m side trip to the east along Macedonia Rd (CT 341) to Kent, CT.  Kent is the official end of this section and has a nice trail town for hikers to enjoy.  The Kent Welcome Center provides restrooms and hot showers, phone charging, water fill-up, and recently erected a new sculpture to honor thru-hikers.  Unfortunately, I don’t plan to stay in this town, as I have a deadline to finish Section 8 before June 21. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire are next!  Hello Neiman!

AT Gear Plan: Health/Wellness

16 oz of Health, Wellness, and Other

Full disclosure, this list is sort of a moving target. Balancing my adventurous side to bring less vs. my sensible side to mitigate my risk is not easy.  By definition, most of this category is a list of things you never WANT to use, but may NEED in moments of discomfort – or worse, crisis.  To be honest, battling out these wants and needs feels like your typical angel vs. devil cartoon narrative. For example, here’s a conversation I had with myself just yesterday…

Devil:  First aid is for babies and weenies
Angel:  You need to pack a CVS Pharmacy!
Devil:  No you don’t, 95% of the time you can cure it with water and a band-aid
Angel:  But what if you have an asthma attack?  Lose a toenail? Get the flu?  We must medicate for every contingency!!
Devil:  If anything happens, you can use extreme willpower to overcome it
Angel:  You can’t will away Lyme Disease!
Devil:  You are superhuman. NOTHING CAN SLOW YOU DOWN!
Angel: You are 36 years old and a head cold last week turned you into a bedridden baby for 3 days straight
Devil: … *poof* (disappears from embarrassment)

Ok, so you get the point. This narrative of what COULD go wrong can easily lead you down many a path of medication and medical supplies to include. But no, you do not need to carry an EMT Trauma Kit.  With this kind of backpacking trip, you only need to include items that will a) be used daily, or b) prevent and treat the things most likely to happen daily.  This packing strategy goes towards all the “what if” categories – toiletries, health, meds, and gear repair/maintenance.

And before you freak out, just remember:  I’ll have cell service on nearly 100% of this trail, I am 1 day or 2 from emergency care at any point in time, and proper preventative care will minimize reactive needs (e.g. check for ticks!). Of course, that being said, I still have a mother and a wife to answer to, so some promises had to be made.  Hello Neiman!

This one week supply health and wellness kit weighs 1 pound. Way heavier than I’d like it to be, but oh well.

  1. Stuff Sack – Everything fits nice and snug in a small 2.5L (orange) Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil bag.
  2. Toothbrush – Travel size plastic toothbrush
  3. Toothpaste – Travel size Crest toothpaste
  4. Soap/Shampoo – 2 oz. Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap. Face, body, hair, food, dishes, laundry, it does everything. Safety Fact: get the unscented, even aromatic soap can attract unwanted animals.
  5. Sunscreen – 1 oz. Banana Boat Sport SPF 30. This trail is mostly canopy covered, but sunscreen is still a preventative care item you are better to use often than to suffer the consequences.
  6. Dental Floss – Travel size non-waxed floss. Fun Fact – it doubles as thread for sewing!
  7. Anti Chafe Balm – 0.5 oz Body Glide balm. May sound like a luxury item, but better to lube up those inner thighs before 10 hours of walking than anguish in the pain after.
  8. Leukotape – Mole Skin has been knocked off its pedestal as the formidable blister care product. This non-stretch sports tape is lightweight and super long lasting after application, making it the best preemptive treatment for long distance walking. Simply put a strip over a hot spot and you are done. I once left a piece on for a week straight, with daily showers. 3 ft of this super durable stuff!
  9. Duct Tape – 3 ft of the all-in-one answer to body/fabric/gear repair needs.
  10. Bug Spray – Ben’s 100 Max Formula 95% DEET. Spray a small dab on clothes, NOT skin.
  11. Repair Kit – 1 garbage bag, 3 ziploc bags, 3 rubber bands, 4 safety pins, 4 paper clips, needle and thread, 2 buttons, 2 LineLoc 3 Guy Line Adjusters, 2 tiny cord locks, 2 tiny carabiners, 50ft of spare dyneema chord.
  12. First Aid Kit – 3 bandaids, 2 small gauze pads, 2 antibiotic ointments, 2 hydrocortisone creams, 2 alcohol wipes, tiny bottle of burn treatment gel, 1 nail clipper.
  13. Med Kit – For most, this is a handful of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), but allergies are cause for more. And here’s where I also appease the gods family: Pillbox with 1 week supply of Ibuprofen, Zyrtec, Prednisone, and Lyme Disease antibiotic. Also 1 Ventolin inhaler (being allergic to down is not ideal for a good night’s sleep).
  14. Wet Wipes (dry)  These Wysi Wipes are great for anything. Just add water and they expand to a large hand wipe ready for use. Biodegradable, unscented, and reusable, they make for great sponge baths, dishcloths, and more. 6 at a time.
  15. Toilet Paper – A full role with the cardboard insert removed, stored in a ziploc bag

Come Walk With Me!

Calling all daydreamers, all adventurers, all would-be explorers and all stuck-in-a-rutters! I am so fortunate to have friends curious in joining me on my Appalachian Trail hike for a few days, but is anyone out there interested in taking on the full challenge alongside me?  Old friends, one-time friends, barely friends, friends of friends, virtual friends … I’d like to chat because I’d love to help convince you!

Long story short, I made a promise that I would do this trip with someone by my side, and a friend I was hoping to hike with may no longer be able to commit. For anyone with families, you can undoubtedly relate to the ease of mind a trusted hiking partner can give to your worried loved ones.  And although a “Trail Family” is created quickly on a thru-hike, where strangers at your pace quickly become friends and partners along the trail … to these loved ones, it does not always provide the same level of comfort.

So, this post is my Call To Action, my Request For Consideration, my offer to help talk you into an experience of a lifetime.  Sure, the timing may not be perfect, the personal situation not ideal … but the opportunity is there, so why not take it?

Because remember:  all that is gold does not glitter, and not all those who wander are lost.  

AT Meal Plan: Week 7

3680 calories, 30.9 ounces, $16.85

The last organized dropbox of food is more of a half-and-half:  Half pre-boxed food, half purchased on the trail.  As much as I’d like to go 5 months eating dry foods, trail mix and ramen … sometimes you need some real protein!  So, although it won’t be shipped together, this Week 7 box adds some delicious bagels and a combination of hard and soft cheese.  Did you know some cheeses can last up to a week backpacking? Not everyone does, but stop and look for Laughing Cow products next time you go to Trader Joe’s.  You may be surprised to find it NOT in the cooler section.

Any hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino will also last in the open, as will some wax-encased cheeses like gouda or Mini Babybels.  Food can actually stay relatively cool when packed deep in a backpack or stored at night in a cool place. I’ve even been known to refrigerate cheese by burying them in a cold river at night.  Isn’t backpacking fun? Hello Neiman!

Week 7 Maildrop Menu:

520 calories, 6.3 ounces, $2.86

Breakfast 7: Bagel with Cheese. I read a story of a person that hiked the trail last year on only bagels. They are always a great choice, and probably one of the few things I could eat every day for 150 days myself as well. I’m sure I’ll be stocking up on these during the “non-maildrop” days, but I’ll also have a breakfast planned for them here. Paired with 2 spreadable laughing cow cheeses, you have a breakfast fit for a king.  Some Nescafe Clasico coffee (the only other flavor we haven’t packed yet) and an Emerald nut/berry package round it all out.

1130 calories, 7.6 ounces, $2.79

Elevensies 7: Almond Snickers, Fruit Bar, Trail Mix.  By the end of this trip, I imagine I’ll be extensively knowledgeable on every flavor M&Ms and Snickers available. This week we get the Almond Snickers, another bag of trail mix (this time Target’s Monster Mix), and a That’s It fruit bar.  Different day, same elevensies variety.

830 calories, 8.2 ounces, $5.48

Lunch 7: Babybel Snack.  I’m not sure if every place I stop at will have these, but I did coordinate this maildrop to be in what looks to be the largest cities I stop at (e.g. Damascus). So hopefully I find them, but if not, I’ll improvise with what’s available. Another tin (thank you MREdepot!) of Pilot Crackers pair up with the cheeses. In addition, let me introduce to you a new product at Trader Joes that I LOVE. These “Fruit & Nuts” treats are tiny discs of just that … fruit and nut. In this box, we’ll have 3 of the Apricot Almond flavor (easily the best) per lunch, but keep an eye out for the others. Lastly, a savory snack of Goldfish crackers.

140 calories, 1.2 ounces, $0.60

Snack 7: KIND Bar. I don’t really have much to say about these, I’m pretty sure everyone has had them.  But they taste good and pack well.  I noticed that KIND has come out with quite a few new flavors, shapes and sizes of these in the past year … so at least you have some variety to keep it interesting.

660 calories, 4.7 ounces, $4.77

Dinner 7: Meaty Mashed Potatoes.  Ahh, Idahoan. You aren’t truly a backpacker until you become intimately familiar with these potatoes flakes.  Are they tasty? Yes. Do they come in many flavors? Yes. Will you be sick of them after 3 days of eating them in a row? YES!  I don’t know what it is, but these instant mashed potatoes just never really excite me for more than 1 day. So, I’ve spiced them up here to try and help. For each dinner, we’ll add 1/4 cup of dehydrated Harmony House broccoli florets, 1/4 freeze dried cheese, and 1/4 cup freeze dried ground beef. Throw in an olive oil packet for some more calories, and here’s hoping for a stomachable resolution to boring spuds.

200, 2.9 $0.99

Treat 7: Complete Cookie.  I tried to avoid these as they are usually expensive and heavy, but it turns out they have a smaller version sold at Trader Joes.  The Complete Cookies I found there are half the calories, but also half the weight and cost. So I picked up a few for dessert here.