This One is Personal

Three weeks and three days from now, I get on a plane to Atlanta to start my six month journey. All of a sudden, it’s real!

I have all my gear. I was worried about being cold at night, so I’m taking extra clothes and a sleeping bag liner to take care of that. I’ve decided that a couple of pounds of extras, at least at the beginning, is a worthy tradeoff for comfort and convenience.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I feel prepared, but there is a lot unknown out there for this new hiker. This is unlike anything I’ve ever attempted in my life. It is physical, but the mental aspects will ultimately be the greater challenge. How will I handle days of rain and mud? Cold nights and wet clothes? The unending ups and downs of the trail, on tired feet?

And really, that is what it’s all about, right? If it were easy, success would not be so sweet. I KNOW I will come back a different person. I have six months of self talk, dealing with me, the wilderness, and God. Fantastic!

God and I will have long conversations. “Seek and you shall find…” will be my mantra. I have plenty of joys in my life, and I DO feel blessed. Yet, do we need all the grief and pain in life, the cancers, disabled children, failures to make the joys more poignant? I’m sure my faith will be tested; I expect to return a stronger person for it.

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Blogging on the road

One of the things I have to practice is blogging from my phone and tablet. That’s today’s post’s agenda: testing my Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note II. 
On the trail, I hope to develop a workflow that is fast, simple, and backs up my data.  I am keying this directly into WordPress, but most likely will key into Evernote and copy it here.  That gives me a warm fuzzy that I won’t lose a post if I don’t have Internet connection. 
Pictures are another workflow issue, but for another blog. 

image

This is me after my 5 day hike last September. 

Support Systems

Support Systems. How important are these in our lives? I would suggest that for most of us, a good support system is critical, be it at work or play, in business or within your own family. Yes, people can succeed alone and many a movie is based on individuals that overcome all odds to achieve their goals, but… how much easier would life be with that support already in place?!

Well recently, I added greatly to my Appalachian Trail through hike support system. First, a shout out to my wife. She will be my day to day contact, and has supported my dream since day one. Amazing, and thank you honey!

Next, a fantastic forum of hikers exists on Whiteblaze.com, and I have several acquaintances from time spent there. Being new to hiking, I especially appreciate the technical expertise, whether gear or trail techniques. Recently, however, I had the great pleasure to meet with two local hikers, Teacher and Snacktime!

I’ve been on the Whiteblaze forum for about 18 months now, and I’m still learning that it is a all about the people and community.
teacher pic
I’m hiking the AT this year, and happen to live near Teacher. She likes to follow the blogs of local through hikers, likes to put a face to the name, and asked if we could get together. How can you refuse lunch with a lovely lady and her grandson?!

We planned to get together, met at a local restaurant, and had a wonderful time over lunch getting to know each other. Well, before I put one foot on the AT, I received 2 types of trail magic! First, Snacktime, an impressive young man who has learned how to sew(!), gave me a small bag that he makes. Then, he fills the sack with such trail magic as candies, matches, and toilet paper. I’m taking the bag with me, which will be perfect as part of my bear-bagging kit.

Then, after a great lunch, Teacher picks up the check, and will not allow me to pay. I’m embarrassed and wowed at the same time by this gracious lady. Talk about paying it forward!

So, thank you again, Teacher and Snacktime. I now have new friends, and as I go along, I’m sure I will add many more. Thank you AT community and Whiteblaze community, for supporting me before, during, and after. I really don’t know what I am in for, but know that there will always be somebody who has my back!

Cooking Gear

Cooking equipment is one of the more debated areas of one’s hiking gear. The object is to provide a meal, taking into account the size, weight, and cost of the gear. Other factors are the type of fuel, speed to set it up, and how quickly and efficiently it cooks your meal. Lots of options, but where do you begin?

I started with fuel. The two primary fuels today are propane in a small canister, and alcohol. There are many articles on the pros and cons. I have a Jetboil system, an all in one canister system that works great, but is a bit bulky and heavy. I tried an alcohol system on my September hike, and though it worked fine, I decided to go back to the canister route, but something other than a Jetboil.

I did a lot of research over the past couple of months to find the perfect system, for ME. I wanted both a cooking pot with lid, and a coffee cup, which can double for eating cereal. With my alcohol system, I kept the fuel separate, in case it leaked. I carried a separate coffee cup, as it did not fit in the pot.

ECA278_img1My new system fixes those problems. I now use an Evernew titanium ECA278; I got it from Trail Designs for about $65. It is a stackable .7L/.4L pot/cup combination, 2 for the price of 1.

soto windmaster on canister

For a stove, I bought the new Soto Windmaster, another $65. Great reviews, and on a 40 degree day, I boiled 8 ounces of water with this setup in 2 minutes.Like the Jetboil, a small 100 gram canister, the Jetboil canister stand, and stove all fit inside the pot. I then purchased a cozy from George at Antigravitygear.com; great service and about $10!

Expensive? About $140. Weight: 10.2 ounces: pot, cup, lid, stove, canister stand, cozy, and bag. Add the weight of a canister, which again fits inside. Nice!

A Positive Experience

Are you aware of how you affect the happiness of those around you? Do you make it a point to praise performance, be it your workers or children, spouse or salesperson?

I really work on this. I’m not great, but I really try to smile, to be pleasant, and to offer praise, when deserved. As an example, if a transaction is involved, the money received is nice, but the smile, the “thank you” is what leaves us with that little glow inside.

So how does that relate here? I make it a point to respond to each sale I participate in. When I buy a product from an entrepreneur, I send off a quick note of thanks, and also acknowledge them publicly, if warranted. I believe that nothing works better than unsolicited, free, and heartfelt thanks to stimulate sales. If I buy from a larger site, most ask for feedback, and I am happy to provide it, to improve the next experience.

So, Adam, of Hammockgear.com, thank you, both for your workmanship and service.

Here’s the story.

I bought a 20 degree top quilt (like a sleeping bag, but for a hammock) from Adam. It is my first quilt, and I was a new hammocker. I asked about adding extra down, being the new guy. Adam said, no, should be fine, try it and we can fix it if you desire. 9 months later, last week, I decided after a few cool nights of hanging, that I wanted an extra 2 ounces of down. I call Adam. He says FREE. FREE shipping. Come on, ADAM! I want to keep you guys in business, and don’t mind spending a few bucks to do it!!! Quick turn around, of course, and it is now perfect.

He certainly did his part in this exchange. The quilt is one of the most important items for my hike, and I am confident that it will perform well.

Who have you praised today?

50 DAYS!

All of a sudden, what seemed like such a distance in the future, is now close to happening! I’m going on a hike!

I am 50 days or 7 weeks and a day from leaving Springer Mountain, in northern Georgia. Am I ready? YES! Excited? YES!
I still have work to do, final inventory, a few gear tests, but I could leave tomorrow. When do I start?
I actually have 3 start dates.
–  March 23rd, 2014. Day one is the plane ride, from Providence to Atlanta. We will rent a car to drive the 2 hours north to Amicalola Falls State Park, and stay at the state park lodge for 2 nights.
–  March 24th, I walk the approach trail. This 8.8 mile hike is not a part of the Appalachian Trail, but is one of two means to get to the start point, Springer Mountain. I choose to hike this trail, as I am into doing the little extras that will add to my experience, and this is step one! The other starting option is to hitch a ride to a parking lot one mile NORTH of the start point, hike SOUTH, and return on the same path. My plan takes the best of both: I will hike the approach trail, continue to the parking lot, hitch a ride back to the lodge, and go to the top on the 25th with Janet!
– March 25th. Janet and I go to the parking lot one mile NORTH of Springer Mountain. We hike SOUTH to the start point, take lots of pictures, and Janet gets to hike the first mile of the AT with me! I love that we can do this together, even if it is only the first mile. Kisses in the parking lot, and then off I go, day 1! Janet returns to Atlanta.
The countdown begins…

Retired. Now what?

It’s time for me to restart my blog.

I’ve spent the past year getting prepared for my upcoming hike. Much of the preparation was gear related, as I am new to hiking and needed the full complement of gear. I have 2 backpacks, a variety of clothes, several types of shoes, and the list goes on.

Mental preparation. I will focus on this several times before my hike, and I’m sure many times during the hike. From all I read, the successful hikers are mentally tough, and have strong reasons for finishing. I have spent time defining my personal why’s; I think myself mentally tough and able to deal with stress. We will see!