It’s been a couple days since I got off the trail and I had some great R&R at my Aunt’s cabin in the Adirondacks, where I tried to expend as little energy as possible.
I’ve received many congratulations, which is really appreciated, and even better was all the great feedback I received regarding the blog. It was definitely an extra chore each evening, in addition to my written journal, but I’m glad I stayed on top of it even when I could barely keep my eyes open at night. The blog helped keep my “mind open” to what others might find interesting, but otherwise, may have become ordinary and routine for me. I made a real effort to try and not sensationalize or romanticize the trip, so hopefully it’s an accurate representation of my experience. The scenery was every bit as spectacular as the photos but the physical, mental and emotional challenges can never be adequately described. All those hours everyday in your head brings a lot of clarity while making other things less clear. I didn’t feel lonely very often but I missed not being connected to the everyday things going on back home.
Yes, 2200 miles is a ridiculous number to comprehend, even now that I’m done. As with most things in life huge tasks just need to be broken down into bite size pieces. I rarely thought much further ahead than my next resupply (4-5 days)…I’ve done plenty of 4-5 day backpack trips in my life. Then those ~100 miles were broken down by where I planned to go that day, and those 20-25 miles were broken down by where I planned to take my next rest…5-10 miles to the next shelter/creek/meadow. Before you know it you are in Maine!
I surprised myself in a lot of ways; I never would have guessed I’d routinely hike 20-25 miles per day and complete the trail in less than 4 months. I am by no means a “fast” hiker (average at best), but I was wIlling to put in the hours and could maintain the stamina day in and out. While I always looked forward to getting to town, I was just as antsy to leave the next day and be back on the trail. I was surprised that almost every morning I woke up excited to put my pack on and hike for 12+ hours. The biggest drawback to the pace and consistency which I maintained was that I didn’t stay in the vicinity of the same hikers for very long. I was envious of the folks I met (especially towards the end) that had been around the same people for weeks or months. I’d experience this for perhaps a week sometimes but mostly I had brief exchanges at a shelter or in towns and then never saw them again
I really appreciated being able to see friends and family along the way, and even better that they all happened to be in the 2nd half of the trip when that extra mental boost was really needed. There’s a big difference between getting off trail and relaxing in a motel room versus the comfort and familiarity of friends and family. In all, I had five stops like this totaling 11 nights.
Overall, I feel like I was very lucky with the weather. Some hikers complained that it “rained for 20 days in May” but in fact it was mostly just cool and damp (remember all the “Gorillas in the Mist” pics?). The number of days I had to take down or setup camp in the rain were very few. Most of the big rains came at night while I was safe in my tent/shelter/motel. I definitely had to hike in the rain but rarely for extended periods. Fortunately, some of my wetter days were made more tolerable because I knew I was already planning to head into town the following day. If one had to deal with multiple days of everything getting wet and never drying out that would be far more difficult. Additionally, the heat/humidity were reasonably oppressive and the bugs were never too terrible (except for the one horse fly bite that is in its 4th week of healing)
My gear selections all worked out well with the exception of sending my 30 degree down bag home too early (in favor of a very light summer bag) and then having it sent back to me two weeks later. I was very happy with my lightweight leather boots (even during the warmer weather) especially for the extra protection they provided when accidentally kicking roots and rocks. I went through 2.5 pairs and probably could have stretched them a little longer and just used 2 pairs. The hands-free hiking umbrella was a game changer. I really didn’t even consider modest rain to be a deterrent while hiking. It was especially effective in the 55-70 degree temp range when it would still be too warm to wear a rain jacket hiking uphill but too cold to not wear anything without the umbrella. I have lots of other thoughts on gear I will save for another time but overall my average base wait was about 12.5lbs and I felt like I didn’t compromise safety or comfort (I might have used a full length sleep pad if I was to change something). Some of the luxury/comfort items I used were:
-Inflatable LED solar lantern (3oz)
– umbrella ..no longer considered a luxury (8oz)
– sit pad …also used under my feet while sleeping with 3/4 length Thermarest (2.5oz)
-6500mA backup battery for phone…allowed me to rely on the phone for reading material, podcasts, guide book, navigation, etc (4.5oz)
-3amp, 2x USB charger…allowed me to charge battery + phone simultaneously and faster (2oz)
-inflatable pillow…essential for me to get a good nights sleep (2.5oz)
-homemade trekking pole/selfie stick…not used as much as I’d thought (3oz).
My body seems to have held up well. I previously described some Achilles soreness, shin-splints and the brief GI issue. I’m not sure what I could have done differently to prevent the shin splints. I know when the first one came on I was definitely pushing too hard on a very difficult section at the end of the day to get out of the blazing sun. I think the 2nd one came on as a result of over compensating with the other leg for a month. My only lingering physical discomfort is some neuropathy in my right foot (thickening around a nerve) which causes minor tingling and numbness in my toes. Oddly, I feel the discomfort mostly while sleeping. Hopefully this dissipates with time.
I’m finishing this post while on the flight back to Denver. This will be the first night in my own bed which is exactly 4 months after I left (4/5/16)…looking forward to it!
2016 Backpack Gear
Ahnu Mendocino Boits
Darn Tough Socks (crew-no cushion)
Compression Calf Sleeves
Tshirt: 32 degree cool
Shorts: North Face
Zip pants: Arcteryx (full zip running)
Trek poles: Komperdell Vario 4
Bacpack: REI Flash 45
Sil Nylon rain cover
Tent: Zpacks Hexamid Solo Plus (10 titanium)
Sleep Pad: Neo Air 3/4
Sit Pad: Thermarest Zrest
Sleep Bag: Western Mountaineering Summerlite (32 degree)
Polycryo small ground cloth for shelter
Zpack Food Bag
Umbrella: Chrome Dome (attachment to pack)
Shovel: MSR snow stake / Deuce of spades
Hiking sleeves: Smart Wool
Leggings: 32degrees hot or Running shorts
Down jacket: Montbell
Long sleeve thermal weight hoodie: MEC (send home by June?)
Long sleeve: Patagonia silk weight or 32degrees
2nd t-shirt: Patagonia silk weight
2nd hike socks: Darn Tough
Sleep socks: Possum down or FITS
Camp shoes: Mizuno
Rain pants: Berghaus paclite full zip
Rain jacket : Marmot Super Mica
Gloves: marmot liner
Waterproof Mit: Inov8
Buff/necker (in lieu of hat / earband)
Beanie: fleece, Eardband?
Water bottles: 1xSawyer, 1x Smart bottle
Dipping cup nests on smart bottle
8oz protein shake container
Hydration tube w/bottle adapter
Spoon, knife: lexan
Micro Pocket blade
Head lamp: Mini Petzel +Luci lantern
-Fire starter ?
-Pipe cleaners (resupply)
Velcro for gaiters
-Hot Hands Handwarmers
-Head net (resupply)
Sil nylon Wallet
Guidebook (1/4 at resupply)
Guthook App download
Charge cord/plug (3amp)
6500 mA Anker Battery backup/cords
Mini Tripod/Selfie stick /bluetooth
-Bug dope (resupply)
Nail clippers (Nail File)
Tooth brush/ paste
Ear plugs on cord
Advil / Naproxen/Immodium meds
Rubber Nitrile gloves