Monday, January 25, 2010

Preparing for AT hike.

Well my nephew Mikey and I are only about four months out from leaving for our Appalachian Trail hike. I plan to spend this time making preparations. The biggest thing about backpacking is carrying 35-40 pounds on your back 10-12miles a day, 8-10 hours a day. I need to build up my upper body strength to be able to last a week on the trail for up to two weeks. As goofy as it will look, I intend to walk all over Williams wearing my fully loaded backpack every night for a couple of miles. We need to gather our gear together and find out what each of us needs to get. I have backpacks, forks, spoons, stove, sleeping bags, and mats for each of us. We will need to plan our food to last between resupply points. The first point is almost 35 miles up the trail. We will pack Ramen Noodles, bagels, peanut butter, oatmeal, trail mix, and Beef Jerky. These items are light, easy to carry and takes little in the way of cooking. Bon Apetit. We had originally planned to take the Greyhound to Georgia, but Glorias brother has volunteered to take us straight to the trailhead, and then Gloria and Mikeys mom will pick us up in North Carolina when we finish. I will keep you up to date on our preparations, and then will blog by mobile every day during the hike.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My favorite cars

I thought I would get off the backpacking for a while and blog a little about my other passion, which is sports cars. I have owned an MG Midget, Triumph TR6, Datsun 240Z, 3 Mustangs including a 1965, and a 1996 Mustang GT convertible. My current car which I have recently bought is a 1983 Porsche 944. When the car came out in 1983, it was the fastest 4 cylinder production car on the market. The car is a blast to drive, but for right now it can only be driven during the day, as the headlights are not working. I have ordered a new headlight switch, which should solve the problem. I keep remembering something I read on a Porsche forum that went like this: "there is nothing more expensive than a cheap Porsche". If this is part of my midlife crisis, it is sure a fun way to spend it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My hiking dream is to thru hike the entire Appalachian trail. All 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine. I will never be able to do this hike unless something bad happens, ie losing my job. I am way to disgustingly dependable and boring to actually quit my job, or take a leave of absence for 6 months. I am a guy who walked around with my jaw broken in 3 places for two days, and only missed work the day they wired my jaw shut, and only then because they knocked me out to do it. (I still got in a four mile run in the snow). Even if I could get the time off, we couldn't afford for me to be 6 months without a paycheck. So my solution is to hike it in sections over the next who knows how many years. So far I have hiked the entire states of Maryland and West Virginia. Don't be real impressed as the trail only runs 41 miles through Maryland, and only 4 miles through West Virginia, but nonetheless I have completed two of the 14 states. This June my plan is to start at the beginning of the trail at Springer Mountain Georgia and hike the entire state of GA. This will knock off 75 more miles and one more state. My 13 year old Nephew will be hiking with me on this trip. He is a big kid and I am hoping he will serve as basically my pack mule. Hiking 75 miles up and down the mountains of Georgia is not the problem. Hiking 75 miles up and down the mountains of Georgia with a 40 pound backpack is the problem. With my running 59 miles a week, my legs and stamina are great, but my upper body strength leaves a lot to be desired. The broken jaw I referenced earlier contributed to my lack of upper body strength. With my jaw wired shut for 3 months, I wasn't able to eat anything but liquids and consequently I lost quite a bit of weight which I really couldn't afford.
I haven't gotten the weight or the strength back completely, so as soon as the weather clears up, I will start walking around town with my backpack on, no matter how goofy I look. Packing your gear for long distance backpacking is all about saving weight and having your pack as light as possible. When a backpacker looks at equipment, if you are a true backpacker, you don't ask "how much it costs", you ask "how much it weighs". A backpackers pack consists of a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, stove, propane, tent, water filter, camelback water pack, cooking pot, cup, knife and fork, shovel for burying (no further explanation needed), towel, bandanna, soap, toothbrush, camera, and first aid supplies such as mole skin for blisters. You then need to carry enough food to last you between resupply points. This could be as long as a week or more. You want to find food easy to prepare, light, and high calorie. You can burn 7500 to 10000 calories a day, hiking up and down mountains carrying 40 pounds on your back. Some examples of trail food include: Bagels with peanut butter, Ramen noodles, trail mix, animal crackers, jerky, instant mashed potatoes, pasta, power bars, and MandMs. Water is very heavy so you don't want to have to carry very much. There are few water sources along the trail, so you need to rely on creeks and streams. You must always use your water filter, as there is very little worse to a hiker than having Giardia on the trail. There is not always an available bush to get behind with your shovel. So its with all these things in mind, that I prepare for the hike this spring. If I do 70 miles a year, I will only be about 85 years old when I finally reach Mt. Katahdin. For those of you who have never backpacked, I am sure you find this to be a crazy pursuit, but it would only take one trip to get you hooked. There is nothing like being out on the trail being self sufficient, and responsible for your total well being. It is a challenge every day. The biggest part is mental. You hike ten to twelve hours a day, stop, put up your tent, cook supper, go to bed, and get up the next day and do it all over again day after day. The rewards though are worth it. You meet some of the most interesting characters along the trail. There was a father and daughter we met along the trail in Grand Canyon that we spent a week with on the trail and became life long friends. The views you see are views very few see. The wildlife you see, is wildlife most people only see in zoos. We have gotten up close and personal with a black bear, a 3-4 foot rattlesnake, and a skunk who decided to climb in my backpack and eat our bagels. Any of you out there who read this and would like to experience the joys of backpacking, there is always room for one more on the trail...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This blog is designed to display my interests, likes, dislikes and random thoughts. I am 54 years old, but I feel like I have only started living the last 6 years. It was 2004 and we had made our first visit to the Grand Canyon. We were standing on the rim, and we started to see people walking up Bright Angel Trail. We decided right then and there, that hiking the Grand Canyon was something we really wanted to do.

We planned our hike for a year and decided to do it in 2005 on my 50th birthday. We planned and planned. There was the planning of what to take, what backpack to use, what food to take, and how to get there. We shopped for equipment (we had nothing, as we had never done this before), we planned our food, and decided how we were going to get there.

We packed our backpacks and a suitcase with clothes for when we finished and decided to fly to Las Vegas and rent a car to take us to the Grand Canyon. We arranged for a room at the lodge for the night we got there, and also for the night when we got back.

Everything went well, and we arrived at the lodge and spent the night. We got up the next morning and loaded our suitcase into the rental car and boarded the bus to take us to the trail head. We decided to go down on the South Kaibab trail, spend the night at Phantom Ranch, hike up Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden, spend the night, and hike out the next day.

The bus dropped us off at the Trail Head of the South Kaibab trail at 6am. It was around 40 degrees when we started down the trail. The views were spectacular with many a photo-op to be enjoyed. As we went further down the trail it got progressively hotter. The heat was oppressive and made for very difficult hiking. We could see the Colorado River, but it didn't seem we would ever get there. My wife was having a very hard time in the heat, and had even resorted to pouring Gatorade on her head to cool off. I tolerate the heat much better than the cold, and I was not feeling any real ill effects. We finally made it to the bottom after 10 hours of hiking. When we got to Phantom Ranch, there was a thermometer on a tree that read 128 degrees. My wife immediately dropped her pack and went in to the creek running through Phantom Ranch with all her clothes on.

Once we had cooled off and recovered, we began to look for a camping site. We found a good spot and set up our tent, and tried to relax before dinner. You have to reserve dinner up to a year in advance. You dont just show up at Phantom Ranch and order dinner, there is only food for the ones who reserve. Dinner has only two meals: Beef Stew, and Steak. They are pricey, $26.00 a person, for whichever meal you choose. You can also reserve breakfast, and a sack lunch for the hike out. Expect to pay around $60.00 a person for all three meals.

The reason you have to reserve your meals and they cost so much, is that the only way to get food to Phantom Ranch is by mule train, so supplies are limited to how much the mules can carry. We also sent post cards from Phantom Ranch, which say "delivered by mule train".

We awoke early and went to breakfast. We finished breakfast and made ready to hike up Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim. Standing on the trail you can see lights from the lodges on the rim, and you wonder how you will ever get back up there.

We started up the trail and hiked to Indian Gardens where we spent the night. We got up early the next morning to make our last few miles to the top. As we got closer to the top, we started passing people who were on the top looking at the views and decided to walk down the trail a mile or two. Those clean, fresh smelling people only made us appreciate more what we had accomplished. There are millions of people who visit the Grand Canyon, but there is only a very small percentage who actually set foot on the trail, let alone hike to the bottom. We enjoyed the experience so much that we created a new life. We were now at the age of 50 and 45 "Backpackers".