Category Archives: Planning

Source: Google Images

Three Weeks

Today marks the three week mark from when I will be leaving my little town and driving to my parent’s house in Michigan.  All of my belongings will be (hopefully) tucked away into two separate storage garages, with my Harley stashed at the club house and a few key belongings in the truck and trailer with me.  My entire future will be wide open, at the mercy of the fates.

What this means for me presently, though, is that the stress levels have reached atomic bomb proportions.

In an effort to reduce some stress (or maybe just procrastinate from doing some of the things I should be doing a little more…) I figured I would give a quick update here.

Financial Setbacks

You may have noticed my previous post, stating my hike might be cancelled.  The past two months have really been an eye opener for me.  Previous to this, I had my finances laid out fairly well, confident I would have enough for my ongoing bills, for food and lodging along the trail, and even for a little “extra” in case of any unplanned expenses.  However, I am now on the verge of having to cancel my trip for lack of funds.  An unexpected root canal at the dentist (dental insurance is a joke…), a landlord that decided to not honor his word to help me find someone to take over my lease, and a few unexpected training expenses so that I can maintain my National Registry Paramedic certification, along with a slew of other odds and ends that have crept into the expense category have really put a strain on my savings account.  The worst of it, though, is that the annual bonus I have been counting on to help fund the majority of this trip is not going to be anywhere near what it has been in the past, and may very well be the last straw that breaks the bank.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

A friend suggested that I start a “Go Fund Me” campaign, where anyone can donate any amount they prefer towards my cause.  But I hesitate at doing that because A) my “cause” is a personal goal, not something truly worth a campaign fund, like helping a family who lost everything in a house fire to replace clothing and such so they can actually lead a normal life again, and B) this is my goal, so I shouldn’t expect others to help.  Besides, I’m not sure I have more than a handful of readers, so I’m not sure how much good such a campaign would do.

Notifications

For the most part, all notifications have taken place . There might be an odd friend here or there I haven’t spoken to yet, but I believe I’ve hit the majority of people in my life.  And in three days, I need to give my office my “two weeks’ notice”.  Yep, the nerves have kicked in for that one.  I’ve only had to quit two jobs before, and I have never asked for a leave of absence, so I am not sure how this will go.  On one hand, I think my Director will understand – he went through some serious knee injury just before I had my knee surgery, and will most likely be able to relate.  On the other hand, though, I am in a position within my office that cannot go empty for too long.  There are two people who report directly to me, and will need direction on a daily basis.  So I do not expect the office to “hold” my desk for me.  Ultimately, I am guessing that I will get a “give us a call when you are done, and if we have a spot for you then, we will discuss your return” sort of answer.  While it’s expected, it doesn’t ease any stress levels.

I have been surprised, both pleasantly and unpleasantly, by the types of responses I have gotten.  Fellow thru hiker and Appalachian Trials Blogger “Big Tex” wrote about these phenomena back in November, explaining there are four types of responses you will get when you tell them about your plans – Passive Negative, Aggressive Negative,       Passive Positive, Positive.  At the time, I hadn’t experienced it, but now that most notifications are made, I can confirm his entire post, which you can read here.  Big Tex describes in his findings that the Positive people will be the smallest grouping, and the Passive Positive the largest, and for the most part, that’s been my experience as well.  While I will wait to pass final judgment until after my hike, initial “categorization” has placed a large number of people into the “supportive but not helpful” grouping.  I suppose a thru hike is similar to performing a Facebook Friend purge, where you unfriend the people who you haven’t talked to in a decade, or those you don’t even recognize by name anymore.

Gear

While I know I promised a full post-Christmas gear post, I haven’t had the time to photograph and write up all of it.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to test most of it, either.  This winter has been odd, more rain and slush with intermingling frigid temperatures and high winds than anything else.  And given my time crunch, I doubt I will get a chance to write a full post before my hike.  But I love bullet lists, so let me summarize, and throw some gear porn on here for you.  I also wrote about most of these in my Wish List post.  Santa was VERY good to me, too!

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A wonderful rain jacket – the Mountain Hardware Plasmic.  Lightweight and durable.

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  • Family pictures.  By far one of the best presents was from my niece, little pictures of my family including a few of her Royal Cuteness.
  • Leatherman Micra multitool.  Under two ounces, full of useful tools and small enough to go unnoticed in a pocket during a TSA search (do not TRY this, just guessing…)
  • Big Agnes Double Z sleeping pad.  Four inches of air-filled comfort.
  • REI Travel Sack.  Compact and lightweight summer bag.
  • Black Diamond Spot Headlamp.  While I have a headlamp already, this one provides twice as much light, has more power-saving settings, and has a red light.  Oh, and weighs less.
  • Sea to Summit Mosquito Head Net.  At one ounce, I will carry it as insurance, whether I need it or not.
  • A couple REI Mini towels.  Lightweight and useful.
  • Dr. Bronners Soap and Hand Sanitizer.  Necessities.

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  • Nalgene 96oz. Cantene.  Plenty of storage capacity, yet collapses to nothingness when not in use.
  • Buffs.  A pair of useful head wraps.  One will most likely be my pillow case, to keep my pillow from becoming disgusting.
Source:  Google Images

Source: Google Images

  • Gift Cards.  Wonderful, wonderful money, with which I purchased the sleeping bag I have been dreaming of (and will soon be dreaming IN…), the Nemo Nocturne 15* bag.  Bring on those cold nights.
  • (Also from Gift Cards)  Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Liner, in an attempt to keep the hiker funk to a minimum inside my cocoon of warmth.
  • (Also from Gift Cards)  Exped Air Pillow.  Either for my head or for my knee, but at three ounces, why not.

I have officially switched boots.  The Oboz shoes I had previously thought were wonderful had started to cause some discomfort.  In an effort to keep getting in shape, I switched to a pair of unused Keen Targhee II Mid High boots I had sitting in a closet.  I have been using them for a good month now, and have had little discomfort at all.  In fact, from day one, they felt like they were already “broken in”, which I discovered is a common comment in reviews.  I would like to try out a pair of Brooks Cascadia trail runner shoes, but I know that I wouldn’t use them at the start of my hike due to the snow.  Perhaps when I am ready for my first boot replacement, though.

I am still searching for the right pair of shorts.  I tried one pair, and liked them as shorts, but under my pack, they became uncomfortable, so the search continues.  I am headed to REI soon to gather the last bit of items I need – a few stuff sacks, a couple spare sets of socks, maybe a fuel canister.  Otherwise, I think I have everything I need, save for a few small odds and ends.

While I am stressed out beyond anything I have ever experienced before, I cannot wait to get on the trail.  Maybe this is my current form of “running away”, as I’ve been accused of doing throughout my life, but at this point, I don’t care.  Sometimes retreat is the only way you can survive.  Three weeks… I can do this.

Source: Google Images

Source: Google Images

If you have any comments, advice, or ANY TOPIC SUGGESTIONS, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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Deflated

The title says it all…

I’ve made nearly all notifications.  I’ve spent a small fortune on new gear.  I have about half of my apartment packed away into a storage garage.  I’ve lined up as much support as I can muster.  I’ve been working out, getting into shape.  And with one phone call, my entire trip may be postponed…

My landlord no longer wishes to “work with me” in getting my apartment sub-leased.

I’m headed out into the bleak winter nothingness to see what else I can come up with…

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Focus

Focus is a funny thing.  It comes and goes like the wind, changing courses and intensity levels as quickly as it disappears.  Sometimes it’s a cold, brisk wind.  Others, it’s a humid breeze bringing a thunderstorm with it.  But always, it is changing.

My focus has shifted back and forth a lot over the past year.  I’ll read an article on Appalachian Trials <clicky> that gets me excited, and my focus will intensify for a while.  But like most of my life, a distraction will come along and make that focus shift to something else.  And in doing so, the introspective part of my brain (which, by all accounts, is probably the majority of my brain…) starts analyzing every hidden meaning and implication of these focus shifts.  It’ll wear you out quick, trust me.

But with my trip WAY less than two months away, I need to straighten and strengthen my focus on one thing – doing whatever I need to do to start and finish an Appalachian Trail Thru Hike.  Hmm… now that I say it, maybe I should just focus on the four bajillion LITTLE things I have to do before I can go after that Thru hike… yeah, that stresses me out a little less.

Hiking… err, Cross Training!

While I still go for some walks, I will be honest – not as many as I should.  First of all, the only time I have had free in the past month have been early early mornings – and my bed is so comfy warm – or late evenings – windy, cold, and dark evenings.  However, I have gotten in some “cross training”.

I went snowboarding for the first time ever, and had a blast!  Sure, I was sore the next day (week…) and my butt hurt from falling down so much, but I am hooked.  I have been a downhill skier since I was a teenager, although I have not actually gone in quite some time.  And I never quite caught the bug for snowboarding.  Growing up, the boarders were always the “anti” crowd… anti-rules, anti-authority, and often anti-shower.  Wasn’t my scene.  But now I completely see why so many people like to snowboard!

As torture to myself, I have begun to do stairs.  Not just the once-up from the car to my apartment, but actually going top to bottom to top to bottom to top… monotonously over and over.  I started with a simple goal – go until the knee feels stressed.  And every time I add a few more trips up and down.  I know I need to do a bit more in other aspects of the training, but at least my knee muscles are feeling stronger.

I attending a private yoga session a few weeks ago, and while I did not get out of it what I had hoped, it did show me the benefits of such a practice.  However, I do not understand the poses enough to do it on my own, so I have reverted back to my high school football training and have started doing some direct stretching exercises daily.  I’ve always heard people say how much it helps maintain flexibility and such, but always just brushed it off as something that is better for people who already have some flexibility.  Never really thought of it as a way to increase flexibility, and now that I am doing it, it feels good.

I have a post about all my Christmas present plunders in the works, but am still looking for other topic ideas.  But as a head’s up, I start my Paramedic recertification class soon, so a lot of my free time will need to be devoted to that.

If you have any comments, advice, or ANY TOPIC SUGGESTIONS, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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Updates

I know it has been a long while since I have written.  I wasn’t out hiking due to the weather, so I didn’t have anything to write about, nobody gave me any ideas, and if I am being completely honest, I was feeling a bit burned out with all of the planning going on.  So I took a break.  But I figure it’s time to get back into the swing of writing, so that it becomes habit BEFORE my trip, so here are a few updates.

Hiking

I have been getting in my typical “around town” walks, but have been limited on how much actual trail time I can get.  For one, it gets dark nearly before I leave work and I have no desire to become a “mountain rescue” patient.  I did walk through Gettysburg Battlefield just before the holidays, and got in a couple walks while at my parents.

My parents recently moved to a new house, and it is about a quarter mile from a very nice Rail/Trail.  If you are unfamiliar, old railroad tracks that are no longer in use are ripped up, and a paved “trail” is put down.  The Rail/Trail is open to any non-motorized users, such as hikers, bicycles, and cross country skiers.  The R/T near my parents goes right through a Christmas Tree farm, and made for a very serene setting around the holidays.  And it also let me get in a good 4-5 mile walk a couple times while on vacation.

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Notifications

I am getting there.  This is a slower process than I had expected.  Thanksgiving weekend, I let my bike club President know I would be leaving.  He took it a lot better than I expected.  I was worried he would feel like I was abandoning him, especially with all of the event planning we have coming up in the next 18 months, but he was very positive and had lots of questions.  I hope he continues to offer me his support, because his approval is one of the ones I need to mentally be ok with walking away from everything.  I notified the remainder of the bike club this past weekend, and received the typical (aka, expected) jokes and comments, but overall support.

While on vacation for Christmas, I was able to let a few more friends and family know.  My aunt and cousins offered immediate support and well-wishes.  My “second family” was enthusiastic to learn about my trip, also offering well-wishes.  A family that befriended me years ago when I worked at Boy Scout camp, whose son has become like a little brother to me, was EXTREMELY excited to hear about my plans, as I knew they would be.  All of the support has been great, and I cannot wait to make my trip more public.

Gear

Santa was very nice to me this year, providing me with a bunch of new gear.  I will write a full post on that gear soon.  For now, I just have some general thoughts on gear.

While I had originally thought my Oboz hiking shoes were going to be spot-on for me, I am starting to second-guess that decision.  There is nothing physically “wrong” with the shoes, they aren’t falling apart or anything, but I have started to notice some pain just behind the ball of one foot.  Unfortunately, it is also the foot that was associated with being non-weight bearing for over 3 months, so I am worried there might be something else going on.  I essentially have few choices – go see a podiatrist and make sure there is nothing wrong with the foot; ignore the pain and just keep plodding on with what I have, acknowledging that I can get new footwear after the first week or two on-trail; or take a road trip to one of the outfitters who are known for their footwear knowledge.  I go back and forth with which way is best.

During my Christmas hikes, I took note that my favorite stocking hat is NOT windproof.  Which means I will need to find one that is windproof AND warm.  Good thing Santa got me an REI Gift Certificate!

If you have any comments, advice, or ANY TOPIC SUGGESTIONS, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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Losing Steam

The title says it all.  I am losing steam…

I have read Zach Davis’s book “Appalachian Trials” at least four or five times now.  (You’ve read it, too, haven’t you?  Check out my review here!)  I have made my “Lists”.  But never did I think I would be actually USING THEM before my hike even started!

I have hit a wall with my training – not that I am “trained”, and certainly not in shape (round is still a shape, right?), but that I am finding my daily walks to be monotonous and not enjoyable.  I think of this as my “Virginia Blues”… except I’m in Maryland.  The weather is changing, and hunting season is approaching, so I’m not real comfortable hiking the mountain trails.  And with all the rain we have had, plus the earlier sunset times, my road walks are becoming… well, dreary.

I have also grown tired of the constant reading and research about the A.T.  I know, I know, but I feel like I’m in a college class that just won’t end.  So I have started to slip non-hiking reading material into the rotation, and that has helped some.  But I am still feeling a little “burned out” with the information overload.

And let’s not even get into the financial stress that has already begun.  Acquiring equipment.  Stocking items for resupply.  Preparing to pack my life into boxes (anyone have spare boxes?!).  All while trying to maintain a lifestyle and not be a complete hermit.  Yes, I am stressed about the money…  To make matters worse, of the dozen or so sponsorship requests I have sent out, I have been denied a dozen or so times.  Only one offered me a “Pro Deal”, which equates to about a 50% discount from retail.  But it’s a food item that I probably won’t be buying lots and lots of.  Finances have always been a drag to me, and this project has been no different…

I think a large portion of my blues are from my inability to talk about it to too many people.  I am trying to keep it quiet at work, so as to not incur any retribution from management.  I haven’t made all notifications, so I can’t talk about it with the bike club or some of my other friends yet.  And while my parents know, they are four states away, so it doesn’t come up in conversation as often as it would if they saw the pile of gear in my living room regularly.  I am sure things will settle out in this area as I am able to talk through my fears and frustrations more and more.  As the great Vince Lombardi once said, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”  And I will do my best to be better than I have been.

On a very positive note, my dad has expressed an interest to hike with me for a few days somewhere in the middle of my trip.  I cannot tell you how exciting that is to me!  When I first started backpacking, over 20 years ago, he was my hiking partner.  It wasn’t about the trail or the views we shared, but rather the quick conversations that occurred at that overlook, the end-of-the-day conversations as we set up camp and got ready for bed, and certainly the shared stories all these years later.  I have already started to look at the guidebook to figure out the best place for him to join me that is somewhat close to a campground for mom to hang out at.  My maps are ordered, and we will be talking more logistics when I go home for Christmas.

I am hoping I can regain some of my enthusiasm for this trip soon.  I am planning a weekend hike – most likely just an out-and-back trip, but enough to test my tent for a night or two, figure out what works and doesn’t work for my kitchen kit, and hopefully renew my desire to do something other than sit on the couch.  I will be sure to post about that after it happens.

If you have any comments, advice, or ANY TOPIC SUGGESTIONS, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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