Monday, February 27, 2012

Video of the Mail Drop Assembly process is now posted.  Visit the Video page listed in the menu to the right.  Thanks.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I have been getting my trail food ready for quite some time now, gathering supplies, buying in bulk, and breaking things down into individual meals.  Now it's time to put it all into shipping boxes.  The containers hold about 5 days of food and other essentials.  In varying quantities, here's what's in there:  Bear Creek Soups, Knorr Sides, Idahoan Instant Potatoes mixed with Bacon Bits, Ramen Noodles and Tuna, Spam Singles and Macaroni & Cheese, Instant Oatmeal,  Dry Cereal with Powdered Milk, Almond Butter and Jelly (with tortillas to add before shipping), snack bars, dried fruit, cookies, crackers, coffee, sugar, hot chocolate, energy drink mixes, and on and on. 

In addition to the food, the boxes also carry other essentials like Bic lighters, Hand Sanitizer, Travel-size Toothpaste, my daily medicines and pain relievers, the next set of trail maps and guide pages, and things like that.

I have identified certain towns along the way where the post office is fairly convenient and will send these supply boxes to myself, care of General Delivery.  That will only take care of about half of my supply needs for the entire trip.  The other supplies will be purchased in other towns and convenience stores that I pass along the way.  One of the drawbacks of doing mail drops is figuring out months in advance what my food tastes will be.  By alternating mail drop food with other food purchased along the way, I hope to still find my mail drop food palatable when I open that last box in Maine.

Here are a few snapshots of the assembly process.  I took some video and will work on processing it tomorrow.


If you didn't hear via Facebook, there will be a little party on March 19th at the High Point Barber Shop on Lexington Avenue in High Point from 5:00pm to 6:00pm.  Brian Adkins is going to give me a buzz-cut and a straight-razor shave.  Yes, I will take a before and after photo.  Then I won't get a haircut or shave until I return from Mt Katahdin sometime in September or October.  You are all welcome to stop by for a meet and greet to help see me off on my Appalachian Trail adventure.  See you there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

As promised, there's a video of my gear selections for my hike on the AT.  Look to the right and click on the Videos page.  Enjoy.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hello all. 

I'm back from my visit to the experts at the NOC.  I got a pack shakedown from A-J (nickname Apple Juice on the trail) and then attended a three hour clinic on all things AT.  It was well worth the trip.  First we took out the water and food in order to weigh the pack with just gear to get a 'base weight.'  The pack and gear weighed 27 pounds.  Actually, that's pretty good compared to most other hikers.  Then it was back upstairs where A-J divided my remaining gear into three piles: necessities, luxuries, and discards.  The luxuries and discards weighed a total of 5.5 pounds.  Keep in mind that the necessities gear includes the sleeping bag while I wait for the Jacks-R-Better quilt.  That change will save me 2 pounds and 3 ounces.  So, my base weight really starts at less than 20 pounds before I decide what luxuries to put back in..  He liked the way I have organized my gear, using dry-sacks for most everything - orange for clothing (cold weather bag and change-of-clothing bag), green for food (lunches/dinners bag and breakfasts/snacks bag), blue for other toiletries and loose items.

Other suggestions from AJ include changing my water purification system from a pump (3 years old and heavy) to a new Gravity Fed filtration system that is much lighter.  It's another $100 but will save some weight. 

Did you know that Baby-Wipes can be dried ahead of time and re-hydrated before use?  So long TP, hello Hiker-Wipes!  There's now one less cooking pot (came in a nesting set of two - but I only need one), lose the plastic Spork in favor of a titanium long handle Spork (combination spoon and fork), keep the Squishy-Bowl and lose the Squishy-Cup.  The thinking is to eat out of the cooking pot and drink a double cup of coffee out of the bowl.

A-J advised carrying just one camera: taking the Olympus TG-610 and leaving the GoPro Hero2 at home.  Arrrrrgh.  I knew he was going to suggest that.  But I don't know if I can make that choice.  As I said in an earlier post, the Olympus may get sent home early, but not the GoPro.  However, if I am gaining such a weight advantage with the other decisions, carrying both cameras might be the luxury items I choose to live with despite the weight.  As it is, I think I am well under the 25 pound target I set.  I will have to repack with my new purchases and choices and weigh it all again to be sure.

He said my food choices were good, but to expect to need about twice as much food after the first few weeks.   As I mentioned in an earlier post, a hiker will use up about 4,000-5,000 calories each day, but only have the TIME to put in 2,000.  That's why a hiker is always hungry and dreaming of the next 'AYCE' (all-you-can-eat restaurant) up the trail.

Bottom line: A-J and the rest of the clinic team agree that I am 'spot on' with my other gear choices, food, and preparations.  I will pay a visit to the local REI and Great Outdoor Provisions Company tomorrow and purchase the new gear choices.

Sorry to keep you waiting for a gear video, but I wanted to wait until I had the right stuff before I locked it in.  Video coming soon, I promise.

I am reading a newly released E-book called: "Appalachian Trials" by Zach Davis.  All the other books are gear guides and stories of the author's thru-hike.  This new book is the first of its kind: a psychological and mental guide to successfully finishing the AT.  He starts off suggesting I create a list of reasons why I want to thru-hike the AT.  My Reason #1?  I want to accomplish a 'lifetime' adventure.

It's Sunday evening as I write this.  Tomorrow, 2/13, will mark 48 days and a wake-up.  It's getting closer and closer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

When I put 5 days of food, a full water bladder, cameras and all the other incidentals, the weight of my pack jumped to 39 pounds.  Tomorrow's trip to the NOC for some expert advice will help, but I can also make some changes now.

Currently, my sleeping bag is a Mountain Hardware Switch 35 (rated down to 35 degrees).  It weighs 3 pounds, 8 ounces.  I bought it when I was still using my tent and sleeping pad.
Mountain Hardware Switch 35

In an effort to drop a few pounds, I just ordered a new bag, made for use in a hammock.  It's a Hudson River 3-Season Quilt from a company called Jacks-R-Better.  It's lighter - 1 pound, 5 ounces, but it's rated for 25 to 30 degrees.

Jacks-R-Better Hudson River 3 Season Quilt

So, not only did I lower my pack weight by more than 2 pounds, but I got a sleeping system designed for hammock use and I will stay warmer in colder temperatures.

Grandson Robert wants to go camping and hiking before I leave on my adventure.  It will be a good way to get some trail exercise and practice setup and tear-down of all the gear.  Dates are being worked out but pictures are sure to follow.

My friends at the Rush24 gym are getting into this too.  Each day someone will ask about the trip.  They will get an AT Strip Map to mark my progress so everyone can follow along.

Today it's 51 days and a wake-up left to go.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Planning and training continues for an April 1st start of my AT adventure.  This Saturday, February 11th, I will attend a clinic held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (they call it the NOC).  It is located on the Nantahala River outside of Bryson City, NC and it sits right on the Appalachian Trail.  They have been serving AT hikers for years.  Their clinic should help me make some last minute decisions on gear and logistics.  As a matter of fact, I have scheduled a one-on-one session with their staff to do a gear/pack 'shakedown' to help me get rid of anything I don't really need - or choose other options that would accomplish the same task with less weight.  I put a 5-day supply of food in my pack, added snacks, the camera, phone, batteries, charging cables, maps and the guide book.  All of a sudden my pack weight jumps to 32 pounds.  And I still have to add water to that.  I don't know what I can eliminate at this point.  That's why the 'shakedown' with the experts.  I know they will find things I can do without.  I hope it's nothing I am too attached to - like my camera(s).  We will see.  55 days and a wake-up to go!