Wednesday, March 30, 2011

1,830,000

That number, ladies, gentleman, and the gender non-conforming, is approximately how many calories Grace and I will burn between us during the duration of the hike. That's an incredibly daunting number. That's also just sort of a guess. The guides tell us that we'll each burn 4000-6000 calories a day, so I just went with 5000 for an average.

We've spent the last two days in RI at Grace's dad's house, putting together things that we still need and prepping our food drops. When we added the calories of the food we already have we realized that we only had somewhere around 450,000 calories worth of food. At this point, of course, we've resigned ourselves to the fact that there's simply no way we can eat enough calories to replace what we burn (that's good for me; I'm gonna lose some weight! I'm very sad faced to realize how much of that will be muscle weight :-/ ). But we still have a ton of food to buy.

It's good to sit here and go through all our food, and get to reality about what we need to get, but it's definitely a lot of work. We spent hours tonight bagging vitamins and meals together for each package, and didn't even manage to get one package put together. Granted, that's partially because we made our glorious trail mix, which took a while considering how much we made.

Trail mix

























Sadly, I suspect that even this ridiculously huge bag of trail mix is not enough, and that we'll be buying more supplies for trail mix at Costco. I don't look forward to all the chopping and mixing I'm going to have to do again. Also, for reference, here's what's in that: walnuts, pecans, dried apricots, dried cherries, dried blueberries, peanuts, chocolate chips, dried mangoes, and raisins. Goddamn delicious is what that is.

As I look over what we have already for food, I'm also resigned to the coming monotony in our palates. There's a whole lot of Easy Mac, Lipton noodle/rice dishes, Asian noodle meals for some variety and flavor, granola bars, Nutrigrain bars, hot chocolate, Tang, and a few other things. Here are a couple pictures of our food (remember, the amount in the pictures is still inadequate).

So much food 3

So much food 2

So much food 1

Just a week left, but so much to do. So many calories to try to buy. So much nutrition that we won't be getting, no matter how hard we try.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

That old feeling

We're about two and a half weeks away from setting out on the trail. Two and a half short weeks. This Friday is my last day at my job, which somehow seems like a point of finality. As if that's when the hike becomes real, even without a foot stepped on the trail. But somehow that still doesn't make it feel real to me, or at most only slightly so.

When I talk to people about leaving soon for the Trail I get this sense of amazement from them, a sense in their minds that this is a big, unimaginable thing. They usually want to talk about it, they want me to explain the logistics of it, and they sometimes tell me they've always wanted to do it. I can see in their eyes and hear in their voices that this trek has a size to it that is almost unreal. Meanwhile, I'm plodding along buying gear, making plans, reading books, and generally preparing to leave, yet I don't really feel the immensity. Somehow, setting out to hike the Trail and doing everything necessary to successfully accomplish it makes it smaller and less ethereal.

This is almost the exact same feeling I had before I left for the Peace Corps. I remember telling people that I was going to be leaving to live and work in Armenia for two years, but I never really felt the immensity of it, even though I knew that it was two years of my life in a place not much farther away from home than I could get. It's amazing to me that the only times that that experience was big in my mind were the day I got my country assignment, and after it was finished. Now I look back on it as this huge, monumentally enriching thing (which it was; I miss it dearly); in some way, I think that makes me more confident about this trip, because I know that this will be a thing that I look back on and say "wow, I did that!"

Other old feelings are less helpful. One of the things about both having been a Peace Corps volunteer and about being a life-long outdoorsman is that I've had a lot of experience of mental and physical hardship. I remember the depths of depression I was in during parts of the Peace Corps because I felt purposeless; I remember taking no comfort from day to day knowing that at the end it would feel like an accomplishment. I remember even more viscerally hiking through miserable conditions on more than one occasion.

One of the strongest memories I have of hiking is from a winter camping trip I took years ago. It was February in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, incredibly rugged and unforgiving terrain in that season. I was on an eight day snowshoeing trip with some folks from my college's outdoor club; half of those eight days we were hiking through a blizzard that dumped probably 6 or so feet of snow, in addition to sometimes painful wind. I think particularly about the section where I was hiking up a steep, rocky ridge with wind blasting me, and my snowshoes slipping back because the angle of the ridge and the wind allowed only a thin coating of snow to collect, one that didn't provide good traction for snowshoes. I can feel even now in my chest the deep exhaustion, the sense of despair as I cursed and wanted to give up with each near-futile step. I was close to breaking down on that ridge, and probably only made it up thanks to the patience of my fellow hiker plodding along behind me.

Remembering the pain of that journey scares me more than a bit for this one. I don't relate that story to show that I'm hardcore and totally prepared for what comes my way. I tell it because that's what parts of the Appalachian Trail are going to be like, for much longer than eight days. There's five months of this ahead of me, and I can feel a sense of dread at times when I think about that, knowing in very small part its pain. I know that I will want to give up at some points, and just hope that having Grace along, and being able to convince myself that there are more beautiful days of trail even when one or several are shitty, will keep me going.

Even knowing some of that, I'm still excited to go, and I'm still confident that I'll finish it. Though it doesn't feel right now as big a journey as I know it should and as I can see others feel it is, it does still feel like an adventure.

Two and a half weeks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Itinerary

Our itinerary is posted!

At the top of this page, there is a tab to view our itinerary. Keep in mind that this is a very tentative schedule, subject to change, which I’ve mapped out based on average reported mileage. We don’t really know how fast we’ll hike, and our time is contingent on everything going to plan. Which we all know never happens. However, we are hoping to make better time than this, as Baxter State Park, where Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus, is located, closes to overnight visitors on October 15th. We definitely don’t want to be sprinting up Katahdin on the final day.

What I’ve typed out is all the stops we expect to make. If there is a zip code listed, it means that we will be stopping at the post office in that town.

In the hopes of saving some money, we are going to buy food in bulk and mail it to various post offices along the trail, care of general delivery. The post office will hold it for us until our expected date of pick-up. We will also be doing this to resupply for various first aid and hygiene materials, as well as “bumping” our winter clothes ahead.

You’re welcome (of course!) to send us care packages. The only stipulation is that you send us the most caloric things you can find.

If you’re interested, address packages as:

Hiker’s full (legal) name
c/o General Delivery
City, State, Zip Code
Return Address
“Please hold for thru-hiker”
Expected date of pick-up

We’ll be sure to update here as we change our plans.