My first week on the trail

After my last post, things have been kind of a blur. I haven’t been keeping up with my writing journal so it’s difficult for me to post things here. Lots of things have definitely happened – I just don’t know the order.

First and foremost, I’ve had some amazing trail magic. Some personal and some regular. I was hiking down a path toward the Pogo Campsite and I passed some day hikers. Some time later, this lady comes running from behind me yelling out “Hiker! Hiker!”. I turned around and she was holding one of my camp shoes, I don’t know how far she had gone but it was pretty sweet of her to do that.

Before getting to Raven Rock shelter, there is a road and then a relatively (for me) steep trail leading up to the shelter. I was not looking forward to it all day. I was heading that direction, and it started to rain. It was actually pretty nice because the day needed some cooling off. Right at the road, was the most amazing thing ever. Several dudes with one of those tailgating type tents set up and they were grilling. They offered me a beer which I declined but they had soda as well. I ate three hot dogs and a half of a steak. Steak! I couldn’t believe it.

I had a crappy day on Tuesday. I was getting low on water and decided to stop at Rocky Mountain Shelters. My feet were killing me. My pack was unbearable. It was getting to the point where I was like, “Unless I make some changes, I’m not going to make it.” I had to stop at the shelter because there was a spring there. The shelter however, was back down the mountain I had just climbed up. It was also further away than the guide book said. The “piped spring” was not that at all and it appeared some sort of sewer pipe or something was coming out from it. I’m sure it wasn’t sewer but it wasn’t the typical piped spring. It was also all the way down the mountain. When I got down there, I refused to go back up. There was a road right by the spring and I started walking in the direction I felt was right. I couldn’t get a hitch to save my life. I walked at least 3.5 miles. Along the way a lady was out in her yard and I asked her if the road led to the next town or at least a road to the next town. She said it did and gave me some Powerade and water. I hiked on. I reached Caledonia State Park which the AT actually goes through. I had to get to the town though, which was 4 more miles West of where I was at. I started walking. It started raining. About 2 miles in, I was finally picked up by someone and they took me to the post office. Here, I took out 9lbs. worth of gear and sent it home. The guy also pretty much bought my lunch and took me back to the state park. My hike has been a million times easier with that 9 pounds gone.

I’ve met lots of great people. Slim Jim, Army Ant, Little Sass, Invisible Man, Lost, B-Line, Why Not?, Dump Truck, Clever Girl, Wolfe, and I’m sure some others. Everyone I’ve met is nice. The first ones I mentioned have given me some insight on my travels and it has really helped a lot.

I’ve had some foot pain that seems to be getting better. I am hoping to take a nero (near zero) day soon. I came into Mt. Holly Springs to get a package from Dee. One of the locals told me there was a library here (not listed in the guide book…arggg). So instead of staying in Boiling Springs to shower, do laundry, and update the site, I may just head on. I will be stopping there for breakfast for sure though.

A few things:

  • I drank a half gallon of sweet tea yesterday.
  • My mustache is getting out of hand, I feel like I am starting to look like a walrus, or ironically, Wilford Brimley.
  • I feel sorry for the person sitting next to me, I really stink.
  • Never, no matter what the price difference is, never buy hotdogs that aren’t 100% beef.

I’ve seen some great things and hit a few milestones. Here ya go!

High Rock

High Rock

 

Mashed taters at Tumbling Run Shelters. Dinner of champions.

Mashed taters at Tumbling Run Shelters. Dinner of champions.

 

I think this is Chimney Rocks.

I think this is Chimney Rocks.

 

PA people!

PA people!

 

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The beginning – bus ride and first few days

Bus Ride

I’ll try not to make this a rant about my bus ride to Frederick, which was an adventure in and of itself. Instead, I will just point out the highlights.

  • After 3 hours of waiting for a delayed departure out of Dallas (what a way to start!) they moved our bus line to the exiting corridor. This was for the departing gates. The permeating smell hit me the closer I got. The only way I can describe it is, I believe it smelled like what I think Woodstock probably smelled like plus the addition of the female equivalent to Stetson. And I’d say that’s pretty spot on.
  • On that same bus ride, with no A/C, I had the privilege of listening to Pamela* talk about her getting back with her man after 17 years. She even had his name tattooed on her finger after all this time. She’s been married 4 other times, but she never stopped loving him. And he didn’t her either. Isn’t that sweet?
  • Still the same bus ride, from Dallas on the way to Little Rock, the fuzz decided to hop on board in Sulphur Springs to either look for someone or something. So that also ate up some time on an already late bus. I was kind of hoping Keanu Reeves would have crawled out of the baggage area down below with a gold wristwatch saying, “I found it guys! I got it! I’m awesome! I’m Keanu Reeves!”
  • Memphis is pretty beautiful in the morning as you cross the mighty Mississippi. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.
  • The urinal at the station in Cincinnati smells like fruit loops.
  • I got to watch San Antonio destroy Miami in game 3.
  • The outside part of the Frederick station smells like urine.

Overall, it wasn’t too bad. I got a food voucher, a $25 voucher for a future ticket, some good people watching time in, a missed bus in Columbus, and only arrived at my destination 4 and a half hours after my original arrival time. I’d say I came out on top. I’ll say this though, I couldn’t wait to sleep on the ground for the first night.

I was blessed with having a ride from Frederick to Harpers Ferry. I waited for him to get off work. So, I perused the town of Frederick all day. He picked me up around 5 and we headed out. Dan, if you are reading this, thanks again for the ride man. I hope you were able to put that red wine to some good use.

There I stood. I was finally there. I headed south for the night. I wanted to see Jefferson Rock and to stand where he once stood (Thomas not George). I left after I said a few “hear ye, hear ye” phrases and ringing an invisible bell. I don’t know how far I hiked but it was getting close to dark, and I hung the hammock and tarp up in Spider City. The daddy long legs here are red….weird. I think there may have been a storm that night but I wouldn’t know because I slept through it. And that was that.

*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the person or probably** because I can’t remember her name.

**definitely

Day 1

I woke up around 8AM to the sound of thunder and rain. I checked my tarp, she had done me quite well. The rain wasn’t too terrible so I threw on my jacket, packed my things, and headed back north. I stopped at the ATC around 9 or so. I stayed there for awhile to check things out, get my photo taken, and send out a postcard to my foxy lady. It was cool to see all the thru-hikers come in, what a sense of accomplishment they must have had.

I set off officially around 10 o’clock and was on my way. Walking out of Harper’s Ferry was kind of lack luster, but then I hit the beginning of Maryland. It totally kicked the crap out of me. It was pretty freaking hard. I’m not going to sugar coat anything, it’s no walk in the park. I mean, yes technically I will be walking through parks but…you get the idea. If anyone had been with me, my trail name would have immediately been “Breaks,” because I took a lot of them. So it was pretty hard already, and then I reached a sign that said, “Weverton Challenge.” I thought, “oh crap.” This was also difficult but I finally made it up to the cliffs with an amazing view and it made it totally worth it.

DCIM100GOPRO

Shortly after I headed out from the cliffs, the clouds came in. I heard the weather was supposed to get super awful. I had no water before I reached the cliffs, I was thirsty, and I still had a ways to go. I did not like this triple-threat combo. I decided I would stop at the Ed Garvey shelter for the day since the weather was set to be bad. I hiked and I hiked. I was beat. This day totally destroyed me. I called out, “Ed Garvey! Where are you?” I received no response. I finally approached the shelter around 4PM. “Ed Garvey you magnificent bastard!” I yelled. I may have only done 8.5 miles for the day. Not bad, but not great. I was satisfied though and as I approached the shelter the rain started coming down. I headed straight for the water source which unfortunately was straight down the mountain about 4 tenths of a mile. It was a B to get to. I didn’t even care about treating it, I was so thirsty. Getting back up was the worst. But I crashed there in the shelter and chatted with the peeps there. No bad weather came our way. It was a nice end to the day.

Day 2

An amazing day. Departed around 9AM. I took a side trail shortly after and headed for some cliffs where I was greeted by some mountain goats! It was so freaking sweet. Now, some of you might not know, but I am co-founder of the A.P.O.I.D.H. (Association for Pics or It Didn’t Happen). So here ya have it:

DCIM100GOPRO
BOOYAKASHA! It was so tight. I headed out and a ways down a runner stopped and we got to chatting. He gave me a PB&J energy bar that he said he always eats for his runs. My first trail magic!

The great thing about the journey is that I can take my time to see the sites. I came across Gathland State Park. The land used to belong to George Alfred Townsend, a war correspondent during the Civil War. There was a lot of memorabilia and history here. A must stop IMHO. Once I headed out from there, sure enough, more trail magic. An ice chest full of Coca-Colas. It was the best coke I’ve ever had.

The hike on this day wasn’t as bad as the day before. I met several hikers Grizzly, Messy Garage, Apple Butter, and Hotdog. I stayed at the Dahlgren Campground, it was a great day.

Day 3

Planning when to go into towns and stuff can be quite the tribulation. I was going to go into town on this day and even set off down the road to do so. I needed to get some laundry done, resupply, and update this site. I still had enough food to eat but it was getting low. The library didn’t open until way later and I had no where to grab a good shower so I changed my mind as I was heading into town. With that, some blue blazes and back, I had a 15 mile day this day. I wanted to go into town on day 4 early in the morning so I pressed further on. I was sitting at the Pogo Campsite debating whether or not to press on. It was 5 o’clock, the sun sets around 8 something. I know having a giant mass called a mountain blocking the sun can sure make things go dark a lot quicker too. That 5 miles was pretty brutal. Rocks. Nothing but rocks seemingly the whole way. Those are hard on the feet. I told myself that I would be rewarded with a big ass pizza the next day. That was my motivation. Luckily, there was the Free State Hiker Hostel or a shelter that I could have stayed at the end of the day. I chose the former. Another hiker who started in Harpers Ferry like myself, was there and actually already had half a pizza he wasn’t going to finish. Jackpot. I was able to shower, do laundry, recharge batteries, and update. Double Jackpot. This was all last night. I will be going into town this morning to resupply and head back out on the trail. Here are some pics from day 3:

Me on top of Washington Monument:

DCIM100GOPRO

Annapolis Rocks!

DCIM100GOPRO

Hope y’all enjoyed it. Time to press on.

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Lots of goodbyes

Well…this is it. In less than 5 hours, I will embark into the unknown. My biggest fear – failure. That and ticks. Ticks are really bad this year I’ve heard so far…

So there were numerous goodbyes these past couple of weeks. My work generously threw me a going away party. I’ll miss all of them so.  It’s been a good 4 years. It’s just my time to part. My close friends threw me a farewell get together, for that I thank you. Having those things really kind of put things in perspective. Although it has been a dream for myself for awhile now, I guess I never realized how that would affect those around me. I tried not to talk about it too much. I just didn’t want to build it up and never do it. But here we are. It’s June 10th and I’m actually getting the chance to do it. Though it’s one of my lower “love languages”, it feels amazing getting cheered on and encouraged. I think some of them see how awesome this is and really want me to succeed and enjoy it. If I don’t do the whole thing, I know it will be okay. I gave it a try.

I also said goodbye to good Mexican food, smelling nice, and my pet turtle Ninja whom I released into the wild – may he not be outcast for his crime fighting skills in his natural habitat. ImageOne of my goodbyes of course was to my family.  I had the privilege of getting to spend time with my mom and my brother. I was able to do a few things around the house like  mow an clean the garage. Fun fact: all of the Rollie-polies (or doodle bugs depending in how you were raised) in Ellis County like to hold conventions in my mothers garage and then off themselves. It was quite vexing.

The hardest goodbye was my bride to be. I stood crying/laughing as she horribly backed out of my mother’s driveway. I’m gonna miss that girl. Heck, I already do. Before that, as we stood there holding each other and crying, like a couple of 7th grade girls on the last day of school, I realized a calming peace knowing I’ll be coming back to her. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime. I can’t say enough how grateful I am that she supports me in doing all of this.

About 2 weeks ago, I had a well edited gear video rendering on my computer when the power supply decided it wanted to short itself out and take the motherboard with it. I’ve tried my best to piece it back together using Windows Horrible Movie Maker.

Some things have since changed. I will not be taking the blanket (I may ask for it back once I get to the White Mountains) and a few other things I can’t recall offhand. I somehow managed to neglect discussing my footwear for the trip in the video. But I will be using some Asolo Styngers. They have many miles on them already and I love the way they feel. I believe my total weight with food and water is around 33 pounds. I’ll know for sure once I get to the ATC in Harpers Ferry.

Though I leave a 7th grade girl, I’ll come back as a short statured man whom still acts like a 7th grade boy. I’ll just have a topic to discuss other than poop and dinosaurs…but don’t worry, those will still be topics.

The next time I write, I will already have taken my first step on the Appalachian Trail.

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Gear assessment weekend

Aforementioned, a lot has happened since I had my first experience, glazed eyes, daydreaming about the AT. I found myself a girl, Dee. My daydreaming then turned to her. So much so in fact, that I proposed to the love of my life on April 2nd…she didn’t turn me down, that poor thing…

I told her about the trip when we first started dating. She’s been nothing but supportive the whole time. You know you’ve found someone special when you’re basically like,

“Hey will you marry me?”
“Yes.”
“KTHXBYE!”

But again, she’s been awesome tolerating all of my hours on Whiteblaze.net, hours of making DIY gear, and even taking an interest in tagging along on my Barton Creek Greenbelt hikes and weekend trips to some state parks close by. One of which was this past weekend at Pedernales Falls State Park, one of my personal favs.

Pedofalls

I got a late start Friday evening and, like an idiot, neglected to fully prepare beforehand. I went home, threw some stuff at random in my pack and headed out. It was the last real weekend I have to able to test out some of my stuff. I hopped in my car and got to PFSP around 7ish. Right as I parked the rain started to fall. I was actually excited because I  wanted to get some experience hiking in the rain – which I do not have a lot of, but will by the end of my trip. So I hiked the short 2 miles in, full pack, in the thunder and lightning. I was able to test out my homemade rain jacket made of Tyvek. Now it actually did a pretty decent job so overall I was pleased with it. I can’t say the same for my hiking pants. I have two pretty good pairs of hiking pants and went with my newer pair this trip. I found out they don’t repel water very well and I was soaked almost instantly. My negligence came to light when I got to the campsite and realized I didn’t have a spare (dry) pair of socks or spare underwear. Luckily the rain was letting up as I was making camp. I was geeking out because I had so much DIY gear that I was able to test. I made a tarp out of a window insulation kit – super lightweight, some tree straps and a bug net for the hammock – sewn by yours truly, and an underquilt. I’ll do a full gear list before I go and list the pros and cons of everything. Anyway, I set up and stripped down. I knew if I got my sleeping bag wet, it would not be good. I hopped in my little cocoon and had an amazing night’s sleep.

In the morning I got up and threw on my wet clothes. That’s when I woke up, talk about cold. I rushed to get my gear together because I knew I’d warm up once I started moving. My tarp did me well, the only downside is that I can shake it all I want but there is no way I’m getting all of the moisture off of it. I wish I could have tested it in windier conditions but alas, it made the cut for the AT gear list. Anyhow, I was a little on a time constraint on Saturday because I needed to go meet up with Dee after she got off work to head to her cousin’s track meet (which he placed 4th in the state for the 100M – congrats to you “Aarun”). So I decided to try out the 4-mile loop instead of my regular Wold Mountain Trail because I’ve never done it before. It was very lackluster. There was little shade and quite frankly, the scenery wasn’t that great. I did cut it short because it was that unpleasant. I maybe only did 5 miles that entire day before I left. Which isn’t too bad considering the time I did it in but still, in retrospect, I probably should have hiked more.

After the meet, Dee and I went back to PFSP. Beforehand I grabbed some dry clothes but couldn’t find my good socks. I grabbed some others because we needed to get on the road and it was not a good decision. My hiking boots were still wet from earlier in the day. In the two miles to get to camp, the socks by that time had rubbed my feet raw. They were hot to the touch and not fun to walk on. We got to camp around 11:15pm and we crashed for the night. We didn’t do much hiking the next day because of my pansiness but we did enjoy ourselves with some campfire hot dogs, exploring, and relaxation in our hammocks near the Pedernales River’s running water. On our way home, we treated ourselves to some Dairy Queen which topped if off as a pretty great weekend.

I have had lots of experience camping but not so much in long distance backpacking, which there is a difference. IMHO, hiking and camping are two very different things. I feel I’d be doing myself a disservice to delude myself into thinking otherwise. I know there will be times on the AT where I’ll be completely miserable and bored, I’ll just have to power through it. Waking up and then hiking – all day. Anywhere from 10-30 miles at times. I try not to romanticize it too much because I know it will be no picnic. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. Don’t get me wrong though, I do enjoy hiking. I love the Greenbelt so much, I can (and have) hike that for hours on end and just be beside myself exploring all the trails even though I have no idea where they go. I’m simply saying I know there will be times when I will want to quit. There will be times when my feet are in agony. There will be times when the scenery just ain’t that great. But when it is…it will be worth it. Sometimes you just have to give a little to get a little. I know overall it will be a great experience and I’m pretty dang stoked.

I’ll do one final post of all my gear before I head out, it shall be my next one. Less than a month – I can’t believe it’s almost here. Thanks to all my family for the support and helping me in all the ways that you can. Dee, thanks for supporting me like a “manzier”.

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I’m going on an adventure

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
-Christopher McCandless

Anyone who knows his story knows he took his view to the extreme and met his ultimate demise. While I’m levelheaded enough not to do the same, I do think McCandless and I share the same views on life to some extent. That quote has kind of been my “theme” this whole time. I’m tired. I’m tired of the same monotony of the day, of work. Working 8-5 day in and day out with the same routine, stuck inside. It’s not for me. I’m ready for a change; I’m ready for a new chapter.

I decided some time ago that I wanted to get away from it all. About 3 years ago I had a major thirst for an adventure. I read a couple of books like “Wild at Heart” and “Through Painted Deserts” which led me to a book about the Appalachian Trail and I was hooked. The book was, “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. I placed myself in the AT hiking community online and later found out that the book was mostly fiction and Bryson is kind of viewed as a joke but nonetheless, it opened my eyes to something awesome.

At first I wanted to “thru hike”, all 14 states from Georgia to Maine. Since then, a lot has happened. While I love the idea of taking 6 months off to do something grand, the reality set in that I just wouldn’t be able afford to take that long off, not without some serious saving. I just didn’t want to wait that long. So I’ve opted to do half of it. I sought out some advice from others whom are closer to the trail and have walked it themselves. I wanted opinions on which half is the best half, Springer Mountain in GA to Harpers Ferry, WV or from Harpers Ferry to Mount Katahdin in ME.  Nearly everyone said the Northern part. I was leaning toward that section from the beginning because I’ve heard that’s the tougher section. I’m certainly not averse to that at all. I start my adventure on June 10th when I leave from the shady Greyhound station in Dallas.

That’s the long and the short of it. I didn’t want to make this the same ol’ blog that most people make about all the details of the trail right off the bat. If people have questions, I’ll answer them. I’ll post photos and such throughout my journey and I’ll be making a super sweet video in the end. I’ll post some other writings before I leave. I’m keeping this site to keep my love ones up to date as much as I can.

Adios muchachos,

T.K.

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