Category Archives: AT

Appalachian Trail

Travelly bits

Packing is fun.
You know how some people have gift wrapping rooms? I want a packing room/closet.
It would have my current Stolmen shelves on 3 sides, one wall for framed maps and pictures and a big table with drawers/organize-y things in the middle.
But I don’t have that and my closet is currently is kinda messy, so I’ll just make a list well in advance, put things into a designated bag for keeping  them together until the trip, then take over the bed for a while when I do actually pack.
I’ve got my annual trip to Green Bay coming up next week (umm…eeek.) and I need to take more than I usually do. I also think it will be rather nippy this time (last year I wore my jacket liner over a long sleeve SmartWool shirt and was warm enough. Crazy.)
I have a very serious down coat, a honkin’ pile o’ SmartWool things, a wool JCrew rollneck sweater (that I wore in 20 degree weather without knowing it because it is perfect) and snow boots. Actually I have two pairs of snow boots and I’m debating which ones I should take. I suspect I’ll take the lace up ones and use it as an excuse to wear leggings tucked into them the whole weekend instead of proper pants.
There’s a dress involved in this year’s round up so I have to take some girl clothes type things… yuck.
If I use Tex as a mule, I can put more shoes in his bag. I’d check a bag and just use a bigger suitcase, but I’m paranoid about checking bag on the way to a destination. The universe never actually loses your dirty laundry and smelly socks, but crucial items are fair game. (I may still check a non-essentials bag and just rough it with existing things in my carry on if they lose my checked luggage.)
I even have a new carry-on for this trip (yeah, i know I get a new bag almost every trip- but some of them get given away or re-purposed, so I don’t have that much actual luggage. I do sometimes use just bags for short trips.). I found this Lucas lightweight carry-on that is gray with a leaf pattern on it. It had butternut squash colored accents and worked with a lumbar pack I have (that I used for a weekend in Texas when I needed to be hands free as I had borked my nerve in my neck.) Atypical matching luggage, but it met my criteria and kept the inner luggage dork happy.
… until I decided to use the same bag for Green Bay.
Lucas Leaf carryon bag
I could get away with minimal packing at my grandmother’s because really I end up living in one pair of yoga pants the whole time I’m there (multiple Tshirts, socks and undies) then changing back into the plane outfit that is fit for public viewing. At most you need one of those bags that fit under the seat and a backpack full of gadgets.
But for Green Bay (and especially this year; see above.) there’s no way I could fit all my cold friggin’ weather gear in a small carry-on. So my inner freakazoid went bonkers trying to come up with a “matching” set that would hold enough for 5 days in the cold. It really only had to be a tenuous link, but a link nonetheless. So I went Marshall’s/Ross/TJ Maxx crawling (Marshall’s was the most likely success as that was where I found the original bag.) and I lucked out and found a small suitcase only $10 more than the original that matched exactly. It isn’t a wheelie but I don’t necessarily need another wheelie.
I test drove it last weekend when I stayed down close to the Monterey Aquarium last weekend and it holds a surprising amount of crap (but you have to be careful or they will get crabby on the plane and not let you in and make you check it… it’s a fine line.)
AT stuff on my cube at work.
The other thing in my head is a longer trip to the AT. About the same time frame and location as the other with a few adjustment (namely, marshmallows for mama, not eating a group meal and a slower pace with less panic that I was holding up the group.) I don’t regret a thing about the last trip, but I also would like to try a few new things while I’m there and I know myself fairly well, so adjustments will be made.
I’m not quite ready to do 6-8 weeks on the trail and do the entire state yet for a variety of reasons, but I will.
Now, gotta get on the treadmill and also start doing 4-6 miles each weekend day to get ready.

Packing List: AT Gear (the important stuff for 1 week)

Mom and pack shakedown, originally uploaded by fredlet.

Jansportjuno73Pack: JanSport Juno 73 Pack – yes, its a big pack. They asked us to bring a larger one and really it fit pretty well and carried all my stuff (much to the guide’s chagrin since I abhor a vacuum and must fill empty spaces…) I was probably at 32 pounds with all my and the group gear. Funny story at REI, when we went to go get mom’s pack, we told them of the requirements and he really tried to steer us to a 3000 cu in pack since the 4500 one is really huge. I was hesitant to go smaller, while I did agree with him, 4500 is huge, I didn’t know what kind of bulky group gear our guides would be giving us and I didn’t want to be flouting their requests already. We ended up saying thanks but no thanks to the guy and eventually coming back to find her pack on our own. Its starting to be an issue with REI folks actually. They are very nice and very smart, but they don’t seem to get that some of us have weird requirements (like me and my men’s hiking boot things and our listing for a large pack for this trip) and that sort of bothers me.

Osprey Rain CoverPack Rain Cover: Osprey Raincover XL at MRO, this weighs about 8 oz and squishes down nicely into its carrying case (moreover you can get it BACK into its own case which is downright amazing.) Also, serves double duty as a rain seat that you tighten around yourself while you sit on the ground with the upper part curved around your shoulders. handy when you are under a tarp but still sitting on the ground.

Clothes: (all my clothes lived in a Sea to Summit waterproof bag (8L) to prevent them from getting wet and also served as my pillow at night.)
–>2 shirts (cool max Champion brand from Target on clearance last year) *Necessary* since I sweat and it was warm on the uphills, but cool after you took off your pack. When it was rainy, getting things to dry was a bitch and a half (and the quick dry only made it a bitch to dry off in the sleeping bag with me)
–>Rain Pants that also zipped off to shorts, but walking in these shorts was a clammy affair. I primarily used these over long johns or over my other shorts to keep warm/dry (and the fact that my legs were cold indicated that it was *cold* as I frequently run around in shorts and a wool sweater all year round here in Nor Cali.)
–>Shorts (cool max) I got these at Target and these were FANTASTIC. I need to get a couple more pair since these suckers ROCK.
–>Socks I took 3 pairs of SmartWool (or the REI brand, buy 3 and get 10% off) and swapped socks every day. Some people advocate changing sock mid-day, but I found that if I took of my shoes mid-day that my feet hurt on the afternoon trek. Your mileage may vary. I slept in one pair and alternated the other two. The happyhappyjoyjoy thing about SmartWool is that it does NOT get stinky or gross. Hooray for natural materials!
–>Undies: Ex Officio magic undies-quick dry and anti stinky.
–>Long Undies: I did a combo of SmartWool (top) and Polarmax Tech Pants long undies and while they were both ok, I really should have gotten SmartWool on both ends, the SmartWool was much more comfy. I slept in my long undies at night, both for warmth (though my sleeping bag was double plus good! especially for having been on sale for $69, but I’ll discuss it later…) I was a squicky about my skin on skin since I was pretty gross. It helped me to sleep (mom said this as well after one night that she didn’t sleep in hers.)
–>Rain Jacket: A Marmot shell that I zipped the fleece out of
–>Boots: Merrell men’s Mesa ventilators (because I have yet to find a pair of women’s hiking boots that are wide enough for me… jeebus, girls, how do you walk around on those little popsicle sticks without falling over?) though the one’s I linked to aren’t exactly it, they are ventilators which probably also helped with my feet not getting hot in combo with the SmartWool socks. I can say that I had exactly ZERO problems with my feet (and frankly I thought I would have problems with them since my feet are sort of diva-high-maintenance-Bitchy-McSnipe-esque as far as feet go. Needless to say, I was very happy- the cold I had, well, that’s quite another matter.)
–>Gaiters: I got the ones made of the same material that my Mistral pants are made from… good stuff, but I am actually pondering some Outdoor Research ones.
–>Camp Shoes: MRO had Nothinz on sale for half off… I was going to go the cheap flip flop route, but I yielded to peer pressure, and it wasn’t a bad decision. Croc knockoffs would have been just as good… plus mom bought them so even better. 😉
–>Hat: mine looked like a regular baseball cap, but is actually a winter runner’s cap with little earflaps that can fold down for the cold… and I used ’em, too. Brrr.
–>Knee brace

Tent: this was group gear and they brought it for us… It was an REI Half Dome tent ca. 2004. Very good tent, we were rained on pretty heavily and we stayed dry. Roughly 6 pounds and made of heavier material than the new UL ones they have now.
Boffo! A good one…

Rosa sleeping bagSleeping Bag: Sierra Designs Rosa, on sale as previously mentioned, kept me nicely warm. It has a little feet liner at the bottom that I haven’t seen before that was really nifty as well as the dual zipper that let me stick my feet out even when the rest of the bag was zipped up. As for the ‘narrower through the torso nonsense’, well, I ain’t, to put it very bluntly. I also sleep on my side, so I’m pondering the Big Agnes bag that is built for us side sleepers, though I like the fact that the Rosa is lighter and synthetic (goosedown loses warmth if it gets wet and takes forever to dry). Still making my decision on this one. I would like a smaller bag so that it doesn’t take up a crapload of space in my bag so I can use my UL 45 pack in the future.

Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Z Lite. I have a Thermarest that I used for years and its heavy and a pain to deal with (inflate, un-inflate, etc.). I like the fold up design of this and I can bunch up parts of it to work as a pillow or under my knees when I lie flat (as I can’t really sleep on my side with my current sleeping bag). It also is nice and light, easy to manoeuvre (putting down, picking up). I did beat it up on trees when I walked though since I put it up on the top of my pack (having removed the pack lid with the pocket previously.)

Eat-y things:

–>Spork:I had a red one (which I left at home… duh) so I bought a blue one at MRO. Not bad, but I think I like mom’s Foon.
–>Cup and Bowl: I liked the bowl (its easy to open it up and lick it clean), but the cup wasn’t as fun. I didn’t bring a plate. I might consider bringing this cup or more likely this one that I use all the time anyway even though it weighs a bit more.
–>Camelbak: 2L…worth it.

Personal Patch Kit: Its an Outdoor Research ultralight organizer with little things like nail nippers (for fighting off bears), Tylenol (lots), Sudafed (even more), skin goop, toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes (for every other day wipe down) and other little snickety things that would get lost in the wilds of my pack.
I think they tried to talk me out of it, but it was one of the things that I held firm on (instead of using ziploc bags for everything).

Misc Items:
–>Gorilla Tape
–>Bandannas (x2)
–>Trekking Poles: I wasn’t certain how I’d work with these and mom definitely was skeptical. But they saved my butt all week. I balanced myself with them, pushed myself up mountains, took the weight off of my knees (which I will discuss later) and pretty much earned their keep (and I bought cheap-y ones in case the airlines destroyed them in my duffel I checked, so I’m guessing even lighter weight ones would be even better.) Also, if I decide on the other tent I thought was cool, it would use the poles instead of tent poles for double duty.
–>Treo in waterproof case that also had my ID and insurance card (in case of bears… they are deathly afraid of HMO’s, you know) and earphones. I probably could have lived without my Treo on this trip because I was so sick, but otherwise, I think I would have still wanted it with me.
–>Garmin eTrex Vista for fun and to see our altitude, to mark waypoints where we stayed etc. because I am a big geek. I would take this again in a heartbeat.
–>Journal small spiral binder (4×5) for notes + pen
–>Camera: My old Sony waterproof 2megapixel one so I wouldn’t worry about killing my good one on the trail.
–>More ziploc bags for trash, daily snacks, messy things, stuff that went in the bear bag at night, etc.
–>LED headlamp: A Energizer one which I didn’t use much as I observed the hiker midnight rule (a.k.a. going to bed when the sun went down… about 8 pm or 9 pm. Giggling from other tents went on long after… it really was one big slumber party. 😉

Now, I don’t know that I can fairly assess my food situation for this week. I caught a cold and was stuffed up and MISERABLE (not to mention other issues that some of us girlies have to deal with directly) so I really didn’t eat much this whole week. (Nor did I want to…)
No, really.
In fact, everyone was going out of their way to make sure I actually put food in my mouth and ate it. To be perfectly honest, I could go for a while and not worry about missing a meal. They should have worried if I didn’t drink water (which I managed to clear out my Camelbak just about every day even though it was nice a cool out side, no problem with water at all.)
It hurt to eat stuff since my throat was raw, my taste buds were not functioning (well, no nose, no taste) and the one or two times I even remotely felt hungry was when we were walking and it went away after about 3 minutes. It wasn’t a big deal.
Here’s what I actually took (more than other folks because of my persnickety stomach)

  • package of dried mushrooms
  • 1 big package cheese mashed potato mix
  • 10 string cheeses
  • Cheese mix from a macaroni and cheese box
  • GORP (with a liberal amount of peanut M&M’s, because really, who are we kidding?)
  • beef jerky
  • 15 Cherry Pie Larabars (my favorites)
  • Mild Slim Jims
  • Contrast that list with what I actually ate that week:

  • 1 piece of jerky
  • 4 string cheeses
  • 1/4 packet dried mushrooms (these were amazingly good in the potato ‘soup’ listed below)
  • 1/2 of the mashed potato mix (I ended up putting a couple of spoonfuls into a 1/2 c of hot water and ended up with potato soup… also very good. I looked forward to that as much as I did the…
  • Group food: chicken soup/chicken boullion/miso soup mix ~ 1/2 c each night as an appetizer as soon as we got off the trail and had water heated.
  • 1/2 of a mild Slim Jim; it nauseated me
  • 1 Larabar over 3 days (the nuts hurt my throat)
  • 7 peanut M&M’s (I remember counting them)
  • Group food: Some noodles with the cheese mix on it
  • Group food: black beans and rice, but I remember having to choke them down (not because they were bad, mind you, but because I couldn’t swallow very well because of my cold.) and keeping them down was a chore as well. Not a pleasant meal. The cups of soup were the highlight of the trip.
  • 1 cup of Earl Grey tea one morning
  • No breakfast, but then again I never eat breakfast (though I didn’t even want coffee… weird. Most likely I just wanted to stay in my sleeping bag a little longer rather than get up to get hot water…) The rest of the trip was lots of water, but I didn’t notice not eating much at all. I think everyone else was more concerned about the food situation than I was.
    Frankly, it was just another chore.

    What I didn’t take (that I would need to take on a solo trip):

    JetboilJetBoil: We used a group feedbag situation that involved the guides having the stoves. That sometimes meant that I had to eat earlier than I wanted and didn’t have hot water when it would have been nice to have (later at night before I went to bed to warm up a bit.) I have an insulate-y sleeve that I should have brought for my Nalgene bottle so I could have kept some water at temperature.

    Outdoor Research NightHaven ShelterTent: Outdoor Research NightHaven Shelter with footprint. I like the fact it is 2 pounds and you use your trekking poles.

    More Gorilla tape and the other little things like a lighter,water filter, a tarp and light rope that the guides took.

    All in all, most things were good… but marshmallows and hot chocolate would probably be on the list somewhere as well.


    Woke to less rain this morning.
    No discernible breakfast, not even tea. Hadn’t even had a jones for coffee at this point. I packed up the tent and re-loaded my pack as fast as I could and set off with Almanac and a few others to go help filter water at Thomas Knob shelter as well as use the privy (Bears do it in the woods. Fredlet is not a bear.)
    Thomas Knob ShelterOtter was in the shelter with his wonderful dog Mac, who thumped his tail at us a couple of times to say “Hi! Hi! Hi! I need to stay here by my sick human.” I’m surprised mom showed serious restraint not going over to commune with the puppy since I know she was having puppy withdrawal (as I was have the same without a cat to play with). Anyway, Otter wasn’t feeling well, so we tried to be quiet, but you know after a while that 12 chicas are going to be noisy while filtering water. Ah well, we got out of there fairly quickly.
    Tooter’s camelbak had failed (remember, that is a generic term, I don’t know what brand she had) so we gave her two teeny little bottles washed out after containing food things. Mom would have given her the 3L we had, but there was a chance that I had a sip from it and neither she nor we wanted to chance the cootie transfer.
    Typically if someone is cranky or out of sorts, it is because they are somewhat dehydrated. “Bite and suck!” lets them know to drink. The thing is Tooter is one who drinks something on the order of 5-6L of water a day and this tiny amount was really affecting her. We just kept an eye on her and things worked out ok.
    It was somewhat level for the first hour or so, but then we got into some serious climbing. It wasn’t shaping up to be as long as the day before, but the grubby factor was starting to wear on me a bit.
    Tricky was sweep today, so I chatted on and off with her (on when the climb was uphill and off when mom kept her standard pace on the level or the downhill and I channeled Speed Racer.)
    I felt a tiny hunger twitch about mid-morning, but it was curious rather than insistent and went away before lunch. Frankly, when I did eat it made me kinda queasy and lethargic, so I wasn’t terribly upset.
    Deep Gap and Elk garden passed in a blur. I do have pictures, but not nearly as many as I normally take owing to the fact that I was desperately trying to reinforce that Tricky and Almanac’s decision to let me stay with the group wasn’t a mistake or resent the bejeezus out of me for slowing them down.
    In fact, I did end up hiking pretty clippily on the level/moderate rolling hills/downhill sections. I was even alone for about an hour at one point.
    Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of the Wanderer/Flame/Hollywood bunching only to lose sight of them around a curve.
    It was QUIET.
    I really liked it, though often I would steadily grow paranoid about channeling Chicken John and losing the trail. For the most part, the trail is easily discernible, clear and obvious, but I did lose the trail once with Almanac (going across rocks on Wilburn Ridge where a tree obscured the blaze from me and Almanac was behind me and caught it.)
    I did manage to keep to the trail on my hour or two solo jaunts. My paranoia meter spiking then resetting to zero after seeing the next blaze in the distance. I think I’d be ok on my own, but I’d probably need someone to talk to once in a while.
    Mom said the same thing about her solo forays when she would walk ahead, stop for a break, then resume when she could hear me and Almanac coming up from behind on the trail.
    The weather was still very good; cool and low humidity. I drank an entire 2L camelbak a day and sweat it all out as well. It made for cold rest stops when I took off my pack (my back would get really cold with the quick dry shirts I had on and if I put on my jacket I would just get all over soggy.) So I tended to put my bandanna (both still pee free*) over my back or sit (or even stand) with my pack still on.
    I think I was more irritated and tired if I took my pack off rather than when I did like everyone who flopped down on the ground sans pack. Really, breaks were kind of unnecessary for me on the longer scale that everyone else wanted. I liked taking a short breather after a hill or a set of steps (the things that really kicked my ass were when I had big steps up) then continuing. Lunch was in irritant (none of that pesky food for me, thanks ever so…). Taking off shoes made my feet hurt and anything longer than 5 minutes made me antsy and stiff. I as a study in contrariness-but nothing unusual there. I never have liked what works for other people.
    As we made it to Elk Garden we ended up at the top of a hill surveying the wild animals (OK…cows) and a road.
    Roads close to the trail kinda freaked me out. You’d be walking along in that lovely little silent and insulated trail (with very little sound-even the birds and other forest-y type animals were quiet) and the roar of a V6 comes to you as a car drives past that you can’t see. Tres disconcerting.
    About halfway through lunch, a troop of boy scouts (well, we assumed they were boy scouts) were deathmarched through our picnic area at the top of the hill.
    When their pack leader said hi to Tricky, she asked about their trip and it turned out they were planning to stay on Whitetop Mountain tonight (just like us)… actually, just in the clearing just below Whitetop Mountain (just like us).
    “Race ya!” I think Hollywood said.
    Tricky looked startled, but didn’t really say much else. After lunch though she switched to lead position from sweep so that if we needed to find an alternate site, she could use her knowledge of the trail to pick out a good spot.
    Hollywood’s boots had given up the ghost at this point and during lunch (while Touque made freakin’ phone calls on her Canadian cell phone – while the American ones had NO SIGNAL. We suck!) we wrapped Hollywood’s feet in bags the strapped her Tevas on to keep her socks dry since it looked like it was going to rain. I loaned her my Mistral gaiters and the looked like spats on her feet. I have called them ‘spats’ ever since.
    We finished up lunch and walked down the hill, crossed the road, (past the boys-yeah, we could totally take ’em.) and back into the deep forest.
    The boy scouts passed Almanac and myself about halfway up the climb to camp in the afternoon portion and we looked at each other with a bit of trepidation since we didn’t know if they were going to take our camping spot.
    Funnily enough, they kept the same pace all the way uphill and didn’t look the worse for wear. But mom told me later that while she was in one of her solo jaunts she rounded a bend and came up on them during a rest break. When they saw her, they sat up from their previous hang-dog slumped over posture to sitting upright looking like they just were casually resting from a stroll int he woods.
    They did end up making camp just a little farther north of their original location…and looked a little bit squished in that spot.
    It was very nice of them to do so.
    Last chance at a trash can for a while – and this one curiously looked like a teeny tiny hatch from “Lost” that we unceremoniously dumped our ziplocs o’ refuse, then started the uphill climb to Whitetop Mountain.
    So much for keeping up with the group. The first part of the day was nice; I was generally *right there* with the group but back to peanut-ing nontheless.
    Almanac, despite the sneakiness on my part for adding my GPS to my load, would ask (when I would ask to gain perspective on our ETA) what the GPS said. It was very useful. I did tell Almanac that with me, realistic estimates was better. If you tell me its just a little bit more and you keep saying that for 2 hours, I will be cranky. If you tell me it is difficult and will take more than an hour, I set my expectations and just deal. Happily, she kept to that.
    I was actually surprised at how quickly we got to the camping spot despite the fact that the altitude or whatever seemed to really be affecting me. Still no whining on my part though. I kept my sense of humor (no sarcasm-which can descend pretty quickly into a rant) and was still enjoying myself. Obviously, not having a cold would have been better, but I still loved being out on the trail.
    Campsite off of Whitetop Mountain
    Campsite off of Whitetop Mountain

    It did rain on us while we put up our tents this evening. I was already sweaty/wet from the solid uphill we had all afternoon, so by the time I got my shell on after pulling the tent out and putting my pack under it for a measure of dryness, was cold and clammy. Mom and I put up the tent and did camp things til they were done, then we both decided to get inside the tent and got inside our bags to warm up. It took a little while for me to get warm. I changed into warmer things in stages as they dried (or more realistically, when I was ready to move.)
    Runner’s HatI ended up in my rain pants, long undies (hooray for SmartWool!) a drier shirt, two pairs of socks, the hood up on my Marmot jacket and my hat with the little ear flaps pulled down for warmth. I may have even put on my gloves.
    I felt a little better at least.
    Everyone was crowded under a tarp we put up to cover the cooking area, so I sat around the edges against a tree while it poured down rain. I did get a bit wet, but I had an idea. I went and got my pack cover and put it over my shoulders and then sat on the bottom part then hooked the strap around my waist…an Osprey Turtle. For sitting on the wet ground and leaning against a tree. Kept me dry at least and held in place reasonably well.
    We ate – or rather, everyone else ate and I drank a cup of soup and had 7 M&M’s (I counted).
    I was feeling especially craptacular and the really cold weather didn’t help much. I didn’t want anything in particular except a shower. I was probably rancid at this, however, happily *I* couldn’t smell me.
    Everyone else was dreaming of cheeseburgers or Starbucks, but I still wasn’t hungry. Hot water and a scrub brush, thankyouverymuch.
    We had pitched the tent on a downhill slope… it was the best we could do for the site… but it was a noticeable one and it kept us skootching back up onto our sleeping pad all night.
    I tend to wake up to roll over or re-position (some nights I just woke up due to the screaming of my muscles) but this night was the worst night for sleeping of the whole week. It was cold, it rained incessantly (though we did stay dry) and I kept having to haul my ass back up to the top of the tent. I thought it might be helpful for draining the sinuses a bit, but it did nothing and made sleep impossible.
    A few people moved their tents to the meadow up the hill, and while I thought that sounded like a good idea in theory, I don’t know that you could have prised me from my sleeping bag for anything. Mom said “screw that” as well and we stayed put. The rain didn’t bother us too much (or the drippings from the trees) but the flat of the meadow might have been nice.

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