400 Miles On The AT

Two posts in one day?! Who am I?? I’m a person who has a lot of time to kill in this town, that’s who I am.

Okay! Let’s get right to it.

One of the other hikers I met around this time was named FiiSH, which stands for “Fuck it I’m staying here.” I didn’t know how old this note was when I came across it, but I stupidly waited 10 minutes for her to show up just in case it was recent. It wasn’t. But I did have her contact information and made her feel sufficiently bad about not removing the note before she left. She also did end up buying me drinks the next time I saw her. FiiSH is rad, be like FiiSH.

One of the culinary creations I’m most proud of out here on the trail is this beautiful burrito right here. Rice and beans are a backpacking staple, especially for vegans, so I decided to dress it up a bit to make it a little less boring. In this burrito there is: white minute rice, seasoned instant refried beans, TVP (textured vegetable protein), dehydrated vegetables, 1/2 a bouillon cube, taco seasoning, and fresh red onion. Oh. My. Goodness. It’s magical and amazing and I’ve eaten so many of them since.

I’ll do an all encompassing recipe post at some point I’m sure, where I’ll talk about everything I eat out here on the trail and the recipes I come up with to avoid paying for expensive pre-made freeze dried meals.

The next morning I remember quite well. The morning fog hadn’t lifted yet and I got an early enough start to see rays of sun peek through the trees and glisten in the fog. It was absolutely magical, and it felt like I was in a real life fairy tale.

I get an extra boost of motivation every time I pass a sign that has mileage listed for the end of the AT. There was one at Newfound Gap that I took a photo with that didn’t make it into the last blog post, and shortly after passed another that had the mileage for Baxter State Park, the home of Mount Katahdin and the finishing line for the Appalachian Trail.

Also along this stretch of 100 miles I came across a bald that rivals Max Patch, and actually another hiker and I had a conversation about how we thought it had better views. (Sorry Max Patch, thanks for the cowboy camping sunrise still, though.)

I’ve come across so many new and beautiful plants on this trip! I always like to document when I come across something I’ve never seen before, here are a few from this section.

Continuing to head North I came upon this view of the Nolichucky River descending into Erwin, TN.

I made my way to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel where I waited for a friend I was really anxious to meet.

I had befriended this beautiful human being named Annie on Instagram the year prior, and when I decided to do the AT she mentioned it goes right through the town she lives in. Having never met in person before, she offered to pick me up from the trail, chauffeur me around, house me, feed me, AND let me shower and do laundry. She’s amazing and I’m so so grateful for her generous hospitality.

Leaving Erwin I picked up a new pair of shoes, hoping these would be the pair that would FINALLY work with my feet and (assumed) collapsing arches. When I hiked the John Muir Trail I wore a pair of Salomon Ultra Primes, and loved them, and didn’t experience any foot problems at all. So I ordered another pair hoping they would work just as well out here on the AT. I’m happy to announce that they got me all the way Blackburn Trail Center, just before Harpers Ferry. They would’ve gotten me all the way here but I found the exact same type of shoe in a hiker box and decided to snag them since they’re a 1/2 size bigger and my feet were feeling cramped in the other ones.

More trail magic! I had matched with someone on Tinder (Yes I have a Tinder out here, what of it?) who offered to bring me vegan trail magic, to which I said, “YES PLEASE.” He ended up following through with his offer and brought some amazingly delicious plant foods to the trail.

Next up I got to walk though more fog, which I actually don’t mind at all because out in Utah we don’t get a lot of it. It made me feel like I was in Scotland or something!

I still also appreciate the bright, sunny views as well.

I unfortunately was still having problems with my feet because I was trying to figure out the perfect shoe/insole combo. I ended up getting some Superfeet insoles back at the NOC that I was trying for the 983745489th time, and (I think) they ended up giving me quad problems. I don’t know what else could have possibly caused me to have issues with my quad muscle in my left leg, so I’m assuming it was the insoles because I haven’t used them since and I haven’t had any more issues. On this particular day though, I was really worried because I could barely walk on it. I couldn’t engage it and walked the trail stiff-legged like a pirate with a peg leg. I was hiking at a speed of 1 mph, which is agonizingly slow, but did end up making it to my destination.

Reaching the 400 mile mark wasn’t the happiest of milestones for me. I was worried about my feet, worried about my quad, worried that either or both would force me to quit the trail. It must have been apparent that my mood was in the dumps because the hiker behind me asked if I was alright and then offered to give me some time alone at the 400 mile mark.

I’m happy to report the next ~600 miles were much more enjoyable, and that not every post from now on will be a sob story. (Although stay tuned for my current woes that’ll get written about once my blog reaches my 1000 mile post.)

Again, thanks to everyone for following along and supporting me! Hopefully I’ll get the next post written sooner rather than later!

Highlights From My First 100 Miles

Hey all! These first 100 miles have been an absolute blast, I am so happy to be out here experiencing such wonderful sights with such wonderful people! Here are some highlights from along the way.

Before hitting the trail I spent a week in Chicago visiting family. It was so nice to spend time with them before heading out, I also got to set up my resupply boxes with my mom and sister while I was there.

It was a hot mess getting them all sorted and organized but I pulled it off! The week flew by, and the day finally came for me to fly to Atlanta. I felt like a kid on the first day of school, I even took a photo on the front porch before leaving.

I was lucky enough to have a friend of mine in Atlanta agree to house me that night and then drop me off at the trail the next morning. Gerald, if you read this, thank you again for everything!

We arrived at Amicalola State Park and I finally got to walk up to the arch I had been seeing in everyone else’s Day 1 photos, and it ignited an excitement in me like nothing else. I of course had to get the iconic photo, too.

Gerald hiked the first 1.5 miles of the approach trail with me, which I did not expect, but it was a nice surprise!

Any nervousness I had felt faded away the moment my feet hit the trail, I was finally back in the wilderness and I was damn happy to be there.

One of my biggest worries about this experience was that I wouldn’t make friends and find a tramily (trail family) right away, but on night one I met some amazing people and that worry quickly faded.

I got to experience my very first night in a shelter, and coincidentally one of the coldest nights I’ve slept outside. It got down to 22° that night! We all woke up cold and ready to start moving. But the sunrise that morning was absolutely beautiful!

Let me tell you, it’s amazing out here. The east coast is vastly different from the west, but I’m loving it. Here are some of the beautiful sights I’ve gotten to see so far!

I’ve also been lucky enough to come across a handful of people doing trail magic! Trail magic is when people from nearby towns will haul food and supplies up to parts of the trail and hand them out freely to passing thru-hikers.

My favorite is when people have fresh fruits and vegetables, anything fresh after days of only dehydrated foods is a luxury I am grateful for. On the other hand, I was also pretty damn stoked on the Taco Bell we came across in Hiawassee.

Within the first 100 miles I got to hit my first big milestone – completing my first state! I crossed over from Georgia into North Carolina, leaving 13 more states for me to get through.

The day after completing Georgia I hit my second big milestone – the 100th mile! Only 2100 to go after this, and I’m looking forward to every single one of them.

I really appreciate the support you all have given me along the way – you have no idea how much it means to know my friends and family believe in this incredible venture I’ve set out on. Here’s to hoping the next 100 miles are as great as these first 100!

Week One On The Appalachian Trail

It’s only been a week out here on the trail and I’ve already learned so much. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up so far..

Shelters

Pros:

-You can escape the rain and keep your shelter dry, because packing out a wet tent in the morning is less than stellar.

-You can meet new people and make new friends since people tend to congregate at shelters.

-Easy set up and take down limits your time spent in camp if you’re trying to get more miles in.

Cons:

-Mice are annoyingly persistent at finding your food, and will even chew through your gear if it smells like there is something they can eat inside.

-They’re noisy. If shuffling through gear, rolling over on a Thermarest Neoair (seriously how are these so popular), or snoring will keep you awake, consider camping nearby instead.

-They provide zero privacy. You’re in such close quarters with about a dozen other people, and other than a nearby privy, finding time to yourself is in short supply.

-Bears have figured out that where there are hikers, there is food. If you’re around people who don’t properly store their food there’s a good chance a bear will find it.

Gear:

I now understand why so many seasoned thru hikers rely on the Thermarest Z Lite Sol (closed cell foam accordion-like sleeping pad), because I’ve already had to patch my Nemo Tensor. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my sleeping pad, but with so much time spent in shelters it’s exposed to me and a dozen other hikers shuffling around it each night. We’ll see how long I last with it before I trade it in.

I’m so thankful I chose a (almost 100%) waterproof pack. As promised, the AT is wet, and knowing my gear is safe makes me feel a heck of a lot better hiking in the rain.

I really enjoy the ease of my Purinize purifying drops. Watching people struggle with their Sawyer filters (again, how are these so popular) makes me wonder how they got to be so widely used. They’re cumbersome, they malfunction on the regular, and are hard to clean if they get clogged. That’s a big no thank you from me. I switch off between two Smart Water bottles and I’m drinking one as the other is purifying. Works great. Plus it’s a one part system and only takes an hour. I’ve also seen some Katadyn filters and really like the ease of those as well.

Looking back I don’t know why I chose to switch up shoes right before the trail. I’ve exclusively been a Salomon user, and forcing my feet to adjust to Altra’s on the trail was not a good choice. I had to buy inserts when I got to Neels Gap because of the pain in my arches, and when I wear through these Lone Peaks I’m definitely switching back to Salomons.

I love loooooove my quilt. Its versatility alone is worth having a quilt instead of a sleeping bag. I can open it up and use it as a blanket on warm nights, or sinch it up tight when it gets cold. Win win.

I love my polycro footprint for any other trail, but trying to prevent it from getting ripped in shelters is an impossible task. I put it under my sleeping pad, and with all the commotion it’s gotten ripped three times already. I’m thinking about switching to some tyvek for its durability even though it is a bit heavier.

Food

I definitely overestimated how much food I would need. I knew it would take time for my hiker’s metabolism to kick in, but I’m barely eating 2000 calories a day even with hiking anywhere from 8-15 miles with 25 lbs on my back. Here’s to hoping it kicks in soon because it’s no fun carrying food and not eating it.

I don’t know why I thought I’d want to sit down and actually prepare lunch. I packed things like beans and tortillas, and hummus and pretzels, which would make great dinners instead of lunches. When I’m moving trying to get miles in, I’m finding that the last thing I want to do is take time to make lunch. I think I’ll switch to a meal bar, or something else easily consumed, for lunches and save the cooking for dinner.

Community

One of the big reasons I chose to do the AT was because of its reputation for having such a great community. And let me tell you, the rumors are true. I found a trail family (tramily) on day one, and they’ve been such amazing hiking partners. In addition to the hikers, I’m also appreciative of the people who set up trail magic. There are so many people looking out for thru hikers out here and I hope they know it’s not going unnoticed or unappreciated.

Overall I’m having an absolute blast out here, it’s everything I’ve wanted it to be so far and I’m definitely looking forward to the rest.

Finally Got Around To Writing A Gear Post

Better late than never, right? Here’s a list of the gear I’m taking on the AT!

Backpack:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest

32.37oz

I went with HMG because they’re based out of Maine, so they probably know a thing or two about the AT. The pack is almost 100% waterproof eliminating the need for a pack cover. I like the large, elastic outside pockets and the velcro rolltop closure. I weight trained with it on the stair stepper at the gym and it’s comfy as hell.

*Elastic strap I added myself.

Tent:

Gossamer Gear The One + Polycro Footprint

38.9oz (tent+stakes+footprint)

For my shelter system I chose Gossamer Gear’s The One tent. I would have liked to save up for something by Zpacks or a Hyperlite Mountain Gear, but they run anywhere from $500 to $800 which is out of my price range at the moment. I got The One for $240 on sale, which my bank account appreciated.

Sleep System:

Quilt:

GramXpert Elite Quilt, 21.2 degrees F

29oz

Although I’ve been a bag user for years, I recently switched to a quilt to reduce weight and bulk. I found this amazing Slovenian company called GramXpert; they don’t use down for ethical reasons which makes my vegan heart so so happy. They also make their quits to order, so I could customize temp rating, size, color, and various other details to build a quilt specifically for my needs.

Sleeping Pad:

Nemo Tensor Insulated Sleeping Pad

15oz

With the few tests I’ve done with this pad I’m extremely happy with it. 3 inches of thickness and only 15oz insulated. Yes please. I know the Thermarest Neoair Xtherm (the insulated version of the Xlite) is also a popular option in the lightweight backpacking community, but that pad is NOISY AS HECK. The Nemo Tensor has ZERO crinkling when I roll over. I’m in love.

Pillow:

Wilderness Technologies Inflatable Pillow

2.5oz

Cook System:

Vargo BOT 700 – 4.8oz

Pot Cozie – 1oz

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove (w/ case) – 3.3oz

Toaks Titanium Spoon – .6oz

Measuring Utensils – .4oz

Water System:

Smart Water Bottles, empty (23.7 FL oz size) (x2) – 2.4oz

Purinize Water Purifier Drops (2 FL oz size) – 2.6oz

Extra long bendy straws (Dollar Tree) (x2) – .1oz

Attached bottle to strap, extra long straw for easy drinking. (Photo from last September on my way up to Mount Whitney.)

Electronics:

Anker PowerCore 20100 Power Bank – 12.56oz

iPhone Xs Max (with Otterbox) – 10.3oz

GoPro Hero 7 (with case) – 6.5oz

Anker Dual USB PowerPort Speed 2 – 4.6oz

Big Agnes mtnGLO Tent Camp Lights (w/ batteries) – 3.2oz

Headlamp – Nitecore NU25 360 Lumen Triple Output USB Rechargeable – 1.9oz (w/ headband)

Anker Wireless Headphones – .8oz

Small Items Bag:

Hygiene Kit – 3.5oz

Med Kit – 5.3oz

Repair Kit – 3.6oz

Sea to Summit Insect Head Net – 1.3oz

Bathroom Kit:

Tentlab Deuce of Spades – .6oz

Toilet Paper – 1oz

Mesh bag – .4oz

Kula Cloth – .5oz

Clothing:

Top:

Patagonia Active Mesh Sports Bra – 2.8oz

REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Crew T-shirt – 4.5oz

REI Co-op Lightweight Base Layer Long Sleeve Half Zip – 5.8oz

Patagonia R1 Pullover Hoodie – 11oz

Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket (synthetic insulation) – 8oz

Outdoor Research Women’s Helium II Rain Jacket – 5.5oz

Bottom:

ExOfficio Women’s Give and Go Sport Mesh Bikini Briefs – 1.5oz

ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Boxer Briefs – Men’s 6″ Inseam – 2.3oz

Old Navy Activewear Running Shorts (liner cut out) – 2.6oz

32 Degree Baselayer Tight (for sleeping) – 4.6oz

Columbia OmniHeat Baselayer Tight – 5.2oz

Ultralight Adventure Equipment Rain Skirt – 2.9 oz

Other:

Mountain Standard beanie – 2.6oz

Solar Escape sun hat – 2.6oz

BUFF USA Multifunctional Headwear – 1.3oz

Gloves – 1.3oz

Injinji Trail Midweight Crew Toe Socks (Medium) (x2) – 2.6oz (one pair)

Fleece socks (for sleeping, some Kohls brand) – 2.5oz

Wild Fable Talise EVA Clogs – 8.5oz

Altra Lone Peak 4 – 17oz (pair)

Misc:

Thermarest Z Seat Pad – 2oz

Left hip belt pocket items – 7.5oz

Right hip belt pocket items – 4.5oz

I’m interested to see how I feel about my gear choices during and after the trail, expect a post-trail gear review when I’m done! Until then, here I go!!

First Post!

How exciting is this?! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for quite some time now, and while the theme has evolved as the years have passed, I’ve finally gotten around to actually doing it. *tiny dance party for myself* As most of you may know, I’m going to be starting the Appalachian Trail on March 31st. While I was on the John Muir Trail I decided that three weeks in the wilderness wasn’t enough, I needed more. So I started planning for the AT as soon as I got back to Utah, and here I am only two months away from actually doing it. I’ve gotten almost all of my gear, I’ve been working and saving as much money as I can, and in a little less than two months I’ll be on a plane en route to Georgia, stepping foot onto the AT where I’ll spend the next 4-5 months walking all the way to Maine. It’s going to be difficult, and wet, and I can’t imagine how many mental breakdowns I’m going to have, but I’m still excited. I’m excited to meet new people, see new places, learn new skills, and accomplish new goals. It’s going to be an amazing experience, one I’m excited to share with everyone! So stay tuned for more posts about my preparations, my gear set up, and more!