Archive for February, 2013

Test Hikes

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , on February 6, 2013 by wordsandpixels

This past autumn I did a bunch of AT hikes, mostly in NY and CT. It gave me a chance try out my gear, much of which was very new to me. In the “old days” a backpacking stove, with fuel, weighed a few pounds. I still have my Svea 123, a beautiful little one-burner Swedish stove made of brass. It used unleaded gas and required a certain amount of finesse to light without setting your beard on fire, but once going it roared like a lion and made short work of cooking.

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Today’s little alcohol stoves weigh only a few ounces, even with fuel, and does the job (albeit it slightly more slowly) just as well. The tent is another big change. Instead of a five pound, two-person tent, I’m setting forth with a 23-ounce “tarp tent” which is a hybrid tent/tarp combination. Sort of a tarp with bug netting and a bathtub floor to keep out the rain. What a great idea!

The total effect of all this new technology is a pack weight (before food and water) of 20-25 pounds. Add food and water and you’re easily up around 35-40 pounds. I never weighed my pack in the olden days, however, but I swear 50 or 60 pounds was not unheard of. You’d get a hernia just lifting it up onto your back!

As far as clothes go, there has been a dramatic change as well. We used to wear cotton jeans and wool sweaters, and then wonder why we were cold and wet for days. Today’s nylon and spandex dries quickly but more importantly weigh ounces instead of pounds.

So, I am the old dog learning new tricks. It’s fun! It’s interesting! Is it necessary? Probably not. “Grandma Gatewood” hiked the AT in her 70’s, wearing Keds sneakers and a long raincoat. She used a shower curtain for a tarp. And she made it!

Here’s to hikers from all walks of life, from every background, who hiked the Appalachian Trail their way. And loved every step!

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The Countdown Begins

Posted in Ramblings with tags , , , , , , on February 5, 2013 by wordsandpixels

This first blog entry is a test of sorts — to see if all the bits and bytes are in harmony — but it’s also a way of announcing the “countdown” portion of the hike. Plans have been finalized, equipment tested and unnecessary gear jettisoned, and the countdown clock (so to speak) started.

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Eight weeks from now I’ll be hiking north, having started from Springer Mountain, GA on a 2200 mile journey to Mt. Katahdin, ME. The trip will take between five and six months. I’ll start slowly, so slow that my “trail name” should be “Turtle.” By the end of the trip, I will have averaged 15-20 miles a day. By the end of the trip I will also have lost between 20 and 40 pounds, my legs will be as strong as a bull’s and my heart will hopefully still be beating. I know there will be a profound emptiness in it, traveling without my love, best friend and companion of thirty years, my beautiful wife, Ann. She has promised to send me my favorite Pepperidge Farm cookies via mail drops.

I just inserted a photo to see how it (hopefully) works. Still trying to decide whether to bring iPad. It would make journaling easier, provide safety storage for photos and make zero days (days off) easier. But on the other hand, isn’t the purpose of hiking to get away from daily chains like technology? Technology, however, like weight-saving titanium and nylon, also makes hiking easier. So, is it a fair comparison? Hmmmm. Stay tuned. That’s all for now.