Monthly Archives: October 2012

one month later

I have been done with the trail for a month now. Here are some things that I have noticed:

I still have a tendancy to to look at the toilet paper roll in the bathroom and wonder if it would be small enough to take in the wilderness.

My feet are still sore. I walk like I ran a marathon the day before right away in the morning. I can’t walk barefoot at all.

I ran on the treadmill and had to remind myself that it is not appropriate to do a snot rocket inside. Oops.

People still would like me to write a book, who knows…

I have over 1300 pictures and I need to weed them down so I can put them in an album.

I haven’t had the urge to sleep outside yet, but I do miss the fresh air.

I am going stir crazy at home, I miss my ‘job’ of hiking.

I still take longer showers than needed. It just feels so good!

Eating like I am still on the trail is a dangerous thing! We are still eating some trail food because we had leftovers when Alison got off the trail.

At first the thought of hiking again was the last thing I wanted to do, but as I get farther away I miss it more. It was such an amazing experience! But it is hard to sumaraize that experience.

I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere at first. It was a very strange feeling. I know life moved on without me, but it was still weird to be back. I wasn’t expecting to be almost depressed with nothing to do. For nearly 6 months I had this goal in front of me and I was working toward it constantly. Then all of the sudden it was gone. I had accomplished this amazing feat and I didn’t have something else to jump into. People kept telling me to just relax and enjoy being home. If you know me well you understand that I have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time. 🙂 I started looking for jobs (which for someone who can lack patience this is very difficult) and I hope to get something soon.

I miss the people that I met on the trail and I have been looking up information about the trail almost every day. This includes looking at other people’s journals, seeing how many people summited, or trying to find people on facebook. This is difficult as I don’t know any of their real names!

I am still finding ways that I have changed, and things I have learned about myself. That process will continue for a long time yet. I hope I never stop learning.

Thanks again for your support, even as I try to re-enter society!

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Gear Review

Gear is really important on the trail. It can mean the difference between staying on the trail and getting off. Being comfortable is important to some extent. At least as comfortable as you can get on the trail.

Kelty Coyote Pack

I really enjoyed my pack. I picked this pack because I wanted lots of pockets for organization. The Kelty pack is heavier because of all the pockets and extra zippers, so my gear was heavier just because of the pack weight. The fabric held up suprisingly well even though I scraped the bottom while going down rocks. The straps started slipping a lot, so I was constantly ajusting them. I don’t know if that was because they were dirty or they were actually getting thinner. The mesh/netting on most of the pockets ripped. Most waited until ME to become unuseful though.

I only used the one pack. There were some hikers that had 2 or even 3 different packs. Kelty is made tough.

Sleeping Bag

I started out with a Ledge 0 degree bag. I was very grateful for the warmth, but I was not pleased with the size. It basically took up half of my pack. And when I was using that and the two person tent by myself I had very little room for anything else. The reason I had this big bag was because I was too cheap to get a down bag which would have packed smaller. I guess that is the price you pay for being cheap. 🙂 For the summer season I used 2 sleeping bag liners from Sea to Summit. This was enough most of the time. I used all my clothes and tarp if I needed more warmth. There was only once where I didn’t even get into my liner cause it was so hot. Then for fall I borrowed a 20 degree down bag. It worked very well and only wished for my 0 degreee a couple times.

Tent

The REI Quarterdome T2 Plus was our choice for tent. We really liked the tent for privacy, especially becases there were not very many women on the trail. When Alison left I went to a hammock and I only used it twice. I am a stomach sleeper and so it was difficult for me to get used to a hammock. I stayed in the shelter most of the time during that time. Eventually I borrowed a tent from Castaway’s brother and used that for the remainder of the trip. It is important to have a well sealed tent and I only got wet once.

Sleeping Pad

The sleeping pad that I started out with was really thick and cushy and I loved it! When Alison left I needed to have less weight and bulk so I too her sleeping pad. It didn’t take long til that was comfortable as well. It is amazing that an inch of padding helps so much! This was a ‘must have’ item for me. Some people had the Neo-air and I found those to be squeaky and they got leaks much more easily. I just had a thermarest.

Cookset

The Bugaboo backpacker cookset was our choice. It had 2 cups, 2 bowls, a nice big pot and frying pan. We left the bowls at home right away. We sent the frying pan home after discovering that it was not working to make pancakes. The cups went home when Alison left. So, I carried just the pot, pan scraper, and handle. The size of the pot was a bit excessive, but it worked. When we were buying supplies we bought a pack of 10 lighters. Well, I only used 1.5 over the course of the trip.  My spork was was a favorite item.

Stove

I have no complaints about the pocket rocket. It worked like a charm and it was pretty easy to find fuel for it. I know of at least one person that switched from an alcohol stove to the pocket rocket. It was a good stove.

Knife

I was being cheap once again and took my leatherman knife. I knew it was heavy, but it didn’t really matter, right? Well, I found that I only used the scissors on the knife and decided to get a craft scissors. That did everything I needed it to from opening mail drops to opening vacuume sealed food bags.

Water Treatment

Alison and I started out with the steri-pen, but when she left I didn’t want to carry the batteries, filter, charger and the pen. I swiched to the MSR Katahdin and it worked pretty well.  It did take along time to pump, especially after the filter got dirty. I flirted with using bleach, but I didn’t like the taste. So, I went back to the pump.

Misc.

We used our water tank when we were hiking together. I didn’t need it for myself. I used one nalgene and one gatorade bottle. The gatorade bottle is lighter, but I needed the nalgene for the water pump. Bear rope, carabiners, and many other items filled up my pack. I appreciated having a watch and a cell phone. I had a surprising amount of cell phone coverage with Verizon. AT&T had better service a couple of places up north. I used bug spray during the summer and the sunglasses came in handy against the gnats. Sunscreen wasn’t used much because we were under the trees most of the time. I did get burned a couple times when I was out in the open for extended time. I was glad that I had chargers for the camera and phone and my journal was important to me as well. The pack cover was essential for not getting water in your pack. It is important that it fits well too.

Clothing

My favorite item was my down jacket. I used it as a pillow and it was essential when it got cold. It is a must have. I also used my Dri Ducks rain gear a lot. It doubled as town clothes and wind protection. They did rip easily and I had 2 sets. When it’s raining you’re not sure if you should put on the rain jacket because you’ll just sweat. My jacket ended up smelling worse than my shoes! I used my longjohns mostly in spring and fall. At times I wore them during the day while hiking, but tired to save them for sleeping. I had only one set of hiking clothes – a shirt and zip off pants. For a time I had town clothes so I had another set when doing laundry. When I had my boots I wore wool socks and liners, but switched to running socks with my low hikers. I had 3 pairs of shoes. Some had as many as 5. I thought I would go through more clothes, like that they would wear out. But, none of my clothes wore out. I wore 3 different shirts and 2 pairs of pants.

Food

I used our mail drops for the whole trip. There were only a few times where it was a pain to get the food. There were definitely times where it was good I was getting a mail drop because there were no other options in town. I would maybe use about 1/3 less and buy more food on the trail. You can choose what you want to eat for the next leg of the journey.

Handbook

I had the Thru-hiker companion. If I would do it over again I would get both the companion and awol’s guide. Awol has elevation changes and gives more info than the companion, but awol was wrong in at least one place. More information is better, right?

I’m not sure if I missed some things. Overall I was very pleased with my equipment. If would do another long trail I would save up for some lighter gear, but it made me stronger, right?

 

The way home

Alison and I took the long way home. I don’t know how many miles there are to get from Maine to South Dakota, but we definitely took the scenic route.

First up was visiting Ila Lynch in Hudson New Hampshire. Ila lives about 4 hours from Bangor where we had been hanging out. Ila was Alison and my babysitter for several years when we were little. Her two little boys were very excited to see us and told us about all the new things that they had. It was pretty cute.

Next stop was Patrick and Becky Welsh’s house in Hanover PA. Patrick (aka Reaper) and us hiked together for awhile before he got rocky mountain spotted fever and had to get off the trail near Erwin TN. Patrick is feeling much better, but is still not 100%. It has been pretty rough on him. It was good to see them again. They both showed us their re-enactment attire which was pretty cool. There is a lot that goes into doing that. We slept on this awesome couch/futon. It took a bit to figure out but it was an experience! 🙂

Harrisonburg VA and a stop to see Molly Boese for a quick lunch at Mr. J’s. I am Molly’s mentor from church. We have kept in contact and I really enjoy her. 🙂 I have actually seen her in Harrisonburg every year that she has been at EMU. That is pretty incredible because I live in South Dakota! Of course we went to Kline’s ice cream before we left town!

Al and Ashley live in Greensboro NC. Alison and I met Al and Ashley in Georgia, less than a week into our hike. They were section hiking and are planning on doing the whole trail eventually. We met them when we were camping by a road when we all decided we didn’t want to walk 1.2 miles down a side trail to the Whitley Shelter. We so enjoy their sense of humor and we hit it off right away. We talked about the trail and it was really fun to see them again.

Comma-Kaze is from Clover South Carolina and she, Blue Sky, Castaway and I hiked together through some of Virginia. More reminiscing happened and Alison and I even played a little guitar. It had been a long time since I had touched a guitar. It didn’t take long for my fingers to hurt. Comma fed us a lovely chicken salad sandwich and banana bread. Yum. It was too bad that we couldn’t stay longer at places.

Sylva NC was our first home stay on the trail. Gail and Jay Gibson kept us for 2 nights and it was so wonderful! We wrote about them earlier in the blog. It was really fun to come back and remember how we had spread everything out all over their porch and dried it out. This time we were treated to grilled ribs and our own bed. 🙂 Once again it was lovely to talk about Viborg and we just felt very much at home.

Buzz Trexler and his daughter Elizabeth joined us for lunch near Knoxville TN. Buzz and two of his friends hiked with Reaper and I in the Smokies. We really enjoyed Buzz’s love of Christ and devotions we had with the three of them. Gypsy was the one that gave me the challenge coin to carry to Katahdin. We talked about Buzz’s upcoming section hikes and enjoyed some BBQ.

Corinth MS is the home of X and N Trovert. We had supper with Susan Adams and her husband. Susan was our trail angel for part of NH and ME. We really appreciated her being there for us. The next morning Alison, myself, X and N all ran/walked a 5K race. It felt strange to race, but I ended up getting second in my age group! An 8 minute pace never felt so hard! 🙂 X got third in her age group and N got first in his. N worked at Shiloh Battlefield and so we did some Civil War learning at the interpretive center and then went to the battlefield. There was some information overload, but it was vey interesting. We don’t have a lot of Civil War stuff in South Dakota.

Our last visit was to my college friend in Lewis KS. Amanda and her family hosted us, fed us and we caught up. Her sons Eli and Ethan entertained by flying around in their capes. It was very good to see them and tell them stories of the trail. Amanda’s parents are like my second parents and I thank Kenny and Nancy for their support and prayers over this trip.

Alison had an interview for a nursing position in Torrington WY so we headed there before going home. Seemed on the way? After 20 minutes we were on our way home finally. On our way through NE we saw Car Henge and a rest are that included a recliner and a toilet on bales. I had no idea western NE was so funny! I loved it. If we weren’t on our way home I would have stopped to take pictures, but as it was I was ready to get home.

We arrived at the Neufeld residence at 11:30pm central time. It was way past hiker midnight but it was worth it. Finally our own beds. I will be doing some more blogs about gear and some reflections about the trail.

Postscript

I am sure you have been wondering what has happened since I summited. I will be doing several more posts, so don’t go away yet!

The day after summit day was a nice and relaxing one. I didn’t move from the bed for very long and we ate a lot. We met X and N for lunch and picked up Castaway from Abol Bridge for supper. It was good to see him again and wish him well on the summit. I hope we didn’t scare him. 🙂

Sunrise at Cadillac Mt

Beth’s flight was on October 1st, so we had time to do some other fun stuff before she left. We spent some time in Acadia National Park and watched the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. It was so gorgeous! It was also very cold, but we snuggled and used sleeping bags to stay warm. Its too bad when we came back to the hotel room that it was also cold. Guess we needed the heat after all. 🙂

Some other snippets:

One of the hotels had a very blue bathroom. Super 8 is awesome!

pretty leaves

What is there to do on vacation? Well, normally when I would be on vacation I would try to do as much activity as I could. This vacation is different cause I needed a break from exercise. But, as we were in Acadia National Park we decided we needed to do something other than sit in a hotel room. So, what did we do…take a hike of course! I had my crocs on, cause I was thinking it wouldn’t be too strenuous. Well, there were some rocks and I was wishing for my poles. At least it didn’t last too long. 🙂

Beth and I have done some running in the past and she is training for a half marathon. She asked me the day after summiting if I would like to run with her. She was feeling pretty sore afterwards and I was ready for a couple days off. We actually went running 3 times and it was an eye opener. Evidently there are some muscles in my butt that are NOT worked while hiking. And here I thought that I was in the most amazing shape. Hmm. There were a couple other muscles that were not worked the same way. It will take a bit to get back into running shape and I hope to do a marathon this fall yet. We shall see what I can do. I would really like to keep as much of the fitness I have worked so hard to gain.

Paul Bunyan

One of the most exciting things we saw in Bangor was the statue of Paul Bunyan. Paul is located in Bangor because they were the birthplace of the lumber industry. We had a difficult time finding it because we were looking  for a park. Actually the statue was in a construction area. We were able to take some pictures with Mr. Bunyan while a guy watched us from the parking garage. I bet he thought we were nuts. 🙂

awesome stripes!

We’re famous!

Here is the link to the summit song on You Tube. If you notice X is holding up the registration box and I am focused ahead because I was so tired I had to concentrate on singing. Beth Swartzendruber was the videographer.

Summit Song

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