Appalachian Trail, Blogging, Everyday

Here, is where I belong

The other day I had a friend that I haven’t talked to for a while email and ask me if I was still going to hike the trail.  See, I had planned on doing a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine in the spring of 2017 (see blog posts starting here).  He lived in Georgia at the time and was considering starting off with me just for the weekend.  Things in my life changed and as my start date got closer and closer (April 10th), I realized that this year was not going to be the right time for me.  Even though I was a little disappointed I was also a little relieved.  The year before I was in a weird place in my life where I felt like I needed to alter my viewpoint and what better place to do that then on a 2100+ mile trek?  I felt the need to walk out of my life and walk into a trail life for what could be over 6 months.  Although my family and friends were supportive, I think they were all relieved as well that I had changed my mind.

A couple of months before what would have been my start date, I had let one of my 13-year-old cats cross the rainbow bridge because she was loosing her battle with cancer.  It was devastating and as I was going through those emotions, I couldn’t even imagine leaving my husband and our other cat behind at the time.  So April came and went and then in the summer I had to face an even bigger loss in my family when my father passed away from cancer as well.  If I had been on the trail, I might have been too late to have ever said goodbye and I can’t imagine how my life would have been after that.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and there was a higher power that was holding me back from the hike so that I would be able to be with my loved ones in a massive time of need.

I replied back to my friend that, for now, I didn’t have a new start date in mind.  Not that I would rule it out for the rest of my life but that my life had changed so much in the past 6 months that I have been looking at it differently.  I told him that “…before my father died, I felt the need to find myself on the trail, but after he died I feel like I have found myself right where I am.  If that makes sense”.

And even though I don’t know exactly what 2018 is going to look like, I am confident that I will discover even more of who I am, right here where I belong.

 

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Appalachian Trail, Everyday, hiking

Time has a way of changing things

This past week has been full of self discoveries, and not the happiest of them.  I’m beginning to realize that the reason I feel drawn to hike the AT next year is also the same reason that I maybe forced to shorten my trip to, dare I say it, a section hike instead.  I think everyone has a motive for taking on such an epic journey.  Maybe a loss of a loved one or a coming of age trip before going off to college.  I haven’t been 100% crystal clear of my reason.  The athletic part of me wants to do it so I can push myself beyond any other limit that I have ever reached.  The vegan/aspiring minimalist whats to see what it would be like to live off the beaten path, carrying everything I need on my back.  But I think the main reason, that has become more clear, is that I am a 36-year-old adult that just wants a break from “adulting” in the worst way.

Doesn’t everyone, right?  Who wouldn’t mind taking 5-6 months out of their adult life and just putting it on hold until they got back from an epic journey such as thru hiking the Appalachian Trail?  Well maybe the hiking part isn’t for everyone, but whatever your calling is, I’m sure it seems more exciting than your day in and day out routine.  Or maybe it’s not?  Maybe you have found that “sweet spot” in your life where all is good and right in your world.  Kudos to you, because I have yet to arrive there.

I thought my life would seem “easier” when I lost my job back in December.  Ok, hold on and let me explain.  When I lost my job my husband encouraged me to take the next year off to just “be me”.  To do and explore whatever it is that makes me happy.  Great!  So far I have taken about 4 different photography classes, two trips to see family and friends and started to blog more and more (I think the blogging has been my favorite out of everything).  I also have taken my time at the gym more seriously and in the spring my running reached levels that it had never been before when I ran in my first half marathon.

But after about 3 months, I felt the need for at least a part-time job.  Something that would keep me busy for 10-15 hours a week and would also help the financial offset of when my unemployment benefits would run out (which they just currently have).  I actually like to work.  It gives me a sense of “purpose”.  I don’t do anything glamorous; most of my past jobs have been packing orders for various companies.  At my last job I started as an order packer and was promoted to the order fulfillment manager.   I had been there for 3+ years and I have been in shipping and receiving for 15+ years total.  I have always enjoyed those jobs most.  I am not a people person and I have never really enjoyed anything that involves customer service or one on one interaction with a lot of people every day.  I like repetitive jobs and somewhat physically demanding jobs.  I do not want to be sitting at a desk all day.  (Well, not unless someone wants to pay me to sit and blog or edit photographs all day!  Maybe one day!)  So my current part-time job of packing orders for a small business in my neighborhood, has been perfect!  It doesn’t require us to have a second car and it pays a nice little bit of money every month.

But even though I’m not working full-time and I now have had time to do and discover a lot of great things that I love, I still have to “adult” a whole lot, if not more than before.  My husband is a very hard worker and brings in enough money for us to live comfortably, but after that, I pretty much take care of everything else.  I’m not trying to make my husband out to be a “bad” person, but his “Suzy homemaker skills” are not up to par.  I handle all of our finances.  For the most part I keep up on all the house hold chores and I make sure we make our appointments or commitments on time.  If one of (or in the case of this week, both of) our fur babies is sick, I take care of them.  Whether it be cleaning up after them, taking them to the vet, or just being with them when they don’t feel well, that is all me.

My husband had never owned a pet before he met me and my two, now 12-year-old, cats.  He has taken on being a great daddy to them.  If they could live on love alone, they would be in good hands with him.  But since they can’t and they both have started to have very special needs as they have aged, that has all fallen on my shoulders.  I’m thankful that he does make enough money and he is very understanding when it comes to their health issues.  This week alone probably set us back $1000 (ah the joys of being a pet parent!) but he never blinks an eye about the cost and always just wants the best for them.  With that in mind, the best thing for them is usually me being around and taking care of them.  They are very bonded to me and have actually been sick with anxiety if I am away for too long.  We have actually flown home from a vacation early because they became sick and too much for our poor neighbor to handle.  After we were back, everyone calmed down and you would never have known anything was wrong.  As much as my husband loves them, most of the time he does not know what to do when they do get sick.  And he doesn’t do with sudden changes to his schedule very well.  So to have to drop everything (including maybe calling into work) is very hard for him to understand.

Besides our fur-babies we have our own issues.  I’m all about being real in my blog, so here is some real life shit.  Marriage is work.  It is a give and take and is about compromise without losing yourself in the process.  It is not roses and butterflies all the time.  Sometimes it involves getting down right dirty and dealing with some heavy stuff.  We go to therapy together and apart.  We both have issues that we have to deal with and some of his issues can get really hard to live with in general.  He had been diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder long before I met him.  He is also a recovering drug addict (a result of trying to self medicate his issues) but has been clean for over 14 years now.  And even though things over the years have gotten better with professional help, we are faced with a lot of hard issues that most couples may not have to go through.  At times they can take a real toll on both of us.  And they defiantly make “adulting” even harder for me.  I’m not perfect, but I have taken on a lot by living my life with someone who has faced some serious trauma at a young age.  Unfortunately our relationship can teeter from a husband and wife, to a mother and child dynamic.  It is something we are working very hard to resolve, but it can be very difficult and mentally exhausting at times.  This is why the larger amount of household responsibility falls on me.  It would be a very dramatic change for me to put everything on him, for months at a time, after I have taken care of it for over 5 years now.

Segwaying (don’t thing that’s an actual word, but it works for me) back into the original theme of this post.  The idea of a thru hike versus our life back at home.  The scales are not even and things are not looking like they are going to fall in my favor.  I know I am still 9 months out from my start date, but everyday something else presents itself as a reason why this hike may not be ideal for my current life situation.  I feel that it would be a great escape from my current life, but I am afraid of what would be waiting for me upon my return or what could cause me to have to return early.  I also realize that I cannot live my life in fear of the “what ifs” but these are not just small, “what ifs”.  Some of them could be real life, game changers and not in a positive way.

So at the current moment I am unsure of exactly what I will be doing next year.  I have contemplated doing about a month-long section hike.  I would still start around the same time in early April, but I would just hike as far as I could in a 30 day period and then call it quits.  Ugh “quits” is an ugly word, kind of like “goodbye”.  Sounds too final and well just over.  I wouldn’t want things to be over for good.  Maybe each year I could come back to the place I stopped at and continue on until I hiked the entire AT?  It’s not as badass as being a thru hiker, but I’m sure it would still be a life changing experience.  I feel like right now I am looking for a life saving moment and a sense of resolve.  But I know I can’t just run away from my issues.  They will be right there when I get back.  The idea of it all is tugging at my insides but I know that no matter what, everything happens for a reason.

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Appalachian Trail

Here I am, this is me

I don’t always spend everyday thinking about how exciting or amazing a thru hike will be.  I’m not always scanning the web for the latest and greatest new gear.  Some days, a sense of sadness consumes my thoughts.  Whether it’s because I have family that is worried for my safety, loved ones that can’t imagine being without me for 6 months, or even just the idea of missing my cats for so long.  I have real feelings that I’m sure every hiker must go through whether they want to admit to it or not.

The whole point of my blog is to share my real life feelings about my thru hike.  During every stage, I promise to always be real with the people following me.  With many of the blogs I follow (of current and past thru hikers), the thing that I admire more than anything is when I read about their honest and true feelings.  I’m sure the sights and sounds are amazing.  I don’t doubt that lasting friendships will be made and a new sense of self-worth that will be achieved.  But to be fair, there will be times when it down right sucks.  Dealing with the elements, loneliness (and times you wish you could be alone), personal hygiene, and an array of other issues probably consume their thoughts just as much, if not more.  But if a person is going to agree to purse such an enormous feat, then they have to take the good with the bad.  There must be balance.

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As much as I feel for the people in my life that will be affected by my choices, I also ask them to understand how I will be affected if I don’t get the chance to at least try to accomplish this epic quest.  The very idea of this hike has become apart of who I currently am.  I feel like I would be cheating myself if I gave in and didn’t go through with it.  I hope to finish; but even if I don’t, I will be more disappointed if I don’t even get the chance to try.  I have to do this for me and I truly don’t expect anyone else to fully understand.

So if I’m scared or sad one day when talking about my journey, please don’t try to discourage me, instead I hope that you will support me.  Even during the lowest days, if I know that I have the love and support of the people who are most important in my life, then I will be able to push on.

*On a cheesy, side note:  I just finished watching the animated movie Spirit:  Stallion of the Cimarron (yes the one about the horses, and yes I know I’m a 36-year-old grown woman).  This movie has an awesome sound track done by Bryan Adams and the beginning and ending songs really touched me (ok so I was “emotional” watching the journey this animated horse had).  The lyrics kind of describe the life cycle of my up coming personal quest.  I just thought I would share them here.

Opening song:  This is Where I Belong 

I hear the wind across the plain
A sound so strong – that calls my name
It’s wild like the river – it’s warm like the sun
Ya it’s here – this is where I belong
Under the starry skies – where eagles have flown
This place is paradise – it’s the place I call home
The moon on the mountains
The whisper through the trees
The waves on the water
Let nothing come between this and me
Cuz everything I want – is everything that’s here
And when we’re all together – there’s nothing to fear
And wherever I wander – the one thing I’ve learned
It’s to here – I will always….always return

Closing song:  I will Always Return

I hear the wind call my name
It’s a sound that leads me home again
It sparks up a fire, a flame that still burns
To you, I will always return
I know the road is long – but where you are is home
Wherever you stay – I’ll find the way
I’ll run like the river – I’ll follow the sun
I’ll fly like an eagle – to where I belong
I can’t stand the distance – I can’t dream alone
I can’t wait to see you – yes I’m on my way home
Now I know it’s true – my every road leads to you
And in the hour of darkness – your light gets me through
You run like the river – you shine like the sun
Yeah you fly like an eagle – you are the one
I’ve seen every sunset, and with all that I’ve learned
Oh, it’t to you, I will always…always return

 

 

 

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Appalachian Trail, Fitness, Running, Vegan

Little Christa and Texas trail magic

It was raining this morning……. again.  Imagine that.  We have had a lot of rain in Central Texas over the past month.  Our lakes are full and actually over flowing for the first time since 2008.  My husband drops me at the gym before he goes to work, but that would mean a soggy walk home.  I did bring my Luna sandals again and my rain jacket, just in case.

I was feeling pretty tired and sore for the last couple workouts I had done so this morning was a bit of a struggle at times.  My arms and shoulders were the most worn out so starting with a warm up ski was just mean (just booked an appointment with my chiropractor too)!  I’m finally starting to intergrade one legged drills into my workouts again.  Nothing too crazy and nothing that involves any pounding.  So far so good.  By the end of the workout I was really feeling like my tank was on empty.  I had to lighten up my kettle bell weight for a couple drills.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention that before our workout a running/gym friend of mine, Christa, dropped off my new newest training tool.  She has weights that were made to be put in a backpack or weight pack.  She is supportive of my AT thru hike and said that I could borrow them for awhile to train with.  Today I got my first one, a 10 pound weight I have named Little Christa (thanks lady)!  It worked out good too because I had my sling pack with me to carry my shoes and jacket in, so on the way home I put Little Christa in there and got my first taste of walking with a little weight on my back.  I have to say that 10 pounds didn’t feel like that much of a difference.  I think I will need to up it to 20 before long.

Oh and to make the walk home even more exciting it was pouring down with thunder and everything by the time I left.  Friends did offer a ride home, but I declined (thanks Christa and Fern).  And I even had my first taste of a little Texas style “trail magic”.  A random gentleman pulled over and rolled down his window to offer me his umbrella.  His kindness made me smile but I thanked him and explained I was training for something so I needed to decline.  In my mind, the walk home took me out to the trail.  I feel like I am already so familiar with it from all the thru hikers I am following online.  I think about them when I walk in the pouring rain.  They are amazing people.  I’m only out in it for about 10-15 mins but they have described 5-6 hour hikes in rain and mud.  But every little bit helps to get me ready.  My jacket does pretty well for the short amount of time I have to walk home.  My clothes are always still dry under it.  I just hope it will perform the same after an hour or 6 in the rain!

Well that’s all for today.  I am planning on resting tomorrow and then I am going to try and see what I can do for Saturday morning’s interval work.  I may just come and see if I can run past a mile this time.

One hour group workout @ 6am

Warm up 4 miles on bike and 500m ski

First set x4

  • One minute plank
  • 30 sec lateral plank on each side
  • One minute superman hold

Second set x4

  • walking lunge to warrior three pose with 5lbs weight in hand 10 down 10 back then 6 down 6 back

Third set x2

  • squat with 15 pound dumbbell x10
  • squat to a press with 17.5 pound dumbbell x10
  • single arm thrusters each arm, one set with 17.5 lbs one set with 20 lbs x5
  • single arm thrusters to a balance on opposite foot, one set with 17.5 lbs one set with 20 lbs x5

Forth set x5

  • squat jumps x15
  • 24kg kettle bell deadlifts x10
  • 8kg kettle bell single arm row each side x10

Fifth set x2

  • single leg Romanian dead lift with 20kg kettle bell each side x10
  • TRX deep row x 10

Cool down .6 mile walk home with 10 pound weight in backpack

 

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Appalachian Trail, Fitness, Running, Vegan

Social run turned into social circuit

So it was still raining last night when our social run was to take place.  I actually walked over to the gym in my rain jacket and wore my Luna sandals to get through all the standing water.  I had my running shoes and socks in a sling bag on my back.  There was a steady rain as I walked the .6 of a mile over to the gym.  But earlier it was really coming down so there were some areas of standing water that were over 4 inches deep.

In away it was fun navigating my way over.  Times like this always make to think of the Appalachian Trail and how I will most likely spend part of my time hiking.  I just have to smile and laugh to myself because my half mile walk is nothing compared to hiking the AT.  I actually cut through a small, wooded area, on my walk over (or actually an over grown section of land that I’m not sure who owned).  It was a tunnel of green, with a narrow foot path and a mixture of rocks and mud.  I went that way to avoid the main road, where cars going 50mph would have sprayed me with water.  That small section of trail was really cool and made me feel excited.

After I made it into the gym and dried off and changed my footwear it was time to meet up with the group.  About 6 people showed up and we all knew that we wouldn’t be running outside tonight.  My coach had a circuit in mind for just such a day.  It would involve an Olympic row, Ski and 1 mile run on the treadmill.  We had an hour to rotate through each one.  I made it through the first round ok.  The mile run on the treadmill did me in though.  My leg did not enjoy the dynamics of running inside.  So when I got around to it for the second time, I had to switch it up with a 5k bike instead.  It was frustrating to have my leg hurt again, but I don’t think the treadmill is really good for anyone.  It feels nothing like running outside and I feel like I “pound” too much on it.  This morning my leg already felt better, so I am not going to push it until our run on Saturday.

The circuit was defiantly a heart pounder and my arms, shoulders, and well just about every part of me, felt it going into the second round.  I was pretty sore when I got home but after a good night’s sleep I feel pretty good this morning.  I am going to go to barbell strength class in a bit, but I am going to try to take it easy so not to over exert my body.  Luckily it is sunny out for the moment too!

One hour group circuit @6pm

Do as many as possible in an hour:

  • 1200m row
  • 800m ski
  • 1 mile run (or 5k on bike)
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Appalachian Trail, Books, hiking

Becoming Monkey Toes

I just finished reading a great book named “Becoming Odyssa” by Jennifer Pharr Davis.  It is about Jennifer’s first thru hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2005.  She started the trail as a solo female hiker at the age of 21.  The book chronicles the time she spent on the trail; starting at Springer Mountain in March and finishing at Mount Katahdin months later.

She paints an amazing picture of what someone can expect on the AT, mile by mile and state to state.  I had a hard time putting this book down and it only intensified my desire to hike in her footsteps.  The book was suggested to me in an all women Facebook group that I follow.  The women there said that it would be a great book for my friends and family to read as well.  I was excited, sad, happy, fearful, and hopeful for “Odyssa” (Jennifer’s trail name) as a read about each experience she faced.  It made me feel less apprehensive about doing a solo hike, because there were very few times that her hike was actually solo!  She meets great people, famous people, annoying people, naked people and so many trail angels along the way.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone, male or female, that is planning on hiking any part of the trial in their life.  Because of Jennifer’s book I know not to stay in Duncannon and that mop handles float!  And one of my favorite quotes was from a workshop Jennifer attended before her hike started.  The instructor was Dr. Warren Doyle at the Appalachian Trail Institute and he said:

“You need to know that the trail can and will change you.  Once you finish the trail, your life might not look the same as it did when you started.  If you don’t want things to change, then you need to rethink thru-hiking.”

I welcome that change in my life.  I want to find out exactly what kind of person I am and will become before, during and after my hike.  I know I am strong but I want to break free from the everyday and be responsible solely for myself.  I want alone time and to feel confident during those times.  I want to meet new people and make a lasting impressions not based on my looks or my past, just at face value.  I am not trying to run away from anything but more so run towards a new outlook on life, my life.

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Appalachian Trail

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 mtnGLO

I bought my tent for my AT thru hike about a week ago.  It is a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 with mtnGLO technology.  I was going to wait until it got closer to my trip, but I am trying to save money wherever I can.  I found it on Amazon on sale for only $359 (normal retail is $479), plus I had a $50 gift card.  It wound up being a $170 savings overall.

I went with this particular tent because both of the people in the blogs I have been following use it and the thru hiker gear list on, Appalachiantrail.com recommend it too.  The main difference between mine and all of theirs, is the color and that I have the little lights on the inside.  It is listed as a two person tent.  The solo hiker I follow, has been using it for the additional space for her gear and a couple I follow, have been using the 3 person, again for the same reason.  I would like my pack to be inside with me (except for my food), plus for now, my husband and I can enjoy it too.  The tent itself is classified as a ultra light tent and weighs in at under 4 pounds.  It won the 2015 Editors Choice Award from Backpacker magazine as well.   I opted for the mtnGLO because the prices and weight difference were so minimal that I thought it would be a nice little touch that could come in handy.

The mtnGLO adds a small strip of LED lights to the inner frame of the tent and can be turned on and off from a small switch that hangs above you.  I know I plan on reading/blogging in the evenings when it is too early to sleep but too late to keep hiking.  This way I won’t have to use a headlamp or flashlight and it might come in handy for the middle of the night bathroom needs as well.  In away those little LEDs will probably also provide a small sense of security too.

It has been rainy here last week, so I haven’t had a chance to open it up and set it up yet.  Today I was better; just overcast and breezy.  So I went out to the common grounds in front of our condo and attempted to set her up!  First attempt was a fail!  I got everything out, but had no idea how exactly the polls were to fit into the grommets at the conners.  I was afraid it was going to be too taunt and rip or bend something.  So back inside and onto YouTube I went!  I found this video and it was very helpful!  I figured out that it was ok if the polls “bend” a little and that they wouldn’t break or tear anything.

Back outside for attempt number two.  It was a success!  The breeze was a pain because it wanted to throw the tent body and rainfly everywhere, but overall it was really easy.  Since this was just a trial run, I didn’t stake anything down (that’s why the rainfly looks saggy).  I was pretty proud of myself and excited to see my future home standing up!  I forgot to test the LED lights but could see the little switch to turn them on and off hanging from above.  Once I officially camp in my tent I will make sure to take some day and night pictures of it as well.

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This is how it comes all packed up

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Everything out of main bag and instructions are on the inside flap

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Instructions (still needed to watch a video because I am a visual learner!)

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Polls, stakes, and tent body

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Everything spread out and polls put together

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Tent without rainfly
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Tent with saggy rainfly (not staked down)

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