Dancing Bear Cabin at Misty Mountain Resort

At the Dancing Bear cabin where we will stay tonight, at Misty Mountain Resort, as well as next Friday and Saturday night. The 🐻 motif is prominent.

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Early this afternoon we are going to hike up Brassbald Mountain. That post for later.

Tommorow morning we start the real hike. We are taking a shuttle from here to Amicalola State Park. An hour and 20 minute ride. Then we hike back for six days, and get get picked up at Neels Gap which is a 15 minute drive from here.

So, we will be on the trail for six days. Final gear check today.

Some rain expected this week. We are carrying pack covers, ponchos, and Gossamer Gear ultralight trekking umbrellas. No metal parts. Also wearing stuff that dries quick – no cotton.

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Appalachian Trail Abventure: Almost there…

In Tennessee now, and will be in Georgia before long at Misty Mountain Resort. Will start hiking the AT on the approach trail to Springer Mountain on Sunday.

We had a few minor sit backs.

At the very last minute our dog sitter plans fell through. Minutes before we were leaving.

Jenifer’s niece, Emily, came through. First issue.

So a bit after 8 p.m. we packed up:

and left:

Next, in Pedukah Kentucky, at 3 a.m., Expedia reservations were messed up and it was about an hour until we got that fixed.

More later!

Ugly Hiking the Appalachian Trail

We are getting ready to section hike the Appalachian Trail. We will leave May 4th and come back May 13th. First time. I plan on going back next year by myself and doing four to eight weeks. God willing I will continue until I finish.

I am lucky that I have the summers off but unfortunately my wife does not. More than likely all my future hikes will be solo.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to post stories about our hike on this website, or provide a link to a Tumblr blog. Tumblr is super easy on a phone. Or maybe nothing.

I’ve been reading and watching videos about hiking the AT as well as the PCT Trail for about 2 years now. I’ve done some local hiking, and I managed to get some gear that should see us through on this walk – and see me through on subsequent hikes although I’ll make some changes. Everybody does.

I think everybody hikes these long trails ugly. They’re difficult, and you don’t know what you’re going to run into when you start. You have to plan for weeks, months, on speculation Without Really knowing what you’re really going to need and what’s just going to be getting in the way and deadweight. For example, I decided to take trekking umbrellas, in addition to ponchos as backup, for rain protection. My theory is that it’ll be easier to hike in the rain with the umbrella. These Trucking umbrellas are more popular on the PCT because a lot of the hiking there is done in the sun. Very little hiking is in the sun on the AT. We’ll see. There’s a lot of serendipity and no small amount of chaos, on even the best planned journey.

Long-distance backpacking is the ultimate in minimalism. Almost everybody packs things they think they can’t live without only to discard them later. On the Appalachian Trail people sometimes leave hundreds of dollars worth of gear behind in hiker boxes because they realize they didn’t need it after all. I’m in the process of trying to get rid of all the excess baggage in my life. I wonder what I’ll leave behind?

The beauty is of course in the landscape, but also within the inner landscape which gathers clarity on such activites. The inner you that is suppressed with all the hubbub and nonsense we deal with in our modern world. It comes out of the shadows when you’re less distracted, and you’re less concerned with the triviality that we’re bombarded with day by day. One which is social media. Also the inner struggle that happens when you make the decision if you’re going to continue or come off the trail. I want to stay on the trail to the end. Such treks truly are The Road Less Traveled.

Simple Coffee

We got rid of three coffee makers, including a Keruig, and we now have two. A Melitta black plastic pour over, and a French press.

In the past I have broken at least three glass presses, and they have a tendency to cool the coffee too quickly anyway. I started thinking that since those are known issues somebody has come up with a solution. They have.  Double-walled stainless steal French presses.

Picture of Insulated Stainless Steel French Press
Double-walled Stainless Steel French Press

For now I am keeping the Melitta since it takes up practically no room, but we have been using the French press exclusively. We gained a lot of counter space in our small kitchen, and it saves on electricity.

After I turn off the burner, I put the press down where I boiled the water to keep it hot as it seeps. I wonder if I could just boil the water in the press itself with the filter/plunger out? I don’t see why not unless it would not hold up to the heat for some reason.

These come in various sizes, from different manufacturers.

I am very satisfied with this, and do not miss the Keruig at all.  We had long ago gone to the reusable basket anyway because the cups were so expensive.

I really enjoy finding ways to simplify my life.  So far, every single step of the way has not only made things simpler, it has also made them better.

Get Simple

I am really trying to get rid of all the unnecessary, excessive, and obscuring things in my life. Make it simple. Minamalism.

I thought I would share two simple changes I made.

The first was taking every toilet paper hanger down. Nobody used them. There was always an empty roll in the hangers with just the tube and a shred of paper. And then you had to figure out where you might find more. Problem solved:

Toilet Paper Holder
Toilet Paper Holder

How about socks? Are you tired of sorting and trying to match up socks? Do you have a clothes basket someplace that’s filled a quarter way up with single socks for which there is no known match? I threw all my socks out,  and purchased 12 pair of socks for $10. I use them for everything including running. There are some blend – not cotton. After about 3 years or more they started to get holes in them, so I went out and purchased a new package of the very same style.

I don’t even have to fold them up. I just stick them in my drawer and grab two when I need them. Problem solved:

Pair of black socks
Plain Black Socks

First Hike of 2018 and Three Lost in the Woods

Great weather for a change inspired me to get out and hike. The low fifties on a sunny day was perfect.

Picture of author
Looking like a dufus

Every year I forget how hiking uses muscles that you don’t use otherwise. Especially the glutamous maximus. I need to train for this spring.  By the way, after seeing this picture I want straight home and trimmed the beard.

Hiking trail in Missouri
Trail close to the trailhead

Missouri has lots of parks and lots of small trails including those at Rockbridge State Park which is about a seven minute drive from my house.  I wanted to do the eight mile loop on the Gans Creek trail but opted out because they are evidently redoing the routes and it is a chaotic mess.  The blazes are being changed and the main route that was fairly well marked last year is, I think, incomplete.  I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of it.

I started at the South end and wanted to loop back around through the Northern trailhead and come back,  but cut my hike short by at least an hour because the trail markings were so confusing.  It was not so much about getting lost, but the uncertainty of where I was on a trail, and hiking on a trial where the blazes from last year were either missing or changed. It is that chaotic.

To get back all I would have had to have done is follow the creek which runs downstream from North to South back where my car was parked at the trailhead where I started.  Worse case scenario was bushwacking (hiking off the designated trail) my way back following the creek downstream to the trailhead.   That would have been wet and muddy.  A compass would have made it a bit easier, but I could have done it without the compass because of the creek. I had foolishly not brought my compass and will NOT make that mistake again.  Also, the sun was to my West and that was visible. So I wasn’t going to get lost.

On the way out I passed a group of three teenagers and we greeted one another.  On the way back,  about fifteen minutes after  I decided to turn around, I passed the group of teenagers again.  They asked me if they were on  the route back to the Northern trailhead.  Actually that is the same question I had asked myself, and was unable to answer because of the confused trail markings.  Essentially why I had decided to turn around.  They had a map which was useless to them because it was just squiggly lines, and I don’t even think it was updated with the new changes.

I told them I had no idea. That is not what they had wanted to hear.  They had started on the Northern end and were trying to make it back there where their car was parked.  They had asked other people for directions and the people they asked had  either not known or had given them directions that turned out not to be helpful.  They were not panicking but they were concerned. They had been over  three hours in the woods, they had no water, and the one cell phone they had between them was about to die.

I looked at  them and wondered what to do. Just giving them directions were not going to get it done.  At least two people had done that. I was familiar with the trail, but the new configuration, which I suspect is not yet complete anyway, had confused me. I could try to lead them back to where they started, and would have eventually made it, but it was late in the afternoon, and I didn’t know the distances.  Then I would have had to hike back to where I had begun.  Also I could see their feet were wet and muddy, and they probably had on cotton socks. I am also sure they were hungry and thirsty although they declined my offer of water.  The other option was to lead them out and drive them back to their car on the highway.

They were in a bit of a dilemma.  They meet a stranger in the woods who offers to take them back to the trailhead and then drive them to their car. If they were my kids, or if it was me lost in the woods, I certainly hope somebody would have helped out.  I could tell they were hesitant.  As I would have been.  As a matter of fact I had the same concerns about them but had sized them up as good kids, with no gear, out on a walk that went bad.  They decided to take me up on my offer.

They thanked me profusely. And they were grateful, but I am not sure if it was because I didn’t bludgeon them to death with my hiking pole, or they were just glad they were finally going to be able to get home.

 


Update on the Bicycle Wrist Mirror

See the post just before this for background. Bike mirrors, even the best of them, take getting used to. It took me several months to get used to this one. I did not wear it religiously, but I did continue to use it from time to time. So… I got used to it. I also learned a few tricks. So this is a followup after it was thoroughly tested.

Glare. Given the angle of the mirror on your wrist glare is an issue, and a few reviewers mentioned that on Amazon. I learned you can simply close the mirror, placing the mirror face down, and the problem goes away. It is designed so that there is velcro to keep it from flapping around. If I am not in traffic I fold it down hiding the mirror. I use it mostly for high traffic areas, but don’t need it on the extensive trail system here in Columbia, MO., where there is no motor vehicle traffic.

Angle. The effective angle is a bit odd, and probably changes depending on the geometry of your body (length of arms, etc.), and that of the bike. For me I have to hold my hand out to the left angled up, and cock my wrist to the side. If I do that I have a great view of what is behind me.

Blind Spots. Learned where to place the mirror. Problem solved.

Magnification. Still an issue. Would a bigger mirror with different optical properties help? Probably.

Practice. Practice helps you learn how to judge the distance and look into the mirror. I have found that most things with a bike take practice. How many of you have feel over in the process of learning to use toe clips, or step in pedals. Over the years I have abandoned both, and after a long while taken them up again and I either fell over once or had a real close moment. When I purchased my new touring bike I had two keel overs due to learning the geometry and fit of the bike.

Perfection. Ain’t gonna happen. I have tried many of them over the years and all have flaws.

I bike commute and tour. I want every reasonable, and practical, safety feature I can get. I know many still go with the turn the head and look approach. Which is fine. I just want to augment it.