Preparation nearly done

As I’ve said before in this blog I hike each day except Mondays and over time I’ve built up my distance and load from a few miles and pounds to about 100 miles per week and 30 pounds. Now it’s time to switch from a weighted vest to my backpack and to reduce my mileage so as to taper before I leave.

I’ve been tracking my hikes using the Map My Walk app on my iPhone. Here is a table of monthly mileage I’ve put in since September. It’s not complete (I’ve got 3 weeks to go), but it shows that I have hiked over 1700 miles in preparation. This is very similar to what I did in preparation for the PCT. So I’m ready – or at least I think and hope I am!

Preparation mileage and duration over the months

The plan comes together

Although it will change on trail, I wanted to put a rough plan together of where I’d be stopping for resupply. I’ll be doing resupply-as-you-go, which means I’ll buy at stores in towns along the trail as I hike by them. This is as opposed to sending myself boxes of food from home. Depending upon the distance to the town I will sometimes have to hitchhike to town.

There were many choices of towns and I somewhat randomly picked ones that were about 50-100 miles apart. I integrated material from AWOL for each one, such as, the mile marker, exit point description and distance. Also I read a few posts from other hikers for recommendations. For example, Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Resupply Points. Finally I talked with another local thru-hiker, thanks Paul L., and got his suggestions.

So here is my hiking plan. It is a spreadsheet and includes the mile marker and mileage to the next resupply. Having the town-to-town mileage is crucial in estimating the amount of hiking days and therefore the number of meals (breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, and dinner) that I will need.

AT Hike Plan

Sewing a pillow case

I’m getting ready for my hike. Equipment, also known as gear, is a big part of it. I’ve been planning what gear I’ll need (Gear List). Since I’m leaving in less than a month, I’d better get everything prepared and ready.

Today I worked on sewing a pillow case. I have a 5L stuff stack that typically contains my down jacket, hat, gloves and a few other soft things. The sack keeps the contents dry if it rains. This sack is essential, because I know it’s going to rain – a lot. However it’s always good to have multiple uses for your equipment. So at night I use this sack as my pillow.

To make it more comfortable I created a custom pillow case. The case has a black circular bottom, plaid material sides (my favorite pattern, because my trail name is “Tartan”) and a drawstring around the top. Previously I had made it too long so today I shortened it. I needed to recut the top, turn it inside out and restitch the drawstring channel on the sewing machine.

Sewing the drawstring channel with the pillow case inside out

Next I had to rethread the drawstring, reattach a cord lock and re-tie a knot in the drawstring to keep on the cord lock, and turn it right side out. Afterwards I put it back over my stuff sack. It just fits and the drawstring holds it in tight. It’s not a big pillow. Just enough to keep my head off the ground. I enjoy doing work like this. It makes my gear special and unique. Sweet!

It’s not a big pillow. Just a small one but it’s just right for me

Mount Bonnell

It’s Tuesday. I was up at 4:30 AM. Yeah, a little early, but I like to see the sunrise so I typically rise at 5. Yet today is drizzly and cloud covered. Thus no sun.

This is a recovery week when I reduce my distance and weight to give my body a small (25%) reprieve. I’m doing 6 hill repeats with 18 lbs instead of my recent 8 repeats and 24 lbs.

Yesterday night I went to an Austin Backpacker meeting. The program had two AT hikers telling about their thru-hikes. I enjoyed it, but I don’t feel I’m prepared enough. Not physically, but planning-wise. I haven’t written a list of resupply stops. I only have 6 weeks before I start. I had better get my act together soon.

Heading down from the top of Mount Bonnell listening to podcasts with earphones.

This is really going to happen

Well I’ve been practicing since last September. I’m now up to 90 miles per week, 24 lbs in my weighted vest, and 22 mile weekly long hike on Saturday. On WW (was Weight Watchers) I’ve lost a little over 30 lbs which balances out against my weighted vest that simulates my backpack.

Early morning gorgeous sunrise on Parmer Lane almost at the MoPac overpass

Last week I finally made the decision to do this thing. I bought my airline ticket to Atlanta GA for Saturday April 13th, and my REI shuttle to the trailhead on Sunday April 14th. I told my manager and friends at work. So it looks like I’m now really committed to start.

Am I nervous? You betcha!

Here we go again and again!

Well I’m thinking about hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2019. I’ve started daily training. Getting up early at 5 AM and walking various distances around the neighborhood and city. I started at the beginning of September.  I am also doing hills on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because the AT is more up and down I’m just walking the hills on those days. In other words, in the past I would do a hill and then walk around the block to where I started and repeat. Now I’m getting to the top and just turning around and walking back down. I do this for both Mount Bonnell on Tuesday and Ladera Norte on Thursday. Also these hills aren’t very big, just a few hundred feet up, but that’s all I’ve got in town.

Right now my longest has been just over 10 miles. 

Early morning on the Austin Butler Trail with the foggy Austin skyline in the distance

CDT before the AT

It looks like I’m going to be attempting the CDT before attempting the AT. I’ve bought my AMTRAK train ticket from Austin TX to Lordsburg NM leaving April 29 and arriving May 1. I’ve made a reservation at the Lordsburg NM Econo Lodge for the evening of May 1st, and reserved a seat on the CDT shuttle for the morning of May 2nd. So it looks like I’ll be doing this long hike first. Wish me luck!

Doing my research and making choices

I bought Dave “AWOL” Miller’s The A.T. Guide and Jackie “Yogi” McDonnell’s Yogi’s Continental Divide Trail Handbook. I also bought Lawton “Disco” Grinter’s Walkumentary, Southbound on the CDT DVD. I’m trying to decide if I’m doing the AT or the CDT. The AT is more social (more people), more tree-covered, and physically challenging. The CDT is less people, better scenery, but requires more hiking and orienteering smarts. What to do? What to do? Originally I wanted to do the CDT next, but I’ve been considering the AT because it’s closer to our friends on the East Coast, Kathy might visit more [doubtful], and it’s shorter – 2100 miles. However I’m getting older and I’m worried that I only have a few years to do this hiking and I’d better do the longer (3000 miles) harder CDT first.

First practice long hike

Although I slept in until I woke naturally at about 7 AM, I filled up my pack with some weight, drove down to Lady Bird Lake, and hiked 10 miles as practice. It wasn’t easy, but I completed it drenched in sweat at about 11:30 AM. Now tomorrow may be a different experience both trying to find a trail and handling the stiffness that I’m sure I’ll have tomorrow.