Runnin’ Down a Dream- Wondering Where to Pee (Post Trail Life)

We’ve made it a whole year without getting arrested for peeing outside.   It’s also one year today since Snorlax, Skye Stalker and I finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. There is not a day that goes by where we don’t think about the experience one way or another.

What does one do once they have completed one of their biggest dreams?

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After having your feet on the ground for 6 months and 27 days- it’s actually quite a challenge to get “your feet back on the ground” again.

Our home was on our backs, in an unfamiliar spot every night and that was ok with us.

Here we are post trail- we still have our tent but finding a camp spot is hard. When you do find a camp spot, you either have to pay, get judged by others and the cops may even make a visit.

Before we had to pick our food based on weight, lack of required ingredients, shelf life and highest calories.

Now the choices are too many to choose from and we barely have an idea how to cook them anymore…and wait- calories! We need to start thinking about exercise and calories from a new perspective again. And where will we put this food? We had just been bouncing around from couch to couch. Or should we say from hotel, to air mattress, to couch and bunk.

The first thing we became accustomed to was no longer needing to carry a water filter with us all the time.  But then we became dehydrated quicker than normal because remembering to carry a bottle, or trying to find a free fountain proved to be a challenge in itself. There is always an option to buy water but that just seems ridiculous.

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Transitioning from trail names back to our “real” names always makes for some decent head turns and weird looks in public.  But there is still always the occasional use of trail names when visiting people you met on the trail.

Bathrooms. Why are there so few along sidewalks? Yet, there are billboards and signs all around reminding us to drink more water, soda, energy drink, electrolyte or some sort of adult beverage.

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I also want to know who the @$$hole was that ruined peeing outside for everyone.

I remember going to an event at the Botanical Gardens and having to stand in line to pee, although I was surrounded by so many perfect plants! The only thing I’d actually wait for on a daily basis while on the trail was my water to boil for a meal and some days not even that.

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We had big dreams which became a goal, then a plan to get to Katahdin from Georgia. Then it became a reality and then soon just a memory. Every day we would get up with no alarm and the only plan was to head north.

Now it seems like all we have are decisions to make and things to do. With our trail maps and guides, we always had some what of an idea of what we were getting into (elevation, miles, water sources) but we always had the occasional surprise. Today is always a new day and I am constantly waiting for a guide book to tell me what to do, and constantly looking for that same excitement I got daily from the adventures outside.

How did we go from essentially one outfit for months to now having to pick out and put thought into what to wear?

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We upgraded from our 2.5 person tent to an old 425 square foot camp. Our dining room is a picnic table outside. We still have visitors from the trail like spiders and snakes. Even one day when I went to do laundry (which is essentially in a shed or nice shelter), a mouse fell on my head…So has life really changed?

Pre trail we used to not mind going out every night and doing something but now we have become more of homebodies unless it’s outdoors.  Why pay so much to have fun? What are we even spending money on? Nature is the best playground.

Driving a car pre trail seemed so easy and we always had a need for speed when on the highway. Getting into a car and traffic for the first time was odd, and going 50 mph seemed fast.

As soon as I hit New England while on the trail -whoopie pies became my breakfast food of choice. However, I’m still wondering why whoopie pies aren’t on all breakfast menus around here…and some days I feel like the hiker hunger hasn’t really disappeared.  And although we are adults and can still do certain things we did on the trail in society, for some reason it’s frowned upon to eat candy for breakfast and go to bed at 8:30pm.

On the trail there was always a mountain in my backyard, a nice place to walk in the woods and your neighbors were always your good friends and family.

I broke down crying one day this past year, just because I couldn’t find any trails in the woods to walk nearby. Not without fear of getting shot for trespassing.  How can I go from always having a place to walk to not being able to get to one due to one rule or another?  Or why can’t we just get more time? Because everything is within walking distance if you make the time.

We were so happy to have warm showers and a real bed (that we didn’t need to inflate!).

It became habit for us to head north when on the trail. So much habit, that since we have been off the trail, it still seems like that’s all we want to do somedays is head north.  We cared less about things on the trail because we had less and were just living. So when thinking about things that we have carried with us from the trail and into everyday life- caring less, worrying less, and spending more time living would be high on the list.

We’ve gotten better at conserving things because it’s what we had to do while on the trail. We could probably beat some Guinness records of longest lasting Ziploc bags.

When we got back, we were bouncing around for about 2.5 weeks. We then moved into our tiny house, which isn’t quite in the middle of nowhere, but not quite near anything either….

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The day after we moved in we returned to working at L.L. Bean seasonally. The plan was to work there until we figured out what we wanted to do….but what was that? Well, I guess just living will be good for now.

Weeks then months went by with varying hours, which meant varying pay. Car problems happened. Broken appliances happened. Long snow storms closing down towns happened. There were times we wondered if we could pay rent. Then your mind wanders and you remember how simple trail life was, and you try to practice that in “real life”. But my question is- why do we call this lifestyle real life when having nothing but you, your backpack and nature seemed more real.

And how do you explain to a dog that we aren’t hiking today? The same way you tell yourself and other humans: with lots of pets, cuddles and say in your good praising voice, “we don’t need to go anywhere today, because we are home”.

The reality is that home is wherever I am with you.

There is a point when you are on the trail and you realize hiking is essentially your job. Katahdin is the goal and the only tools you are given is what you have.

We hate hearing, “I wish I could do that”. Because the truth is- you can. It’s all about what you put your mind to. We just decided hiking the Appalachian Trail was more important to us than the work we were doing before. We have our whole lives to work. Right now we’ll live. If you’re going to work, then find something you like.

It’s also difficult to be back after such a different lifestyle and have no one else around to realize what you have just been through and help you adjust.  Friends and family expecting you to go visit them when you’ve been traveling for almost 7 months, or the car doesn’t work great or you barely have enough money for gas.

Then there’s the people who announce you are a thru hiker all the time like that’s all you are.

Don’t get me wrong- money is nice. But there’s only so much money you can have before it starts taking too much of your time and/or making you lazy.

It took me 6 months to find a job that I loved and something I believed in.  It took Sean 11 months and 28 days. And Skye?  Well, let’s just say she prefers not to discuss this.

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And it only took Snorlax 1 year, 3 months and 5 days to write a blog about his gear he said he would do before we left to hike the Appalachian Trail (typical Snorlax move).

We still go on hikes, and backpacking trips but they are definitely shorter. We continue to explore new places and try new things- as we are constantly looking for a good challenge. We have been able to provide trail magic to current thru hikers here and there, including sending two boxes full of goodies for hiking dogs and humans to Virginia during trail days. We have stayed in touch with many of our trail family, some who we still get to visit here and there. We have definitely spent more time paddling on the water this past summer than we did hiking last summer (you have to balance it out and get that arm work out too).  We finished white water rafting all three of the rivers in the Maine Forks, and also tried rock climbing.

 

One of the big trails we are working on right now is the Maine Beer Trail. We are section drinking our way along this one – if you haven’t heard of it- I recommend you check it out.

It took us over a month to catch up on Game of Thrones, and we are still learning about news, music, shows and movies we missed while essentially living under/on and next to rocks.

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We learned how to sew and even how to reupholster and refinish furniture- trying to make the best out of the free stuff we got when returning to living in a house, and not just a tent.

I took some time to read, Benton MacKaye: Conservationist, Planner, and Creator of the Appalachian Trail, and it was thought provoking to get perspective from the creators’ point of view, rather than the walkers.  Everyone has their own reason to hike the trail, and sometimes others have their own expectations of what your journey along the trail should be like, even though they aren’t you.

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I have this tiny green journal I got after we hiked the trail. I wanted to be able to write notes but the book also needed to be lightweight and durable so it could be worth the weight. What does that even mean?  Worth the weight?  It also had to be cheap, because we weren’t really working.  The first note I wrote in this journal was dated Jan 7, 2017- pg 364 Benton Mackaye – Describe the trails ultimate purpose: There are 3 things:

  1. To walk,
  2. To see,
  3. To see what you see

Prior to leaving the trail we had these great expectations of learning more about ourselves and think about what we wanted to do. However, once it was over we still found ourselves thinking about these things…so are these things ever really final?   We have found it best to just live day by day, one step at a time. The trail showed us that there are still so many good people out there, and gave us more faith in humanity.  It also reminded us to not judge a book by its cover and just be kind, because you don’t know everyone’s story.

We made it to Katahdin but was the journey really over?   We’re in Maine. We’re home. Are we home in Maine or is home wherever we are with our family? To be continued.

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Gear: The love / hate relationship (by Snorlax)

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Gear: you love to have it, you hate to carry it.

Hiking the Appalachian trail is an amazing experience.  The experience extracts every emotion imaginable from you.  I had the best time of my life, some of the worst individual days of my life, the hardest days, the most spiritual days, the party days, the feeling invincible days, the physically hurt, emotionally hurt, overworked, etc.    I also had the best time of my life!

At the beginning of such a long distance hike, I believe that everyone is what trail friend Merlin and I would refer to as a yuppie.  Yuppies know that to be a real hiker, you need the best gear available on the market.  The more gadgets, the better (but they have to be “ultralight”)

I started as a yuppie.  I had a good idea of what I was doing, sure; though I carried way too much junk, and I wasn’t attuned with nature.  After hiking for a while (a loooong time to most), you become so attuned that you can literally smell deodorants / laundry soap from possibly miles away.  You hear things that are out of place (like other humans) in the forest.  You drift further from consumerism and become more comfortable in the woods.  You can then really better determine what gear is important to you or not.

Basically, the point is: don’t stress about the gear.  Quality gear is great (light, durable, etc.), but you can get by with anything.  Mental focus and determination is, no doubt, what is really critical.  With that being said, lets geek out.

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I picked the Osprey Atmos AG @ 65 liter capacity for my foundation.  While it’s not ultralight, it is basically a balance of all qualities.  It is still quite light, but extremely durable with good suspension for heavier loads.  I like to have this piece of mind when I want to carry out extras such as beer, hotdogs, or other heavy foods and treats.  The beauty of the pack is that the lid comes off which slims it right down.  I rocked it this way for the hot summer time months.

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I carried the MSR Hubba Hubba NX tent, and while we went through 3, I’m still a huge fan.  Sleeping without the fly is fantastic when possible.

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The Thermarest NeoAir Xlite is super expensive, super light, and super comfortable.  Aside from having a hole in it my first day on the trip, a quick repair and it is still like new (aside from some stank).  There really is a benefit to having a foam pad (using it near a fire, etc, but the air pad really is comfortable to sleep on every night.)

I started with the USGI green patrol sleeping bag.  My sleeping bag probably changed the most out of any of my gear.  The patrol bag is very light, but also not very warm.  I picked up a Thermarest liner as well.  The liner helped, but I was still pretty cold some nights.  Summer time was ditch the sleeping bag and go with light blankets.  Once I got back to Maine, I picked up my 4lb winter sleeping bag.  It was worth the weight to me at that point, and after all those miles thru hikers are machines (myself included).  We carried whatever we wanted at the end.  40lbs was nothing (not really, but quite manageable still).  If I were to do it again, I think that I would have sprung for an ultralight down bag rated around 20 degrees.  Musicbox did that and it was quite nice even in summer to sleep on top of the bag in a liner.

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I think that I invested about 15 bucks in my stove system and I’m still very happy with it.  I used a pocket rocket type clone from Amazon (Etekcity) the whole trip.  The piezo igniter broke, but I just pulled it off and started using a lighter (just like the MSR).  The stove and a can of gas fit just right in my Walmart aluminum grease pot.  This was my pot / pan / cup / you get the point.  I started with a sponge which makes me chuckle now because it turns out that moss (thanks Solace) or sand and water makes the perfect cleaner.  I also used a long handled (to reach down into the pot or food bags) titanium spork.

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I carried a Mora robust knife as well as a Leatherman Squirt PS4 multi-tool.  The multi-tool had everything I needed for my vape, hygiene, first aid, etc.  The Mora is my go-to for food-prep, wood carving, fire prep (including batoning w/ no problem).  I think that the Leatherman was probably overkill and I could have used a Swiss Army Classic, but they are both very light.

Gear changes during the weather when you really want to go as light as you can.  Dropping my sleeping bag and heavy clothes when it was HOTTTT in PA saved POUNDS on my back for a few months.  This also allowed me to ditch the lid or “brain” of my pack because I had more space inside for the time being.  Early on, I also made other changes.  Stuff sacks were gone quickly.  Trash bags are actually waterproof, disposable, and work for tons of things.  Insulation layers definitely change throughout the seasons.  You can obviously opt to not switch anything at all throughout the trip (many thru hikers don’t), but for myself, I already carry quite a bit and being able to save a little bit of weight for hundreds of miles was very appealing.

My clothes didn’t change very much throughout the trip, but I send my wool long johns home for a while in the summer.  I also switched to a polyester tanktop from Walmart.  I ditched underwear pretty early on.  I hiked in a pair of LL Bean shorts and mostly carried a pair of REI convertible pants (didn’t use very often).  A Reebok t-shirt held up the whole trip.  Sleeping in a wool baselayer with thick wool socks felt oh so nice after a cold damp day hiking.  Darn tough socks are what I wore hiking on the the trail, and they are now the only ones that I’ll wear day to day.

I also acquired some other items along the way.  Fake Crocs from Walmart are the BOMB!  Not only fashionable (I’m obviously joking), they are super comfy and even lighter then Crocs.  I started without “camp shoes,” but now I love them.  I also picked up a battery pack for my electronics instead of my solar panel.  Solar panel technology does work these days, but the hassle and efficiency (lack of) made the decision for me.  My 10aH battery weighs quite a bit (half a pound I think), but got my mp3 player, vape, and camera through stretches throughout the mountains in between charging opportunities.

IMG_8906Kayfun Lite v2 and iStick 30w battery.  The 1.8ohm coil that I wrapped on 28 gauge wire lasted the entire trip.

Speaking of charging opportunities, I put a bit of research into this and went with a 3 port (2amp / port) charger made by Aukey from Amazon.  It is definitely a little more hefty then what most people brought, but I could charge 3 devices at full speed and then be on my way while others were charging foreeeeeeevvver.

Water filtration system: SAWYER SQUEEZE!  I changed my system up a few times.  Initially Music Box and I shared a Coghlan’s pump filter (2 microns) w/ a sawyer mini inline (.1 microns)  worked well for a little while, but soon got SLOOOOOWWWW.  We ended up getting another sawyer mini so that we each had one and ditched the Coghlans “pre filter” idea that I had been previously so proud of.  The minis were also painfully slow, so we both ended up with the original sawyer squeeze filters.  These are great, and I highly recommend them.

Final Tips:

Trekking pole tips protectors are useless and you always lose them, don’t bother.

Nalgene bottles make me laugh whereas they weigh about 8 ounces if my memory is correct.  I’m a Gatorade bottle fan, or a 1L Pepsi bottle for my Sawyer.

Hats are too hot for me.  When you are thru hiking, if you are not sweating, then you are not hiking (regardless of the temperature).  Tie a bandana on your pack somewhere for easy access to wipe sweat.

Baby wipes are the key to success. Soap, hand sanitizer, deodorant, what a joke.

Poop trowels are very handy.  Ultralight weenies like to use sticks or other makeshift implements, but I actually like to BURY my poop in accordance with LNT principles.  Rocky ground is tricky and when you gotta go, something to help out that only weighs a few ounces is well worth it.

Record video in 720p instead of 1080p to save space and battery.

 

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The mile crushing outfit

While this post certainly didn’t include every little thing that I carried on my hike, it doesn’t need to (plus the fact that my wife is getting very impatient with my post taking over a year to complete, and if I were to specify everything it would be a novel).  Everyone carries different things.  My kit is constantly changing.  For example, I no longer carry rechargeable batteries w/ a charger for my headlamp as I’m only out for a few nights at a time these days.  Future long distance hikers: do the research, but don’t try to solve every problem.  You will learn along the way.  You will learn tricks from other hikers and from your personal experience.  If you ever have questions about gear or systems that I found to be useful on my trek then, by all means, please ask.  I enjoy talking about hiking and especially giving my opinion (the correct opinion).

Happy trails everyone!  Keep feeding that mile monster, he’s hungry.

 

Support Nature’s Troops- Help a Hiker

Snorlax and I will be going to Trail days in May to celebrate our recent thru hike and support the upcoming class of 2017. We want to be able to provide trail magic for multiple reasons.  One of our efforts in doing so will be by having a hiker food drive. If you are interested in helping let us know.   If you are unable to meet to provide food but want to help- please feel free to donate  money by going to the donate page on our blog. 

Happy Earth day and as always – happy trails! 

Hiking with your dog- it can be a bitch

So you want to hike with your dog.  That’s great! Most of the time they’re great hiking buddies.  Some of the their top hiking qualities include, but are not limited to: they generally get you to hike faster if you’re trying to keep up with them, they don’t say much, can often keep critters away, and of course, they’re always so happy.  However, like everything, there can be not so great times and things to consider before making a big trek.

For anyone who has followed the blog from the begining, they may recall some of the challenges faced during our hike – and by our I mean Snorlax, me and Skye (our bitch).  While this blog cannot cover everything about hiking with dogs, it’ll at least give some information.  Now with this being said, I am not a vet. I am not a psychologist. I’m a lifetime student, dog (well all animals) lover with 10 years of experience working with disabilities, a degree in the health science field and a passion for the outdoors.  All information in this blog- or all of the blogs for that matter- should be taken with a grain of salt. Also recommended is to take with some lime, and occassionally tequila.  I prefer Patrón, not patron- although all patrons are welcome here.

With that, lets get on to my dog hiking tips:

1. Know your dog. And this isn’t just A/S/L.  What’s it’s favorite thing to do? What is it’s least favorite thing? Bathroom habits. Likes/dislikes. Biggest fear. Motivators. Routines. Social behaviors. Body language.  It sounds like a lot, but knowing this stuff will help you and your hiking buddies excel.

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Example: We knew Skye didn’t like thunderstorms.  Dogs can feel the pressure changes in the air before it even starts to rain or thunder. When this happens, Skye starts to shake, her tail goes under her butt and she tries to find a place to take cover.  While taking a break near a parking lot on a nice, warm summer day, Skye started to shake. I knew then that we needed to pack up quick and get going. I advised everyone that it was going to be a thunderstorm based on Skye’s behvaior and we had to go.

Also, at this same time, there was a car in the parking lot and the owner was about to open the car doors. We tried getting a leash for Skye to keep her secured with us, because we knew she would go to this car first to take cover.  We weren’t quick enough. Skye bolted and made it into the front seat of this car before the guy even had the car door fully opened. Not even thinking of what this stranger may be thinking at that time, I cut infront of him to bend down and get Skye out of his car. However, she then went over to the passenger side of the car. At this time, one may have already stopped, said something to the owners and explain the situation. Instead, I said , “Oh, can you unlock the passenger side door so I can get her?”. He did, I picked up my fifty-something pound dog, and started walking back to our friends asking loudly, “Who’s dog is this?”

If, for some reason, that guy whose car that was is reading this, I’m sorry. That was in fact my dog.  This happened not because I didn’t know my dog, but because I wasn’t as fast as she was.

Also, fun fact: Those fellow hikers reading this, especially the trail family- you are already aware that Skye doesn’t really care for cars. Probably the main reason why she’s a trail dog.  One may ask, why do you care if she likes cars or not? you’re hiking.  Sure, but it is nice to take cars from the trail into town. It can also be a challenge trying to find a ride for your whole family, including a dog. A dirty, smelly, shedding dog.

When we shared car rides with others we often make a disclaimer that our dog indeed does not like car rides; therefore she will often move around a lot trying to get comfortable, will then give up and take comfort in whoever she prefers. We do apologize for this inconvenince.  Unfortunately due to limited resources, we will not be able to remove the fur blankets that she leaves with you, but she will be glad to pay you back with dog kisses.

2.  Adventure with your dog ahead of time. This may be easier for some due to location. While Skye is initially from Alabama, we had an idea that her breed was able to sustain some heat as it can get pretty warm down there. We also knew that at least one of her parents were living in the wild already . Skye was transplanted to Maine where we get all four seasons, including some pretty cold winters.  As the each season sprung, so did Skye’s excitement and curiousity. She often appears unaffected by any temperature.  By the first year, we figured out that she loved the outdoors just as much as we did. She started going on every adventure with us- canoeing, hiking, outings, car rides. We started figuring what works well with her and what doesn’t. We slowly worked our way up to different, more difficult activities and even tried out a pack. Her demonstrating success during these activites, with a look of ease, helped us determine that she was ready.

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3. Check with your veternarian.  You know your dog, and you’ve been on adventures together and it’s been fun. You want to bring it to the next level, but want to make sure that it’s okay.  We brought Skye to the vet about two times prior to the trip. She went about a year before the trip and we bounced the idea off of the vet- to see what they thought about it before we actually started planning. The vet gave Skye clearance. The vet saw Skye again a few weeks before our trip. Everything looked good, and they updated all the vaccines so that she would be protected from certain illnesses. The vet also knew someone who had done the hike, so she had good information- which will soon lead me to the next tip. But first, before we move on- don’t be afraid to utilize vets along the trail! Trail days does a FREE vet clinic. This vet checked out everything, when we were in Virginia, and give Skye clearance once more. They also recommended some other tips- add baby food to dog food to help with carbs and excitiement for the dog’s food. Also, use hydrocortizone for any chaffing issues that may occur.

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4. Work harden.  It’s never safe to just jump into anything without prepping. Believe me, I know it can definitely be more exicting that way. However, physically and even sometimes mentally for our bodies it is not ideal. It’s important that if you’re not preparing your body, you’re at least preparing your dog’s. With that being said, Skye isn’t hiking alone- she’s hiking with us.  For example, start out with 8 miles, then 10, and so on. If you take a zero, or maybe even two or three zeros- it’s important to start out small the first day back to the trail and work your way up again.  Note: It takes a puppy’s bones, to be fully grown, approximately one year. Threrefore, it’s not always good to do big miles with them around this age, because it will affect their bone development.

5. Hike your dog’s hike. If you wanted to hike alone, then you wouldn’t have brought your dog.  While you can tell your dog what you’re doing, they generally don’t understand English very well.  It’s not fair to bring your dog along and put them into uncomfortable situations for your convenience.  This brings it back to one of the first tips- know your dog. You can generally tell if they’re having fun or not, or if they’re tired. With that being said, most dogs like to please their owners and will not always act like something is bothering them.  Use common sense, this hike is for everyone, and should be all about the smiles not the miles. If your dog wants to go swimming or take a nap, go swimming or take a nap with them. Don’t be a donkey. Donkeys don’t like dogs- and we learned that on the trail.

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6. Know what’s out there and be prepared for the unknown.  You’ve read about the rabbits, snakes and bears- oh my.  You have gotten your dog vaccinated, it’s tick repellent, and trained to keep from getting into other peoples’ business and natures’ protected and unprocted resources.  What you didn’t really think of is all of the farm lands that you may be passing through which have things like cows and goats, and then the donkeys and wild ponies at random shelters.  Pay attention to what’s around you and keep an eye on your dog.  We are trying to share space with everyone, and let’s not ruin that. If you’re on someone’s property and their pets don’t like your dog- respect that. If there’s an animal that’s curious and wouldn’t harm your dog- embrace that. Let them sniff eachother’s asses or whatever they like to do.

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7.  Forget the plan, and your great ideas of what’s the best. The plan you should have is simple: safety, survival and fun.  So you read that the dehydrated dog food is the best and ultra light. It’s probably also the most expensive and, come to find out, maybe not even very nutritious.  Sure, it will do the job and probably be good occassionally but, if you decided to pack only that, you may find that your furry friend is not always as energetic, may have lost weight, and you’ve been wasting time trying to get a specific thing, and now you don’t have much money.  I was advised early on from Skye’s vet that if I kept trying to spice up her meals to get her to eat in a timely manner, that I would soon be testing the temperature of her filet mignon. She will not starve, she will eat if she’s really hungry. We were also advised that there’s millions of dollars going into the research of dog food to get the right recipe/ratio of nutrients; therefore it’s not necessary for me to break my back trying to make her all of these crazy concoctions all the time.  Our technique: feed her as much as we can if she will eat it and it’s safe (just like human hikers).  Puppy food from the local gas station? Ok, that will have to do.  Is there cheese here? Peanut butter? What about non additive meats and oils?  Great. Every mail drop, we had dog treats for Skye.  She often got those anytime that she listened to us (never stop rewarding good behavior)  and anytime we took a break. She also got them for dessert, and also for just being so cute… We made some large portion dehyrdrated meals ahead of time that consisted of meat and vegetables- we would share these as a family sometimes. It saved money, weight and gave us extra calories. Best of all? It was made with love and other ingredients that we typically use at home- and can pronounce.

8. Be ready to pick up their slack. This tip ties in with all the other ones, but it’s also a specifically important. If you aren’t ready to carry your dog’s pack, or carry your dog and it’s pack- then you probably aren’t ready. I was at an advantage because Snorlax and I were a team- with Skye as our pack leader on most days. So if, for some reason, it came down to the need to carry Skye and her pack, we could at least divide the weight and take turns. There were times when one of us was not nearby and Skye needed help, therefore you would have to give it your best carrying both until you all found each other.  If the dog needs a break, take a break. Carry extra water for not just you, but your dog as well.  Share your bed and food with your dog if needed. Work as a team.  Most any bad day that I had on the trail was because Skye was having a bad day. 90% of the time she was happy and therefore, I was too.

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9. Be sure to have first aid and know how to use it.  We were at somewhat of an advantage where my degree is in health science and have been certified in emergency response so I knew how to use a lot of first aid supplies and improvise.  As stated previously, hydrocortizone and vaseline are some universal first aid supplies for both humans and dogs. In addition to that, most bandages (gauze or cut some fabric), antihistamines and simple things like bouillon are useful in times of allergic reactions or dehyradtion. Try to have a 24 hour vet number saved in your phone for the times you have questions at weird hours and locations. Skye does have pet insurance through VPI. It covers a lot of emergencies and I feel as though is a nice sense of security.

Skye’s curiousity can get her into trouble sometimes. For example, she decided that the bee that was buzzing around her might be better in her mouth. Surpirse! Probably not the best decision.  Luckily her only allergic reaction was some swelling. We immediately gave her some water and antihistamine and called an emergency vet in that area. They advised us of the other signs to watch for and seek care ASAP: discoloration of the gums (pale , blue), laborerd breathing or signs of gasping. They also stated the antihistamine was a good idea, and considering her size, she could have another if no improvement was observed.  Very grateful that her reaction was not severe. However, we knew where we had to go and would be willing to carry her if needed.

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10. Manners/etiquette.  Much of this has already been covered in the previous steps, it’s also common sense- but be polite if you can. Not everyone likes dogs and try to respect that. We don’t need to dive into why they don’t – just be respectful.  If your dog isn’t friendly around other dogs or people, is an obnoxious jumper about 90% of the time, and doesn’t listen- it’s probably not fit for the trail.  While it’s highly recommended that dogs be on leash through a lot of areas- we all know a leash isn’t fun. Most people don’t mind dogs passing by them off leash while on the trail. Especially if the dog doesn’t jump on them or anything. However, you can usually tell if a person seems fearful of dogs, or that you are in an area that could be harmful for your dog or others and should be on leash. As a dog owner, you need to be alert and situationally aware.  There will be the occasional time where you weren’t prepared and a group or an animal is nearby and you’ve lost the attention of your dog. Try to keep calm, be polite, and leash your dog as quickly as you can and until you feel like it’s safe for them to be free again.  Also remember, leave no trace is important for all parties involved. Keep off of the apline veg, and If your dog decides to do some of its “doodies” near the trail and you don’t have a way to clean it up- simply do the poop putt, or bury if more appropriate.

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I hope this information helped. As mentioned many times before- there’s many things to consider when hiking- alone or with your furry friends. Not all of it is easy to cover in one post.  In addition, each furry creature and human are different.  Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, concerns or comments. As always- happy trails and happy tails to you. Life’s ruff. Get a dog.

I Mustache you A Question! Most FAQ and most Ridiculous Questions We Were Asked While Hiking the Appalachian Trail, and our ridiculous answers.

I Mustache you A Question! Most FAQ and most Ridiculous Questions We Were Asked While Hiking the Appalachian Trail, and our ridiculous answers.

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Q: Where are you from?

A: Maine

Q: So you’re hiking home huh?

A:  Yeah… (insert awkward laughter as we are thinking we don’t really have a home now and Katahdin is 6 hours north of where our home was)

Q: What will you do with the dog in the Smokies?

A: Probably put her up for adoption.  (awkward stares and nodding all around)

 

Q: What did you do with the dog in the Smokies?

A: We actually gave her to a shelter and luckily she was still there when we finished.

 

Q: Why does the dog eat?

A:  (long pause- deep breath, I got to be nice on this one). Well, the same reason everyone eats. We need food to give us energy to do stuff.

Q: What kind of dog is she? 

A: part lab,  part mountain goat. 

 

Q:  How do you guys eat? Kill squirrels and stuff?

A: Yes. And then we dehydrate them and eat them. We try to find the fattest squirrel.

Q: What was the craziest thing you saw on the trail?

A: A fellow hiker threw their thermarest seat in the fire, while other hikers were sitting on soggy pieces of cardboard.

Q: Are you guys sisters? (To me and Game Warden)

A: (both of us look at each other confused)  no

Questioner then states, “Oh, you guys are both wearing blue so I thought you may be sisters.”

Q: Do you have a gun?

A: Not unless you’re talking about my arms, also known as guns in some cultures.

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Q:  What about the bears?

A: it was a great skit done by SNL, and a well known football team.

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Q: You’re doing the whole thing?!

A: That’s the plan. No one plans on picking me up. The ride to Georgia was pretty long. Probably just better to walk.  A lot more interesting this way too.

Q: Are you going to make it to Katahdin? (This was asked even in Maine, when Katahdin was less than 100 miles away)

A: That’s the goal, not just going to give up now. Ok, walked to Maine, let’s just call it good here, come back another time, even though we just spent about 6 months of hiking. I couldn’t bare another few weeks.

Q: Oh that’s a good idea,  do you the have the dog carrying your stuff too?

A: Yeah, she’s carrying all the kibble we eat.

Q: What is the Appalachian Trail?

A: (Long pause- bite tongue) Well, it’s a trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. Thousands attempt to hike it every year.

 

Q: Wow, 2189 miles do you think anyone has ever done it? (looking at a sign, where a bunch of thru hikers are sitting next to)

A: (hikers all look in astonishment and nod rapidly) Yes, lots. We are doing just that.

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Q: What about showers?

A: What about them?

 

Q:When did you start?

A: End of March

Q: Whoa, so you’re behind huh?

A: Behind what?

Q: Did you tell your dog you were hiking the Appalachian Trail?

A: Yes, but I’m not sure if she understands English that well.

Q: Does sex attract bears?

A:  Only the ones who just finished reading 50 Shades of Grey.

 

Q:  Did you see a lot of snakes?

A: Yes. I tried using them for my Britney Spears “I’m a slave for you” impression but it failed.

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Q: What made you want to hike the trail?

A: I lost a bet.

Q:  What did you have to do if you won?

A:

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Q: Any regrets, or anything you would change?

A: Maybe get a fitbit next time.

 

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Not All Angels Have Wings: Trail Angels Don’t Need Wings.

An angel is often described as a person of exemplary conduct  or virtue.  Many visualize angels having wings, halos, and usually wearing all white and giving off a majestic vibe. However, not all angels look like this.  In fact, most of the time angels look like you and me.  This blog is to help others understand  what trail angels are, and what may seem to you like a simple act of kindness, can mean the world to the ones who receive it.

A trail angel is generally someone offering a hiker something like a cold drink, a ride to the store, or just helping them out in any way they can.  Trail angels can also be people who help take care of the trail.  Helping keep the trail, and all nature  clean for that matter – after all it is  important because its our home.

Thousands attempt hiking the Appalachian Trail every year.  Only about 1 out of every 4 complete it.  Thousands of people out there hiking the trail for different reasons. Some out there with loved ones, some alone. Some out there hiking for those they’ve lost, trying to find themselves,  taking time to heal, or live life to its fullest . Whatever the reason may be,  these people are out there daily, in various, not always ideal forms of weather for that purpose.  When things break, you run out of food, you hurt yourself, and you’re uncomfortable, you are generally in the middle of nowhere and often times seems like you have no answers as to why it just happened and how you can fix it. Sometimes you literally feel like you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Then, all of a sudden, there’s this person that appears and offers you a soda and wants to hear your story and generally offer words of admiration and/or encouragement. That’s just one  little example of a trail angel and  how they can mean so much to someone. You never know what someone is going through, so just being kind can mean a lot.

Just like when you ask hikers why they decided to hike the trail, angels generally have their own reasons on why they help.  A lot of the times  trail angels have had former thru hikers as family members and hear the stories of how they helped them and want to do the same. Sometimes, they are former hikers, or live near the trail and just like to help others.

Trail angels appear to have no boundaries of how far they will go to help. One of the most popular trail angels along the Appalachian Trail is Miss. Janet.  Miss. Janet was featured in former blogs while I was hiking the trail. Miss. Janet lives in Tennessee , but will follow “the bubble” of the North Bound Appalachian Trail thru hikers from Georgia to Maine, helping out with rides, food, and general support.  Another notable trail angel is Odie. He travels all over helping hikers and takes time every year putting together the hiker yearbook. Some hikers will come from various states and do small sections of the trail and bring out food and drinks for hikers.  I had family members drive from different states to give us rides, welcome us to their homes, let us shower , do laundry and feed us. This may not have required much of them, but things  as simple as this were so hard for us to attain out there and made us feel great.  I never hitchhiked before in my life until the trail. I was slighlty nervous, but just had to have faith in humanity that no one was out there to do random acts of cruelity and only random acts of kindness.

This blog is not just to inform others of trail angels, but to say thank you to those trail angels wherever you may be.  To the drivers who got us safely to and from the trail, the random people at trailheads and on the trail providing filtered water, cold drinks and snacks to hikers, family members helping all hikers-and not just your own family members. Thank you for the hug-despite how bad we smell. To the trail angels providing shelter, showers and clean laundry to hikers. To the trail angels allowing us to keep our pack somewhere safe if we wanted a break from carrying it, and the trail angels who just took the time to listen to us and tell us your stories, and provide us with the strength to keep going- THANK YOU!  We could not have done the trail without you.

So the next time you see someone who may be wearing dirty clothes,  eating like a barbarian and hitching, do not judge. Be kind to everyone you meet, you never know where they have been and you may one day be hiking in their shoes.

 

 

50 Liters to Freedom…Aaah What’s in the bag?! Musicbox edition

50 liters to Freedom…Aaah what’s in the bag?!

Considering we are approaching the one year anniversary of us starting our journey along the Appalachian Trail, I figured it was about time I talked a little about what I carried. Some of these pictures may be blurry because I literally took them as we were leaving the hotel rushing to the trail the day we started. 

When planning the contents of my pack, I wasn’t focusing so much on having the best, lightest, gear out there. Really, I was looking at price, weight, quality, and a little bit of aesthetics- in no particular order.  With that in mind, this blog isn’t going to tell you what’s best or worst out of everything out there. I didn’t test everything, I simply picked some items that worked best for everything I was looking for and gave them a try.

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The pack.   The Osprey Aura 50 AG.  I heard good things about it, and L.L. Bean happened to carry it.  I was working a 2nd job at L.L. Bean seasonally to save extra cash and to also save on gear.

The pack itself (with a mini compass I had attached to it) weighed about 3.87 pounds .

It had what I like to call snack pockets on the lumbar/hip straps in the front. The pockets were kind of small and while I could kind of fit my hands in there, I really wanted them to be bigger to hold more food.

The brain (top of the pack) had two separate zipper pockets. It had a key ring attachment which I used to hold the “little squirt” multi tool set.  I also liked to keep my glasses, and items like a book, or journal in there.

The large opening in the pack has a flap on the top, so if you want to remove the brain, you can still cover your pack. This was an easy way to drop weight and made some people jealous because I guess not all Ospreys or even other brand name packs had this. It also had a removable divider at the bottom of the pack, and a bottom zipper. Initially I had my sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack like this. I eventually changed the system to not use the divider.  Instead, I used a big contractor bag inside the pack, then put everything in that, with no divider.

The pack has trekking pole holders. I used one of them to hold my phone. I put a laynyard on my phone case, and a carabiner on the laynyard –  and also put the phone through the top trekking pole holder loop. Worked great. 

The front mesh pocket would hold my sawyer bags, and pack cover, and often times Skye’s treats.

There are ice pick straps on the front which I didn’t use to the full potential. I did not see my pack on other hikers very frequently. I did see some using the ice pick straps, in combination of the cinch straps near the side bottle pockets holding things like their sleeping pads.

There are bottle holders on each side of the pack which my last pack did not have.  I really like the Aura for that reason, as well as the “snack” pockets.  I kept my toaks cup and often an older style Gatorade bottle on one side. I’d keep something like an Aquafina bottle and my Sawyer on the other side. The Gatorade bottle didn’t bump my arm and was easier to grab without adjusting my pack while hiking.  The smart water bottles with the sawyer on the other side were too awkward and would bump into me a lot. The Aquafina and smaller liter bottles were still somewhat uncomfortable but not as much as the smart water bottle.

The load lifters on the shoulder straps were awesome. The padding on the pack itself was great.  I didn’t get chaffing on my sides until my body weight really dropped but even then it wasn’t as bad as some other hikers.

I used a basic Walmart pack cover. 3.3 ounces. It didn’t rip until Maine and then I ended up getting the same one. Kept my pack dry when it wasn’t ripped.

Sleep system.

L.L. Bean 850 down 15 degree women’s sleeping bag.  2.02 lbs.  It ripped within the first 3 weeks of being out there. L.L. Bean did exchange it for me.  It has a pocket on the inside which I used to keep ear plugs in (I slept in a tent with Snorlax). The sleeping bag kept me warm when needed, and was so warm I sent it home eventually and didn’t get it back until the end of the trip.  It wasn’t too heavy and it was cozy.

I used a Thermarest neo air x lite women’s Sleeping pad. It weighed 12.3 ounces.  I upgraded from the thermarest foam pad to the inflatable pad the last minute.  I decided that I did not want to sleep on foam for 6 months and wanted something a little bit more comfortable.  It was sometimes annoying blowing it up after a day of hiking but not as bad as I imagined.  No issues with holes. Only downfall is that I had to blow it up, and it’s slightly noisy but not terrible.

Pillow case 1.1 ounces.  I kept my clothes in this. This was nothing fancy. Just a piece of fabric with some Velcro on the opening.

I sent home my sleeping bag in Pennsylvania. I kept my liner and also used the thermarest stellar blanket. 14 oz. It packs away into a nice pillow as well.  We tried to use the blanket together but it didn’t seem to be quite big enough for our liking so I kept it. Sean aka Snorlax got a different one he carried. 

I picked up in Erwin, TN a cocoon silk sleeping bag liner. I got this to use alone on top of my sleeping bag on warm nights. I used it in my sleeping bag on cold nights as well . Weight 1.1 ounce.

Jacket system.

Marmot precip rain jacket.  9.9 ounces.  Durable, comfortable and kept me dry. The hood could be tucked in if you didn’t want to use it. Two pockets on the sides.  It had pit zips so I could air out where it looked like I was putting two wookiees in a head lock.

L.L. Bean primaloft stowaway jacket. 9.9 ounces.  Didn’t get any holes until the end and it was from a fire ember.  Kept me warm when needed but still light.  Packed away nicely and was comfortable to use as a pillow. And as you can see above it packs away nicely in its pocket.

Columbia fleece vest. 8.8 ounces. I opted for a vest rather than a full sleeve fleece because I sweat a lot. This was great to wear at night at camp, especially if I wasn’t wearing a bra and didn’t want to show anyone my glass cutters.

Shoes.

Oboz waterproof sawtooth. 1 pound 11 ounces. I went through 4 pairs of these the whole trail but never switched up the style. They had great traction,  decent support, comfortable. I may go with a non-waterproof next time if I had to change anything.  My feet were having trouble staying dry in some sections and I ended up getting trench foot.  I didn’t realize until I was on the trail that Oboz actually replaces shoes for thru hikers. We bought two pairs ahead of time, Oboz replaced the last two.  It varied a lot on how many shoes everyone went through. Some people only used two pairs, where some used ten.  I loved my Oboz Sawtooth and still use them.  Plus side- they plant a tree every pair that is bought. More trees and less assholes please.

Camp shoes. I highly recommend having camp shoes. I love being able to take my shoes off at the end of the day and getting into something a little more comfortable, more breathable and sometimes smelled better.  I started with some L.L. bean Maryjane sport sneakers I got on sale. They were Quick-drying synthetic-leather upper with soft mesh for breathability. 12.1 ounces. They ended up being awkward to keep on my pack because the Maryjane straps would come unbuckled and fall off my pack. I ended up putting a hole through the back so I could hang them safely off my pack. They ended up developing a bad smell and they went fairly early on.
I ended up getting a nice pair of Astral Rosa strap sandals at trail days. About 12 ounces. They could convert from sandals to flip-flops, had good traction, dried quickly and were comfortable. I extended the wear of them through the colder months at the end by wearing my injinji toe sock liners. Astral was another awesome company which replaced my shoes when they broke.

I used a combination of low cut and mid cut darn tough socks. Each pair varied in weight from 1.3-2.4 ounces.  I carried about three pairs and still think I could have carried more and been ok with it some days.  I didn’t get any big holes in mine but they got stretched out big time. Darn tough did replace them while on the trail which is awesome. I now prefer to wear darn tough even when I’m not doing outdoor stuff. The socks aren’t tough enough to last the whole 2000 miles but  too tough to be able to make a proper sock puppet with.

I used the L.L. Bean crestas as a sleeping sock. Sooo comfortable and durable. 4.1 ounces.

I picked up some injinji toe sock liners in GA. I wore those in combination with my socks and it helped prevent blisters. As mentioned above, I ended up using them with my camp shoes and that helped keep my feet warm and comfortable at camp.

Accessories:

Dirty girl gaiters.  .8 ounces. Kept me from getting junk in my socks and shoes, especially on rainy days.  The fun designs made it fun to look at my feet. I didn’t get any rips in them but the hook that connects to the front of the shoe was starting to fall off so I had to stitch it up. The Velcro on one them didn’t stick on the back as well but it wasn’t a big deal.

Turtle fur head/neck wrap. 2.2 ounces.  This kept my face warm in the coldest areas. I also used it as a head band type ear warmer in the not so hot but not so cold months.  It was almost too hot to use as a headband in the warm months.  I also used it as bathing suit top or top when doing laundry.

L.L. Bean glove liners. .9 ounces. These ripped and I had to stitch them up. However, they did help keep my hands warm but weren’t too heavy.

I used them in combination with the smart wool flip mittens. Those started to rip as well but got me through the trip.

I used a smart wool merino wool blend hat. 1.9 ounces. The hat was comfortable, simple, and kept me warm but wasn’t too hot or itchy when hiking. It lasted the whole trip with no holes but it did get a little stretched out towards the end.

Trekking Poles. I used the Women’s Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC Hiking Poles.  19.9 ounces. I had no issues with these until the end of the trip. They wouldn’t close and collapse down- then when they did, they would get stuck. The handles were my favorite part. I could hold them multiple ways and still be comfortable. Leki was awesome and replaced my poles for me when they did have issues. I also had no issues getting new tips on the poles once I hit the outfitter on the Pennsylvania/ New Jersey line.  I ditched the stuff sack for them early on. I highly recommend trekking poles.

Clothing.

L.L. Bean performance merino wool blend base layer.  4.6 ounces. These ended up being really big and not that warm.  I used them in the beginning and then the end.  I also used a cheap Walmart brand fleece pants which were warm, comfy, and durable.  They were a little heavier though, I think about 5.4 ounces.  The Walmart pants were a fun print where the L.L. Bean ones were boring.

L.L. Bean merino wool long sleeve shirt. 5.4 ounces.  I had this the whole time. It was a great sleeping shirt, camp shirt, laundry shirt. It was still breathable but kept you warm when needed. It did start ripping towards the end, and not very fun prints.

I started with a Cabela’s trail pant. 13.2 ounces.  Those ended up causing chaffing, being too big too quickly. I liked the pockets on them though. I eventually went through several different types of pants. I really enjoyed wearing a running tight/legging pant because it allowed you to be agile and even when you lost weight, they’d stay on you somewhat a little bit better.

I used a moving comfort sports bra I got from back country. 3 ounces. The straps were thick, and adjustable -so despite the constant wear and variation in my size, it fit comfortably the whole time and still supported me.  No issues and highly recommended.

I had some Exofficio bikini underwear with lace trim which lasted the whole trip..9 ounces.  I didn’t wear underwear much but this was nice to have to go swimming.

I used under armour running shorts with the built in underwear. 3.6 ounces. I did get chaffing initially so ended up picking up some spandex running/biking type shorts to wear underneath. As I got smaller, I didn’t need to wear both layers. I either wore the spandex shorts or the running shorts.  I switched to the loose running shorts when my tush started getting chaffing in the hottest months due to the spandex increasing sweat in those areas.

I wore an under armour quick dry t-shirt. I had this the whole way. It did get a hole in it but it was due to fire embers. This was comfortable, and not too hot on most days. Some days I would just hike in a bra.

In towns we would check out thirft stores for things like books or something to wear to town. I picked up a cute jumper and often wore that when I was doing laundry.  It wasn’t too heavy and it was nice to have something somewhat normal when going to dinner or something.  Pictured below you can see part of the jumper. These are my trail angel cousins in CT. 

I also later picked up a tank top by Prana. Worked great, no issues.


Food/cookware

I used a toaks 16 ounce titanium cup for cooking and often eating out of. 1.9 ounces.  It came with a lid and cute little stuff sack which I didn’t use.  My Gatorade bottle can fit right in it as well.

I started with a collapsible sea to summit bowl. 2.9 ounces. Found it was not necessary to have a bowl and cup and sent it home.

I started with two 32 ounces Gatorade bottles for water which each weighed about 34.8 ounces full.   I ended up only using one most of the trip, and switched out the bottle my sawyer would go on.

Sean and I started the trip sharing a pump filter system, we both switched to mini sawyer water filters which weigh about 2 ounces. However, I didn’t like using the mini as it was practically like a drizzle either drinking from it or filtering to your bottle. I upgraded to the regular sawyer – which I called the big squeeze. It weighs 3 ounces oppose to 2 but totally worth the extra weight, and much faster! I didn’t get sick the whole trail either.

I also carried a platypus bladder.3.3 ounces which I used in areas where we needed to carry a lot of water, or in the summer time when I knew it was going to be super hot. I liked the convenience of just grabbing the straw while hiking and drinking.

Misc.

I used a small sea to summit towel. 1.6 ounces. This was nice to clean/dry stuff and not too big. It has a nice little strap so you can hang it off your pack if wanted to let dry while hiking.

I carried Skye’s bed (our dog) which was 14 ounces. I also carried her treats, and some of her food and water which was usually around 6 lbs. Please see the blog about her gear for more details.

For a majority of the trip I had a 10 liter sea to summit foldable sink. 1.7 ounces. I used it for water (filter from that or carrying), dishes,  laundry, etc. I sent it home in Pennsylvania as it was dry and hot there.  I needed to lighten my pack and Make more room to carry Skye’s stuff and more water.

Headphones- less than an ounce. I found to be a must have. I used the ones that came with my Samsung phone the whole trip.

My eye glasses. I do not wear contacts. I did get transitional glasses so I didn’t need to carry a separate pair of sunglasses. 1.35 ounces.

Sean picked up my glass case at L.L. Bean. Just a plain plastic sunglass case. 1.5 ounces. They didn’t break or get damaged the whole trip.

Eye glass cleaning cloth 1.5 ounces.

L.L. Bean XR trail blazer headlamp,  3.1 ounces. This lasted me the whole way, was fairly bright. I really liked the adjustment on it- instead of the touch button, you could move a knob. I personally liked Sean’s headlamp better but they didn’t make that model anymore when I looked for it.  He used one of the Petzel Tikka models.

I went with one of the z pack stuff sacks for my food bag and consumables (toothpaste, toothbrush, etc). . It did rip towards the end but I repaired it with some tenacious tape. Those items weighed about 16 ounces.

Bear mace. 10.5 ounces. This went in a hiker box in NC. I ran into bears but non that were that threatening. If a bear was going to harm me, it probably would despite the mace.

Ampy move charger. 1.7 ounces. This was a kick starter purchase. It alledgadlly charged things by kinetic energy. It didn’t work. I contacted customer service about it several times with no response. I got rid of this quick. I do not recommend it.

USB chord. .4 ounces.

Lightweight Nalegne bottle with coconut oil. 17.6 ounces. The idea of having the coconut oil was for cooking, moisturizer, treatment for burns/chaffing, conditioner, extra calories. I just didn’t want to deal with the extra weight for how infrequent I used it so I sent it home. I still feel like coconut oil is a great thing to have on the trail because it’s so versatile. It just needs the right amount/packaging in a convenient way.

Small gatorade bottle with Dr. Bronners. 14.1 ounces. The idea that Dr. Bronners can safely be used for multiple things- laundry, dishes, body, brushing teeth, etc. Again, not used that frequently for the amount I was carrying. Therefore I picked up a small travel bottle  for this. Any maildrop we received with the 12 ounce bottles of Dr. Bronners, we would refill the small travel bottle and donate the rest to other hikers.

We also had a Spot gen3 GPS which was great to use for quick check ins for family when we had no cell service. 4 ounces.

Bandanas. I had one I used a “pee rag”. Instead of going through toilet paper all the time and dealing with burying that, I used the pee rag and washed it when I could.  The second bandana was tied to the strap of my pack and I used it as a sweat/snot rag.

First Aid Kit.  12 ounces.

  • The first aid kit consisted of asprin, anti diarrheal, antihistamine, ibuprofen, and tylenol  for medications.  Asprin helps thin blood, anti diarrheal for the obvious, antihistamine for allergic reactions, ibuprofen for general pain, and tylenol for fevers associated with heat stroke, concussions as less likely to increase bleeding (all were used at somepoint) .
  • Rehydration salts in an event there’s signs of dehydration (these were useful)
  • Quick clot. This was not used and sent home during the trip. This is used if you have a big wound and won’t stop bleeding.
  • Gauze and medical tape.  Useful, especially for the treatment and prevention of blisters.
  • Alcohol wipes to clean wounds and other items. These were used freqeuntly.
  • Band aids to cover cuts. These were used.
  • Anti bacterial ointment. This is helpful on a wound , as well as burn/rash/chaffing.
  • Body glide to help chaffing.
  • Cortizone cream for bug bites and rashes which is very helpful.
  • NOT PHYSICALLY CARRIED: temporary health insurance through Seven Countries. Didn’t use it but it was a great piece of mind. If we didn’t get health insurance, we probably would have needed it.

This was probably a little overkill because I have a background in the health field as well as slight case of OCD. Also, most of the time someone always had some of these things.

My average pack weight was between 24-30 pounds. Sometimes a little over or under after a resupply or heading to town.

I didn’t focus on being ultralight , I focused on being comfortable and having what I wanted/needed to make me happy. I’m not here to tell you what to get, or not to get. This was my pack.  My trip wasn’t about  what I carried,  but what I saw.

The Things She Carried

The Things She Carried

When you go backpacking, you have to decide what you want to have on you at all times, for many different scenarios – in one pack.  You will be carrying this pack daily, for miles and miles, in various temperatures and terrain. 

Many will research for days on end, scope out gear, and even do field tests. 

When you decide to go backpacking with your dog, you have to decide if or what they will help carry on them, for many different scenarios- in one pack…or maybe you decide the dog will have no pack. Either way, you will be researching for days on end what you need for backpacking with your dog.  Often times, coming up with little to no information out there. Just like every backpacker human that is out there, every dog is different. 

This blog will go over what was in Skye’s pack and some things we carried for her.  The general guidelines for a dog’s pack weight should range from 10%-25% of their weight and depending on the breed. We tried to stick with 15% or lower for Skye. Remember weight does change the more you hike. 

The things she carried – Pictured and described below (from top left corner and counter clockwise). 

1. Ruffwear hi and dry saddlebag Rain cover (we found ours on backcountry.com- they usually do really good promotions) weight: 3.5 oz.
2. Ruffwear Palisades’ dog pack (we also got this from backcountry.com) weight: 1.82 lbs. This has seen some stuff but held up pretty good. 
3. Ruffwear Highlands bed (pictured packed up and unpacked) – I actually carried this.  14 oz. 
4. We started with Kurgo collapsible bowls for her. They broke. We ended up getting some disposable Ziploc or glad type sandwich containers. These worked great if she didn’t eat all her last meal, cover it and go. Cheap, so if something happened to them- oh well, and you could get them at almost any store.  However, Ruffwear has some nice foldable bowls, and one does have a cinch to  keep food in. We didn’t discover them until after the trip.

 

5. Lishinu hands free retractable dog leash (got it off of amazon.com). The compartment where the leash is stored (the white piece) has Velcro- which we wrapped around parts on our pack. The leash is retractable so only uses about as much as she needs (about 7 ft.).  This did start breaking towards the end but did the job of keeping her on leash when needed. Also, not bulky. Weight: 6.8 oz.

6. A rag of some sort to help keep clean and dry off. We used a silk one from the thrift store. Lightweight and dried quick. 

7. Small nail clippers. These were almost unnecessary due to the fact that she would file her nails down naturally on the rocks on the mountain. Handy to have if in less rocky areas, and if she happened to chip a nail or something. 
8. A small comb. This helped to keep her fur unknotted and help check for ticks. 
9. Musher secret. This worked great for her paws and under her arms where the pack goes. It helps soothe and prevent chaffing. A must in my dog mom eyes. If you run out, amazon can ship it prime to the next resupply or substitute for something like a petroleum jelly type balm.  

10. Ruffwear Knot-a-collar (we actually picked this up in Damascus, VA at an outfitter there because hers broke). It’s nice that it doesn’t have a buckle or snap closure to break. She went through a lot of dirt, water,  etc that can wear the buckles down quick. 

NOT PICTURED:

  • Nexgard (the best flea and tick treatment out there in my opinion). Nexgard is a chewable treat tablet that keeps fleas and ticks away. If we did find a tick on her, it was dead.  We started with a 6 month supply and obviously the weight decreased as we were out there.
  • Heartgard- heartworm preventive. The disease is transmitted by certain mosquitos. We got this to help protect her with the high risk of running it to all sorts of new bugs.  We started with a 6 month supply. 
  • Microchip. We got Skye micro chipped and made sure to have our updated contact info on the registration so if for some reason she got lost, they would know how to identify her. 
  • Dog food. We aimed for a 3-4 lb. Bag of puppy food and mixed it with the pedigree little champion’s wet food pouches. The puppy food is higher in calories, the pedigree wet food pouches are easy to carry.   We would typically divide the dry food into two- four gallon reseal able bags and she would carry 2 of them in her saddlebags.  The first few days after a resupply – my husband and I would carry the wet pouches (they usually come with 12 in a box), and the extra bags of dry food. As the days went on and everyone’s packs would get lighter, Skye would eventually be carrying all of her food. 
  • We would frequently buy a lot of cheese, peanut butter, and other dog friendly human foods and share those with her.  We dehydrated ahead of time some meat and veggie mixes and would share those with her as well.  We tried to feed her as much as possible.  
  • Turbo pup bars are convenient and good nutrition but expensive.  We bought some ahead of time and added them to mail drops.  We also always had a bag of dog treats in mail drops. 
  • We carried Skye’s water, or she would drink from some of the water sources. Of course if you allow this, make sure they go downstream from where people are getting their water.  Adding bouillon cubes to the dogs water sometimes gets them to drink more- keeping them hydrated, and also has some tasty flavor and some sodium which can help retain some water. 
  • There are some areas where it may be too hot, too rocky, too wet, etc. for the dog to carry its own weight. Be prepared to take the weight or send them home or take a break if they need it.  Hike the dog’s hike.  I have some other blogs that will get into this. 

Another great leash is the Ruffwear roamer leash. We bought this at the same time as the lishinu but found the retractable was the way to go. However, the roamer is also hands free and has a bungee effect. 

A lot of people always ask me how we get Skye used to her pack, and things like  how do we get her to put it on and not run.   We don’t have any great tips for this.  Skye has been doing adventures with us since she was a pup.  She likely associates the pack or (life jacket depending on excursion) with an adventure for all we know.  Some wise men have also said that dogs feel a sense of purpose, and like the fact that they have a job when they wear the pack.  It always helps to not force things, and just encourage them to be curious of the pack. Let them smell it, pick it up and handle it in front of them, put some of their things in it.  Let them know it’s safe and it’s theirs.  And of course, the closer they get to the pack-  treats don’t hurt a dogs taste buds.   

I  hope this information helps and be sure to check out prior blog topics and future postings for more information on hiking with your dog! 

As always, happy trails, and tails to you. 

Does A Bear Poop In The Woods?

Does a bear poop in the woods? Um yeah. , it’s a freaking bear- it does what it wants .It also depends on when “doodie” calls.  If it lives in the woods, it probably poops there too. If you got to go, you got to go. There are areas along the Appalachian Trail which have privies, but those can often be miles apart, and sometimes you can’t always hold it (they are also not bear user friendly). So, like a bear, a hiker will also poop in the woods.

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Does it follow the practices of Leave No Trace (LNT)?  It is hard to say if all bears  (or even hikers) do or not. While living in the woods, I definitely came across some bear (and/or hiker) scat that didn’t meet the leave no trace guidelines.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that all bears (and hikers) break the rules.

Some may be wondering what exactly is the criteria for leave no trace when it comes to pooping in the woods is.  The ultimate goal is to maximize decomposition, but also decreasing the chances of water pollution and spreading disease. The best way to do this is dig a hole and bury that shit- literally. download

The hole should be 6 inches deep. Often times, people recommend 6 feet deep but that’s only if you are also burying a corpse.  You want to be about 200 feet away from any water source. 200 feet can be about 80 steps. You could also just sing the lyrics to New Kids On The Block, “Step by Step”.  If you are unable to do either of those things, then you may need to just go in your pants.

 

So, you have dug the hole- now what? Positions for pooping are a common concern. Just like some say hike your own hike, you need to poop your own poop.  Many people are afraid to poop in the woods because they cannot get in a comfortable position, and/or they are afraid they will poop on themselves.  I polled some fellow hikers and asked them what position works best for them, and some of them were willing to even demonstrate.

The crab position. Which I really don’t understand why or how this is comfortable. I’d be afraid I’d lose balance and fall right in that poop.

 

The Tree Hugger. This one is pretty simple. It’s definitely one for the environmental lover and poor balance.

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The partner poop. This is for the timid (or in my opinion the brave). Can’t poop alone? Bring a partner, hold hands and squat. Maybe tell a joke or story to pass the time. Sometimes you even dress up for the occassion. Eye contact or knowing your partner always had your back in a shitty situation – your preference.

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The prop. This is pretty much when you find a great rock or down tree, or other items in nature that you can use to sit off of and/or brace yourself on. It’s a popular one but seems like a waste of time trying to find that perfect spot.

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The squat.  The simplist and best way to poop. Oh- need to poop? Dig a hole, and just squat. No fuss trying to find something or someone to hold onto, no fear of falling flat in your poop- just go for it.

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A newer one that not many talk about is also the spotter. This is usually any position of your choice. The main difference is that there is someone, maybe more than one there to spot you in case you may lose your balance , have trouble wiping or just need some company.

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 Sometimes the urge can come on hard and strong.  Don’t be a victim to that shit.  Don’t have a shovel? Use a stick or trekking pole.  So yeah,  it may look barbaric like a caveman carving into stone if you have to go bad enough but so what.  

It’s also important to know when to poop first,  and dig later.  Don’t be the lactose intolerant guy who decided to have Velveeta Mac and cheese the night before and accidentally poop your pants when taking the time to dig a hole despite the urge.  Waking your fellow campers up at 6:30 AM to borrow some soap to clean up your mess can be an awkward conversation.  

Sometimes you never realize what you had until it’s gone . ..  Like toilet paper.   In that case,  try to use a strong leaf like the ones pictured here.  Rhododendrons work nicely because they’re strong,  big and soft. 

Try not to use any of these:

Well folks,  hopefully this information was helpful.  As always,  be safe and happy trails.  It’s all shits and giggles until someone giggles and shits.