Here we are at last…

We have finally arrived at the long awaited day. After years of “maybe someday” we have arrived at “today is the day.” I have feelings of excitement and a little panic. What is the crazy thing I am undertaking? According to Kenny’s sister, Twinkletoes, it is the best thing I will ever do and I am inclined to agree. There will be ups and there will be downs but I expect a net positive. “It’s about smiles not miles” says Twinkletoes. I’m not really sure what to say that can encompass all that I am feeling. Tomorrow we start the adventure of a lifetime.

Tonight we are being hosted by Kenny’s cousin. They have been extremely gracious in cooking us a big dinner tonight and a nice breakfast tomorrow. We get to sleep in a bed one last time before our sleeping pads and sleeping bags become our beds for most of the 6 months we’re out in the wilderness. Tomorrow we will be getting up bright and early to arrive at Amicalola around 9am. We will take a look at the Falls, weigh our gear, and sign the trail register as aspiring thru-hikers. We hope to get an early start since the ATKO will be wrapping up tomorrow. We expect the trail and shelters will be very crowded for the first week or more and we will be relying on our tent. The plan is to take it slow until we get our trail legs. Feel free to send words of encouragement to help us through the mental rough patches. As of tomorrow I will not be updating my blog regularly. I might have a few short posts here and there from my smartphone but save the longer posts for town. I’m going to attempt to use my smartphone to update my side bar with our daily mileage. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventure and I inspire you to start your own.

Happy Trails.

“The mountains are calling and I must go” -John Muir

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Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned

The plan for today was to pack everything up and leave for North Carolina in the afternoon then head to Georgia on Saturday and start on Sunday.

First alteration in plans was new gear purchases. Kenny and I had never packed 4 to 6 days worth of food and I had some difficulties fitting everything in my pack. I took out all the unnecessary luxury items that I could and I was still having difficulties. So quick trip to Blue Ridge Mountain Outfitters to change up some of my items. I’m not a fan of inflatable pillows, but the ExPed UL Air Pillow was 1/10th the size of my therm-a-rest synthetic compressible pillow.

I don’t find air pillows very comfortable, but I’m just going to have to make it work. I think I will be far more uncomfortable without an air pillow.

I also changed my sleeping pad. I loved my therm-a-rest prolite plus but it was heavy and large. So I decided to shell out the money for aTherm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.

I was very hesitant of the NeoAir. I was worrying about popping it and the crinkly noise that air mattresses make. However, Kenny and Erik helped ease some of my fears. Erik has used the NeoAir several times and the noise decreases after awhile. I also read many reviews about it’s durability. So I will say good bye to my ProLite Plus for now and switch to the NeoAir. Those 2 gear changes helped reduce my weight and increase the space in my packs. But after today’s struggles, I can’t wait until summer comes and I can switch to my summer clothes and summer sleeping bag.

And our last gear change, we switched our filter. We have been very happy with our MSR Miniworks EX Microfilter but it is really heavy. So we decided to switch to the lighter MSR Hyperflow Microfilter.

It’s still effective against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa but not again chemicals. But since we have the MIOX treatment, we think we’ll have enough protection. We cut about half of our weight with the new filter.

And finally, the biggest problem of today: car troubles. We got the car all packed up and were all ready to go when it decided not to start. Kenny’s dad had just driven it twenty minutes earlier. We tried to jump start it and that didn’t work. So we made a call to AAA and they brought a tow truck out. They ran a diagnostic and tried to jump start to but the car still wouldn’t start. So the car went to a garage and will be worked on tomorrow. Best case scenario: car gets fixed in the early afternoon and we hit the road straight to Georgia to meet up with Kenny’s sister and his brother-in-law. Worst case scenario: we have to shell out the money for a rental car to Georgia. Middle of the road scenario: we take a different car and hope that all of our stuff fits. Any of the scenarios have a starting on Sunday or Monday. Sadly, we will miss out on most of the ATKO but still make it to Springer. So the trail adventure has already started to remind us to stay flexible. We are going to hit many changes of plans while we’re out there and we just have to learn to go with it. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we can get an early start to hit the road to Georgia.

Mail Drop Preparation

Today Kenny and I head down to Georgia and everything has come down to the last minute. Last night we finished organizing and setting up our mail drop boxes. I documented our progress.

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All of our groceries.

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Organizing everything into their baggies to make meals

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DSCN0717And finally everything into boxes.

It was a very long process and took me much longer than I thought it would. The most difficult part the took several days was finding all the ingredients. The Appalachian Trail Food Planner likes to uses some obscure items that I had never heard of, like Butter Buds. It also like to use ingredients that don’t exist in any grocery store in the New River Valley. We searched every grocery store in the area and could not find Lipton Tomato Cup of Soup. We found plenty of chicken and chicken noodle, but no Tomato. So if you get the food planner, check your grocery store before choosing recipes with dried tomato soup. Then it took us 2 days to organize and load up all the boxes with instructions for the helpful people sending us the boxes. So it was a late night last night and an early morning today but hopefully by 3pm we’ll be ready to hit the road for North Carolina and then Georgia!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting! So…get on your way!” -Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You Will Go

For any current hikers wondering about the GSMNP and the new fee, this blogger and fellow 13 thru-hiker, Jordana, did some research and discusses the details of purchasing the permit. She went through a mock permit sign up and called a park ranger to ask questions.

My Meandering Trail

During the last week in January, I was poking around the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Facebook page and saw an announcement that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would be instituting a fee for anyone wishing to obtain a backcountry permit. The fee, along with a new website to pay it, would be up and running beginning February 13.

Glad for the heads up, I filed the info away for later. I then revisited it yesterday so that I could figure out all of the details.

First, I went to https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/, at which point I was presented with two options: general backcountry permits or A.T. thru-hiker permits. The Park defines an A.T. thru-hiker as someone who begins and ends her hike at least 50 miles outside of the park. Of course, I clicked that option.

The subsequent webpage broke down for me all of the basic trip planning info. I…

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Holy Cow 5 Days!

Everyday that goes by continues to increases my excitement and panic. Last night Kenny and I watched the countdown on his blog and the usual mix of feelings welled up inside me. Every time someone posts videos from the trail I’m jealous but a little bit glad. I’m glad because our original start date was March 3rd and current thru-hikers have encountered some unfriendly winter weather. I know we’ll hit winter weather eventually but I’d like to start on a high note. And this current weather has lead some to leave the trail, permanently and temporary (taking several unscheduled zeros). Hopefully the 5 day forecast stays the way it is and we’ll be leaving in 60 degree weather. If not, hopefully all my winter gear is as good as I hope. I know I’ll definitely get to test it once we reach the Smokies. There’s reports of knee deep snow that won’t probably melt in the near future, especially with the storm coming in the next few days. I will appreciate any warm happy thoughts anyone will be sending my way.

“The snow is melting into music” -John Muir

6 More Days! Time for Last Minute Prep

6 more days until we hit the trail and 4 more days until we head down to Georgia. We have officially moved all our stuff out of our apartment in Harrisonburg and moved it into Kenny’s parent house in various storage locations. It’s been a long weekend, but there is no rest for the wicked. We still have plenty of things to knock off our to do list.

Kenny and Christina’s To Do List:

  • Taxes
  • Kenny Suspend Verizon Phone and Replace with a Pay-As-You-Go Phone
  • Kenny get Travel/Medical Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Kenny get a haircut
  • Mail my cut hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths
  • Organize mail drop boxes
  • Make a Gear Video
  • Buy last minute items: down booties, maps

We will be spending out last week busy but enjoying good food and comfy beds and sofas. I like to tell people I’m maximizing my laziness before I leave.

I’ve also made a few last minute gear changes and additions. One in particular I want to highlight is my ULA Rain Kilt. I found the suggestion from a blog of another thru-hiker. I had rain pants, but I’ve heard complaints about not breathing well and being too hot. The Rain Kilt allows my legs to breathe but not get completely soaking wet. I want to highlight this because I also plan to use this as a wind protection. Kenny and I have been closely following the weather this weekend and it has been very cold on Springer. Many of hikers have gotten off the trail (either quitting or just taking a few zero days) because of the cold weather and fear of hypothermia. It’s not only snowing and icy and cold, but very windy which just makes the cold worse. Those without rain pants or kilts have been wearing trash bags as wind skirts. And though the weather forest is supposed to be nice the weekend we start, that can change before we get there and change dramatically while out on the trail. This winter is set to be much colder than the last 2 winters. I highly recommend any 2013 hikers to get some sort of wind protection. Anyone starting on March 8 – 10th weekend during the ATKO will be able to find gear booths selling some rain kilts. I also purchased a summer sleeping bag, a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), a Medical Alert Bracelet (I’m allergic to Penicillin) and some freeze dried fruits from Just Tomatoes, etc. The reports of the cold weather has led me to investigate some down booties for sleeping in so my feet stay warm. I’m going to get some price and weight estimates before making any purchases.

“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hello March!

We have finally reached the month of March, our start Month! Kenny and I are getting so excited and anxious. Only 9 more days until we start and 1 week until we head down to Georgia!

Today is also MOVING DAY! We are moving all of our stuff out of our apartment in Harrisonburg to store at Kenny’s parents house. It’s going to be a busy day.

Happy Friday Everyone! And Happy Trails!

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” -John Muir