Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Typical Day on the AT

In this post I want to describe my typical day. One where I hike from camp site to camp site. Most camp at shelters or other 'official' sites with water. If you don't you have to count on using about a liter in camp and still have enough to get you to the next usable stream.

I've tossed and turned all night, sleeping until discomfort makes me roll over. I check my watch every few hours to see what time it is. At maybe 5:45 am I start waiting for 6:15. At that point I open the nozzle on my air mattress. I sit up in the tent and start getting ready. I change socks and put foot goo (lubricant) on my toes. I change into my day cap. I put everything back in my pockets then roll up the air mattress. I unzip the tent, pullover and open the top of my backpack, then start putting everything in. I also get out my snacks and any toilet paper I expect to need. With everything in the pack I stick my feet outside the tent and pull on my trail runners. Then I get out of the tent and zip it back up. 

I pull up all of the stakes and remove the extender from my trekking pole. The Altaplex tent requires a 58" pole, so I need the extra 10" carbon fiber tube. Then I accomplish the worst task of the morning.  Shaking the tent to try and get wet debris off the bottom floor. It's loud and messy and doesn't work!  I then try to cram it into a nice sack perfectly sized for a dry, clean tent you can fold tightly on dry ground. 

Since I want the tent below my rain gear and food bag, I partially reload and compress the pack again. 

Taking a leak is mandatory. Using the privy or digging a latrine with my trowel depends on circumstances. Unless you are at a single stealth site there are often lots of people around. Not much privacy. 

I try to remember to take my phone off airplane mode, start Hikers Assistant, and tell it I'm starting the trail. It gets my location for the start of the day's elevation profile. Then I have to put the phone back in airplane mode. 

I drink water before starting out and most days hike with 2 liters. 

I start out a little before 7:00am. Almost invariably, there is a big up to start the day. My heel or heels will be tight and if I laid wrong, I might have an ache or two.  If it is cool I'll be wearing a wind shirt or rain jacket. As soon as you get warmed up you start shedding clothes. Take off the jackets, roll up the sleeves, remove convertible pants legs, and unzip the 1/4 or 1/2 zip shirt. It's already been getting up to 79 degrees. You go up a good up and you generate a lot of heat. 

I saw one guy the day before yesterday sitting in a clearing near a hilltop. He was only wearing shorts and looked like he was about to have heat stroke. A cold breeze can feel great!

Anyway, you probably finish the big up in about 45 minutes and you can catch up on your breathing and heart rate. I stop for some breakfast granola or a bar. After that I try to stop about every hour to take off the pack, eat a quick snack and have some water. These breaks usually last 3-5 minutes. Other water-breaks are just done standing for about 30 seconds each.  My lunch breaks are a little longer where I try to eat a little more. 

I usually get passed by a couple of thrus, and we'll say hi and ask how it's going. I usually meet half a dozen hikers going south. Mostly day or section hikers. On weekends you see a couple runners and several couples with more or less happy dogs. Most of the older folks you encounter are a bit talkative, which is nice. The young folks, unless you encounter them at a water source, on a break, or in camp talk less and move faster. 

So the day goes by. You do the ups, with micro-breaks to slow my breathing and heart. Occasionally I encounter relatively flat sections on ridges or following around hill sides. Then you have the downs where you go slow to avoid falling, hurting your knees, or twisting your ankle. Both the ups and downs seem never to end. The flat or gently ramped sections are all too short. Interspersed along the trail are bad root sections, sloped trail next to drop offs and rocky sections where the rocks like to tip. 

The worst sections are the road gaps. It's always a steep long down to the two-lane 45mph highway. You wait for quiet between the 70mph passing cars, motorcycles, and trucks, then dash across. Now you do the steep long up!

About noon you hit your high point of the day. Your muscles feel fine and all the aches have gone. About 3:00 pm you are tired of snacking, and you start to lose energy. I try to slow down and be more careful. You start to watch the Guide or AT Hiker app to see how close you are to a camp site. If you are not stopping early, try for a less popular camp site. 

Since I planned to be here (Fontana) on a Friday and Saturday night I made reservations. To avoid getting here early I stopped at Locust Cove Gap early. It's the only non-shelter site with water on the map in that area. I got there at 2:30 pm and there were already two section hiker tents set up. On the flat spots!

Anyway, by 5:00 pm I'll try to make camp. I find a relatively flat spot and quickly set up the tent. I throw the air mattress, quilt and other bags in and zip it up. I keep out my food bag and stove kit. If there's a water source I fill my Nalgene and use my Steripen for 90 seconds to purify the water. 

If there's other hikers around I'll talk for a bit. But I usually want dinner. If there is a picnic table and room I'll cook there. I've only done that at Springer Mt.  Most of the time I set up a small ground cloth and sit on that. I use a variant of the Caldera Cone with an alcohol stove to boil water. About a tablespoon of denatured alcohol heats a cup of water. 

I add cold water to freeze dried fruit. Have one or two protein shakes (messy) and a couple of cups of cold water. My entree is a freeze dried Mountain House to which I add freeze dried kale, asparagus, or broccoli and a tablespoon of ghee. I pour the boiling water from my pot into the freezer bag with my entree and let it sit for 10 minutes. Cleanup is rolling up the empty fruit and entree baggies and putting them into my gallon trash zip-lock. Plus licking my spoon clean. 

You decompress the lighter food bag and either put it in your tent or hang it on a bear cable. If there are folks around, you talk some more. 

I always pull out my inReach Explorer to create and send a waypoint for my Locate Cipher blog page. Hope it's working!

I also spend 30 to 40 minutes transferring photos from my camera to my phone and writing my blog. Usually I'm tired and forget the interesting stuff. Usually I have no signal to post the blog. 

I try to wait as long to get into the tent as I can.  Getting in and out means taking shoes off and then putting them back on. I take a leak before getting into the tent at night. 

I put my cuben (waterproof, kind of) backpack under the tent fly, and sit in the tent with my feet out. I take off my shoes and nestle them inside the hip belt of my pack closest to the tent--to minimize wetness from rain. 

I blow up the air matress then change my socks and add new foot goo. I change my cap and empty my pockets, then stretch out. If it's still early I use my Sandisk player to listen to my favorite albums. 

I watch the woods through my tent screens as the sun goes down. 

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