Monday, March 31, 2008
I have been thinking about thru hiking the AT for about 4-5 months. After my divorce went through - I felt that I have an amazing oportunity to take a "pause" in life. No wife, no kids, no house, no truck payment, just work - and my company ( a very large greeting card manufacturer) allowed me to take a 6 month non paid leave. When else in life will I have that kind of opportunity. After reading the book "A Walk in the Wild" by Bill Bryson, and seeing the movie "Into the Wild" - I was sold. For those of you that know me - you know that Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is my all time number one favorite (his music helped get me through college). He wrote all of the lyrics for the movie "Into the Wild" and if you haven't seen it, or do not own the soundtrack - you should. There are 4 songs on there - that just simply touch your soul. Rise, Hard Sun, Society, and Guarenteed. One of the lines in Rise moved me incredibly - and helped become the motto of my life right now - it's how I want to live. "Gonna Rise Up - Find My Direction - Magnetically. An amazing friend - borrowed my Ipod - telling me they were loading some songs for me - and actually had that engraved on the back of my Ipod. They didn't tell me when they did it - instead - sent me a text to look at it after I had arrived in Atlanta and had started this trip. I broke down and cried. It was the most touching thing anyone could have gotten me. It weighed nothing, yet it meant everything. On days that I want to quit - I'm going to turn my ipod over and keep pushing. Thank You - I love it.
A lot of people have asked what I am taking. Well - here it is. Really an amazing feeling to know that everything that you actually "need" in life - you can carry on your back. Osprey Backpack, Western Mountaineering sleeping bag (2 - one for 10 degrees and one for 35 degrees), a sleeping pad, clothes (all Icebreaker brand 100% merino wool, and my WM down vest). Food - probars, oatmeal, ramen noodles, candy bars, dehydrated meals, Jetboil stove to boil water for meals. MSR tent and water filter, first aid kit, phone, Garmin GPS, Ipod Nano, Canon camera, and a knife. That's it. Pretty cool. I have already purchased 6 months worth of Mountain House deydrated food - good thing it has a 7 year shelf life - in case I quit. Man do I love those meals - now if only I could get a sponsor . . . .
This is probably one of the stupidest things I have done - post a topless picture of myself on the internet! Last year on my 33rd birthday - I was 205 lbs on a 5' 6" frame - I was fat and depressed. I lost weight and am very happy that I am now down to 165 just 8 months later - I haven't felt this good in a long time - and am down to size 32" waist pants - which I haven't worn in 10 years. I really want to lose another 10-15 lbs, and I'm guessing that the AT will end up taking off more like 20-25 lbs. You burn between 5,000-6,000 calories a day from what I have read - and you simply can't carry that much food. I have been eating what I want, when I want for the last couple of weeks - knowing that I will burn it off. I really just took this picture - so I will have both a "before" and "after" picture of what this is going to do to my body. (and of course something for the ladies - until I return).
I now have a strong appreciation for all the work my ex-wife did planning our vacations (thanks Amy!). Here I am trying to plan out 173 days: how many miles per day, where I can find water, where I can find shelter, and where I can have supplies mailed to me (food, gear changes - have 28 of them planned). The KATY trail taught me that this can't be exact - just something of a rough plan - and then flow from it. I can send you a copy if you email me at StinkyKD@Gmail.com.
We were sitting here waiting for Morgan's wife (Penny) to come pick us up for a couple of hours. We were worn out and this just happened. I quietly set up the camera and got back into the position I was in. What a fitting picture to one hell of a week. Thanks Morgan for helping to create this entire experience. I would not be able to tackle the AT had we not done this, and I am truely thankful for that. What a simple life it was - walk for 12 hours, sleep for 12 hours. Helps put life into better perspective - I think we can make choices to have less, and live a much more simple life. Godspeed on my next journey.
Our feet and bodies were worn out. Morgan had horrible shin splints, and I had tendonities in my left knee - not to mention our feet. That morning we decided to go ahead and stop in Jefferson City on day 7 (125 miles). Getting to Herman was going to require two back to back 25 mile days - which we knew wasn't going to happen. We were both ok with it. If you would have asked me a week ago what my biggest fear was - I would have said not making it. That was stupid. You can't not start something just because you might not finish what you had in mind. So we didn't make 170 miles, we did cover 125 miles, and became thru hikers. I got to share a week with no emails, waking up to the sun, talking to a great friend, and meeting some interesting people in small towns. More importantly I learned what my body can do. Not to mention losing over 5 lbs in 7 days. Great for upcoming swimsuit season!
Pretty amazing to be this close to the river. I had no idea. Basically for the rest of the trip - if you took a step to the right - just 3 feet or so - you could tumble down to the water. As you watch it flow past you - it reminds you of what it would have been like for Lewis and Clark - following it to unknown, uncharted lands. You also realize how powerful Mother Nature is.
We had 170 miles to cover in 9 days. This mile marker was our half way point. We weren't considered "thru hikers" yet (any hike over 100+ miles) but it felt incredible to know that we had made it half way - and just a little behind our made up itenerary. And yes - I carried a small, plastic, light weight tripod. I knew that I would be hiking alone on the AT and would want pictures with me in them - so justified the weight. Came in handy here as well. Notice the Trekking Poles - even though it was flat these came in handy. They help to take some stress off of your knees, and more importantly help your hands. I learned that when you hike for 12 hours with your hands just dangeling to the sides, they swell up with blood and hurt like hell. Using trekking poles kept them above your heart and kept them from swelling.
I learned a ton on this trip - one being that you have to "flow". Since we couldn't make our mileage we had to change plans. We were able to get a B+B in Booneville - an old mansion, on day 4. The hot shower felt good. Though neither one of us slept that good in an actual bed. Weird - it had only been 4 days but a bed didn't seem "right". Can't imagine what it will feel like after 6 months. I also learned that it is hard to hike with someone 6 inches taller - as their stride is so much longer. Picking up a few inches on every footstep adds up. This was the day that I told Morgan to go on ahead - not to wait on me - as I was dragging - and wanted him to get a shower and relax. Over the course of the remaining 14 miles, he beat me by an hour and a half!
Technically - you are not allowed to camp on the KATY trail itself - only in private campgrounds. Assumed this was to help practice "leave no trace" - if everyone camped out - eventually someone would not respect the land. Actually I think it has more to do with the fact that there are really no spots to camp. Most of the trail has a huge ditch on either side. It was getting late in the day here - and we had 6 more miles to go - part of a 26 mile day that we thought we could do! Honestly - anything over 18 miles and my body is ready to stop. We did a couple of 22's and knew that we couldn't make a 26, especially having to go through the night. So we stopped on the side and pitched our tents. The next morning the local Conservation guys drove through and we talked to them. We had already taken down camp - but I think they would have understood. We were just two guys in one man tents - not an entire Scout troop. Speaking of Scout's - I never was one - but believe their motto is "to always be prepared". I learned that "being prepared" means a lot of weight on your back. You really learn what you "need" vs "want" when you carry it on your back all day. By day 4, I stopped at a PO and mailed 6 lbs of stuff home. Again - the only way to prepare for a thru hike is to do a thru hike.
Getting closer to the river now - starting to see rock - which we will start seeing alot of soon - those big, beautiful bluffs Missouri is known for. Can't imagine the manpower it took back then to blast down through all of it. Assuming the trains didn't have the power, or want to burn the fuel to get up and over hills - better to stay as flat as possible - no matter what that took.
Blister #2 and #3 decided to show up on day 2. At this point they were limited to my left foot only. We tried to stop every 3-4 miles to take off our boots (cold enough that both our feet and boots would "smoke" from the temperature change). It was also incredible to change out your socks. Fresh, dry socks lift your soul.
I just thought this was a very interesting spot on the trail. It really shows the timeline of progress, in this one spot you have a small piece of the original railroad (just to the left of my pack), an old country road, the KATY trail, and even modern blacktop.
I opted for a small, light, one man tent - a Mountain Safety Research (MSR) Hubba. At just 3 pounds for tent, rainfly, poles and footprint (tarp) it was light and easy to set up. My shoulders touch the sides, but I have a good 6-8 inches above my head and below my feet to store clothing and gear. Also - check out the side vestible - more than enough space for my pack. For the AT - I'm not going to carry the tent - can save a pound if I just carry the footprint, poles and rainfly. Let's be honest - a little nylon and mesh doesn't really protect you from anything large enough to be scared of! I am going to miss that little gear loft - it was a great place to stash small items and be able to find them in the dark.
Ah - home sweet home. First day was a 18 mile hike - but add another mile to get to the campsite. This extra "side" milage isn't good - as it isn't getting you down the trail. First night was around 8 degrees - and I'm not going to lie - that is cold. You wake up and the top of your tent and sleeping bag are covered in ice from the condensation of your breath. Oh - and so much for the 18 packets of oatmeal I took for breakfast - just extra weight when your water is frozen every morning. Even a powerbar freezes! I was very happy with my 10 degree Western Mountaineering sleeping bag that night. And I learned to take an empty Gatoraid bottle to bed with me. No motivation to get up in the middle of the night when it is that cold - to go pee.
I knew that the KATY trail would not be that similar to the AT - but that it would teach me what my body can and can not do. Notice how nice and flat the trail is. Basically this was the view for the fist 2-3 days until we got close to the river. While we had cold - we were also blessed with several blue sky days such as this. As far as the training goes - hindsight I think this was harder on our feet - since it was so flat - your feet hit in the same spot over and over, for 12 hours a day.
I had read several books, blogs, forums and talked to several thru hikers. All said the same thing - the only real way to prepare for a thru hike - is to do a thru hike. It is actually more about breaking your feet in - than it is breaking your shoes in. Nothing beats your first blister already at mile 4. Notice how small it is at this point.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Friday March 7th 2008, Morgan Miller and Kevin Doll set out on the MKT or Katy trail running from Clinton Missouri, across the state to St. Charles Missouri. The Plan was to walk 170 miles to Hermann to enjoy a glass of Norton wine. This was to be completed in 9 days helping Kevin train for his upcoming attempt at the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail.