jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Tag: Appalachian Trail (page 1 of 2)

Stats from my Eastern Continental Trail thru hike

20160701_143717.jpg

Mile 0

This was my first thru hike.

  • Where I started: Cap Gaspe, Quebec
  • Where I ended: Key West, Florida
  • States crossed: 16 American, 2 Canadian
  • Start date: July 1st, 2016
  • Finish date: Jan 21st, 2017
  • Total miles: 4,798.6 on trail, ~4,900 total(walking in and out of towns, off trail)
  • Duration: 205 days, or 6 months 20 days
  • Total footsteps: 10 million
  • Zero (milage) days: 27 (Prior to beginning I had only planned 9)
  • Most zero days in a row: 5 right after finishing the Florida Trail
  • Average daily miles excluding zeros: 27mpd
  • Average daily miles including zeros: 23.4mpd
  • International Appalchian Trail average daily miles: 19mpd
  • Appalachian Trail average daily miles: 24mpd
  • Florida Trail average daily miles: 39mpd
  • Most miles in a single day: 53mi
  • Starting weight: 170lbs
  • Finishing weight: 169lbs
  • Daily caloric intake: ~5,000-6,000 calories
  • Favorite trail food: White chocolate macadamia Luna Bar
  • Average time I would wake up: 6am
  • Average time I would go to bed: 9pm
  • Snakes: Much fewer than you’d expect
  • Bears: 7 fuzzy cute things
  • Moose: 7 mostly friendly mega fauna
  • Favorite animal sightings: Ground hogs, seals, whales, star fish, moose, and porcupine!
  • Number of socks destroyed: ~12 pairs
  • Number of shoes destroyed: 5 pairs Alta Lone Peak 2.5s
  • Blisters: 0
  • Longest food carry: 7 days in Quebec
  • How many mail drops: 29
  • How many town resupplys: Too many to remember
  • Total amount of times I had to get in a car: Only 6 times
  • Longest I spent hiking with anyone else:  2 days
  • Starting base pack weight: 5.7lbs
  • Ending base pack weight: 5.9lbs
  • Favorite piece of gear: Pa’lante Packs Cuben Simple
  • Second favorite piece of gear: Montbell Thermawrap Jacket
  • Third favorite piece of gear: My cheap Casio watch
  • Gear I carried for a long time, but never used: Umbrella
  • Most difficult section: Matane Wildlife Reserve in QC
  • Favorite part of the hike: Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. Actually, all of quebec was awesome.
  • Second favorite part: Maine & the Whites in NH
  • Third favorite part: The Florida Trail! Gulf Islands National Seashore, Eglin East, Bradwell Bay, St. Marks NWR, Aucilla River, Suwannee River, Ocala NF, Big Cypress NP
  • Honorable mentions: Grayson Highlands, Roan Highlands, Mcafee Knobb, Dragons tooth, ATC Headquarters, the Southernmost Point
  • Coolest hostels: Auberge l’Amarre(QC), Shaws Hiker Hostel(ME), The Hiker Hut(ME), Everglades Hostel(FL)
  • Total amount of miles walking roads: ~650mi
  • Total amount of dogs that chased me: 30 thousand
  • Total amount of dried beans I ate for dinner: 20lbs
  • Total amount of fun? I’d do it again
img_9719

Mile 4,800

Let the walking continue.

Jupiter

Review: Pa’lante Packs Simple Backpack

This year I’ve had the great pleasure to carry a new pack!

For my thru hike of the 4,800mi Eastern Continental Trail, I took a chance on a new company, and purchased the Simple by Pa’lante Packs. They weren’t in production yet, but I had been seeing photos of it online. Similar to the pack I had been using for the last few years, but an improved design.

“Hey that thing looks awesome, take my money.” Is to my memory, the message I sent Andy Bentz. He mailed it out to me while I was on trail, and I received it the same day I picked up a very heavy resupply (6 days.) Immediately I was stoked on how comfortable it was, even while carrying 15lbs of food on top of my gear.

image

Grabbing a snack from the secret bottom compartment

Andy Bentz and John Zahorian are the two founders of Pa’lante Packs. Some info on Andy’s making history can be seen in this cute video, showing packs he’s made in days past, leading up to what you see now in this final product!

Since receiving it I’ve now carried it for the last 2,800 miles, and this is what I think about it.

Basic Info

  • Volume: 35L or 40L
  • Price: $210 – $250
  • Weight: 13oz
  • Frameless and Hipbeltless
  • Material: X-Pac

Where can you find it? PalantePacks.com

image

Size

They come in both a 35 liter, and 40 liter. Very low on internal volume, but in a world where ultralight backpacking is becoming more popular this is a perfect size. The bigger the backpack you buy, the more stuff you tend to fill it with, and then consequently have to haul up that mountain!

For me, with a 6lb base weight the 35L is just right. I’ve carried 6 days food in it without issue, even thinking I had room for more. I would go for this size if you’re looking to seriously nerd out on gear, for most everyone though, I think the bigger size might be wiser. If you’re unsure, definitely go for the larger 40L. You’ll be happy you did when you want to pack out bonus foods from town!

As a frameless, hipbeltless pack it does well. The shoulder straps are large enough with enough thickness to take the heat of heavier carries. I find it’s comfortable up until around 25lbs.

All in all the small size is something I really like in a backpack. It gives me the ability to maneuver freely.
image

Durability

Amazingly, after 5 months of use every single day. Sleeping on it. Rubbing it against, and sitting it on rocks. Brushing it against trees and branches accidentally…. there isn’t a single hole, not a single tear, or even any real sign of wear. Even the stitching is holding up, without fraying or coming loose. It’s almost the same as when I first got it.

When it comes to durability most consider ultralight gear flimsy or that it won’t last. In the case of this pack that is clearly not true! I could easily get a second multi thousand mile thru hike out of this pack.

I had remembered seeing pictures John posted online when he first came up with this design. I was skeptical about the bottom pocket, and it’s durability. After 2,800 miles of abusing it without a single hole forming I’m convinced. The east coast is very rocky, Maine and New Hampshire are no cake walk, so to come out unscathed was really impressive, and admittedly surprising.

I give it a big thumbs up for durability! Unlike cuben fiber packs this X-Pac material is gunna last. I expect I’ll get another few thousand miles outa this one, at least.

image

Design

  • Waterproofness: The fabric used for the body of the pack is waterproof, but overall water will get in the seams. So I still use an internal liner like a trash compactor bag.
  • Single strap top closure: I love the single strap! It sinches down so nicely, creating an excellent seal. The last pack I had before this used a Y strap, and I greatly prefer the single.
  • Shoulder strap pockets: One of my favorite features of this pack. The stretchy integrated shoulder strap pockets! I like that I have everything I need right at my fingertips. These pockets are perfect for a camera or phone, snacks, guidebook pages or maps, trash. Really handy, and sleek. I highly recommend getting them added to your pack, as they are optional.
  • Secret bottom pocket: Annnd my favorite feature is the bottom pocket. Large enough to fit almost an entire days worth of food. But why do you care? Because every time you’re hungry, you can just reach under and grab a snack! No need to stop. Just keep moving! Alternatively, keep a rain jacket, or wind jacket under there for quick access.
  • Aesthetics: I mean, it’s super cute. Really small. Black. Beautiful. Clean.
  • Side pockets: Good height to grab my water bottles while walking. Stretchy enough to hold two bottles in one pocket. Or as I often do my umbrella, and a water bottle. Or my rehydration jar, and a water bottle. Tight enough so that they  don’t slip out when jostled.
  • Shoulder straps: Comfortable width, shape, and thickness.
  • Draw cord compression: Unsure of what to call it, but it needs to be mentioned. On one side of the pack there’s a small cord that can be pulled tight, to either compress down loose space inside, or firmly secure an item there. Personally I use it most when I have wet socks, or to dry out a wet groundcloth. Sinch the item down, and let it sit outside your pack all day. Or if you’re looking for a place to stow away trekking poles or a trekking umbrella while not in use, this is it!

image

Extra Thoughts

John has used this pack for thousands of miles, and I’ve used this pack for almost 3,000 miles. He loves it, I love it. I hate to gush er whatever, but of all the gear I’ve been using this year, this pack is the only thing I wouldn’t swap out if given the chance. Since leaving Canada and receiving this pack, its been wonderful all the way down to Florida.

It’s made for efficiency. Most everything you need during the day is at hand, and I love that. So until these boys come up with something similar but smaller and lighter this will remain my main hiking pack.

The waterproof material, the clever pockets, a pack that won’t deteriorate after a single season…

So if you’re looking for that perfect backpack for your next thru hike, the Simple from Pa’lante has treated me right.

image

image

Dungeon After Dungeon, Dragon After Dragon

Halfway to somewhere, halfway to nowhere. I’m not sure. 2,400 miles into the Eastern Continental Trail. Halfway between Quebec, and Key West. Halfway between where I started, and where I’m going.

A very long walk as it turns out! Maybe not quite long enough because I can’t help but to fantasize almost constantly about where I’m going. The next minute, the next hour, day, and naturally… fantasize about next year. What is to come? I can plan, prepare, dream, and it’s all good fun.

Life is short. So it goes. I think I’ll do whatever I want with it. Enjoy it, and live it in ways I can be happy and proud with. My traveling, hiking, my journey this year started with a one way plane ticket to Quebec, in Canada. I’ve never been before. I hadn’t known that “their primary language is French.” Means, “their primary language is French.”

I slept in an airport. I walked 30 miles of roads day one, just to get to the trail so I could walk 30 miles day 2. I sprained my ankle while jumping on a rock, trying to get a self timer photo of myself. But you know all of these things if you’ve kept up with my piss poor journaling. What have we missed? Quite a bit apparently. I haven’t updated my website since I was in New Hampshire. Oops!

The hiking has continued. The ever so strange Appalachian Trail has been what I’ve chipped away at since you last heard from me. A 2,200 mile foot path from Maine to Georgia. That’s a long way, right? Well, it is, but in the case of the all encompassing Eastern Continental Trail it’s just a piece of the greater puzzle.

Leaving New Hampshire was a big deal for me. A major milestone in this long and lonesome journey. The trail north of there was rough, uninviting, and…. seriously beautiful. Continuing south things got easier, and for that I was happy. Leaving the White Mountains of NH and entering Vermont I was able to focus more on style. The tread no longer trying to kill me, as before every step was paused by rocks, or roots. Things that were slippery, and generally a jungle gym made for feet. Careful footing had to be exercised. Now, once I entered Vermont, smooth sailing was the new word. 30 mile days became the norm, and have remained so.

This new found freedom of movement left me with the ability to focus. Focus on every step, on every breath. On every movement. Maybe not hone my walking to a highly refined skill, but edge my way a little closer. Maybe I should have crawled before I walked. Starting in Canada meant all the hardest parts of this trail would be dealt with right off the bat. I survived! I made it! A lesson in perserverance is ever present in this adventure. To keep going. Even though not every day is a winner. Some are some arent. Regardless, I keep on moving, and I find joy in the progress. The forward motion. Happyness in the head space, the peace in being out here, and the freedom to do what I want. Apparently, travel. Travel via foot traffic, at a pace of 3 miles per hour. Living, being, and journeying in these landscapes is exactly where I want to be. Not specifically the east coast, as next year my eyes are laid more westernly. But more specifically journeying, pushing the limits of my physical self, and seeking the depths of my mental.

At this point in my walk I’ve seen 7 bear, 7 moose, 2 seals, whales, a porcupine, a skunk, a few groundhogs, and somehow I can still recall what I was doing or where each one was. I chased a groundhog through the woods for 30 minutes one day. Losing myself, and almost losing the trail. He’d turn around and look back to me periodically like, “What the hell man.” I’m sorry groundhog friend.

The bears, despite every tourist ever asking, have all been totally non threatening, and yes at this point I have gotten in between a mother and it’s children. They just totally want nothing to do with us humans. I don’t blame them. Hunters, as I’ve been told, bait them with Dunkin Donuts and trail mix. Wait for them to start eating, then shoot them. Clever. Fortunately the bears I’ve seen have all been healthy. Babies climbing trees, mama’s and papa’s out hiking the trail, scaring the uninitiated, you know… happy healthy bear things? I came across one that I mistook for a hiker. I followed this bear down the trail, and attempted to catch up and say hello. Until I coughed, and it turned around, revealing itself to not be the short hiker with a large black backpack as I had thought. Just a bear, and a man with poor eyesight chasing it down, trying to wish it a good morning.

I’ve met countless people, some awesome, some less interesting. The town folk have pretty much all been wonderful to me. In Vermont I stayed with a cult. Their kool-aid was indeed quite good, but I was sure to leave bright and early the next day. Some stayed for weeks, some never leave. They danced for me, and blessed my hike.

I’ve met plenty of trail maintenance crews as well. I am always certain to give them my thanks! Volunteering for the Florida Trail Association back home I feel has given me an insight to all the efforts it takes to keep these trails up and running. It’s some serious work, and dedicated time! I recommend everyone to get out and do some trail maintenance or to support the trail systems. Without these people, and organizations we as hikers would have nothing to hike!

I’ve still yet to find someone to hike with, but I don’t mind too much. I do get lonely at times, and miss friends, and other hikers I’ve passed along the way. But I’m not sure I’d be comfortable putting someone else through what I enjoy! Id happily slow down or do things differently but im realizing that might be a future endevour. I may be too deep into this trip.

Camping alone, hiking alone. It’s peaceful. I have so much time to think. My future, what I wish to do when I get home. Skills I want to learn, books I want to read. How I can improve my life. I’m constantly making notes. Glad I have all of this time to ponder these things. The walking helps, it occupies part of my brain while the rest of me roams. And I’m glad that if I wish to walk hours into the night, or wake up before sunrise to spend my entire day walking without breaks, it’s all on me. The human body is an amazing thing, and here I am with the opprotunity to see what I can make it do. Alone I’m able to put myself through hell sometimes. But you know what, it’s only hard the first time. Then I learn, and improve!

Each night I camp away from others. I swear I’m not anti social! Really. I don’t know the deal, but mostly I don’t wish to bother others with my weird schedule. Rolling in after dark, russling around before daybreak. It’s something that evolved from backpacking back home, and has been solidified in the great north Canadian trails that were oh so devoid of people. Back home though, very few of my friends ever wanted to hike with me. I couldn’t imagine why….. so now out here I’m just most comfortable doing my own thing. When I want to charge forward, I charge forward. When I want to relax, I relax. My mistakes are my own. However, I have found someone recently who’s on my page. Really, he’s quite a few steps beyond me, and next year we’ve got something special planned. When it’s right, it’s right, ya know? Hiking is such a strange thing. There’s a million ways you can do it. None are right, none are wrong. But to find someone else who is into that same style you are is rare, maybe not, but to a strange hiker like me… so for now I continue solo! Fast, light, and free. I press forward.

At this point I’m really comfortable with my trip. In the beginning I almost didn’t want to mention to folks what I was up to. 800 miles in with 4,000 to go? I think the response is obvious. Day one, litterally standing at the northern terminus in Quebec, about to take my first steps, some guy immediately told me I would never make it. Actually many have told me that. Well before I left, and even well into my hike I would still get that reaction. Some guy I met on the Appalachian Trail was saying that walking further than 2,000 miles and not feeling like shit was impossible. I think it was a reflection of himself where his diet, a heavy pack, and likely an unwillingness to imagine anything larger than that is severely holding hime back! He was 2,000 miles into his Appalachian Trail thru hike, and about to finish. Aching, feeling like shit, and unhappy. I am in the exact opposite position! Feeling stronger than ever. More ready than ever to take on what’s ahead, and you’ll have to trust me, the best has yet to come.

I still have another 2,400 miles to go! I’m only half way done with *this* hike! The last 400 miles of the AT, the Benton Mackaye Trail, Pinhoti Trail, and of course the much anticipated Florida Trail! What an exciting lineup! My mind and body stronger than ever, and continuing to learn and grow as I head forth into these new worlds. It’s exciting. I’m probably most looking forward to Florida. What a dream this hike has been, and I still have 3 more months to go.

So what else? Lots else, but most will have to remain for my memories only. Dancing in the moonlight. Running for miles when my pack is void of food weight. Being given free apples from some orchard people when I took a wrong turn on a road… and a half gallon of fresh cider! Chasing down more New Zealanders, because people from NZ are awesome. Meeting a friend in Massachusetts who took me in for a night, let me play with his dog, and fed me delicious, and very spicy vegan food. Being constantly inspired by those around me, by those doing things differently than me, by those going bigger than me. Falling in love, finding peace. Losing my flashlight, my tent stakes, getting soaked to the bone in a storm, and having to sleep through it, only to be picked up by a beautiful stanger the next day, and taken to a walmart to replace what I had lost. I also completely stopped filtering my water months ago. I’ve eaten the same exact bean dinner every single night of this trip.

I’ve had good days, and I’ve had bad days.

I’ve run into actual homeless people, and felt real weird about my life choices(only briefly.) I’ve hiked 40 miles a day for 3 days straight. Walked 30 miles day after day as though it’s just a normal thing. Ive been rained on for a week straight. No matter what, I keep it rolling!

One step at a time, I’ll get there when I get there.

State to state until I crash into my fate.

Massachusetts was beautiful, and gradual. I loved walking there, surrounded by the history of this country. I paid a bus driver to give me a tour of the local towns. I crossed some highways, and showed the drivers my ass until I got a sufficient amount of honks.

I left Mass and entered Connecticut. Everyone was mean and seemed to want to rob me of my monies. Sorry, maybe my experience was strange? The trail was beautiful, rocky, and short. Only 52 miles and I was gone.

New York, I crossed the Hudson River on a large bridge. Never having been to the state before this was a wonderful experience, and place to walk. The trail took me directly through a zoo, and over a mountain which had litterally thousands of man made steps. I enjoyed New York greatly. I met a hiker who took a liking to me, he tried to give me a book which I detested. As we know my pack weighs less than 6lbs and I don’t ever wish to add anything to it! I still try and get rid of things constantly. A book? Please no. I took it anyway, after he assured me it was in his top 5 books that he’s ever read. The next day I found some other hiker who would take it. Sorry. I just want to walk, eat, and sleep!

New Jersey was quite boring, and quite easy! Just 73 miles or so, and I was in and out quick. On my last day there I ran into a group of birders who were watching hawks, and collecting data about the migration happening. I was aiming for a big day so stopping to talk wasn’t exactly on my list of things to do but they were so darn friendly! My mom loves birds so I felt a kinship with these people. They took a moment, and showed me a very large residential rattle snake, and gave me some apples. Followed by a short lesson on the birds they had been watching so I could report back to my mom! On their website, they mentioned me as something interesting they saw that day.

Pennsylvania has a lot of hype around it. Known as one of the least enjoyed states in the Appalachian Trail. 230 miles of the trail pass through there, and I met many who cowered in fear just at the thought of the rocky terrain. I didn’t think it was so bad! I did all of my biggest days in PA, and although it was very rocky, it was also extremely flat! There were some really awesome rock scrambles thrown in there too. Nonetheless I’m always happy to cross a new border.

A 45 mile day into Maryland, walking until well after dark. I made my miles, and I found a soft spot to sleep near the trail. The guide read, “residential area.” What that meant I wasn’t sure until the next morning, waking up, and realizing I was sleeping in someone’s yard no more than 30 feet from their house.

A dream come true. Maryland was short. West Virginia is even shorter, with only 4 miles passing through it. Those 4 miles are home to the Appalachian Trails main office. The dream is in the form of a photo. Every hiker that passes through gets a Polaroid taken of them there, you’re cataloged, and added to a book from whatever year you were there. I flipped through books, and photos from previous years. Searching for friends. This may seem insignificant, but I’ve wanted that photo for years. Taken right out front of the office. They gave me soda, veggies, and I walked on. I crossed the Shenandoah River, John Denver ringing in my ears, bring on Virginia!

Virginia holds 550 miles of the trail, and it takes most more than a month to finish. I think it took me less than 3 weeks. The terrain is made for comfortable walking. The mountains are gradual, and although after being at low elevation for a long time, now head back up into the 4 and 5 thousand feet ranges. Pointless ups and downs when you could just remain on a ridge during a section of trail known as the roller coaster. Pointless indeed. The Shenandoah mountains, where I crossed back and forth across skyline drive, a road, seemingly hundreds of times. Wilderness! Holiday weekend, and I ran into thousands of people. Weekends are no long as enjoyable as they once were! I prefer the solitude. The Shenandoah’s didn’t have many views. I actually walked the road for a few miles, and the road had more overlooks than the trail! Bummer. Regardless! Virginia has been awesome, and home to some of the best views I’ve seen since New Hampshire and Maine.

I passed a few iconic spots, and took a few cliche and iconic photos. The trail has been welcoming, and a joy to walk. I’ve met a bunch of wild ponies, made friends with them, took selfies with them, and generally have been having a wonderful time! The people here are great too.

I’m now on the edge of Tennessee and Virginia, with only two weeks left on the Appalachian Trail. Soon to begin a much more interesting part of this hike! The AT is somewhat easy due to it being around for so long, and having so much support. All I have is a guide, no maps, nothing. I just kinda walk and it winds me around. Up and down. The Benton Mackaye, and Pinhoti Trail won’t be so straight forward!

Somewhere in there fall started to happen, and the leaves began to change. Seemingly forever I was given hints of oranges and yellows, followed by a sea of green waving in the wind. When did fall actually hit? I’m not sure. I’m walking south so quick that it’s almost like I’m escaping it. Sometimes I come across wonderful sections of trail, where it’s like the trees are on fire. Some areas, the leaves have turned, and fallen, leaving the tree in a state of gangly death. And the trail I walk on covered over with crunchy brown leaves, making it hard to see the rocks beneath. It’s beautiful out here. Photos don’t do it justice.

2,400 miles behind me, 2,400 miles in front of me. Dungeon after dungeon, dragon after dragon. I press on.

image

Hiker nerd


image

Cairns in vermont


image
image
image
image

Looking down on Massachusetts from the cobbles


image

A lonesome fire


image
image
image

The Hudson River!


image

Bear Mountain in New York


image

NY / NJ border


image

Fun rocks in PA


image

My 9x5 poncho tarp. I only set it up when it's going to rain.


image
image

Halfway point if the Appalachian Trail


image

Hello Maryland! Back in the dirty south.


image

The dream polaroid


image

1 of a small handful of views in the Shenandoah's


image
image

The Guillotine gracefully held above hikers heads as we pass under


image

One of my many new best friends


image

Virginia has been sweet


image
image

Just 4,000 miles to go!

When I left you last I was preparing to finally leave the province of Quebec. Limping. Although the last 200k had been through the valley and physically very easy with mostly rolling hills, beautiful views of the French Canadian country, I was forced to take it slow. Which I guess isn’t the worst of fates? I found myself searching for a cheap hotel to rest my tired bones and soul. Staying in the quiet town of Matapédia was my best option before entering the next frontier of New Brunswick. So I did. 3 days of ice, elevation, lots of food, and soaking my ankle and feet in the river. A bit dissapointed in the results I was seeing but the stagnation, my wallet, and pull of southern lands meant it was time to move on. I got a long way to go till Florida!!

My last night in town I was graced by the company of a young couple who just finished touring the gaspesie via bicycle. A trip of 1,600km along an extremely scenic highway that circumnavigates the peninsula. A classic Quebec vacation I have been told, that when you visit this is what you do. Most by car but you may remember I’ve now met close to 10 folks who were walking that highway. Seems like a lot of pavement…. then again when I say walking they more than likely hitch rides frequently. Anyhow, this french Canadian bike touring couple and I met in the local B&B (the BEST meal in town,) and they invited me over for drinks! I had greeted the young fellow with bonjour and later he told me he had actually thought i was french! I guess i was getting better. Another couple was there as well, and after not long rain began to pour. Spirits not dampened, and alcohol flowing, they sung french pub songs to me for hours. Through the rain and thunder their voices towered over. The campground was silent, and then there we were. I’m sure the entire town was listening.

An early start the next morning, happy to be on the move again, even if it’s not going to be very far! Still travel slow, burdened by the end of my injury. Crossing the border of the two provinces was awesome still. Over 400 miles in Quebec and now it was on to new things. The sign was in both in french and english, as I am now entering a new world where I can hopefully speak freely again. Met some folks I surely won’t forget in the north, and saw places so far removed, places most will never see. And really, I hiked with some seals man. Thru hiking a long trail and walking along side seals. Not to mention the snow, the rocky mountain tops above treeline, everything. Quebec was good. Looking back it’s without a doubt the gem of the International Appalachian Trail, and will be remembered as one of the best parts of this hike I’m sure.

Crossing the Restigouche river at the border, a little taste of what’s to come. No more trail signage, and really no sign of trail. So the highway I walked. 7 miles into the town of Tide Head, and I’m greeted by a friendly old man sweeping dust from his driveway. We get to talking and he clues me in to a multi use trail just down the road that’ll take me a very long way to the next town. Sounds like what I’m lookin’ for! A side note, dude is in his 70s and still manages to ride his bicycle 2,000k a year. Even more impressive considering how far north I am, and how little time you really have that isn’t blistering cold for activities such as this. So cold that this giant river I’ve been walking along completely freezes over and locals go out and do donuts around the ice on their snow mobiles in the winter.

About to leave town and head down that lonesome track once again i soak my feet one last time. Although this time is different. Lifting them out and moving again i feel way better. Like all my rest and healing finally caught up. I truly believe soaking or icing is the secret to injuries of similar nature. Still with aches in my ankle but no longer full of pain. To add to my joy the trail I’ve now started on directly follows a pretty river with many campsites abound. I dream of stopping and making a fire, but for those that know me, i truly hate stopping before sunset at least. This pleasent land unfortunatly didn’t last, although nearing pain free walking again my path which was exceptional is now an old railroad bed, and has no where to set up my tarp. A soggy bog to both sides of me, and directly off the trail where my guide tells me to camp is nothing but gravel. Because you know, old railroad. So sleeping on gravel it is, unable to pitch my shelter in the rocks I cowboy camp, and pray it doesn’t rain. Wishing I just stopped at the river earlier instead of walking into the night, but that’s my game. Stopping before darkness feels wrong.

I woke up to rain. Naturally. And made my way down the path less followed. Again the river pops up and i follow it for the entire day, over bridge after bridge, past swimming hole after swimming hole. What a ride this would have been back when this was a rail road. A path cut through the mountains, often it’s just me inbetween giant walls of rock peaking out to walk along the waters further. All day is like this and my pain is now almost completely gone. I truly attribute it to the daily soaking. My roll starting to pick up again after going so slow for so long. The forward motion and the feeling of progress is extremely enjoyable. Today I actually get in some good miles. Back into the land of twenties with higher numbers on the horizon.

After being alongside a flowing stream for so long to my surprise it ends abruptly. The guide for New Brunswick is nothing like what’s available for northern Maine, or what I was using in Quebec. Just a sheet of paper that gives next to no info, and an extremely crude map I printed so I had a better idea of where towns were. Despite this I’ve fallen into the routine of carrying next to no water for any given stretch. Easier on my body considering how heavy water is. Although now not having any to drink for miles and miles it’s not so easy anymore. My best options become beaver ponds with the very occasional river flowing outwards from a beaver pond. Stagnant with taste of giant rodents. I purify it but question all the times in the past I havent. In Quebec I only filtered my water twice the entire time I was there. That was fresh, clean, beautiful, and tasted wonderfully consistently. Then again it takes about two weeks for a stomach bug to kick in so who’s to say I just haven’t felt it yet?

Rolling into the town of Saint – Quentin my plans are to grab food for the next 6 days at the grocery and roll out to camp. Already having traveled 18 miles to get here I notice something different. My once quiet trail is now full of ATVs passing me. Too many to count. Easily 30 or more pass, I wave, and smile. No one stops, but I doubt they see walkers often, if ever. Getting into the outskirts of town a man is riding the streets on his dirt bike doing wheelies, and the power lines are embellished with little colorful flags. I don’t know where the store is, and being this is the biggest little city I’ve been to in a long while I make a quick phone call to my mom for some extra directions. The grocery stores parking lot looks empty, maybe everyone’s too busy riding around on their all terrain vehicles. Nope. It’s closed. At 4 o’clock? Nope its 5, New Brunswick is on some new time zone and I’m behind on figuring this out. Way behind, almost halfway through the entire province. But 5 seems a little early for a large store? It is. However… today is New Brunswick day. They closed 10 minutes ago. 6 days of food from a gas station it is. Happily they happen to fig bars and other things I like. Leaving town I follow the NB trail, what I’ve been on this entire time. Its a multi use trails system that goes through the entire province. After an hours walking something irks me, I haven’t once seen a sticker for the IAT, which isn’t so out of the ordinary for NB but still strange, and really gives me the feeling I’m going the opposite direction from where I should be traveling. All hopes dashed of getting some real milage in today, the sun has set, and now I’m an hour outside of town on the wrong trail, confirmed again by the MVP that is my mom. My guide didn’t mention that I would no longer be on the same path. Apparently I was supposed to take to the highway. Whoops. Laying down in the bushes of someone’s property just deep enough in there so at first glance I may not be noticed I curse the night and set up to retrace my steps in the morning. A lame deer plagues my camp to the point i consider just getting up and walking all night. I move a mile away as a compromise. Now in someone else’s bushes.

Maybe judging from my map I could have guessed but this next section was mostly a roadwalk. 80 miles of roadwalk. Funny thing is I go right through Mont Carlton Provincial Park. On the road. Not some back road, but a highway. 80 miles in a little over two days. Sleeping in places I definitely shouldn’t be. However leaving the park to continue my pavement pounding I’m stopped by a game warden. If he was American what he said to me would have sounded more like “What the hell you doin’ out here boy?” But he’s not, he’s French! Thus far more polite. Very nice guy! The days are so hot now that it’s August he offers me his ice tea from lunch and I very happily accept. This drink was pretty crucial, because again I found myself in a spot without water for close to 10 miles. Middle of the day, walking a highway, in direct sunlight. His name is Richard and it was very nice to meet him and speak for a little while. Certainly a highlight of my time in New Brunswick, aside from all the beautiful rivers that are here and there.

At this time I was approaching a man’s home who’s a big supporter of the trail and as it happens is a legendary canoe builder. From picking the tree he’s going to carve to the finished product, everything about his boats are hand made. Miller Canoes if you want to check it out. I was dreaming of stopping at his house, as he is known to let hikers sleep on his lawn, charge my phone, learn about his craft, and get some water. Approaching his home I was bummed to find he wasn’t home. The rest of the day I curse my timing, hoping he would see me walking the road and stop to say hello. No dice. I slept in someone’s yard hidden between two trees, feet propped up on one, head against another. Not the best fit, but again I walked my 30 so I didn’t care. Not many options if you don’t want to pay to camp at an RV park. Which I refuse to do.

Finally the roads are over, word is after the town of Plaster Rock I pick the ATV path up again, and follow the Tobique river all the way to the US-CA border. The town is small and beautiful. Cute in everyway and full of everything a hiker could want. I don’t stay but stop for more groceries and fresh fruit to eat down by the water. A big storm brewing in the direction I’m going. Lightning crashing in the distance, I hustle to gather my things and hit the trail instead. Despite the storms ominous direction of travel, somehow I don’t get hit by a single drop of water. Feet in the river I eat my pineapple, blueberries, and raspberries… sit back and relax. Back on the trail and off the roads tonight, I can make some bonus miles. I walk until 10, again sleeping in someone’s yard. This time though, an old man sees me laying in the bushes the next morning. Damn this other timezone. Waking up at 5 am in my mind was actually 6. The guy said nothing, walked on, and life is good.

Today I will cross back into the US. It’s been a long time coming but finally I’ve made it home. In Canada I was only able to truly wash my clothes outside of a stream once due to no laundromats, rarely could I keep my phone charged as there just were never any electrical outlets to be found, Internet could only be had if I could find wifi, my phone calls back home costed money, and most everyone spoke french! For the vagrant that I am these little things meant something, as we know all i pretty much got is walking and what the weather is doing. Creature comforts become a big deal at times. As does speaking the same language as the locals… The US is gunna be great! No longer will it matter if I smell, this is America, we all smell! Walmart here I come, you have the cheap foods I want, the electricity I need, and the demegraphic of people I fit in with. Canada has been awesome, but I haven’t been on a real single track trail since Quebec and it’s time I get off the old railroad beds. The last 4 days have been 30s, I’m no longer in pain, and I’m ready to hit some mountains again. I’m ready to show this body crafted on the IAT, to the hikers of the AT.

Crossing the border was interesting, and I was somewhat unclear of how that would go, other than follow my guide step by step, leading me nowhere, and calling my mom again for real direction. You may have thought it would be some obscure trail I’d have to be escorted across into the new land but no, I did it the same way the cars do. In fact I got off trail and stood in line with all those cars. I waited for the light to turn green, and I walked up to customs with passport in hand. “Ya’ll dont get folks on foot often now do ya?” They dont. A few questions to determine what I was doing, and I was on my way. Surprisingly no drug dogs, no pat downs, no making me unpack all my things. Here I am, a guy with a backpack walking across the border. I guess Canada was just as ready to get rid of me as I was to leave. 25 miles into my day I had been so excited for this moment it was still early. I called border patrol to let them know until 8pm I would be walking the line. They understood what I was doing and wished me luck with the mosquitoes. Little do they know I’m from florida. Mosquitoes know better than to fuck with me.

Between Canada and the US there’s a 20 yard swath of land where they’ve cut down all the trees and erected little stone monuments every kilometer. As we know, the US celebrates itself quite well. Even in this remote and untraveled area. It was truly an experience to have the opprotunity to walk that line between nations. Rolling hills and beautiful views of farm land. Canadians on my left wondering what the hell I’m doing, Americans on my right… also wondering what the hell I’m doing. Streams I forded that crossed the imaginary line between the countries, and some swamp land as well. For the most part easy walkin’. Even after already going so far earlier in the day I was fresh. 40 miles in total I walked, and now back on home soil. I think it was the happyness that propelled me so far. Dained but smiling, physically feeling on the top of my game.

In Quebec, frogs and toads were everywhere. At a time I counted them every day but I would always lose track. I hear that’s a sign of a healthy environment. In New Brunswick it was slugs. Every morning slugs would congregate and pray to this new deity that had been resting on their land. They would slime up all my gear and generally were annoying enough to actually drive me insane while plucking them off my things each morning. Now in maine, both were gone. It’s now mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. Or generally just small varmints scurrying around making noise in my direction as i approach. I liked the frogs of Quebec best. They don’t try to steal my food like the mice do.

Now in Maine I’m greeted by towns almost daily, and being I’m walking more than a marathon during daylight hours sometimes multiple restaurants between waking up and falling asleep. Aiming for 30s I try not to stop at everyone of them, but looking back I missed one or two that really might have been worthwhile.

Everyone has been super cool in Maine. I don’t think most know what I’m doing, but a few figured out I’m not exactly homeless. Only mostly homeless. Walking an ATV path along rivers again a couple passes, I smile and wave. The same couple later passes again, slows down, and stops. I suppose I don’t look dangerous because before i know it theyve invited me over for snacks and drinks at their home! Which just so happens to be a mere 200 yards off the path I’m following. From their house I get the greatest gift of all aside from their hospitality. My first view ever of where I’m going. Mt Katahdin. Days away and there it is. The end of the International Appalachian Trail, and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Magnificent, and lit like a candle she sat on the horizon. Almost far enough to be out of sight. This older couple was so very kind, and the gentleman even told me stories back from the 80s of climbing those mountains. Likely way beyond the difficulty of today. Trail? More like taking a baring off of rocks and seeing how it goes. Things are so well traveled and documented these days all you have to do is commit sometimes. Takes the risk out of it in ways.

After that couples home I went to the nearest lean-to to sleep in. My first of Maine, and my first in a while as there were none in New Brunswick. To my surprise, anger, and bewilderment it was beyond trashed. The firepit was overflowing with garbage, plastic all over the geound, cans around the corners and backside, and the every wall vandalized with names of those I imagine were too lazy to pack out their own garbage. I could go on for days about how much this bothers me but I’ll only say a little. These are our public spaces, our wilderness, and trails to explore. If we don’t use them, they will be taken away. If we decide to trash them, they deserve to be taken away. Please for the love of the outdoors. Don’t leave your trash, leave nothing. Pretend as though you were never even there. I fell asleep hoping the animals local weren’t so accustomed to the food strewn across the ground that I would get a visitor in the night.

After this section I was once again greeted by roads. About another 80 miles of them. Making swift work, as I do, but still less pleasent than walking through the forest. Graffiti under a bridge mostly what you imagine is going through a 13 year old child’s head, this time actually said something of interest. “What will you be remembered for?” A thought that echoed.

After miles, actually days, of pavement I pass a few small vacation camps and enter the woods again. Away from cell service now, phone dying, and dangerously close to Baxter State Park. In the last town I picked up new shoes as my others had developed a massive hole so I’m ready. Ready to finish the IAT, and start the next leg of this journey. The Appalachian Trail. Where hikers flow more freely than the rivers, and I will no longer have to walk roads again for the next 2,200 miles. At least. The trail is now on a cross country ski track and it’s pretty sweet. Rivers to cross, and soft ground to plod along. I come across a sign advertising a shelter just off trail, decide to stop by and at least sign the trail register for other future IAT hikers to see. I was once here. No one saw me, but I was here.

Surprisingly this was not your typical hiker lean to. It’s already kind enough of the locals, or the trail organizations to build these homes away from the rain for us, but this was not normal. This was truly a cabin. On a lake. A door, windows, bunks, food coffee and tea inside. Magazines, and more amenities than I as someone who hasn’t showed in a week deserves. Sadly though, I’ve only walked 5 miles today, from my bed in the leaves. Guess I should have gone the extra distance yesterday. Isn’t that always the case. I move on.

A sign directing me off trail for hot meals only 1/4th mile away catches my attention. Across a beautiful bridge and onto a property along the river with beautiful wooden cabins littering the grounds. A man looks at me, as I yell a greeting with a smile. Sure enough he is the manager here! Apparently, although this is what I consider prime season to be in maine, when it’s not under snow, this is his off season. The place is empty and he is just here taking care of things. Apparently in the last 4 years I’m only the 5th hiker to ever come off that trail to visit. My friend Sycamore being the one prior to me!! Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in his foot steps……. This time, last year. The guy is mega friendly, and unlocks the dining room so I can come in, talk, and relax. The place is furnished to the max, and simply beautiful. It’s really a wonder why no one would be here. Trails behind the place, a river just feet away… seems like the perfect summer spot. He says people prefer lakes? And naturally so far away no cell service is a small downside. However those other places I’ve passed have no where near the class of this location. He sends me off with some peanut butter crackers, and as many sodas as I could carry. 4 was the magic number. Definitely happy I stopped by, even if they aren’t exactly doing anything special in the off season. During winter however the place is supposedly bumping! Currently he’s baiting bear with… trail mix (no wonder bears like hikers!) And dunkin donuts. Who knew that’s what the bears crave. In the winter thousands upon thousands of miles worth of snow mobile trails bring people from all over looking to spend big bucks. Broke hikers aren’t exactly a concern, however he was extremely nice to me, and from the sounds of it he’s been very good to every one else who’s stumbled across that bridge!

Wasting far to much time at the cabin, and the snowmobile camp, looking at the prospect of night hiking a few extra miles to meet my mark. I’ve been walking 30 miles or more ever day since Saint – Quentin, about a weeks worth of that if not more, not exactly feeling like breaking that chain. Tomorrow however is a very big day, and likely extra important i walk the bonus. Tomorrow I officially finish the International extention to the Appalachian Trail, and continue my way south along the mountain chain, and begin a new trail! Climbing my last mountain of this area, Deasy, there’s a side trail to a fire tower I pass in my haste as the sun sets, and lower down the way a creepy decrepit home crushed by time, that once was the fire wardens shelter. Making good time, almost at a slow jog, unfortunately a large river to be forded in the valley slows me down, and forces me to call it early. Meaning I’ll be losing sleep to begin my long walk to the top the next day. The hardest climb of this entire 4,800 mile route across the country. Mt Katahdin, at 5,200 feet or something it’s size is deceptive. It’s truly a rediculous climb. Boulders that dwarf men, and hours upon hours of arduous upwards (hardly forwards) motion.

4am. It’s time. 15.7 miles away I get up and go. Mouse ate my snack that I accidentally left out but it’s ok. Maybe he was hungry. 5 miles in I’m pressing forward with everything in hopes I can pull off a not so typical 30. Why? Because I have no reservation to stay in Baxter, I have no permit, I’m coming in on some unknown and very random trail, and plan to pass through the entire park in one fell swoop. My last IAT trail marker is a wooden sign, and it brings a massive smile to my face. This is the official end to the International Appalachian Trail. I did it. Quebec, a sprained ankle, New Brunswick, and northern Maine. What a ride it’s been thus far. Still yet, just the beginning. I’m only getting started. This may be the official end to the trail, but you’d be a fool to stand 10 miles from this magnificent mountaim, and not climb it, so I think everyone besides the state park agrees the top of that is truly the end. Entering the park on a trail that’s massively over grown, short shorts doing me no justice, legs getting torn up. Powering on I see a moose! My first moose in QC scared the hell outa me. She was with a child and wasn’t budging. This is now the 7th, and I barely slow down. The moose sees the steam rising from my feet, the fire in my eyes, and it runs away from me as though I’m holding a rifle. Today there are no breaks. Today is a big day. I connect the Katahdin Lake Trail, to some parking lot, walk a short road to another parking lot, and begin my real ascent up the Helon Taylor Trail… which leads to the Knife Edge of the mountain. The rain has already started to fall, and I see my first hiker, he just finished the Appalachian Trail, what I’m about to begin. I ask how it is up there. A blank stare. “Windy.” I have no back up. It’s up and over.

A family I pass slowly making their way up, in another two hours I’ll see why they’re not going to make it to the top. Rock climbing, boulder scrambling, and crazy weather is no hike for a child and two parents. Me? Up and over. After hours of climbing I’m now in the clouds, the wind is blowing strong, and I’ve reached the knife edge. Aptly named due to the sharpness of the ridge that you scramble across. I sit down at the top, question what I’m doing for a few minutes. The clouds clear for a mere second and I see someone else on one of the multiple ridges ahead, quickly again shrouded by nothingness. Looks safe enough. I slide down a clif into a little pocket of rocks, carefully, and slowly making my way to the base of the first miniature peak. Climbing up the next, and the next. The knife edge is just a mile but what an experience. Wind doing you no favors, visibility at an all time low, and hand over hand physical action. You’re litterally on the edge, looking down 5,000 feet. Walking, crawling, edging, and sliding across rocks jutting in all angles. This is the coolest thing I’ve done since I was in Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. Truly reminding me a lot like those trails. It’s maddening in the best way. The scrambling, and rock hopping truly awesome. If only more of the trail was like this. I pass a girl, who maybe I should have asked if she’d like to hike the last bit with me. She was almost there but in the clouds it’s near impossible to tell beyond pure feel. This wasn’t quite the place to pass someone, but I wasn’t exactly planning on stopping for a breather. Reaching the end, I never did see her up there. I think she must have turned around. That was cool. That was the most fun I’ve had this entire trip. One mile of pure adrenaline. The top of a mountain, walking some ridge way beyond trees. Just you, careful footing, and rocks. Pick your own poison, how best do you wish to get across these rocks. That’s what I loved. Not so much a trail, but more a route of your own choosing. What looks safest to you? What’s most doable. I hear the white mountains in New Hampshire are pretty cool. I can only hope they’re half as cool as that.

Reaching Baxter Peak I could hear people well beyond the point in which I could see them. And there it was. That wooden sign so many know so well. The northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail. What folks walk 2,200 miles to get to. Me? 755 miles on trail, but 800 in the books since I started due to my added road walking into and out of towns. If you remember, this trip is about a lot of things. One thing being human powered travel. No hitch hiking. A constant stream of footsteps from Quebec to Key West. This sign is surrounded by people, some on day hikes to the top, some who just finished the long walk from Georgia, and me. Some strange guy with a Canadian flag who came outa nowhere. Wide eyes, and bothered by the crowed. I just want a quick photo. I still have 15 miles to go today, and it took 4 hours just to get up here. It’ll take another 4 to get down the other side. “Hey kid, my battery is dead, and you got one shot. This better be good.”

Down I go. Briefly cell service enough to call my mom, let her know I’m good to go, and then my phone dies. The next 115 miles I have not a single photo. You’ll just have to trust me but the lava fields and dragons flying above truly made for an interesting few days.

31 miles and Mt Katahdin in one day. Finishing after dark camping just outside of park boundaries. I planned just 3 days for Maines 100 mile wilderness. In total between the next town I would be in, Monson, and my last town, Patten, it’s about 185 miles of food I had to carry. Or in my delusional mind 6 days. Well I’m in monson now, and it took 7. In the 100m wilderness I was greeted by rain for 3 days, and although in my opinion, besides the infinite number of rocks, roots, and general trickery I thought it was pretty darn easy. My last day I met a guy who just hiked the trail from Georgia to here, and he was just starting what I just finished. Destination Katahdin. He made some remark congratulating me on completing this section, and I mentioned back. I thought it was really easy. The look on his face said, I’m going to come over there and hit you. Although what he actually said was, “There hasn’t been a single part of this trail that I thought was easy.”

So now on to the fun stuff. Southern Maine, and New Hampshire should be the hardest parts of the AT. Excited to begin, excited to slow down. Although this is more of a… I think I have to slow down, rather than… I’m just chillaxin. I don’t think I’ll be doing much of that. Likely really difficult days ahead.

I went from not seeing a single hiker in 400 miles, to passing close to 50 a day. It’s really strange, and actually slows me down considerably. Although it’s nice, they’re all up to date on the weather ahead, water sources coming up, and general trail info otherwise I would be surprised by. Sometimes surprised in a good way… sometimes bad. Still, the amount of hikers out here is amazing.

The International Appalachian Trail is now thru, and I’m onto new things in this long and lonesome walk. One thing I must mention. The AT has been around for maybe 80… 100 years. The International AT, has only been aground for 20 at most. They need our help, as a trail community. As hikers, as locals. Our support really goes a long way. A membership to the International Appalachian Trail is fairly cheap, I’d say 15 dollars and it would mean a lot to me, and to the trail organization I’m sure, if more folks signed up. The trail has SO much potential, and SO much beautiful land it passes through. But they need help. The trail is still new. If you’re local to northern Maine, New Brunswick, or Quebec, I really encourage you to reach out to them.

In other news, I’m still moving fast, I’m moving strong, and I’m going to keep on trucking. It blows my mind that I’ll be in New Hampshire soon, and shortly I’ll be reaching 1,000 miles into this trip. It’s been wonderful.

Jupiter
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

ECT: Not-So Private Emails

 

2015-06-15 01.33.38

Something different…

A short conversation between Sycamore and myself. Aside from being an all around badass and triple crown hiker, just last year he completed the Eastern Continental Trail, which I’m about to embark on! So lately he’s been helping me with logistical questions regarding the trail, and in general hyping me up for the journey ahead.

I figure since most of my posts are extremely long and drawn out I’d share this as it kinda sums up what I’m up to right now, in the most informal way possible.

I fly to Canada in a month, so I’m reaching my final days here in Florida. Soon I’ll be very far north, making my way back home, slowly.

DSCN4668

How’s your planning???

It is getting close!!!  What do you have left to do??

Did you ever notice that if you go to the French page for the SIA/IAT and hit the translate button, you get a ton more information than compared to the English page….  Thought that was weird…

Got all of your food done?  Who is managing it on the home end?  So bad ass!!

What shoes are you using?

Is your pack a zpack or a mountain laurel?

Hope you are well!!!

Syc

avatar234

Hey John! I am well and at work! 46 more days to go before I hit trail. I fly out june 29th, have my passport and everything. I’ve decided next week I’ll put in my two weeks here… cus I’m super burnt out!! Can’t continue on… death….

What do I still have left to do is a damn good question. I grapple with it everyday. I made a list and anytime I think of anything, no matter how stupid… I put on the list! The most important… call and get a reservation for gaspesie park or whatnot, and of course the dreaded passporte! But I’ll probably do that tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll walk me through it, but am I just telling them where I plan to camp for the 400 miles in quebec? My aim is 20 miles per day but we’ll see how I’m feeling, and truly how rough the terrain is, as from what I’ve heard, read, and seen…. it’s gnarly!

I guess I also have to decide if I wish to send a box to the discovery center or if I could manage some sort of resupply there. I’d prefer not hitching a ride, and I think that’s really the best place before entering the next section without some sort of ridiculous carry that I don’t want to do. I would have liked to avoid shipping to canada due to the extremely high cost, so it goes.

All of my food is done, and boxed, bagged, what have you. Still wish to add some extra goodies to each box so I can snack while I unpack! My mom will be the box manager, I’ve made it pretty easy for her, with everything labled, and an inventory list of extras I may want. She knows the routine.

I’m using the Altra Lone Peak 2.5s. They’re awesome!! I’ve been using Altra shoes exclusively for the past two years of hiking, and I’m super stoked on em still.

My pack is Mountain Laurel Designs, Burn, the smallest model. Just what I need and nothing more! Pretty great company. Still out there innovating for us hardcore folks who want to go lighter.

What else should I be doing??

Training.
Looking for a pocket french translation guide.
Getting permits for big cypress, eglin, and great smokey mountains ready.

I’m pretty much done, but feel like I’m missing small things.

Nice to hear from ya!

Jup

DSCN4668

Yo yo yo!

Passport-make a quick spreadsheet and just put down 20 mile days (approx) and figure a town/camp/refuge.  I added dates and that was about all that my itinerary was to get my permit.

I definitely think you will be surprised and will do 20’s off the bat.  Maybe not and no need to rush, but….

Speaking of that, did you ever look up what the speed record for the ECT is?  I think you may be set to beat the fastest time.

Send a box to Discovery Center.  If you really don’t want to, it is an easy hitch up to a town on the coast, but too far to walk (like you wanted to).  Or you could pack a box at Gaspe and send it to the Discovery Center.  That would save a ton in shipping.  Yeah, load up there because it’ll be a ways to get through Matane.

Quit that job, Stretch those muscles, and get the party started!!!

Syc

 

(Check out Sycamore’s ECT thru hike on youtube here: Part 1 / Part 2, and his trail journal)

 

Eastern Continental Trail: Food & Resupply

This is a glimpse into what it looks like to be a truly obsessive planner.

To think about this, and nothing else for a very long time.

You’ve seen my gear, you’ve seen my maps and guides, some of my training, and now you see the final bits of logistics for this trip. Soon I’ll be on trail and forget about most of this… which is the point. To go through all of this now so that later on I can relax, and focus on hiking.

In 60 days I start walking south from Quebec on the Eastern Continental Trail.

Food

20160422_202641-1

Most of the food that I’ll be sending myself for 6 months worth of backpacking. Still missing a lot of extra goodies.

20160502_220142

The local Taco Bell may not be so pleased after you take this many hot sauce packets in one visit. (Added to my dinners.)

Things to note:

  • Gu Energy Gels – My electrolyte replacer, and a caffeine boost.
  • Powdered Greens – Help fight the war on not getting the nutrients I need.
  • Clif Builder Bars – A dessert of sorts, full of protein to help recover, and build muscle as I sleep.
  • Protein Powder – Not my only option for breakfast as I may still send powdered coconut milk with cereal/granola, but it is an extremely fast and efficient way to get some additional calories in the morning.
  • Endangered Species Dark Chocolate – A lovely daily treat.
  • Dehydrated Refried Beans – The dinner of champions, I mean… thru hikers on a budget. I’ll add taco bell hot sauce, as I’ve taken hundreds of them, some avocado when I can, and tortilla chips or fritos to make a nice dinner.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Not the other kinds! This kind. Add it to my dinners for an extra boost in calories, and flavor.

When in the market to buy a couple thousand dollars worth of food for a few months worth of hiking I had a couple rules to adhere to. I wanted food that was cheap, fast, and at least somewhat nutritional.

Much like many hikers I’m not made of money. I’ve worked long and hard at a job I don’t exactly feel so attached to, as anyone who knows me could tell you, and I’ve put this on myself so that I can now proceed to do what I love. So naturally considering my financial situation, and not wanting to spend any more time working than I have to, when searching for food my aim has been to look for the best deals imaginable. Pretty much all the food I purchased with the exception of a few items I really wanted, I was able to get for a very low price. Either due to the quantity I was purchasing or simply through shopping around. I had considered reaching out for sponsorship but in the end that’s not really my style, and just as well it seems as though I don’t need to sell my soul to do this. Even if it would have just been small handouts!

Another way I’m saving money on this hike is by doing it faster than most would. My goal is 6 months, and if you so like you could easily calculate what type of daily mileage I’ll be doing to reach that(about a marathon a day for 6 months.) I suppose I like the challenge, or maybe I just like walking a whole lot. Whatever it may be there’s a lot that goes into a high mileage day. In general less breaks, a streamlined process of doing things, an efficient manner of walking, a very light pack, and in regards to the topic at hand… eating on the go. So when I say I wanted food that was fast, what I really mean is that I was looking for food that I could eat while I am walking. Or in other words, a whole ton of snacks vs meals. As you probably quickly noticed a lot of my food choices are in bar form. Something I can easily grab every hour or two while I move, and continue without much of a pause.

Food that has worked best for me in the past is represented above, with the addition of a few new items I’m trying out for this hike. Keeping in mind the other two stipulations(cheap and fast,) buying 300 bars of Snickers wouldn’t adhere to my third rule of purchase. I wanted foods that are at least least somewhat healthy, and naturally vegan too. Candy doesn’t cut it, and I really try to cut out as much of that sugary mess as I can. Although I can and will do MUCH better in the future. The high burst in energy followed by the swift crash isn’t something I need to be consuming while walking 12- 14 hours in a day. Although I’m not a total slave to this mindset, as I do have over 100 bars of chocolate ready to be shipped and eaten. Something to keep me happy and motivated, but certainly not a large portion of my diet. Not pictured is also a whole lot of fruit I’m dehydrating for this trip, I hope to have a nice sized bag for every box. Another wonderful treat I wouldn’t be so happy without. To offset any nutrients I’m not getting from my foods I’ve taken a page(or two) out of Scott Williamson’s book and will be adding powdered greens to my daily diet in hopes that it will help with recovery, growth, and my overall health along the way.

So before the inevitable comment comes saying I’ll get so tired of all this food… so what! Variety would be nice, but variety also means more money, more of a headache in finding the products, and getting enough calories per day from the selection I’ve chosen. My main goal is simply getting the calories I need to go the distance. To me, calories directly relate to how far I’ll be able to travel, or how long I’ll have energy. A nice meal is great, but simply living, and eating is greater. Next year on the PCT my food choices will certainly be different, as will every year after that, I’m sure. I look forward to learning more about the subject of nutrition, as I think it’s such an important topic that most hikers seem to overlook.  As I learn I’ll continue to tweak. For now, like a cat, eating the same thing day after day I’ll still be satisfied so long as I’m fed.

Per day I’ve planned to eat about 4,500 calories, which will actually somewhat put me in a deficit. Hikers doing similar things as me burn close to 6,000 – 6,500 calories a day, which to most people would be a dream! To me it means I gotta haul around some big heavy bag to munch out of. Food is really heavy! Much heavier in comparison to everything else I’ll be carrying for this trip. My food weighs about 2.5lbs for every day, so for a 5 day carry in between towns, which is common for me, would weigh 12.5lbs. That’s almost double the weight of everything else I’m carrying!! Being I won’t be getting all the calories I’ll be needing solely from my mail drops I plan on pigging out at restaurants in towns, and buying extras in grocery stores. Extras like peanut butter, nuts, chips, avocados, and naturally… as many fresh fruits as possible. I see a lot of thru hikers that lose an absurd amount of weight while on trail. I feel this is mostly because they aren’t filling that empty void that is the thru hiker stomach with enough food. Obviously, they think they are! But I’m skeptical. Of course weight loss is inevitable, but beyond 25lbs for an already skinny guy would be quite a bit too much, so these bonus foods will be very welcomed.

Ressupply

20160422_194012

21 different packets of guides and maps being shipped to different towns down the east coast…. and a cat, helping me sort my papers.

20160429_193628

There once was a time my mom had a living room.

Planning a mega trip like this has come with its fair share of ups and downs. Many nights slaving over spreadsheets, guide books, trip reports, and maps. Ready to poke my eyeballs out, and call it a loss.

The guides are what I started with, a good amount of time went into finding all of them. Then naturally their adjacent maps, and finding what was most up to date. As for a trail like the Pinhoti in Alabama there are 3 or 4 different ones you will find, and could use. Say I was only hiking that trail, this would be easy. That’d be it! Find the guides, the maps, plan my trip, and call it a day. That’s the mindset I have had to adopt, one step at a time. One trail at a time. Doesn’t matter where I start, so long as I start.

The ECT is a route connecting a bunch of trails, which has added an extra factor of fun. 4 individual back to back thru hikes, with smaller lesser known trails or routes in between. In total it’s more like 7 long hikes. Or rather 7 individual trails I’ll be walking to form this journey across the country. So I’ve more or less simply planned a thru hike of each! To be connected by foot when I get to the end of one, all the way to the Keys.

In the photo above you see some of the fruits of my labor. All of my guides and maps sectioned out to be placed in individual boxes sent to myself with my food at places along the trail in which I’ll need them. It’s been tireless, but it’s done. All my maps and guides are split into 21 sections for the 4,800 mile ECT. Sorry to the guide book makers, as you may have guessed from the photo I tore your book to pieces! It’s okay, they’re much lighter now.

Before a trip I like to have anything I can get done prior to departure totally finished and polished to help streamline the process while I’m out there. Anything so that once I get out there I can strictly focus on the hike. That’s part of why I’m sending myself so many boxes. I can get in town and immediately have all the food I need, toilet paper, soap, maps, guides, extra gear, everything. No wasted time. No headache. All the headache is spent prior to the hike in regards to any logistics. I don’t need to be worrying about things I could have done prior to leaving. This also helps speed up the process, and in turn speed up my hike.

Pretty much everyone ever will say you don’t need to use mail drops for the Appalachian Trail. Same with the Florida Trail for that matter. Well, I don’t care! Their hike is not mine, and maybe they’re missing what makes drops a good thing for those who are looking to go a little bit faster, eat a little bit healthier, and spend a little less money. Probably 90% of my food on trail will be coming from the good old US Postal Service. As will my permits, maps, extra gear, and guides.

I want to be on trail as much as possible, and not be spending a lot of time in town, as typically time in town means more money spent, and more obviously less time hiking. I don’t want to stay longer than it takes me to get a meal or two, and pick up my package.

ECTresupply

Quebec to the Keys, and where I’ll be getting food along the way.

My itinerary is extremely flexible, as there are many towns in between those mentioned above, but what you see is for the most part my plan, subject to change while I’m on the move.

Something I want to do for this trip is not hitch any rides, but instead walk from the trail to all my resupplies. Not because I’m worried about those that might be picking me up in the middle of nowhere, but simply as a personal thing that I find interesting. So in that respect you’ll notice (“Mi Off”, means how many miles off trail I have to go,) all the towns I’ve chosen are as close to the trail as humanly possible. Kind of in the same mindset that I don’t want to spend much time in towns, I especially don’t want to spend much time going to and from. I used a bit of Matt Kirks resupply list from his former speed record to formulate mine for the Appalachian Trail, and had some help from John Z too. From there I used those same ideas for all the other sections of trail. Long hauls in between towns, about 140miles, and only stopping at towns that are on trail. I’ve aimed to cut out as many unnecessary stops as possible, as well.

“Days” indicates how much food I’m sending myself for any given section. It’s more of a guideline, and as you’ll notice it’s set at a fast pace. Thus giving me flexibility. I’ll send myself the food I’ll need for that distance, and buy extra in town if I don’t believe I can make those miles with just what came out of my box. I can also have post offices redirect a box elsewhere, or simply I can go into a different town closer to me. This number of days also let’s me know at just a glance how much food I sent myself essentially. 1 day, being so many snacks, 1 breakfast, and one dinner.

I hadn’t always wanted to do so many mail drops but a year ago I went vegan, and that kind of planted the seed of sending my own food. Food I know I enjoy, food I know has worked for me in the past. On most long distance trails, being vegan and not sending yourself food like I am isn’t that big of an issue. There are plenty of grocery stores and towns along the way. So why am I doing this? I’d like to avoid a gas station resupply if possible but it also stems back to a lot of what I’ve already mentioned, I’m planning a fastpack, and boxes do indeed make the process faster.

Something else you may notice is that I’m trying to avoid sending directly to post offices if I can. They have weird hours and aren’t open on Sundays, so I’ve looked into as many hostels, outfitters, and even visitor centers that will hold a box for me, to avoid the dreaded “I’m here but you’re not open,” feeling. The hours of a hostel are way nicer to live around than a government building, considering I don’t know when I’ll get to any of these places, and I’ll be wanting to make my miles.

All of this planning is in an effort to avoid little tasks, or in a lot of cases regarding this hike, big tasks. All those chores are already done!

Extra Gear

IMG_20160216_175931

I’ll likely need more, but in the past I’ve gotten about 800 miles out of Altra Lone Peaks.

20160419_050629

Soap! Dr. Bronners of course, repackaged in small bottles. Wash your hands, the water isn’t going to make you sick, but dirty hiker hands will.

20160429_201931-1

Extra gear of mostly a random nature. Some things on the other hand are very important.

Things to note:

  • Platypus 1 liter bags – I have 2 extra. This is a long hike… Although the Appalachian Trail may have water sources everywhere, the Pinhoti Trail and beyond is a different story, so I may have these sent to me for the section between GA and FL.
  • 10×9 tarp – Much larger than the one I’m bringing, if I find the one I’m using is too small I’ll swap it out for this. Unlikely, but nice to have the option. Have I mentioned already my primary shelter for this trip is a poncho tarp?
  • Plastic screw top containers – This is what I use for rehydrating my food. They come in packs of three, and it may be nice to get a new one here or there over the course of the 6 month trip.
  • 6oz water bottles – I’ll fill these with olive oil before I go, and ship them inside a ziploc with my boxes.
  • Pack liners – A pack liner keeps the inside of your pack and its contents dry. However I use the thin ones(of course,) and they do fail after so many miles of use.
  • Socks – There’s nothing like a fresh pair of socks. More specifically, I love me some purple toe socks! One day I’ll be hardcore enough to use thin nylon dress socks. Today is not that day.
  • Ground sheets – Much like the thin pack liners, these groundsheets(which I sleep on) do fail. I have 4 of them here.
  • Aquamira – My water purification of choice. Don’t know exactly how long these 7 will last me, but they are cheap on amazon.
  • Headlamp – I use a small handheld flashlight, so this headlamp is extra. I love to night hike! Especially early morning for hours while it’s still dark. If my smaller flashlight isn’t enough, I’ll have this sent to me.
  • Batteries – Both for my necklace LED light, and my handheld flashlight. This is just about enough for the whole trip. Maybe more than I’ll need at times, but I’ll save the extras, and dispose of the dead.
  • Headphones – I’m not taking any with me from the start, but I may want them in the future, only time will tell!

I have a lot of extra stuff guys! The majority of this I’ll need. In efforts to save small amounts of weight(why carry the whole bottle if you can split it up into 18,) or money here and there, I’ll be sending myself a lot of replacement supplies along the way. Constantly running out of this or that, and simultaneously getting more.

Most of these items will be dived up into my boxes sent at times when I know I’ll need it. Knowing when items like a food bag, pack liner, shoes, etc will fail has come with experience. When certain items inevitably need to be replaced their sibling will be sent to me along the trail. Ideally just before the time when I actually need them! The rest will sit in a bin at resupply central in case I need any of it, I’ll just ask! My resupply manager will handle any potential changes as I won’t be leaving any of the boxes sealed when I leave. So although I’ll have everything prepared for what I think will happen, it’s always subject to change.

At the back end of this big logistical effort is my my mom, my resupply manager. Without her this trip wouldn’t go so smoothly. She will be sending me these packages, and making any changes to them from home before they are sent out to me on the trail. A big thanks for taking on this task, as it’s pretty much been pushed on her! Thanks mom!

So I guess the question now on peoples minds is why must I have every detail figured out? It’s just who I am in any aspect of my life. I believe my obsessive nature to be something that makes me different. Maybe not in the way most can be obsessive, but how I apply it to what I love.

This entire trip could be done without the majority of my preparations. Obviously it would be a very different experience, but to me, this is fun. This keeps me on track, it keeps me focused, and gives me something to look forward to every day. Not only that I have this magnificent trip ahead, but also… I get to think about this every damn day, no matter where I am, or what I’m doing. It has been a joy. Even the brief moments of headache are all forgotten in the end.

I’ve learned so very much, and I’m only just getting started.

– Jupiter

Mail Drops? Mail drops.

 

20160427_040845

Boxes that aren’t yet filled.

MAIL DROPS AREN’T FOR EVERYONE. This we all know, but for me, they’re awesome.

TL;DR I’m vegan, and I don’t want to waste time in town, I want to be on trail. These reasons alone make mail drops worth their weight in gold. JK, because they’re ultimately fairly cheap, considering what I’m sending myself(food I like, and wouldn’t find on trail.)

Since I’m getting almost 100% of my resources through the mail on this coming thru hike I thought I’d address drop boxes and why I like them really quick. As most will tell you that they’re a waste of time, or that they’re unnecessary. They’re not! For some that is true, but not everyone, otherwise why would you see so many of the best hikers in the world using them?

For those unaware, in long distance hiking, like really long distance, 300-8,000 miles in one go, distance hiking… You have to get food some how! How you wonder? Every few days you get off the trail and go into a local town, or sometimes there’s a town directly on the trail, and you pick up food for the next stretch between towns. Some do this every 3 days, some like to stay on trail longer and may wait as long as 6 days(or even longer) without resupplying. Obviously this is done because carrying 4 months of food on your back would be extremely difficult. I welcome you to try!

Most folk will find the nearest shopping center and begin perusing! But there is another way! What if… you had a box with all the extra gear, maps, guides, and food that you need waiting for you right there? That’d be pretty cool! Well actually, that’s reality. That’s precisely what sending and receiving a mail drop is like. But what makes that better than just buying it in a town?

Why am I using the postal service as my means for resupply vs just getting everything in town?

  • I’m saving money! By scoring food through deals at home, or online, I can skip out on similar food, or the same food that’s price is gouged in some small convenience store along the trail. Grocery stores every week have different sales. There’s no guarantee that when you go into town for resupply you’ll find anything you want on said sale. So how about before leaving for your trip, getting some cheap food that you love… and then sending that to yourself for later! This is especially great for meals you can buy bulk for less.
  • They’re faster! By the time I get to the hostel or post office I’ve sent my mail to, grab my box, and get back to the trail(or a restaurant,) you’ve just now stepped foot in the grocery and begun the process of shopping. Only to leave the store and see me exciting the nearest buffet, long after I got my package. There is no contest. A box is a faster resupply. All your food prepared just the way you like it. Portioned out just the way you like it. There is no fuss, no hassle, and chances are your mum probably added some cookies from home in said box. They’re faster, period. For those looking to do really speedy thru hikes, this is definitely a way you can cut down on time spent in town.
  • No more searching for extras! That convenience store you’re about to steal the TP from? They need that, other “customers” need that, and chances are it’s poor quality paper anyway. With a drop box…. you can have that fancy 30 ply shit your girlfriend uses! You know the kind, it smells like lavender. My point is, you need more than food. You may need toothpaste, a new t-shirt, more water purification drops, extra socks, batteries, nail clippers, a razor, etc. Who wants to run around town looking for these extras, whatever they may be? I just want to get them, and go.
  • I don’t want to eat gas station food! This situation may be somewhat uncommon but sending yourself mail drops really allows you to go nuts and buy a ton of super cool foods you’d never ever be able to buy on trail, if you have the money. This is great for those of us who want to eat healthier, or have special dietary needs, and may not salivate as much as the next guy when staring at a honey bun. I can send myself healthier foods, hell, dehydrated foods! The kind where my mom makes it for dinner, and I take all the leftovers, and stick it in the dehydrator! Delicious, and avoids the tough decision between couscous or ramen noodles every night(couscous always.) Mail drops give you the freedom to spend the months before your hike gathering super amazing foods to eat on your hike.
  • They allows me to carry less! That pound of guidebook and maps you’re carrying? I split it up into little pieces that weigh next to nothing. Each section will be sent to when I will need them on the trail! If you’re thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, you’ll probably need an ice axe and crampons in the Sierras, so why carry them from the start? Put it in the box being sent to that section! For me, it’s really the maps and guides. 4,800 miles across 7 different trails. Holy maps! Why do I need a guide book for the Florida Keys section of my hike when I’m starting in Canada? I’m also carrying less weight because before leaving on my hike, I can search for and buy foods that have a high caloric density, vs whatever I may find out there.
  • They’re more organized! Do I want to sit outside of a grocery store tearing up boxes and packaging to put into ziplocs, or portioning out what I’ll eat for the next 4 days? I don’t. In my box all of that is done. I have the exact food I need, I have the maps and guides I need, the extra gear I need. Everything. The only thing I need to think about is not how much food I should buy and where I’ll resupply next, it’s where the nearest restaurant is.

So that’s kind of some random basics off the top of my head. If you want to send mail drops on your thru hike… do it! Don’t let some fool on the Appalachian Trail forums tell you it’s stupid. You may regret that decision, but that’s how you learn!

I will say the advantages of the mail system become more apparent the more experience you gain. Do you know how many triple A batteries you’ll go through in 6 days? How about how many socks in 2,000 miles. Knowing stupid stuff like this makes mail more beneficial to you, as you can send what you need, when you need it. Not sooner, not later. It removes the hassle of making these decisions on trail, as boom 800 miles in, I got a new pair of shoes. Didn’t even have to look at Amazon once!

Without a doubt the BIGGEST reason I’m using mail is because of the speed. I want to spend more time on trail, and less time in towns.

I won’t mention cons here, because I don’t care! Like everything in the hiking world, do your own thing. Do what is right for you. Chances are mail drops aren’t right for you! Despite these benefits that work in my favor, they don’t work in everyone’s favor.

There are many trails in which you don’t need to use mail drops, and frankly I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. You’ll probably already know before reading this if that’s something you should be doing. But… Just because they may be unnecessary, doesn’t mean there aren’t many benefits to them. As stated above!

Love em or hate em……

Happy hiking!

– Jupiter

100 Days

image

My original plan for this trip was Maine to Key West. My original plan was to do it with someone else. My original plan was more docile. So it goes.

I don’t think I would have been happy not doing the Canadian portion of the ECT. It would have felt like I missed something. Something I probably wouldn’t go back for as a single trip. Back then I felt the same. Although the original plan to start in Maine would have been easier, it wouldn’t have been what I truly wanted in the end. This trail extends far north beyond that. How could I ignore it? So many trails all so neatly connected to form this grand route down the east coast. How could I break the flow? I couldn’t.
I tried, and I pleaded with myself, “No, this is great, just do it. Canada sucks anyway.” I said, while searching reasons to avoid it. Then a bird, who has flown the distance of the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and most recently the Eastern Continental Trail, unknowingly whistled in my direction the wonders of Quebec, and the International Appalachian Trail. Plans change.

Nothing good ever came from within comfort zones.

In 100 days I’ll be stepping outside of mine. Into a world of moose and caribou, a world of steeply graded trail through lush forests, along Canadian beaches and mountains, down country roads and railroad beds, rivers and streams. A world of walking as a way of life.

A world where miles are kilometers. A world where I’ll need a french translation guide, as something tells me, my Haitian friends from work teaching me creole just isn’t going to cut it. Although, the language is similar.

This first section will guide me through Quebec, New Brunswick, and northern Maine to the Appalachian Trail. A very well known, all American, long distance trail. From here the journey will get easier in a way.

I plan on finishing the 750 mile International Appalachian Trail in a months time. The first big section of this long journey down to the Florida Keys, that is dubbed the Eastern Continental Trail.

What happened to doing this with someone else? I messed up, as I often do. Maybe she’ll hike the PCT. I hope she does.

Jup

Ode to Tarp Camping

zpackscorrection

Gator bait. Wonderful view of the sunrise the next morning, and all night I got to witness the most fantastic meteor shower from the comfort of my tarp and sleeping bag.

Under a tarp I feel free.

No doors, no walls. Sheltered from the rain in just the right ways. No less, and no more. Free to observe my surroundings even in a down pour. Free to reach out and touch the very thing I came out here to experience.

A tarp allows me to pursue the style of backpacking I prefer most. Light, fast, and efficient. Unburdened by weight, by things, free to do as I wish, and I wish to hike. Carrying only what I need, teetering on the edge of highly prepared, and crazy.

For my 4,700 mile ECT thru hike I’ll be using a tarp as my shelter. A rather small one at that, a 5×9 poncho tarp. Not only is this my house for the night, it is also my rain gear. For this hike I’ll be coupling it with a water resistant bivy, which acts as a shell for myself and my quilt while I sleep. Giving me a little added protection from the elements. In total this setup weighs just slightly over 1lb, and also allows me to forgo a rain jacket.

While a poncho tarp still being the reigning champion of ultralight shelters, some of the larger tarps are an absolute palace. A true wonder to hang out under. With twice or three times the space underneath them that any tent could offer for a fraction of the weight and cost, a tarp is hard to push aside as something you’ll never try. For me, it only took once. I haven’t looked back since!

Here I thought I’d showcase my tarp and bivy a little bit, as this will be my home for 6 months. The cuben fiber Pro Poncho Tarp, and the silnylon Superlight Bivy by Mountain Laurel Designs. My tarp is my space ship, and I am the captain on this journey through the galaxy.

The Eastern Continental Trail starts in Canada and travels the entire length of the east coast along the Appalachian mountain range, far down into Florida. I’ll be going through just about everything this side of the continent can throw at me, and I’m very confident in this shelter system to not only be extremely light on my back, but also in it’s ability to keep me dry and happy.

Lean-To

Often used as a really fast and efficient pitch. Although not the greatest protection in a storm as rain can blow under on three sides, and you only have protection from the wind on one side. For those nights where you’re camping in a spot with a beautiful view and only need a little bit of insurance this is what I would use. Or similarly for those nights when a big storm isn’t imminent, and I just want to get in and out.

2016-03-08 22.36.50

Pitched up against some shrubs this actually does extremely well in rain, and also offers a quick exit, with an extremely easy setup/take down.

A-Frame

Great in a storm but you have absolutely no head room. If you pitch it higher for more space you are almost asking for rain to splash and blow underneath defeating the purpose. As much as I’ve used my tarp in this configuration for the value of protection, it’s not always ideal for that home-like atmosphere. Still, I love it, and it has always been my go to in the past. Possibly because it was the first pitch I learned. This is also probably the most standard of all tarp configurations.  By pegging the corners to the ground this becomes extremely useful in nasty storms.

2016-03-08 22.40.37.jpg

My sun umbrella used to pitch the back end of this a-frame. Could possibly be used better open to block the head end from any rain.

terp

View of an A-frame from the top.

Half Pyrimid

Some say this doesn’t give you much space, but I have usually been pretty happy, although I don’t deny that its not as roomy as some other pitches. The half pyramid is great for shedding wind coming from a certain direction, while also providing a bit more coverage than a lean-to on the sides. I’ve used this in some nasty conditions and it worked well for me. I always tried pitching the open side up against a tree or in some bushes to keep rain from splashing inside. This was the second pitch I learned, and boy did I over use this one. Extremely easy to setup.

half 2

Obviously you want the elements to be facing the opposite direction from the opening. Perfect for deflecting wind off the back.

 

 

Flying Diamond

I don’t use this very often but it excels at covering you from high wind on one side. I’ve read of a guy who used this pitch exclusively on a thru hike of the PCT. Possibly because it’s easy to do. It does provide good coverage against rain, and plenty of space to store gear being it’s very flat, but very little head room.

2016-03-12 20.41.29

Not my favorite, but also not to shabby if you’re looking for a bit of protection.

Flat Tarp

Much like a lean-to but far more head space, and room to sit up underneath. Potentially a more preferable pitch under the same circumstances. Although this looks very open it truly provides a lot of coverage. A quick change in guyline length in the front or adding some small ones on the back corners makes this great for light rain. Easy and quick to set up, and allows easy access/egress. A small tarp provides the most coverage when it’s pitched as flat as possible, making this(and variations on this) a good option.

2016-03-08 22.29.26.jpg

Tying lines off to trees can make this a very worth while pitch.

I am obviously no master, but have found that these basic pitches, with many variations on them, do me right when I need them most.

Why a Tarp?

I think a better question is… why must I be so difficult!!

I used tents for most of my backpacking life, and no, not yet have I tried hammock camping! A tent was safe, it was easy, it was obvious. I had 4 walls to protect me from the boogieman, and keep any prying eyes away from my candy and chips. I had a floor to separate me from any unwanted ground condition. I had space to live in. I had peace of mind. But you know what they say about comfort zones. They need to be broken. Nothing good ever came from someone who never steps outside.

I decided since using a tarp as my shelter would mean my backpack would weigh pounds less, I should give it a try. Who doesn’t want their pack to be lighter? I knew it would require me to learn how to tie a few knots, at least once! So I did. Got myself a tarp, briefly learned, tied, and forgot said knots. Set myself up for my first trip with an a-frame configuration, and would you believe it? I really enjoyed myself.

Everything a tent had, a tarp could do as well. In a few cases a tarp does it even better. I still had my peace of mind, and with every trip I take my confidence in my tarp grows.

In other words, I was now much happier with my $90 tarp than I was with my $400 tent. A fraction of the weight, for a fraction of the cost, with twice the space.

 

borahgear

A silnylon BorahGear 10×9 tarp on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee. This is more than enough room for 2 people to live happily. I still own this one, I call it my party tarp!

Tips & Tricks

  • Bugs: In Florida, we have a lot of mosquitoes during certain times of the year so I’m often asked about what to do. Here’s a few options. Find a spot to camp that allows for good airflow, and pitch accordingly so a breeze can run under your tarp. The moving air often times helps to literally blow them away. Also, look for campsites away from water, as that is the spawning ground of these vile creatures. In times where that’s not enough, and mosquito are so thick I can’t think, I’ve used a bivy bag. It goes under your tarp and shields you from the hoards, as well as providing other benefits like a guard from splashing rain. Sometimes call a “net tent,” you have the choice of taking it with you, or saving the weight in other seasons by leaving it at home. Some earplugs will help to forget about them, as well as Permethrin and deet to keep them away all together. Should go without saying but in the winter, bugs aren’t an issue. In a lot of states, bugs aren’t an issue at all. In most cases I at least carry a small headnet with a hat to prop it off my face, and my quilt keeps the bugs off the rest of my body.
  • Site selection: Look for bushes and trees that will compliment the way you’d like to pitch your tarp. Tree cover or a nearby shrub can really add to the room you can make yourself underneath, covering areas from blowing rain that otherwise would be wide open. Having a canopy above you also greatly helps reduce condensation issues. For more info on that check this out.
  • Setting up in the rain: Don’t wait until it’s already raining! Do the safe thing and find shelter before the storm hits. If that’s not applicable to you, it’s quick and easy to pitch a tarp and stow your pack beneath it in a storm. With tents I found that I’d always get water inside them, some tents you even have to erect it and then put on the rain fly, leaving your bed open to the elements while you fiddle with the second half of your shelter. When it comes to tarps, once you have it pitched, that area underneath is safe to unroll your dry ground sheet, unload your gear, and relax.
  • Bigger is better: The bigger the tarp, the happier you will be. With a small tarp there isn’t much room for error, where as with a large tarp(say an 8×10 or bigger) you have more than enough space for you and someone else to seek refuge away from the weather.
  • Avoid drainage ditches: Rather, don’t set up in a rut, or depression. A tent offers a “bathtub floor” but in a tarp what’s seperating you from the ground is just a sheet of fabric, not raised walls. This is of no issue, and is not to be worried about, if you aren’t going to set up in a dished site. This often means, avoiding campsites that are used over and over, and looking for a spot less worn.
  • Polycro or Tyvek: I think the rule is, use Tyvek for ground that may have lots of pointy things, like rocks or desert flora, because the material is much more durable. Polycro is far lighter but won’t last as long. So for you inflatable mattress users, Tyvek may be the better option to avoid puncture. I use Polycro and haven’t had an issue on my trips to the AT or FT.
  • Mini carabiners: I got the idea from Pepper of using ‘biners as a way to easily change which tie outs my guylines are on. It does add some weight having 8 really small ones(for you gram geeks) but the ability to quickly change how I want to set up my tarp makes it worth it to me.
20150720_192840

Solo camping with a 6 pack. There was a storm that night, and I live to tell the tale. Happily drinking my beer while the rain fell around me.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that a tarp takes a bit more thought than a tent. Which often has meant it’s more for a hardcore user, but I don’t think a hardcore backpacker has to be the only one to enjoy the benefits. I certainly wasn’t when I first started using one. With just a little bit of research you can get going. Although, for your tarps maiden voyage I would avoid high bug season. Not needing a bug net while sleeping under a tarp is truly magical. The openness to nature is one of my favorite things about tarp camping. Amplified when bugs aren’t around.

Not all tarps are created equal. The different ways you can set up a tarp are seemingly endless, and they even come in many different shapes and sizes. What you have seen here is a flat tarp with a few panel pull outs. It’s been good to me, but then again a shaped tarp(a mid, or something similar) may even be a better option in a lot of situations. If you’re looking for help on deciding what to get, drop me a line. There is no perfect shelter, but this is what I like.

How to Pitch a Tarp – Suluk46

5 Tips for a Successful Tarp Pitch

11 Reasons to Switch to a Tarp

zpackstarp

Tarping on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) with my old Zpacks 7×9 cuben fiber tarp. I figured if I pitched the back end towards the water, the gators would have a much harder time getting to me in the night. Yeah, I really did that. Although more as a joke, not as a real problem. Gators don’t like humans.

 

Remember… practice makes perfect.

Jupiter

One last shake down!

With a 4,700 mile hike looming I sit and reflect on a mindset I held close in trips of the past.

20150829_155924.jpg

Much to the dismay of my employer, I’ve taken a whole lot of vacations over the last three years.

With every trip I have a sub goal, beyond enjoying myself and relaxing in the outdoors… of learning something! With every hike I come back more experienced, with the knowledge, and practice that can only come from getting out there. With every hike I take a minute to focus on and think about my gear, or my technique. With every hike I’ve learned from my mistakes. A constant consideration to how I’m walking or handling different situations. A constant consideration as to how I can be a more effective and efficient backpacker.

This is something serious runners do far more than backpackers, from what I’ve noticed. They focus on their stride, foot placement, nutrition, everything beyond, and in between. It’s a mindset to certainly consider and learn from. A mindset I don’t see in many hikers. It’s no wonder why, walking is easy, isn’t it? Not really. Especially not so much when you’re walking 20 to 30 miles a day, everyday.

Train smart not hard, as they say. Or both, whatever suits you.

As someone who is always striving to improve any way I can, this is how I do things. I will mention that thousands of folks don’t do this, and they’re totally fine, and finish that thru hike. Then again a lot don’t.(Only 20-30% complete the AT each year. About 1 in 5.)

This is my last real training run

So here goes! One last serious shake down before my thru hike.

Although I run, hike, and backpack with great frequency this will be the last time I’ll be out with my pack for more than 3 days at a time before I fly to Quebec to begin my long walk back to Florida.

I’m heading up to North Florida to meet up with my good friend Longwalker to get in some much needed time off from work, and to hit one of Florida’s most beautiful sections of trail. The Suwannee River section of the FNST.

We have planned 91 miles over 5 days. A very leisurely pace of 18 miles per day.

I’m very tempted to go further in that time, but I mostly just want to relax and get away from work just once more! So I’ll be using this trip as an opportunity to take out my ECT rig(my backpack fully loaded,) and enjoy north Florida in all its glory.

There’s something special to me about knowing I’ll be at this section again come November, on my journey south to the Keys.

Only 3 and a half months until my thru hike begins.

Screenshot_2016-03-09-04-37-18-1

Screenshot_2016-03-09-04-37-44-1

Photos of the Suwannee River courtesy of my Florida hiking buddy Longwalker

For more photos and info on this section check out Floridahikes

Jupiter

 

Older posts

© 2018 jupiterhikes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: