jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Tag: ultralight backpacking

Stats from my Eastern Continental Trail thru hike

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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
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Mile 4,800

Let the walking continue.

Jupiter

Florida Trail FKT Summary

Beginning December 10th, 2016 at 10:23am I started my self-supported Florida Trail thru hike, and finished January 7th, 2017 at 8:22pm. A record pace of 28d 9h 59m, beating Tatu-Joe’s 2012 hike by more than a full day. It was an honor to hike Joe’s hike, as he is one of those folks I very much look up to in this backpacking world. Seeing through his eyes maybe a little while going after this record has only given me more respect for the man.

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I followed the rules set in place on the Fastest Known Time Proboards to the best of my ability. Stating my intentions in the Florida Trail thread, and contacting Joe Kisner the record holder before me, getting his blessing, as is customary. Posting photos daily from my trip, recording mass amounts of video, and in the beginning before I figured out I couldn’t keep it up due to a strapped for life phone battery, I blogged. Honestly trying to document the trip as best I could. I would expect the next guy to do the same.

Following the guidelines of a self-supported hike:

      means that you don’t carry everything you need from the start, but you don’t have dedicated, pre-arranged people helping you. This is commonly done a couple different ways: You might put out stashes of supplies for yourself prior to the trip, or you might just use what’s out there, such as stores, begging from other trail users, etc. Long distance backpackers are typically self-supported, since they resupply by mail drop or in stores.

I had all of my supplies sent through the mail ahead of time, and picked up boxes in various towns along the way. My logistical and mail drop schedule can be found at the bottom of this spread sheet. I had invited on my blog for folks to come out and bear witness to what I was doing, to better verify my claims. Many did!! And I took photos with a lot of them, which can be found in my Florida Trail bonus photo album. So many came out to find me, it actually began to slow me down, and become a chore! Opps. I asked that no one bring me anything, but some still wished to offer water or gatorade on the spot without my prior knowing of where I would see them, when, or if. I also helped no one find me, and instead was enigmatic. I figured me giving them directions to my location would be against the rules, and instead constantly told folks I didn’t know where I was, or when I was, which very often was true. Seemingly the entire Florida hiking community was following along, and often I would get 2 or 3 messages every day asking for my location, much to their dismay, I wouldn’t share. Along the way I also signed as many of the trail log books I found.

I walked into and out of all of my resupply points, not using a vehicle a single time. a Precedent set by Scott Williamson on the PCT, and a guideline for those in the future wishing to best this record should follow.

I followed the official Florida Trail route the entire way, and only detoured around the closed section of trail in St. Marks, on the official detour, a roadwalk that added miles going around, instead of through. As I was told it would be dangerous for me to try. As well as south of Moore Haven after being told to get off the levee by authorities, I had to turn around, go back, and follow a longer detoured route on hwy 720.

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I hiked southbound, starting at the northern terminus near Fort Pickens, and Pensacola. Following the Eastern Corridor around Orlando, and the western side of Lake Okeechobee, as per Joe’s standard. Finishing my hike at the official southern terminus of the Florida Trail at the Oasis Visitor center in Big Cypress National Preserve.

I took 540 photos over the course of this hike, but I’m only uploading the majority here. As well as all of those(I know of) that took photos of me somewhere along the way, that I was able to locate after the hike, or that they sent to me. Those can be found here!

I also have a good amount of screenshots I took of my Florida Trail app(gps) illustrating places I camped. Mostly I did this so that later I could figure out my daily splits. If asked, I will upload these too.

I have a ridiculous amount of videos(200!!!), mostly me talking to the camera, usually when dehydrated. I do plan on doing something with these, regarding my hike from Quebec to Key West, but again if asked I will gladly upload them separately for verification purposes. Some of these are rather embarrassing, thus my hesitation to simply throw them into the world publicly.

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My daily miles:

  • Day 1 – Start time 10:23am 34mi
  • Day 2 – 36mi
  • Day 3 – 35mi
  • Day 4 – 31mi
  • Day 5 – 35.5mi
  • Day 6 – 38mi
  • Day 7 – 32mi
  • Day 8 – 30mi
  • Day 9 – 46mi
  • Day 10 – 24mi (Trouble getting across ST. Marks River)
  • Day 11 – 31.5mi
  • Day 12 – 35mi
  • Day 13 – 37.5mi
  • Day 14 – 31mi
  • Day 15 – 31mi
  • Day 16 – 31mi (Halway, realized something was wrong.)
  • Day 17 – 48.5mi
  • Day 18 – 39.5mi
  • Day 19 – 42mi
  • Day 20 – 47mi
  • Day 21 – 41mi
  • Day 22 – 45.5mi
  • Day 23 – 45.5mi
  • Day 24 – 39.5mi
  • Day 25 – 47mi
  • Day 26 – 45.5mi
  • Day 27 – 33.5mi
  • Day 28 – 50.5
  • Day 29 – 41.3mi Finish at 8:22pm

On day 3 unbeknownst to me at first I got sick. The sickness lasted a few days, and made walking my goal of 35-45 miles a day very difficult. Also instilling some bad habits of taking too many breaks, which lasted until the halfway point of the Florida Trail in which I realized I was a couple days off schedule. From there, I began walking until 10pm every. Single. Day. It was extremely monotonous at time, and tiring. My legs could carry me but my mind would drift to nothingness, and minutes would go on forever. Unfortunately due to the sheer amount of night hiking I was doing in the second half, I visually missed a lot of the beauty the Florida Trail had to offer. The first half I was only walking at night 2-3 hours, and wasn’t so bad. Though deep inside I knew it wasn’t enough. By Lake Butler, I kicked it into high gear, I knew what I had to do, and this is when you could say I struck a groove. 50 miles a day wasn’t uncommon in the second half of this hike, and I was routinely walking more than 40 a day. Some nights were cold, and I would toss and turn all night. This was often followed by days so hot, I would walk shirtless, and find myself drinking from some terrible water sources just to keep myself hydrated. Despite these things. I loved it all. I complained here and there to my mom over the phone, but it was just to get it out of my system, and move on.

The day I crossed the St. Marks river was my lowest mileage day. I arrived in town later than I should, a result of me not paying enough attention to my guide. By my arrival a cold front had come in and no one was around to shuttle me across, nor could I swim with a cold and wet fate waiting for me on the other side. I hung out at the restaurant just next to the water, and stared lustfully out the windows, hoping someone would go by. I asked the bar patrons, the waitress, and eventually I found someone with a dingy that felt bad for me. Just 25 miles that day.

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My lack of attention to the guide almost screwed me again after River Ranch, entering the Kissimmee Preserve. My mail drop didn’t show up at the ranch on time, and I cursed the skies. Sat around pouting while charging my phone, deciding what type of candy I could get at the general store to hold me over for the next 3 days. Little did I know in 10 or so miles I would need to be at a lock on the river during a certain time, to be let through a gate. I was given the phone number of the employees by a nice man, called them up, and asked if I could be buzzed through around 9pm. They obliged, and I ran those 10 miles to get there on time.

The next night, walking in the dark past the small town of Basinger I was greeted by a massive wild boar. I yelled at him, in that second realized that he might run at me, and felt fortunate when he went the other direction. Later I wondered if he would visit me in the night. Although I didn’t see a single snake(I assume I’m too obnoxious) during my entire 1,100 mile thru hike of the Florida Trail, this pig wasn’t my only questionable encounter with wildlife. In Ocala National Forest I saw 2 bears. A mom and her cub, still choosing to sleep with my food. In the Kissimmee area, there were areas under water, and I would question if I was walking into gator territory. Could they be below the liquid, and I’m just not seeing them? My fears relieved when I saw a 5ft alligator leave the banks, and join the water with me. At least now I didn’t have to wonder. Up near Apalachicola one morning while convincing myself to get up and start moving, I heard something. Out of the blue 10 feet from me on the trail I was sleeping next to a panther ran by me. Stunned as ever, I wasn’t sure what to think. Fortunate to have spotted one, as there are less than 300 in the state. And I guess if you’re the squeamish type, I’m fortunate it wanted nothing to do with me. A photo would have been nice but I’ve never seen something run so fast. Ultimately on this hike I saw a ridiculous amount of birds of all different varieties, and it seemed whenever I would look up to the trees above, there was an owl looking over me.

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Frequently I dealt with dehydration, which is nothing new. A wiser man might carry more water. Me, I only ever filled up with 1 liter, sometimes only a half. Then finding myself 10-20 miles from another good source. I started the hike with a water filter, but man for whatever reason I just hate the chore. I just want to dip and sip. So for a while, my first 2 weeks, I would seek out quality sources, as to not force myself into getting a virus. The last 2 weeks however I drank anything and everything, including muddy water from roads, or water near cow fields. I’m not sure if I’m immune to the sickness, or just lucky, but I recall remarking to my mom over the phone, how wonderful it is to only have 2 weeks left. I could now drink everything! Disgusting? Naw, I don’t care. Giardia takes 2 weeks to hit you, and that was the only thing I was worried about. Some days were worse than others, and likely I should have just carried more. Sometimes I would find jugs of water others had stashed for hikers, and I was always very grateful for that. The best kind of trail magic. Fresh water. Its crazy what most take for granted in the world.

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In both Apalachicola, and Ocala I found ticks on me. Known for lyme disease. Something much worse than some water born illness. Lyme can lead to brain damage if not treated. Walking at night through Ocala National Forest, I stopped to find water quick. While I was preparing my dinner, a healthy serving of beans, the same thing I had eating every night for the last 6 months, I flashed my light towards my legs. Briefly I noticed lots of little spots. Thinking it was just dirt, or cuts from the thorns and things I had been scrapping myself against. Upon further inspection it was ticks, and a whole lot of them. Flashbacks ensuing to photos of a friend from a month prior. She had been through here, and got bit really bad, later testing positive on multiple tests for the disease. Knowing I couldn’t stop to find a clinic before this hike was over I weeped, and worried. Not mentioning it to my mom for a few days, I decided it didn’t matter. If the symptoms show, then I can be certain, but there’s no reason beating myself up over it.

Hunters all throughout the state were out in spades. The forests were littered with them. All of which with trucks that looked the same, hunting dogs, guns, and bright orange. Online I was constantly being attacked for not having any orange on me. I know, it was a problem. The hunters took note too, and often told me I needed some. I’d ask if they were going to shoot me, and they always replied with “no.” Then what for? Drunken hunters shooting anything that moves? Aren’t they supposed to spot something with a separate scope, confirm what it is, then get their rifle to fire? Rules don’t apply to them. Accidents among hunters are frequent, sometimes they’re not accidents, sometimes that guy is diddling that other guys…. anyway. I would hope a 6’2″ upright, mammal, wearing a green t-shirt and ball cap, looks nothing like anything they’re shooting. I took my chances. For no reason I guess.

I got lucky this year. The trail was dry. I’ve seen photos of water up to peoples necks, and stories of sloshing that never ends. It wasn’t until I was near the Kissimmee River, at Three Lakes WMA did I get my feet wet. Then within maybe the next 40 or so miles had a few more spots, but aside from that, I was fortunate. Big Cypress National Preserve was the next area I had to do some slogging. The last area. My hike was ending that day, and my plans were to push through what I expected to be 30 miles of soul sucking mud, and water up to my knees. I worried about snakes, and gators. Determined to finish I pushed through. Early in the morning I ran into a northbound thru hiker saying I wouldnt be able to average more than 1mph through there. He was wrong! With enough grit, and stupidity, I smashed through at 3 miles per hour only falling once. Only 12 of the 30 miles were wet. The rest was just mud, with occasional slabs of limestone to trip on. As darkness fell I ran into more thru hikers, I paused, tired. I had only slept 3 hours the night before, in an attempt to go all night, instead while taking a break I fell asleep where I sat along side a road. These hikers were friendly, and encouraged me to go on. With 10 miles left in my record attempt I ran. I ran as fast as I could careful not to break an ankle. Hungry as ever I munched on some candy, briefly, just a mile away from the finish, choking. Stopping in the middle of the night, in the mud, about to finish the hardest and most fun month of my life, and there I was bent over, choking on a Sour Patch Kid. The finish was sweet, when I knew I was close I opened up and ran at what I assume was a 5 minute mile. I’ve never run so fast. I could hear a cow bell ringing, people were there waiting for me to arrive. Word travels fast apparently. I smacked the southern terminus with my hand at 8:22pm on January 7th. 28 and a half days after I started. Friends greeted me immediately. It felt good to stop moving. Shoes still filled with mud, winded, but happy. Someone special was there, a trail legend. Billy Goat, a man with over 48,000 miles under his feet waiting to greet me by sure chance.

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I had many favorites from this hike. From my photos you could guess which areas I liked the most. Or at least which areas I actually had battery power. The Gulf Islands national Seashore was amazing, and I would love to go back, and spend more time there, maybe do more than just walk right through, like camp! The beaches were fantastic, the sand impossibly white, and the sunset that night was my favorite from this entire year, aside from maybe one in Quebec. Eglin Airforce Base was also interesting, with rolling hills and large ravines, however it’s split in the center with a long roadwalk. No matter, the eastern portion was wonderful. Beautiful fresh water, and picturesque bridges. I watched fighter jets fly above me. Econifa Creek up next, although a short 18 or so miles it’s very much so quality over quantity here. I happen to know the section leader who maintains this area, and although I didn’t see him, I now understand why he continuously says this is the best section on the FT. Most of my favorite sections on this trail are due to the large rivers they follow, this was no exception. I was fortunate enough to go through St. Marks in a cloud of mist, wide open expanses might make for a sunny day to be a nightmare, yet the way I saw it was awe inspiring. Shore birds trotting around everywhere, fog engulfing the land, and even sightings of wild boar crossing small rivers. Shortly there after I was walking along the Aucilla River, it would dissapear beneath the limestone, and appear again in random places just to go back under. The flowing water cut deep into the land, creating these beautiful deep banks along the sides, with crazy rock formations. All around me was littered with sinkholes as well. I cut my day short, opposed to hiking all night, just so I could wake up and see the rest of this area before I began a long road walk. On that roadwalk, in the middle of nowhere lies a soad machine on the side of a dirt road. The machine of fable, I had heard of it, but didn’t know where it might be. Sadly, I had no money on me, and although I wanted to shake the thing I kept moving. The Suwannee River to follow might be my top pick of the FNST, although it’s clearly hard for me to choose. ~60 miles or so of following this ancient river. Shelters made for river rats a third of the way in have showers and electrical outlets. The river below was more dry than I thought possible, in some places not flowing at all. A testament to this year, and how few times I had to get my feet wet. I arrived in the town of White Springs on Christmas eve, unfortunate timing to pick up a box from the Post Office, but an employee had clued me in that he’d be there early in the morning for just 2 hours. Happy holidays indeed. I would have had to buy 4 days food from a gas station otherwise. The Madison shelter at the end of this section too is a fine place, built by the land owner Randy Madison, known as the love shack… was used to sleep in while his home was being constructed, now an oasis for hikers, thanks to Randy and his family. Osceola National Forest is a lot of pine trees, but I went through on Christmas, and managed to steal 5 sodas from some car campers at a campsite. I’ve never walked so fast. That was my gift for the holidays. Meeting one of my hiking heros, Stumpknocker, was followed a couple days later with meeting one of his friends. Neither knew the other was out there, but PAFarmboy was happy to hear Stump was once again hiking the FT. I dont remember the name, other than It came before Rice Creek. Both areas were exceptional. One of which had a trail register where everyone was reporting bigfoot sightings. The Florida Trail has but 8 wooden shelters made for hikers and this 20 or so mile stretch is home to 2 of them. Both fantastic, leaving me wishing I could stop and stay a while. After the second came a 150m boardwalk, and into the night I went. Ocala National Forest, touted as the most beautiful hiking destination in Florida. I may not 100% agree with that, but it was extremely nice! Rolling hills, reminded me of walking through Alabama, and sightings of bear, taking me back to the Appalachian Trail. Home to the famous 88 store where I picked up a package, tempted to get shitty at their bar, I moved on. The trail register their is particularly legendary, looking through it I saw many names I recognized going back 8 or more years. Friends near Lake Mary, on the outskirts of Orlando trying to hunt me down, I walked the Cross Seminole Greenway. Although asphalt for 20+ miles I actually really enjoyed this area. Lots of friendly people out running and biking, eventually leading me to the town of Oviedo, one of my favorite trail towns. I stuffed my face full of sides at some restaurant, the streets littered with roosters, later after dark leaving on a boardwalk running into some youngsters smoking pot. “Who are you?” they asked, and I replied, “Just some nobody hiker.” The night got cold, down into the thirties. Must have been a holiday, as I could hear parties in the distance. New years even came, and so did a 30 mile roadwalk. A friend, after spending 2 days searching for me greeted me alongside the road with his lovely daughter. I was happy to see them. Had he mentioned it was his birthday the next day I would have been even happier he had taken the time. Into the night I watched fire work displays over cow fields. There’s few places to camp along the Deseret Ranches, so I slept along side the road between a bush, up against barbed wire. Happy new year. Desperate heat, and eventually the shade of forest, the love of bridges in the woods, and more beautiful trail. Entering Forever Florida it was hot, and little water to be found. I became the attraction of a swamp buggy full of tourists, “and here we see a hiker!” I had my shirt off, scrambling to put it back on. Should have known, I’m not the only one out here, should have asked for water. Getting lost in the night, maybe the trail has changed. Three Lakes WMA before sleep. Mosquitoes for the first time, in a long time. The Kissimmee River is near. Lake Okeechobee is near. Missing a box at River Ranch, buying peanut butter, candy, peanuts, and chips for 3 days sucks. What sucks more is running into a northbound thru hiker who thought it was funny to give me a whole slough of misinformation, after I offered to tell the front desk ladies that he can have my mail the next day. Boo him. Running 10 miles, and finally reaching that big river after convincing the employees to let me across after dark. Blazing heat in the Kissimmee Preserve but water to cool my feet off, and a nice tan to boot, eventually reaching the shade of oak hammocks, and trail I’ve walked before. Night time run ins with boar, questioning if I should sleep on their territory, then an armadillo all night fooling me into thinking raccoons were coming for my food. The gateway to the big lake I know and love, coming across construction on the dike, running pass the workers before they could say anything. A restaurant I was looking forward to closed, and talk of a friend possibly coming out to see me in the night. I don’t blame him for not showing, although this is the closest to home, that my path takes me, it’s still not very close at all. Crossing more closed section of trail, but wanting to stay true to the official route, I went anyway. Eventually after Moore Haven I was kicked out, and forced to walk 720, the official detour around the construction. Then back to walking more closed sections, after stuffing my face in Clewiston on Chinese food. Never a good idea, but I can never help myself. My friend Wayne surprising me, as I branch off from the lake, and begin the canals towards the Seminole Reservation, and Big Cypress. We chit chat, and eventually I’m off on my way. Just two more days left. Long canals, and horrible agriculture that has ruined the everglades. Cops stop me, and luckily don’t really care, they were just getting a lot of phone calls from the locals about a guy walking through the reservation at night. Apparently impossible, at this point to pull an all nighter I accidentally sleep 3 hours. Later the next day, my last day I’m happy I did. After only seeing a few other thru hikes(many day, and section) on this final day I run into what seemed like 40. Seems like an awesome class! Almost do I want to turn around, and walk with some of them.

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I’m sorry that I missed so much while walking at night, but I guess that means I’ll just have to do this trail again. Whether it’s to try my hand at a faster pace, or in a much slower fashion. I certainly didn’t have a conventional experience of the Florida Trail, but it is mine, and I very much so enjoyed it.

I started this hike carrying multiple extra phone batteries, which lasted me a while of not having to waste time in towns, sadly I didn’t take advantage of this as much as I should have. By halfway when I needed to make more miles, it was a constant battle to both get a long day in, and somehow find an electrical outlet to charge my phone for 10-20 minutes. Podcast, music, and daily phone calls to my mom in a  lot of ways kept me sane. Not to mention all of the folks following this hike so closely, and commenting. I might not respond often, but I read all of them, and seriously appreciate all the encouragement.

A huge thank you goes to my friend Coy, who hosted me at his home in Pensacola before I began my record attempt, let me prepare my things, rest after walking across Alabama, and was all around an amazing dude. Seriously Coy, I can’t thank you enough, and I hope one day I can pay it back. He shuttled me to the trailhead after some seriously cold temps had rolled through the past few nights, and I began walking.

Links:

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28d 9h 59m

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

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

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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

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

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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

Final gear list for the ECT

Check out this gear… in video form! Youtube

This is what I’m carrying on the Eastern Continental Trail.

  • I’m starting in Quebec in July, and will probably be done with the first leg of the trip, the International Appalachian Trail, by August. Here I will dance with the caribou, square off with moose, and speak broken French with the locals.
  • Then off to the very strange community that is the Appalachian Trail for 3 months, August through November. Hopefully meeting up with a friend who is yoyoing the AT, and we’ll walk south. We will eat vegan food, enjoy big miles, and witness fall in the Appalachians.
  • I’ll leave him at Springer to tackle a section of the Benton Mackaye Trail, continuing on to hike the Pinhoti Trail, and walk to Florida on roads. This will likely be how I spend early November. Getting lost in Alabama.
  • Finally reaching the Florida Trail, and my home state, celebrating my birthday on the trail, Thanksgiving, and likely Christmas too. What are holidays anyway? Finishing up with this grand adventure in the Florida Keys around new years.

Some 4,800 miles down the east coast.

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This is the time line I’ve laid out to avoid harsh weather in the north, and hike through Florida when it’s not a sauna. Seriously, where else can you hike in January? I only mention this stuff because my gear is chosen wisely based on the conditions I will face on this specific trip, for these specific conditions.

I don’t recommend you follow in my footsteps, or make the same choices in your gear as I have. Get out, use what you own, and change things as you go with the experience you’re gaining. The stuff I use is very dial to how I like to do things. I suggest you find how you like to do things.

Backpack

  •      Backpack – Pa’lante Cuben Simple                                                         7.4 (ounces)
  •      Bag Liner – Mountain Laurel Designs pack liner                                 1.3

Sleep System

  •      Quilt – Mountain Laurel Designs FKT synthetic quilt L                      15
  •      Pad – GossamerGear Thinlight 1/8″ (torso length)                             1.1

Shelter System

  •      Tarp – Mountain Laurel Designs cuben ProPoncho 9×5                    6.4
  •      Guylines – 4 / 6ft, and 4 / 3ft lines w/ mini carabiners                      1.7
  •      Bivy – Mountain Laurel Designs silnylon Superlight                         6.7
  •      Stakes – 6 Titanium shepherds hooks, and 2 titanium V shape      1.9

Water / Kitchen

  •      Water Bottle – 2 SmartWater 34oz                                                         2.8
  •      Food Bowl – Ziploc 2cup 16oz screw top container                           1.4
  •      Food bag – 20 x 12.5 OPsak                                                                      1.2
  •      Spoon – Plastic                                                                                           0.4

Clothing(Carried)

  •      Neck Gaiter – Blaze orange                                                                      1.4
  •      Socks – Injinji Trail 2.0 midweight micro                                           2.2
  •      Hat – Zpacks synthetic micro-fleece beanie                                       1
  •      Rain Jacket – OR Hellium II                                                                     6
  •      Long Underwear – Montbell Zeo-line Tights                                      4.1
  •      Jacket – Montbell Thermawrap                                                               8.4
  •      Glove Liners                                                                                                1.3

Misc.

  •      Flashlight – Fenix LD02 + extra AAA battery                                      1.4
  •      Bug Repellant – 98% Deet, repackaged                                                 0.2
  •      ID, Money, & Credit Card – In a ziploc                                                  0.4
  •      Knife – Swiss Army Knife classic S                                                        0.8
  •      Lighter – Mini Bic                                                                                      0.4
  •      Cell Phone – Samsung Galaxy s5                                                            4.9
  •      Exra Phone Battery                                                                                    2
  •      USB Cord – Charging phone                                                                   0.3
  •      Wall Charger – Single port charger                                                       0.9
  •      Maps & Data – Cut up guidebooks and maps                                      ~0

First Aid Kit

  •      Soap & Toothpaste – Dr. Bronners, repackaged                                 0.2
  •      Toothbrush – Sans handle                                                                       0.1
  •      Advil & Tylenol – Mini ziploc                                                                  0.2
  •      Ziploc Bag – Holds FAK and Misc.                                                         0.2

Total base weight of pack (the weight without food, water, fuel or worn clothing)

  •      < 6 lbs~

Worn on my body: Altra Lone Peak 2.5s, ball cap, long sleeve button up shirt, running shorts, Injinji toe socks, LED flashlight necklace, and sunglasses.

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Even with such a small backpack, I am still learning how to, and wanting to lighten up further.

Jupiter

To trekking pole, or not to trekking pole

If my trekking poles were to break, I wouldn’t replace them. I would leave them behind. This was the unpopular answer to a question about using trekking poles on my upcoming thru hike. Unpopular because a whole lot of people seem to be absolutely enamored by the aluminum or carbon walking sticks that tie up their hands while they walk. Why? I know why, I’m just not yet sure I myself care.

The more I got to thinking about this subject, the less I want to use them. Not only that but the less I remember using them during the past 2 years of hiking. When you see photos of me, I often have them in hand but it’s a farce. If you’ve actually hiked with me, I am almost always just carrying them! Not often, actually using them.

Not to mention I’m constantly forgetting them places. These are some expensive ass sticks to be forgetting! I guess I’m so far removed from being wed to them that regardless of the retarded price tag, I still can’t remember to put them in my car after a trip. So if you’re ever at a trail head, and find 180 dollars laying on the ground, that’s mine, I can pick it up from you whenever.

So why am I such a hater? Maybe I can point out some pros, why I don’t care, and some cons. I will say I was totally going to carry them on my ECT thru hike, and then someone unknowingly made me rethink that decision! Now, I’m unsure if I’ll be starting with them anymore.

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One trekking pole? Two trekking poles? None? The use of them is obvious is certain situations, but they aren’t so necessary in every situation! Just another burden to be carried.

So why do people like trekking poles so much anyhow? Is it simply to look like some 4 legged spider human, cruising up and down mountains? Although an appealing look, I gather there’s much more to this.

When I cut the hipbelt off of my backpack, if I had asked the opinions of some of my hiking friends prior about that decision, I certainly would have been flamed. Look at me now, I love the freedom of not having a hipbelt, and frankly I feel I’m missing nothing. This only works because I carry so very little weight on my back. My baseweight (all the contents of my backpack not counting food or water) for summer hiking has been 5 pounds and under. Now my thru hike approaches and I’ll be starting out with something in the 6 and a half pound range. Much like the hipbelt, I think trekking poles are more useful to those who have heavier loads. Those who may need more support. As folks shave weight from their pack, and reach lower baseweights, they may discover that trekking poles are no longer a necessity. Although this is obviously still very much a personal preference thing.

Back when I carried a heavy pack, hiking poles were a true gift. As my pack got smaller, it seems like naturally I just stopped carrying them, stopped using them, or maybe stopped needing them. For those who may be a little unstable under the weight of their pack, or who are looking for extra knee support. The poles truly are worth every ounce, and then some.

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Here I thought they would help me navigate the swamp, really they just got in my way. As seen in my hand, where they stayed just like that.

I’m young, I’m fit, and my pack is really light. What are trekking poles supposed to be doing for me? Aside from the obvious answers some simply say, “they make you go faster.” Which is funny, because people already tell me I’m going too fast! Apparently, I could be going faster even. Less time on my feet during the day is appealing, but personally I don’t particularly see this as much of a positive virtue of using poles. I’ve argued this before but I think your body wants to go at one speed. By propelling it faster and further than its internal pace dictates aren’t you potentially opening yourself up to injury? Maybe not. It’s just a thought. Although I will not argue that poles can save your knees on downhills, but I will argue that for someone in my situation I may not need that. I don’t already have any knee pain while I hike, and aside from a short recovery period from a running injury, my ankles have never caused me problems either. So for me, maybe they aren’t worth the weight.

Or maybe the hassle. On a hike that’s going to last upwards of 5 to 6 months, things are going to break. Obviously for the sake of your wallet, and sanity, hopefully nothing breaks! In a perfect world… one pair of Altra’s would last me 5,000 miles. Alas, I’ll be replacing my shoes at least 6 times. Other folks often have to replace not just shoes, but backpacks, inflatable sleeping pads, pillows, and… you guessed it, trekking poles. A friend told me that one of his buddies on the AT snapped his poles twice, and another friend broke them 3 times! No wonder so very many people go to Leki, maybe it’s not because they’re amazing poles. They are blinded by the warranty. (Another company comes to mind for the same reason.) How about I avoid this all together, and not use any.

Poles may be smart but I’m just not convinced that they’re for me. I have 4 more months to decide before I fly to Canada to begin my long walk home.

There’s a small group of hikers that choose to go stick-less, some of these hikers being among the best in the world. Joe Kisner, Scott Williamson, Lint, Francis Tapon… to name a few. Just something to think about. The question arrises, if they do it why not I? I had the same question about thru hiking in general. Rarely if ever do you hear about a seasoned thru hiker getting off trail to quit, yet at the same time you hear numbers like so many people quit within the first so many miles of this trail. It begs the question, why can these hikers do this year after year, flawlessly, when so many others quit? Hmmmmm. Maybe these top hikers are the ones we should learn from(exclusively) instead of Joeschmoe on youtube. Although a dangerous game, I think for the most part they set a wonderful example. More of them use poles than not, but then again that group who goes without does just as well.

Now I’m not saying hiking without poles is the answer to all of lifes problems(on the trail) as they are a godsend to most, but the more I have thought about it the less I want to carry mine. Try it sometime yourself, it’s liberating. Bring oranges to peal while you walk. Might as well.

Asking someone if you should remove your hipbelt is like asking someone if you should go without trekking poles. Just don’t.

“I’m not arguing that people should ditch their trekking poles or any other piece of gear. Hike your own hike. Many backpackers couldn’t hike at all without trekking poles, so it’s wonderful that they exist. I’ve made some comments about trekking poles because they are an easy target and many people don’t fully consider the implications of carrying them.

Also, I’m not so sure that most new hikers have even tried hiking without poles. They go to an outfitter who convinces them that they will be miserable without poles. And that’s probably true, because most backpackers start off with massive loads that are hard to carry without poles. However, soon they lighten up, but then they forget to ditch the poles along with the other useless gear they tossed. I’ve known some backpackers who have revisited the idea of hiking pole-less and they’re surprised that it’s as easy as… walking! I prefer having my hands free, but someday I may use them because I can see their utility.”

– Francis Tapon, triple crowner and the first person to yo-yo the CDT

Sometimes two are nice, sometimes one, other times none.

Maybe I’m just a hater.

 

Jupiter

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