jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Tag: hiking (page 2 of 2)

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

Backpacking the Suwannee River

I recently asked for, and took the last of my vacations before I quit to go hiking for 6 months (I start in about 11 weeks.) My manager is about as fed up with me going backpacking as you could be with a guy who takes a few days off just about every month. But I played the game, I followed the rules! He can’t legally stop me! Not even his tears, old man tears, could stop me.

This time I decided to do something different. I decided to not hike the 63 mile trail I’ve already done 14 or so times, and head north! I chose the Suwannee River section of the Florida Trail. Arguably one of the most beautiful segments the FT has to offer, although there are very many.

My good friend Longwalker lives up there so I prodded him for information. Before I knew it he took off 5 days, made a plan, and I now had a hiking partner! Before I knew it I now had 3 hiking partners. Chris, from the deep south came for the 5 days, and my friend Madeleine who joined for the first day and night. My original plan was to knock out some 30 mile days and see as much as I could in the 5 days I had off, but with the addition of more happy hikers that was toned down to 20s.

So here it is, a couple weeks late, my trip report straight from the Suwannee River!

This was my final “shake down” hike. A trip specifically for the purpose of testing gear and food, for bigger hikes ahead. In my case, a 5,000 mile walk across a continent. If I didn’t already mention, 5,000 is the new 4,400. I don’t know where Nimble came up up with that number, but I’ve added up all my data from the most recent guidebooks, and the Eastern Continental Trail from Quebec, to Key West is 4,963.5. That last half mile is what really gets people.

IMG_6395

Day 1: Ocean Pond to Madison Shelter – 21.9 miles

The 5 hour drive to north Florida was long and filled with storms so bad I should have gotten off the road, if only I could have seen where the road was. An ominous beginning of sorts. The next morning bright and early we would meet at the trail head in Osceola NF and start making our way north… or west. I don’t know. The first day we started off quite fast. Most of my training hikes are around 30 miles so I guess I was in that mindset. I’ll take a break when I’m finished, kind of mindset. We hiked through a matrix of pine trees, over little boardwalks, dodging water moccasins, and for the only time on the whole trip, through standing water on the trail. Osceola was very pretty, and I had wished it wasn’t overcast so I could see the light shine through all the trees. Everyone was doing well, and we plodded along the trail a rather fast 20 or so miles to the first campsite, making it there around 3pm. This was Randy Madison shelter, or as we later learned, also known as the “love shack.” It is reserved for FTA members only, and yeah there’s a good chance someone will come down to talk with you, and check! It was a beautiful little home along a river with a bridge to get there. A small screened room with a fire place, a table, a bunch of chairs, with animal skulls hanging from the wooden interior. If I were hiking solo I probably would have slept inside, to save myself from setting up camp, but due to the season the floor was bright yellow with a layer of pollen. Not to mention, I really love sleeping under my tarp outside, at least for now, while im just out for a few days. The shelter was complete with a privy. One so fancy it even had toilet paper inside, which is great because I’m constantly forgetting to pack my own, and a window from the thrown viewing the forest outside. We set up camp, ate, talked, and went to bed as a light shower started to fall just after dark. I was safe under my little shelter.

20160325_092258

20160325_100040

20160325_100513

20160325_103627

 

 

20160325_150300

Best friends.

20160325_155056

 

20160325_161705

20160325_162007

 

20160326_073106

Day 2: Randy Madison Shelter to somewhere along the Suwannee River – 20.8 miles

The second day came and Madeleine had to leave us early in the morning. This was her first time backpacking, and she did incredible! Not many could do a 22 mile day out of the gate, with a pack, at my pace! So then there were 3. A short roadwalk was first on the list, a quiet back road lined with old oak trees towering above us, and shielding the suns rays. We were soon met with the trail head at a dead end that would lead us to the Suwannee River. Kind of like magic we turned a corner on the trail and there it was. 50 feet below us this massive river, flowing fast. Very different from the cypress swamps and wetlands I’m used to down south. Very different from Osceola as well. The trail gave us a hint as to what was to come. We would be walking along the banks of the Suwannee for the next 65 miles or so, for the most part. Pink flowers lined the trail and showed the way. The path dipped, and rose up and over hills, I assume created by the river slowly cutting away at the land for thousands of years. Boardwalks, and bridges spared us the need to get our feet wet, and we hiked on. Today taking more breaks, as to not repeat the day before, and get to camp hours before dark. At some point we were greeted at a road crossing to the town of White Springs with a friendly sign that mentioned it being a “Florida Trail Gateway Community.” Very cool! You won’t see that often on the FT I imagine. It was a very beautiful town with a post office on trail(I love that.) We stopped at the gas station so I could get some chips, and high quality beer, King Cobra. A special occasion it was, as I rarely if ever drink. Here and there while backpacking. Continuing on we entered the Suwannee River State Park, and took a break at their amphitheater to rest the toes, charge some batteries, and eat some chips. Soon back to climbing the hills along the river, as a flat lander of the south a much desired change for my muscles. Somewhere along the way Longwalker was contacted by a Florida Trail maintainer named Janie, inviting us to come say hi at their camp site a few miles ahead. What luck! Apparently they were cooking food, and enjoying some time away from the city along the trail. The prospects of real food got the guys moving real quick! Along the way there we walked under massive oak trees, and around some beautiful rivers. Finally arriving at a freshly built bridge over swift creek, with a family swimming in the clear waters below. We took way down a side trail with the scent of food in the air, seeing tents and hammocks in the distance, eventually reaching a very large pavilion like tarp, with people under it. And food! The group was very kind, and we hung out and talked for a while. Me and Chris relaxed down by the creek and soaked our feet in the cold water while their dog dug up rocks to go add to his collection of other river rocks. Janie came down to talk to us and wouldn’t you know it, she met up with my friend Sycamore last year on his ECT thru hike! When he needed some shoes, she had him covered! Legend is, his old pair are on now on display at her home… Just in case he ever needs them again.

20160326_081707

20160326_084346

20160326_085213

20160326_090030

20160326_092107

20160326_092138

 

20160326_095608

20160326_095641

20160326_113055

Reminds me of a place I call home.

20160326_120805

20160326_125705

Stephen Foster

 

20160326_154542

20160326_162527

20160326_162623

20160326_183458

12803278_975374205831559_672867133734980311_n

Thank you for the hospitality!!

20160326_185555

Day 3: Spot along the Suwannee to Holton Creek River Camp – 19.7 miles

We wake up along the river a couple miles beyond the friendly FTA folk. During the night we were greeted with heavy rain and flashes of lightning. My small tarp held up and I stayed dry. I slept on an incline and was somewhat sliding occasionally waking up to move back into place. Oops! Should have gone further for a better spot. This night we planned to camp at Holton Creek. After packing up and getting going the trail provided with some beaches along the river, many creeks, and even a small waterfall. At some point we took a blue blaze to check out disappearing creek which was a very beautiful spot for a lunch break. The water flows right down into and under the rocks, disappearing out of sight. The trail took us up and down, sometimes even requiring stairs, and at points taking us to places 90feet above sea level, and 90ft above the Suwannee. A beautiful sight to look down on from the ridge. This is Florida, that’s actually a rarity. The highest point on the entire 1,400 mile National Scenic Trail is just 270 feet. As we moved on we came across a home, where the owner was kind enough to let the FT pass through his yard. Included were some benches with a view! I sat and ate some asian style noodles I had been soaking in my pack, with some soy and duck sauce. Very delicious! I don’t cook food while backpacking so this was just noodles, dehydrated vegetables, some spices, and sauces that I added some water to and let sit for a good while as I walked. Longwalker hung out with my while I ate, until some rain prompted him to leave. I still wanted to enjoy the view of the river for a bit longer so I stuck around. Maybe too much time had passed since they left because boy did it take much longer than I thought it would to catch back up to them! High tailed it in their direction, and even ran with my pack a little bit to let my lungs know who’s boss. At this point it was now fully raining, me and Chris with our umbrellas out. Longwalker being a man… and getting soaked. Maybe he thought we were closer to shelter than we were because it wasn’t for at least another hour in the rain until we got to Holton Creek River Camp. Wooden screened shelters abound, fans, electrical outlets, bathrooms, and showers included. All for free. You can only get here by river or by trail. What a wonderful place. We were literally the only people there, with something like 6 other shelters the same as ours scattered around the grounds. Chris and Longwalker opted to hang their hammocks inside the building, which actually worked out pretty darn well. They took showers, and I chose to revel in my filth like a true hiker… I mean it’s just 5 days! Not a problem, no chafe, and didn’t sweat much the entire trip. How did I smell? Wonderful as always!!

20160327_142829

20160327_143342

20160327_144155

20160327_154039

20160327_154143

20160327_155250

20160327_175914

Too hardcore for a rain jacket.

Day 4: Holton Creek River Camp to Cooper’s Bluff campsite – 17.4 miles

The day before had been incredibly beautiful. It’s no wonder why this is a lot of peoples favorite section of the Florida Trail. This day would be no different. Although something new, poison ivy. Everywhere. Lining the trail and whipping at my ankles. Shoot. No worries, somehow after the trip I was only slightly itchy! Although I really had to choose my bathroom breaks much more wisely. It had rained most of the night prior, but we were safe underneath the wooden roof. The trail was damp but not flooded, and for the first time this entire trip, the sun shown its face, no longer to be obscured by clouds. Chris got a head start on me and Longwalker, I already knew it wouldn’t be so soon until we caught him. It wasn’t until halfway through the day actually. At times the trail would take us away from the river, and then back again. At times we crossed roads. At times a land manager isn’t so cool, and the trail has to be routed around a natural area on a dirt road, instead of the forest adjacent to it. No matter, the woods are consuming and ever present. We passed many sink holes along the way. Some of them small, some of the quite deep. Like a battle field, they littered the landscape. Some point later we catch up to Chris, I make a few wrong turns on a roadwalk, and the peanut gallery quickly put me in place. Com’on! I forgot my guidebook and my phone was dead… How far could I have really gone! Soon we reach the point where there is only 2 miles to go till camp, with promise of french fries and onion rings along the way. Or for Chris, the best damn hamburger you ever got from a gas station. No matter the place, the fries and rings were delicious and welcomed. The store was just down the road from a hen house, the opposite direction from the trail, so employees wearing face masks to protect themselves from what I assume would lead to slow death caused by the farming flooded in for their burgers as well, while I sat and stared aimlessly. Carrying as many fries as I could to the campsite a half mile away, we got there with just enough time to set up camp, and watch the sunset down by the Suwannee.

20160328_091244

20160328_131749

20160328_131758

 

20160328_144513

20160328_145328

Roadwalking, not always a bad thing.

20160328_163549

Passing under the railroad. Very lucky to see a beautiful train pass by. Something I very much love seeing.

20160328_164034

20160328_164422

Suwannacoochee Springs, where the Suwannee and the Withlacoochee meet.

20160328_173351

The road to fries.

 

20160328_185041

More high quality beer.

 

20160328_195827

Day 5: Cooper’s Bluff campsite to Winquepin Rd – 11.4 miles

The last day was short. No more 20 miles, just 10 to go with maybe some bonus at the end to get back to where we had a vehicle staged. I got up late, thinking they could get moving and I would catch up. They waited. Oh well. After 4 days and 80 miles my partners were facing some physical pain. I’ve been there, but it’s a process. The next time it’s always easier, you’re always stronger for it. Sometimes you have to endure to really get the most out of an experience. In this case, for Longwalker, a lesson on why Superfeet insoles only work for some people, not most. Chris, maybe a lesson on what best to combat chaffing. Not Desitin. For me it’s always been when I pushed passed what I was used to was where I learned the most. When I stepped out of my comfort zone, and went for something I had never tried before. With each opportunity arose new doors to be opened and eventually what you see here in the way I like to hike, and what I like to carry in my pack. Experience has gotten me there, and now experience has taken me to the Suwannee River. The day had begun, none of us with anywhere to be, we took the last 10 miles slow. Longwalker showed me some super cool stuff, and we talked a lot about backpacking gear. He’s really into the do it yourself crowed, who make their own gear, and I think within the next year he’s going to have himself some really cool home made stuff to take camping. Along the way there was an old cemetery we checked out, graves dating back to the early 1800s. For some reason I really liked seeing this, someone lived their life in that area, we were probably hiking on what was their land. Now 200 years later. Time is precious, and not to be wasted. Something I’m still working on. Later that day he also took me off trail to the site of an old homestead. A house that has been there since before the civil war. It was incredible. The remnants of a chimney, and from what he said just a month before the home was still standing. Apparently the elements finally brought it to its knees. Still magnificent, old turpentine clay pots and all. Pushing on we find Chris hanging out in the back of Longwalkers truck. The trip had gone as quick as it came. Hopefully on my thru hike south I’ll be back in this area again by December.

20160329_075044

20160329_093247

20160329_102653

20160329_103157

20160329_103359

 

20160329_104347

 

 

My memory is hazy, probably smoked a few to many sandwiches back in the day, must be messing with the short term. So I apologize for leaving a lot out, or messing up parts of the days. I can’t help it! Some things are like a blur. It helps to take a lot of photos 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading. I certainly enjoyed hiking! Thanks to Longwalker for giving me the grand tour of the area! Thanks to Chris, and Madeleine for joining the fun! I’ll be back soon. In 84 days from now, on July 1st I start walking south from Quebec. For now I continue to amass food, and finalize plans.

IMG_6194

Jup

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

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

 

Newer posts

© 2019 jupiterhikes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: