Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Trip

Here is the photo of our group just before heading south towards Harper's Ferry.  I know, I look like I'm pooping, but I was really just making sure you could see my mother's face.
Anyway, we never made it to our destination.  For those of you considering starting out at Pen Mar Park and heading south, that stretch is the worst part of the MD Appalachian Trail.  It's rocky and up.  Really, there is no other way to describe it except up and rocky.  We got through it, but not without some injury and pain.  So when we reached the Raven Rock Shelter, we stopped for the day. 6.4 miles from the start.  That night, the Nor'easter blew in and no one really got much sleep.  Branches banged the tin roof, the temperature dropped and the wind blew in under the eaves.  It was a long miserable night.  In the early morning, we decided we needed to call the "extraction team" and call it a day.  We needed to hike a 14 mile day to make it far enough to stay on track to be in Harper's Ferry on time.  Injury prevented some from being able to do that distance in a day.  The wind was also pretty wild.  There was a large tree that had been uprooted in the night and would have landed on a campsite if it hadn't caught in the crook of a nearby tree.  So, between safety and injury, we ended our journey.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't massively disappointed.  You can't plan something for over a year and not be disappointed when something prevents you from fulfilling your journey.  But it's not the end, merely a delay until the weather is better.
Live to hike another day as they say

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lookin' For Adventure

Or whatever comes my way....

 These two mean trouble-
with a capital T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  Really. As adults, they began taking road trips, road trips that seemed to include crazy circumstances.  The first- a trip to the WV State Penitentiary for a ghost hunt.  When they arrived at the hotel they would be calling their home base, they discovered it was scarier than any haunted prison.  Between creepy leering men in the parking lot late at night to a blood stained mattress.  That's right ladies and gentlemen, the mattress was stained with blood and the hotel decided to just flip over the mattress rather than replace it.  So creepy and nasty was the room, that the two opted to leave in the early morning even though they had been up until 3:30 am.  And at the prison, the two were given a private tour and locked in a cell.  This creeped them out because they were being shown and unauthorized area of the prison and NO ONE KNEW THEY WERE THERE.  They luckily made it home safely.
During another trip where they were headed to the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, WV, they encountered 4 tornadoes, torrential rain that had them seeking a hotel (that they never found before the rain let up) and fog so thick you couldn't see more than about 5-10 feet in front of the car on a highway with people driving 55+MPH.  The next morning as they continued to their destination, they were met with gorgeous blue skies- and Biblical flooding of the Ohio River.  At one flooded town they pulled out the map and figured out a detour around a flooded road.  It was later discovered that only minutes after driving through, their alternate route was taken out by a mudslide.  Once at their destination, they went to check out a reputedly haunted abandoned asylum and ended up being shot at by an unknown individual.  They eventually made it home safe.  But of course their next trip included another weather anomaly where they drove through storms so bad they nearly had to pull over.  The storm system ended up spawning tornadoes further East in New York.

During a camping trip to Washington State to the UFO Ranch, they came upon an individual who looked a lot like Santa Claus but who was dressed in overalls, a straw hat, a black alien t-shirt and a long sleeved unbuttoned flannel shirt.  At his camping area he was talking to something named "Thor" that they assumed was a small dog.  It ended up being a plastic alien head sitting in a dog bed.  Santa conversed with Thor often.  The two girls decided not to stay around long and left at 6am, well before they needed to in order to make the flight home.

The two girls above are in fact myself and my cousin.  And all the above stories are completely factual.  Needless to say, we're wondering what adventure may happen while we hike the trail: Bigfoot? Aliens? Bear Attack?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Do You Do WIth a Drunken Sailor?

I received my Frogg Toggs yesterday and was anxious to try them on.  I got the Ultralight 2 and they are very light weight.  And they're very bright yellow.  My cousin has the same ones.  She mentioned we'd look like a couple of fishermen hiking the trail.  So I said we'd just sing some sea shanties.

Everything is coming along good.  I have my Frogg Toggs packed in an easy to get to spot along with my jacket.  The stove, cookset and sleeping pad should arrive by the end of the week.  I'm purchasing the rest of the clothing I need this week/weekend.  Food has been tested out a little and I just need to make a specific list to have it completely organized.  I do need to order another sleeping pad since mine has that leak.  I'm hoping I still have time to order it, otherwise I'll have to pay more to get it from the store. 

Only 10 days!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Eleven Days and Counting

It's getting down to crunch time here.  There are only 11 days until we head out on the trail.
This weekend, my mom and I decided to test our tents and sleeping stuff.
WE don't have to worry about bears in the backyard, but the chickens were interested in what was going on.
Both tents were easy to set up.
I'd like to set mine up again to show my husband the ins and outs of it
so he can help with it on the trail.
My mom isn't as comfortable with all the camping stuff, 
but she far surpasses us with the physical fitness.
So she can haul our asses up the hills, 
and we'll make sure her tent isn't going to leak or blow away.
Packing up "camp" was a cinch as well.
And so far my pack is only about 15 lbs.
That includes the tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, 
some clothes and the camera.
I'm certain I will be well below 25 lbs which will be awesome
(plus my husband can carry some stuff too).
I did learn that I need a new sleeping pad.
Mine has a leak and I was on the ground by very early morning.
(you know, the morning where the sun isn't up but the neighbor's rooster thinks it is and starts crowing)
All in all, I'm certain I'm nearly prepared for the trip.
Food plans are coming along, and I've chosen my clothing.
All that is left is assembling the first aid kit and some other odds and ends.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Last night 3 of us headed to REI to pick up a couple of things.  My husband was finally going to purchase his pack.  He went with my suggestion of the Osprey Atmos 65L.  It's the same pack my cousin, my mother and I have and we all love it and think it's super comfortable.  The hubby agreed. 
I had my husband try out the sleeping pad I'm going to order for him to make sure he thought it would work.  Last night I also inflated my sleeping pad to make sure that it stays inflated and doesn't have any leaks.  But one issue I didn't think of is that my pad is an extra long and it might not even fit in the tent (oh darn, I might have to get a new one).
Back to the shopping excursion, I also picked up a "Feminine Urination Device" called the Freshette.  Basically, it's something that let's women pee standing up.  I was unsure about getting one or if I needed one, but during our planning meeting, (and after 15 minutes of serious gut busting, tear producing laughter) both my cousin and friend said it's definitely something that is a must.  It just makes things easier.  The Freshette even has hose extensions for those women with hose envy.  Can't beat that.
After getting the back and some socks and some other various things, we headed home.  The peas were done dehydrating so I got some blueberries and apples going.  I have a feeling the dehydrator will be going nonstop for the next week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Am I Going To Eat?

Food is an important item on the trail.  When you're burning so many calories, you need to make sure you take in enough calories to give your body enough energy and nutrients to continue.  So I've been trying to think of some different foods to take so I don't get sick of the same thing.  My plan is eating a hot breakfast, cold lunch and a hot dinner.  I think planning your hot meals is a lot easier than figuring out a cold trail lunch.  So I decided to try tuna.  I'm not a fish lover.  I hate eating fish.  Can't even stand the smell of fish.  But every now and then, I can stomach tuna.  The small little cans are heavier than I'd like but still not too bad.  The kit I bought had a can of premade tuna salad, 5 crackers and a spoon.

I opened the can and immediately thought it looked like cat food.  Not a good omen.  So I started eating, and at first it was okay.  Okay meaning with the flavor of the cracker I could choke it down.  But when I got to the last couple of spoonfuls, I was done.  There will be no tuna salad in my pack on this trip (or any other trips for that matter). 

 While in the store, I also came across this soup mix that you make by just adding water.  I love potato soup, and nothing is better on a chilly fall night in the woods than a warm bowl of soup.  So, since it was only around $3, I figured I'd test it out.

So I cooked dinner last night backpacker style- in a Ziploc bag.  I measured out the mix based on the amount of the serving size listed on the bag (1/4 cup dry made 1 cup of soup).  The first bag I made was a little watery but the second was okay.  Both were edible and tasted pretty good.  We've decided to include 1 meal of potato soup.  I wonder how I can get bacon in it?

I also have the dehydrator going full bore.  I'm currently working on peas, and tonight I'm hoping to start on some corn.  I have apples and blueberries to dehydrate for my oatmeal as well.  (the peas and corn aren't for the oatmeal, that's for chicken and rice or noodle meals).

So I think I have an idea of food, or most of the food.  Lunches will be jerky and granola bars or possibly PB&J on a tortilla.  I'll be trying it all so I know how I'm managing everything. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sleeping Bag Saga Solved

All this time that I've been preparing for this backpacking trip, I've been worrying over my sleeping bag.  I have a great bag, but it isn't a backpacking bag and therefore isn't very light.  My husband's bag is rather old and I know (from experience, or rather my cousin's experience camping at the UFO Ranch in Trout Lake, Washington) that sleeping bags loose their effectiveness over time. 

Since we're on a budget, my husband and I didn't really want to purchase new sleeping bags.  So I attempted to see if mine would be compressed small enough to at least fit easily in my pack.  But it didn't fit in the compression sack I purchased. The thoughts of sleeping bags and compression sacks were shelved for a while.  I'd figure it out later. 

So while discussing the issues recently, my 9 year old son suggested my husband use his bag.  I explain that his sleeping bag is a youth size so my husband would never fit.  "So why don't you use it, Mom" was his next suggestion.  So I tried it out.  We won't dwell on the fact that I am short enough to fit into a youth bag.  We will dwell on the fact that I fit, it's lighter than mine AND it fits into the already purchased compression sack.

Only a few other items to work on getting and we'll be set!

Friday, September 11, 2015

From the 104th Floor

From the 104th Floor

by Leda Rodis (age 14 in 2001)

When the plane hit the building
rocked first
to the right
to the left,
and outside all the skyscrapers
of New York
seemed to tremble.
The alarms screamed louder
than we did, and I knew
it was time to get away. It’s funny
what you notice:
a pen rolling across the floor
my screen saver flicker and go off
a picture of you
and me
at Coney Island.
So much to leave behind. And yet so little.
Running down the hall I remembered
my mother
taking me to the top
of the Empire
State Building when I was just
a little girl,
telling me that a plane
had crashed there a long
time ago. So I thought that maybe
what happened. Just
an accident. And accidents
happen everyday.
Under the blown-out exit sign
a crowd
is screaming,
on the door.
I know:
You have to believe that I tried. I’m not the one
to give up.
Back at my desk, I rescue
the rolling pen,
at the blank screen, and
my picture
of you.
I look out
at the blue morning.
I expect
to see God there.
But what I really see is
another plane.
And I know what it means.
But I don’t know why…
I always thought that life was full of choices.
It always has been.
What to wear
Where to eat
Who to love
(and you know who I chose).
Now my choices have been taken away from me.
The men in the planes have narrowed my choices
Death by fire, or death by fall.
I see the smoke
filling the room
It’s hard to breathe
I look towards the open window.
would falling feel like?
I remember the roller coaster at Coney Island.
The wind tugging at my hair
How good it felt to scream.
The feeling in my stomach.
And how all the way down
I was with you.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


This time next month I will have hopefully returned from my section hike and will be able to move.  Hopefully I won't still be lying on the side of the trail somewhere above Harper's Ferry, or be buried in a hole dug by poop shovels or, as my 9 year old son warned me, end up missing because Bigfoot or a UFO abducted me (I really shouldn't share all my research on ghosts and the paranormal on the AT with him).
In the meantime, I'm getting all my gear together.  There will be a last trip to REI next week for the hubby's pack and some online sales to get the stove and other various odds and ends (I'm taking my small Olympus Tough camera so I'm getting extra batteries- worth the extra weight for me because I love taking photos, plus I want to be ready in case I see Bigfoot).
Sunday our group is meeting to plan all the logistics of the trip.  At some point this weekend, I want to start preparing food or at least experimenting with some recipes.  Part of me thinks it would be far easier at this point to just stock up on Mountain House food, but as someone who has high blood pressure, I can't really have the amount of sodium that Mountain House has.  It's a shame, really, because some of there meals are darn good. 
So, with the flurry of activity, I'll post here when I can about updates on the gear choices and food.
I'm so excited!

And for your listening pleasure, one of my favorite songs:

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Countdown

This time next month, I'll be on the Trail somewhere.  I'm not sure if I'll be actuall hiking, or if I'll be lying on the side of the trail telling people to contiue on without me.  Either way, I'll be on the trail.

In a last minute push, I managed to get back into the gym.  I've only gone one day so far, but I went back.  I tried not to push too much because I didn't want to cause issue with my muscle injury.  For a few days afterwards it was a little touch and go.  The heating pad was my best friend.  Then I took one of my prescription anti-inflammatories, went to bed and woke up the next morning completely pain free.  And for 2 days now, I haven't even had the typical constant ache.  I'm hoping it lasts.

I haven't been able to do much actual hiking.  September came and my world exploded with school meetings and scout meetings and popcorn meetings... I did have my grandson visiting for a weekend and we managed to take him to the Battlefield for a short hike.  No doubt he loves the outdoors and hiking, but he just runs with no sense of potential pitfalls.  Luckily he had his uncle there to help him along. 

Just need a few more things to round out my gear and figure out meals and I'm good to go!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's Here!

When I arrived home from work, my new tent was sitting on the porch waiting for me.  I didn't really have a chance to even open the box because I had to head out to clean out our Cub Scout Pack's camping trailer. 

It was dark by the time I got home, and I immediately opened up the box to check things out.  I was disappointed that it was already late at night and I wasn't able to go outside and set it up.  And they were calling for rain the next day so I wouldn't be able to set it then either.

So I did whatever any crazy camping person would do, I decided to set it up in my bedroom.

The only real negative review on this tent was about the ability to set it up.  They said it was confusing and impossible.  Other reviews contradicted the negative ones explaining it was actually pretty easy.  So I spread it out and put the poles together and made an attempt.  10 minutes later I was nearly in tears and was certain I had made a huge mistake.  Then I looked down and realized that not only were the corner grommet tabs color coded for pole placement, but there were actually color coded lines on the tent showing you where to place the poles.  So I realized I had to flip the poles over and then it took maybe 2 minutes to set it up.  I felt like an idiot, but at least I figured it out.  I haven't had time (or room) to put the rain fly on, but I'm sure it's no problem either. 

My cousin ordered a new tent as well.  She went with a Eureka Spitfire 1 person tent.  And while it appears she took her time and waited to set up her new tent outside, she actually opened the box and set it up in her living room. 

This is the tent my mom is thinking about ordering as well.  My cousin gave it high marks.  She said there was a lot of heavy dew in the morning all over the rainfly, but inside the tent was bone dry.

Now we're hoping we have a chance to test out the tents on an actual camping trip before we hit the trail!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Photo from REI
I mentioned in my last post that I went ahead and spontaneously ordered my backpacking tent.  My original game plan was to purchase the REI Half Dome T2 2 person tent.  This decision was based on cost and reviews.  During my last trip to REI, I climbed into the Half Dome tent that was set up on the sales floor.  When I realized just how small the inside was, I became concerned about the ability of my husband and I both to fit inside the tent. The Half Dome T2 Plus which offers more floor space, was heavier, and I was not thrilled about adding any more weight than I absolutely had to.  I liked the Quarter Dome T2Plus, but it was a lot more expensive and more or less out of my price range.

I had received a 25% off coupon for 1 Clearance item.  Last Friday I sat down to use the coupon on a sleeping bag (I'm thinking of getting a new bag that is lighter in weight).  When I clicked on the link to shop Camping Clearance, the first item that popped up was the REI Quarter Dome T2 Plus tent.  With the coupon I ended up paying less for the Quarter Dome than I would have for the smaller Half Dome T2.  And today my lovely new tent is being delivered while I'm at work.  I am anxious to get home and set it up and see how it is.  It's like the expectation you have on Christmas

Monday, August 17, 2015

What's Goin On

A week or so ago, several of us headed out to REI for a quick trip.  My brother and cousin needed to be fitted for new packs, and I was going just to go and come up with an idea of what I would purchase on the next trip.  I knew my next large purchase would be a back packing tent.  I was thinking of getting the REI Half Dome T2 2 person tent.  There was one already set up, so I climbed in.  It seemed way too small for myself and my husband.  I tried to talk my brother into climbing in with me (he's about the same height as my husband) but he just pretended he couldn't hear me.  I also wasn't thrilled with the weight of the tent because going to the T2 Plus just added even more weight.  Anyway, the trip ended with my brother getting a new pack and my cousin heading home to order hers (they were out of XS).  I purchased a package of large bags with odor barrier I have in mind to use for food and packing out my trash.

After the shopping trip, my mom, cousin and I headed out for a quick hike.  I was a little worried because my butt muscle was acting up while I was shopping, so I was certain that I would be in a lot of pain hiking.  We headed out on what has become my favorite hike that ends around a pond teeming with wildlife.  We scared up a Great Blue Heron and saw a couple of turtles. Surprisingly, I wasn't in any pain at all, and that was uplifting. 

I've been incredible busy the last several weeks.  This past weekend I had a large yard sale.  While I didn't get rid of as much as I wanted, I made enough to pay for a new tent and half of my husband's pack.  I went ahead and ordered a tent on Friday.  I had a 25% off 1 clearance item coupon that was expiring.  I planned on getting a sleeping bag, but when the  offer for the REI Quarter Dome T2plus tent popped up, and I realized I could purchase a $320 tent for $187, I went ahead and got it.  Once it's here this week I will be setting it up and seeing if there is enough room for the hubs and myself. 

Way to close your eyes Kelly

Friday, July 24, 2015

Where Have You Been

When I return to blog after being MIA (again) I'm always reminded of my grandmother mother, hands on her hips, demanding to know "Where in the world have you been?!" back in the days of my youth.  Sometimes the explanations ran to the creative side.  This time I have the photo to prove I was actually stranded on an island of dinosaurs after a hurricane destroyed power on the island and I missed the last boat to the mainland. 
So really, I was on vacation (the photo is from the Virginia Living Museum, who knew Velociraptors were indigenous to Virginia).  So far I haven't been able to do much of anything that has any thing to do with hiking or backpacking.  There was a scout camping trip to Luray Caverns, but that's as close as I've come in some time.  Between weekend trips to the beach, scouting events, work and stresses of life, I haven't had time for much of anything, including working on that ghost book.  There was a weekend trip to REI in the works, but that had to be canceled because of a funeral.  I know I should get out there and start hiking and go be in nature where the stress is usually a little less, but the stress is so great it's actually keeping me from being able to motivate myself to get out there.  I'm going on my first backpacking trip in a little over 2 months and so far I have a pack, a pair of boots I'm still not 100% convinced fit me right, hiking poles, a map, a data book and a headband.  Oh, and a pocket knife. I'm not in shape and not very confident that my back will be strong enough for 30 pounds and my biggest worry: I'm not confident that I'm going to manage to make it 40 miles on a bum butt.
So, I guess it's time for some stress management, time management and preparation.  I'm a procrastinator and I seem to do my best work under pressure.  Here's hoping that applies to the AT.

Friday, June 26, 2015


I feel like I've been MIA on this blog for a long long time.  Heck, I feel I've been MIA in everything lately as I'm pulled in all sorts of different directions and activities and jobs. 
I just returned from a week long Scout Camp with my son which explains my lack of blogging since I can't very well drag along a laptop with me. And while I wasn't able to blog about hiking, I was able to do a lot of hiking/walking in those 4 days.  I probably hiked/walked miles over the week that I was there.  My biggest concern was how I'd manage with my injury/piriformis syndrome.  I had to carry the daily necessities (sunscreen, water bottles, rain ponchos, clipboard, etc.) in my back pack all day traveling back and forth from camp to the different program sites.  Surprisingly, I managed okay without the benefit of any heating pads or massages to help ease the muscle tightness.  I wasn't carrying around a 30 pound pack, but I was carrying several pounds in the pack I had for 4 1/2 days.  My muscle was very tired and sore still.  I'm hoping that it will continue to improve or it will be a very slow hike I do in October. All in all it was nice to spend the time with my son and be outdoors, but I am glad to be back home.  Hopefully I can get things organized and back to a more regular blogging schedule (and maybe get everything else to fall into place).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Almost Pain Free

Went for a last minute hike this past Sunday.  The temps were in the upper 80's and the humidity made it ungodly hot.  But we went anyway.  I wanted to take along my pack to see how I managed with my injury.  I'm anxious to get back to work and get ready for the upcoming trip. 

I was carrying around the water for everyone else and the pack in total weighed about 12 pounds.  Not quite half of the maximum weight I expect to be carrying on the trail.  Did I mention it was hot?  We only did about 2 miles because of the heat.  I managed okay with my pack.  I stopped three times to stretch my muscle and it didn't really bother me too much.  I had more trouble with back pain than butt pain.  At the end, I was feeling encouraged that I'd be able to overcome the pain in my hip/butt.

When we returned to my mom's house, I crashed on the couch for an hour and a half.  I'm sure glad that our big hike takes place in the fall and not in the heat and humidity of summer!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Back to the Routine

Julie and Ernie walking the trail
It's been a while, but I was finally able to get back to the trail.  The summer months are the busiest months for me.  We have our typical Scout activities plus baseball plus gardening plus trips to the beach.  It hasn't left much time for trips to the woods.  So last minute we planned a quick hike over at Hashawa Environmental Center.  I love hiking there.  The visitor's Center offers nice bathrooms and information on hikes and activities.  The trails all interconnect so you can make your hike as long, short, strenuous or easy as you want. 
My husband and I had been busy the day before the hike.  We have a large veggie garden and because of the rainy days we've had, it needed a lot of weeding.  That and cleaning out my parent's basement until midnight meant my body was in quite a bit of pain the morning of the hike.  I wasn't sure if I would even be able to go.  My knees hurt, my back hurt, my hips hurt and my piriformis muscle hurt.  But I swallwed a couple of Alieves and did my muscle stretches for the piriformis injury  sucked it up and went on my way.  And I'm glad I did.

E checking out the groundhog hole

My son enjoyed checking out things on the trail.  Here we stopped to try to get mulberries off the mulberry tree there and in doing so discovered a large hole dug directly under the tree.  Our consensus was that it was a groundhog hole (there was another hole dug nearby.  We all checked it out and continued on our way.  We eventually came to the Raptor cages along the trail.  Hashawa has several birds of prey that have been severely injured to the point of being unable to live in the wild.  They have a Kestrel, Screech owl, Barred owls, Great Horned owls, Red Tailed Hawks, a Black Vulture and a Bald Eagle. I love visiting the birds.  The benches there make a good spot for muscle stretching which is something I have found I need to do regularly while hiking.
It was a really nice hike and while it had a few inclines, it wasn't too taxing.  I had minimal pain associated with my injury and that was a great thing.  I think I might be able to work more wearing my pack and begin adding some weight to it.  I don't want to over do anything, but in reality that 40+ mile hike is fast approaching in October and I'd like to be physically ready (or at least more ready than I am now).  I'm hoping to find some time to go on an overnight to get the hang of things.

E and I
(I'm sporting the AT: Women's Group headband and I love it {even if my husband says I look like a hippy}
you can join the Facebook group if you're a woman and you hike.  I highly recommend it!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day Hike

This past Sunday was Mother's Day and my mom and I decided one thing we wanted to do was go hiking.  It was a pretty stressful weekend for me, and I was all for spending some time outdoors.  I was also anxious to start getting back to the hiking routine and see how my injury held up. 
We opted to hike some trails at Hashawa Environmental Center which isn't too far from home and has some trails that offer some hills.  Their trails also all connect so it's easy to modify your hike- something that works well for my injury.  If it starts hurting we can cut the hike short.
We decided on the Vista Loop Trail and the Green Trail which combined make about a 3 mile hike.  The weather was gorgeous and the hike was great.  I made sure I stretched my muscle along the trail and I didn't have any pain with it at all (a first!).  We encountered some wildlife along the way including a snake that we weren't able to see long enough to identify (even though I went racing through the grass to find it), a an American Toad the size of the tip of your thumb to the first knuckle and some fish and a Red Eared Slider turtle in the large pond. 
It was a really good hike.  I felt better getting outside, spent some time with my mom and felt a little ray of hope that my injury might be getting better or at least manageable. 

American Toad my mom spotted
Red Eared Slider- my favorite photo with the clouds reflected in the water

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Roam If You Want To

I finally ventured out last evening on my first walk/hike in around a month (or since the physical therapist told me to take it easy).  After managing to walk around Camporee this past weekend without too much difficulty, I figured it was time for a little more.  Rather than hit an actual trail, my mother and I opted to walk down a private lane near her house.  It has one long hill but is otherwise flat.  Just enough to test the waters.   As we walked down the hill, we saw two horses running towards us- not in a fence.  Loose horses are always an interesting thing to deal with so I realized this little walk might end up being a lot more adventurous that I had originally thought.  There was a house near by that had a pasture with a gate open.  My mom went to see if the horses were possibly theirs and see about getting them back home.

In the meantime, I had coaxed one over with a handful of grass.  I took off my sweatshirt and used it as a makeshift rope to keep the horse from running off.  I was at least hoping it would keep the horse from running off because I really didn't want to lose my sweatshirt.  Eventually my mom returned and told me to turn the horse loose.  Apparently the owners let the horses out of the pasture to roam where they want to (I know, the B-52's song is stuck in my head now too).  As a horse person, this is pretty much ridiculous.  There are countless things that could happen to a horse when it's pastured let alone wandering aimlessly in areas you have no control over.  But I can appreciate the horses' desire to roam because that's part of what lead to this back packing business in the first place.
We continued on our way and visited a couple more neighborhood horses (who were appropriately paddocked) before turning around to head back.  I was having very little issue with the muscle injury.  There wasn't really any pain involved, just issue with the muscle being tired quickly- a consequence of not being used for a while I imagine.
Eventually we came to the long hill we had to climb to get home.  The photo doesn't do the hill justice, as it looks almost flat, but believe me, it's a big hill.  And I know it doesn't compare to hills out on the AT, but I haven't climbed anything in a month and hills cause the most pain with my injury.
I managed to make it with only a couple of breaks and I was pleased that the problems I had seemed to be due to lack of conditioning.  Once I get my muscle strength built up, I might actually be okay.
Even this morning I felt okay.  My piriformis muscle is a little tight, but it was much better after some stretching, which I plan to do a few times throughout the day. 

Things are looking a little more hopeful.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

State of the Butt Address

So this is what I did this weekend:


I was camping with my son's scout pack for their annual Spring Camporee.  It involves a lot of walking the whole weekend along with camping things like setting up tents, sleeping on air mattresses and walking around with a backpack.  Basically everything that normally makes my hip/butt injury hurt pretty bad.  I was concerned about how it would hold up over the weekend.  I was pleasantly surprised that it barely even ached.  Granted I only had a first aid kit, a bottle of water and a clip board in the back pack, but it was still more than I had in a month.  I made sure I stretched when I could and sat down when I could.  I even felt good enough to try my hand at the rope bridge the boys had to do (not too shabby in my opinion).  So some of my anxiety over this injury is gone and I'm thinking I might be okay after all. In the meantime, I'm continuing all the stretches and exercises from PT and this week I'll try some light hiking but without a pack.  I don't want to over do things and end up worse than before.  
I can do this!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Compression Sack: Round 1

So, my latest purchase at REI was a compression sack for my sleeping bag.  I've been wondering what I should do about the sleeping bag issue because mine isn't really a backpacking bag, meaning it wasn't designed with weight in mind.  Not that it's really heavy, I just know that there are sleeping bags out there that are much lighter.  Packing as light as I can has become more of a focus for me now than it was in the beginning of planning this trip.  My butt muscle injury has forced me to be more attentive in planning out what I'm taking and how much it weighs.  And since I'm trying to keep the cost of the trip down some, if I can get away without purchasing a new sleeping bag, that would be great.  So I went and got my bag and opened the compression sack and laid them out together.  Immediately, I knew I should have listened to the nice REI Salesman and purchased the larger compression sack.  But I, in my infinite wisdom, was pretty sure I could make my bag fit the compression sack in the next size down (also, it was a nice green color).  

So, I commenced stuffing.  I think I managed to get about 2/3 of the sleeping bag in the sack.  And that's it.  So the moral of this story is to listen to the nice REI Salesperson when they tell you what they recommend (they haven't steered me wrong yet).  So, I plan on seeing if my husband's bag will fit in the sack (I doubt it but I'm going to try anyway) and if that doesn't work I'm sure there are some other things I could use it for, like clothes (Though the running joke after our Catoctin hike was that we weren't bringing a change of clothes to save on weight).  I managed to find my Big Agnes sleeping pad so I can get that rolled up and ready and make sure it's good to go, except I'm not 100% certain where it's carrying bag is.  That will be the next adventure.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Hiking Boot Dilemma

I bought these hiking boots back when the trip was born.  I was  in a large outdoor store and was perusing the backpacking merchandise when I mentioned to my husband how I wanted to do this trip.  He jumped on the idea as did my mother who was also in the store with us.  I immediately went to look at hiking boots there and picked these up for $50.  I wasn't too sure about them, but I wanted to get something for the trip so that there would be no way to get out of going. 
So I get these boots and each time I wear them I'm thinking I just don't know if they're going to work.  They were extremely heavy and the area around my ankle was bothering me and then on a hiking trip, I realized that my toes were hitting the front of the boot-and for those not up on hiking stuff- if your toe hits the front of the shoe when you go downhill, you will eventually lose your big toe.  It's apparently very painful.  So I knew I'd need to try a different pair.  So when my mom went to get her boots, I tried on some and decided to get the same ones she was getting: the Vasque Breeze 2.0.  I was surprised how much more comfortable they were than the ones I had.  There was no question I'd have to get new boots.

So I purchased my boots at REI.  In fact 3 of us purchased the woman's boot, my husband purchased the Men's version and my son has the youth version.  It's a nice boot.  I started wearing them to break them in and they seemed a little off.  I discovered that though I asked for a 10 medium width, the boots were a 10 wide width.  I don't usually need a wide shoe, especially since this brand of boot is cut a little wider already.  But, I figured I'd continue to try them out and see what happens .  When we went on our hike in Catoctin (which was more rugged than any of our previous hikes) I felt my feet shifting side to side and felt a couple of hot spots developing on the bottom of my foot.  I knew I'd have to take the boots back and exchange them for the other size.  So yesterday, my brother talked us into going to REI on a spur of the moment trip.  I took along my boots to exchange.  I went and tried on the 10 medium width but my toe was hitting the front of the boot.  Even trying a different lacing technique didn't help.  They didn't have a 10.5 to try on and I was concerned that would be too big.  I have one foot bigger than the other like most people, only my size difference is more significant than most.  Going up a half size would help one foot and be an issue on the other.  So my husband went and got my original pair of boots to put on.  As soon as they were on, they felt good.  I tried the new tying technique and that helped a little.  In the end, I decided (with the help of the excellent staff at REI) that I should stick with the boots I had (the 10 W).  With the use of an insert and/or thicker socks, the width shouldn't be an issue.  Plus, there's always duct tape for those hot spots.  Honestly, I'm not sure why I didn't think of inserts before.  I was already thinking I might get some, and since I used to sell shoes, I already know they can take up room in a shoe to help with fit.  I felt a little silly, but I'd rather be absolutely certain about my boots because like my mom told my brother, they're the most important purchase of this trip.
By the way, my brother refused to try on the Vasque Breeze 2.0 because he didn't want to be like everyone else.  He ended up with a pair of Salomons. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Pit of Despair

Westley: Where am I?
Albino: The Pit of Despair! Don't even think... don't even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick. Don't dream of being rescued, either; the only way in is secret. (from The Princess Bride)

I debated whether I wanted to write this post, but since I wanted this journey to be transparent for myself and others, I decided I needed to.  Things in my life became more difficult over the last week or so.  My husband lost his job.  I won't go into those details because they don't really matter, but know it's not because of anything he did wrong.  Anyway, this created a problem for me.  My husband is the one who had the health care.  With no job there is no health care and with no health care there is no way to afford the 6 (or 7 I don't remember) prescriptions I have to fill every month or the regular doctor's visits I have with the regular blood work I get.  It also means no way to afford physical therapy.  Without PT my piriformis syndrome issue can't be resolved and if that can't be resolved I can not physically hike.

If I can not physically hike then there's no possible way I can manage 40 miles on the Appalachian Trail.  Which means, I can't go on this trip.  This is what had me in the Pit of Despair.   

I'll be the first to say depression sucks.  And I'm not talking about the kind of depression where you're just a little sad about something happening, like your hamster died.  I'm talking about the medical illness caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.  I'm talking about depression that changes your normal daily life- interferes with your sleep, your ability to work and your everyday activities.  It steals your motivation and sucks the enjoyment out of activities you normally enjoyed.  For instance, if gardening usually helps you with stress levels and makes you feel better mentally, you can not get out and garden.  Deep down you want to, you might know it will help, but the depression won't let you.  You don't want to go into the garden and work because you don't care (or more accurately don't want to care).  It takes a long time to motivate yourself to do whatever it is you want to do, and if the smallest thing happens that changes your plans, you say "Forget it! I knew I shouldn't have bothered to do xyz! It's not worth it!" 

I want to also add that you should never tell someone who suffers from depression that being happy is a
choice.  For most people I guess it can be, you can choose to laugh things off.  For those with depression the choice isn't yours.  It isn't that you are choosing not to be happy/content it's that being happy is an emotion you can't even muster.  There is nothing more frustrating for me than someone telling me I need to choose to be happy.  Because yeah, I'm choosing to eat my weight in Nutty Bars, sleep all day and not experience anything remotely close to happiness. 

Anyway... back to hiking.  The thought of not being able to do this trip sent me careening into the Pit of Despair.  This trip was more than a fun way to celebrate turning 40.  It wasn't just an adventure.  It was one of the things I had listed as something I wanted to accomplish before I was 40 that I could actually accomplish before 40.  I had accomplished nothing else on the list.  Nothing.  And that made me feel like a failure (here's where I say don't tell me I'm not a failure.  I feel like one and telling me I'm not one is invalidating how I feel- boy I'm up on all sorts of soap boxes today!).  Without going into too much detail, the last decade or so, I dealt with a lot of things.  Things that can be considered emotional and psychological abuse, and things that were extremely high stressors.  Some of the things I dealt with actually had me stop writing.  I haven't written anything other than blog posts in 15 years- and prior to that I was editor of an award winnging college literary magazine and a published poet.  I lost who I was.  I no longer knew myself.  My life was not what I imagined or wanted it to be.  And then, I planned this hiking trip.  Suddenly I was getting passionate and excited about something.  I was going to accomplish something that I wanted to before I was 40 AND it sparked a desire to write a book (also on the list of things to accomplish) that I began working on feverishly.  And then, like that. It was done.  Dreams squashed again.  All because I hurt my butt a year ago and didn't realize it until I hiked with a pack on my back.

It's been a long week for me and everyone around me.  There's been rivers of tears, nasty attitudes, anger, woe and violent out bursts where I throw tennis balls and break glass (just a photo frame, not a window).  I stopped doing my PT exercises because why bother? 
 Then, I had 2 dreams both featuring my deceased grandmother and both occurring on some trail in the woods.  In the first I'm laying sprawled on the trail wailing and my grandmother is standing there holding one of my hiking poles and says "Get up or I'll crack you with this!" and in the second we're on a wooded rocky trail and I'm having a pity party and she's holding my pocket knife- open- and says "Get up and start hiking or I'll crack you with this!" (the I'll crack you with this is something she often said to myself and my cousin- and truthfully, we probably needed some cracking).  If you know me and my paranormal background, you know I believe these weren't random silly dreams but actually visitation dreams.  My grandmother, who I was close to, was telling me in no uncertain terms to knock it off.

So last night I told my husband the hike had to happen.  I have no clue what's going to happen with my injury, but for now I'm going to keep doing the exercises and having my husband work on massaging the area to help work out the knots in the muscle.  I'm going to lay off the training for a bit longer to give the muscle time to heal, and hopefully it will be okay.  And if it's not, I'll push through it.

Because this hike is happening.