Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Day

Today we had a snow day.  Or, rather, we had a day off school and work because of snow that was forecasted but never actually happened.  So I spent a good part of the day being extremely lazy nursing a sore back and attempting to get some work done from home and cleaning the house.  When my husband came home early, he was ready to hit the gym.  We switched into gym clothes and headed down the road to the local YMCA.  I was pretty disappointed with my performance, or lack thereof.  At one point I had no problem pumping out 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.  Today I barely made it to 5 minutes.  It was a definite wake up call that I need to really step up the work outs to be able to get ready for this hike.  So I hit the weight machines and worked my arm and back muscled and my core muscles and my legs.  I'm fairly certain I won't be able to move tomorrow, but it's that good kind of soreness and stiffness that reminds you that you're working on a better you (at least that's what I'm going to tell myself in the morning).  After the weights, my son and I spent some time on the indoor track.  We walked and then jogged a little.  He jogged faster than I did, but as a competitive person, that was just more motivation.  I rewarded myself with a 15 minute soak in the hot tub. 
I've known that I would need to have a pretty extensive training plan to prepare myself for this hike.  My game plan, based on information I've gathered from books and websites, is to work all my muscle groups on the weight machines.  I'm especially focused on my core muscles and my back muscles because I'm especially weak in those areas and I think if I get those areas in shape, carrying a pack will be a little easier.  I'm also going to be building my endurance on the elliptical machine.  I've also read that Yoga is a good idea as it helps with flexibility and loosening muscles.  In the end though, nothing compares to actually getting out there and hiking.  The group I'm hiking with has plans to try to get in 1 day a week to hit a trail and hike.  We will eventually be adding our packs and gradually increasing the pack weight as we go.  The hope is that we'll all be in pretty good physical shape and the trip will be more enjoyable.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wild: The Review

Last night I finished reading Cheryl Strayed's book Wild.  Before I go into any details, know that I think everyone should read this book.  And by everyone, I mean even people who have no plans or desire to go on any kind of hike or back packing trip. 

The basic plot of the book is that Cheryl's mother dies, the family drifts apart and Cheryl begins making a series of seriously bad choices that leads to her divorce.  At what is her lowest point, she makes the decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo.  The book chronicles her journey.  As stories go, I thought it was a good one.  It was well written and I had trouble putting it down.  But it goes beyond the specific story.  I think most people can relate to that feeling where you wonder how the heck you got where you are.  By that I mean, most people have an idea of how their life will go.  You have goals, you have dreams, you have he basic outline of what's going to happen.  And then while you're trying to build your life off those outlines, things happen that take you down completely different roads than what you expected.  Kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books that were big in the 80's.  You come to a point in the story where you have to pick which way you're going to go.  Sometimes you choose a good way, and sometimes you choose a not so good way.  Some choose ways that are far harder than others, but either way, most have sat and wondered "How did I get to this point in my life?" or "Why is this happening to me?"  I've been there.  I've been there more times than I'd like to admit.  And oddly enough, most of those times brought up thoughts about the AT.  From the time in my early twenties when I first got the idea, to all the subsequent times I kept thinking about how I should do it.  They all coincide with moments where I felt lost or that things were just not going the way I thought they would.  So, while my choices in life were not as bad as some of the author's, I found myself relating in a big way.  And I'm more excited than ever to get started because like this book demonstrates, "it's not the destination but the journey that counts".

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Research: A Sort Of Book Review

I'm one of those people who loves to learn new things.  If I could make my profession be full time student, I would.  So when I'm getting ready to do something different, I spend a lot of time getting as much information as I can, so I can be as prepared as possible.

So on my very first trip to REI (I absolutely LOVE REI but that a post for a different day), I picked up this book: How To Hike the A.T. by Michelle Ray.  As far as books go, I found this one to be easy to read and pretty informative for a fledgling back packer like myself. It helped answer a few of the questions I had about different things- like do I really need hiking poles? (the answer is yes, hiking poles are a good idea, especially if you have knee or hip issues).  And the author includes several lists of helpful information or websites throughout the book.  It also included some information about the AT folklore/traditions.  I learned that parts of the AT are reported to be haunted, and as a paranormal investigator, I'm now getting ready to research that angle (and plan some future section hikes to the haunted sections because that's the kind of nutty stuff I do).  I did skip a few sections that pertained to Thru Hikers only, but overall, I'd recommend this books for anyone who is looking for some information on planning a back packing trip.

Next time, I plan on reviewing Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

First Step Towards Training

Well, I did it.  I joined the local gym.  I see this as the first big step towards getting myself trail ready by October.  My husband and I have been debating about whether or not we were going to join a gym.  With a membership, there's a monthly fee, and with walking/hiking outside there isn't.  However, it's January and that means outside is cold and when it's cold, I can come up with many different reasons why I can't possibly go out to get some exercise. So while it's a great idea in theory to save some money and exercise on your own, the reality is that never happens.  Plus, I have more reason to start getting into more of an exercise routine- my health issues.  Getting more consistent exercise and maybe shedding those last 30 pounds I need to shed will help quite a bit with my high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.  I realize that all that makes me sound like someone who is averse to working out or being active, but I assure you, that isn't the case.  I am an active person.  I just don't want to be active outside with a 10 degree windchill.  So, since my husband was working late, I headed over to the Y to see what they had to offer in the way of promotions.  And because they were not only waiving the registration fee but also offering the first month free, I signed up.  Now there are no excuses not to be ready for this hike.  My game plan is to build up my core and back muscles and also building up my endurance.  While I could leave now and hike long distances no problem, with a 20-30 pound pack on my back things would be different. 
So here's to working out 
(and rewarding myself after with a soak in the whirlpool)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How This Hike Saved My Life

      Maybe saying this planned section hike saved my life is a little melodramatic.  In truth I wasn't in the process of dying or on death's door, but in a big way, this trip did help add years to my life if not saving it.  I've had some health issues off and on.  Stress is my nemesis.  When I'm stressed, I eat, and I don't eat fruits and veggies, I eat chocolate and sugary desserts.  Not to mention the health issues that stress can create in your body (outside of stuffing your face). 
     So, because I had this strenuous trip planned in 10 months and because the amount of exercising I will be doing will be increasing and progressively get more intense in order to prepare for the hike, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the doctor to get checked out.  I already suspected that I might have some issues with blood pressure, but for the most part, I thought I was relatively healthy.  I had dropped a significant amount of weight over the years so I thought I was doing pretty good.
     Imagine my surprise (sort of) to end up on blood pressure medication and diabetes medication.  I was also told that my cholesterol was very high and that if it didn't change significantly in the next 6 weeks, I was going to be on cholesterol medication. So what was supposed to just be a a quick physical to tell me I'm good to exercise and go on my trip ended up being a physical that turned into finding some pretty significant problems.  And while I suspected that I had blood pressure problems, I wouldn't have gone to the doctor without a really good reason.  That reason being the hike and not wanting to drop dead on everyone and having them drag my lifeless body 40 miles to Harper's Ferry (really, though, they'd just kicked some leaves over me and leave me there). So, without this hike, I would be continuing life prescription free and that means continuing with untreated high blood pressure, untreated Type 2 Diabetes and untreated high cholesterol.

In the meantime, I have the green light to start my exercise program (really, I need to exercise to help get my blood pressure and sugar levels to a better level).  Because my EKG looked good, I don't need to have a stress test just yet.  If I start experiencing some shortness of breath or chest pains while exercising I will of course need to schedule one.  I may choose to schedule one anyway because as my doctor said, it's better to have a problem in the room with the doctor standing there with the paddles than in the backwoods of West Virginia with some toothless guy ready to give you mouth to mouth.

Bottom line is, without this hike, I would have some serious health issues going untreated, so without even starting to exercise and eat healthier, I already am healthier.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Starting the New Year Right

Usually at the beginning of the new year I make an in depth list of resolutions.  This year, I opted not to do that.  Most of the time I forget about them by the time February hits and then by about November I remember and scramble to try to complete the list, which I don't, and then I get all depressed about it.  For this year, I have a goal and that goal is this hike of the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail.This trip is something I've always wanted to do.  It's an adventure.  But to be able to accomplish it, I need to make sure I do some things- like eating healthier and working out to get into back packing shape and working on finances in order to be able to afford the equipment that I'll need.  These are things I tended to focus on in my resolution list only now they aren't the focus, they're just the things I need to do to reap the reward of an awesome trip.  I'm hoping that switching things up and changing my focus will benefit me in the long run.  And if it works, next year I'll plan to hike another section, though I'm already planning on hiking the whole thing section by section anyway.  Unless, of course, I get out on the trail and find out that I absolutely hate back packing (I seriously doubt that will happen since I love hiking and I love camping and back packing is hiking and camping all at the same time). 

So, when January 1st rolled around, I made going on a hike a priority.  I wasn't able to go on the exact hike I had planned as I was sick the day before with a nasty stomach virus (I'll skip the gory details).  So my mom and my son and I headed to Gettysburg and took a short non strenuous hike through part of the battlefield.  I was probably pushing myself a little too much so soon after being so sick, but they say whatever you're doing the first day of a new year is what you'll be doing throughout the year to come.

I don't know about you, but I want to be on the trail as much as possible this year.

Not Keen on Quinoa

 This is a report from one of my other blogs:

This is Quinoa
(pronounced keen-wa or keen-oh-a).
It's considered a super food
higher in protein than rice
and a good source of fiber, phosphorous,
magnesium, iron and calcium.
And it cooks in under 15 minutes.

So when I saw some recipes for backpacking meals 
that use quinoa, 
I thought I definitely needed to try it-
certain I would be bagging it up for the big trip.
But I tried it
and hated it.
I'm not sure if it was because of the flavoring and seasoning it came with
or if I really hate it.
Maybe I'll give it a try again cooked a different way,
but as for now, I think I'll be sticking with Ramen noodles and rice.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How This Trip Came to Be

The idea for this Appalachian Trail adventure isn't a recent one.  It started many years ago when my brother got a documentary from the library about AT Thru Hikers.  I can't remember the title of the film, but I remember watching it with my brother and by the end of the film, we were both ready to pack our packs and hit the trail.  Unfortunately, I was a 20-something divorced mom who was incapable of taking off in the woods for 6 months and my brother was still in high school (though I don't think being in high school was keeping him from going off hiking for 6 months).  
So, because there were things that I couldn't just up and leave, the idea of a back packing trip went on the back burner.  The years passed, I got remarried, had another kid and got divorced again.  Somewhere along the way I thought of the Appalachian Trail and came up with the idea of doing a section hike through Maryland. I researched it a little, knew it was about 40 miles (40.9 to be precise) and thought I should do it.  But it never happened.  I got remarried again (third time's the charm) and moved into my husband's apartment.  This meant clearing out some things that I just didn't need anymore.  One afternoon in late summer as I was going through some papers I had, I came across a post-it note with a list of things I wanted to do before I was 30.  At first I was amused, but the amusement quickly turned into depression because the only thing I had managed to accomplish on the list was learning to play the guitar.  And while I did learn to play it, I hated it and couldn't play it now to save my life.  And I was getting ready to turn 39 and I hadn't done anything.  So somewhere in the back of my brain, a voice kept whispering about that AT hike through Maryland. Each day I'd think about it longer until I eventually started thinking I should do it and plan it for October of 2015 and hike the 40 miles for my 40th birthday.  Even though a plan had started to take shape, I wasn't actually planning it as a certainty.  It was still just this idea of something I had always wanted to do, only now it had a title: "40 for my 40th".  That all changed, though, because of a small little stove.
I watched a vlog on the Cold Antler Farm Blog about Black Out Bags.  It's just some common sense preparedness for storms- things you might want if you lose power.  And one of those things was a small Esbit stove to make a warm drink on or even heat up some soup.  I decided I wanted one- just in case.  So when my husband and I along with my parents went to visit a BassPro store, I showed my husband the little $10 stove and mentioned I wanted it.  I suggested it might be a nice Christmas stocking stuffer.  When he wanted to know why I needed it, I told him about the black out bag idea and how it would be good to have- just in case.  And then, suddenly, I was telling him about the back packing trip I had been thinking about for so long- long before he and I had met. I went on about how I was depressed about not accomplishing anything on my list, how we could do the 40 miles in celebration of turning 40 (he turns 40 too) and how preparing for it would help us both lose weight and be healthier.  Instead of telling me I was crazy, he remembered me talking about wanting to do the same trip when we first met and suddenly, he was on board.  Then he told my mom, and then she was on board.  There in the store we settled on a date in October.  My brother joined the group and my cousin (who turns 41) and my sister.  
And that's how the "40 for my 40th" 4 day back packing trip came to be.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

40 For My 40th

Lately, I've been in a funk.  Maybe it's the stress of life, maybe it's the realization that I'm living the last year of my 30's and heading straight for 40, either way, I haven't been able to shake it.  It occurred to me that perhaps I needed a goal.  Perhaps I needed something to work towards- something that would be a pretty significant accomplishment.

Years ago, I had it in my head that I wanted to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail.  Really, I'd love to do a thru hike (hiking the entire AT from Georgia to Maine) but that's a 6 month trip and not realistic for a working married mom.  But a section hike- that's possible. 

But the years came and went, and I got busy with other things.  I never forgot about that idea, but it just seemed like something that wasn't going to become reality.  There's always an excuse not to do something- the gear is expensive, I'm not in shape and getting in shape is hard.... but then, after turning 39 and feeling like I hadn't really accomplished anything (and coming across a list I had jotted down of things I wanted to do before I was 40- none of which I've done) the thought of a hike became something I thought about regularly.

I decided it seemed fitting to hike 40 miles for my 40th birthday.

Still, I hadn't really actually planned anything.  I just decided in my head that I should do it.  So this weekend during a trip to Bass Pro Shop, the plan was hatched.  While looking at camping stuff with Big E, I mentioned how I'd really like to actually go on the backpacking trip I had been talking about (since before I met him) instead of talking about it.  He agreed.

So, we have a little less than a year to get into shape and get our gear ready for the 40 for our 40th.

I'll keep you updated on the progress.