2 shakedowns and an Amazon delivery

Although I love the outdoors, when I made the decision to thruhike I was far from a backpacker. I could throw together a great day hike, have lunch planned and get to the car after dark, but at the end of the day I would almost always end up in my bed. So after my first 2 shakedown hikes, I saw just how unprepared I was for the trip.

Going into the first shakedown I owned a total of 3 things suitable for backpacking. My Eureka Amari Pass Solo tent (Which will be replaced by the time I finish this post), my Brooks Cascadia 9 running shoes (already replaced due to wear), and my rain jacket (you guessed it…replaced). Everything else was perfect for day hiking or the occasional campout for a music festival, but not quite up to par for 6 months of abuse.

Shakedown 1:


Worthington State Park – 30 miles, 1 night

With forecasts calling for rain, I set out with my Northface day pack and cold food. My friend Alex and I were bringing our dogs with us and were on the trail by 7am. Since I couldn’t fit everything in my pack, I put my tent and sleeping bag in a dry bag and clipped it around the top of my pack. Not only was this setup clumsily swaying whenever I moved but it also was constantly pulling on my collar bone. I knew I was unprepared, but wanted to get out and see what changes I needed. I like the idea of starting from scratch and making changes as I see problems.

The weather stayed decent until around noon, when the drizzle turned into rain, which led to heavy rain. This led on for about 8 hours, conveniently slowing down for about a half hour as we were deciding to set up camp. At the end of the day, I felt pretty good. I was sore and very wet, but still in high spirits. The next morning was a little different of a story. The MSR water filter we were using clogged and neither of us had cleaned one before so we decided to finish the hike without resupplying water. My collarbone was raw from the constant pressure of my dry bag pack setup. And everything we had was soggy. But even with that, the weather was beautiful now and we only had 10 miles before the car. So we broke down camp, passed some beautiful sights, and headed home.

Shakedown 2:

Sunfish Pond during the Fall

Sunfish Pond during the Fall

Worthington State Park (again) – 8 miles, 1 night

A last minute Thanksgiving weekend trip served as my second shakedown. Although I considered it more of a short overnight trip into the woods to drink a bottle wine and sit around the camp fire, it will probably serve as the most important prep trip I will have taken before stepping foot on Springer. Expecting 40/45 degree weather, I packed cold…but not too cold. After everyone went in for the night, I decided to watch the fire burn down for a while before extinguishing it. Soon I realized that Scoober was shivering, so I put the fire out and brought him into the tent. Still without a sleeping pad, I ended up sharing my cheap sleeping bag with my shivering dog in an almost form fitting coffin tent. With my ass hanging out of the sleeping bag and shivering myself, I had a lot of time (only 2 hours of sleep that night) to contemplate that this could perhaps be a very common scene next spring if I didn’t prepare better. After hearing people moving around in their tents, I popped out of mine, struck it down and was ready to start hiking back to the car.

And an Amazon Delivery

My second shakedown coincided with the arrival of Zach’s book (Appalachian Trials) almost perfectly. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s an excellent book. Not only did it start to help prepare me for the half of the trip not usually mentioned (the emotional side) but after following his suggestions, I have a better idea of my motivations for taking this trip.

So I guess this is my stepping off point. I made the decision to hike a few months ago, but now its the hard part of mentally, financially, and physically preparing for it. I can’t rely on just running to the car when things go wrong. If my filter clogs up, I can’t just go without and hurry home. I need to get my shit together and make the leap from day hiker to thru hiker.

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