(Mini) Shakedown near the Tecumseh Trail
Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for CureSearch at their Ultimate Hike event. CureSearch raises money to research drugs and therapies to combat childhood cancers – a laudable mission. Participants in the Ultimate Hike raise several thousand dollars for the charity, train for a long distance hike, and then get together for a weekend and spend a day hiking 30 miles of trail. A wonderful charity, mostly lovely people, and an opportunity to shakedown a few gear odds and ends – not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
Shakedown Tip 1: My wake up call for this event was 2:00am. This after I didn’t get to go to bed until after 10:00pm and didn’t fall asleep until after 11:00pm. What I “learned” (in quotes because I’m pretty sure we all already knew this), proper sleep is necessary before embarking on any hiking day. I have no intention of being the first person to bust through the cobwebs on the AT anyway, so I’m just going to roll over and snooze ten more minutes after I hear the first hikers take off.
Shakedown Tip 2: A lot of the participants on this charity hike clearly hadn’t trained. I’ve read a lot about how one can get into shape on the AT – but after watching several people fail to complete this hike and seeing so many more finish in colossal amounts of pain, my resolve to hit the trail and find some steep hills to climb before leaving for the AT has been doubled.
Shakedown Tip 3: Waking up at 2:00am and stumbling outside, I discovered it was less than 50F. I was wearing a DryTech running shirt, a Cabela’s thermal undershirt, a DryTech longsleeve pullover, and my awesome Columbia rain jacket (thanks Dad!). I was also wearing jeans, sans second layer which I regretted all day. For me, a down jacket has just become an indispensable purchase. I understand that when moving around, I’ll be pretty warm – and I could tell that from my minimal movement on Saturday. However, knowing the temperatures I’m likely to face in camp and overnight in early March on the trail could be significantly lower than 50 degrees, I’m setting aside a significant chunk of change to get a truly wonderful, truly warm down jacket. I will also be packing my super warm leggings for camp pants. They will be easy enough to send home in exchange for something lighter at a later date on the trail – but warmth is crucial!
Shakedown Tip 4: My boots are awesome. I watched so many hikers peel skin off with their “broken in” boots (questionable as to whether their boots were really broken in or if they just knew they should have broken them in). Meanwhile, I was in a pair of boots fresh from the box (hey, I wasn’t hiking! This was a day for me to start breaking in boots – minimal walking and a spare pair of tennis shoes in the van) and my feet were happy and dry. Getting fitted for boots at REI by a friendly professional, spending over an hour with this friendly professional trying on every pair of boots known to man, and then going over my boot budget by $80 was completely and utterly worth it. I will continue to break in these bad boys until they’re like a second skin, but I have high hopes that this pair will see me at least halfway to the end of the AT.
Shakedown Tip 5: My job during this hike wasn’t to hike. Yes, I’m as bummed about this as you are. My job during this hike was to set up aid stations and to help hikers as they hit 5 mile way-points. And help I did! From toting giant water coolers, to setting up sandwich stations, to passing out comfort bags, I did all I could to help these intrepid troopers get from point A to point B. Unfortunately, our entire day was spent in the rain and everything we touched was covered in water. Once my gloves got wet, there was no getting them dry and there was no regaining sensation in my fingers for hours. Also, my hat was good – but not great. I hate being cold. Have I mentioned that yet? I have poor circulation in my extremities and hate being cold. I cannot wait to research and purchase water resistant gloves and the warmest hat I can find. And yes, I was trying to take my gloves off before knowingly touching anything wet, but I spent nearly 20 hours outside, in the rain. They were bound to get soaked at some point.
Shakedown Tip 6: Although most of the volunteers, participants, and staffers at this event were lovely, some were not. I agree with our boss (Mr. Zach Davis) that life is to be enjoyed! and couldn’t fathom why some of the people out on the trail (staff from the organization itself especially) were seemingly going out of their way to make people feel excluded. Friendliness and a warm handshake go a long way to making new friends. Sounds like common sense, but like the getting in shape bit, I am doubly resolved to put my best foot forward while on the trail. Five million times. All the way to the end.
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