Q&A Round One
Howdy y’all! I haven’t had much time to blog as I’m getting used to this wild life of backpacking. So I’ve decided to do a Q&A to answer any immediate questions my friends and family might have! This is Round One.
Question: What are your trail names?
Answer: My trail name is Violet because I love to wear purple. I have purple on my gear and clothes. My husband’s trail name is Hops because he loves IPAs.
Question: How many hours a day do you hike?
Answer: We hike for about 10-12 hours a day. We hike until the sun sets. So as the days get longer, we are hiking later. We stop around 7:30-8pm each night and set up camp.
Question: How are you dealing with the rain?
Answer: If it’s just an afternoon passing thunderstorm (which is getting very common now that summer is here), we try to take cover in a shelter, if we are close to one, for an hour or so as it passes through. If it’s raining all day, we keep hiking for as late as we can before we set up camp. This is in hopes that the rain will stop, at least temporarily, so that we can set up the tent and keep everything in it dry. Setting up a tent in the rain isn’t the best. For rain gear, we each have a rain jacket, a pack cover, a trash bag for lining the inside of our packs and gaters to protect our legs/socks/boots from moisture and mud. I have NorthFace rainpants (that I love – they keep me dry and warm), rain mittens, and a Sea to Summit umbrella too. We started out with GoLite rain jackets that were bulky, but effective. After one long day of torrential downpour though, they haven’t worked as well. We sent home our GoLites. After our trip home in May, Hops brought a lighter rain jacket back with him and I just bought a new lightweight rain jacket from Columbia (I heart Columbia everything). I’ll let you know how my new jacket works, but hopefully I don’t have to use it for a while. Also, I love my umbrella. It’s great for rain and also the sun. This Northern girl can’t hang in this Southern heat. The sun melts me and any energy levels I may have left. My umbrella saves me from melting.
Question: How do you eat in the rain?
Answer: Breakfast, snacks and lunch are bars. So no food prep necessary. If it’s a light rain in the evening, we’ll boil water and eat dinner quickly. If it’s a heavy rain, we eat more bars for dinner and hurry to get to bed.
Question: What is for dinner?
Answer: Mashed taterz. Erry day. We boil 4 cups of water and pour it into two packages of Idahoan dehydrated mashed taterz. It’s 4 servings each, so 440 calories each. I hope they dehydrate sweet taterz soon.
Question: How are your feet holding up?
Answer: My feet have grown about a half a size up and are a size wide now too. I had to order new shoes (Merrell Moab Ventilator mids, purple and brown) so that my feet weren’t in so much pain from being compressed in narrow shoes. It turns out, I have a tailor’s bunion on my left foot now. My pinky toe is squished in and a bit crooked and it’s metatarsal is bent outward towards the side of my foot. It looks like I am missing a sixth toe or something. The toe next to my pinky toe is also squishing in a bit. I am doing toe stretches and also hope these size wide shoes will help in reforming my foot. I might get a toe spacer type thing if I don’t see progress in my pinky toe/metatarsal form. My right foot has felt much better since I got the wide Merrells. I think that Hops’ feet are in the process of growing now as his pinky toes are starting to be squished in his shoes. We’re keeping an eye out, so it doesn’t get as bad as mine before we fix the problem. We have been lucky when it comes to blisters – we haven’t had any. I’m guessing the Darn Tough socks have something to do with it. We also have an extra change of socks (actually 2), so when our socks get wet we can put dry socks on. The sides of our feet do get rough and dry, but we apply Green Goo dry skin stick balm from Sierra Sage Herbs and it heals the skin. Still thick skin there, but at least its not peeling. (I have another Green Goo stick that I use for my face and lips too!) My whole feet in general ache after a really long day or a really rocky day. I tried Dr. Scholl’s active inserts, but the arch was too high and I started to have arch pain. So I switched to the basic squishy gel Dr. Scholl’s inserts. They fall apart in my shoe within days. I finally just committed to buying a pair of SuperFeet while at Sundog Outfitters in Damascus. I am a bit weary, as the packaging doesn’t tell me exactly what I want to know for any of their options. But from the reviews I have heard, it would be dumb not to try them. Especially if what I currently use needs to continually be replaced. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Question: What is the best remedy for blisters?
Answer: Welp, I’m not really sure since we haven’t had blisters. I think I would put a BandAid over the blisters during the day to protect the area and then remove the BandAid and let the skin breath at night. But I don’t know if that is the best remedy or even a remedy at all.
Question: Do you and hubby ever have squabbles while hiking or camping?
Answer: Hops and I are really good hiking partners (thank goodness right?). We work well together, care about each other’s well-being and we communicate, which is so important when you are pushing yourself to the limit day after day. But of course, when we get hangry, we have squabbles. A snack usually fixes it and we are back to being on each other’s side.
Question: How do you get alone time?
Answer: We have alone time every day. Most hikers pass by and we are behind “the bubble” of thru-hikers now. We meet people as they pass, or talk with them during our lunch breaks, or when we are hiding in a shelter to avoid the afternoon thunderstorm, but usually we are the only people around. Sometimes it’s nice to stay in a hostel and see other hikers, sometimes we’d rather stay in a hotel room to be alone. It can be socially exhausting staying at hostels! For alone time away from each other, we “plug in”. We have smart phones and headphones. So we put music, audio books, and podcasts on to pass the time while hiking, especially on the big climbs, and to have time “alone”.
Question: How do you do laundry?
Answer: We do laundry in town or at hostels about once a week. It costs us about $5 each time. If we have time and are in a hotel room, we’ll wash our clothes in the bathtub with Dr. Bronner’s or Tide hand-washing detergent and hang it to dry.
Question: Where are you and how many miles have you hiked?
Answer: We are in Damascus, VA! We have reached Virginia finally!!! We are at mile 470. We also hiked 71 miles in VT/MA while we were home for the weddings & commissioning, so we have 541 miles under our belt.
Question: Do you miss your mom?
Answer: Yes Mommy, I miss you every day. Since Dad is reading this too and I know he’ll ask…yes Daddy-o, I miss you every day too.
Question: Have you had any scary moments?
Answer: Yes. I’d say for me the scariest time was 6 days in when we were camping in a wind/snowstorm. We had 32 deg sleeping bags and every layer of clothing we had packed on and we were still absolutely freezing. The wind chilled us to the bone. We didn’t sleep all night, and we kept asking each other “Are you alive?” to make sure we were both still conscious. The next morning my fingers and toes hurt so bad, we hitched into town (Blairsville) and spent 2 days warming up and finding the courage to get back out to the mountains. We bought all the hand and toe warmers the town had. We also ordered 12 degree sleeping bags after that.
Answer #2: I asked Hops what his scariest moment was…he said every time we see a snake. Poor guy is going to have a lot of scary moments on this adventure. We see them almost daily now that it’s summer.
Question: Why weren’t you at Trail Days?
Answer: This was one of the hardest decisions to make. We were in New England for most of May to attend 2 weddings and an Army commissioning. We were very busy during those weeks hitching from Hot Springs, NC to Asheville, NC and driving to MA to VT to NH to RI to MA then back to Asheville to return our rental car, then hitched back to Hot Springs. We really only hiked for about a week while we were home. Unfortunately, Trail Days was in the middle of that week. We hiked 71 miles, we would have only done about 30-40 miles if we had attended Trail Days, spending time driving from MA to VA and back. We also would have definitely lost any hiker legs that we had gained (we had already lost quite a bit of stamina from the time off), so we had to keep our legs strong and get some miles. It was a tough choice.
Question: Although you two look like you planned this trip very well, what has been the one thing that you have found that you did not plan for or anticipate?
Answer: Hops and I are both over-analyzers/over-planners. We researched thru-hiking, backpacking, the AT, and anticipated and planned for a lot. We read Appalachian Trials to plan for this thru-hike mentally as well. From talking with some of those that have quit this year, we are happy to have read this book and prepared ourselves for the mental challenge. I’d say the one thing that we did not anticipate was that my feet would grow wider. We planned for our feet to grow. We bought shoes that we knew we’d like to hike in at a larger size so that when our feet grew we could have them shipped to us. Unfortunately, my feet grew wider and bigger. I was confused as to why my feet started hurting at about mile 80. I walked in shoes that were too small for about 200 more miles, since I knew we’d be going home in May and I could change my shoes out then. I changed my shoes out and found my feet still hurt. I finally realized I needed to buy size wide.
Question: What is one of your best memories so far?
Answer: As far as nights go, the night at Icewater Shelter in the Smokies after being in Gatlinburg was the most fun night. The shelter was packed with a group of 12 men that were section hiking, a few other section hikers including our new friends Jessica and Stephen, and a bunch of thru-hikers. I brought nips of alcohol and a small carton of almond milk to make mixed drinks to share (I had bought it in Gatlinburg, but never drank it. So of course I carried it out of town.) Jessica and Stephen brought Gentlemen Jack and shared it with everyone. There was a lot of trail magic and laughter that night.
As for hiking, Hops and I both agree hiking over the balds is the best (Max Patch, Beauty Spot, Roan Mtn balds, the balds to come). It’s a type of mountain we aren’t used to, very beautiful and bright green, and the views are incredible.
Oh also, trail magic. There was a lot of trail magic at the beginning. The most delicious trail magic was given to us by a church while we were at Neel’s Gap. It was the most delicious BBQ pulled pork I have ever had. I have dreams about it still. The trail magic from the Boy Scouts at Wayah Bald was insane. Burgers, hot dogs, BLTs, veggie burgers, hot chocolate, gatorade, hard boiled eggs, mayo packets, relish, pickles, snacks to take to go, inspiration and moral support, funny stories from past thru-hikers, they had it all. We also just received some trail magic from another Boy Scouts troop from Texas. They had so much extra food leftover from their section hike, they gave it to us. We received about 5 days of food for 2 people. They also slackpacked us into Damascus – thank you Jim aka “Father Mulcahey”! I guess I have a lot of “best memories”!
Question: What kind of training did you do to prepare for this adventure?
Answer: You can never fully prepare for a 2000+ mile backpacking trip until you are doing the 2000+ mile backpacking trip. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still work on endurance and strength before starting. Squats, lunges, calf raises, and the mountain climbing elliptical were the best for me to train for this adventure. We did shakedown hikes when we had time (rarely). I also didn’t take the elevator, ever. This might not seem like much, but we lived on the fifth floor of our apartment complex and I also had 3 flights of stairs and a very long parking lot to walk into work every day. So that’s at least 16 flights of stairs a day. Not too bad to replicate mountain climbing!
Question: Who is paying your credit card bill?
Answer: We are! We spent about a year and a half saving up money to pay for this adventure, and to continue to pay student loans, and other adult-y responsibilities. I will write my next blog post of how we saved money!
Thanks for reading!
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