Good Ol’ Florida Shakedown

Not typical that a Florida shakedown is a good thing. In spite of that I use it as an opportunity to stretch my legs, get accustomed to my gear, and share some laughs with an old friend of mine.

An Unexpected Florida Shakedown

Normally as hikers prepare for their thru hikes, it is a good idea to get some practice with their gear, and familiarize themselves with every aspect of trail life. Initially I planned my shakedown on the Florida Trail in December, when I was visiting family. My goal was to test my legs, as well as a few pieces of gear.

Between then and now, I have had a few more months of planning and have switched more gear out. My first plan when deciding how to get to Florida (pre-trail) was to take an Amtrak from Maine. An adventure in its own sense, with stops in Boston and New York. However, the train was canceled and I was forced to book a flight, 4 days earlier than before. To make the best of the situation I planned a last minute shakedown, picking up where I had left off two months ago, with the same purpose in mind.

Gear Upgrades

In the past few months I have upgraded a few pieces of gear that will get the chance to see trail before my start on the AT. When purchasing new gear, I pay attention to every bit of specs, just like most of you. This new set of gear has allowed me to drop multiple pounds from my base weight. Previously, a base of 15-17lb was typical for my Florida gear (warm gear). Now, after a long winter in Maine, my base weight has dropped to 13-14lbs for winter gear.

I’ve gotten a great set of warm gear, hopefully to last beyond my thru-hike. A 0 degree Enlightened Equipment Quilt, Mountain Hardware fleece, and puffy. Found superior base layers in the Smartwool 250 pants and a 150 longsleeve, and great water/wind proof-ness in my Montbell Rain Trekker jacket. I don’t represent any of these companies but I’ve found their gear to hold up the standard for ultralight gear.

Stretching my legs

I always over-plan my hikes. Shooting way high for mileage, and mostly coming up short with the time I’m allowed. Theres always something that comes up that sets me or my group behind, whether we are stopping too frequently, taking the wrong trail (thus adding miles), or running into soreness and slacked pace. I convince myself that each set of plans will be different, more accurate to what I am actually capable of

No difference in what I’ve planned now.

After landing in Orlando late in the night, I plan to be on trail by 9am the next morning, attempting to maximize my time out. Starting from Juniper Springs, an old friend and I will make our trek to the infamous hiker stop, “The 88 Store”, and back to our car at Juniper. 47 miles all to be done in 3.5 days. Ambitious? Yea maybe.

In my mind I like to break up these large tasks and make them sound more practical. 47 divided by the 3 days is roughly 15.5 miles per day. 15.5 miles is 3- 5 mile hikes. Totally doable within sunlight hours hiking a brisk pace, but doing it day after day is where my experience lacks. This is where we see what my legs are made of.

My Final Days

In my last week of life here in Biddeford I’ve written down a few goals for myself. Writing these goals down allows me to visualize what I need to do everyday to make them happen. I leave you with my pre-departure goals.

  1. Run/ hike daily. Getting a breath of fresh air in the cold winter is hard. Forcing myself to get out in the snow and ice, and surround myself with nature and take a deep breath.
  2. Read a book. This is just to get myself off a screen and distract myself from the anxiety of pre-trail preparations.
  3. Stretch everyday. A thru hike is an athletic feat, so I must prepare like an athlete. Stretching, and yoga are great ways to work on your balance and avoid injury.
  4. Create a social presence. As much as I hate social media, I want others to see my journey and feel inspired the way I did when I fell in love with the trail. I’ll be using my Facebook, and Instagram to provide my trail updates

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