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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This is it

OK friends, this is the last update of this blog (unless of course, I decide to hike it again...). Herein you will find an abbreviated account of my time spent on the AT from Hot Springs, NC to Springer Mtn, GA. Sorry for the delay in wrapping everything up, but I've been a bit caught up in my move back to Asheville. I'm back working at the Chocolate Lounge, living now at

25 Barnard Ave
Asheville, NC 28804

After dinner in Hot Springs, I got back on the trail and (tipsily) hiked out, just beating sunset to spend a night alone in an old shelter. Two days later found me breaking out of the tree-line at Max Patch at the exact second the sun crested the horizon. Forget sunsets - sunrise is where it's at. If you've never been there, make a point to do it soon. Having knocked out 15 miles by 1PM, I called it a day at Standing Bear Farm Hostel - a great place in the middle of nowhere at the foot of the Smokies, where I saw Butter and Six Toes again (NoBo's I had met just outside Salsbury, CT). Bun Yip and Greyson were there, too, but I managed to catch them again in Hiawassee, GA.

I caught the first half of the Smokies in beautiful weather. It contained the best maintained and constructed trails I remember from the whole trail, which was of course very pleasant. I met an amazing older couple, Gail & Tom, who gave me a lift into Gatlinburg and fed me lunch. Never before have I witnessed kindness like that towards hikers on the trail. For no reason other than they had the ability, they gave freely to a smelly, dirty hiker previously unknown to them. It's one thing for my friends to support me (as they did to no end), but another entirely to give to a stranger. I can't think of a more noble action given the circumstances. That being said, Gatlinburg was disgusting. It's sickening to see a place so beautiful marred with opportunists piggybacking on the natural surroundings and selling absolute crap. I will never return there nor send another dime and I encourage you to do the same. Though it was raining for the remainder of my time there and I now see why NoBos cringe at the thought of GSMNP in the springtime the rest of the Smokies was great: I met back up with Pluto, a fellow SoBo I hadn't seen since VT and had a great day by myself blue-blazing down the Eagle Creek Trail in a heavy rain. Little did I know that this particular trail crossed Eagle Creek 13 times from its headwater as a spring to a raging river down by Fontana Lake. It was still nice to hike sockless, trudging through roaring water. I almost lost it at some point, but recovered just before being swept downstream.

Cheoah bald was just gorgeous and the Nantahala was just gorges. Stopped into Bryson city for a beer or 8, where I ran into Rockefeller and Turtle (hadn't seen them since NY) who gave me a ride back to NOC in my blitzed state. Had my first coyote encounter at A. Rufus Morgan Shelter - they circled within a hundred yards of the shelter howling for a few hours before dawn.
Wayah Bald is just as gorgeous as it was last year. That's where I started my first adult hike with my Dad and brother about 19 months ago. Siler Bald was equally pretty. Then into GA:

Hiawassee is home to the theatre and bar closest to Woodruff Scout Reservation, where I worked the previous 4 Summers. I took a few days to relax here. My body is at the point now where it can't recover from all of the abuse I'm putting it through and my joints are almost completely shot. So I decided to rest up for the final 67 mile push. Good thing, because it gave Djangle a chance to catch up. With 4 days left, it looks like the two of us will finish together. Saw off Bun Yip and Mudd for the last time and hunkered down in the sleet and snow to wait for my Dad. Excitedly, my brother decided to join for the last few miles as well.

On the last morning, we awoke at Hawk Mtn. Shelter, packed up and headed out to meet Troop 74, my home scout troop wherein I got my start hiking just a few miles from where I was to meet them. An auspicious beginning or ending, depending on how you look at it. About an inch of snow had fallen the night before, providing the perfect setting for the sunrise on the last day. With boundless energy and excitement, our huge group of Scouts met my Mom and slowly made our way up the last mountain on a beautiful day: sunny, windless and with many of the people that I love dearly. I could not have asked for a more perfect ending to the greatest adventure of my life.

I spent months thinking about the precise manner in which that last day should unfold. I fretted about big and small details. None of it mattered. When i woke up that morning, everything fell into place and played out better than could have ever been planned. No ridiculous finish, no fireworks, no eloquently-composed register entry. Somehow I had been blessed with dear friends, family, weather and an atmosphere that could bear no improvement. All the right words flowed confidently and unobstructed from my mouth and my feet knew precisely where to land - neither with any conscious effort on my part. The pencil etched a simple, but befitting sentiment in that last register. Neither have I tasted a cigar so sweet, nor embraced others with such perfect sincerity.

To each and every one of you, I can only utter a woefully inadequate 'Thank You'. Know that from the depth of my heart, I will forever cherish every encouraging word written and package sent along the way. The sincere smile you wear is priceless, and though I've finished my thruhike, I will ever carry those images with me in everything I do. But rather than weigh me down, your support has helped to nimble my feet and lighten my load for all my life. Your kindness has no match and has served a much more important purpose than perhaps you thought: I have faith now that success is always possible due to that done by those willing, who are greater than you might imagine. My confidence in the great possibility of humanity has been bolstered by the actions of a few wonderful people. You have been truly awe-inspiring.

Thank you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Photos! And videos!

Hi friends,
I've finished uploading my photos (finally). I was looking for a good, free image-hosting web-site to post all of these. I settled for Picasa Web, the Google site. Flickr has a limit on monthly uploads and I'm really not sure why I settled away from Photobucket but it seemed like a good idea at the time. OK in looking back at it, PB has a 1MB image size limit. Picasa seems to bridge the gap, and I do love Google. The images are still reduced down to about 1/4 of their original resolution, but I'm OK with that. If anyone wants full-sized copies of anything, let me know and I'll find a way to post 'em or get you a copy. Oh yeah, annoyingly enough I couldn't get iPhoto to export the comments field of each image but rather only the title, so no locations on most of the pics. Maybe I'll change that soon, but it's a time-consuming project so then again maybe not. They're in order from start to finish, giving you a general idea of where things are. Again, let me know if you want specifics.
I also uploaded the videos I took. I got a bunch of the LEAF poetry slam. The rest are just quick pans to give you an idea of the grandeur of some of the views. Not very interesting, but should give you perspective.
For now:

One last post is coming soon, but for now enjoy the pics!


P.S. If you follow me on Twitter or we're FB friends, sorry for the redundancy.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Throughout the hike, food was one of the most common conversational topics. Food, poop, feet and gear made up at least 95% of what thruhikers talk about. I'm really not exaggerating. It was so common because, amongst other reasons, eating was the third most time-consuming activity, behind walking and sleeping. I spent about 3 hours of my day actively involved with food.

A lot of positive things came of this:
1) There are no longer any foods that I don't like. Olives, tomatoes, avocados and pickles were the last 4 that I didn't particularly care for before my hike. I like 'em all now. As a matter of fact, I like them all more than a lot of other foods that I liked before.
2) I know the caloric content of any packaged food in the grocery store. Thruhikers are the only ones who go into a supermarket and compare PopTarts to see which has the MOST Calories and then buy that one (surprisingly, the unfrosted fruit PopTarts have 10 more per tart than the unfrosted)
3) I am now very in touch with my body's caloric and nutritional needs

While hiking, I was burning about 200 Calories per mile while hiking, and another 1,000+ during the night to repair muscle tissue and replenish glycogens. This totaled out to about 6,000-7,000 Calories on an average day at my peak of 25 miles average. I was consuming approximately 3,500 Calories per day on the trail. Once you begin carrying more than about 2 pounds of food per day, there's actually a diminishing return. It requires more calories to carry this weight than they can provide. If you were carrying pure fat (olive oil, butter, lard, etc.), it would provide 3,500 Calories per pound. You can't eat pure fat. Your body needs other things to function. So, 2 pounds of food works out to 3,500 Calories LESS than what I needed. This is a net loss of 1 pound of body fat per day. When I'd get to town, I'd eat 10,000 calories or more in 1 or 2 meals.

In the first 10 days, Djangle and I each lost about 22 pounds. Then gained some of it back in Monson and settled back in at 22 pounds down by the time we reached Stratton, ME. Our blood sugar and muscle glycogen were so low that neither of us were capable of writing our names in a trail register. That night, we each ate 10 pounds worth of food and beer. This was a result of eating less than 2,000 calories per day, getting into shape and traversing the most difficult terrain with our packs at their heaviest. Add to this the fact that we were only stopping in town once every 7 days or so, rather than 3, which was the norm at the end of my hike.

In Pearisburg, VA I ate more than 10,000 calories in 1 hour at the Pizza Plus buffet. That's what 27 pieces of pizza, more than a dozen breadsticks, 2 salads with ranch and 2 32oz. cokes will get you. I then ate 2,000 calories worth of Ben & Jerry's and drank 1,400 calories worth of beer. And 2 packages of beef jerky. Mind you, I had eaten a 1,000 calorie breakfast and snacked on 1,000 calories before I got to town in the first place. And ate some cookies and a bag of M&Ms out of a care package. So, 16,000 calories in one day, and I didn't even feel particularly stuffed. This was during my peak of hiking 2 weeks straight of 25+ mile days.

So, the moral of the story is: if you want to lose weight, I have a sure-fire way of doing it. If you want to gain weight, I can help you do that too.

Here's how I ate:
Breakfast 6-7AM: 800-1200 Calories
2nd Breakfast 8-9AM: 400 C
Morning Snack while walking: 200 C
Lunch 12-1PM: 700 C
Afternoon snack 4PM: 200 C
Dinner 6PM: 800 C

Here's what I carried all the time:
PopTarts (B): Brown Sugar & Cinnamon or unfrosted fruit had 210C/tart (high fiber when available)*
Apples (2B): They're good for the mind and body. Granny smith.
Granola/Trail Mix (S): It never got old, surprisingly. I did like to mix my own when feasible
Raisins (S): Very high in calories and fiber*
Tortillas (S,L,D): Whole wheat when available
Bagels (L): Thomas' whole wheat, honey wheat or any of the harvest grains varieties
Cheese (L/D): Asiago, Parmesan & Romano during hot weather; Cheddar, Pepper Jack and cream during cooler months †
PB (B/L/D/S): At 200 C per 2T/32g serving, this is the highest calorie food readily available.
Lipton Sides or Idahoan Loaded Baked Potatoes instant mashed potatoes(D): Easy meal, lots of varieties and very filling, plus with some cheese and in a tortilla it makes a pretty good burrito.

Things I carried off and on:
-Avocado, lime, garlic, onion and pepper. Fresh guacamole is amazing. This was my dinner for about 2 weeks in VA
-McCormicks Garlic & Herb grill seasoning. Your body needs a huge amount of salt that isn't supplied by most of my other trail foods, so I added this dinner, cheese and whatever else. Sometimes I just ate it straight
-Snickers carry well and provide 270 readily available Calories
-Planters Dark Chocolate & Nut chewy granola bars are delicious and a nice break
-Cliff/Power/Protein bars very rarely. They're expensive. And all the cliff bars taste the same
-Beef Jerky. Great source of protein, but incredibly expensive. Thanks to my dad who sent pounds of it home-made at a time
-Dark Chocolate M&Ms are good calorically and delicious, easily edible and pack well
-Summer Sausage. Summer sausage is a great lunch meat or addition to dinner.
-Yellowfin Tuna in olive oil. None of the others are worth the weight calorically, but the OO brings the pouch to 200 calories and tuna is a nice change
-Honey contains a lot of essential nutrients and is a nice addition to cereal, a wrap or a PB sandwich
-Almond butter is a nice break from PB (although a little bit less caloric and more expensive)

Things I carried earlier on, but stopped eating for one reason or another:
-Ramen. It's 100% crap. Trust me, you'll be happier and healthier if you don't
-Oatmeal. It has been said that it contains about as much nutritional value as the box it comes in
-Pepperoni. I stopped carrying it after I had eaten a pound of it in one morning and earned the disrespect of my hiking partners with the title of "Worst Fart of the Trail"
-SPAM. It's actually pretty good, but I'd much rather spend that money on an extra hamburger in town and not have to carry the can
-Carrots. Good for you, but they get limp pretty quickly
-hehe, limp carrots
-Olive Oil. Great source of calories, Omega 3 fatty acids and a natural anti-inflammatory, but I had gotten rid of my stove and didn't have anything to use it for until the end, where I just didn't think about it. Good addition to rice/pasta meals and guacamole
-Oranges. They make you so happy, but are a pain because you really shouldn't throw the peals out in the woods
-Whoopie Pies. If you're a New Englander, you know what these are. 760 calories per pouch of pure, delicious, horrible-for-you filling and cake. You just can't get 'em South of Connecticut
-Moon pies. The worst imaginable thing in terms of packability. You might as well just crumble them into dust as soon as you buy them
-Powdered whole milk. Nido is hard to find; everything else is skim milk (low fat=worthless). I stopped because I thought it might be causing some of my nausea after my illness in Waynesboro, VA. I didn't carry it after that because I had switched back to PopTarts from cereal for breakfast
-Cereal: I loved cereal for breakfast, but it just fell out of favor, I s'pose
-Gatorade (or other drink) powder. It didn't provide much of anything besides flavor. And to be honest, I really liked the taste of fresh spring water more than anything

*Not that I needed extra fiber, but having a good poop was paramount to having a good day. I was very fortunate in being regular: every day within 30 minutes of waking up and always before I left the shelter. As a matter of fact, there were some mornings in Maine where I was awoken by my bowels with less than 1 minutes warning before it was going to happen whether I was ready or not.
†Cheese will keep for weeks at a time unrefrigerated. If it's too hot, it doesn't actually go bad, either. It just gets oily and crumbly. Remember: the original purpose of cheese was to preserve milk.

In town:
-The Dollar menu in any fast food restaurant
-Cheeseburgers and fries
-Subway footlong. It's delicious and cheap
-Lots of beer (a great source of calories) and soda
-All You Can Eat Buffet
-Salad bar. You have no idea how much I craved salad.
-Biscuits and Gravy
-Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. It has about twice as many calories as any other ice cream on the market, and it's about 3 times as delicious

So basically, I was hungry all the time. So much so, that I stopped being hungry. It's hard for me to tell now when I need to eat something until I start to get shaky. I ate as much as possible in town when there so that I could put on some meager reserves for the next few days. I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night so hungry that it hurt and I would have to get up to feed myself. And there were definitely a few times where I was so weak that my body had shut down any other functions: like being able to use my hands at all.

I'd only carry 3 days or less of food at a time where possible. If I carried 4 days, I found that it slowed me down so much, that I could have made the journey in 3 if I had less weight. Plus, my pack really didn't allow for much more than that, given the size and weight of my food-sack by the end of the hike.

So, there you have it: A thruhiker's view on food.

Carry on


Friday, November 19, 2010

A list of funny terms from our section-hiking friend, Boudreau

Boudreau’s Lexicon of A.T. Through-hiker Slang

Appalachian Trail Thruhikers [T-hkr] have cobbled up a strange lingo known only unto themselves.
Terms like, nobo, sobo, flipflop, trail magic, trail angel and bounce-box are familiar to most. But for
those who wish to better understand this gnarly human? subculture, a further compendium is below.

Appalachian Trial: a more accurate name for the national footpath stretching from Georgia to Maine

Appalachian stream: the A.T. after several days of rain; requires slogging; may create delamming

Bubble: “the pack,” the slowest batch of nobos or sobos together on trail; aka: “the partiers”

Blazing: the T-hkr’s methodical way of moving along the A.T. There are many types of blazing: white-
blazing: following the 2x6 inch white-striped markings for 2200 miles to completion; green-blazing:
hiking stoned; blue-blazing: following a side trail to spring, overlook, or [bad form] a mile-saving
shortcut; yellow-blazing: hitch-hiking, jumping many miles up the trail; frowned on by T-hkrs; pink-
blazing: hkr has fallen in love, is madly chasing a girl [boy] up the trail; aqua-blazing: “trails to sails;”
hkr parallels a section of trail via a water route*; brown-blazing: privy-hopping; tired of doing his
business in the woods, hkr hits every privy along trail

Camel-up: fending off dehydration, hkr drinks a liter or more at every water source

Coned: privy is full to overflowing

Cowboy camp: in clear weather, hkr eschews tent, spreads bed-roll under stars

Delammed: hkr’s shoes/boots have delaminated, shoe is shredded; often happens in Rocksylvania

FLASH: freakin’ lazy ass section hiker; day/weekend hiker who is loud, boring, makes a mess in shelter

Hangry: famished, starving; hkr is so hungry she is angry. Ex: Hkr A sees Hkr B approaching up-trail. As
they pass, A says “How ya doin?” B replies “Go fuck yourself.” Hkr B shows signs of being hangry. #

Hiker midnight: 9 p.m. Hkr is already sound asleep, or will be in the next 5 minutes

Hiker trash: us; the T-hkr community, sometimes looked down on by civilians in the towns

Nearo: rest day, almost a Zero; hkr wakes up, walks few miles to town, resupplies & overnights off-trail

Pud: a pointless up & down; the A.T. never goes around an elevation, always over the damn thing

Punchion: tech term for those split log bog-bridges, mostly in NH, VT and ME. Thank you, AMC!

Ratbaffle: string+stick+tunacan = those ubiquitous food-bag hanger gizmos that foil shelter varmints

Rocknroller: that tricky, unstable next rock; misjudge it at peril of ankle sprain or worse

Rocksylvania: almost the entire state of PA

Schwasted: excess beer consumption; hkr so wasted he can no longer pronounce this word intelligibly

Slack-pack: friend transports pack by car to distant trailhead; hkr makes an easy 25+ mile day

Slammed & delammed: exhausted, after a long day making too many miles, trudging over too many puds;
one hkr calls this feeling “eaten by a wolf and shit off a cliff”

Somebodies vs. Nobodies: the perennial sobo/nobo shelter bicker; which group are the tougher mules?

Stealth camp: hkr finds comfy porch or shed in town, sleeps there, resupplies early & hits trailhead

Vitamin I: Ibuprophen, eaten like candy on the A.T.

Work for stay: hkr does chores in the NH huts in return for free food; a must for nobos headed for ME

Yogi: to subtly beg day campers for food; hkr offers a dirty dollar bill for some chips, hopes for handout

Zero: hkr takes a full day off for well deserved R&R; she hikes zero miles this day

* Best spots for aqua blazing– nobo: from Waynesboro VA, rent one-way canoe to Harpers Ferry WV; sobo:
from High Point NJ, kayak down to Delaware Water Gap PA; either way: borrow a canoe and paddle some of
those numerous long lakes in ME [requires good map-reading].

# An actual “hangry” event, excerpted from a NJ shelter journal, August 2010.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gear Catalog

In case any of you are interested in what I was carrying with me by the end of the trip, here's a list of the contents of my pack with 5 months of active revision.

Pack: Osprey Exos 46*
Bag: R.E.I. 20º (Cold weather)/ L.L. Bean down liner ≈50º(Summer)
Pad: Thermarest Prolite Mattress
Shelter: Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker (warm weather only)
Stove: Homemade soda can alcohol stove*, windscreen & base
Fuel Bottle: MSR 20oz. fuel bottle
Pot (well, cookpot): MSR Alpine Stowaway 1.1L*
Utensils: Snowpeak Titanium spork, GSI pot scraper*, Guyot Squishy Bowl* (Bowl only)
Knife: Cheap no-name 2" folding blade
Toiletries: Swiss Tech fingernail clippers/multi-use tool, contact case, airplane bottle contact solution, toothbrush, travel-sized toothpaste, travel-sized Goldbond, Dr. Bronner's Eucalyptus 2oz liquid soap, eyeglasses and case
Stuffsacks: Granite Gear #6 16L Airbag*, R.E.I. 2L, 3L & 7L stuff sacks
Raingear: Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil pack cover, Sierra Designs Microlight Pants (cold weather only), Sierra Designs Hurricane HP rain coat
Shortsleeve Shirts: Sierra Designs Topo T, Sierra Designs Spectrum T-Lite
Longsleeve Shirt: Patagonia poly/wool quarter zip lightweight T
Pants: REI Sahara Convertible Pants (pantlegs only in cold weather)
Shorts: Asics Core Microfiber Short
Socks: Darn Tough Vermont Microcrew cushion coolmax *, Darn Tough Vermont 1/4 Sock Merino Wool*
Shoes: Solamon XA Pro 3D Ultra breathable*, Superfeet insoles
Headwear: Insect Shield Buff, Columbia Chunky Earflap hat(cold weather only)*
Jacket: super-heavy windstop fleece(cold weather only)*
Gloves: fleece running gloves(cold weather only)*
Thermal Bottoms: Smartwool NTS Midweight bottom(cold weather only)
Underwear: ExOfficio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs
Guidebook: ALDHA Thru-Hikers' Companion
Writing Materials: Moleskine Large Ruled Notebook, Moleskine Pocket Address Book, letter sized paper, stamped envelopes, Pilot G2 pen
Electronics: iPhone 3GS with charger and headphones, Sony Cybershot DSC-S2100 camera with 8GB memory card and Energizer Ultimate Lithium Batteries
Electronics Cases: SealLine E-Case - small for iPhone, Case Logic Compact Camera Case
Sunglasses: Maui Jim Makaha and case
Water: 2x 1Qt. Gatorade bottles*, Katadyn Micropur MP1 Water Purification Tablets*
Misc: Bic lighter, RYOT KryptoKit tobacco pouch*, Scott TP, Ziploc Double Zipper Smart Zip - Qt & Gallon, heavy duty trash bag as pack liner, Sea to Summit Pack Towel

Dry/Base weight (without food or water):13-16 pounds
Average weight (2 days food, 10oz fuel, 1L water): 20 pounds
Max. Weight (4 days food, 2L water, 20oz fuel): 34 pounds
Weights exclude 1 shirt, 1 pair socks, shoes and running shorts.

*Indicates something that I didn't start with.

And now for some explanations:
-I started with an Osprey Crescent 90, 90Liter pack. This was enourmous so I downsized and never needed any more space. The only complaint I have about the Exos 46 is the fact that it carries weight over 30 pounds very poorly. But, then again, it's not designed to, so I just had to change my resupply to be more frequent.
-The hammock wasn't warm enough once it got below 40º, so I slept exclusively in shelters for the last 500 miles of the trail. Besides that, it was amazing. I highly suggest that anybody who's planning on camping to get one. Advantages: at 1 pound 15oz, it's lighter and smaller than almost any other form of shelter; at $136 it's cheaper than anything else out there; I slept better in the hammock than I do in a bed; There are a number of times where I awoke in a thunderstorm bone-dry, whereas were I on the ground I would have been drenched; set-up and take-down take <5 minutes each.
-The soda can stove (Wiki) was amazing. I started with a MSR Whisperlite, a great stove for more than 1 person, but it weighs in at 1 pound - the soda can weighs 1 oz. You do the math. Disadvantages: difficult to use <30º or >4,000' and in high wind. Advantages: did I mention it only weighs 1oz? and it's fast to set up, use and clean up; the size is pretty great, too - I could fit my spork, bowl, stove, pot scraper, wind screen and lighter all in my 1 L pot with room to spare. Denatured alcohol is easier to find for it than coleman fuel (white gas). Definitely give it a shot if you're the DIY backpacker type.
-The potscraper was the best piece of equipment I bought on the trail. It will revolutionize your mess kit.
-I could have used a much smaller knife and simpler fingernail clippers, I'm sure. The only thing you need a knife for is opening plastic packaging and cutting cheese. Seriously, leave the bear knife at home. And bear mace for that matter, the stuff is ridiculous.
-If you need corrective lenses to see well enough to hike, get Lasik. Contacts are impossible to keep clean and glasses are annoying on a sweaty face and fog up in even the slightest drizzle.
-Gold Bond is amazing.
-I started with a 13L Sea to Summit Dry Sack. It was great, but I realized I didn't need that much protection for my food.
-Darn Tough Vermont make the best socks I've ever worn. And they're unconditionally guaranteed for a lifetime.
-I switched to lighter trail shoes after 441 miles and never looked back. Wearing 1 pound on your feet is the energy-consumption equivalent of carrying 3 on your back. Not only this but the greater the cushioning, the More impact imparted to your joints; this adds up over 2,200 miles. The low-top also reduces the likelihood of ankle/foot injury. By reducing the 'support', you actually strengthen the muscles in your ankles, feet and legs; and in so doing create stronger joints that are more resistant to damage through a rolled ankle or misstep.
-Unless you'll be hiking somewhere exceptionally cold and completely dry, don't get GoreTex shoes. They're so hot that your feet sweat, negating the purpose. And they don't actually keep water out. AND once water is in, the GoreTex actually prevents it from escaping. If you're hiking somewhere super-wet and cold, look into full-leather. Otherwise, the more breathable, the better. My feet actually stayed dryer in my mesh shoes in a heavy rain than they did in my GoreTex boots or shoes.
-If I had to get another guidebook, I'd get AWOL's. Elevation profile, more accurate information and better layout.
-ExOfficio underwear is the shit. I might switch to them for every day life, too. Absolutely no complaints.
-Make certain you use Lithium batteries in your camera. I used the same pair of AAs from Rutland Vermont to Tennessee. 700 photos and lots of viewings.
-I mentioned the type of Ziploc because I've now tried them all, and these are by far the best. The worst are the ones with the sliding zipper.
-I started with a 1L Nalgene, a 3L Camelback and a 1L Platypus. The Nalgene went back early on. Followed by the Platypus, then the Camelback. I found that I almost never needed to carry more than 1L of water at any given time. I would 'camel up'(drink my fill, usually 1/2-1L) where I stopped and then walk out with 1L. Then I'd repeat it as soon as I got to the next good water source.
-I stopped treating my water in Vermont. I then only treated it twice for the remaining 1,700 miles of the hike. Several studies I have read indicate that people who treat their water are actually more likely to contract some sort of gastrointestinal illness on a long-distance hike. The reasons for this are: 1) people who treat their water are much less selective about where they draw it from, therefore increasing the likelihood of utilizing a contaminated source. 2) The chance of incomplete treatment or cross-contamination are high with all forms of treatment. 3) One's body may build a natural tolerance/immunity to some waterborne diseases. I must stress, though, that this is something you need to take full responsibility for and be prepared. I hiked with the medication for Giardia, should I ever contract it. Never did, though.
-Before we ditched the water filter, we used a Sawyer gravity feed filter and were incredibly pleased with its function. The fact that it's a lifetime replacement on the filter is totally sweet.

The biggest pieces of advice I received on the trail:
1) If you don't use it in 10 days, you don't need it - get rid of it
2) There is absolutely nothing you can do to keep your stuff dry. Get over it. Rain gear is not designed to keep you dry, it exists to keep you warm. I went for 6 weeks without wearing my raincoat once, during which time it rained several times. It's like a free shower. Everything in your pack that needs to stay dry should be in: a drybag, ziploc and/or in the heavy duty contractor trash bag that's lining your pack. Oh yeah, you don't need a pack cover; they don't really do much.

That should be about enough for right now. Food soon!



Hi friends,
So, I'm assuming most of you are aware that I've finished. If you're not than you probably don't understand the basic meaning of the word, 'done'. There will be more specific updates about the last few hundred miles and some general reflections about my Appalachian Odyssey; But for now, I'll leave you with what I'm up to:

Saturday, November 6th saw Troop 74, my parents and brother, Djangle and I summit Springer Mountain, thus completing my 159 day journey from Maine to Georgia. We had high hopes of getting the infamous Super-Stack Heart Attack Burger at The Vortex in Little 5 Points. Unfortunately for us, if you attempt to get a table for 11 at 7PM on a Saturday night, the wait is 2 hours, so we called it off and went to 6 Feet Under instead, which turned out to be awesome. The only disappointment being the fact that they didn't have a burger that involved 10 strips of bacon. One day, Super-Stack, one day.

Since that night, I've been staying with my parents in Atlanta and being generally productive. I'm going to post pictures and videos to Facebook and Photobucket and send some thank-yous soon, but there are 979 of the former (after winnowing out the bad ones) and about 75 of the latter to send, so it may take me a little bit.

Family Thanksgiving at the beach next week, then it's back to Asheville! Dan and Jael have been so kind as to offer me (at least temporary) employment back at the ChoLo. So starting the following week I'll be back there doing delicious things with delicious chocolate. It's about time for the Chocolate Lounge to have a smelly, bedreaded employee again. I'm looking for a place to live at the moment and have a few really promising leads. Thanks to my wonderful friends for being so helpful!

Never before have I felt so confident and motivated; I can't wait to return home to share the season - which will be my bon hiver- with my beloved Asheville family and begin work on a HUGE project (more on this later, too.)

For now: a big, general 'Thank You' to everyone who followed and supported me on this crazy walkabout, and I hope you are all well!



Saturday, November 6, 2010