REI class, hiking the AT

As everyone knows who is following this blog, I am preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail this year. It’s hard to know if you are prepared to go, but now that I’m starting earlier, I’m even more interested in having the right gear to keep me warm, safe and dry. That’s one of the reasons I signed up for a four hour Hike the AT class at REI last Saturday.


Aaron and JJ are both experienced hikers and work at REI. Aaron thru hiked in 2012. JJ started section hiking in 2008 and only has about 500 miles to complete the trail this year. Both said the the trail changes you. “Weather doesn’t bother you” and “It changes your perspective on what is a ‘seat’ and what makes a good meal.”

I think they could have talked for 8 hours. I wish they had! They gave lots of great information. I’m happy to report that much reinforced what I’ve been told (or learned the hard way). But I did learn a lot. Here are a few of the things I jotted down, in no particular order.

  • Katahdin (the northern terminus of the trail) closes withe the season, typically October 15. If the weather is bad, it will close earlier. Don’t get all the way to the end and not be able to finish.
  • If you have to flip flop, Harpers Ferry is a good point to fin a shuttle.
  • You don’t need to carry a guide book and maps. Except in the White Mountains. That’s a bit confusing, so consider getting a map.
  • Pearisberg, VA is a good place to switch to summer gear. Glen cliff, NH is a good place to switch back.
  • When hitch hiking, look for hiking or AT stickers on the car.
  • When in doubt, the trail will provide.
  • “Leave no trace” also applies to your actions in town. Don’t give hikers a bad name.
  • Consider bypassing the zoo in NY. You’ve been seeing these animals wild and free. It’s just sad to see them in cages.
  • You now have to pay to hike the Smokys. 🙁
  • Remember when eating: No calorie left behind!
  • Consider weight efficiency when buying food. Don’t bother unless it’s at least 100 calories per gram. Snickers rule!
  • Stay at the Inn at the Long Trail. You’ll love it.
  • You’ll need sun protection in NJ/NH/Maine.
  • Fluff your sleeping bag for a couple minutes.  The loft will keep you warmer.
  • If you are cold at night, don’t wear your down coat. Drape it over your sleeping bag. Also over inflate your pad for more insulation. It won’t be as comfortable, but it will be warmer.
  • Socks: Aaron highly recommends Darn Tough for wear. JJ likes The Wright Sock for less friction.
  • Spray your tent mesh and the bottom of your pack with Permethrin.
  • Wash your cloths every day in warm weather. JJ uses a ziplock bag and 3 drops of bleach.
  • Only send mail drops of food to yourself if you have dietary restrictions.

The small items add up….

So I put together the small items, like what I’ll need to keep clean and safe. And it’s really beginning to add up. I think I might be over doing it, but I just want to be safe. What to do?

Waste System waste system

  • Toilet paper                             2
  • folding shovel                          4
  • gel hand cleanser                    1

Total                           7          ounces


safetyFirst Aid/Emergency

  • Mosquito head net
  • Neosporin
  • assorted band aids
  • medications
  • mole skin/bandaides
  • duct tape
  • two twist ties
  • sewing kit
  • crazy glue
  • sleeping pad/tent repair
  • spare water bottle lid
  • lighter
  • spare cord/bungee cords
  • bear spray
  • bleach based water treatment
  • foot warmers

First Aid/Emergency Total                              18        ounces

personal carePersonal Care

  • toothbrush
  • toothpaste
  • comb
  • mirror
  • earplugs
  • wet wipes
  • chamois towel
  • Dr. Bonners soap
  • lip balm
  • head lamp
  • Kleenex
  • deodorant
  • back up personal light
  • Leatherman mini
  • shaver
  • Gold Bond powder
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • vitamins

Total Personal Care                            17        ounces


Water System

  • Two water bottles                                2
  • Collapsible bucket                               3
  • Sawyer water filter/bags                     2
  • Collapsible funnel                                1

Water System Total                            8          ounces


  • Hiking Poles                                        14
  • Plastic bags                                          6
  • good luck charms                                1
  • watch                                                     1
  • temp gauge                                         1

Total Dinky category              73        ounces

Non essential, essential gear

I’ve worked really hard to choose the best gear for hiking the Appalachian Trail. I weighed things. I considered. I’ve made spreadsheets and asked questions. But I am bringing a couple of small items that are just to remind me of the people I love.

Non essential, essentials

There’s a plastic monkey that my niece Adia made for my on my last visit home. She sat at the kitchen table putting it together while I cut up vegetables at the counter

.The second item is a buckeye. It was given to me by my grandfather years ago. They were from Ohio and always called themselves buckeyes. I still miss my grandparents so much.

What would carry with you for 2,200 miles just to remind you that you are loved?

Snapping photos as I walk

You never know what you will see when you walk along. I’m training to hike the Appalachian Trail, so I spend a lot of time simply walking. Here’s a few photos I captured along the way.

This is in the cemetery in Decatur. It’s my favorite headstone. Anyone know the story behind it?
Also in Decatur. I just love that someone left them a cup of coffee!
I love murals. This one is along the Atlanta Beltline, on one of the walls that make up part of the Skate Park in Old Fourth Ward, facing the walkway and very near the Freedom Parkway overpass.
Sorry I will miss this. I’ll be hiking…..


Movin’ on up

Even the best laid plans are constantly changing. I had expected to have all of February and half of March to train for my big hike, but instead I’ll be on the trail earlier.

My start date for hiking the Appalachian Trail is March 1. That’s less than three weeks away! It’s scary, because it means that I will experience colder weather, including snow. Hiking in wet and cold conditions is one of my biggest fear for this hike, so I’m rethinking my clothing needs and other items to keep warm, dry and safe.

The main reason I’ve moved up the date is that my living situation here in Atlanta has changed. The home owner of the room I was renting brought in a rescued dog, a 100+ pound Gran d Pyrenees. While I applaud her efforts to save the dog, it growled, lunged and snapped at me. When I expressed that I did not feel safe around the dog she said that she didn’t care and that she wanted me and everyone out of the house anyway. Since it was a question of my safety, I moved out.

So I’ve found a place to rent for a few weeks. But short term places are expensive and besides, I am getting anxious to start! I can “train” on the trail anyway. This will give me an additional month, meaning I can take the extra time to start off slow and take more zero days if my body needs it. I won’t be rushed, which will lower my chance of injury, too. And the extra time will mean I can enjoy it more.

I’ve got several things to take care of before that date, but I’ve made a list and am tackling it. Good friends are helping out. One has made arrangements for my car and I’ll use her home as a permanent address. Another will store a few things for me and help me change out winter for summer gear. A third is driving me to the trail. Many others have wished me well and offered encouragement. I feel lucky to have the support of such good friends. It’s a privilege to have the time and health to take on this adventure.

In the meantime, I’ve updated my Appalachian Trail Hike tab and daily hiking spreadsheet.

Hope that silly groundhog was wrong about the longer winter……

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