What’s Next

After spending some time at Shaw’s Hiker Hostile in Monson, ME Andrew, Stryker and I went to Boston for a couple nights to see the city.  Boston is a cool town.  Probably just like any big city, they have a lot going on.  We ate at a few really good restaurants (Original Cheers bar, and Union Oyster House–the oldest continuous serving restaurant in the US) and took a Duck Boat Tour around the city.  Overall, a good trip.

At the beginning of the 100-mile Wilderness, I told myself that one of the things I wanted to work on in life was enjoying the journey, not just the beginning or end of it.  One of my favorite philosophies was always, “You can’t get it over until you get it started.”  Too many times in the Army, I told myself, “If I can just get through this field time, or deployment, or this assignment, whatever… things will be better.”  In doing so, now, I look back on a large part of my life and realize two things.  First, I didn’t enjoy much of my time in the Army, and secondly, I missed out on a lot of life as I moved ahead without stopping to smell the roses.

During the 100-miles, I realized that what I was enjoying most about it was the ability to share with my son many of the feelings I’ve had in the Army, feelings like, “Embrace the suck.”  I chuckled so many times to myself as I listened to him grumble about mosquito bites, rocks, his pack, his back, knees, ankles, shoulder, etc.  Does this make me a bit evil?  Maybe. Towards the end, I was once again saying, “Shit, just ten more miles.  Let’s get it started so we can get it over with.”  I realized at that point that hiking the AT wasn’t how I wanted to spend my summer.  I thought it was, but nope, not for me.  I am proud that the three of us completed one of the most challenging sections the AT has to offer, the 100-mile wilderness.  I’m heading back to one of the most beautiful areas I’ve been to, Colorado Springs to enjoy my first full summer with my fiancé, Ashlynn, Riley, Alexandra (coming back from Chili) and Andy-Roo.  Did I mention CoS has over 35 breweries?

On the trail, it was hard to relax and think because every ounce of brain power was utilized in concentration on where you were going to put your next step.  That being said, I did spend some evenings in my tent pondering some of the amazing people I’ve had/have in my life that I’ve met throughout my time in the Army.  I’m thankful for amazing friends like Tony Thies, Augie Haro, Robert McCormick, Farmer, Clint Kupari, Robert McKibben, Scott Krampitz, Tonya Blackwell, Don Caughey.  I’m thankful for some amazing leaders and mentors as well, Jon Drake, Rafferty, Lloyd Cole, John Johannes,  BJ Hennessey, John Ring, Sam Hilton, Anthony Funkhouser, Michael McGurk, Jim Eakin.  I’m thankful for the many Soldiers/ Leaders that helped make my last 28-years of service successful and memorable, Charles Webb, Alex Wilbur, Anthony Sickelka, Nathan Whittenberger, Jose DeJesus, Kevin Kirbly, Matt Childs, Justin Candelaria, Joe Balvanz, Pierre Fuentes, Bauman, Larry Leach, SGM Johnson (my 1SG), Tim Dwyer, Tim Easton, Zoe Elyse, Bill Reilly, Lauro Perez, Danny Padilla, Andrew Wilson, Ben Arata, Scott Macmillan, The MRB Team, the CIMT Team, Soldiers of the Apocalypse, the 562nd EN CO, 5/2SBCT and C CO, 2ABCT, 4ID to include my MICO guys.  To my children, Andrew and Alexandra, your sacrifice did not go unrecognized.  Thank you.

 

 

Wilderness Part II

Day 5: More of the same.  Ups and downs with an overall increase in elevation.  We ended the day at Logan Brook Lean-to; a 12.5 mile day.  As we began a slight elevation gain, the bugs weren’t quite so bad.  They went from insane to terrible (a notch or two on the bug scale).  One of the great things about the Maine Appalachian Trail is that there are excellent lean-to sites spaced out between four and ten miles apart depending on the terrain.  Almost all of the lean-to sites have a great water source, a privy, and sites to set up your tent.  The lean-to itself is an excellent shelter with room for about eight hikers elbow to elbow in sleeping bags.

After arriving at each lean-to my priorities of work are 1) to get my tent (sanctuary from the bugs) set up immediately; 2) to obtain a full load of water from the associated water source by collecting in my Sawyer filter bags and filtering into my three 1-1.5 liter bottles (Stryker carried the 1.5 liter bottle); 3) prepare and eat chow using my jet boil; 4) to let my feet air out, dry my shoes and socks, and escape the bugs inside my tent.  All of this took about a half hour to forty-five minutes and by this time, Stryker is begging to get inside the tent to escape the bugs as they harass him even more than Andrew and I because he refuses to wear a bug net over his face.

Day 6: After packing up, our first step was up.  We began to climb the most significant mountain in the 100-mile wilderness, Whitecap.  Whitecap rises to around 3600′ in elevation with an overall climb of around 2500′.  Honestly, this was by no means the hardest climb in the wilderness.  After summiting whitecap, we took a few minutes to enjoy another great payout (view) and then headed on to face three more summits, Hay Mountain, West Peak, and Gulf Hagas before starting a very difficult descent.  As the terrain eased and began to level out, the wilderness had yet a different kind of obstacle for us.  It looked like a tornado had went through the woods and knocked down about 20 trees across the pass in a half-mile swath.  Many of these trees were large and we either had to crawl under them or climb over them as we went a long.

We stopped for the evening on the south side of pleasant river.  We logged in nearly thirteen miles, climbed four mountains, navigated the tree obstacles, and for icing in the cake, had to ford the pleasant river.  The pleasant river ford site was about a 50 meter water crossing.  We took our shoes and socks off to cross barefoot.  The rocks were covered in algae and were INCREDIBLY slippery.  One of the biggest mistakes I made in preparing for this trip was not bringing some type of water shoe.  Crossing the river killed our feet, exasperated our blisters/ deteriorated the blister dressings, and came with a very real threat of falling due to how slippery the rocks were.  Stryker?  I leashed him at each crossing, but as with everything else, he had no problem navigating the obstacles.

Day 7: Once again, we began the day climbing.  However, to this point, we had been lucky to have really nice weather.  Not today, it poured.  Unfortunately, we were also negotiating the most treacherous part of the wilderness.  About two miles in we had a boulder crawl that ascended nearly straight up a mountain, Chairback Mountain.  The entire mountain was rock or root of some kind and incredibly slippery in the rain.  We made it just a hair over four miles and took shelter at Chairback Lean-to.

This was the first and only night I slept in the lean-to.  A few of the other hikers we had met also stopped for the night here and we all happily cuddled together in the lean-to and hung our stuff to dry.  It rained for the rest of the day and all night.  To make up for lost mileage, we began our hike the next day at 0500.

Day 8:  Columbus Mountain, Third Mountain, Mount three and a half, Fourth Mountain, and Barren Mountain were conquered, along with Fourth Mountain Bog, Baren slides,  and ledges, two fords, and the usual daily grind in our nearly 16 mile day.  We stopped for the night at Wilson Lean-to.  Priorities of work were completed, and this ol’ guy and his dog were out!  Exhausted.

Day 9:  Our last day in the wilderness–10.4 miles.  This was the best stretch of hiking we had had since the first two miles in the wilderness.  Many ups and downs, and a couple of fords, but one unusual obstacle.  All of a sudden, the trail just ended at a huge pond (probably 200′ or more in diameter).  Upon inspection, we noticed that the tell-tail ‘white blaze’ marking the way, was painted on a tree in the middle of the pond.  At the deepest, the pond was probably about 4′.  After further investigation, we realized that a beaver or more likely a family of beavers had built a dam directly on the trail.

An opportunity to teach!  I taught Andrew how to do the box method and bypass an obstacle while keeping your general direction or azimuth.  Wow, an Army skill paying off.  Ha!  He thinks I’m a genius.  We ended up scaling the beaver’s dam one at a time.  Styrker, once again, right over the obstacle without a trouble.  We spent six hours completing, what was most likely the easiest 10.4 miles of trail in the wilderness.  As a point of reference, the Army’s standard for a 12-mile foot march with a 35 pound pack is 4-hours.  In my glory days, I’ve completed that same 12-miles in just over two hours.  #terrainmatters

The three of us were picked up at the trail head by Shaw’s Hiker Hostel shuttle and taken to the hostel.  Where, we were offered a PBR or soda upon entry and a couple of nights much needed R&R, the ability to stock up supplies, do laundry, and chat with other hikers doing the same.  Shaw’s even offered town clothes so you could do you laundry all at once.  Additionally, a homemade breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes and all the blueberry pancakes you can eat is a daily occurrence.  These guys have it going on.  I highly recommend Shaw’s to anyone considering the hike.

 

The Wilderness

Day 1: We were all smiles and giggles when the old man dropped the three of us off at the trail head near Abol bridge. Momentarily all three of us were packed up and off we went. The first half mile was blissful. I had thought about this journey for years, I had thought about the adventure for years; now, it was here, here at last.

We were starting in the 100 mile wilderness. There are no towns or cities until you get to the other side. But, hell, that wasn’t going to be a problem for us; we were in wonderland. The forest smelled incredible, everything was green and plush, even the trail was soft for Stryker’s feet. After that half mile, wonderland became difficult.

The trail turned to bog and we began skipping along the rocks, jumping from one to another in a ‘hopscotch’ fashion. Also, bugs, tiny black flies and mosquitos began swarming us. Thank God for our face net. The ‘Ol Man told us, “don’t have it in your pack, have it in you pocket.” When the trail wasn’t bog, it was rocky and completely covered with large roots. As we went along, the trail became easier for a bit and then got bad again. We came across ‘Giggles’ a Forest Ninja that suddenly appeared in the woods and then disappeared just as quickly. She called herself a trail runner or something to that affect. She said it was her summer job to walk portions of the trail, educate people, and check on camp, Lean to sites.

At about the six mile mark, we stopped for lunch (it took us about three and half hours to get here) by a lake and, although the bugs were somewhat annoying, had a really nice meal and replenished our water supply.

We arrived at Rainbow Springs campsite about 430 that afternoon, 11.2 miles. We were all very tired from our first day of hiking. Okay, so, let’s back up. In Colorado, hell, in the Army, we do 12 miles in about 4 hours, that’s the ‘Army’ standard. It took us nearly eight hours to accomplish a similar task, now of course we took breaks, had lunch, but still. After day one, I knew that this wilderness was not going to be just a walk in the woods. When we walked into our camp sight we were immediately swarmed w/ flies and mosquitos. We put our tents up as fast as we could providing a mini sanctuary. Stryker couldn’t wait to get into the tent.

Day 2: It started raining about midnight, when we woke up we had to pack up a wet tents, but luckily the rain had stopped. This day’s hike was exasperated by the rains. We played hopscotch for miles in an effort to stay dry. When we weren’t going through bogs we were forced to pick our footing wisely on, between, beside rocks or roots. At one point, I thought, “This isn’t the AT, it’s the ACT for Appalachian Creek Trail. It very much felt like we were walking along a creek bed or up a creek bed for miles. We ended the day with our first elevation climb as we climbed up a small hill (probably about 3 miles or so). By the end of the day, we had knocked out 12.1 miles.

Day 3: Our easiest hike yet, not a lot of elevation gain and several places where the trail was actually a trail. Tons of fun water crossings. One in particular was at a creek about fifteen feet wide or so with three logs and a big rock. The logs teeter-tottered to the rock. This one was particularly fun as Stryker is becoming more agile and learning to overcome all the obstacles on the trail even with his pack on. Oh’ we saw our first warm blooded animal today on the trail, a duck. We finished the day having hiked another 10.1 miles. We stopped at a lean to that started with a ‘P’ and had a bunch of other letters that nobody could pronounce. We all think it’s a made up name. Our easiest hike, very little elevation gain, and I got my first blister. Go figure.

Day 4: We logged another 11.4 miles in today-a pretty easy day, really. Mostly flat with a slight upgrade towards the end. We all had a wonderful lunch on a bridge overlooking a pretty sweet river and this evening we’re staying at Cooper Brook Falls. Its a pretty sweet set up, the best we’ve encountered so far. Stryker and I are camping out right by the river and just up the hill there’s a lean to with a giant fire pit, pretty sweet. Not sure if you’ve been doing the math, but we’ve logged in about 44 miles in four days. Tomorrow we start climbing and it just keeps going up for the next few days, except when it goes down so we can go up again! 🙂

Overall, my impression of Maine is that there are a ton of lakes and a ton of roots and rocks. Every step is a possible ankle-turner. It’s very pretty, but the hiking is rough. As far as wildlife, we’ve seen a duck and a snake and LOTS of moose poop. Tomorrow we’ll hit the halfway mark through the 100 mile wilderness. Cheers

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We’re in Maine!!

Stryker and I are in Maine. Boy, what a trip. So, we get to Denver for the 0105 flight thinking that that would be a good time to fly. Wrong. The flight was packed. Then- Jamie says, “Well, let’s put it out to the universe that you’re going to have a great trip.” Five minutes later, Stryker and I were upgraded to FIRST CLASS. To top it of off, we were seated by an ol’ OCS grad that had served in Vietnam. He was very receptive to Strykes and even gave up his blanket so Stryker could have some ‘extra’ cushion.

The landing was a bit exciting, but by flight two from Philly, Stryker had assimilated and there was absolutely no problem (upgraded again to our own row).

Bangor, ME-the last time I was here was when I returned from Afghanistan in 2010.

Initial impression of Maine: It’s very green with every kind of tree (except palm, Rob-smart ass).

Tonight we are staying in Millinocket, a town from yesterday that’s still hanging on by a string. It was explained to me that in the early 2000’s the ‘mill’ in Millinocket closed for good. A relatively prosperous little town had zero economy overnight. There’s a sign in the middle of town thanking the citizens for over 100 years of faithful service.

We are staying at the Appalachian Trail Lodge-owned and operated by the ‘Ol’ man’ who checked me in, arranged our food drop 63 miles into the 100 mile wilderness, explained the rules of the establishment, and then showed me to my room. The Ol’ man is another war hero who sports a faded tattoo from yesterday of a Purple Heart on his left, upper arm from a battle long ago in Vietnam. When Stryker and I came out of our room on our way to explore this dusty old town, he was armpit deep in the engine of an old Volkswagen van. I chuckled inside when I noticed his braided pigtail running down his back in contrast to otherwise bird’s nest of a hairdo.

Almost time…

Most of you should’ve just received a reminder about the blog via text or e-mail.  I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I’ve made an update.  But, you know how it goes, you have a plan and then life happens.  However, now, I’m two days away from starting the AT and my adventure.  Here are some of the things that have changed since my last update:

  1. I’ve decided to start in the north and head south.  First off, due to delays in my retirement schedule for one reason or another (I’ll save you the headache), my schedule was pushed back further than I planned when I originally created this blog.
  2. Secondly, the plan is to walk for three months from Baxter State Park in Maine to Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia.  Overall, it will be 1150 trail miles.  This is just over half the AT.  Now, you might be asking yourself, “Trail miles?”  As I began to plan logistics and do a deep dive into this adventure, I’ve realized that many of my resupply points may require several miles of walking (If we can’t get a ride to and from the trail) into town.  Next, you might wonder why ‘only three months.’  Well, I need to come back in September to tie up some loose ends, first of all the Army/VA medical stuff, next I’ve got a great opportunity to work for an exciting company, and most of all–I’M GETTING MARRIED!  Life is good.
  3.  Finally, Andrew (my son) has decided to join Stryker and I throughout Maine and New Hampshire.  This is great news for many reasons.  I’ll put it to you this way, throughout my Army career, I’ve missed so many bonding opportunities with my son.  I feel like life is giving me back some time.

As far as train-up, Stryker and I have been forced to do local hikes as Colorado has received record snow this year.  For the first time in 20 years, the entire state is no longer in drought.  Some of the hikes we’ve done have been at the Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks Canyon Open Space, and Falcon Trail on USAFA.  I’m feeling pretty good as all of our preparation was at an elevation of 6K feet or higher.

Okay, Stryker and I will fly to Bangor, Maine very early on 4 June.  Andrew will take a later flight that same day.  From Bangor we will bus to Medway and then take the AT lodge shuttle from Medway to the lodge in Millinocket where we will stay prior to starting the 100 mile wilderness on 5Jun.  We will begin at Abol bridge.  Unfortunately, Baxter State Park is closed until 15Jun and with our condensed timeline, we can’t afford to wait to do Mount Katahdin.

Stay tuned.  My next blog will be from Maine!!!

December Update

Merry Christmas everyone.  Just a note to let you know we’re still around.  It’s pretty cold here in Colorado and we haven’t been doing a lot of packing because of the weather.  Instead, we’ve been skiing.  Well, I’ve been skiing and Stryker is enjoying the snow.  So far, we’ve made it Vail and Keystone and Breckenridge this week.

Tis the season to refine some of my gear and begin to plan the trip logistically.  I’ll keep you updated once I’ve made my plan.

On a another note, I did receive my retirement orders.  Stoked.

 

Routine Update

Team,

Just a quick update from Colorado Springs.  Stryker and I have been doing some very ‘routine’ pack work.  We try and get out as much as we can, but as the weather changes, our opportunity to hike the Colorado Trail (CT) will dwindle.  Much of the trail spans elevations that already have a decent amount of snow.

On that note, one of the training hikes we do is the Jack Quinn’s Running Club route http://jackquinnsrunners.com/.  The route is 5K and Stryker and I walk for as long as time allows. We walked three laps last week.  The great thing about the Jack Quinn’s training hike is that there is always a nice reward after the hike–Guinness!  Additionally, most of the time I can get a buddy or two to walk part of the way with us–shout out to Rob McCormick and Amber Dawn for joining us here and there.

More on the Jack Quinn’s Running Club:  This is a gem for those of you who live in Colorado Springs.  The club meets downtown from 530pm to 7pm EVERY Tuesday of the year.  Basically, you show up on your own, sign in either before or after, then complete the run, walk, half and half, whatever.  Afterwards there are happy hour beers, $1 tacos, comradery, and a few vendors.  After ten events, you qualify for a t-shirt and the database keeps track of how many times you’ve participated.  Pets are welcome and they can even qualify for a bandana after they’ve completed ten events.

Admin note: Unfortunately, due to my transition requirements, Stryker and I will not be able to start the AT until 1 June, which means we are now SOBOs or southbound hikers.  For those of you who don’t know, since the trail takes so long to thru-hike, starting from Georgia and finishing in Maine in November is a bad idea due to weather.  So, we will start in Maine and finish in Georgia.

Cheers everyone and thanks for following us.

 

Colorado Trail Segment 1

Perusing the Colorado Trail Ninth Edition, the official guidebook of the Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF, 2016), I noticed that for Segment 1, the elevation gain is 2,830’ while the elevation loss is 2,239’ feet, the highest elevation for this section is 7,517’. Interestingly enough, when I was planning this hike, my brain kind of skipped over the first two numbers; I really didn’t think much of it because if you subtract elevation loss from elevation gain, the remainder is fairly unsubstantial. What Stryker and I have come to learn after completing this hike, is that those two numbers are quite significant. The first number, 2,830’, is a number referring to how many feet of elevation that you will climb while the other number, 2,239’ is how many feet of elevation that you will be traveling downhill; unfortunately, you don’t get to subtract one from the other. Both are equally taxing in their own evil ways.

Stryker and I, along with my buddy Don, set out Sunday morning to hike Segment 1 of the Colorado Trail. We began the day at Indian Creek Campsite, which is the official starting point of Segment 1 for those traveling with dogs. It’s a 4.5 mile bypass from the only section on the CT that doesn’t allow dogs (The first 6.5 miles coming from Denver). We intersected the CT at Lenny’s Rest and proceeded south to the completion of Segment 1 at South Platte River trail head. Gluttons for more, we continued on into Segment 2 to camp at/near the old abandoned quartz mine, now known to us affectionally as Camp Quartz.  The old abandoned quartz mine has created a very neat area full of quarts scraps.  People have build campfires and other designs out of quarts stones.

We had two goals for this first hike. First, we wanted to see what it was like to hike/ pack 15 miles in a day with our complete outfit. Fifteen miles is the average mileage a hiker must hike each day, every day to complete the AT in six months. I was carrying nearly 30lbs with 3X day’s food and water and Stryker had 8lbs in his pack. Secondly, we wanted to test out our gear and validate carrying all this crap for 2,189 miles. How does it work? Is it worth the weight? Can I, or better yet, am I willing to live w/o it? etc.

Goal One: Hiking for fifteen miles in a day, fully loaded over fairly significant terrain is very doable. The three of us took our time and enjoyed beautiful Colorado. We do live in a magnificent state/country. We took several breaks and stopped multiple times to take photos or simply, take a deep breath and enjoy. When we first started planning this trip, we discussed taking on Segments 1 &2. This would’ve meant fewer breaks, more fatigue, and less ‘camp’ time. In hindsight, thanks to Don, we made the right call and opted for a shorter trip this first hike. This decision meant that we arrived at Camp Quartz tired, but not over-tired, had plenty of time to set up camp prior to sunset, and were in high spirits and ready to enjoy each other’s company.

Goal Two: We made every effort to try out all of our gear. In doing so, this is what I learned:

NOTE: If you want to skip the gear reviews, please feel free to scroll down to the bottom and check out the pictures of the hike.  Again, we live in an incredible country where natural beauty abounds.  Please, help me take care of it by embracing the “Leave no trace” principle.

REI Flash 65 Liter Pack: This pack is solid. It held up and rode very well throughout the hike. It has easy access to water bottles on each side, a nice pouch for my hydration system, straps that let you adjust how weight is carried in the pack, and pockets on the belt for easy access (phone and dog treats). Another feature that is a must is bottom access that allows you to access things on the bottom of your pack without unpacking the whole thing. This feature is a must. My son, Andrew, helped me adjust the pack prior to the trip to ensure everything was ‘fit’ just right for me. Thanks, Andrew!

REI Half Dome 2+ tent: Andrew scoffed when I told him I was packing this tent. “That tent is way too heavy,” he scolded (You might be asking yourself by now, what does Andrew know?  Well, this guy is a hiking and backpacking enthusiast and has been my sounding board for gear for quite some time now). Yes, it’s a bit heavy for a trek like the AT, but in my opinion well worth the weight. At nearly five pounds, it’s a sacrifice, but it’s a very nice tent with all sorts of intuitive features. Let me address the size versus weight. It’s a two-man tent, so it has plenty of room for both Stryker and I and all of our gear. During this hike, it rained nearly the entire evening with plenty of wind too. The tentfly kept everything nice and dry, not a single drop of rain got in. This means that if we have a day on the trail where we decide to hold-up for the day because of weather, it’ll do the trick and we won’t get too claustrophobic. Other features I love about this tent: There are two entrances, so we won’t have to climb over one another; there’s an attic that does a nice job utilizing space and allowing you to store things easily; there are tons of intuitive features, like D-rings on the rainfly that allow you to tighten it up very easily. All in all, I’m very happy with this tent even if I could save an entire pound by going a bit smaller.

Thermolight Sea to Summit ultra-light sleeping pad: This may be my favorite piece of gear. It’s very comfortable and it only took me about 30 seconds to inflate manually. Another thing, it stayed fully inflated all night long. How many times have you woken up on the ground in the morning when using a sub-par sleeping pad? Excellent.

Kelty Tuck Thermapro sleeping bag: At two pounds and compact, this is a nice, synthetic bag. It’s rated at a 22 degree comfort level for men. The temperature dropped down to about 35 on this trip and I was very comfortable without any additional additives. I did sleep in my Army silks. Additionally, there is plenty of room in the shoulder/chest area allowing for easy rolling during sleep. I hate getting all tangled up in a bag that is too tight. The bag also has some nice feature, such as a pocket to store loose change, headphones, etc.

Sawyer water filter system (regular size): This water filter did the trick; however, when I tried to dip one of the two, one-liter water pouches in the Platte River to fill it, the pouch wouldn’t fill. So, I was forced to use the syringe provided to fill the pouch. The filter is made to connect directly to the pouch and then has a ‘water bottle type’ spout on the receiving end. I didn’t count, but I think it took me about fifteen syringes to fill the one-liter pouch. Meanwhile, my buddy Don, reached down with his liter water bottle and filled it instantly then attached his Life Straw filter and was good to go. In fairness, Sawyer gives you all sorts of attachments to use with this filter, such as the ability to hook it directly up to your hydration system. Also, I’m sure the pouches would fill easily under a spigot…but then do you need to filter the water?

JetBoil Flash: For anyone that has one, you know this piece of equipment is a win. Again, Andrew was concerned about the weight. After I explained that I would be using the JetBoil to replace my complete cooking set, he understood. Besides, hot coffee and a warm meal in seconds is one of the creature comforts I plan to have on the AT.

Additionally, I picked up the coffee press made to go w/ the JetBoil. I don’t recommend it. It worked ~okay~ but, the amount of water to clean grounds (especially if you boil it over as I did) is too high of a price to pay to make coffee. Water is probably the heaviest thing I will carry; it’s EIGHT pounds per gallon. I will buy instant coffee that I can just add to boiling water and drink.

Buff multifunctional head ware: I wore my Buff to cover my ears all day. It protected my forehead from the sun during the day and continued to protect my ears from wind as the day grew tired and into the evening. In camp, I took it off and wore it around my hands (I forgot gloves) to keep my hands warm. It’s super light, and I appreciate the versatility. I can use it to cover my head, ears, as a neck gator, and ladies and gents, it can even be used as a hair-tie. Hell, maybe I’ll be able to use it as a hair-tie by the end of my AT trip. 

Kuhl rain jacket w/ hood: This light-weight jacket worked wonderfully. It kept me nice and toasty and did a wonderful job blocking out the wind. It wasn’t raining while we were hiking, but I wore it anyways as temperatures began to drop towards the end of the day. I switched to my Kuhl fleece in the evening because it just looked so darn comfortable. And, it was. Just as a side note, because of rain jackets ability to block wind, it was as warm as the fleece and a lot lighter and more compact. I think I’ll still take them both.

Brooks Zero Drop trail running shoes: These shoes are super light-weight and are wonderfully padded, very comfortable. As a matter of fact, I ran into some other hikers who noticed I was wearing these shoes and he was sure to tell me that ‘his’ research uncovered the fact that “Zero Drops were what EVERYONE is wearing on the trail.” Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be wearing them much longer. Interestingly enough, the wide toe box doesn’t work for my wide foot and the excessive padding on the outside of the shoe is causing me to over-pronate. The toe box allows my toes to move just enough encouraging a blister to develop between my big toe and the adjacent toe—this I’ve never had a problem with in any shoe or boot. My ankles are extremely sore as I am naturally neutral to supine. Also, the shoes may be great for the AT, but here in the Rockies with all the “rocks,” I need a shoe with a bit more support.

Ruffwear Dog Pack: This pack works great for Stryker. It takes a bit of adjusting to get it right and then you still have to keep an eye on weight distribution or it’ll lean one way or another, but overall, a real nice, durable pack that is showing ZERO signs of wear after about 50 hiking miles.

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Check out the contour lines and intervals…again, we walked every step both up and down!

Our Gear & First Overnight Hike

Up till now, Stryker and I have went on several short training hikes w/ packs.  The hikes ranged in distance from about 3.1 miles to 7 miles with varying terrain–everything has been super easy so far.  These hikes are in addition to physical fitness training, either gym work, treadmill work, running, or biking.  Stryker runs with me and sometimes, I run him by letting him tag along on bike rides.  I’m doing this to increase his cardio slowly (I can’t challenge him on my feet), but I sure can on my bike.

This weekend, we will go on our first overnight hike.  We will be hiking the Colorado Trail segment one, utilizing the ‘alternate’ dog route.  The entire route will be approximately 19 miles, a good first hike with some real distance.  We will try out our gear and see what works and doesn’t work.  Here’s what we’re carrying on this trip:

Kelly:

REI Flash 65 liter pack (3lbs, 2oz) w/ Osprey 1.5 liter hydraulic (8oz empty)

REI Duck’s Back 60L rain cover (5.5 oz)

REI Half Dome 2+ (Lightweight 3 season tent) 4lbs, 15 oz.

Kelty Tuck Thermapro sleeping bag (rated to 20 deg.) ~2lbs

Thermolite Sea to Summit bag liner (Short) adds 25deg 14 oz.

Thermolight Sea to Summit ultra light sleeping pad ~1lb

Madera inflatable pillow (~5 oz)

Sawyer water filter system (regular) (~6 oz)

Medical Kit (Mountain Series) Hiker 2 people/2days; blister kit; tweezers; nail clippers (~12oz)

Small toothbrush and paste, floss, all-purpose soap

Waterproof matches; combo whistle-compass-thermometer-magnifying glass-signal mirror-led light; lighter; pocket knife; small led light (~8oz)

Headlamp (6oz)

Ben’s Invisinet Mosquito net for head (~1oz)

JetBoil Flash stove w/ 3.5oz can of fuel and spork and coffee press (~1lb)

The Deuce #2 UL trowel (.6oz)

CLOTHES (carried in stuff sack) (3lbs)

Water Proof stuff sack

2 X shirts (KUHL)

3X socks (smart wool)

Gen III lightweight long underwear top and bottom (US Army)

REI hiking pants zip off legs (x1)

PATAGONIA micro puff jacket w/ PLUMAFILL insulation (very light)

KUHL Fleece Jacket

KUHL rain jacket w/ hood

Sea to Summit Air Stream pump sack / waterproof sack

Small phone charger and cords (8oz)

Buff multifunctional head ware (neck gator or hat) (2oz)

Worn

KUHL Shirt long sleeve (Wild fiber)

KUHL Hiking pants

Smart wool hiking socks

Brooks Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes

Garmin Pheonix III Watch

Sunglasses

My gear

Total Weight w/o water/food (BEER): 19lbs

Stryker:

RUFFWEAR Pack (1.1 5lbs)

REI 48oz water bottle full (3.2lbs)

Collapsible bowl for water/feeding (4oz)

REI Duck’s Back 20L Rain Cover (3oz)

Light up collar made by RUFFWEAR

Waterproof stuff sack (1oz)

Potable Aqua Water purification tabs (1oz)

3X days of food (3lbs)

Stryker's Gear

Total Weight: ~8lbs.

So, these are the basics that Stryker and I will be carrying.  I have to go food shopping/ do a bit of research and then decide how much I want to carry.  Trip planning will shine some light on how often I will need to resupply food on the AT, but for training purposes, I plan to carry 3X days of food, fill my 1.5 liter hydration system, and carry two small bottles of water on my pack (2.5-3 liters total).

Things I know I still need to add to my pack:

chafing wax

AT Book and map

Things I’ve intentionally left out:

Deodorant, razor (YES!!), other hygiene products

Rain pants (I hate wearing rain pants)

Dog booties

Things I know I need to get for Stryker:

biodegradable baggies

Musher’s secret paw protection

If anyone can think of something I’ve missed, please, comment on this post.  The weather is supposed to cool off this weekend in Colorado w/ possible rain and snow; this should be a great test.

Also, a shout out to Mr. Don Caughey, who will be joining me for this first training hike.  Don is a friend of mine, a retired US Army Major, and also the best darn recruiting officer in USACC (cadet command).

My next post will feature a basic run down and pictures of our hike and a relevant gear review.  Cheers!

 

 

 

Concept of the Operation

OUR INTENT:

Stryker and I will hike the Appalachian Trail from May to November in 2019 from south to north–starting in Georgia and finishing in Maine.

Purpose: Our purpose is multi-faceted.  First and foremost, this is to be a journey that will serve to help me transition from a life that has been all Army for nearly 27 years to life as a civilian.  I’m hoping that throughout the 2,189 mile journey, I can focus my thoughts and aspirations for what will inevitably be Act II of my life.

Next, I want to honor those that I have served, those that cannot walk along side me and will not make an appearance in Act II.  I will dedicate a state to each Soldier, friend, leader, mentor, brother, that I have served with and lost throughout the years.

Finally, I hope to raise money in support of Camp Hope, The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  These organizations make a difference.  I hope our efforts will make a difference too.

KEY TASKS (Omitted)

ENDSTATE:

Stryker and I will return to Colorado Springs in November.  We will have completed the AT, honored our fallen comrades, raised some money for charity, and will be ready to begin our new life; a life free of sorrow and regret; a life full of love, acceptance, focus, and aspiration.

CONCEPT

This will be a three phase operation: Phase I: Preparation and Training, Phase II Our Hike, and Phase III, Recovery and Reintegration.  Phase I is now underway and will end upon the completion of my military career, which will be highlighted when I get to witness the commissioning of the Mountain Ranger Battalion’s newest 2LTs.  Phase II will begin 12 May at Springer Mountain in Georgia and will end at Mount Katahdin 2,189 miles and many exciting adventures later.  Phase III will begin upon reaching Mount Katahdin and end once Stryker and I are home safely in Colorado Springs.

NOTE: No worries, my blog won’t always be written in this style.  This is just a fun style (OPORD Format) that compliments my “transitioning” state.