A couple weeks ago I visited Blacksburg, Virginia for a couple days to clean up where I had been living. I had stayed at my parents’ place for the last three and a half years and it showed. Some of their friends were going to be using the place so I had to touch it up before they got there. But I didn’t want to just drive there and back, I wanted an adventure, I wanted an escape. So I shoved some gear into my backpack and planned for a trip in the woods.
I made it to Blacksburg around two in the morning and crashed. The next day I quickly cleaned and called a couple of my friends who were still there. I told them what I wanted to do. I had ants in my pants and there was only one sure fix. My friend Daniel and I went over to our friend Scott’s place to talk plans. Daniel had no intentions of coming with us but after hours of discussion, we convinced him to meet us out there after buying some gear from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. Scott and I made it to hiking just before seven pm. It’s not unusual for us to get a late start but this was a little crazy even for us considering we had sixteen miles to our destination. We headed towards Dragon’s tooth in Catawaba, Virginia, a beautiful mountaintop rock formation with incredible views, possible star-gazing, and good enough shelter from the wind. Continue reading Summer backpacking adventure
I posted a couple days ago about my frustration with modern backpacking. I naively thinking that the methods of dropping pack weight were common knowledge. It wasn’t until I saw some of the gear lists from people claiming to pack light that I realized, a lot of the concepts of lightweight backpacking are not well known. Here I want to highlight some pieces of gear that I am not taking on my upcoming ultralight backpacking trip and why.
A roll of TP can weigh up to 6 ounces. That is an enormous amount of weight for a nonessential. While TP can double as a fire starter, the amount needed for that is of insignificant weight. This is a personal choice, I know, and a piece of gear that a lot of people could never imagine doing without. However, I instead use things that I don’t have to carry on my back to accomplish this task. I use sticks without bark, snow, leaves, or even moss. All of these are readily available and accomplish the task equally well. Wiping our asses with paper is only a recent phenomenon, so consider dropping the weight and doing without it.
If I carry a blade at all, I carry the tiny, tiny swiss army knife with scissors, tweezers, a file, and a toothpick that weighs 3/4 of an ounce. I’ve seen men carrying foot long blades into the tame backcountry of the east coast and the only justification I can imagine is compensation. At this point I’ve walked all but two states of the Appalachian Trail Continue reading Ultralight backpacking: ditching useless gear
The simplicity of backpacking has always intrigued me. To carry everything you need to survive on your back is an enlightening and beautiful experience. Truly nothing gets me more excited than to be fully self supported. But when I, with a bulky pack on, look at an animal foraging in the backcountry, I am envious. They carry nothing; they do not know where or when their next meal or drink will come from and yet they are entirely self-sufficient. And when I see men clambering into the woods with pots and jackets and bottles hanging from their fifty plus pound packs, I want to cry. Continue reading Lightweight backpacking
I just got back from another 100 mile adventure through the woods. When my professors cancelled my Monday classes, that opened up the door for me to turn what could have been a simple walk into an epic trek through southwest Virginia.
On Friday, my friends were going backpacking in Grayson highlands near the Tennessee-Virginia state line. I rode down with them but instead of travelling south with them into the familiar, beautiful Grayson Highlands, I decided to head north to cover some new Appalachian Trail territory. On Friday morning at 11 AM I turned north and with a simple “See ya broskies,” I was off walking. I had abandoned my rain gear, my tent, and all extra clothing. I exchanged waterproof, thick boots for running shoes. The physical goal was simple: go as far as possible in 72 hours.
“Anything’s possible. It is night on planet earth and I’m alive. And someday, I’ll be dead. Someday I’ll just be bones in a box. But right now, I’m not. And anything is possible…Each moment can just be what it is. There’s no failure. There’s no mistake. I just go there, and live there and whatever happens, happens. And so right now, I’m getting naked and I’m not afraid…” -Suburbia
Looks like plans have changed.
I may be hiking the Appalachian trail this year rather than next. I may be leaving in early September or late August rather than March. If that is the plan I will hike it North to South. If I set out of August 27th, the earliest I can leave, I will hike attempt to hike the 2000 mile stretch before the new year. Another option is to hike as far as I can until it is absolutely miserable, then section hike the rest.
The reason I would do this is to not miss next year’s triathlon and cycling seasons. I am swimming, biking, and running faster than ever before and I may not want to miss next year’s season.
A few setbacks are keeping me between the two options. The first is the cold. It is going to be absolutely freezing by the end of my journey. And not only will that makes days of the trip miserable, but it will require me to wear pounds more of gear.
Secondly I would be missing Duathlon World Championships in North Carolina this year. I would also miss the late season triathlons. Also, I would most likely not hit my goal finish date and I will probably spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s day without a human companion.
I would also not have any company on the trail. Most thru hikers would be finishing up in Maine when I am setting off from their destination. I would pass them going the opposite direction on the trail. I would spend most nights alone in shelters or even if I was with a companion, I would most likely say goodbye in the morning rather than having a hiking partner. Much of my trip would be spent with no sight of another human.
I have absolutely no idea how I will react to such solitude and harsh conditions. I have no idea what to expect to get from this adventure and I have no idea if my body and mind will hold up to the stress but it’s worth the test. We’ll see.