This summer I am going to be attempting to break the unsupported Appalachian Trail record. I have been asked a lot of questions about my trip and wanted to clear up exactly what I am doing by addressing some of those common questions here.
What exactly are you doing?
Self-supported Appalachian Trail record thru hike attempt. It is done backpacker style without a support crew. I will resupply in towns and pick up packages I mailed to myself but cannot have prearranged support from friends or family nor will I be able to accept rides into towns.
How far is it?
It is a 2185 mile long trail that passes through 14 states. Continue reading Appalachian Trail record attempt FAQ →
Overall my recent training hikes have been very uneventful hiking. But I do need to evaluate what slowed me down and each individual ache and pain. Back when I was racing triathlons I was extremely resistant to making excuses. I blew off every reason that could have slowed me down or made perform less than my best. But while in a two-hour race my stubbornness probably helped, with such long distance hiking, denying any ache or pain can turn into a brutal lesson.
On my spring break trip I had developed achilles tendonitis in my left heel. By the end of the trip it was creaking and severely inflamed. Because of the grueling punishment I had put my body through, I couldn’t be certain of exactly what had caused it. I suspected going from the flatness of Norfolk out to the high mountains of Smoky Mountain National Park had put additional strain on my tendon on the uphills and that stretching may alleviate it. I had also wondered if it had to do with my ridiculously small climbing shoes I had been using for several months at the climbing gym in Virginia Beach. And of course there was the distressing possibility that my body simply didn’t want to tolerate 40+ mile hiking days. Continue reading Evaluating setbacks →
Over spring break I had a great adventure down in the Smokies in North Carolina hiking a section of the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Appalachian Trail. It is one that I’ll look back on as a solid foundation for some future trips. I went out into the woods in late winter in Smoky Mountain National Park (which boasts the highest mountains on the east coast and unseasonably cold weather) with a sub 3.5 pound pack. That’s it. Besides shoes, poles, socks, a shirt, and shorts, the 3.5 pounds on my back was all the gear I figured I needed to survive for four days. Loaded with 3 pounds of food and a liter of water, it brought the total up to 7.8 pounds. Continue reading Benton MacKaye Trail spring break hike →
I had a couple good days of hiking this past weekend out in Shenandoah National Park. 35 miles on Saturday and 38 on Sunday. Not huge days but were solid training back out in the mountains. It was the first great weekend of spring and it was wonderful seeing so many other people enjoying the beautiful weather after several lonely hikes this winter.
You can check out the GPS files for each day here and here. I’ve tried keeping a good training log to track my progress and for transparency but it’s been harder than I anticipated. At least these two files give some idea of what pace I hit, how long my breaks are, and where and when I may need to adjust my pace and mileage.
Continue reading Weekend hiking trip →
There’s always a cost. In the case of ginseng as an herbal remedy, the largest cost is very likely not its symptoms to the user. I read an article earlier on NPR about the effect of wild ginseng harvesting on our National Parks, highlighting the effect it has on ecology, the risk of American ginseng extinction, and the impact of its poaching on individuals and communities. Ginseng is selling for ridiculously high prices in Hong Kong, up to $20,000 per pound. For the poacher here in the eastern United States, that can mean selling their prize for over $200 per pound, a healthy income for some in rural Appalachia. But it can also mean 5.5 months in federal prison in the case of Billy Joe Hurley who was convicted multiple times for ginseng poaching. The reason for the high selling price for american ginseng is not that it is a culinary treasure over in southeast China, instead it is viewed as an herbal remedy for many ailments and diseases. And the reason that it isn’t simply cultivated is that the delicate forest ecosystem is difficult to mimic and mechanize. With ginseng selling for such a high price and having a tremendous impact on people’s lives and the ecosystem of the Appalachian Mountains, I wondered whether this is all worth it. Continue reading The unseen effects of belief in alternative medicine →