I had a great Christmas with my family and most of them seem excited about my hike. I’m lucky that they are so supportive and that I got the chance to spend time with them for both major holidays. Christmas more than made up for a stressful and worried Thanksgiving and though it was very simple it was one of my favorite celebrations with my family. Great food, great fun and I got a couple of donations towards my hike/gear, too, so thank you! The more I talk about the thru-hike the more I discover people that have backpacking experience or already know about the AT. That’s fun and I try to pick the brains of everybody, because they all know more than I do about backpacking if they’ve done anything more than one overnight.
In the spring, after I have my gear, I’ll do at least one three day “shakedown” hike. I’ll start with camping in my backyard to make sure the sleep system (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, sleeping clothes) will work for me, and then I’ll use my weekend for an overnight not too far from home. That won’t involve much hiking necessarily, just a chance to test out all the gear and learn how to pack, unpack, cook, set up and take down when the stakes aren’t too high. Then I’ll go for the three days with a good amount of hiking. In the meantime I’ll be hiking and training with my fully loaded pack. This will help me figure out some issues ahead of time, though I know I can’t duplicate the rain and humidity of the east coast out here in the desert. I have to accept that I can’t predict or control everything ahead of time and I’ll need to be flexible in the moment.
I started a Facebook group called “Carey Belcher hikes the Appalachian Trail” because I’m not sure how to notify people when I post a new update here on this blog. I’m sure there’s a way, even if I have to start an email list and just send a group update, but the Facebook group automatically notifies anybody in the group when I post in there. I’ll be posting my journal entries in the FB group and there will be additional comments and posts as well as pictures there, so I hope that plenty of people follow along there, too. You don’t have to be my “friend” on Facebook to join the group, you can just request to join and I’ll add anybody who asks. The button to donate to Best Friends is only on this blog here at The Dusty Camel, though, so I hope people will share both sites with anybody they think is interested in my hike or helping the rescued animals at Best Friends.
While I was in Salt Lake I went to REI, of course. I spent a few hours trying on trail shoes (not boots) and I found THE ONES! Well, they were the best ones in REI, anyway. I didn’t buy them yet because they’re not on sale, and I’ll be buying my tent on sale this coming paycheck, but I’m keeping an eye on them. I’ve been told they don’t need too much breaking in, but I need to get and try them within the next month so I can know if I need to keep looking. They are size 10 Keen Voyageurs, with a nice wide toe box and a wide shoe in general, which is what I need. Each pair should last me about 500 miles, so I’ll go through four or five pairs of shoes during my hike. The size may get bigger as I go, so I won’t buy them ahead of time. I was told they don’t need much breaking in and are pretty comfy right out of the box, unlike boots.
I love road trips. I have driven from the California coast to the coast of South Carolina and many places in between over the years. I find myself to be a somewhat obsessive driver. I hate when people wander in their lanes and I get upset when people go slow in the left lane. I love to drive fast and I love that I-15 has four “test sections” where you can drive 80mph. That’s right, legally drive 80mph. Ahhh, it’s like heaven. Yet I love to walk, too. When I drive I obsess over not going too fast or too slow (cruise control would be very helpful for me) and on road trips I calculate constantly in my head how good a time I am making, how good my gas mileage is and when I think I’ll arrive at my destination based on the trip so far. My ex has a GPS and it did all that for me, so I watched it like TV and compared it to my own calculations. Yes, I did that. I really, really want a GPS for my car but that will have to wait until after my hike. Maybe it will free up some brain power for other things while I drive, but based on past experience I’m not so sure about that.
The reason I bring this up is I’m kind of curious how these driving tendencies will translate into my hiking. Will I be competitive and focused on speed and getting to destinations like when I drive, or will I be able to learn how to enjoy the process and the journey? And what about the whole “catch up/keep up” of trying to stay with people I like on the trail? I’ve read that trying to keep up with faster hikers is a recipe for injury, so I’ll have to watch myself and make sure I’m not drawn into the speed game unconsciously. Of course, I do need to make good time in order to complete my thru-hike, so this will be a fine line to walk, er hike.