My internal editor has been barking at me for the past week. I don’t know if you have one these guys floating around in your head, but mine is a bald, bad-breathed, perfectionist with a generalized anxiety disorder. As my internal deadlines loom, he begins to spit words around in my head: “Loser”, “Incompetent”, “Lazy.” I would fire him, but he’s a close relation, and he’s been around forever.
While I’m not advocating my internal editor’s motivational strategy, he does have reason to be concerned. My last post was nearly 2 weeks ago, and the blog narrative is more than 500 miles behind my hiking progress. I have so many stories that I’m looking forward to sharing with you: I’ve survived the Storm-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named; I know what it feels like to hike for 24hrs and 41 minutes (Pooch and I did pause for breaks to eat and to tap into our inner reserves of crazy in order to keep hiking); I was welcomed into a Trail Family; I reconnected with old friends and made new friends; I’ve created movie night at a shelter, and so many bear encounters that privy and water quality takes precedence during our dinner conversations at the shelters.
I considered taking an extra day in Daleville (a trail town near Roanoak, Virginia that is 727 miles or nearly 1/3 into the Appalachian Trail) to start catching up on the blog, but I’m chasing after Paul Bunion, a hiking partner from 2 years ago that is hiking a section of the AT. I stayed long enough to take care of my town chores: shower, first lunch, resupply for 4 days (roughly 80 miles), second lunch at Taco Bell, laundry in the bathtub, recharge the Apple kiosk that I’ve been lugging around, a quick text conversation with Monica to catch up on her recent adventures, sleep, breakfast and I’m back on the trail.
I’m thinking about you as I’m hiking. During the really hot days, I’ll find a shady spot and journal while I’m drinking one of 6-8 liters of water I need to stay ahead of the dehydration headaches.
I’ve lost a few things (including 33lbs of flab and unnecessary upper body muscle, and my sunglasses) but I’ve also gained much more. Lots of new friends, an impressive ability to zone out for 8-10hrs and wake up 15-20 miles down the Trail, and some interesting bug bites.
I’m really looking forward to sharing these stories with you. I should probably get on with it, but I just wanted to take a few minutes to update you on my hiking progress (and definitely NOT just because I want to brag about the rugged wilderness warrior I’ve become).
And since this digression has become its own separate entity at this point, it might be helpful to share some AT vocabulary in the event I slip hiker vernacular into future posts..
Zero: hiking no miles on the Appalachian Trail in a day. Usually this happens at hostels or in Trail towns, and often involves walking several miles in search of beer, food, place to do laundry, and food. And food. Can be used as a noun (take a zero), verb (we zeroed in Hot Springs), and adjective (Woods Hole is a great Zero hostel).
Nero: hiking very few miles on the Appalachian Trail in a day. For the first few weeks, anything less than 3 miles was considered a Nearo. Eventually, 10 miles was close enough, and now, any miles we can hike before noon is considered reasonable Nearo territory. 12 by 12, or hiking 12 miles by noon is very satisfying.
Hero: hopping in and out of town without staying the night. I’ve never had the self-discipline to do this (I either skip the town/hostel completely or stay for at least a night).
Snack: typically anything that can be eaten while hiking, and doesn’t require preparation. Calorie counts are measured in snickers equivalents (250 calories and 4gm protein). “I barely put down 4 snickers worth of snacks this afternoon.”
Privy: outdoor shacks with composting toilets near many (but not all) shelters. The quality varies significantly. Maybe mention Teddy’s privy rating scale.
White blaze: the white dashes that mark the Appalachian Trail.
Blue blazing: Blue dashes that lead to water sources, or points of interest (views and fire towers)
Yellow blazing: derived from the yellow dashes on the highway, this term, usually derogatory among elitist hikers, refers to those that are driven past sections of the Trail.
Pink blazing: in the past, this term referred to guys that chased after female hikers, but this year, there are nearly as many female hikers as males, and they are just as crazy as we are, so this term has come to encompass as sorts of relationship-y motivations for hiking. I guess I’m technically pink blazing as well since I’m hiking my way back to Monica.
Green blazing (AKA safety meeting): marijuana is lighter than alcohol, and doesn’t dehydrate hikers, so it’s use is fairly common. The party atmosphere was fairly prevalent in the first few hundred miles and these “meetings” were very common, but the hikers that remain on the Trail at this point, after 700 miles of hiking, have a sense of resolve and purpose that is amazing to be a part of.
LNT :” leave no trace” Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Seriously, no trash on or around the trail.
Bear bag: hanging food bag (and toiletries) from a tree limb or designated bear cables so that bears can’t reach them.
Mouse bag: most shelters have cords suspended from rafters with obstacles like soda cans or sticks tied to them so that those pesky, acrobatic mice can’t get into our packs.
Ultra-light pack: a pack that weighs less than 25lbs with food and water
Hyper-light: a pack that weighs less than 20lbs with food and water
Mobile home: my pack weight, but I’ve got lots of goodies. And there is always an extra pair of dry warm clothes just in case it rains (as it will). More than 35lbs. Usually 40lbs.
Compression leggings: Although the unenlightened have been know to call them black panty-hose, leotards, and even extra long Spanks, they are wrong. These breathable synthetic leggings kept my chicken legs warm and poison ivy-free. The fact that I look so sexy in them is an unintentional bonus.