Well, one thing we learned with mail drops is that lunches are the hardest part of the planning process. And we bought slightly too much food.
For Christmas we received money to go towards buying dehydrated food for our mail drops. Chris went online and scoped out deals and found a lot of food for good prices from a variety of vendors like Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry. We put them all in a box and brought them home.
For breakfast and lunches we hit Sam’s Club, Walmart, Whole Foods and Tom Thumb to pick up all the things that we thought we’d want. I am pickier about lunch than Chris; he can survive on trail mix and I’m not a big fan of trail mix. I would prefer to have things like pouches of chicken and tuna, peanut butter or pepperoni. So, we walked the aisles of these stores to pick up the items we wanted. We bought mostly dried fruit at Whole Foods because I think they have better quality and choices. We bought about six or seven drops of pepperoni and my parents will have to get more for us later because we bought the pepperoni out at Tom Thumb.
We sat down last Monday and went through all of the guidebooks and consulted Whiteblaze.net to determine the best places for mail drops. People either seem to be very into mail drop or very anti-mail drops. And some are very vehement about it. We initially had 12 drops, re-evaluated it and dropped one and rearranged some and added a few more town stops to break up some 70+ mile hikes between towns.
Here is what we ended up with Google Doc spreadsheet. The dates are more or less where we will be at and we may add more town stops as we find out more on the trail by those in the know.
To put together our mail drops we bought 11 12x12x12 boxes and then after packing we found that two boxes had too much in them to even close so we bought two 15x12x10, for the 100+ mile sections through the Smokies and the 100 miles wilderness and one 14x14x14 for a 7 day section. We’ve chosen not to go to Gatlinburg in the middle of the Smokies because of the distance (15 miles) and the hassle of it, so we are going to just carry a lot of food to get us from Fontana Dam to Hot Springs. It seems about 50/50 do this.
Anyway, we laid everything out in the living room and broke it out by how many days we were going to carry and had to count it all out. Lunches were much more of a pain, they will be made up of various items including bars like Powerbars for Chris, Larabars, Cliff and Odwalla bars for me. We put in mini Goldbond powders at each drop, hand sanitizer, AA batteries, and a change of toothbrushes in the middle. I’m sure we will had some other things we think of and we will keep them open for my parents to add things as we ask.
We did a short time-lapse video of us putting the whole thing together:
Patrice had a few more questions: What are you putting in your bounce box? I know you mentioned on the video putting in your camelbak cleaner, but what else? I’ve heard of people putting in chargers and clean clothes, so I was just curious.
-I think we’ve decided not to have a bounce box since we won’t need much and we will just put the camelbak cleaner in one of the drops and send it back home after we are done with it. I suppose we could bounce it from there. We’ll see. No clean clothes, we’ll just wear our rain gear while we wash laundry or borrow some of the clothes that many hostels have for those who want to change out of their clothes for the day. As for chargers we are carrying a USB charger for our mp3 player and will charge it at computers, and we bought a little charger at AT&T that takes AA batteries for our phone.
What degree sleeping bag are you guys starting with? Do you think you’ll switch it come summer?
We are using a 15* Marmot Helium sleeping bag for each of us for the entire trip. We wanted to save money and didn’t buy a summer bag. If it is too hot we just won’t use it or will use it for padding to sleep on.
I’m sure it will change, but what do you guys plan to eat for meals? Always looking for new ideas/options.
Breakfasts are typically going to oatmeal or cream of wheat, a bar like the Natures Valley oat bar or the Cliff bars etc. I’m sure we’ll come up with ideas on the trail.
Lunches will be pepperoni on tortilla, pb with English muffins or pita, chicken packs with tortilla or pita, or whatever we can come up with. In towns we can buy string cheese and it will keep for several days so we will do that some. If we have enough fuel maybe we’ll cook some meals for lunch. We just wanted to save fuel.
Dinners will vary from dehydrated meals in our drops to packs of chicken and tuna with Lipton/Knorr rice and noodles, to ramen, mac and cheese, soups, and whatever else we find. I’m sure we will come up with interesting ideas!
I’m battling a cold now and am hoping to get over it in the next few days so that we can do some hiking next weekend. Only two weeks until we’re at Springer!
It feels like forever since I’ve written here. I better get used to it—you too—because after looking at our proposed stops it appears I might only be on once a week or even a bit longer than that.
After leaving the Dallas side of the family on Tuesday morning we drove to East Texas, near Tyler, to see one of my bff’s Michelle at her house. We left early in order to beat the snow that was moving from the west across the DFW metroplex. We made it to Terrell, just east of Dallas on I-30, when the snow started. It snowed the entire day and melted as it hit the ground, that is until about 4pm when it decided to start sticking. Then, my friend, it was snowball fight time!
It was so beautiful to watch it start accumulating. We were at Michelle’s mom and dad’s house, which is five minutes from hers, and they have a huge picture window in their living room. They get a ton of birds in the yard, cardinals and bluebirds and others, and seeing them playing in the snow was magical.
Chris and Michelle started a snowball war…
It started sticking more and we went back to Michelle’s house because her husband John Paul was home. It was more snow fun over there:
Kylen, their daughter, throwing her own mini-snowball. She wanted to join in the fun!
Michelle made a really large one to try to get back at Chris; he was throwing some doozies!
This is one of my favorite photos I took of Kylen because she was so interested in the camera and her cute little face makes me smile. She’s a sweet little girl.
It was a fun overnight trip, one I really wish I could do more often. We drove all sorts of backroads through there, looking for birds. The bluebirds were really cool, and I don’t recall seeing them before. However, we both talked about how much we see that we didn’t ‘see’ before when we were here. Like, how many red tail hawks are around or the roadrunners, too. We even saw a merlin on the interstate on the ride home.
It’s been a busy week here. We spent a lot of time and money yesterday buying food for our maildrops. We’re putting them together today; we ended up with 11. We started buying at Sam’s Club, then Walmart, Whole Foods and Tom Thumb because each place didn’t have everything we needed. We’re doing a time lapse of putting it all together so we’ll show that soon.
As we wind down our first week here in Texas, time is inching closer to when we leave for Georgia for the Trail. We’ve tentatively set the date for starting for the weekend of the 13th of March. With all of the snow that has fallen this month and in January, it appears the trail conditions are fairly bad, especially in the higher elevations of North Carolina and up the trail.
We experienced the blow-downs here and there are a lot of them on the AT in GA and NC right now, though local trail associations are clearing them out as they can.
I think we’ve convinced my uncle and my dad to drive us out there to start. We’ll be paying for gas, of course, but it seemed to be the most feasible way to do things. We’d originally thought to fly out and then find a ride from the Atlanta airport to Amicalola Falls State Park, but the ease of being driven to the approach trail at the park sounds much better.
I also like the idea of having my dad out there to see us off. He can take photos and assure my mom we’re going to be alright.
After doing some hiking around here the past few days I already know that the hike up the approach trail is going to kick our butts. We are going to be craving some straight sections and downhills after awhile, but eventually our quads, calves and shins will get used to the abuse and carry us through.
So far we’ve either had people think we’re insane or they’ve been a bit jealous that we’re going. Sometimes I think we’re insane, but mostly I’m looking forward to being out in the woods. After downgrading everything we have in our life I’m finding some of the consumerism around here overwhelming. And I want to go in every store and buy something. HA! It’s a strange combination, feeling like there is just too much ‘stuff’ but then also craving to buy something. I could have bought out REI, or at least the womens clothing section. I think most of it is a novelty of seeing all of these places I haven’t seen in so long as Florida doesn’t have the urban sprawl that Texas has. Don’t get me wrong, Florida has sprawl, but it also has a limited amount of space to build. There is just store after store here and oh, Mexican food on every corner.
As for seeing Mexican on every corner, it is kinda nice to see things written in Spanish, too. I had gotten used to seeing Pollo Tropical restaurants and then billboards written in Spanish and Spanish on just about everything in Miami, but Spanish is finally becoming more prevalent in North Texas, too. I kinda miss the cultural diversity. It is much more separate here, particular parts of town and not everyone mixed into one big lump of a county.
I was on Whiteblaze.net earlier and found a cool site called Trail Phone where people call in and give trail reports. It is really awesome! I don’t know if we’ll use it or not, but I like the idea of calling in and giving a minute report on what’s going on.
I guess I’m about done with my rambling for today. We’re spending all day tomorrow doing our mail drop planning since we’ll have some quiet time. We may end up buying food for the drops as well if we have the time. It’s supposed to snow or ice on Tuesday or Wednesday and we’d planned to go to East Texas to visit my friend Michelle so hopefully we don’t get snowed out.
Alright, I’m finally getting around to the couple of questions that were asked a few posts ago. I know the videos probably cover a lot of the answers, but I will take a few minutes to answer the questions now that we are semi-settled in again.
Chris Hind asked: I’d like to know what backpacks and tents you guys will be using.
We are using Osprey Atmos 65 packs. Mine is the small version, Chris is using a large. I got my backpack from my dad who got it off of Steep and Cheap and it wasn’t what he was thinking it would be so he gave it to me. Chris ended up liking it and bought the same one in large.
Our tens is a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2, a two person tent. It sets up super quick, probably 5 minutes or less and we’ve set it up in the rain before as well. It is a snug fit, but we bought it because we wanted two access points and room to store both of our packs under the tent at night. Don’t worry, the food and smellables will be going in a bear bag up in a tree.
Patrice asked: How many food drops are you planning?
I can tell you are quite the photographer, but what camera are you bringing?
When you blog from the trail, how do you plan to do it? Blackberry/IPhone? Or just relying on town computers?
Food drops…we haven’t gotten that far yet. We’re planning on working that out this weekend. We will probably do what the average person starting out does…more than they need. We got a lot of Christmas money that went towards buying dehydrated food so now we need to use it all. We will definitely be buying food in towns as well.
For photos we are using a Pentax Optio W80, which is waterproof. We’ve used it underwater in Florida several times and it works great. Of course we’d love to take our dSLRs but I don’t think those are trail safe, not to mention they are heavy! We’ll probably GPS some locations for future excursions and head back to take photos. I know there will be cool lady slipper orchids along the way. The camera also does video so we will be doing some clips here as well. As for batteries with the camera, we’re going to charge them all up at the beginning and leave the charger at home and as we go through batteries send them home to be charged and put in mail drops up the trail.
Blogging…we’re going strictly with computers in libraries, hostels, hotels etc. We wanted to reduce our bills and we don’t even own a Blackberry or iphone so we’ll stick with an old-fashioned cell phone that calls people. We are taking a journal and pen and I will try to write a lot at night or mornings and I think I will probably translate out some of those into blog posts when I get into towns. I could easily do several posts and schedule them on WordPress here.
So, are there any more questions? Come on, I know there are! Ask away!
We’re over in Dallas for a few days hanging out with Chris’ family. We did two small hikes the other day, one at Lake Grapevine which ended when we found a creek crossing that was swollen with water from the recent snows, and then another hike at the Ft. Worth Nature Center yesterday. A lot of trees have been broken from the snow and were blocking our path access on the trail. We met up with a guy on the trail who was a nature photographer and he gave us some tips on where to go take photos of birds around the Ft. Worth area. His website here.
Instead of listing everything out, which I know we’ll do eventually on our Trailjournal page, we did a video the other night in order to take account of everything we had. I know a few things got left out like our hats and mp3 players, but here they are.
After a few days, Zoe has finally started to warm up to me and Chris. She’s in love with Samson. She also loves Leo, but Leo has whacked her a couple of times and though his claws are trimmed, it scares her, yet she still keeps loving him and trying to get close.
We finally let the dogs start getting closer to the cats. We thought it would be more of a cat fight in the house with the other two cats already living here, but it appears it was the dogs that were the problem. Samson wandered the whole house today and Leo came out if the dogs were outside. All four cats seem to be getting along and Leo and Red touched noses. I think things will slowly come together if we can just keep the dogs from chasing the cats.
Like I said, Zoe loves Samson. She pets him and kisses him and he’s a good distraction when a meltdown is coming on.
Zoe is pretty much a little kid already. Her vocabulary is getting bigger and she’ll say a word not quite perfect but you understand it after a few seconds thinking about it.
She’s pretty much a stinker.
And she passes out in the weirdest places.
We went up to the NICU yesterday so we could meet Ashleigh. You have to spend three minutes scrubbing your hands and arms and then only two people at a time are allowed back in the room so my brother took Chris and I separately back to the room. You think you can grasp how small she is in a photo, but you can’t. She is tiny. Her diaper reminds me of the dolly diapers you get at the toy store.
The nurse was nice enough to open the incubator for a minute so I could get some better photos of her. She opened her eyes a bit for me. Who knows what she can and cannot see; her eyes are still developing. She’s still covered in little hairs all over her body.
She even yawned for me! She had been gaining weight but has lost a few ounces in the past couple of days but I think she’s on the upswing again for gaining weight. I’ll go again next week to see her.
Chris and I did a video of our gear but YouTube is slow to upload. Also we have started doing some training hikes. Today we did about 4.5 miles at a nearby lake that had some good hills and rocks, but we ran into a deep water crossing since the lake is high and we decided to turn around. Tomorrow we’ll take our packs and try an 8 mile round trip hike. Then we’re heading over to his side in Dallas for the weekend. We’re also hoping to get a Tex-Mex fix very, very soon.
We finally made it to DFW today around 5pm. The perfect time for traffic. We had smooth sailing the entire trip until we hit Dallas rush hour and then a few key places near my parents house in Tarrant county.
I have to be honest, it was hard to leave Florida. When we passed Pensacola and into Alabama I felt very sad. Through Alabama and Mississippi, where we stayed last night, I felt lost. It subsided a little once we entered the western part of Louisiana and then, finally, east Texas. But, it feels weird being back home.
It’s home, but not home. A limbo state. And there is snow on the ground and it’s cold. In Ft. Lauderdale it will probably be 70 or so. Bummer.
The cats survived the car ride and we ended up not letting them out until we got to the hotel and then to my parents house. The hotel was ok for them but the house here is not good for them. My parents have two Boston terriers that just want to play and chase and the cats are not into that. I think they will come around with the other cats, but they are scared of the dogs. Which is a little odd because they lived with a big pit bull for a year and a half, but Baloo didn’t chase them.
Hopefully in a few days they will calm down and be normal again and the dogs will get some discipline and learn not to mess with the cats.
Tomorrow we have to take care of chores: insurance, phone, a trip to REI and some plants we brought with us that have to go into my brother’s greenhouse.
Did I forget to mention that it is cold? I don’t have much winter clothes.
I have gotten to see Zoe, but she doesn’t like me too much. She doesn’t remember me and all she wants is Mimi, my mom. It’s Mimi, Mimi, Mimi all around here. With a smidge of Paw Paw. (Or Pa Pa?) Oh, boy, what a handful she is! Tomorrow we’ll get to see Ashleigh.
More tomorrow. I need to take some photos. Chris saw some roadrunners today. I missed them.
If you are new here to my little blog, you can subscribe here and use a blog reader if that is your inclination or click the link that says to get the feed delivered by email. Then, you can follow along on our little adventure and listen to any nonsensical ramblings that I come up with…which is fairly often.
So, last night Chris summed it up pretty simply while talking to his mom on the phone. We’re unemployed and almost homeless. I’ll add on to that: We’re unemployed, almost homeless, practically without health insurance and all by choice.
Yesterday was our last day of work. I actually did some work in the morning but the afternoon was a wrap up of goodbyes and being a bit sad. The ride home from work was in a slight daze, me trying to remember to look at the scenes and take it in before I wouldn’t see them again. I was kicking myself for not taking some photos of the cleared out culverts on US 41 because the pond apples there are very cool looking right now without their leaves.
And then, I was home and it was over. These past four weeks after I gave my notice I kept wondering if we were doing the right thing. I knew we were, but we were making good money in professional jobs and you know, the economy sucks right now. But we both talked about it and multiple people kept telling us that we couldn’t wait forever for anything to be perfect. The economy could take years to recover and by then it would be too late for us to go on this adventure. So, it is what it is. We have a cushion of money for the next 7 months and hopefully it will support us well enough and we will have to be frugal for awhile.
Today we are finishing up the packing, cleaning up the house and I know we’re going to be exhausted. Tomorrow we’re having breakfast with Kathy and Randy and wrapping things up at the house and taking off to Orlando to stay with some friends. Then Monday we’ll drive half way to Texas and Tuesday afternoon we’ll be in Texas. Hopefully the 1′ of snow that fell there will be gone!
I haven’t gotten to my Florida post yet, but I will do that next week. I have a list of places every person should visit once in Florida. I’ve got a post scheduled for tomorrow and might or might not write one on the road on Monday night.