Trail Thoughts

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 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.

Where is the 70*?

Trail Q&A

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: Iā€™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.

More adventure talk later.

AT Gear Videos

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.

Off for a hike to Grapevine Lake…

Big Sis—Little Sis

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.

ash 6
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.

zoe 2
She’s pretty much a stinker.

zoe 1
And she passes out in the weirdest places.

misti ashleigh
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.

ash 2
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.

ash 1
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.

Le Sigh

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.

Almost the Last Day

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.

If not, I’ll “see” you all in Texas.

The Countdown Begins

Now that it is officially the last week of work, the countdown towards Sunday has begun.

On Saturday our POD got delivered. We ended up going with a POD instead of a U-Haul or similar because of the ease of which loading the container seemed to be. The cost was a bit more but we felt like it would be worth it not to have to shuttle everything across states and load and unload it countless times. Now we can load the POD up when we want and take our time throughout the week. It is about 1/4 full at the moment and more work will be done every evening this week.

As for work, I’m trying to focus and keep finishing a few projects, but it is getting difficult. Next week I won’t think anything of it because I will have my hands full trying to visit with family and friends and then plan out our mail drops for the trail. And somehow fitting in hiking and working out for the trail in the midst of it all.

I was thinking of doing an ‘ask me anything about the Trail’ post, so if you have a question about the trip, ask it here. If you want to know what sleeping bags we’re using—ask away. If you want to know if I’ll see bear—ask it here. I’ll write it up and answer it in a few days.

I know I said my trail name is going to be Ridley, but Chris told me right after I posted that post that he was going to be Panther. Ridley is for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, my favorite, and Panther—well, Chris has seen six panthers in the past few years and so I think he started liking them a lot.

We’re packing and working every night this week. We still have things to get rid of; bookshelves, day bed, futon and other items. One thing I’ve learned about listing things on Craigslist and Freecycle is that people are very flaky. I had two different people come look at a bookcase and didn’t like it and get emails from people and then they back out after several conversations back and forth. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the left over furniture, I guess put it out at the curb and hope someone takes it.

Wednesday night we’re getting together with some of our friends down here in SoFlo and having dinner. I’m glad to see them all again before we go. I’m trying very hard not to think about Baloo. I miss him already.

The Last Trip to Fakahatchee Strand

This week will be full of ‘last’ trips. Every time I go somewhere or drive somewhere I wonder if it will be the last time I’ll drive by it. When we left Fakahatchee yesterday I was reading a magazine and when I looked up and realized it’d be the last time for awhile I said goodbye while watching the evening sun glisten across the fields.

I wanted to go for one last trip there but my idea was to go see some variegated Guzmania monostachia. Instead Chris and his hiking friend Rich wanted to go to a very distant population of Cranichis muscosa, the moss loving orchid. It was lost for a century when another population was found elsewhere in the Strand. Chris and a group went down to this population about three years ago and let me tell you—it is in the boonies. The tram we took used to be clear-ish apparently, but not this time around. We waded through ferns up to our shoulders and ducked under, over and around Brazilian pepper bushes. Two + miles of that. And the water was still fairly high out there for this time of year, not to mention cold!

cranichis mucosa 2
These are the little plants. They grow on floating logs in the water or in cypress knees in some areas.

cranichis mucosa 1
This is my favorite shot. I used the reverse lens technique on my 18-55mm lens.

cranichis muscosa 4
The flowers are very tiny; the whole plant is not but a few inches tall. They are very non-descript if you walked by them in their non-blooming state.

We didn’t see any animals other than a cottonmouth that swam in this area that Chris is at in the photo. It came out of nowhere, but I heard it splash and saw it go over the log and off into the woods. Very creepy! Oh, and a smaller cottonmouth, very tiny baby that wasn’t going to move because it was too cold. But other than that, only bear scat and nothing else!

bp berry
Brazilian pepper is one of the worst plants in the world. Ok, in Florida. I’m sure in Brazil it is lauded as beautiful and awesome. But, not here. However, I was eyeing a seed pod on a strap leaf fern and thought that it looked pretty cool.

bp berry 2
And so I thought this might be the only nice way I would enjoy a Brazilian pepper.

When we left we caught Mike Owen and Karen Relish and a few other Fakahatchee explorers in the park office. It was good to chat with them since it would be the last time to see them in awhile. There was another person there who took a group photo of us but I don’t remember his name, but I do know his friend read my blog at one point. If you are reading this—send me an email! I’d love to have a copy of that photo!

So, goodbye Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. I’ll miss you…but not your mosquitoes. šŸ˜‰

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