Saturday, March 21, 2009

AT Preparations

With our start date for the AT now six weeks away, I thought I'd share about our preparations. We have been trying to get to the gym 9 or 10 times a week. We've been lifting weights for our legs, arms and core; we've been using the stair climbers and treadmills with weighted packs; we've been in the climbing gym, and gone for the occasional runs and swims.
We have finalized our gear, we bought pack covers and dry-bags (one to purify water in and one to store our electronics).
Last weekend we made our first aid kit with an empty peanut butter jar, a few adhesive bandages, some moleskin, antihistamine, alcohol wipes and Tums. The jar is light, relatively crush proof and water proof.
Probably the most important preparation though, is my beard. I decided that I didn't want bother with shaving, or the itch and pesky neck hairs of growing a beard, on the trail. So, I decided to get a jump the whiskers and have the beard in place by the time we hit the trail. Of course, I'll still have to deal with trimming the 'stache, but I have a handy scissors on our mini multi-tool and a loving wife, so that won't be too bad.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

N is for...


Today we received our official nomination for the Peace Corps. It is exactly 3 months after our interview and it seems like it has been a long wait.

Of course, as we have learned though our service with AmeriCorps, service work with the government always requires some wait. This time the wait will be a little longer than 3 months as our nomination is for March 2010 in Central or South America. We will be doing youth development work and some community development work. One of the cool things about service in Latin America is that you live with a host family for your first year of service. I am really looking forward to the first-hand knowledge of the culture and customs of whichever country we go to instead of just figuring it out as we go!

Now it is a matter of those physical and dental exams that were mentioned in an earlier post. Thankfully mom works with the hospital system in Asheville/Hendersonville and they have a free clinic. Hopefully things will work out for us to have these exams after we move down there in April when we will no longer be employed or insured.

More updates as more information becomes available...but like us, you'll have to wait!

Monday, March 2, 2009

In a pack and on the back

As we roll into the month of March I am getting more and more excited about the journey that lies ahead. I am reading about individuals who have already begun their trek on the Appalachian Trail, about those who have successfully finished, and about those who are trying to put it all together so that they can make the great journey. I look forward to the day when I move beyond the "putting it all together" stage.

This weekend we received a well-timed message at church, "Packing and Unpacking." We explored what is really needed when you are out in the wilderness, and thankfully we have a little more time to put together the elements that we "need" to survive. It was this message that gave me the motivational shove to see what it is that we have been talking about taking on our backs and to see if indeed, everything would fit in our packs (without making us bend over in pain!)

I feel like the list of things to take is long, but at the same time I realize that in order to be comfortable (to a modest backpackers extent) at the end of (and during) the day I will need to take some gear. Chris and I have our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners (to try and minimize the damage to our actual bags), sleeping pads, backpacks, food storage system, cooking system, water purification system, LNT garbage system, first aid / personal hygiene system, trekking poles, clothes, shoes, gaiters, camp shoes, camera and tripod, an iPod (for desperate moments,) a compass (for more desperate moments!,) a leatherman, SPOT, and headlamps - and of course clothes (layering systems and raingear) - and it all needs to go on our backs. For more detailed information about what these items are, check out our AT Gear List. The short of the long of it though, is that it looks a little haphazard (and maybe a little scary) when it first comes together. Now it is just a matter of actually getting it to be transportable in a way that won't require pack mules.

As I was pulling stuff out of our gear room (formerly an extra bedroom until we realized we had that much gear) I was really wondering if I could make it all work. Sleeping bags seem to grow as they hang and air out and even after the list is surveyed and cut back upon, you just can't keep clothes from taking up space. Then I realize that yes, I have a compression sack for my sleeping back, that I will be wearing some of these clothes all of the time and some of them most of the time, and some of them some of the time, and occasionally I may be wearing all of them at the same time. I realize that all of the little things can fit into little spaces such as the hood on my pack or the stretchy stow pockets or the nifty zippered section on the stow pocket. I realized that between Chris and I, I only need to carry half of our tent. I know that I can shove my "camp clothes" and bag liner into my sleeping bag's compression sack. After a little time, and not too much effort I made it work - even better, I have room to spare!

To prepare for our hike we have been "climbing" the stair stepper at the YMCA with weighted packs. At last weigh in I was training with a 30 pound bag, and my loaded pack weighs less than that (based on the oh so scientific method of picking up a "weighted" pack (Chris's which weighs in at 33 pounds for training) and then my "loaded" pack). Granted, I do not have the weight of 4 - 5 days of food or a full water bladder, but I think I will still weigh in under 30 pounds. To the left you can see Chris's compact "weighted" pack from training and my "loaded" pack for this summer.

In then end (or you may still call it the beginning), I have realized that yes, I can comfortably (I say from the comfort of my home) put it all on my back and that I have everything that I need. So now I can sit back (when I am not on the dreaded stair stepper) and wait for May 1 to arrive.