It turned out that I really needed the extra week to prepare for the hike! I wasn’t even able to do my gear video! The time change hit me harder the previous week then I was expecting, so I still had much to do. Klondike John and I started training together every day. He had several things he needed to handle before the trip, but when we could we got up most mornings at 6 AM and again most evenings when he returned from work, to practice. We walked a challenging 2-3 hilly miles with our packs on each “trip”. Here is a beautiful sunset on our exercise route:
We were always at some point accompanied by dogs Sancho, Fudgie, and Chien. The weather was cold enough that Sancho and Fudgie really enjoyed themselves. I envied their thick fur coats when we would first start out. Luckily the exercise would warm me up in no time. I am glad that it was a rainy week so I could test how my clothing choices and rain gear would hold up.
My “trail boss” (home support) and I made several trips into town to buy food and supplies at the grocery and Walmart. I have to take this moment to say that the Walmarts near Chattanooga are actually nice. I have a profound dislike of Walmart in Southern California…. but I digress. 🙂 Packaging and/or repackaging food, nuts, spices, dehydrated foods, etc., to prepare for nine weeks (plus extra for when I am expecting trail mates) is no easy or quick task!! I actually enjoyed it, but it was a massive project, much more so then I expected. I’m so glad I didn’t leave that for Trail Boss to handle on her own. I completed most of the work by the night before we left, only leaving a small amount left to do each week. I feel much better about that. Many people say that you shouldn’t plan too much before the hike as your hiker hunger will dictate what you want to eat; you will get tired of things. That may be mostly true, but I don’t want to have to buy my food as I go and be content with junk if that is all that is available.
Yes, I did pack some candy bars and pasta sides, but I also packed oatmeal, brown rice, vegetable protein, nuts and dried fruit, and dehydrated vegetables. I’m committed to eating healthy at least part of the time and not becoming a statistic of gaining a lot of weight when I finish my time on the trail. When I get back I plan on eating very little simple carbs for at least 2 weeks and strictly limiting my net calories during that time making sure to increase calorie intake in proportion to exercise calories burned. It will take at least a few weeks, I should think, for my body to catch up the fact that I no longer need the fuel that I did while hiking the AT.
On Saturday afternoon Klondike John and I, accompanied by Trail Boss, rushed off to complete one more “destination” practice hike, this time to Savage Falls. We probably should have stayed home and finished packing up our packs, but it was such a nice afternoon that we couldn’t resist. By the time we got to the trailhead, it was already close to getting dark and a sign mentioned that they would close the gates at sunset. We only had about an hour and a half until then so we had no time to spare. After signing in at the registry, we started off on the 3 mile out and back that would take us to the falls.
The mud was terrible! We seriously considered abandoning the attempt. I’m really glad we didn’t as the hike turned out to be beautiful and unique. There was still some snow on the ground. The trail featured swinging bridges, picturesque streams with little boardwalk bridges, and natural beauty in abundance. We stopped after about a mile to discuss if we should turn back since dusk was quickly approaching. Luckily we met some locals who regularly hike that trail who informed us that they had never seen the forest service actually lock the gate leading from the parking lot. Assured that we would not be unintentionally be car camping that night, we pressed on. The falls were stunning! We couldn’t stay but for a few moments before we had to race the setting sun back to the parking lot.
I shared one of my hiking poles, carbon fiber with a cork grip (manufactured by Black Diamond) with Trail Boss to assist us with mud, puddles, and ice. I bought an identical pair for Klondike John for Christmas, and I was very gratified to hear how much he liked them and how they made all the difference while hiking.
We ended up getting back to the house alarmingly late considering all we had to do. Klondike John and I didn’t finish what we needed to do, including selecting the final items and packing our backpacks, until 3 AM. At that point, with plans of getting up at 5 AM vanishing, we went to bed and realized we would have to adjust our schedule. It was right to the wire, but we finished what we needed to do and fell asleep excited for what the coming week would bring.
Click to watch the video:
Music Credit: “Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons