AT D-01. Pre-partum

Last minute inventory. Gear is packed. Check. Truck has a home for 5 months. Check. Bobcat is ready … question mark.

I don’t actually have a choice. The thought of not walking the trail makes me much too sad to even consider. But, this is definitively a different trail, and I am definitively a different person.

When I say I’m a “different person”, I don’t mean the gentle meme version with the inspirational quote about embracing change and one’s natural evolution. No, this past week I went through a complete alien takeover. The alien who occupied my body was a freaked out basket case. Suddenly, I was afraid of encountering bears, of getting Giardia from unfiltered water, of running out of money, of being lonely out in the woods, of sleeping on hard, cold ground, and of feeling trapped in the green tunnel for months. My foot started to hurt, the tip of my pole bent, my headlamp disappeared, I couldn’t get a ride to Katahdin. I cried a few times and hid in my truck in the woods. Total dismantling of the Bobcat I know. Where was the superhero cape wearing fearless woman of the PCT, the one who talks to bear and filters water by loving it?

The new moon has come and gone. I survived the wave of doubts. Not sure what that was all about. Maybe it was the moon. Maybe I was PMSing. Maybe the sudden contrast between the desert southwest and all this New England green threw me off. Or maybe the AT was sizing me up. It sent its thought-form ambassadors ahead to run through my mind every possible horror scenario to see if I’d shrivel away. Meet the guardian at the gate, the first selective round before being granted the privilege of walking the trail.

I’m glad I freaked out. I needed to be certain. Decisions made in the desert need not always be upheld in the forest, and I am committed to following my heart even when it changes its mind. If I had discovered that I no longer wanted to walk, I would have postponed or canceled without qualms. But through the fears, doubts and obstacles, my AT dream remains. I passed the first test and was rewarded with my first bundle of trail magic, all delivered within a 24 hour period. The moment I said “Yes, I’m walking this trail, no matter what. Even if I have to beg, hitchhike, fast, hunt and limp.”the sky opened up and fireflies filled it. I have a ride to Katahdin, an unexpected rise in book sales royalties, new tips for my poles, a gift of a new headlamp and some Arnica for my foot. All will be well after all.

I start the AT where others finish. My first carry will be my heaviest and longest of the whole trail. 8 days through the hardest and most remote section – the 100 mile Wilderness. I feel like I’m stepping in complete unknown once again. Man oh man. Excited, scared, psyched, nervous, rapidly cycling on repeat.

I suppose it wouldn’t be as fun if it wasn’t scary. Right?

Next post will be from the trail …

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Behold Pack the Second!

This is Pack the First, the beloved. packpct
It was born in Bellingham, in my friend Rose’s living room, after a painful 3 month stitch-destich-restich marathon. It was my first home-made pack, and I thought I had made all the mistakes in the book with it. I was wrong!

The first pack had a “Bobcat Blue” body and a “Hawaiian Blue” collar, a ULA belt (purchased) and a set of Arc’terix shoulder straps (gifted) – I did make my own shoulder straps, but felt they were too narrow and likely to become uncomfortable after some-thousand miles.

This was the pack that traveled to Rishikesh, India, walked the PCT, slept on or just below several of the New Hampshire 4000ers, rolled in the dirt of the Shaman’s cave, found some ancient ruins up Sycamore Canyon, rose up to Valhalla in BC, Canada, meandered on the San Diego Trail, hitchhiked from Florida to San Diego and couldn’t believe its good luck to get to explore Cuba – not in this order. It also got to carry ice axes and ice tools, climbed Mt. Baker twice, and ElDorado once. Not bad for a mistake-ridden first-time home-made pack.

20160602_161757

This is it today. The shoulder straps started to fray in northern California on the PCT – I was pleased that the first seams to fail were Arc’terix’s, not mine. The thin silnylon (~0.3 oz/yard) collar ripped in Washington from too much pulling on it to stuff more food in the pack (hiker hunger). Mice bent on getting my nuts transformed the mesh pockets into partial Swiss cheese. I fixed it all with Nylon tape. Both ULA pocket zippers broke in New Hampshire, conveniently half way, so I could still use half of each pocket. All nylon repair tape melted away in the humidity of Cuba. I repaired the pack again, with white duct tape borrowed from a trimaran captain at the Hemingway marina. I think he used it to repair the sails. The bright white made it look like a hobo pack, and I had to hide it under a pack-cover during the Florida to San Diego hitchhiking adventure because we were not getting any rides.

I considered repairing it more fully, somehow, and continuing to trust it to carry me through my adventures but feared the fabric had become frail beyond trust. I asked it what it wanted to do. It said “Oh, please, let me rest!” So I hugged it thank you and sewed another one.

Pack the Second was born in two living rooms, Lucy’s and Chris’s, both in Sedona. It took only about a month and a lot less destiching-restitching than for the first one. I might have taken less time still, if I hadn’t moved twice in that time period. Right after the back panel was done, I packed my machine and all fabric in the truck and moved to Colorado for a job. Less than two weeks later, I packed everything again, and returned to Sedona for another job. Some have suggested I use my transience to get free going-away party dinners. I have no comment on that topic.

The pack wasn’t my brain-child. I used a Ray-Way pattern and 24-pages instruction booklet. I bought the instructions, fabric and all notions as a kit on Ray Jardine’s website, after desperately shuffling all items in my storage unit in vain looking for the instructions I used for the first pack. At $95 a kit, I hope to never lose them again. I imagine this won’t be the last pack I make. I can find the fabric for $20-$30, so really the bulk of the cost is this set of instructions.

The thing is, I’ve never been good at following instructions … even $95 instructions. The Ray-Way pack is nice, but with every seam my imagination gets to the trail and adds its own flavor … wouldn’t it be nice to have compression straps, or a secret pocket to put my credit card, or a set of elastic bands to hold my Camelback upright, or a rigid piece of foam right on my back (the original design is for a frameless pack). So I dedicated much of the month of sewing to scratching my chin and muttering to myself, studying other “professional” packs and figuring out how to construct new things. That’s really the most fun part of pack-making, I think.

The other thing is, I’ve never been good at following directions … so, when the instructions say to keep the wide part of the fabric at the bottom to accommodate the sleeping bag, they mean it, and if the wide part is at the top, then the pockets are upside down (exhibit A above). That threw me for a “now what?” loop for a few days. My friend Miles said “keep it upside down (wide part up), maybe you’ll end up liking it even better.” I was dubious, but the alternative was to get a triangular piece of Tyvek and extend the sides. But then I’d have had an extra set of potential weak seams, ya da ya … not worth it. I sewed it as it was.
I’ll be hiking the AT with an upside down pack and nobody will know.
That wasn’t the worse … I also had to contend with a back panel 10 inches too short (because, it turns out no matter how many times I measured 10+15 = 35 (exhibit D above), it never was long enough), a sleeping bag compartment out of proportion with the rest of the pack (another calculation issue), and the fact that Ray Jardine doesn’t believe in hip belts. I modified the shoulder strap to accommodate a hip belt (Exhibit C above). It worked out.

This is good. I read that Native artists always leave a flaw in their art project so that the Gods understand the artist is not trying to compete with them. I think we’re all clear on this, I am not competing with any Gods.

A few people have told me “You’ve made this? That’s impressive!” – No. What’s impressive is that the machine I used did it. I call it “The Brave Little Machine that Could” (BLMC for short). A small Singer Featherweight II – I think it’s designed as an entry level sewing machine, for kids to learn to make pillows cases and such. I have it go through straps, foam, triple-quadriple stitches across 5 layers of fabric, then delicate seams through whisper-thin silnylon. Sometimes I have to sew by hand with the machine, turning the nob one punch at a time with many “you got this, good job Machine”, often I have to pull on the fabric to make it go through, and other times I just hold my breath and trust it knows what it’s doing. I always thank it in the end. It complains often, but it keeps going. And, it doesn’t sew that straight or that regularly, and that’s okay. The Gods are pleased with all our imperfections.

This is Pack the Second, here filled with blankets just to see how it fits. Its main body is “Bobcat Blue” again, but the collar is “Spring in New Hampshire Green”. It seemed appropriate to make a greener pack for the AT. The compression straps are from the first pack, so you know the adventures they’ve been on. The ULA hip belt was a gift from my friend Critter. That belt has already hiked the AT once, Georgia to New Hampshire (where he gave it to me – he had lost so much weight that this belt no longer fit him). The sternum strap comes from my North Face day-pack, and I’m not even going to list all the adventures that pack has been on. It’s been with me since 1995 – France, Yemen, Namibia, Tunisia, Tahiti, … – That little pack is indestructible. The strap is only borrowed, because I’m out of strap material. It’ll return to the North Face pack soon. Pack the Second is narrow at the bottom, but still fits the sleeping bag comfortably, and wider at the top, which I actually like better than the tall skinny collar of Pack the First (see above) … better lower center of gravity on my back if I have to load it with extra food – Miles was right after all (don’t tell him).

So, that’s it. All that’s left now is make a hole for the Camelback tube and take it on adventures.

appalachia_main

I’m already planning the color scheme for Pack the third, my future CDT pack. 🙂

AT Resupply plan

I almost never follow plans (Moon in Sagittarius), and usually prefer to just wing it (Ascendant in Aries), but still loooooooooove making spreadsheets and creating complex formulas for all the columns, then fiddle with them until I’m crossed eyed (Sun in Virgo).
Here is the latest:

In red are planned visits and post office visits, in green are planned resupplies.
Spreadsheet HIGHLY subject to change!
If you’d like to send some magic via snail-mail to one of my stops in red,
email me at Melissawyld@gmail.com and I’ll give you the next address.
I keep my blog “behind” on purpose – Bobcats don’t like to be tracked.

Open the full spreadsheet here
at-plan

 

XOX
The Bobcat

Appalachian Trail. Gear Check.

[Update … wooohoooohoo. Got some heat for that post. I’ve removed the “adopt a cat” (donation) button at the bottom of the post. Sensitive business, I guess, suggesting others help you fund your hike. I’ve supported others in the past, so I thought nothing of it. Now I know. Hey, it’s all good. I was just trying something new, and apparently it doesn’t fit. The AT is happening, regardless. I have left the missing bits in red. I’m not suggesting anyone get them for me – Cheers!]

AT GEAR LIST (in red are the missing bits)
Planned start 7/4/2016 – Kathadin, southbound Maine to Georgia.

The big 4:
Shelter – Six Moon Trekker – 24 oz
I only used a bivy bag on the PCT, and cowboy-camped every night until mid-Washington.
For the AT, I expect a lot more “weather”. I just purchased Onager’s (PCT 2012) tent. A sweet Six Moon Trekker with side entrance.
Pack – Ray Way home-made pack – ~ 11 oz
I meant to use my home-made pack again on the AT, but the trip to Cuba finished it off – it’s time to let it go. It came back from Cuba held together by Duct Tape, and I had to put a pack cover over it while hitchhiking across the US because potential rides thought me a homeless person. I’ll be sewing a new one, same design, same color, same belt.
$89 for the fabric and instructions from Ray Way website.
Sleeping bag – Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 degree mummy bag – 16 oz
My Western Mountaineering love will be of the journey again. I’ve been sleeping in that bag since 2011, almost nightly. It’s a little thin and flattened. Western Mountaineering suggested I wash it 4 times with Dr. Bronner’s soap to get all the oil out of the feathers. The first wash did fluff it up a bit, I’ll keep going. If I’m still cold in it, they’ll put feathers back in the bats for a maximum of $30.
Sleeping pad – Therma-rest Trail Scout 3/4 length – 14 oz
The same one I had on the PCT. I place my pack under my feet to complete the length to 5’4″. I sleep well on it.
==> ~ 4 Lbs

Kitchen
My thru-hike cooking system is the exact same one I use in the truck every day. I’m actually a thru-hiker on wheels:
Alcohol stove with aluminum wind screen, denatured alcohol bottle, REI 1.2 L titanium pot with lid and 1 nalgene bottle to make hot water bottles on chilly nights and for re-hydration the rest of the time.
I will use the same water purification system I used on the PCT – hold the water to my heart and ask “Please don’t make me sick. I love you. Thank you.” It’s worked so far.
==> ~ 1.7 Lbs with a filled fuel bottle

Ditty bag for the day
The same one I had on the PCT, which I also use in the truck.
Plastic spoon, pocket knife, lighter, MP3 player, headphones.
I’m leaving the harmonica behind this time, replacing it with an iphone and a way to charge said iphone on the trail so that I may write stories on the go.
Need – solar charger? battery pack? Not sure how to work this out yet.
==> ~ 5 oz before the phone and charging system TBD

Ditty bag for the night
The same one I had on the PCT, which I also use in the truck.
Small journal, 2 pencils, headlamp, toothbrush+toothpaste (REI Toob – love it!), clean wipes, small bottle of Purell (or hippy equivalent).
Because there are so many towns along the AT, I won’t carry a supply of tampons or spare batteries as I did on the PCT.
I will add some coconut oil in a small container, which will serve both for cooking, lotion, hair conditioner and other things (“other things” ☺ )
==> ~ 10 oz before the coconut oil. I need to find a tight, lightweight container for it.

Clothes
I’m still sitting on this. I have everything I need and could look exactly as I did on the PCT – Prana hiking pants, blue home-made tank top, black Patagonia shirt, Patagonia puffy, Mountain hardwear lightweight rain layer, Cascadia 7 shoes. I have all the pieces. They are my “Grand Canyon guide outfit”. But, I’m thinking I’d like to add a little fashion, a little sass, to my AT hike. I’m thinking yoga pants, purple skirt, colorful scarf … they just can’t be cotton is all.
We’ll see what finds me between now and Kathadin …

Misc
My trusted hiking poles will also be of the journey.
I’m thinking about not taking a camera, since I’ll have the phone.
Maps? Are there maps for the AT?
Compass – probably

Food
This is the one area where I foresee my AT hike will be much different from my PCT hike.
I ate well on the PCT, especially compared to others, but still succumbed to the temptation of cheap options, like Ramen, Pasta Sides and such. In my perfect world, there’ll be none of that on the AT. This Bobcat runs on clean food. I am devising a whole food trail diet. I plan on carrying green freshies, raw cacao, chia seeds, almond butter, coconut oil. I am looking for clean proteins beyond packet tuna and canned Vienna sausages.
I can hike the trail on the extremely limited budget I have.
I can hike the trail with a whole food diet and finish healthier than I start – rather than gaunt and with no muscle mass as I have before.
I’m just not sure I can do both.
I’m estimating about $100 a week for food, taking into account the increased quantities needed. This includes no town meals – just me and my food bag. For a 20-week hike, that’s $2000 just for food. Right now I have about $600 and 3 months to departure.
I think it can be done … especially if someone adopts a cat!

Would you like to adopt part of a cat? It can be a small part!
It all goes to the AT fund. If you do, contact me in person, or visit my Crazy Free book page …

Thank you for being in my world!

XOXO – The Roaming Bobcat

appalachiantrail