Tag Archives: hiking

Getting home plus the future

After summiting Mt. Katahdin we shuttled back to the AT Lodge in Millinocket. I watched on enviously as Waldo tucked into two starters, a 2lb lobster, dessert and several Martinis! I on the other hand had a chicken burger (more on this later). The following morning I was up at the crack of dawn to go to the supermarket to resupply for the journey home  and also for some supplements I knew were at least half the price that I’d need to pay in Mexico. Fully stocked up, we headed to Bangor, Maine on the morning bus with other thru-hikers JoeFour, Madhat, Mr. Breeze, Witch, Stargazer, Waldo and Kevvers/LC. Most of the above jumped on another bus to Boston and Waldo and I had the rest of the day to explore Bangor a little. We both flew the following day.

Waldo about to tuck in!

After saying goodbye to Waldo on Friday evening, I walked across town to Bangor airport in the rain. As Journey (the band) were playing in town that night, hotels weren’t an option so I went to the airport to hang out all night. I had the pleasure of getting to know another successful thru-hiker that evening, Renaissance Man. He’s a proper down to earth dude and it was great to have his company that evening and through the morning till he took a flight to Charlotte, and I to Phoenix. We chatted about our experiences, our plans and hopes for the future and had several good bitching sessions over the fact we could no longer eat whatever the hell we liked. Sleep was almost non-existent that night as at around 2am a flight from New York landed with a couple of hundred wet-behind-the-ears and pretty scared looking new army recruits heading off to Kurdistan. I made the mistake of climbing out of my sleeping bag, greeting a few of them and saying, “hey, welcome home, guys”. “Uhhh, thanks, but we’re heading out”, came the reply……D’OH, foot fully wedged in my mouth. Oh well.

I was honoured to have a long conversation with two of the volunteer greeters who are always at Bangor International to greet those in the service. They do an amazing job by giving them advice, love, support, free snacks, free international phone cards and much more. They’ve been there since 1993 I believe and so many of those in the service would be utterly lost without them by the sounds of it. They’ve met and greeted over 1.3 million troops! It was pretty sobering to be looking at this group of clean, newly buzz cut, innocent looking teenagers heading out to a war zone knowing at least some of them will never even see Bangor airport again, let alone their families.

Challenge coins in the airport

The next 20 hours or so were spent sitting in airports and airplanes on my three-plane journey back to Mexico City. I consumed too much caffeine and too little food for such a trip. Arrived around midnight in Mexico City and was met by Yhalí (my girlfriend) and her family. A short car journey later and I was back at home. It’s been a tough couple of days since then, but now I think I’m resettled slightly and feeling at home. This evening I’m out with friends for some welcome back drinks. I’ve chopped the beard (finally) and so I’m looking a little like a tennis player with a hairband over my lionesque afro to keep it under control. It’s going to be great to catch up with people and get back into the flow of things.

At this moment, a lot (if not most) thru-hikers are eating and drinking too much and getting fat. Yes, that means you! I have known for some time that this was going to be a serious danger for me on returning. Unlike some, who were in good shape at the start and have stayed at more or less the same weight or even put on weight, I went from around 192 pounds to about 150 over the 6 months!!!!! I flatly refuse to be one of the overwhelming majority of thru-hikers that gain all the weight they lost plus more in half the time. I’ve even heard stories of one hiker gaining 30 lbs in 30 days, plus other such horror stories.

Zach Davis in his book, Appalachian Trials, offers some great advice about this problem and that chapter has always been in my head (by the way, Appalachian Trials is by far the very best bo0k to own for all budding thru-hikers). This article also offers some pretty in depth discussion of why we as thru-hikers get fat on our returns. I have heeded most advice and researched more so that I do not balloon on my return. Actually, I have gained zero weight in the past 5 days since summiting. I may have actually lost an extra half pound. Most people pile on several pounds in the first week. My success so far will continue.

My strategy involves:

*close to zero processed foods. Only natural, traditional foods as far as possible.

*as close to zero carb diet as I can possibly manage (this is of course impossible, but I’ve only slipped a little – tonight will be an exception, but it also means lots of exercise tomorrow.)

*protein shakes after exercise

*2-3 hour walks each day since finishing

* lots and lots of protein

*low density foods and lots of them so I feel full but keep the calories low

*buying of Men’s Fitness magazine which this month is chocked full of tips that are great for my situation

I’m 100% determined to not only keep the fat off, but to gain weight in lean muscle and be the exception to the rule. So far it’s working just fine. Feeling good for it.

The future?!

Stick at this, keep healthy, keep happy, start some new hobbies and go to England at Christmas happy with the previous 3 months. The future of the blog? Well, I´m going to continue writing in it on some reflections, plus I’ll be writing Suds’ Very Own, By Far the Best Blog, Bullshit Free Advice Page about the Appalachian Trail! 

Coming soon!


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Katahdin!

This is me on top of Mt. Katahdin yesterday morning!!!! This means I’m finished! My goal for 2184 miles, 14 states and nearly 6 months has been acheived and my slowly growing dream for 12 years is now done! It’s been a massive physical, emotional, psychological and nutritional rollercoaster and one I’m sure I’ll never forget. It’s almost impossible to understand such big endings immediately and I’ll likely mull this one over for some time to come, but huge things like this always mean new beginnings and I’m over the moon to have succeeded. I’ll write more on my blog soon. Many many thanks for all the support, friends. And a massive thanks to those of you that supported my 24 hour hike with your donations. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I didn’t die during the attempt, I hiked 40 miles in a day!  A great day!!! 😀

Entering the 100 mile wilderness

I’m sitting on the bank of a lake, just about to enter the 100-mile wilderness. As you can see, I’m supposed to have 10 days of food. Actually I have about 6 days worth. Also several German WWII-era grenades (for dramatic killings of the evil North American Red Squirrel). I only have 6 days of food because that’s all it will take including a zero day in preparation for my 24 hour hike. I’m in tremendously high spirits today. Monson has revitalised me. Cleaned me, my gear, given me new music, food, friends (hey and thanks to Canadian Mike) and a massive sense of positivity about this next week and my life in general. Today really is a great day. 😀


Monson, Maine

Yesterday I walked about 26.something miles. A full marathon. Not bad considering the last 11 miles were in the rain and the last 8 in the dark. Seen as my “Packa” has the worst hood in the world I can’t use a headlamp in the rain and therefore had to hold the headlamp up my sleeve the whole way! Though it held up well against the pounding rain and my torso kept dry the whole time. Not bad. It was fine though because the terrain was pretty easy, with the exception of two river fordings. The rain was pounding down and the wind howling as I set up my tent. Right next to a cooler full of sodas! Right at the finish line of my marathon! What a stroke of good luck, hey?! Plus a granola bar. This spurred me on to completion as a southbounder told me about it, plus the idea of a beautiful “nearo” in Monson, Maine today. A “nearo” is a near zero hike. This classes now as anything less than 10 miles now. 5 months ago this was a reasonably big day.

Image

This morning I arrived before 9:30 after 7 miles for a four of everything breakfast at Shaw’s bunkhouse. It was beautiful and greasy and heaven! All I did today was eat that, a Ruben, a few packs of cookies and a round of All-American Trivial Pursuit. Oh, and a shower. It was my first shower in a long, long time. I won’t tell you exactly when, but it was longer ago than any of you would probably ever like to take. After 5.5 months in the woods it becomes the norm. I can see how homeless people get so filthy and not seem to care. Us humans can get used to any sort of filth.

Tomorrow morning I head out to the 100-mile wilderness.I will spend 4 days hiking the 65-70 miles of the last 117 miles to the summit of Katahdin. Then I’ll take 24 hours off before I hike for 24 hours with the aim of completing around 40 miles in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

One in three of us will get cancer and it’s the toughest thing most of us will ever face. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or a loved one has, you’ll want a team of people in your corner supporting you every step of the way.

Macmillan Cancer Support provide practical, medical and financial support and push for better cancer care.

Please donate if you haven’t already! 

Click below to see my recent photos including my moose encounter!

Photos


2000 Mexican moose…err…miles

I just got to Horn Pond shelter (lean-to is just silly, let’s face it) and no fires allowed. aghhh I wanted to cook some mac n cheese (no stove) and get warm as it’s mighty chilly up this mountain.

I just passed the 2000 mile marker! Wooo only about 183 to go! Not bad, hey?! I’m really looking forward to being done now. It’s still great but really, why more than 2000?! Is it really necessary?! 😉 well yeah because I still have my 24 hour hike to do for Macmillan Charity. I’ve raised about $750 so far. That’s amazing! Thank you to all who have donated. Please do if you haven’t! I’ll give you a foot rub post-hike if you do!

http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/jakerussell

I’m looking forward to going home to my adopted country, Mexico. By the way, happy 202nd birthday, Mexico! ¡VIVA! I’m missing some great parties tonight! It’ll be great to see everyone and catch up. That in itself will be exhausting! Plus I’m really excited to be going home to spend time with my family and friends at Christmas. No rushing around, just lazing around and catching up! While doing as much exercise as possible. I’m 100% determined not to be one of the vast mjority of thru hikers who put all their weight back on!

Anyway, I’m still on trail and most people that read my blog are people I don’t know, so back to the trail!

Maine has been pretty challenging and very unique. The Whites were beautiful and the views were breathtaking but it’s great to be out of AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) territory and into the wilderness again. I might tackle this subject another day. Maine is where we have been aiming for this whole time! so YEAH!!! “no rain, no Maine” so they say. B******t, I say. You could easily have arrived in Maine even if you didn’t walk every day it rained this year. We have been very very fortunate. My feet didn’t even get wet till Hot Springs! Good luck class of 2013! I’m sure you’ll have a wet one to make up for this year! mwahahaha!

I met a moose yesterday. It was HUGE. At least 8 foot high with his antlers (are they called that?!) I know this because his eyes on his GIGANTIC head were a clear 6″ higher than mine. How do I know? Because he was 2 yards in front of me. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest. I stalked one at Eddy Pond at 5.55am in the near dark but there was another just behind me!!! He walked right up to me. I was mainly in awe but pretty terrified too as I have no idea what bull mooses do or how they react! Needless to say, they’re not called bulls for nothing. I was next to a big tree so I had that as a shield and knew I could outmanouve the 1500lb + (?) beast but he just loped over to me, there was no agression or fear in either of our movements. We stared at eachother for probably 20 seconds and he walked around me giving me lots of space. The only animal I could think of at the time in terms of comparative size was a small elephant. It was HUGE.

Unfortunately the light was so low the pictures I got are dreadful as I had the wrong setting and I genuinly feared a flash would have possibly resulted in me being crushed, kicked or antler-mauled to death. Or some combination of the three! I pursued him though through the bush to try and get more shots, but to no avail. On returning to pack up my tent about 15 minutes later I heard Sir. Moose-a-lot over on the other side of the pond and have some sweet shots and a cool video. I’ll link photos once I get a real computer.

So yeah, that was pretty awesome. I’d like to see more moose but nothing would top yesterday morning!


Virginia Blues

Or so they say. Virginia is long gone geographically but we still feel the massive impact that state had on the whole trail existence. It took me 38 days to get through Virginia.

Some people were getting tired of the trail in mid-late VA. And now many of these people are sadly no longer with us. Dead and gone….. buried at sea. Well, no, really most of them are at home. but yeah. a couple regret leaving trail. most, no. Everyone has a reason for quitting. Money, girl, boredom, already getting all you can from the experience. But really the fact Virginia is so long really grates on some people. It’s the same thing over and over again. Come rain or shine (mostly intense shine this year) wake up, do the same thing then repeat. And you’re still in the same state!

However Virginia is a very varied state and all are excited at the start but you see the cracks when the temperatures start to soar. At least this year. I was hot and bothered in Waynesboro, VA. The last thing I wanted to do was hike on June 29th (morn of hugeee storm), so I went and bought a canoe and some supplies and we planned a 150 mile river trip rather than hiking in the woods for the same distance. Although I’m a little bothered about not walking every single mile, it was the Shenadoahs and I needed a change. 4 days of hiking for 4 days of canoeing? Sign me up!

150 miles in 4 days. Not bad ey?! Well, not quite! We put a hole in the canoe portaging Luray Dam. Pretty hilarious. Our arms were tired so we just started walking again. Well rested. I felt revitalised but it wouldn’t be long before my worst day.

Coming out of Front Royal was a hideous day on trail. We started at 2pm in 105* heat. I wanted to die. The AT seemed like the worst idea I have ever had. Quitting is not an option but I definitely fantasised with the idea that day. Not seriousy, more like a morbid peek into my own soul, motivations, determination, weaknesses and strengths. It was short lived and had one of my best days on trail the next day although I was a little mentally fragile. So there you go, don’t quit on a bad day.

Ever since Harper’s Ferry (the end of Virginia) the trail has been really different. So many dropped out and so many took a break in DC or wherever the hikers in each section suddenly totally switches up. I found myself with brand new folks. In may ways it was like starting the trail all over again.

If you’re going to quit, budding young thru-hiker, you (and you very likely will) don’t quit at Harper’s Ferry, quit at the exact halfway point about 100 miles later. By then you may have very well found your second wind.


The err…dangers of being a thru-hiker

Seen as I’m having a zero day today in Wood’s Hole Hostel, I’m camped out back, everyone’s chilling out on the lawn in the gorgeous sunshine, some are cracking walnuts, some picking vegetables, some others are just heading out on a slackpack (where someone drives most of your gear further up the trail and you hike with just water, poles and a snack). The dogs are chasing sticks up the slope. We just ate a beautifully made mixture of all sorts of breakfast foods. Delicious!

I’m sitting up there in the shade

This whole situation reminds me of how dangerous it is out here.

Of course, the natural conclusion to such a scene. However, I’m pretty jacked on sugar after drinking liters of throwback coke and have plenty of time on my hands.

So I thought I’d fill you guys in on the err… dangers of being a thru-hiker! Mother and girlfriend, please look away now!

Bears

Not dangerous, they actually don’t even exist. How could they be dangerous?!

I haven’t seen one yet, so what you can’t see, can’t hurt you.

Most hikers have seen one or several by now. I walk at night, I walk in the early morning,  sunset, all times of day but still no bears. I’m dying to see one.

Black bears are pussies, though don’t get between mother and cub is the advice you hear. Clack your poles together and they’ll go running. If you’re hiking the trail one day, you do not need a gun nor mace and people will find it funny/offensive you carry it/them. Just do it anyway if you like, you’ll send it home after 30 miles and wish you’d listened!

Rattlesnakes

These ones actually worry me slightly. I don’t listen to music much out here, but I definitely don’t in long grass or in very rocky areas. Don’t want one jumping out and snapping my ankle without hearing the warning rattle. The bigguns are nothing to worry about as they’re wise, the smaller ones are the real danger as they don’t know humans aren’t a real threat and so use all their venom in one go.

I figure it just won’t happen and if it does, one runs to town pretty quick!

Mice

They eat your food and poop in your shoes. This happened to me 4 nights ago.

Deer

They’re not dangerous.

Other hikers

We stink, everyone has a distinct odor. It hurts the nose sometimes.

Old trees

Another real danger. Don’t camp under a really old or dying tree. In 619 miles I have seen 1 tree fall in the forest down the hill from the trail, I’ve heard about 3 or 4 more fall in the distance and seen many many branches drop off trees. A medium sized one fell right next to me while I was taking a bathroom break!

The other day at 4am I wake up and moments later a huge crack above me and a crash as a massive branch fell through the canopy…. realizing in 0.1 seconds I didn’t actually check above my tent that night (arrived late and was tired) I immediately grab myself into a ball and cover my head. The 3 meter, 6 inch across branch smashed into the ground a couple of meters away. Needless to say, I learnt my lesson!

Always check above you when you camp!

Rednecks on Oxycontin

Very scary story where 5 hikers could’ve been killed by a nutcase redneck at Beauty Spot, TN/NC…

Read about it here

Heard the story from Tiny Dancer who strangled him with his hiking stick. It sounded terrifying but they gave it to him good once the gun had been kicked away. He’s hopefully going down for a long time!

Don’t ask them about it, I’m sure they’re sick to death of telling the story.

Towns

They can be vortexes that suck you in for days/weeks at a time and empty your wallets and dissolve your muscles and/or will. haha… great fun though. The first couple of zeros, beds in cheap motels are a great rest from the trail and will make the transition into being a sweaty stinky hiker an easier one. I needed this at the start, now I don’t. I haven’t slept in a bed now since May 1st.

I was never fast enough to take more than one zero at a time. I’m sure my wallet would be lighter if I had. Plan for a zero every 3-4 days for the first couple of weeks if you’re out of shape. Hiawassee, Franklin, the NOC would be a good idea. If you need more, take more. But for goodness sake take zero days. Your body needs them.

Beer

Basically the same as above. Add/subtract words as you see fit.

Hairy Barbaric Hiker Women

This one’s here for my thru-hiking friend Dan. He’s sitting next to me on a rocking chair on the porch in the photo above eating fresh homemade bread. (It’s hard not to have long winded descriptions here as so many awesome things are happening at once!)

He says they’re the real danger for his food bag that he hangs at night. You can usually hear the warning crunching of leaves on approach though. Forget bears and mice.

Trail Mix

Disgusting. I don’t eat it. Even the people who say they make good trail mix. It still tastes like crap. It’s depressing and I want to vomit if that’s all I have left for snack food but I’m shaky and weak from hunger. So I don’t eat it anymore, there are plenty of other replacements.

Anyway, people only eat it because it has “trail” in the title, not the other way round. Now you know.

AWOL’s Guide Book

A controversial inclusion, I know. Friends and family, you may as well just stop reading now.

Let’s start with the positive, I was very pleased with it from Springer to Erwin and generally I am pleased with it. The profile gives you a good idea of what to expect, better than the ATC guide which just has elevation guides and key points (although more detailed info). Who knows what happens in between those points? So, yeah, that’s good. The town maps are pretty cool and it’s concise and clear. Good.

Now the negative, at times it really sucks. Erwin thru Damascus is just plain wrong on dozens of occasions. There are more times when it’s correct, but that doesn’t make it OK. I know water sources dry up and new ones pop up and there is a disclaimer about that in the book, the same with prices. I’m not talking about that though, I’m talking walking 18 miles when you only planned, had time to do 13 and were also injured so more damage was caused by the guide that says there is camping and there are just rocks for 5 miles. Similar events happened to me 3 nights in a row around Roan Mountain. Needless to say I was pretty annoyed about it and it caused me pain.

I know volunteers keep it up to date and I really am very grateful for his/her/their piss poor job after Erwin. Time to move over guys and let some new enthusiastic folk in. Rerouted trail after Trail Days with Bob Peoples is planned ahead of time, why isn’t it included as additional info when it avoids old camping and encounters new water?! A quick phone call is all that would be needed.

AWOL, get your book sorted. I’m sure this supplements your income pretty nicely, so don’t just rehash old profiles each year and pass them off as the new year’s edition. Here’s hoping the rest of the trail is more accurately represented.

I would still get this book over the ATC’s though. A little teamwork guys?

Yeah, like I said, jacked on caffeine and sugar….. haha.