A Look Back From Maine

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Here I am, 20th of August and it still has not sunk in…I finished! I feel like I just woke from a dream, disorientated. People want to know how I feel and I respond that I feel overwhelmed, excited, proud and tired at the same time. I am with family, doing paper work and getting my car in order to drive home. I even have a jury summons here waiting for me, now that’s taking a dive right back into reality. Jake has been sleeping a lot and I am plotting our next adventure, which includes a move to Oregon.

What I learned from Katahdin:
1.Bring gloves for the climb, your hands will thank you.
2.Start your climb before 7am. This will insure you get off the mountain before dark and you will have the time to watch fellow hikers summit.
3.Climb with a buddy.
4.Take extra water and fruit for instant energy is a must. Don’t forget sunscreen and warm clothing.
5. Make sure family and friends get a parking pass for Baxter ahead of time. Guests were being turned away because they were told over the phone a pass wasn’t necessary and it is!
6. If you have a dog, board him or her, please don’t take a chance of injuries by sneaking your pup in. Connie (listed in the guide) charges 25.00 per day and 30.00 for pickup and drop off.
7. Do not underestimate Katahdin’s difficulty level. This is no ordinary day hike and be prepared for the butt scootin’ boogie on the way down.

Monson Maine
I enjoyed my stay at Shaw’s
Share the expense for a food drop at Joe Mary Road in the 100 mile! Have it delivered in person so you can have Ice cream and soda hand delivered. You have earned it! Makes for an awesome picture to!

Wet Shoes:
My shoes and socks have been wet every day, all day long! When I take a break I let my feet air dry and change my socks as a precaution. My shoes are worn in enough that so far no blisters or worse still no signs trench foot.

Rocks and Roots in Maine:
I hate the roots that are everywhere, exposed, wet and slippery. They are surrounded by those rocks I hate so much and there are mud bogs everywhere! Black nasty, smelly mud.

Caratunk, Maine
I suggest you have a resupply box sent to the post office here. I loved the the canoe/ferry ride and enjoyed my stay at the Sterling Inn.

How I Prevent Blisters
Darn tough socks (2 pair one to change into when needed). Compeed and moleskin or duct tape.  Do not wear new shoes on the trail unless they are one size bigger than your normal size and are Salomons, just sayin’ lol. Never hike far in wet socks. As soon as you feel moisture, change into dry ones, don’t be lazy! As soon as you feel a hot spot stop and cover it. I knew where my previous hot spots are and kept them covered unless I was taken a zero. The only blister I had was a tiny one cause by the duct tape being bunched up and the shoe rubbed against it. I treated and changed the tape as soon as I feel the discomfort. It was gone in two days.

Planning Your Own Hike:
If you’re planning your own long distance hike. Review my gear page. I wouldn’t change much except my cooking stove but mostly for vanity reasons.

Don’t over pack. You really won’t need as much as you think. Especially the first week otherwise you will be sending stuff home, trust me. Don’t go crazy by bringing heavy dehydrated meals, I mean the ones you made yourself and weight a pound each. I see tons of these in hiker boxes. Bring seasonings and hot sauce. You can save some money, check hiker boxes for food, gear, ect. before you resupply.

Take shake down hikes. It will save you money in the long run on food and gear. Hike in rain and mud take foods you plan to take on the hike thru.

Prepare mentally and physically get on that stair master and learn how to handle negative thoughts, cuz your gonna cry lol.

You will not need a gun, bear spray/bell, a knife other than cutting food and para-cord, pocket saw or axe. Firewood is easily found where fires are allowed, though I noticed it was not wood that easily burned. The A.T. is safe, there are a lot of solo female hikers and hikers look out for one another through logbooks, social media and word of mouth.

Think of creative ways to journal in shelter and hostel log books. Some hikers draw, tell short stories and some share their knowledge of the local flora.

Share safely, be friendly and socialize.  The A.T. is a social trail it’s one of the only places where everyone enjoys introducing themselves as you pass. Wear a smile, stop and visit and make new friends. Oh don’t be discouraged when you come across those anti social types, though I only encountered a few.

Wash your hands! I carried a mini bottle of bleach, hand sani and soap. I would use a tiny bit of bleach with my soap and made sure I washed under my nails. I never encountered Norovirus.

Be wary of hostels that are dirty, damp and dark they are breeding grounds for illnesses. I would recommend tenting or staying in a hotel in Erwin, TN. Hikers for the last two years contracted Noro between Erwin and Damascus.

Don’t forget to eat!  The first week you may have very little appetite so eat, make it a priority.
I carried and ate cashews, fritos, tortillas, hard cheese,hot sauce, refried beans, dehydrated taco meat, peanut butter, honey, tuna packets, Mac and Cheese, instant breakfasts, Nido milk powder, instant coffee, Nature Valley bars, candies such as carmels, sweet tarts, sour gummies, snickers and paydays.
I used olive oil in my meals, an additive in Jake’s dog food and cosmetically on dry hair and skin.

I had resupply boxes sent to me on a regular basis. It was a great way to get quality dog food for Jake. But as many have stated, they are a pain to deal with.

Drink lots of water and get your electrolytes. Sea salt and Nuun tabs.

Sunscreen, bug net and repellent were my best friends. Those tiny flies dive right into your eyes even when trying to outrun them. It would be fun to carry a buginator (a battery operated fly swatter that zaps bugs dead).

These are items I brought and glad I did:
A flash drive that I transferred pictures onto from my phone it also carried emergency contact info and documents I created for my hike.
My Kindle, it was a life saver. Reading was something I looked forward to every evening after a long hard day, even more than eating. On stormy days when stuck inside my stories would transport me far far away. I enjoyed Ender’s Game, Game of Thrones and the Divergent series. I never read my “survival” type books.

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The stick, this is a light weight tool for warming up and massaging soreness out of muscles, it is an item I take with me most everywhere.  It really helps with RLS.
Smartphone with Verizon, I sent my camera home within the first week. Verizon worked most everywhere. My go to device for pictures, journal, A.T. guide pdf, Guthooks A.T. app and of course keeping in touch with family and friends. I also carried an instant charger and an extra cell battery. Don’t bother with a solar charger.
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For Jake, the combination of Advantix and his flea and tick collar.  The only time he had ticks was when his second three month collar was late getting to me and I used a grocery store one till it arrived. The ticks I did find where dead and I never encountered a single flea.
Jake’s collapsible bowl, his Wolf pack and Musher’s’ Secret.

Vanity items I carried..
Shampoo/conditioner
Deodorant
Razor
Mirror (great for checking for ticks)
Nail clippers and file
A full sized hair brush

My Tent and Hammock
I enjoyed switching from a tent to a hammock in the hotter weather then back to a tent when the bugs were on the warpath and the nights got colder. This was great idea with Jake, tent for the colder weather and an escape from those swarms of biting bugs. In the hotter months the ground under my hammock was cooling for Jake and for me, not only was it cooler to sleep in, it provided me with a swing chair for reading, napping and cooking.

My Pack
For nearly six months I carried more than necessary and I still completed my hike, I am not a purest or a gram weenie, just a hiker who preferred to be comfortable. I carried extra food which always came in handy. Jake always ate my leftovers if another hiker didn’t need food. I hiked slower with more pack and body weight and faster as I lost weight and carried a lighter load, doing ten miles before lunch time.

Tips (I collected these before my hike and followed them wisely. Kudos to the original authors).

While in town plan to pack out a dinner such as a sandwich, fried chicken, ect. You will be so glad you did.

Treat it like a vacation. It is, after all. There are some out there who are bogged down in the physical and mental difficulty of the day-to-day battles. Think how lucky you are. Your job each day is to wake up (whenever you want), walk through the woods over mountains (for as long as you want), eat whatever you want and spend times with some of the most amazing characters you’ll ever meet. Don’t get upset about the seemingly never-ending line of dirt, rocks and roots in front of you;
it’s over before you know it.

Be generous. And I mean this in the whole sense. Share food and drink if you can, share rides if you have them and share space in shelters or campsites. But more importantly, share yourself. Be a part of the conversations going on around you. Introduce yourself to everyone. It’s kind of like camp where normal social norms are suspended, so it’s easier –
if you’re introverted – to fall into conversation and friendships. But actively engage yourself. You will be SO happy you did. The most amazing people on earth are out there.

Make lots of adjustments. I changed my entire setup several times while on the trail. I moved from boots to trail runners to running shoes; I went from a two-person tent, to a one-person tent to a plastic tarp to nothing; i carried a propane stove, then no stove then a solo stove. You get the idea. A good plan is to do a lot of research beforehand, determine what you think you’ll really want/need, and keep extra things you don’t think you absolutely need in a “bounce box.” A bounce box is a package you mail ahead a couple hundred miles down the trail, which can be picked up a local post office.

Stay away from the competitive hikers. Humans are humans, after all, and on the trail there are often competitive battles over miles hiked, mountains climbed, calories consumed, etc. etc. If you want to partake in this (and you should, from time to time), make sure you do it for fun. The amazing person to creeper ratio on the trail tips heavily in favor of cool people, but you’ll inevitably find the creepers in the relentlessly competitive gang.

Never enter GSMNP in the face of an impending Winter storm. Have a backup plan to either wait it out or go around, skip it, and hike it later on. Early starters usually encounter some snow in the Smokey’s. Word to the wise….If you tent near any shelter, avoid sleeping close in behind the shelter, that is where people go pee at night. You don’t want to sleep in a urinal…. I know…gross…

Note that if you are a northbound when you wake up in the morning the sun will always be on your right as you are walking. Except in a few areas, like near Standing Indian Mt, where north-bounders are actually heading south.

Zig-zag – Instead of walking straight down the incline, try going in a zig zag pattern. Making your own personal switchbacks significantly decreases the pressure on your knee joints.

Prevent Noro! To make a good hand wash, use 1 ounce per 1-pint (2 cups) h2o2. You also may add hand soap to this solution and put it in a hand soap pump bottle. Now you not only are washing your hands, you also are using a powerful antiseptic.

Coldest: Smokies in late March. Sleep with your water, sleep with your fuel to keep them from freezing up.
Hottest: Probably Pennsylvania in late June, although it got really hot basically the whole rest of the way. Get up EARLY, hit it hard, take along lunch and siesta and wait out the heat of the day at a shelter or stream. Then pound away some more miles from 4-8pm or so. Repeat until Katahdin.

Other little things are to loosen to laces on your shoes/boots when you take them off in case they freeze
overnight, store water bottles upside down so the ice that forms overnight won’t keep form being able to drink out them in the morning, and to shove your clothes for the next day down into the bottom of your sleeping bag at night so you don’t have to pull on ice-cold pants in the morning.

A lot of people skip Gulf Hagas in Maine. DO NOT. It is amazing!

Change socks often.

PV foam towels used for drying cars in Wal-Mart.
Makes a great bath towel, cut up it makes great headbands & wristbands, it dries your tent off in the morning like nothing else does.
Here is the really cool trick: If you get soaked take your clothes & roll them up in it & wring, do it a few times.

Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape not something new but I love this stuff. I use it for everything.
Trash bags, I put everything into trash bags & even use them for a pack cover at night so that my pack does not get wet when it is hanging from the bears.

“Camel Up” Drink 1 to 2 liters at the source & that way you don’t have to carry more than two liters to the next water source. Since I started to do this…no problems.

To gauge remaining time until sunset use your fingers between sun and horizon. One finger=15 minutes.

Recipes:
Fireside Coffee Mix

2 c Non-dairy coffee creamer
1 1/2 c Carnation hot cocoa mix
1 1/2 c Instant coffee (reg or dec)
1 1/2 c Sugar
1 ts Ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well.
Store in an airtight container. To make 1 cup; spoon 2
tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of mix in a coffee mug.
Add 1 cup boiling water, stir until well blended.

4 cups instant nonfat dry milk powder
1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer (coffee lightener like Creamora)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 package of instant store-bought chocolate OR vanilla pudding mix (optional, but very good)

MEXICAN RICE

Pot 1*: add 1 C boiling water to 1C instant rice (Optional: a dash of salt)
Pot 2: Heat to boiling:

beans (1/2 C dehydrated) or corn (1/4 C dehydrated),
onions and olives (1 T each,dehydrated)
Rehydrated peppers (1/4 C dehydrated)
tomatoes (1/4 Cdehydrated)
chili powder (1-2t)

OATMEAL & VARIATIONS
Standard: Add 2 C boiling water to

1 C quick or whole oats (NOT instant)
2/3 C powdered dry milk
dash salt
2 T sugar (brown or granulated)
Add nuts, dried fruits, chocolate chips or your crumbled up pop tarts!
Serve with bagel and cream cheese/peanut butter.

BLTs-trail version: bacos/bacon bits, rehydrated tomatoes on English muffin or pocket

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