Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gearing up!

So, our goal for this summer is a section hike of the Appalachian Trial, right? Well, this month we have begun gearing up for just that.

Gander Mountain has been running their backpacking/camping equipment on sale this month and we have made a couple large purchases. A couple weeks ago we bought two new sleeping bags. These bags impressed me with some nice features intended to keep us warm. Of course we may have the opposite problem on our summer hike, but I HATE to be cold, so we should be OK. We also bought Bunk a sleeping pad. We just bought the short pad that is self-inflatable--like the one I used on Ossabaw Island last summer--to decrease stuff we have to carry. It was only $15 (half price), so if we don't like it we can always upgrade later.

Today we made what I think is a really great buy! We purchased a Hubba Hubba 2-person tent that I absolutely fell in love with! It's mostly mesh for great ventilation and pretty views on clear nights. It also has a rainfly with two full vestibules for storing wet or muddy gear outside the tent. We saw the tent at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports first and really liked it but didn't want to buy the first thing we saw. Later we saw it again at Gander Mountain and it was 25% off. We bit! After I got home I googled it to see if we had made a good purchase, knowing we could take it back if we were disappointed in the reviews. I was NOT disappointed with the reviews! On the contrary, (Backpacker Magazine) rated it one of the best finds out there in tents. In fact, the exact words were: "Meet the new benchmark in lightweight, three-season shelter." I'll take that! I can't wait till it warms up enough for us to try it out.

We've been looking at food, water, and cooking resources for our trips too. Right now I'm leaning toward the JetBoil system for each of us, thinking that is pretty much all we'd need in cookware if we stay with freeze-dried which seems to be the most common recommendation. Obviously we'll purchase some sort of stove to attach to the fuel canisters too. I'm not sure yet what to do about water purification though. A man we talked to today (a customer at Gander Mountain), said he really like the Steripens. I'm probably leaning toward the pump filters like Katadyn or Hyperflow, but I don't have enough information to decide yet. I could use some help in this area, that's for sure.

I sure hope we like this as much as I think we are going to like it! I can see this becoming addictive and a fantastic way to see lots of places around the world. I'm really glad Phillip and his friends have decided to go with us on our first section hike of the AT. Psychologically, I'm ready! Gear-wise, I'm not there yet, though. Lots to think about---lots to decide!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Riding out of 2010 and into a Hopefully Happier 2011

2010 has held some horrendous challenges and I must say, I am glad to see it in my rear view mirror! The optimist in me says 2011 WILL be better, so I'm going to go with that! I ended 2010 though with an awesome bike ride of the Alcoa-Maryville greenways with Lynn and her husband Stewart. I'm so thankful they allowed me to come along and hope to do more riding with them in the future. Stewart spoke of the Silver Comet Bike Trail and it sounds wonderful. I will definitely have to check it out. We did 16.17 miles on a beautiful New Year's Eve day with a high of near 60 degrees and sometimes cloudy/sometimes sunny skies. At one point on this greenway, you reach the top of a hill to a gorgeous view of the Smoky mountains and Look Rock. It was breathtaking!

I wish I could describe here the way I feel when I ride my bike. I absolutely love the endorphins rush I get, but I also enjoy interacting with the people you meet along the way. It's funny how differently people respond to you when you ride. Some people refuse to make eye contact, which I always try to do when meeting people on the trails. Others smile, wave, or even speak! It was great to see lots of children out yesterday enjoying the beautiful weather after all the terribly cold and even snowy days this winter has already brought to us. Many of them were sporting new bikes. One cute little girl was on a highly decorated girls bike with training wheels attached. I'm quite sure it was a Christmas present. Mom was walking alongside her with her hand lightly on her shoulder for security. I told her as I passed her how pretty her bike was and what a great job she was doing! It made me smile inside. I think bicyclers get a bad name because they often look at pedestrians as a nuisance and are sometimes rude to them. I try to remedy that to the best of my ability. I have fun speaking to others and enjoy the smiles and "hellos" I get back from them. I hope it gives them just a little bit of warm, fuzzy feeling. It certainly does me!

So, on this first day of the New Year, what do I see on my Hiking/Biking to the Heights "bucket list"? In the Spring, I definitely want to ride the Virginia Creeper again, this time the entire length, not just the downhill section. I would love to do some of the Silver Comet that Lynn and Stewart have talked about. It might be neat to set a goal of riding all the greenways here in Knox County. I'm not sure how many miles that is, but I know there are quite a few I've never been on. If Bunk will get his knee fixed, maybe he will start riding with me. I'd really like that. As for hiking goals, after having spoken on the phone with Phillip this week, I want to take him and Maddie (maybe I could get Kacey and/or Nathan to go too) to the Chimney Top. Phillip would LOVE that hike! Phillip also expressed interest in doing the section hike of the AT with us. He might even bring a couple of his buddies. That would be great. I'd feel much safer in a group than just Bunk and I alone since this will be our first trip on the AT. I also want to climb Mount LeConte, even if we don't do the overnight. Maybe by early fall, I'll be in shape to go up and back on the same day. And hopefully, along the way to these lofty goals there will be lots of days spent in the woods or on the bike trails just having fun. Here's to 2011!