Monday, March 31, 2014

Hiking the Appalachian Trail for BECA

We've done it, guys! We've completed our goal! Oh, no, not the raising money part. I meant the choosing a cause to hike for part.

You see, most people want to raise money for a cause and then figure out a way to do it. Andrew and I, being the unconventional people we sometimes tend to be, have wanted to hike the AT for quite some time and knew that hiking the trail would be great exposure for one of the many causes we care about. Raising money for a charity also spurs us on to complete the trail because you just don't quit when people have financially invested in your success. Barring serious emergency, it means we don't give up.

AT's AT Hiking Training Plan: It Begins for Real

Instead of giving you an overview of weeks 9 and 10 of my Hiking Training Plan 3.0, this post marks another beginning. As announced last week, the authors of this blog will be hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine next year. As such, there is a now a tangible deadline for my hiking training plan. This means that things are about to get real.

Journal of the Smokies: A Lack of Hiking Experience

Note: Journal of the Smokies is a new feature on this blog. The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the jewels of the National Park System, and the park visited by the most people each year. It's also the most visited park by Andrew, and one of Erin's most frequently visited. From visits long past and recent we'll be sharing some of our thoughts and pictures. This will be a cross platform feature, as we'll be sharing pictures and short posts in the series on our Walk With Nature tumblr as well.

Since I began hiking in earnest again in October of 2010, I've hiked hundreds of miles in states from Virginia to California, and Florida to Michigan. I've hiked to the top of the highest points in Georgia and Tennessee, hiked all 600 steps at Amicalola Falls, and went to the top of Blood Mountain along the Applachian Trail. I've a hiked a lot of miles, but very few of those have been in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Announcing our 2015 Hike of the Appalachian Trail

We started this blog back in November of 2010 with the intention of it being one part of a journey towards walking the Appalachian Trail. As you can gather from our domain name (, our original goal was doing it in 2012. Unfortunately, an inability to get our schedules and responsibilities in line to make the six month trip resulted in that not happening. It also didn't happen in 2013, and it won't be happening this year. But next year? That's a different case.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hikes around St. Louis - Rockwoods Reservation and Lone Elk State Park

Once in a great while, the stars align and I have a day off and the gas money to afford a trip out of the city, past suburbia, and into the wilderness. Or at least, as wild as I can get in one afternoon's drive. Since it also turned out to be a warm, sunny day I decided to set my sights on Rockwoods Reservation out by Wildwood, Missouri. Although fairly small, the reservation (ran by the Missouri Department of Conservation) offered a few trails and neat features such as a bird blind by the visitor's center; in the coming months, when plants start to bloom and the weather evens out, I imagine the reservation is a great place to see wildlife.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Back on the Trail at Forest Glen

Ever since I started my road back from pneumonia in January, March 15 was a major date on my calendar. Early on I decided this would be the date that I would finally get back on a trail after a hiatus that spanned almost four months. As day after day went by, and the snow kept falling and the temperatures kept struggling to get above freezing, I hoped I wouldn't get snowed out. Only deep snow, ice, or thunderstorms would keep from hiking. Fortunately, the weather turned out to be pretty great for hiking. The sun was shining, and the air was crisp, while not being too cold. If I didn't complete the hike, it wouldn't be the weather that was the factor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hiking Training Plan 3.0 - Week Eight Recap

Week: March 7 - March 13
Miles Hiked (Week): 0
Miles Hiked (March): 0
Miles Hiked, (March Goal): 10
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 0
Minutes Walked: 70
Minutes Walked (Weekly Goal): 95 
Pounds Lost (Week): 2.8
Pounds Gained (Total):  2.0
Weekly Goal Met: Yes
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 0
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

After several weeks of trying to get back on track, I finally had a breakthrough of a week. By (mostly) keeping to my daily walking regimen and (mostly) keeping to my simple dinner plan, I was able to hit the elusive goal of not only breaking even, but actually losing weight. The fact that this came during another week of long nights at work and cold temperatures makes it that much sweeter.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Sorry for the caps lock, dear and loyal readers. I just have extremely exciting news is all! As you may have noticed using context clues from the post title, I am the proud owner of a brand new camera. A Nikon D3200, a pretty standard entry level DSLR to be exact. And I. Am. In. Love. I've spent two days in the past week at the zoo trying out different modes (eventually sticking with auto-mode but still landing some pretty spectacular shots). I do wish there would be one last winter storm come through so I could get cardinals and otters in the snow, but I think just about everyone in the Midwest would come after me if I tried to appease Jack Frost. I can't blame them; it's time for Spring and soon it'll be prime time to head over the Missouri Botanical Garden and check out the budding flora.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hiking the Lists #10

Hike: #10
Title: Sosebee Cove Nature Trail 
Location: Chattahoochee National Forest
Hike List: North Georgia
Difficulty: Easy. It's uphill for half of it, but it's so short that doesn't really matter.
Duration of Hike: Walking straight through would take maybe five to ten minutes. More if you take pictures or just want to experience the serenity of nature.

The Sosebee Cove Nature Trail is a short trail, so this will be a short entry. It's not difficult to walk, and is over almost as soon as it begins. When I walked it, it was still winter up in the mountains of North Georgia, so the large trees had no leaves, and the wildflowers were still a couple months away from blanketing the hill side.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Riding the Exercise Roller Coaster into Spring

It's currently about 115 degrees in my small third-story bedroom. The thing about these lovely old brick St. Louis homes is that while the rest of the house can be drafty as though Jack Frost was making himself at home on your couch, heat still rises.Downstairs, my roommates/landlords are probably wondering what the constant *thump* *thump* *thump* coming from above means as I try (and fail) to quietly exercise to my newest Jillian Michaels DVD. Tired and sweaty, I turn off the television.

I gave up in about 15 minutes.

This is the story of how I went from training to run my first half-marathon to where I am now - physically and emotionally tired in my journey to a healthier me. It's a problem many people face in their weight-loss and getting-fit goals, and it's something that's hurt me tremendously in the past. The last time I gave up so spectacularly, I gained 45 pounds in four or five months, then lived (miserably) with the extra weight and extra bad eating habits for the next year or so. Finally, during a trip to Yosemite National Park with Andrew in 2012, I got fed up and lost 30 pounds. That's great and all, but I still had goals to reach before the Epic Crash of 2011. And here I am now, struggling to bridge the gap between eating healthy and eating on a budget that is, without pity or hyperbole, below the national poverty level.

This is not an uncommon problem either. The sad reality is that economically it is more affordable and more available to eat nutritional garbage than it is to consume the most basic of nature's abundant food. Also, that garbage is, more often than not, quicker to make and eat for someone who doesn't have a lot of time to throw around. Growing up in a food desert that is rural Illinois during the winter, you'd think my unhealthy and sedentary habits were learned at home. Surprisingly, it was only into my adult life that I've had to deal with these issues (as a kid, I was scrawny, always on the go, and craving raw vegetables like my life depended on it), and maybe that's why I'm so ill-equipped for long term health despite all the reading and research I've done.

For instance, after my first major victory in re-claiming my health back in 2010 (5 days at the gym, it became my study spot), I decided I was at the point where, since I was happy with my weight and I had taken on two part time jobs on top of being a full time student, I could eat ALL the burritos I wanted. Oh Salsa Rico, you fickle beast. The weight spiked back up until said trip to Yosemite. So I started running. And I ran a half marathon last November! But then this impossibly long, harsh winter came like a lion that really hates exercise and I spent the majority of my time piled under blankets or eating fast food to or from work.

Why is it so hard to make this a lifestyle? It's important to note that in order to be successful, one must look at it as such; this is not a diet. This is not temporary. I don't get to stuff my face with yummy burgers and burritos and ice cream after I've worked out hard all week. It's the hardest lesson I'll ever have to learn, and my life may actually depend on it. I know my happiness will. It's not just about body image - it's about having energy, and strength, and an outlet for mind.

There is hope for me, though; through my retail job I've actually found a training plan that I MUST stick to in order for the company to pay an entrance fee for a 10K I'm running in April. I'll be strength training, working on my speed and power, and doing my darndest to stick to the paleo diet (you know, meat, fruits, and veggies, no bread). We'll see if that's the kick in the rear I need to get going and welcome Spring (and swimsuit season) in with less flabby open arms. Best of luck to you who are hoping to do the same - stick with it, you'll get there!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hiking Training Plan 3.0: Week 7 Recap

Weeks: February 28 - March 6
Miles Hiked (Week): 0
Miles Hiked (January/February): 0
Miles Hiked, (January/February Goal): 0
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 0
Minutes Walked: 75
Minutes Walked (Weekly Goal): 80 
Pounds Gained (Weeks): 2.2 (1.2 + 1.0 correction for previous week)
Pounds Gained (Total):  4.8
Weekly Goal Met: No
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 0
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good week.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hiking Training Plan 3.0: Week Six Recap

Weeks: February 21 - February 27
Miles Hiked (Week): 0
Miles Hiked (January/February): 0
Miles Hiked, (January/February Goal): 0
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 0
Minutes Walked: 12
Minutes Walked (Weekly Goal): 12 
Pounds Gained (Weeks): 1.0
Pounds Gained (Total):  2.8
Weekly Goal Met: No
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 0
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

Another week, another result heading the wrong way. This is obviously not what I expected, but it is what it is. At least it isn't as bad as it was earlier in the week.