Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Journal of the Smokies: 27th Birthday

Has it really been a month since I've turned 27 years old? I suppose so. It's funny how I've noticed time flying now, each year getting shorter and shorter as my relative sense of time expands. When I was a kid, days dragged on forever. Now, I actually have to utilize to-do lists or nothing gets done and I've wasted the day away. This is one of those lessons, I think, everyone learns but can't adequately be described until you yourself have experienced it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

AT's AT Hiking Training Plan, Week Four

Week: April 22 - April 28 (7 Days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 7.34
Miles Hiked (April): 20
Miles Hiked, (April Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 26.40
Pounds Gained: 5.8
Percentage to Next Milestone: 0%
Pounds Lost (Total):  0
Weekly Goal Met: No
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 2
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

OK, so the first half of week four was the textbook definition of a bad week. Things just kind of fell apart, in large part to work stress, and I just got off track. I am pretty shocked that it went that bad, but apparently it did.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Looking Towards the AT: Georgia

View from atop Blood Mountain, highest point on AT in Georgia
Note: Over the next year, we'll be sharing our thoughts on the sections of the Appalachian Trail that we will be walking next year. Only a few do we have any even remotely significant experience with, but we still have thoughts on them that we'd like to share. After we finish our hike, we'll be able to look back at these and see if we were pretty astute with our thoughts, or way off the trail. Although many of the sections are broken down by state, some (such as VA, NC, and TN) will be broken into smaller portions due to length of trail and special circumstances. We begin with Georgia, the first state heading north.

Section: Georgia
Region: South
Miles of trail: 76.4 (Not counting ~9 miles along the approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park)
Highlights: Springer Mountain, Blood Mountain, Neel's Gap

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hiking the Lists: The Forest Glen 3 in 1

Hike: #12
Title: The Forest Glen 3 in 1
Location: Forest Glen County Preserve, Vermilion County, Illinois
Hike List: Illinois
Difficulty: Mostly easy, although a couple climbs and descents are momentarily steep and it could be quite muddy at certain times of the year.
Duration of Hike: 1-2 hours

OK, so the "Forest Glen 3 in 1" is not an official title for this hike. However, it's a lot easier than calling it the "Willow Creek, Deer Meadow, and most of the Old Barn trails combined into one Hike"*. Although not the longest hike in the park (that's the River Ridge Backpack Trail)**, or most spectacular showcase of Forest Glen's natural beauty (Big Woods), this hike is a good sampler.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

AT's AT 2015 Hiking Training Plan, Week Three

Skunk Cabbage at Forest Glen creating a blanket of green in a seep
Week: April 14 - April 21 (8 Days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 3.46
Miles Hiked (April): 12.66
Miles Hiked, (April Goal): 20
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 19.16
Pounds Lost (Weeks 2 and 3): 0.6
Percentage to Next Milestone: 11.11%
Pounds Lost (Total):  1.2
Weekly Goal Met: No
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 2
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

Well, I suppose this can be called a victory. I hiked almost 3.5 miles on a "Hiking the Lists" trail that I had planned on doing many times, but chickened out (or wasn't feeling fit enough to tackle). In addition, I lost some more weight, the second of two official weigh-ins in the new training plan period where I've gone down. Considering this came after Easter weekend, a time full of high calorie foods and riddled with candy, probably makes it better. Nevertheless, it's a small victory at best.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hiking the Lists: Snake Road

Photo by Erin

Hike: #11
Title: Snake Road 
Location: LaRue-Pine Bluffs Natural Research Area, Shawnee National Forest
Hike List: Illinois
Difficulty: Mostly easy, although during spring and fall venomous snakes abound so be careful.
Duration of Hike: No more than a couple hours, depending on how many pictures you take.

Most of the geology of Illinois is dominated by glaciers. The expansive flatness of central Illinois is due to the work of ancient glaciers, as are the occasional ridges which are the remnants of terminal moraines from the glaciers. From Marengo Ridge and Volo Bog in the north, to the ridge that gave my hometown its name (Ridge Farm), the evidence is all around us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

AT's AT 2015 Hiking Training Plan, Week Two

Week: April 8 - April 14 (6 Days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 7.7
Miles Hiked (April): 9.2
Miles Hiked, (April Goal): 30
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 16.7
Pounds Lost (Week): N/A
Percentage to Next Milestone: 5.67%
Pounds Lost (Total):  0.6
Weekly Goal Met: N/A
Nights Camped (Week): 1
Nights Camped (Total): 2
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

This week doesn't have a weight update, because I have yet to weigh in properly. I overslept Monday morning at my parents house on the way back from my weekend camping and hiking trip with Erin (more on that later). And as for today, I chose to come back in the morning instead of last night, so I wouldn't have to deal with the April snowfall. Because this is supposed to be a regular feature, I figured I would just do one without the weigh-in this week, and save it for next week's post.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Journal of the Smokies - The Road to Nowhere

Me at the far end of the tunnel on Lakeview Drvie in GSMNP. Photo by Erin
Some of America's national parks were not controversial to establish. Most of them, especially the western giants, were on land already owned by the federal government. Sure, there were some contentious battles over grandfathered leases and a whole mess that led to a uranium mine operating at the Grand Canyon for years after the park had been established around it. But in large part parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain did not involve a lot of displacement of inhabitants.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Journal of the Smokies: Forever Cold and Tired

So you maaay not have heard the news that I'm completely in love with my new camera. The trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a perfect opportunity to try out landscape shots, and I also had hoped for some killer wildlife shots (er...that is, great shots..not maneating wildlife). Although the wildlife photography didn't pan out for the most part I was able to get some practice with landscapes and flora in bloom. However, a trip to a National Park in spring wouldn't be complete with other nature activities; namely, camping.

We knew a rainy cold front was on it's way, but we were determined to spend the night outside at Elkmont Campground in the park. Elkmont is situated beautifully, and the prime location gives away it's former life as a resort location. Although it's built for standard car-camping the sites are set along a river, with with just enough space between sites that gives a comfortable enough illusion of privacy. We had picked two sites along the river, and, after dinner, started setting up for the night.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

AT's AT 2015 Hiking Training Plan, Week One

Week: March 31 - April 7 (8 Days)
Miles Hiked (Week): 1.5
Miles Hiked (March): 7.5
Miles Hiked (April): 1.5
Miles Hiked, (March Goal): 10
Miles Hiked, (April Goal): 30
Miles Hiked (Yearly Total): 9.0
Pounds Lost (Week): 0.6
Percentage to Next Milestone: 5.67%
Pounds Lost (Total):  0.6
Weekly Goal Met: Yes
Nights Camped (Week): 0
Nights Camped (Total): 1
Nights Camped (Backpacking): 0

OK, sports fans, we're in for a tough slog over the next year. It's a marathon, not a sprint, after all. Which is fortunate, because I'm pretty sure I don't have the wind to do a sprint very well.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Appalachian Trail Expense Breakdown preliminary

I think one of the best ways to show we're serious about this hike will be to chronicle everything that goes into planning the journey. One of the biggest things, for me, is finances. Every month, or every major marker in donation/savings process, I'll make an expense report with gear bought and maybe findings on how much other hikers have spent on resupplies and the like.

I'm going to be completely up-front and honest here and it may get a little heavy, so bear with me. I'm pretty open about my struggle with mental illness, and the past 3 years I've been waging all out war with debilitating clinical depression. It's robbed me of a good chunk of my 20s, a decade that I'm under the impression is supposed to be filled with adventure and self-discovery. I spent most of my mid 20s tucked away under covers, wondering if it was really worth it getting through the day. (More on this when I write my "why I hike" post for the AT). It also left me stagnant in my career goals and now I'm left financially in a rut. However, if I'm going to do this hike and move on with my life, the time is now. It's next year or bust.*

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why I'm Hiking the Appalachian Trail

So why am I hiking the Appalachian Trail next year? Well, one reason is already apparent, as I want to hike to help raise money for a good cause. Naturally, it would be an opportunity to do something really worth writing about, so that is a good reason as well. And of course, the challenge of it all has an appeal, as does the idea of doing something that relatively few people have done.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Journal of the Smokies: Hiking Cade's Cove

I'm no stranger to Cade's Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After I'd heard about Andrew's experience, I immediately knew I wanted to hike the 11 mile loop one day, too. After all, I'm a little sister and if we're good at anything it's wanting to do what big brothers do.

The first time I walked Cade's Cove was in November of 2012. I had just gotten through a traumatizing work experience and was still in emotional shambles over the ordeal. I needed a long walk to clear my head and get my body moving. A nice, serene hike around the 11 mile loop seemed to be a great idea, and although it took me 5 hours to complete and I was so sore that I ended up sleeping the rest of the day, it was just what my soul needed.