Nerves on edge

Thirty-six hours and counting. Holy time lines Batman! I’m going nuts right now.  I feel like there are still so many things to do at home and work before I leave. If I check my packing list one more time it’s going to have a moment of spontaneous combustion.

I know this is all in my head. The problem is everything is whirling around in there like a blender on frappe. Everything is spreading out like a supernova going in 5000 directions at once. This is why I hate taking vacations. It’s the seemingly never ending list of has this been covered.  Me trying to prepare my guys for every eventuality, every nuance of what might happen or this could come up. It’s maddening. I truly don’t have that much trouble once I leave the building. I have always been able to walk away from the job and leave it.  I’m usually good for about four days on vacation before I start to get the junkie’s itch feeling like I should get back at it.  That’s why this is messing with my head so badly.  I’ll be on the trail for four-and-a-half days before I technically set foot back into civilization.  Right on the mark of my usual D.T.s withdrawal. Then I meet the wife and kids for the “real vacation”.  The one where I am totally devoted to them and thinking only of what they want and making sure my kids have the time of their lives. Nothing is off limits. If we can physically do it, it’s on.

I can see myself slipping around the corner to check voicemails or emails or check on the guys and make sure such and such went okay. They refuse the call me with anything, which I appreciate and hate all at the same time. I’d rather know about it, know that I need to handle that when I get back, then file it away for the duration.  I truly can do that. If I have to walk back in and have stuff hit me from the jump like that…well…it just isn’t good.

Control issues? Really, you’re gonna say that to me? Maybe, to an extent, but that’s the beauty of the section hike. To get me out of the known and into the unknown. To push my own buttons and see what comes out. A friend of mine told he thought this could be a life changing experience.  I’m hoping he’s right.

I want to be different. More confident, less cocky.  More even minded, less judgmental. More humble, less proud.  I need to feel smaller on the planet. I need to be in a big place that can swallow me whole and never hiccup. I need to walk around in a suit of holiness, and by that I mean being set apart for a purpose, that has been ill fitting and dusty for far too long.

Scared? Oh what the hey, sure. A bit. Gonna let it show? Not if I can help it. I’m just gonna keep on keeping on. One foot in front of the other, and look for some lessons to learn both about hiking and about living.  Mostly about living. If I’m fortunate, I’ll have something that will stick with me for the rest of my life and allow me to be the better man, better husband and better father I hope constantly to be.

So ready for this to get underway. God, grant me all of that which you know I need the most.  Amen!


This is About to Get Real…

Seven days and counting.  That’s all I’ve got until I get on a plane and head for the ATL, hot lanta, the dirty south.  I’m not sure excited is the term I should use here. As I write this there is a nervous twirl in my stomach. Kind of like the anticipation before a first date. Waiting at the door for her to answer. Imagining what she’ll look like. Hoping I look okay. Check your fly son. Good, it’s up. Does my breath stink? No, whew, good. That twirl in the stomach.

This is definitely a first date with the AT. She has been a distant dream for so long. I’ve fantasized about her. Pondered her various twists and turns. Heard all the stories about how she always provides and how she’ll chew you up and spit you out. She’ll change your life. She’ll break your heart. All of that and I still want to meet her. Get to know her for myself. See if we are a match for a longer term relationship. Wow, this metaphor is really working for me right now.

So I’m just seven days from this first date.  Still lots to do. I have gone through my packing list, done a test pack and readied most of the food.  I still need to get a few more odds and ends together so I spent a few minutes this morning making a daily chore list of things to get done before I leave, color coded no less. I’ve still got to spray down all my gear with Permithrin prior to packing it for the final time.  This is to keep the ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes and other nastier bug life at bay to some level.  Between that and the Picaradin, a Deet alternative, I generally stay bug/pest free.  However, here again, the AT is an unknown. She may reject my selection of cologne and choose to treat me to the death of a thousand bug bites. There is still a pillow to be made, some few items still to pick up, plus packing the bag for the vacation with the family in hillbilly heaven.

Excited is not the word.  Anticipation, per chance.  Yes I know that implies a level of excitement. Just not sure if the AT is gonna be the girl for me. There is so much built up imagination.  She may turn out to be as beautiful as everyone says but I just won’t fall in love. She could be the proverbial girl with a great personality.

She could turn out to be like my wife.  When I first saw her I thought she was older than me. Having just dated a girl that was older than me, by several years, early cougar might apply, and that train wreck of an experience, I was not going to go down the older woman road regardless of the number of years or her beauty. When I realized she was actually a few years younger than me, well the hunt was on and, as they say, the rest is history. I won her heart and we are soul mates to say the very least. We’ll celebrate twenty years in marriage in October. If it weren’t for the fact we have two kids, the oldest being thirteen in October, we’d swear we’d have only been married less than ten. It’s still fresh, still fun, still hands down the best decision I ever made.

Should the AT be like my wife, I’m in trouble. Can’t shake my girl. I’m afraid if I can’t shake the AT. Does a 5 month fling with a strip of dirt and rock count as infidelity in a marriage? God I hope not.

Test Pack Weight – Success?

As of today there are a couple short weeks until I leave for my section hike on the AT. I’m in the process of shaking down my gear and set up looking for ways to shave weight and making certain I have what I need as well as what I want. This is a process. A process only someone as OCD as I could enjoy.  Or is that CDO, which is the same thing only the letters are in the proper alphabetic order….as they should be.  See what I mean?

Having just purchased another smaller lighter pack with the thought process in play of using it on the hike, I got the chance to do a test pack this evening. After just a little time in on that process I knew I would need to stick with the larger pack I was already using. This because I’m flying and will have to pack everything, including my hiking poles, in the pack  as checked luggage and so I needed the space on the front end.

So here’s where the “success?” part comes in.  The final pack weight came in at just 22 lbs.all in with everything except water.  This is everything; shelter, insulation, clothing, incidentals, a couple “luxury” items and food for 4 1/2 days on the AT.  It isn’t what most folks would classify as ultra light but it’s a whole lot better than what I thought it would be.

Now understand this was just a test. There are some things in there that are in larger quantities than I’ll actually carry, so this will reduce the weight. There are others that I still need to add so bottom line is I got a better than average chance to finalize this setup at or below this test weight. That’s a truly good thing.

You hear horror stories all the time of people hiking into the wilderness with 50 or 60 lb packs. Carrying everything they have including the cast iron skillets and habachi grills.  I’ve seen a few horror stories in my time. Let’s be honest here, I’m no spring chicken. I’m old enough to know better but still young enough to be willing to jump out there and do something fun, read as stupid, but pack weight is a big deal. Too light and I may not have the all the equipment needed to survive on my own much less enjoy the hike.  Too heavy and I could be miserable not to mention cause myself serious injury. At 22 lbs. I should be in the wheel house to have the best of both worlds. All the right equipment to survive, yea even thrive in the woods, some “luxury” items but everything paired down to the lightest option or barest necessities.

Confidence level for the hike is a little higher now. I feel very good about the pack and contents set up. Here’s hoping “success?” will turn to SUCCESS!!

Oops, I bought it again…

Okay, let’s just get the obvious elephant in the middle of the room out of the way.  Yes, that was a Britney Spears reference.  Yes, I may have gone too far back for a ridiculous title line. No, I was not a fan nor am I now.  It’s just me going for the punchline…like I always do.  Just can’t be helped.

Now on to what this is about.  A new backpack.  Yea, I know, exciting right!?  Well to be specific, it’s not new new just new to me as I bought it from a fellow forum member.  I’ve had my head, if not my hand, on my gear wallet waiting on a deal for a ULA Ohm 2.0.  Ultralight Adventure Equipment makes some of the best backpacks on the market. Ask most anyone who hikes seriously or just do a random visual poll of those who are hiking seriously the AT and you will see or hear ULA mentioned.  They are coveted, cherished, wished for and fought over consistently.  They are exceedingly well made, have a customer service approach like very few others and an owner/designer/all around guy in the know who is so personally involved, he’ll return your phone calls, himself, no minion, resolving your issues and more.  He is what I commonly call a GGTK (Good Guy To Know).

I have owned a ULA Circuit for some time now and have loved it. It was my first real hiking pack, the one I felt I would use more often than any other version. This is a true statement in that when I hike and camp with my son, I will carry a portion of his gear in my pack but generally carry all the food and extras we will use on the hike and camp trip.  This would be even more so if and when my daughter were to hike and camp with me. Yea, she’s spoiled…a little.  This pack is great and I have every intention of using it on the section hike coming up in just a short 21 days. Maybe.

Enter, the ULA Ohm 2.0  This is a revision of the Ohm in that it has some changes to the design and now allows the ability to swap out the waist belt for different sizes as needed.  That and it is 5 liters smaller and 10 ounces lighter make it a real game changer.

I hear you. Five liters, 10 ounces? Really? It’s that big a deal? Let me help you quantify that. You should know that with my current Circuit and my pack list for my AT section hike, I am not at capacity for the Circuit. No where near it.  Once everything is in the pack I am still about an inch below the top of the frame and not fully cinched down or compressed.  This means that I am saving a good bit more than that five liters of capacity.  Space is like money. If you have it, you’ll use it.  The other thing is the 10 ounces.  That is an additional two dehydrated meals for me.  Not energy bars or GORP.  These are full blown, start at 5 ounces go to 15+ ounces when I add water and re-hydrate. That’s one to one-and-a-half additional days on the trail if the opportunity or need arises. Ounces become pounds. Every ounce saved, without endangering my safety or health or comfort, turns into greater distance, energy and enjoyment on the trail.

This will become my son’s pack (or maybe the daughter’s) and I will use it when soloing or shorter trips. Now when this comes in the wife will say, “Did you need another pack?”  Yes, yes I did.  She has learned not to question my gear purchases too deeply. She knows it is valid, warranted or necessary. It’s more in jest and to pull my chain a bit for kicks and giggles. She’s more afraid I’ll be eaten by a bear or molested by a raccoon. Or is that eaten by a raccoon and molested by a bear? Either way she’s just wants me to be safe, have fun and come home, preferably not missing any important body parts, and seriously folks, aren’t they all important.

This will prove to be a good deal on many levels I’m sure. Epic pack, epic trip and epic adventure. Something I will definitely do again and again, but without the Oops. Wow. Did it again….