Let the Journals Begin!

‘Tis the season. Finally! A few hardy souls have left Springer Mountain in Georgia on their way to Katahdin here in Maine. I haven’t followed any AT (or other) thru-hiker journals from start to finish before, so I’m looking forward to hiking along in spirit with a handful of backpackers this year. Given that I’m planning to section hike, I won’t have an online journal of my own (who wants to see my scribbles languishing on a journaling website for a decade-ish?), so I’ll have to draw my motivation and energy from the exploits of others.

Best wishes to all thru-hikers tackling any of the Big Three this year. I’ll try and keep up with you as you gain your trail legs and strive toward your ultimate goal…

Back to Running. For Now.

Six weeks ago, a dear friend and 49-time marathoner was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Since then, his group of loyal running partners (of which I am a member) has decided to push him in a running stroller for his 50th marathon in May. Sadly, we had all planned to meet at this race to run with him for his 50th before this devastating illness. I wasn’t planning to do the entire race, however; my goal was to run with him for the final 15K and celebrate with him as he crossed the finish line. But that plan has tragically changed.

So instead of ramping down my running mileage in the spring┬áto begin hiking more as I had originally intended, I find myself needing to get back to “normal” training miles in preparation for this event in mid-May. I’m not complaining, mind you. With some fine-tuning, I have a marathon in me, and given that my friend can no longer run, I feel extraordinarily blessed today to call myself a runner. And I will still manage some day hiking on the AT (with an overnight thrown in here and there) this spring. But my time/energy/financial focus on transitioning to backpacking/hiking is now on hold until at least June.

I’ll officially be back to marathon training beginning March 1st. With browser tabs perpetually open to various outfitters, trail journals and hiking blogs/websites…

 

The Mite-Sized Elephant in the Room

When I first started talking to family and friends about my desire to take to the woods with a backpack they all, in one form or another, expressed concern over my potential run-ins with wild animals. “Aren’t you worried about bears?” and “I’m glad you’re going to deal with the snakes and not me” topped the list. To be honest, I’ve encountered both during trail runs, and other than being temporarily startled, came away pretty much unfazed. And mercifully untouched.

I’m much more concerned with ticks, and their disease-child, Lyme. I live in the Northeast, where tick populations are exploding, and cases of Lyme disease right along with them. In 2005, the CDC reported 247 confirmed cases of the disease here in Maine. Ten years later, they report 1169 confirmed cases, with an additional 232 listed as probable. Granted, as we become more educated about Lyme disease, the diagnosis and reporting of cases becomes more accurate. But even given better reporting, the increase in those numbers represents a pretty startling jump.

Anecdotally, the trail books I’ve read are showing an increase in the number of hikers contracting Lyme, too. It seems like, with every AT hiking book since 2010, at least one backpacker being written about suffered a mite bite that led to being pushed off the trail and into an antibiotics regimen for a period of time. Yikes.

So I’m digging in and doing the research, as always. Words like “permethrin” have found their way into my personal lexicon. Brands like ExOfficio have hit my search engine results. And the corresponding questions, like “Buy pre-treated, or spray my own?” and “Do I tuck my pants into my socks while hiking?” (ignoring the incredible geeky fashion faux pas of doing so) have started banging around my psyche as I prepare to start my section hike in the spring.

It does seem that, like so many other illness possibilities in life, an ounce of Lyme prevention does indeed equal a pound of cure. So I’m prepared to hike in long, Permethrin-treated pants. And plaster my exposed skin with DEET. And check myself at the end of each day for ticks. And avoid bushwhacking whenever necessary.

And make absolutely sure not to hug any deer…