It’s Almost Time for Vicarious Hiking!

Last year I strolled through the online AT hiker journals and chose two to follow as the individuals pursued their thru hikes. I picked folks close to my age group (by guessing ages via photo staring, a decidedly less accurate but less frightening method than stalking them with an ask) and went with a solo male athlete (who crushed it, averaging over twenty miles per day) and a married couple who overcame some early obstacles and mid-hike issues to make their planned roost atop the Katahdin sign.¬†I sent them all a hearty congrats upon the completion of their dream, though I had hoped to get out to Monson to say hello in person before they launched into the Hundred Mile Wilderness. The best laid plans, blah blah blah…

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This year I might grab three journals to latch onto. I’ve already found a solo male and solo female to follow, now looking for a married couple. These intrepid souls have no clue how much they will encourage me to participate in my own hiking adventures in the coming months. It’s so motivating to see others doing something I hope to do, though my slog down the length of the AT, due to time and financial constraints, will be accomplished in sections.

The solo guy begins his hike February 4th. Yikes. He seems prepared to deal with the nasty weather that sneaks up on one at elevation during that time of year. I’ll be following along as he pushes through, and looking forward to warmer months to do some mileage conquering of my own.

In fact, I’m scheming my first section hike now. In Virginia, not here in Maine. If I could knock out a couple hundred miles in April…

Sounds like a good subject for next week’s post.

Sadly, Still a Work in Progress

New Year’s Day proved to me that I still have a lot of (mental) work to do in my transition from marathon runner to running/backpacking hybrid…er. In the past I began every January 1st, regardless of the weather, with a run. Some years that was a pleasant (considering it’s winter, anyway) cruise, but most of the time it has been an exercise (pun intended) in personal motivation and physical fortitude. Translation: The weather was horrid.

I was determined to start my 2017 with a weighted practice hike in line with my new persona of aspiring Appalachian Trail section hiker, weather be hanged. But it was frigid and breezy, and I couldn’t bear the thought of walking in those temps. Running this time of year is a much warmer (and therefore more tolerable) activity than hiking.

So I ran. In a fit of guilty compromise, I ran in the Merrell All Out Peak trail runners that I use for hiking, but I ran. And while it was a solid effort to start the year, the guilt of not loading up my Kestrel 28 with some graduate school-era textbooks and taking a shivering stroll took the edge of enjoyment off the run.

So here I sit, a couple of weeks into the new year, and I’m looking ahead to the weather this weekend and plotting out runs. But I need a mental reset. The temps for the last week and going forward for the next one have been/are seasonably very mild. It was 40 degrees here on Tuesday, which for Maine in January is “where are my shorts?” weather. Or more accurately, “I could be on-the-road backpacking” weather.

Last year I had fairly lofty goals for a newbie that fell away unrealized. I’m determined not to let that happen this year. After all, I really want a Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60, but that’s an aspirational purchase for me right now. I can’t picture myself laying out $255 for a backpack when I’ve yet to do a single overnight. So I’m keeping that in front of me as I begin this year and, when I’ve “earned” one through experience, I’ll proudly and happily buy one.

It’s time for me to begin looking towards the warmer months and preparing for them now. Before the weekend is past, I WILL have a weighted practice hike completed. *Raises fist in the air*

Besides, I have those “expensive” new tip covers for my trekking¬†poles to break in…

Much Ado About Tips. Tips? Yes, Tips!

I’m talking specifically about these tips:

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More accurately, tip protectors. For my Black Diamond Ergo Cork trekking poles. Why so excited? Because I bought them for $5.22 ($4.95 plus the ubiquitous sales tax).

Here’s the rub: I had never seen them for sale in the wild before until I stumbled upon them at small but mighty Northwoods Outfitters (a big shout-out to the friendly staff!) in tiny Greenville, ME. I had tried to pull the trigger on ordering them online, but kept running into the same roadblock.

Shipping.

One online/brick-and-mortar mega outfitter who shall remain nameless also sells them for $4.95, but wanted $5.99 for shipping. Call me crazy, but I’m fundamentally opposed to spending more on shipping than what I’m laying out for the product itself. THE online retail giant, again nameless, sells them only as an add-on item, so I either had to bundle them with something else and pay shipping for both items, or spend at least $40 combined so they would ship for free. I’m a marketing guy, so I get the logic behind this approach from a brand management perspective. But as a garden variety consumer, my response was, “Uh uh. No.”

So Northwoods Outfitters just won a customer for life. And this customer still needs a larger backpack, a sleeping pad, a Ursack and a JetBoil. I’ve always been a rabid supporter of small local businesses, and Greenville is only 90 minutes from home. A trip in mid-April now seems likely.

Who says there’s nothing good in Greenville besides Moosehead Lake?

(Fun fact: The header photo for this blog is a shot of Moosehead taken on a different trip to Greenville. So I do get up there once or twice a year)