Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Water, Water, Every Where! Nor any drop to drink... until treated!

Recently, I have been inundated with questions about my upcoming Appalachian Trail thru hike. Are you going to carry a gun? How will you have enough food? Will you really poop in the woods? How are you going to carry all of your stuff?! Are you doing this because of that Wild movie? For the record, a big NO to that last question!

Due to all of the interrogation from family and friends, I thought I would take the next few weeks to write posts about my gear - what I will be taking with me on the trail, and why I chose it. I will start with a fairly easy topic. Water.

Unfortunately, I can not carry enough water with me for the whole 2,200 miles. Sad, I know.  What I will do is extract my water from creeks and streams along the trail. I am carrying two platypus bladders, one hose, and Aquamira chlorine dioxide water treatment drops. I will use the bladder as a vessel to collect the water from a stream, puddle, well, or spring. Then I will add the chlorine dioxide treatment drops to ensure I kill any nasty bugs that my be lurking in the water.

Some hikers, including hiking goddess, Jennifer Pharr Davis, choose not to treat their water before drinking. This takes balls that I do not have, and knowledge of what water sources are safe. On the other side of the coin, there are hikers who pack filters, pumps, and purification systems galore! These can be relatively heavy, or complex, or take time to operate. Complex things tend to break, leaving you S.O.L

So to ensure I do not contract Giardia, etc. I will be opting to treat my water. But I wanted a simpler system.

Here is my set up:

Platypus Bladders
           Each bladder holds 34 ounces (One liter) of water. Each bladder weighs 1.2 ounces and measures 6 inches by 13 inches. These bladders have proven to be lightweight and very durable. They are BPA-free, packable, shape easily to my packs exterior pockets, and have a food grade bacteriostatic liner.

          The Platypus drink tube is an easy addition to any bladder. In the past, I would not drink enough water on the trail, especially if I did not have easy access to my supply. The hose helps me ensure I stay hydrated while hiking. The hose only weighs 57.5 grams, is 40 inches long, and can be cut to whatever length you want.

Aquamira Water Treatment Drops
          The Aquaria Water Treatment Drops has no bad aftertaste. The active ingredients are Chlorine Dioxide (part a) and Phosphate Acid Activator (part b). According to the directions, you mix 7 drops of Part A with 7 drops of Part B, wait 5 minutes to ensure full activation, add the mixture to one liter of water, then let stand for 15-30 minutes. I usually let the water stand for 30 minutes even though the directions say 15 minutes will be sufficient. This is easy with two bladders - I drink from one, while the other is treated. Chlorine dioxide reliably kills bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. If you want to learn about the technology behind the drops go to the Aquamira website.

Here are some pros and cons to my approach:


  • Lightweight Gear
  • Packable and durable
  • Reliable
  • Drinking hose gives me quick and easy access to my water on the trail


  • In times of drought it may prove difficult to transfer the water from a stream to my platypus
  • Water temperature can increase the time required to purify water
  • pH can decrease the effectiveness of my water treatment drops
  • The drinking hose I have does not have an on/off valve, so I have to make sure I keep it safe from any added pressure that may cause leaking
  • The drinking hose can freeze up, or get uncomfortably hot in the summer heat, so you have to remember to blow the water out of the tube when things get extreme

That's it in a nutshell!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Poetic Inspiration for the Appalachian Trail

I recently learned that the first stanza of Walt Whitman's poem, Song of the Open Road, had been engraved into rock along the AT at the entrance of the Trailside Museum and Zoo. I vaguely remember reading parts of Whitman's work in high school and college, so I thought I would look up the entire poem. Below are only segments of the entire poem that prove inspirational to me as I prepare for the trail (read the whole poem if you get a chance)!

Song of the Open Road, by Walt Whitman (1856)

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them...

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently,but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.

Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me,
Now if a thousand beautiful forms of women appear’d it would not astonish me.
Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
Here a great personal deed has room,
(Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men,
Its effusion of strength and will overwhelm law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.)
Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.
Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.
Here is realization,
Here is a man tallied—he realizes here what he has in him,
The past, the future, majesty, love—if they are vacant of you, you are vacant of them.
Only the kernel of every object nourishes;
Where is he who tears off the husks for you and me?
Where is he that undoes stratagems and envelopes for you and me?
Here is adhesiveness, it is not previously fashion’d, it is apropos;
Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?
Do you know the talk of those turning eye-balls?

Allons! whoever you are come travel with me!
Traveling with me you find what never tires.
The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop’d,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
Allons! we must not stop here,
However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here,
However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?