Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Strong Are Thy Walls O Salem! More Inspiration for the AT

I set off to hike the Appalachian Trail in a few weeks and I am starting to get nervous! Only one in four hikers that attempt a thru hike actually finish the 2,189 miles of trail. I have done my best to physically prepare for the trip. More importantly, I have been trying to mentally prepare for the trip. I have a journal I will be taking, and on the first page I have written some helpful notes to inspire me in times of doubt. This way, when I am getting eaten by bugs and don't think I can take another step, I can look at my list and remember why I took this trek. Much of my inspiration will remain private to only me, but there is one example I would like to share.

It all started when I attended Salem College, an all women's college in Winston-Salem, NC.  Salem is steeped in rich history. Founded in 1772, it is the first all-womens college in the United States and the 13th oldest school in the nation.

More important is how it was founded. A group of 15 Moravian women walked from Bethlehem, PA, to North Carolina in 1766 to found the school. They walked over 500 miles to help start a school that would educate women, a not so popular idea in the 18th century. They did it without cuben fiber tents, easy water treatment drops, pre-packaged food, or a blazed trail! It makes me feel spoiled, but also thankful, that I will be able to go on my journey with all of my ultralight gear.

My 2,189 mile journey will be tough, but not nearly as perilous as the Salem Sisters' quest to establish my beloved Alma Mater. Without them I may not be who I am today, and I may never have found the courage to try this trek on my own. So whenever I have a moment of doubt, I will make sure to think of the sacrifices my Salem Sisters, both past and present, have made for one another.

I think it is safe to say you might catch me humming this song as I walk:

Strong are thy walls O Salem
Thy virgin trees stand tall

And far a thwart the sun lit hills

Their stately shadows fall

Then sing we of Salem ever...

You know the rest! So, if there are any Salem women in the 14 states along the trail that would like to walk even a mile with me, just let me know! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Home Sweet Tent

Today I will be sharing information on my home for the next 5 months. When I am not staying in shelters along the Appalachian Trail, I will be staying in the most kick ass tent ever made in the universe! Not to mention a wonderfully warm sleeping bag, which is a good thing because I pretty much run cold all of the time; when it is 70 degrees in our house, I am wearing a sweatshirt while draped in a blanket.

Below is the break down of my shelter and sleeping system.

The Tent

I have the ZPacks Solplex Tent and ZPacks Ultralight Titanium Stakes.

  • One person tent
  • 14.6 ounces (16.2 ounces with stakes - that's one pound, people)
  • bathtub floor
  • bug netting
  • only needs two trekking poles and stakes to assemble (set at 122cm and 81cm) 

It is made from cuben fiber which is lightweight, very sturdy and weatherproof. The design allows for plenty of airflow but makes sure those pesky insects can't get in! My favorite part is the "tarp overhang" near the door, giving me extra weather protection at a fraction of the weight. These door flaps allow me to put shoes and other gear outside of the tent while still being protected from rain. The tent is made for a 6 foot tall dude to be comfortable, meaning it's a 5 star hotel for my 5'2" shrimpy frame. The Solplex is very easy to put up and pack up. Once packed it is about the size of a Nalgene and saves a lot of space in my pack!

It is not necessary to use ground cover with this tent, but I have a lightweight, cheap polycro-type ground cloth - sold at Lowes for winterizing your windows.

For more information, pictures, or to see a video of how easy it is to assemble the tent go to
The ZPacks Solplex is in the forefront. 
Trekking poles, tent, Nalgene for perspective, and ground cloth
ZPacks Solplex (extra points if you find the dog) 
ZPacks Titanium Shepherd Stakes

Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Bag Liner, and Sleeping Pad

Summer Bag (blue), Winter Bag (red), Sleeping Pad (silver, rolled), Silk Liner (green)
**Puppy not included**
Apache MF 

Apache Microfiber Bag (red winter bag)

The Apache MF sleeping bag is made by Western Mountaineering and weighs 1 pound 14 ounces. It has 17 ounces of some of the best 850+ power down out there, and has a conservative 15 degree fahrenheit rating. This is for the 5'6" sized bag, because once again I am short. 

Once the season warms up I will mail this bag home and pick up my summer bag.

Caribou Microfiber Bag (blue summer bag)

The Caribou MF is also made by Western Mountaineering and weighs 1 pound and 4 ounces. It is rated 35 degrees fahrenheit and is the perfect summer bag with 9 ounces of downfill. 

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest Sleeping Pad

I know what you are thinking... why didn't you go with an inflatable sleeping pad? The answer is simple: I hate them! I know they are comfortable and get you a few inches off the ground, but I hate blowing them up, deflating them, and packing them up everyday. So I guess you can say I am lazy and that is why I have picked the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest sleeping pad. You simply roll it up and voila, you are done! Also, I don't run the risk of it popping and or getting damaged by a random rock or stick. And it is lighter weight, with a good R rating (a measurement of insulating warmth). 

Sleeping Bag Liner

I have the Sea To Summit silk liner for my sleeping bag. It will basically provide protection from dirt - keeping my sleeping bag clean and functional through many nights of use. It will also be a great blanket when I check into a hostel that has no linens, or for those really warm summer nights. 

All laid out VS. All packed up!

And there you have it! My home, sweet home on the the trail!