Weight loss on the Appalachian Trail
Sunsets and I have been home for 2 1/2 weeks now, since summiting Mt. Katahdin. It’s still weird to say those words – WE SUMMITED MT. KATAHDIN!
Here’s a few initial thoughts we have on being back in “real life:”
- Sleeping in a real bed feels AMAZING, and we have been sleeping like babies every night!
- A shower every day almost seems wasteful. Also, it’s weird not to have to spend a lot of time scrubbing mud off our legs and feet, or washing my hair TWICE just to get to a normal cleanliness level.
- When we meet someone, it’s hard to remember to shake hands instead of fist-bump (on the trail when we met someone we always fist-bumped as a way to not “touch” each other in order try to stay healthy).
- I have to dry my hair and wear makeup now? NO THANKS (have only done twice since being home).
- Our knees and feet still ache, mostly when we get up from a sitting/laying down position – we hobble around like old people (heard this takes a month or more to get over). Getting out of bed in the morning is seriously hilarious.
- It’s awesome to have real chairs to sit in! Even if they are hard. The cushy ones are a dream.
- When someone says “go west,” we immediately turn left (in our guidebook, west was always left, and east was always right).
- Coffee every morning is a wonderful thing. Also ice water!!
A lot of people have asked us about post trail depression (PTD). It’s interesting, because PTD is a very real thing. In fact, all of the past thru-hikers that we have either followed or read their books have seemed to experience this on some level; and we have already seen it in some of our hiker friends from this year. There is for sure a feeling of let down after it is all over. We lived on the trail and in the woods for half a year(!) and worked hard and long to achieve our goal of thru-hiking the whole Appalachian Trail (2,189.8 miles). We went days without showering (7 was our max) and got dirty or muddy almost every day. We slept in our tent almost every night, and spent time with fellow hikers eating Knorr rice sides or instant mashed potatoes for dinner over our stoves. We saw beautiful flowers in their natural habitat. We saw snakes, newts, bears, and moose. We fell in love with the quiet and peacefulness (no cars or loud noises or huge groups of people). We hiked in the heat, humidity, cold rain and snow; we hiked over roots, rocks, mud and climbed LOTS of boulders. We trained our bodies to walk over 20 miles a day. And we did this ALL with like-minded fellow hikers we met along the way – of all ages. We were all in the same boat, doing the same thing every day, and this was how we all immediately bonded. I can understand how some hikers have a hard time going back to “real life.”
So now that our AT thru-hike is over, Sunsets and I have been settling into a quiet but nice life in central Wisconsin. We are doing great and have had no issues with depression, at least so far.
Why no post trail depression?
First of all, we are not “spring chickens” — we are in our mid-40’s, have been married for 22 years, like to think we are mature, and we were already happy with our lives before we did the AT. We didn’t do the AT to “find ourselves” or work through any past issues. We did the AT for the challenge and because we like hiking together.
Second of all, we are not going back to “that same old depressing cubicle or corporate job.” Sunsets and I made the decision back in 2013 to quit our stressful jobs and live a more simple life style (you can read about our story here and here).
We know what we want to do next, it is exciting for us, and a lot of our plans revolve around hiking or the AT (writing books, business development and living by the AT in the future). We talk in more detail about our plans in our current Q&A video #2).
We used the whole time we were on the trail to think about what was next, so we were already thinking about the future and looking forward to it after our hike. The trail was definitely a HUGE thing for us, and we are so proud of ourselves that we did it! Never once did we talk about quitting (though we had several days of pain, blood and tears). It was the adventure and challenge of a lifetime, and we did it! We will for sure remember our hike with great fondness, nostalgia and joy.
So, what have we been doing since we got home?
Enjoying our favorite Costa Rican coffee (1820), compliments of our friends Christina & Rod:
Drinking fine wine and celebratory champagne, from our friends on the west coast, Sarah & Matt (also note my cute “JB” hat from my pal Greg Pekas!):
Visiting my brother and his family in northern Wisconsin (this is my niece, Ashley):
HIKING! We started walking/hiking after taking a week off, trying to get in between 4-6 miles a day. Pictured here with long-time friend of my mom’s (and my grade school friend Michelle’s mom), Connie. You may also notice the white blaze (not sure how that got here, in Wisconsin!).
Starting my Costa Rica Chica Arm Candy business back up — I make bracelets, bookmarks (pictured here top right), anklets, necklaces and more!
Getting some wheels! Mom has been SO kind to share her car with us before and after the AT, but it was time to get our own car (found a great deal on this cute little ‘15 Prius, you can’t beat 50 miles to the gallon!):
We were interviewed for a podcast by Mighty Blue on the Appalachian Trail, you can listen to us talking about our journey here.
Stay tuned! We will be doing future videos and blog posts on all things hiking and AT – gear reviews, more question & answer videos, and hopefully some interviews with fellow thru-hikers!
Cheers! — Chica & Sunsets
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What have we gotten ourselves into?
Who was that guy who coined the Appalachian Trail a simple “walk in the woods?” That phrase paints a picture of a beautiful, level, happy-go-lucky, birds-chirping, sun-shining, leisurely stroll through the woods. Not a boulder-climbing, stream-crossing, mountain after mountain, panting, heavy-breathing, can’t talk to your partner, have to watch your feet at all times (so as not to twist your ankle on roots or rocks, or slide down a steep drop off), type of hike. Yea, thanks Mr. Bryson.
The truth is, the Appalachian Trail is HARD. It will, I’m sure, be the hardest thing Greg & I have ever done. And frankly, this is also why we want to do it. It is a mammoth challenge – one of stamina, physical exertion, and most of all – mental fortitude.
Here’s a picture from the AT in Pennsylvania. PA is one of the toughest state’s the trail goes through, we hear walking on these boulders all day can really tear up your feet. Photo by: Ryan Johnson
A lot of our friends are already starting out on their thru-hike this year, and while it’s painful to see their posts and pictures from the comfort of our warm and comfy couch, we have to remind ourselves that this was always our plan. We wanted to wait until the end of March so as to experience as little of a “full” harsh/cold winter as possible, even though we will be starting in the “bubble” of thru-hikers.
A friend of mine recently said to me, when I was talking about my fears, “Hey – remember when you quit your jobs, sold everything, and moved to Costa Rica? If you can do that, you can hike the Appalachian Trail!”
Well, not necessarily. The AT will be SO much harder than quitting our jobs and moving to Costa Rica. Regarding Costa Rica, YES, that was a hard decision to make back then, but after we did our research and got our budget in order, it was actually quite easy to implement our plans. Quitting our jobs went smoothly, and after researching and planning out what would be the hardest things to tackle once we got to Costa Rica, actually living through those things went without a hitch. A positive attitude can go a long way. Maybe I can say all this because I’ve “been there, done that” now, but Greg and I both believe that the AT will be so much harder. Here’s some of our reasoning:
1.Physically, it will be hard. As I mentioned, it is not just a “walk in the woods.” It is a lot of PUD’s – pointless ups and downs. The Appalachian Trail is on a mountain range and goes up and down hills and mountains – a LOT. And not just little mountains. Sometimes the elevation increases rapidly, other times slowly. There will be rocks and roots and leaves and streams. The beginning alone will be hard. We have chosen (foolishly?) to start with the Approach Trail, which isn’t even PART of the Appalachian Trail, but lots of “real” hikers do it. And well, we want to be real hikers. It is 8.8 miles uphill, including a little section of 604 steps to the top Amicalola Falls.
The Approach Trail has a total elevation gain of 3,165 feet:
Everyday will be a bit like this, several up and downs, some days harder than others. There has been a lot of rain and thunderstorms lately, and we are hoping that we can at least start Day 1 with no rain.
Approach trail at Amicalola Falls. Photo by: @TwoCooksTakeAWalk
2. The monotony. Day after day we will be hiking, all day, every day. In Costa Rica we didn’t have to do anything physical if we didn’t want to. On the trail we need to hike almost every day. And we want to end in Maine before Oct. 15th, as they start closing the summit of Mt. Katahdin (the northern terminus) due to the winter season.
3. Mentally, it will be hard. On Costa Rica, I feel like we did our research, and we were prepared for everything that was thrown at us. Sure, some things were hard, but we remained positive and were able to deal with things as they were thrown at us. On the AT, there’s so much that could happen out of our control (well, I guess this was similar to Costa Rica) – injuries, diseases, animals, crazy weather… We could also just get so bored and tired of walking (people quit for this reason all the time). We’ve heard that the trail is 90% mental, which amazes me, because it is so physically challenging. Just goes to show how much your mind and attitude can make or break you. Can you imagine what it takes, mentally, to get through a part of the trail like Mahoosuc Notch? It’s labeled “the most difficult or the most fun mile of the AT.” The guidebook reads simply “make way through jumbled pit of boulders.”
Mahoosuc Notch. Photo by: Ryan Johnson
There’s a reason 25% of the people that attempt the AT each year going NOBO (northbound) quit by the time they even get out of the first state of Georgia. It’s hard, you guys! And Georgia starts out hard right away with a rollercoaster of mountains. And it’s made even harder with cold rain (sometimes snow), blisters and sore feet, heavy packs, and aching knees and hips. No matter how much you train for the AT, you can’t really feel what it’s like until you’re on it and hiking every day. Everyone out there will be in the same boat – getting used to their gear and how everything works.
The most likely reasons people quit are:
- Boredom/loneliness: Believe it or not, it just gets boring for people to hike 10-20 (or more) miles a day and see the “same scenery” day after day. The majority of thru-hikers are in their 20’s, just out of high school or college, and miss their friends and family desperately.
- Injuries: People get inured (knees give out, sprained ankles are common, fractured foot, broken legs even) or they may get a disease (Lyme’s disease, Giardia).
- Money runs out: Lots of thru-hikers are not able to manage their money well, or party too much along the way.
She makes this thigh-high mud look fun, doesn’t she? Photo by: @hikes.camera.adventure
Despite all of the hardships the AT will throw at us, none of this detracts from our desire and dream to hike the whole Appalachian Trail (all 2,189.8 miles of it!). Both Greg & I are determined to do this. In fact, we’ve already pledged to each other that the only way we would quit is if one of us has a severe injury (preventing further hiking) or there is a family emergency. This has been our dream for a couple of years now, and we are doing it! This is not to say that we don’t need help – just knowing you guys are thinking of us and sending us positive thoughts will help us tremendously (especially on the hard days), so please don’t hesitate to like or comment wherever you are following us (here, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook)!
Can we even picture ourselves on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine? Honesty, it’s hard to think about without getting emotional, but yes… YES WE CAN.
We want this feeling! Photo by: Ryan Johnson (who thru-hiked last year):
Hi guys! I’ve done a Youtube video on my gear list, but here is the written list and itemized list – for any of you who want the specifics. Video is posted again at the end. Let me know any questions or feedback in the comments!
THE BIG 3 (shelter, sleeping bag, back pack):
- Backpack – Osprey Exos 48L (size small)
- Sleeping Quilt – Enlightened Equipment Revelation (Down Fill: 800, Down Treatment: DownTek™ Water-Repellent Down, Temperature: 10°F , Length: Long, Width: Regular, Inside Fabric Color: Forest 10D, Outside Fabric Options: Navy 10D)
- Sleeping Bag Liner – Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner (adds 15°F warmth or can be used separately in the summer)
- Sleeping Pad – Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Womens (size: regular)
- Sit Pad – Cut from Greg’s “former” sleeping foam pad
- (Tent – carried by Greg, Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3)
- Puffy Jacket – Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down fill: 800
- Fleece Jacket – Marmot Flashpoint
- Bike shorts – Athleta
- Leggings – Athleta
- Skirt – Purple Rain Hiking Skirt
- Tshirt – Icebreaker merino wool
- Sleep clothes – Cuddl Duds fleece leggings and pullover, REI wool socks
- Sports Bra – Smartwool
- Underwear, 2 pairs – ExOfficio Sport Mesh
- Liner Socks, 2 pairs – Injinji Toe Liner Socks
- Hiking Socks, 2 pairs – Darn Tough
- Hiking shoes (trail runners) – Salomon Women’s X-Mission 3W
- Camp Shoes – Xero ZTrails
- Hat – Nike Dri-FIT running hat
- Watch – Timex Ironman Triatholon
- Headband – Chicaband
- Gloves – Zpacks Possom Down gloves
- Gaiters – Etsy – Ultra Gam
- Beanie hat – Choucas Hat
- Mosquito net – walmart
- Poncho/Pack Cover – ThePacka.com
- Umbrella – Zpacks Liteflex
- Rain skirt – I made out of a contractor bag and velcro!
- Trekking poles – Leki Corklike Speed Lock
- Spork – Sea to Summit Long Handle Titanium
- Koozie – I made from a car sun visor, see Darwin’s video here.
- Cook Pot – Toaks 750 ml titanium
- Water Bladder – Evernew 2 L
- Water Filter – Sawyer Squeeze
- (Cook Stove – carried by Greg, MSR Pocket Rocket along with fuel canister, bic lighter)
- Cell phone, charger, headphones – iPhone 7 plus
- Headlamp – Black Diamond ReVolt
- Charger – ANKOR PowerCore 20100
- 4 plug USB port wall charger
- Ultrapod tree wrap and tripod
- Sunglasses (have had forever, polarized from Sam’s Club)
- Reading glasses
- Bandana (pee rag)
- RunninGluv (thank you, Caryn!)
- Pocket knife (thank you, Martina!)
- 911 mini air horn
- small brush
- toothbrush, paste
- TP kit (TP, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, tampons)
- First aid (bandaids, vitamin I [ibuprofen], neosporin, leukotape, Benadryl))
- Toiletires (baby powder, Vaseline, nail clippers, carmex, small mirror, tweezers, razor)
- Miscl: sleep pad repair kit, hand warmers, bunions sleeve, morton’s neuroma pad
- Daypack – Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack
- Small notebook & pen
- (Guidebook – carried by Greg, The A.T. Guide Northbound 2017)
And here is my video I did for my gear review:
My base weight (everything except food, water and fuel) comes in at 15.8 pounds, which I would like to be a bit lighter, but I’m very happy with this weight.
Next up: I’ll be doing a video on a sample food supply for 4 1/2 days. Stay tuned! — Jen