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[at-l] Beginner's Test Run before 3-day AT hike

Whew!  Thank's so much to those of you who have taken the time to encourage
me (and say you want to read these posts). ;-)  I would probably think I
was crazy to be trying this if it weren't for all the wonderful voices
taking these early efforts seriously.  For newcomers to the list, a little
background info:  I am learning to backpack and work around life long
health problems including needing to eat continually while hiking, needing
to drink huge amounts of water, prone to heel spurs and have always had a
problem with heat.  These were my main concerns this round.

So, I went to Georgia to see my kids and hike - but they must have felt I
came just to hike as that took up most of my time! ;-)  My son especially
has been extremely helpful - both because he knows me and my limitations
AND he is a backpacker with experience on the AT.  My goal was a day hike
and a 3-day hike on the AT.

Thanks to Fred Engel, my new Journey Pack was waiting at my son's house
when I got there.  We spent 2 evenings on the kitchen table sorting out
what I had brought and what I could borrow - and what I could do without.

Then we did a 5-mile day hike on the Raven Cliffs trail (along a creek off
the Richard B. Russell highway) to test me and my new pack and see how much
water I actually drank.  My son was thinking if he had to carry the pack
out he wouldn't let me tackle the 3 day hike we had planned. ;-) I carried
38 pounds in the pack (had settled on 21 pounds without food or water) and
had no problem with either the weight or the pack.  I also was using ski
poles for the first time - they were too short for me but otherwise seemed
worthwhile.  NOTE:  We both imagined the thoughts of those who passed us
with me carrying a 38 pound pack and him carrying about an 8 pound dayhike
get-up. We didn't attempt to explain! LOL  The Journey pack at 38 pounds
was easier to carry than my rucksack when I get it loaded over 20.

This hike was a lot of fun and it was very different to be hiking with
someone as I usually hike alone.  Being a middle-aged mom, it was great
just to spend time with my son - but as we hiked I realized my focus was
tied up with the two of us and what we were doing - that I was *noticing*
less of the nature than I usually do.  This is probably normal and
understandable when hiking with someone (plus, we were really focusing on
the gear).  Seemed to me it is probably a trade off either way.

I quickly realized he needed to let me lead as I couldn't help trying to
adjust to his pace if he was in front and it is very easy for me to exceed
my ability to maintain a pace.  He had no problem with that - although it
must have been tough to go as slowly as I do.  He assigned himself the task
of filtering water and keeping track of how much I drank.  We were using
his SafeWaterAnywhere bottle which worked great for him and his wife during
4 days on the AT - but we both got frustrated with it since I drink so much
- it was just too slow.  He recommended the inline filter and a hydration
system for my long term needs, and I decided to just use iodine for my
coming 3-day trip (since I was out of budget for now).

My total water usage for the 5 miles (approximate length of each day
planned for the 3-day hike) was 8 liters.  This was a concern since between
Hogpen gap and Low Gap Shelter there is no water and we could expect it to
take me at least as long to hike.  The entire 5 miles took me 6 hours with,
I'd guess, 12-15 stops for water and/or snacks.  I was using snacks I had
prepared for the 3 day trip and they worked well.  It would have been nice
to not have to stop and take off the pack to get water.

Overall I thought the *test hike* went really well and I was feeling
jubilant as we finished.  With a little more refining of what was in my
pack I felt ready to tackle section 13, 3 days later....


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