Tag Archives: hiking

Fourth of July trip

For the Fourth of July, my husband decided that he wanted to go see the fireworks at a lake near us. To get there involved going through some of the biking and walking trails that are really nice around here, so I said that sounded like fun. He told me it was a mile and a half, which was definitely more than I’m used to, but around what I was doing last time I started exercising from nowhere so I thought no big deal.

But what I didn’t think about was that the last time I had done that, I was walking around a track at a stadium. This wasn’t a lot of nice paved walking trails like I expected, but about halfway through we walked off the paved trails and onto gravel. Then the gravel gave way to mud, and the mud eventually became a very twisty, rocky path up a hill and through a heavily wooded area.

Now, this means that this walk was actually perfect because it had a LOT of what I’ll encounter on the trail. But it also meant I was not prepared. Even now, almost a week later, I’ve got aches and pains. My calves were especially sore, so I know that’s an area that will need special attention.

To get home, we ended up walking to a friend’s car but the event was so popular she parked about a mile away, so it wasn’t that much better. But it was more well lit and more well traveled than the way we came in, which I wouldn’t want to do after dark with the flashlights we had.

The fireworks were quite nice though.

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Stairs: bane of my existence

Obviously, this blog has become a chronicle of all the things I’m worried about when it comes to this hike. I should be making a list on a page so that I can cross things off when I figure out how to deal.

But anyway, one of my main problems in every day life is stairs. Even when I’ve been exercising regularly and taking care of myself, stairs still kill me. I have no idea why. I could walk a mile with no ill effects and a short flight of stairs will just take the wind out of me.

So I worry sometimes about the hiking. Will it be like the stairs? Or will it be like the walking? The only way to know is to just start hiking in rougher terrain, but I don’t want to overexert myself too quickly either. I do know that stairs are the worst thing in the world for my bad knee (it pops on every step up, which makes it ache for hours if I go up too many). Steep hills can set it off the same way, so I feel like I should fix my knee before I keep going too far on this plan.

Part of my thought is to just build up the muscle around my knee by walking more. Which I haven’t exactly been doing. I did walk quite a bit over the weekend for various reasons. But anyway, the idea is to take it easy in general and build up the knee to work a bit better. I don’t actually know if that’s sound reasoning medically, but it seems to make sense.

Not to get a dang raincoat and start walking even on rainy days like today.

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Bugs

I need bug spray.

Not actually in an immediate sense, I have two bottles of bug spray that I bought a while back.

The problem is that in general, I don’t like most bug sprays because they contain such harsh chemicals and I don’t like using harsh chemicals when I can help it. But especially because I don’t like putting anything like that on my face, my skin has enough problems.

But I also have spent a few days outside over the last week and the bugs have been a problem (especially gnats, I HATE gnats). I’d rather find an organic/natural bug repellent and I tried one last weekend that seemed okay but it was in a wax stick form and I’d prefer a spray because it’s so much faster to get full coverage and you can spray it on your clothes too.

I’m also pretty sure that on the trail, I’ll need something pretty heavy duty. Other than things flying in my face, there’s also the very real threat of deer ticks/Lyme disease and mosquitos/West Nile. Plus I keep hearing about the black flies in Maine if I hike Southbound.

So I’m wondering if I have to go with something with DEET in it, or if I can find something that is natural that will do the trick, and also a spray.

Things to research.

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Research and Reading

Yesterday I went to the library to grab a couple books that might help me at least figure out what I don’t know about what I’m doing here.

Mostly I want somebody to explain to me what kind of shoes I need.

But anyway, I browsed the selection at the library to see what they had and picked up two beginning manuals. I’ve only just started to skim them, and I’ll have a more full review later.

The Backpacker’s Handbook by Hugh McManners

I’m not particularly thrilled with this book, even though I love how it’s mostly illustrated and has a lot of great pictures and charts. I’m very much a visual person, having a page of pictures full of recommended shoes and backpacks will work much better for me than a list.

But the book itself is very focused on traveling to backpack/hike. Quite a lot of it is focused on the perils of international travel and how to deal with problems in unfamiliar environments. Which would be very useful if that was my plan. However I picked the Appalachian Trail for a lot of reasons, one of which being that I grew up in a town that’s actually on the trail. Most of my practice hikes will actually be on the trail itself too. The most difficult part of my travel plans for the final thru-hike is going to be booking a plane ticket to either Georgia or Maine, depending on which way I decide to go.

One thing I really like though is that he has graphics for first aid kits, repair kits, and other packs I’ll want to make. That’s a huge help, because I definitely don’t want to purchase a pre-made kit. First because I already own half the stuff on this list. Second because I really think that a kit like that should be perfectly tailored to the person and the hike.

Hiking by Jacques Marais

My first impression of this book was much higher. The text is very easy to read, and very conversational. While they do touch on the idea of traveling away from home to hike, they concentrate much more on just getting you through the basics. This book is also very visual, though the graphics aren’t as detailed and broken down as The Backpacker’s Handbook.

Even just from reading less than an hour, I’ve already picked up a lot of things to think about and had a lot of those “I had no idea!” moments. Granted, a lot of this information is probably also in the other book, but it’s because the text is so easy to read and so much more focused on what I’m doing that I’ve gotten much more into this one and faster. I’ve already figured out that I need to be walking with a pack on, even with my one mile walks that I’ve been doing. I hadn’t even thought about that, and it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me.

They also mention using a hiking club or group to help you get started. I don’t think I’ll be ready for that yet, since I’m not really doing much more than walking. But it is going to be something I’ll be looking for in the near future. If you know of a hiking group in the Northern Virginia area, please let me know about it, I’m very interested!

Like I said before, the point of the books was to start really getting down to business about what I do and don’t already know, and making a more concrete plan of what I need to learn before I go out, and what order to learn it in. Both books have pretty decent ideas for how to get in shape for a hike, but they both are focused on shorter hikes (a few weeks tops) and not something like a thru-hike. They have plans for getting in shape over three months or so, and I’m taking longer because I’m just that out of shape that I think my baseline needs to be brought up before I can focus on their ideas.

But it’s a good start, I’m glad I picked these up. And I was very happy to see the great selection at the library. Fairfax County Libraries are so great, it’s one of my favorite things about living here.

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