Tag Archives: what I don’t know could hurt me

Skin care

Skin care is on my mind these days, because I just went to a dermatologist to get my yearly skin check, which I haven’t done for a while because my insurance was terrible.

The good news is that I got a clean bill of health.

The bad news is that once again I was reminded that I can’t really go out in the sun that much, because my skin is so fair and I have such a high risk for skin cancer. In addition, my skin is very sensitive so I have to worry about what kind of sunscreen I’m using.

I just picked up an Aveeno moisturizer that has sunscreen in it. But I’ve also been talking with the one of the ladies at the dermatologist about my skin care routine, trying to repair all the damage years of neglect and harsh treatments have caused it. On the one hand, these treatments and products seem like a good idea and like they’ll be good for me in the long run. But I wonder how in the world a person is supposed to stay clean and take care of their skin on the trail.

Obviously I’ll have to pack a massive amount of sunscreen and apply it regularly, which I’ve talked about before. But what about just washing my face? Is this trip going to undo any progress I make between now and then? I can’t imagine packing a multiple product skin care regime in my pack, so it’s something to think about.

But in the mean time, I still haven’t really gotten into the habit of walking every day. Sleep and my sleep schedule continue to be a problem, though I’m finally going to a doctor about that issue too, my blood tests are in a few days. So here’s hoping we figure it out and I can start dealing with that so I can start really training!

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Never mind the organic bug spray…

So last weekend I went back out into Prince William Forest Park for a shoot that I was working. Being out in the park was the reason I posted earlier about bug spray and wanting organic options if possible.

Two people on the crew found ticks on them after the first day (and one found more than one) so yeah, my commitment to not using DEET just went out the window. After doing a bit of research on ticks and how to check for them and remove them, the one thing I’m sure of is that I’d rather douse myself in bug spray than deal with Lyme disease.

I’ve been bitten by ticks before when I was a kid. I grew up near the A.T. after all. But when I was young I was also blissfully unaware of what could go wrong if you improperly remove a tick (leaving the head buried in you? UGH) and I was also able to just yell for my mom to take care of it.

Neither of these are options on the trail, and I’m also faced with the fact that if I’m traveling solo and find a tick on my back where I can’t reach (though how I’ll find it I don’t know) then I don’t know what I could do about it.

I guess this is the part where I’ll have to rely on reading accounts from more experienced hikers. But I do know that if Lyme disease stopped me from completing my thru-hike I would be so cranky…

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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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Injuries

I’ve already been thinking that I should redo my first aid certification before I go on my hike. Since I intend to be primarily solo on this trip (I’ll have people joining me for various legs, but no one partner for the entire route) I think it would be best if I can deal with my own bumps and bruises, at least until help arrives. That is, if it’s bad enough to need help. And I should also be knowledgeable enough to know if I need help.

All this became more evident last night, when I stubbed my toe. It is a completely run of the mill injury, the kind of thing I actually do kind of frequently. As I pointed out to my best friend, when you stub your toe the pain is always so severe and so immediate that you always think you’ve broken it clean in half. Until you look at it, you’re convinced it’s got to be mangled. And then you take your sock off and there’s NOTHING wrong with it and you feel like an idiot but it still hurts.

Anyway. This wasn’t any different, except the pain didn’t go away. I’ve never had a stubbed toe that still hurt the next day, or even that hurt too badly a few hours later. I usually just forget it even happened after a few hours. But in this instance, I woke up this morning and flexed my feet (not an uncommon thing for me in the morning) and *bam* the pain hit all over again. I’ve got a nice little bruise on top too.

Now, I’m almost certain I didn’t break my toe. But I ended up looking up information on Google because I didn’t even know how to tell if it was broken or sprained or what I should do in either case. Which just brings me back to my first point – first aid training. I really need to know these things so that if I do stub my toe or scratch my arm or anything like that, I take the proper steps right away. A thru-hike is going to be difficult for my body to endure if it was in perfect condition, which it never will be, and adding injuries to that isn’t going to help.

So I guess I have to add first aid certification onto my “to do very soon” list. And it’ll have to be a more comprehensive course than the last one I took, I think.

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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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