The Dawn Wall

Have you ever come to that point in your life where you felt like everything you worked for and thought it was going to be came to screeching stop?  Where you just thought to yourself “I just don’t know that I can go any further”?  I’m confident we have all had these moments.  Some of them have in small doses.  Some of them have in huge life altering events.  Regardless of the size of these moments, at the time they are happening they seem insurmountable.  The fact that we are all here reading this at this very moment is proof that they are not.  Somehow our inner tenacity pushed through and knocked down that Bully inside us who convinced life was over.

I watched a really cool documentary the other week about Tommy Caldwell a world-famous climber who hit rock bottom (pun intended) and then decided to make arguably the most difficult free climb in the world.  The Dawn Wall of El Capitan.  He did this after being held hostage by terrorist, cutting off a finger by accident with a table saw, and losing the love of his life.  Some people said he got obsessed with it.  Others just said that he had lost his mind.  What I found interesting about him is how he approached it.

He saw that there had to be a way.  No matter how small, there just had to be and he would find it.  He would do this for himself and then later for his friend climbing with him.  He spent months hanging on the wall looking for a route.  Planning what each stage would be.  How each hold could be done.  Then, when it became time to start, the climb was so challenging there was a section of it he STILL didn’t know how he was going to cross.  It wasn’t until the moment came to cross this broken area that he paused, rethought his original plan. Instead of moving up the wall like he anticipated he climbed down the wall and around the gap on the other side.  He set out with one idea and the wall changed him.  He took what he was given and didn’t allow what was behind him to hold him back.  He allowed himself to change because of what was in front of him.

Now I am doing a lousy job surmising this incredible documentary.  Why am I rambling about all of this and what could it possibly have to do with hiking or getting fit?  Our minds drive us to do things to our bodies.  Good and bad.  If we can’t see the future based on what we have right in front of us, how can we ever shape our bodies to be prepared for that life?  I believe that physical and mental health are intertwined.  I know that when I’m feeling good about myself, I work out harder, I drink less, and I make healthier food decisions.  When I’m feeling lousy, oh boy!! That growler and pizza better look out because I’m gonna put a hurt on them!! I don’t think I’m alone in this.  Watching Tommy Caldwell climb that wall reminded me that an open mind and optimism about what is right in front of us can make us better people.   Something to think about on our next walk in the woods.

See ya all on the trail

The Mighty Boot – Part 2

I started doing a lot of reading about footwear, and socks, and something amazing I don’t know how I hadn’t heard of before called sock liners.  They are gods gift to hiking OMG.  What learned pretty quickly from seasoned AT hikers is that boots like the ones I had are old school and don’t really cut it any more.  They are too heavy.  They don’t breathe well enough so your feet get funky and they are too rigid causing a lot of foot problems like the ones I have already discussed.  Its all about the new hiking shoe boot hybrid thing and everyone has an opinion about them.  It was time for REI.

What a wall of boots.  I was not prepared for this.  Good thing the guy working the section seemed to know what he was talking about.  After some new measuring of the feet and discussions on how different brands run narrow or small I went in on a pair of Oboz Bridger’s.  OMG they give amazing comfort.  They fit like a sneaker but support like a boot.  The tread is ridiculous.  All in $138 well spent on something that I think will save my feet.

Additionally I bought a pair of sock liners.  I’ve learned that cotton socks and hiking don’t go together.  Cotton doesn’t handle well when it gets wet.  The sock liners and my good old fashioned woolies seem to be fitting the bill.

First official piece of gear in the bag!!

The Mighty Boot – Part 1

Alright, so this all may seem a little geeky but the gear I’ll be using on these trips is a big deal and figuring out the right stuff for the right season at the right weight can be overwhelming.  Its part of the hiking culture now and the more I’m learning the more I’m finding its really important to know some stuff about all of this.  I’m going to dedicate some time and space to the gear I’m learning about and why I’m deciding to use them.

The first and most important piece of gear for this whole endeavor is the covering on my feet.  Since I started hiking the wear and tear on my feet has been, at times, literal.  Blisters, soars, calluses that get rock hard.  Nasty stuff.

When I started, hiking three miles at a time was a big deal.  I went through several sneakers and old boots and none of them stayed dry or felt good after that long time.  Then I found my Wolverines.  I loved these boots.  I wore them for almost 900 miles of trail and the protected me when I went to Haiti in 2017.  These boots were dry, steel toed, and were super comfortable on my feet.

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Then the blowout happened.  I remember the day well.  It was very hot and the grass was wet from a morning rain that made it sticky.  I’m hiking the Camp Woods and Armentrout Preserve trails and suddenly my foot feels wet.  I looked down and a seem had busted open on the side of my right boot.  I was devastated.  These boots were a part of me.

I then started trying to find them again.  I couldn’t find the EXACT boot.  Every version I saw had something different about them I didn’t like.  Ok.  Time for something new.  These were Herman Survivors.  $65.  There were sturdy, water repellent, and I liked the lacing system.

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What I didn’t realize is that they would wear like cinder blocks on my feet.  They were soooooooo heavy.  They are so rigid I took to wearing two pairs of heavy socks because they wouldn’t close up around my feet so I went into blister hell.  Then, as my mileage increased, they just got worse and worse.  By the time I hit 7 miles at a time my feet couldn’t bear them anymore.  It was time to buy something more suited for the journey ahead of me.

To be continued…

The Struggle is Real

I broke down and stepped on the scale.  Horror.  Disbelief.  Worse than I wanted to believe that it could be.  So much further to go than anticipated.  This struggle is real.

Life is difficult.  Life has very difficult lately.  I have always used food for comfort and a crutch.  Recently, it hasn’t been the food so much as the booze.  Beer in particular.  I love it and I always have.  Since I turned 40 it sticks to me like cling wrap when I’m trying to cover a bowl.  I hate this feeling of failure.  This feeling that I have taken 10 steps back knowing that most of them have come in the last 9 months.

Everyone deals with stress differently.  For whatever reason our bodies drive us to do things we wouldn’t normally do whenever we are feeling depressed or anxious or however it is that’s got us down.  I try hard to preach to myself to not get too up or too down but I’ve never been wired like that.  I’ve always been the emotional super dooper looper.  Meditation has helped to even that out a bit but still, at the end of the day, old habits are very difficult to break.  New mindsets are demanding and need relentless care and perseverance.

I debated about whether or not I should write about today.  I thought to myself “People are supporting this amazing adventure and why be such a downer? No one wants to hear you bitch about feeling bad.” This is reality though.  This is the struggle day in and day where we fight healthy vs destructive behaviors.  I know my short falls.  I know my losses and how they’ve impacted me.  I also know that I need to push through it or I will never be better than this.  I have one ask of everyone who reads this.  The next time someone you know is struggling just tell them you love them.  Those words will go further than you know and remind them that they are more than they think they are at this very moment.

Laying the Groundwork

I decided I needed to start checking in on some real-life resources to figure out what I’m going to need to do to accomplish this.  I did a quick Amazon search and found a few books, but not a ton.  Most have been written by thru hikers and few are fictional.  There are quite a few books on hiking in general but I was two jumped to the top of the list for me. Big Bob Olson’s book “Hiking the Appalachian Trail- One Section At A Time” and “How to Hike the Appalachian Trail” by Chris Cage.  I have included links to their books on Amazon below.

The first one is a quick and interesting read (only 60 pages).  Chris’s book is much longer and he thru hiked the trail at a pretty young age.  I downloaded it on Audible and listened to it driving to Indiana, PA for work.  REALLY insightful and told me a lot about the real experience of the Trail.  He also had a lot of good info about the gear and what he would change next time.  Its already influenced what I’m doing right now from a training perspective.

If anyone comes across any other suggested readings, I’d like to hear about them.  I feel like I can’t know enough about this before I go.

Bob Olson suggested getting the “AT Northbound Guide” by Dave “AWOL” Miller.  I picked that up.  It is like a Rand McNally book of the trail.  The detail is insane and will serve as my guide in my section planning and my survival map on the trail.

Then there is the movie.  Walk in the Woods.  I don’t know what to say about this film.  It had great shots of the trail and gave a good view of some of the areas I’ll be seeing.  The story? Meh. Nick Nolte and Robert Redford walking the trail to give meaning to their lives?  Left a lot to be desired for me.  Any other suggestions for great outdoor movies?  I’d love to hear about them!!

Resources

Hiking the Appalachian Trail – One Section at a Time: A Plan for Section-Hiking the AT, Without Giving Up Your Day Job
by Amazon.com
Learn more: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1986435741/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_APe3DbSB628TG

How to Hike the Appalachian Trail: A Comprehensive Guide to Plan and Prepare for a Successful Thru-Hike
by Amazon.com
Learn more: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/152030062X/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_eRe3DbJJQE2PC

I want to recommend this product at Amazon.com

The A.T. Guide Northbound 2019 Bound
by AntiGravityGear, LLC
Learn more: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07N1S46PJ/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_PRe3Db9HK6KZZ