My time as a machine gun team leader in the USMC infantry carrying sixty to eighty pounds of weapons and gear over incredible distances, developed in me a very dangerous muscle memory. As my wife often points out, “Remember, you are very capable of hurting yourself.”
I have severe arthritis in my spine for which I take an immunosuppressant to block inflammation. As long as I stay on the medication I can walk unassisted and I am typically able to function fairly normally with periods of exacerbation that are moderately limiting usually only toward the end of a medication period. When I turned fifty, I decided that I would push myself to make sure I still have what it takes to be US Marine.
The Trial Hike
I packed a backpack full of forty-seven pounds of gear and supplies and headed out on a slow, but steady, thru-hike of the seventy-seven mile Foothills Trail. “Foothills” makes it sound easy, right? Wrong! There is actually a section of that trail called “Heartbreak Ridge.” To make a long story short, about one day into the hike my back started to flare up which had a domino effect of causing my pulse to race, which caused me to lack the extra cardio capacity to climb the hills, which caused me to overexert myself, which caused me to feel nauseated, which caused me to not eat, which meant I was low on energy without enough calories. I ended up breaking a cliff bar into 100 pieces and swallowing one little piece whole at a time. That is an example of how I had use brain rather than brawn to make it the distance.
So, if I told you that I intended to hike the entire 2200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, you would probably say that I am crazy. Before you judge me, keep reading to see what I learned on my FHT hike:
Just because I could easily carry a sixty to eighty pound pack in my 20’s means nothing now. I can’t carry any more than 35 pounds without causing my arthritis to flare. On the FHT I carried 47 pounds.
I am going to lose weight rapidly as I hike so I have to limit my hike to less than 100 miles. On the FHT I lost 15 pounds in 7 days.
I need to pack foods that help me fight nausea. On the FHT I packed foods that CAUSE nausea.
I need to start the hike the day after an injection and NOT a week after (like I did on the foothills trail).
I can’t hike more than 12 miles per day. On the FHT, I had days as high as 15 miles.
I am going to fully embrace those lessons learned and hike the Appalachian Trail at the rate of approximately 100 miles per year and finish when I am 73 years old. As I said it is the hike of a lifetime.
I am starting soon and I will blog when I get back. Here is how I am applying what I learned to my Appalachian Trail hike:
My total pack weight with 6 liters of water is 34.4 pounds!
My 2017 stretch of the AT is 86.1 miles.
I am bringing a variety of foods that will help with nausea.
Anthony Galluscio Pine Mountain RV Resort Camping Review
We were forced to evacuate the barrier islands where we live in Florida for hurricane Irma. We took my parents to a cottage in Callaway Gardens and we stayed in the camper for two nights at Pine Mountain RV Resort until Tropical Storm Irma arrived.
Campground: Pine Mountain RV Resort
Nights Camping: 2 (September 8 to 9, 2017)
Nearest City: Pine Mountain, GA
Space Number: 58
Cost per Night: $47
Likes: Clean, quiet, well maintained. Very friendly people.
Dislikes: Sewer hookup on neighboring spot is very close to the front of our camper. Also, I am concerned about the potential for sap from the pine trees.
Notes: Ask for a spot in the open area in the back when we stay there again.
Anthony Galluscio Crooked River State Park Camping Review
This review covers our camping trip to Crooked River State Park for our 25th wedding anniversary. Bobby and Kathleen were able be drive over from Gainesville and have dinner with us. Being August, it was very hot but we made the most of it and had fun. The kids made us this wonderful campsite marker for our anniversary:
Campground: Crooked River State Park
Nights Camping: 3 (August 16 to 19, 2017)
Nearest City: St. Marys, GA
Space Number: 45
Hookups: Water/Electric/No Sewer
Cost per Night: $32
Likes: Well maintained state park. Nicely laid out with very private spots, wide roads, and easy access. Very clean and quiet. Beautiful sunsets over the river. Staff is very friendly.
Dislikes: There are a lot of pine trees with tree sap so be careful.
Notes: This is right across the border from Florida. We went in August and it was HOT, but it was hot everywhere at that time.
This review covers our most recent camping trip to Vogel State Park.
Campground: Vogel State Park
Nights Camping: 5 (July 8 to 13, 2017)
Nearest City: Blairsville, GA
Space Number: 34
Hookups: Water/Electric/No Sewer
Cost per Night: $32
Likes: Our spot was very private and next to a babbling creek. There were very few bugs and infrequent rain. The temperatures were in the 70s and 80s during the day and down in the 60s at night. Very clean with campsites well maintained. Absolutely stunning scenery!
Dislikes: First-come-first-serve check in process is not really fair to out-of-state campers with no local knowledge. The dump stations are not very sanitary because there are constant puddles around the drains and the hoses are not elevated off the ground.
Notes: There is a big lake for canoeing and fishing. The hike around the lake is about one mile. There are many wonderful excursions accessible directly from Vogel State Park including the Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail, The Bear Hair Gap Trail, and the hike to the top of Blood Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. Within a short drive there is Helton Creek Falls. Blairsville, GA is a nice little town with places to eat. Bobby and Kathleen, Katie and Miguel, and Charlie all joined us for this vacation (Stevie was working). Kourtney, Tyler, and Ansleigh (our neice, nephew, and great neice) came to see us from Clemson one afternoon. We had a blast!
My son, Bobby, and I decided that we would take it upon ourselves to perform all the required maintenance on our 2015 Jayco Jay Flight 23RB Travel Trailer. We had difficulty finding a high-quality list of items to check so we surveyed the systems on the camper and developed our own list. It is my hope that we can help other camper owners finding themselves in a similar situation, and even add to this list next year based on comments and feedback received.
Here are some stats on our camper:
Years Owned: 2 years
Total Mileage: 4876 miles
Total Nights Camping: 79 Nights Camping
For the record, here is a list of all of the systems on which we performed preventative maintenance:
Configured backup assist
The backup assist on the F150 is useless. However, I really like the configurable blind spot detection
Removed Gear Rust
Used wire brush and Rustoleum rust reformer
Lubricated ball and sway connectors
Used standard grease.
Hoses, connectors, and tanks in good repair
Wiped down tanks, hoses, and fittings
Took tanks to ACE Hardware and had them “topped off” for $14.
Noticed some rust starting. That will need to be removed and painted next year.
Notices small holes and cracks starting in the seals. Will need to repair with Eternabond tape in the near future and definitely by next year.
Sealed all issues with DAP Clear. Also sealed down seam in front of camper. Used a full 10″ tube of DAP.
Some rust developing on stabilizers that will need to be dealt with in the future. Stabilizers will be difficult to disassemble. Considering replacing when these become unserviceable.
Sprayed liberally with silicone lubricant.
Painted rusted areas with Rustoleum Rust Reformer.
Sprayed hinges with silicone lubricant.
Followed recommended procedure to drain, sanitized, flush, and refill the fresh water system. I may write a separate blog detailing that process.
Poured iced in tank before pulling camper to campground. Used internal sprinker system until tank ran completely clear. Sanitized tank using standard process.
Wiped down all gear (hoses, fittings, storage box) with Clorox wipes
Hot Water (Gas)
Lit and ran hot water heater on gas
Cleaned using vacuum and compressed air
Lit and ran refrigerator on gas
Cleaned using vacuum and compressed air
Lit and ran stove on gas
Cleaned filter. Bobby disassembled the unit on the roof and we could find no other filters. Unit running well.
Sprayed with Simple Green to kill mildew
Some rust on screw heads, etc.
Sprayed liberally all joints and moving parts with silicone lubricant.
Inspected rubber, hubs, and suspension. No issues.
Dexter EZ-Lube hubs were easy to re-grease by following instructions on YouTube.
This review covers our most recent camping trip to Paynes Prairie.
Campground: Paynes Prairie
Nights Camping: 5
Nearest City: Gainesville, FL
Space Number: 46
Hookups: Water/Electric/No Sewer
Cost per Night: $23
Likes: Our spot was very secluded. We experienced virtually no bugs. Weather and temperature could not have been better. Lots of dogs for Sophie to meet. Very clean with campsites well maintained. Courteous campers. Weather was beautiful. Clear and cool.
Dislikes: Space 46 is difficult to back into. The water hose at the pump out station was not working so I could not run the internal black tank sprinkler. Also, the camp ground needs to arrange to have the recycling picked up more often.
Notes: Becca and I camped here in our Jayco Jay Flight 23RB travel trailer. We brought our Cairn Terrier, Sophie with us. Even though the spot was difficult to back into, I would choose it again due to the seclusion. The “kids” came down from Gainesville and we had a great time.
Human Impact: Heavy impact due to proximity to Gainesville, FL
Location: Paynes Prairie, FL
Start: La Chua Trail parking lot
End: La Chua Trail parking lot
Dates: April 9, 2017
Becca (my wife), Bobby (my eldest son), Katie (my daugher), Miguel (Katie’s boyfriend), Stevie (my 2nd son), and I hiked this very easy, but very interesting trail. The interesting part is that you can get VERY CLOSE to nature. The hike is an out-and-back that goes from the self-pay parking lot, out to an observation tower, and back. Parking costs $4.00 per vehicle on an honor system. Full disclosure on this hike is that you can get way closer to alligators than some people would feel comfortable. However, the wildlife on this hike is amazing. Here are some of the highlights:
Wild horses roam free and even walk on the trail with you. We saw several colts.
There were many many large alligators. One of the park rangers told us that there has been a recent rash of cannibalism. In fact, right before we arrived there one alligator had just killed another and was eating it as we watched. Note this is NOT like Bass Pro because there is no fence between you and the gators.
Here is a picture of Wild Horses and an alligator in the same picture!! If you increase the size of the picture you can see the alligator in the middle.
In the picture below you can see a lot of alligators basking in the sun on the bank.
We could see Bison off in the distance from the observation tower. We took this picture from our monocular.
On the hike out there was an armadillo on the trail. It did not seem at all afraid of us.
Likes: Nice and helpful staff. Clean. Courteous campers. Weather was beautiful. Clear and cool. No bugs.
Dislikes: Utility pedestal was on the wrong side so we had to use extensions. Also, this particular space was very narrow.
Notes: Becca and I camped here in our Jayco Jay Flight 23RB travel trailer. We brought our Cairn Terrier, Sophie with us. We hiked Scout Island and had a great time. I purchased a 50 ft 30 amp extension and a 50 ft hose extension from the Long Point store for $70. That was better than making the 1.5 hr round trip to Walmart on the mainland. Funny thing that my GPS showed Walmart as only three miles away, but you would have to swim to get there!
Notes: I embarked on my Foothills Trail adventure in early September. It was still quite warm in the Carolinas during the day so to avoid some of the heat my routine was to get up as early as 0430 and start hiking by 0500. Normally, I would start out hiking in the bottom of a valley I had camped in the night before. With all of the tree cover and no sun, the visibility in the early morning hours was horrible with real potential to lose track of the blazes and get lost. This head lamp was my first line of defense against getting lost. My second line of defense was my Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch, but I will save that for another post. My third line of defense was my satellite messaging device (http://www.anthonygalluscio.com/anthony-galluscio-satellite-communicator/).
As my first line of defense against getting lost, this headlamp worked really well. Between the spot light, flood light, and dimmer controls I was able to have the brightness I needed when I needed it to find those hard to see blazes. I used this light for a couple of hours every morning and replaced the batteries only once towards the end of the hike.
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable to wear, configurable, water resistant, and very bright.
Model: Quark 30F Down Sleeping Bag, Long Size, Cinder/Citronelle
Weight: 27.875 oz
Notes: I embarked on my Foothills Trail adventure in early September. It was still quite warm with the potential to get cool at night. This was the perfect bag for that trip because it is comfortable to sleep in or on depending on your needs. On my thru-hike, it turned out to be rather warm and I found sleeping on this bag to be very comfortable. The bag packs up very small and does not add too much pack weight.
Since returning from the foothills trail I have had the opportunity to use this sleeping bag on a winter trip in the Florida Panhandle. You can see my blog from that trip at: http://www.anthonygalluscio.com/florida-trail-aucilla-river-hike/. On that hike it was rather cool at night (in the 40s F) and I was very comfortable.
Pros: Comfortable in warm or cool weather, light weight, very well constructed, packs up small.
Cons: May not really keep you warm under 40 degrees F.