Words of Wisdom
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.
- I am starting the day after my injection.
- My longest day is 12 miles.
Please stay tuned!! More to come!