Days 3-8: Learning the Routine

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Virtual Appalachian Trail through-hike recap: Day 3 through 8, 19.9 miles

It is a beautiful, foggy Sunday morning here on the A.T. and I am getting ready for the day. I have a steaming hot cup of coffee, which is no easy feat on the trail. While I sip the strong java and drink in my surroundings I’m able to look back on the last week with a bit more clarity, as the fog dissipates.

Monday and Tuesday were 5K days. This may be short of my daily goals but it’s still a lot of distance compared to the more sedentary habits I’m trying to break. I passed by the Stover Creek Shelter on Monday and ended up camping very close to Three Forks at the trail’s 4.3-mile mark. Tuesday ended at the trail’s 7.6-mile mark, which was just shy of the Hawk Mountain Shelter.

Wednesday was a comedy of errors, but since this is no laughing matter I’ll tell you in a monotone voice that my FitBit registered 1,123 steps. For me, this is half of a mile. On a real hike, this day would have been the equivalent of a storm day. I made it about a quarter mile beyond the Hawk Mountain Shelter before pitching a tent and sleeping the day away.

Thursday was a 4.7-mile day. I hiked down through Hightower Gap and Cooper Gap before pitching a tent and passing out. Friday’s hike was less than my self-imposed minimum distance. It ended up being 3.7 miles. I got to see the Gooch Gap shelter and then a mile and a half farther down the trail I made camp near Gooch Gap itself.

Saturday was a busy 4.6-mile day. In real life, I was walking around an anime and gaming convention called Holiday Matsuri but in my mind I was hiking north through the scenic Woody Gap area. There are a ton of day-hikers that can drive to this section of the trail which made it more crowded than it had been. Honestly, it was a little odd seeing so many day-hikers dressed as Sailor Moon and Deadpool.

I walked almost 20 miles in 6 days. This is a pitiful distance when attempting to through-hike the trail. However, considering that most people quit in the first week I’m hopeful that my slow-and-steady method at the beginning of this journey will help build the foundation it takes to finish the whole trail. I am determined to make it to Maine.

I take my pretend adventures very seriously.

AT miles traveled: 21.1

AT miles remaining: 2,168.9


Day 2: Finally on the Trail

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Virtual Appalachian Trail through-hike recap: Day 2, 5.5 miles

It was busy yesterday on my pretend walk! After breaking camp and hitting the trail, I soon passed Nimblewill Gap and a road called USFS 28, or FS46, or Nimblewill Gap Road depending on who you ask.

About a mile and a half later I hiked past Black Gap Shelter. I generally avoid sleeping in trail shelters because the concentration of people… and food… and people who don’t know how to handle food… attracts all the critters in the mountains from mice to bears and everything in between. Also, there is a very high concentration of people who don’t know how to dig a proper poop hole. Even though I was 500 miles away, I could practically smell the place which helped motivate me to pick up my pace.

A mere mile and a half later, I made it. The plaque and blaze that marks the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail was a welcome sight. It marked the beginning of my real journey: 2,190 miles of hiking and wilderness to Mt. Katahdin, Maine.

With a spring in my step, I headed north. Before long I passed the Springer Mountain Shelter, and with a quick glance and held breath, decided I’d walk a bit more before making camp for the night. Next, I plodded past Springer Gap and another forestry road (FS42). The plodding, I realized, meant it was time to make camp.

On day 2, a whopping 1.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail was hiked before I set my tent and loosened my laces for the evening. In the end, it was a 12K step day which equals 5.5 miles of real neighborhood walking. Plant-based chili and rice made a welcome meal after the long day. I ate the food and considered how much longer and harder the days would need to become to complete the trail in a reasonable time. I vowed to get there as this daily conditioning made it more and more possible.

I may not give daily updates here on the ‘ole blog, but that doesn’t mean I’m not making daily progress. I will check in at least several times a week with updates and scenery reports. For now, I need to pull on two pairs of socks, some heavy boots, and head a little farther north. Until next time…

Happy steps!

AT miles traveled: 1.2

AT miles remaining: 2,188.8


Day 1: Springer Mountain Approach

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Virtual Appalachian Trail Through-hike recap: Day 1, 4.6 miles

Pictured above is one of the amazing views I would have seen yesterday, during the first day of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Instead, since this is an A.T. through-hike simulation, I saw the flora and fauna that is indigenous to the Orlando area while I walked around my neighborhood. I may have been seeing ducks, palm trees, and dog poop while I walked, but I was sensing the cool mountain air, crisp evergreen trees, and this particular waterfall.

Yesterday I clocked 4.6 miles, just a little bit over my 10,000 step minimum. Since the approach trail leading to the top of Springer Mountain is an 8.8-mile hike, I made camp last night about halfway to the actual beginning of the Appalachian Trail.

At this rate, I’ll be done in 476 days. That’s a year and four months. Since the slow through-hikers generally finish this expedition in less than half that time, it is clear that I will need to walk a lot more. I may need to increase to a daily 20K or 25K step minimum before it’s over but during these first legs of the journey, I want to give myself time to warm up to this new level of activity. For now, I’m happy to just be on the trail and headed to Maine.

This morning, I woke to a gentle pitter-patter on the tent’s rain fly and was instantly glad I put it on last night. While I might not normally leave my warm and comfortable bed on wet mornings like this, I realize that I can’t live by the side of this trail on the side of a mountain forever. In a moment, I will need to break camp and head north again.

I hope to be at the peak of Springer Mountain by later this afternoon and finally on the A.T. itself. If you’d like to follow along, you can use this trail map that shows the 76-miles of the trail that pass through Georgia. I am down at the “bottom” and working my way “up.”

Happy steps!

Miles traveled: (-4.2)

Miles remaining: 2,194.2

 


Virtual A.T. Through-hike Eve

southern-terminous-walking-AT-springer-mountainCheers Veganauts! This is a brief introductory post to kick off my virtual Appalachian Trail through-hike. There will be plenty of time in the weeks and months ahead to describe the scope, purpose, and reality of this 2,190-mile journey. For now, let me simply describe what I am doing.

I’m walking… a lot.

While I may be living and working in central Florida, my heart and mind will be through-hiking from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Consider it an A.T. hiking simulation where I use my Fitbit to log the distance and my keyboard to tell you all about it. It could take from six-months to a year for me to walk the length of the Eastern Seaboard and while my job is very flexible, I think this simulated version will allow me to get the through-hike experience without putting the rest of my life on hold.

Today was my last day of preparations before the hike begins. I woke up this morning and packed all of my imaginary gear in my expensive backpack from REI. Then I loaded it in my imaginary hunter green Tesla model X and headed north to Dawsonville, GA. Let’s make one thing clear- when I plan imaginary expeditions, money is no object.

Once in Dawsonville, my hyper-intelligent car dropped me off at Amicalola State Park, where I checked in, found the campsite, and pitched my bright yellow tent. After a dinner of beans and rice, I sat with my back against a tree and watched the sun dip below the dusky blue mountains for the first of many evenings on this adventure.

Now that I’m curled up on my sleeping bag here in the dark I’m finding it very hard to sleep. Tomorrow morning I will wake up and start the 8.8-mile side trail that leads to Springer Mountain where the A.T. officially begins. Ironically, the night before an adventure is seldom a good time to rest.

Who knows what the next six to twelve months will bring? All I know for sure is that I’m excited to have someone to share this experience with. I’ll be telling you all about the journeys, both real and simulated. The conversation will probably focus on exercise but could meander from point to point like the 2190-mile trail itself.

Happy steps!

Miles traveled: (-8.8)

Miles remaining: 2,198.8


Oh, a Month Passed?

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Many former vegans may be reluctant to come back to the cool kids club because they’ve been away for so long that they forgot that this lifestyle is the path of least resistance. They’ve been eating their fried chicken and drinking their blue cheese dressing for so long, that they forgot veganism is the epitome of simple, clean, and easy.

Well let me share with you, brothers and sisters… whether you are a sinner, steak-eater, or lifelong Level 11 Vegan High Priest or Priestess… it is shockingly easy to return to a vegan diet, even after a long and shameful hiatus fueled by heavy cream and brisket.

From my experience, I found the first day or three back on the wagon to be bothersome at worst. From that point forward it was like being reintroduced to old friends I hadn’t heard from in years. For instance, I’d completely forgotten that Billy Tofu and Larissa Sweet Potato and I used to get in so much trouble in Mr. McGreggor’s organic chemistry class that we almost had to take summer school to graduate!

My triumphant return to veganism occurred five weeks ago. I didn’t even notice the one month anniversary go by, which really kind of makes my point. Weeks flew by without me really noticing and I felt better and better each day. I’m MUCH healthier today than I was when I restarted five weeks ago. Plus, I see no reason to stop. I can continue to eat well, get better, and move more for years to come. It isn’t a fad or a cleanse or a quick fix. It is a healthy lifestyle that can be maintained for life.

Having lived a simple, vegan lifestyle for months or years means that the pattern of behavior is already hardwired into your brain. The former vegans seem to have it even easier than the first timers. If you took a wrong turn down Spare Ribs Avenue for a year or ten after a successful stint as a vegan or plant based dieter, don’t be afraid to come back. Set your GPS to take you to a Whole Foods or a Bikram Yoga studio, and after making a few turns you’ll soon recognize exactly where you are…And that’s a really good feeling.

 


Haddie Ann

Haddie

A lot of life happened in the roughly two years I wasn’t blogging. During that time, we lost and gained members of our “people family” and we lost and gained members of our “fur family.” Time has a way marching on, but not always in a steady, measured fashion.

In today’s quick post, I wanted to welcome Haddie Ann to our family and introduce her to the Veganaut community. She is 4 or 5 months old and is cobbled together from a random assortment of varied breeds. We rescued her from a “kill shelter” which might be the most horrific oxymoron there is. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it is it pass by the remaining dogs with the one you are saving. I can’t begin to tell you because I didn’t have the heart to go. Instead, the rest of the family went while I waited at home and continued to imagine that all the dogs who don’t get adopted end up going to live on a puppy farm in Vermont.

It is the third day she has been at home with us and despite the 12 poops and the 439 piddles, she seems to be getting the hang of life as a family dog. The cats don’t seem to mind, although Mrs. Murder Claws did chase her around the yard and into corner while explaining the established pecking order. From what I’ve learned, she gives great puppy kisses and she sleeps through the night. You can’t ask for much more at this stage of the game.

In the months and years to come, I look forward to telling you all about Haddie Ann and her many adventures. Future posts might include:

“Haddie Ann and the Farmer’s Market Fiasco”

“The Red Ants vs. Haddie Ann”

“Haddie Digs a NEW Garden for Us”

“Haddie Ann and the Mailman’s Stones” and

“Haddie Ann: the Dog Who Knew Too Much.”

 


Support for MM Veganauts

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I hope you caught my post titled ‘Twas the Night Before Meatless Monday yesterday. If not, feel free to follow the link before or after I profess my love for M.M. in today’s short post.

Exploring the world of veganism takes guts. Trying to adopt a healthier, more environmentally conscious, and compassionate lifestyle is a noble and sometimes daunting task. Some people rip the bandage off in a quick yank, while others pull gently over time to remove it. For those who need a more gradual entry into a herbivore lifestyle, Meatless Monday is a great place to start.

If you are new to the scene, MM is a weekly celebration of vegetarianism. While dairy isn’t strictly forbidden, I encourage Veganauts to use the day as a way to try out the easy and delicious vegan diet options.

With each Monday being a celebration of meatless living, each Sunday night is another Meatless Monday Eve. This carries with it all of the fun, family, and fellowship that comes with other “Eve” celebrations, like the New Year’s version, the Christmas version, and the Tax Day version. For this reason, there obviously needs to be a few songs and traditions to help tell the story of this weekly epic holiday. I’m happy to share this classic in the making, ‘Twas the Night Before Meatless Monday.