Days 3-8: Learning the Routine


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


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


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?


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


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


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.

‘Twas Meatless Monday Eve


‘Twas the night before Meatless Monday, when all through the farm,

not a creature was worried, about coming to harm.

The produce was stocked, in crisping drawers with care,

in the hopes that Low Cholesterol, soon would be there.

The children were hyped, all snug in their beds,

while visions of bean burritos, danc’d in their heads.

And Mama in her flannels, and I in my socks,

had just settled our brains, with some “film” from Redbox.

When out in the garden, there arose such a hoopla,

I sprang up to see who was breaking an HOA bylaw.

Away to the window, I stumbled, raising cane,

pulled open the blinds, and slid open the pane.

The streetlight showed a yard, that badly needed mowing,

illuminating toys, and weeds visibly growing.

When what to my adjusting eyes should I see,

but a miniature grocery cart, and eight little Tofurkies;

with a little ole’ driver, such a healthy fireball,

I knew in a moment, it must be Low Cholesterol.

Even without wings, his coursers they flew,

and he whistled and shouted and called those he knew,

“Now Parsley! Now Sage! Now Rosemary and Tyme!

On Garlic! On Onion! On Cumin and Key Lime!

To the top of the swing set, to the peak of this home,

now dash away, dash away, no time to roam!”

As dry leaves, before a leaf blower fly,

when they meet with an air blast, and flock to the sky,

so up to the house-top these coursers they flew,

with a grocery cart full of produce- and Low Cholesterol too!

And there in a moment, I heard on my roof,

the thumping of Tofurkies, clumsy and uncouth.

As I heaved myself up, then tried to spin around,

down the chimney Low Cholesterol came with a bound.

He was dressed like a farmer, from straw hat to boots,

and his clothes were all covered, with soil and young shoots.

A sack full of groceries, was flung over his shoulder,

and he looked like a hitchhiker, just arriving from Boulder.

His muscles- how they flexed! His skin- how healthy,

his cheeks were like a young man’s, his waist- trim and stealthy!

His fancy running shoes, that he kept tied with tight bows,

with the tread on the bottoms, showing he clearly seldom slows.

He had a happy face, and a flat spot, where I had a belly,

and it hardly shook, when he laughed, at MY bowl full of jelly.

He was hale, and strong, a right healthy looking elf,

and I laugh’d when I saw him, in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye, and a thumbs up he flashed,

soon gave me to know, the visit wasn’t trashed.

He didn’t say jack, just got down to his work,

and fill’d all the pantries, wearing a knowing smirk.

No beef was dropped off, no chicken was gifted,

no pork was involved, no fresh fish was lifted.

Instead fresh produce, and foods that were meatless,

he shared quality grub, helping overcome vegan weakness.

Then suddenly jumping, and signaling “hang loose,”

like a zephyr up the chimney, he practically shoots.

He sprang to his grocery cart, to his Tofurkies gave a shout,

and away they all sped, like in the 10 item or less checkout.

But I heard him exclaim, ere they flew fast as they may,

“Happy Meatless Monday to all, and to ALL a great day!”

Life is Good

My family was one of the first to throw money at the Life is Good company when it started pumping out t-shirts and bumper stickers in the mid to late 90s.  We wore their merch and repeated their slogan so often that we would almost forget how true the words are:

Life is good!

Unfortunately the company found out that Profits are Better when switching from high quality screen printing on high quality shirts to low quality crap patched together in China. We have pre-9-11 shirts that are in better condition than some that we bought during Obama’s second term. Despite this, I still find myself buying some of their stuff from time to time. I suppose I’m a delightful combination of optimistic and forgetful.

The “Powered by Optimism” bumper sticker pictured above was one such purchase. The message grabbed me to such an extent that I was moved to share it with the strangers on the angry, gridlocked highways that cut Orlando into pieces. Maybe I was amused by the image of me yelling myself hoarse and red out of the drivers side window of the vehicle with this message displayed proudly on the back.

In any case, after making the purchase, I prepared the perfect spot on the rear of the mini-van and applied the sticker. I admired it briefly and went inside for the night, knowing I’d be bragging to strangers about my extreme level of optimism after only one night of sleep.

The next morning, I found the new sticker had unstuck itself and was hanging on weakly by a corner. Most people would give up at this point realizing that the Life is Good merchandise wasn’t going to perform at the same level as a regular bumper sticker or even a Post-it. I am not most people. Remember the claims made by the sticker? An optimism guru would never give up so easily. Surely, reapplying the sticker would fix the problem that wasn’t fixed during the first application.

Nope. I tried several more times before the sticker couldn’t even muster the strength to hold on long enough to give me a moment of hope. Luckily, I am a realistic optimist. Given enough time I can usually see when I am whipped beyond all hope.

Waiting for the connection to health, exercise, running, plant based dieting, or living like a vegan? Too bad. I just wanted to share the story of the Powered by Optimism sticker that wouldn’t work, no matter how optimistic or persistent I was.

Oh, by the way, I’m down another four pounds in only three days and I’m feeling very good about this return to being a Veganaut.

Crushing Cravings

crushing-cravingsI will not lie to you, dear readers, I still crave meat, dairy, and eggs from time to time. It has been two and a half weeks, and I hardly ever think about the different foods I’ve removed from my life. Hardly, ever.

Smells can be overwhelming when they sneak up on a person. If I was to walk into a Circle K that had a Dunkin’ Donuts inside, I would have already braced myself for the wave of savory smells. I would have wrinkled my nose before pushing through the glass door, and reminded myself how much I detest sausage biscuits and their abominable cousin, bacon, egg, and cheese croissants.

An unexpected odor, by contrast, can be a sneaky salesman. A surprise office party filled with pizza can become a willpower torture chamber to someone still only a few weeks into a new vegan diet. A Pokemon Go gym next to a Sonny’s BBQ can become an unexpected reminder that meat is an addiction that takes time to overcome.

Again, my friends, these cravings don’t happen very often or with any great intensity.  During the first few days I’d say there was a gentle nagging but it quickly faded to an occasional pang.

My solution for these cravings is to stuff my ever loving face. I microwave potatoes in pairs and eat them at the same time, double-fisted. I indulge in a 1.5x Rip’s Big Bowl which is enough to slow down a hungry elephant. I eat all the insanely good food that Plant Based Diet Culinary Artisan, Shannon, makes as well as any leftovers in the fridge or on other people’s plates. For reasons I won’t bore you with, I suggest not trying the “other people’s plates” tip at vegan restaurants. They are very snobby about that kind of thing, and PLEASE LET ME COME BACK AGAIN, ETHOS!

It seems that stuffing your face with produce isn’t the same as stuffing your face with unhealthy food. While I will share my exact starting weight and progress numbers starting in the near future, I can currently share that in just under 20 days, I’ve dropped 14 pounds.

Can it be challenging for a vegan noob to eat a veggie burger while standing next to grill full of the old fashioned kind? You’re damn right it can be.

Can it be worth it? You’re damn right it can be.