For those of you who like to get email updates, and are truly interested in our progress, I just wanted to remind you that we have actually migrated this blog over to our own domain. We are bow officially twohikingidiots.com, and have pretty much stopped posting here. We hope you all would like to continue to follow us, and will keep this blog around for a bit longer so that those who wish can know where to go to register. We look forward to seeing you all there!
The new site is ready.
Please visit us at www.twohikingidiots.com for all your future crazed hiking idiots updates.
If you have not done so, please resubscribe on the new site.
Thanks and happy hiking!
(Our Facebook page is unaffected and is posting normally)
Yes friends, the Idiots are soon to be on the move………….. to an all-new site that Steve is busily constructing as we speak.
This new page will be located at www.twohikingidiots.com
Steve is hard at work making the new page look as much like this current page as possible. Owning our domain for twohikingidiots will allow us much more freedom to create the site that we want versus if we chose to just stay here on WordPress.
In the coming days, you will see old posts being reposted on our FB page as Steve transfers the material over to the new site.
(The new site uses WP software so it will look virtually the same)
What we need all of you that have subscribed to the blog to do is…….. resubscribe again on the new website when you get a chance. (Please)
(Whistling theme from Jeopardy)
(Humming a selection of hits by the “Alan Parsons Project”)
Until the new site is complete, this blog will continue onward as usual and we will let you know when the new site is completed and ready for action.
Until then, continue to comment on THIS blog. (Please)
Thanks and have a great day!
When Steve and I undertake this hike, and then complete this hike, we are going to be going through quite startling physical transformations over the course of the 6-month hiking adventure.
We are both going to lose weight. A LOT of weight. Once we get into full hiking shape, on the trail, it will be impossible for us to eat enough daily calories to make up for what we are burning on a daily basis.
We are going to finish as lean, mean, walking machines…..easily in the best physical shapes of our lives from the past three decades or so.
We are also going to have a little more hair. Yes, even Steve….will have hair……….. 6 months of uncut, ungroomed hair! And beards! Six months of glorious hiking beards!
I have seen a trend in looking at photos of male hikers who have completed the trail.
Without fail, a male hiker will start the trail in Georgia, with no two hikers looking alike, and by the time they finish atop Mt. Katahdin in Maine, EVERY male hiker will look like the spitting image of 1980’s Singing Sensation Kenny Loggins.
At first, I thought…..COOL!! I go into this hike looking like Santa Claus’ twin brother and I come out the other end looking like 1980’s Kenny Loggins!
The wife was OK with this….
“You’re gonna look like Kenny Loggins from my High School days huh Idiot? I can live with that…”
Then, I realized that this phenomenon only applies to hikers under the age of 40.
My eyes feverishly looked through photos of “older” hikers, hoping that they would at least come out of the hike looking like…
Actor Sam Elliott.
Yeah! That’s the ticket! I go in looking like Santa Claus….and come out looking like Sam Elliott!
The wife hears me talking to myself and yells across the room… “I could live with Sam Elliott!! Of course YOU would have to move out….but Sam could stay!”
But, of course, this was not to be.
I looked closer at photographs of hikers atop Katahdin that would be in OUR age range by the time we finish the hike.
Without fail, every male hiker over the age of 40 who actually completes the trail, will be posing atop the sign on Mt. Katahdin and will be the spitting image of…
Someone quite different.
No Kenny Loggins for Steve or I….
No Sam Elliott for the wife.
Just call us “Uncle Jesse”…………
I have been part of many a crazy plan in my time. In recent months I have dubbed myself Steve Quixote, since I am always chasing “impossible” dreams and doing my best to fight evil windmills whenever I come across them. My success rate is not one that inspires Hollywood to make a movie out of my life, but it DOES tend to generate a fair amount of humor and convince most people I am completely off my rocker. Before I joined the idiot in this newest grand adventure, I created a Save the World Blog that has not exactly WOWed the masses. It may be too crazy an idea, or maybe I am just not the one to pull it off. That does not mean I won’t keep trying, but I am being realistic in my chances of going anywhere with it.
Yet this project, as extreme as it sounds, is not only totally doable, but based on the insane response we have received in just a week, definitely something people support. I was not sure how well the charity idea would take, yet within hours of us presenting it, we already had two people making pledges. Granted one was Mark, so that does not completely count, but I want to thank our first official pledge maker, for not only the support AND the pledge, but for the kind words she included when she made it. Not only did our blogging friend sweffling (stopping by woods) make the first pledge, but she also had this to say:
“WELL DONE. You are both truly an inspiration and just reading about your dream has given me strength for my own. Thank you.”
She pledged an amount per lb lost and per mile completed on the trail to her local Sheffield Animal Centre, and another flat amount to Global Mission Readiness (GMR) should we complete the whole hike.
No pressure there! 🙂
In one fell swoop, she put a whip to our back while at the same time showing us we have a chance of doing something good. Thank you!
Mark’s pledge was per lb lost by the time we hike, to go to GMR. Between the two of them we can almost but some coffee for a couple of the staff members at both charities at the moment. Of course we HAVE only been at it for a week! All in all I’d say that has been a pretty good start!
For those of you law abiding types who did not actually try to peak at our super secret plans, they have now been declassified and made available to the public. For those of you who could not resist DON’T LOOK AGAIN! It is imperative that you STAY AWAY!
I have a few comments in response to Mark’s rousing post today:
- We can bring a pet mongoose.
- We can bring a comfy toilet seat. The mongoose can carry it.
- With carrying the toilet seat and defeating hordes of snakes, the mongoose will probably be rather large and muscular, so …
- the mongoose will be able to help on difficult trails.
- as for the bug menace … maybe we can Teflon spray ourselves?
Joking aside, everything he pointed out has merit. What we are planning is not simple walk in the park, even for the fittest of people. It is easy to be loaded with doubts before we even start, based on other’s stories and recognitions of our own limits at the moment. Once again … are we crazy?
When I was younger, I used to go on ten to twelve day canoeing trips in the middle of nowhere. We carried everything we needed with us, and would possibly not see civilization for as much as three of four days at a time. Portions of the trips often involved whitewater. And sometimes, we also had to portage between bodies of water. For those not familiar with a portage, it means carrying everything overland to the next water source. One of the more notable portages was about 2.5 miles long, which was reached after about 8 miles of canoeing. On one of these trips, that bit of canoeing was against the wind. The portage was necessary, because the only area suitable for a large group to camp was on the other side. Now to clarify, the 2.5 miles is the length of the trail (which incidentally was not flat). That means, bring some stuff over, walk back, bring some more stuff over, etc. For the beefier of us (yours included) this meant at least four trips, with the heaviest stuff. My canoeing partner also happened to be a young girl, and our difference in size was such that the bow of the boat where she was sitting was mostly out of the water during our paddle. So 8 mile paddle in a fully loaded canoe against the wind. Ten miles of hiking, half of that carrying a minimum of 70 pounds. And THEN we had to set up camp.
Did this push my limits? Hell yeah. Did I question if I could do it or not? Most definitely. Did I wonder WHY I was doing it? Who wouldn’t? But the simple fact is, I (we) did it. How? Frankly because NOT doing it was no longer an option. If we wanted food and shelter; wanted a bit of rest and comfort, the only option was to continue forward. And the beautiful thing was, this was pretty much just the beginning of the trip.
It is scary how much of our limits are really based on our mind. If we don’t believe we can do something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Yet we will find that when we have no other choice; when the option is complete failure or just bullying on, that we have reserves that we just did not know were there. We will frankly amaze ourselves.
Not everyone has this strength no. Some would give up at the very thought of the tough road ahead. Or some my not even try the journey. But I know in my heart that this is neither Mark nor myself. We both have faced some dark periods in our lives; changes that affected our very ability to function. And we both bullied our way through. I would never have so heartily jumped aboard when Mark asked me to join him if I did not fully believe that together we can make this happen. Many people who have lived through what Mark has gone through would simply have settled for bitterness and a wheelchair. Not our Idiot. He fought the darkness; and not only became a shining beacon himself, but an inspiration for oh so many others. You are so strong on your own Mark, and you did not even have me on the side before. Maybe alone we could not do this, but together we will battle on through!
I still want to bring the mongoose though.
One of the books that I have read concerning the Appalachian Trail has really hit home for me. This book is “Appalachian trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail” by Zach Davis.
As its title suggests, this book deals more with the TRIALS of the trail versus being a play-by-play recap of the authors hike.
After reading this book, you realize that probably 75% or more of the ability to complete the trail is purely mental.
I have read multiple books that all state that you do NOT have to be in peak physical condition to attempt the trail. On the contrary, most authors agree that if you show up in decent shape, with the ability to walk about 10 miles per day while carrying 30-50 lbs on your back, you will do just fine. The trail has a remarkable way of turning EVERYONE into a seasoned, fit hiker within the first few weeks on the trail. Translation: you do not have to show up with the physical ability to hike 25-30 miles per day, every day of the week. Over time, the trail will give you that ability.
This book suggests that the Psychological stress of the trail is the main reason that most hikers quit long before finishing the trail. The trail is a Psychological Marathon of epic proportions that few are prepared for. The trail has a unique way to Psychologically attack any potential hikers long before they even step foot on the trail itself.
I can relate.
The trail has been attacking me with my fears ever since I came up with this crazy idea.
My brain is constantly churning…
“I can’t make it!………My feet and legs will never hold up for that long….”
“I don’t have the balance to be walking on small ledges or rocks with a drop-off that will kill you”
“My biggest phobia of my life is FEAR OF SNAKES…..and this trail is crawling with snakes!!”
“What if I get a blood clot out in the middle of nowhere?”
“It takes an act of God for me to just be able to put on my own shoes, here in my house, with furniture and chairs to use for support. How will I put my hiking shoes on inside a tiny little tent?”
“The guide books say there are sections of rock scrambling where you must leap from rock to rock….. how can I leap with two numb legs and a bad foot?”
“Good Lord! Ya mean I gotta POOP in the woods????!!!!!”
I am guilty of something that most all AT Hikers are guilty of. I have spent a lot of time online reading Journals of AT Hikers and have spent a good amount of time watching every AT-Related YOU TUBE video I can find. People who write journals and who take videos tend to focus in on the HARD aspects of the trail. There are few videos of people walking along straight and flat trail through the woods. Most videos highlight the hikers scrambling over boulders the size of small houses, crawling up rocks and hills so steep that they are literally on their hands and knees, sliding down hills so steep that they have to hold onto exposed tree roots to keep themselves from sliding out of control, huffing and puffing up a steep mountain which seemingly never ends, only to point out that they have 7 more such mountains before the next shelter in which they can stop to sleep for the night.
All the while, I am sitting there, mumbling………. “Good grief! I can’t do that!!”
I call the wife and kid in here to the computer, show them videos, and then they too chime in unison “You can’t do that!”
The trail is already speaking to me, whispering.
“YOU!…….ARE AN IDIOT FOR EVEN THINKING YOU CAN CONQUER ME!! I WILL CRUSH YOU LIKE A BUG!!”
Obviously, most of my Psychological fears arise from my physical issues and my lifelong fear of snakes.
Most hikers are fine physically and have little to no fear of our slithering little poison-filled friends.
How does the trail get to them?
Various ways, including:
Body Freezing cold in the southern mountains during the early stages of the hike. Hiking in snow just deep enough to where you cannot easily see the trail, allowing you to twist your ankles on hidden rocks and roots. Temps so cold at night that your hiking boots and water bottles all freeze solid. Hiking in cold rain or snow to where most of your clothing and belongings get wet, causing all of them to freeze during the night.
Endless days of constantly hiking up and down mountains with little respite or flat trail in between.
Hiking endless days and weeks in forest so thick that you cannot see any views, cannot tell which direction you are hiking, with every day seeming to be a carbon copy of every day of the past few weeks.
Hiking and sleeping in the same clothes for days on end. Wet, musty, disgusting clothes.
In later stages you get oppressive heat and humidity that sap your energy and make each day a constant struggle of trying to stumble from one water source to the next.
Bugs! Trillions of bugs! Everywhere! Buzzing around your head, your mouth, all day and night long. Spending half the night in your tent swatting the bugs that have found their way in. Realizing the bugs are only going to get worse as you head north.
Realizing you have only enough food left for one meal, yet you are 30 miles from the next point in which you can get food.
These are actual Physical and mental issues that all hikers encounter, but issues that your mind tells you “WILL NEVER END”.
“ALL DAYS ARE GOING TO BE LIKE THIS!!”
It is these days that the trail claims most of it’s victims, even though there will be many days ahead where you are dry, well nourished, have great scenery, feel great, and the bugs are at a minimum.
A hiker, in good physical shape, physically able to complete the whole trail, will just up and quit, sometimes only days or weeks into the hike.
They will be standing in the middle of the trail, in the midst of a huge forest with seemingly no end, will be soaking wet, shivering, freezing to death, starving because they did not ration their food properly, will be homesick, will have blistered and bloodied feet, will have sore ankles, knees, and joints, their back will ache from the crushing weight of their pack, they are lonely because they have not seen another human all day long, they are paranoid about all the strange noises they keep hearing deep in the forest, they realize that they have 6 more MONTHS of this torture, they come to the realization that no one is forcing them to do this crazy hike…
and they quit.
More than a few hikers have all echoed the same advice: “Never quit on a bad day“.
Virginia is relatively early in the length of the trail. More than a few books I have read all agree that nearly 50% of the hikers will quit before ever reaching Virginia. Most agree that Virginia and the early states are the EASIEST on the trail. The trail is claiming most of it’s victims BEFORE they even come close to the real challenging stretches of trail.
Most are done in by the Psychological tolls of the trail.
They THINK AND BELIEVE that they are always going to be wet and miserable, the trail is NEVER going to be flat, they are always going to be hungry, they are always going to be in pain, these bugs are never going to go away, they are sure to step on a rattlesnake at any point now, and this was easily the biggest mistake of their lives.
When Steve and I hit the trail, I’m going to make sure that each of us is Psychologically prepared for everything that the trail with throw at us.
In 2010, I did a Charity Trip to South America with a Firefighting Charity that a relative had started. There was an instance where we were all on a bus, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, on a road so-dangerous it is called “The Road of Death”, in which all of us were honestly in fear of our lives ending at any moment, when our leader Don just laughed and called out “It’s all part of the experience folks!!…It’s all part of the experience!”
I honestly feared I would die on that trip, but now I look back on it and laugh. He was right. It’s all part of the experience! I look back now and take pride in the fact that I survived the “Road of Death”.
That’s the way to approach the Appalachian Trail.
You just gotta realize that the trail is going to throw everything it has at you, trying like crazy to get you to quit.
No matter how miserable we may get, we just have to smile and yell up to the skies “That’s all you got?”.
“It’s all part of the experience!”
Years from now, Steve and I will be telling the fellow residents of the Nursing Home about how we were freezing to death, soaking wet, starved, crawling up mountains, jumping from rock to rock, dodging snakes, bears, moose, dealing with every flying insect imaginable, how we spent days running from toothless, knuckle-dragging crossbred hill people, and how we conquered it all.
It was all part of the experience.
Think about it. Who wants to sit and listen to a hiker who has completed the trail, with the hiker saying “Everything was a piece of cake, no problems at all, just a long walk in the woods…..(yawn)”
Heck, people want to hear the good stuff! They want to hear all the stuff you overcame in order to finish the trail.
It’s all part of the experience!
(Even pooping in the woods)
OK, so Steve has gotten REAL serious about getting in shape and losing weight, hiring personal trainers to yell at him and all………
I walked 4 miles yesterday and had planned on resting until like…..October……….so that my body could recuperate from the trauma of yesterday’s walk.
Then, Steve takes the gloves off, so I have to rethink my strategy..
So, this morning, in the blistering 62 degree Texas Heat, I headed back out the door, to walk 4 MORE miles!
There I was, about a half-mile from home, chugging along, face down, gray beard billowing behind me as I cut through the wind, “I can’t drive 55” by Sammy Hagar blasting on the Ipod……
Maintaining a ridiculously fast pace that no mortal human could possibly keep up with….
Until I suddenly caught a glimpse of a large shadow over my left shoulder.
I struggled to turn my head to the side. With the massive amount of G-Forces I was generating by walking so darn fast it was not easy to do……
And then I saw THEM.
Two gals, probably in their 70’s….
Pink hair, pink walking pants, pink water bottles, happily chatting away and laughing…
As they blew past me WALKING on the road.
I struggled to raise a tired arm to give them the “How ya doin?” wave….
and then they were gone…
Getting ever smaller as they walked ahead of me….laughing….joking…….with their pink hair blowing in the wind.
Translation: Death might be slow.
I am slower.
I chugged along for the remainder of that first mile. I reached the driveway that I know is exactly one mile from my front door and looked down at my watch.
Appropriately, “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen was now playing on the Ipod.
Walking this slow, that’s what I’m gonna be out on the trail….
All by Myself.
Steve will have plenty of time to blog about our exploits seeing as how he will be spending hours on rocks and tree stumps waiting for my slow butt to catch up.
This Idiot has been humbled.Hopefully, after 1090 days of training, I can at least KEEP UP WITH the pink-haired speed walkers in town.
But, on the bright side, that’s 8 miles walked in two days….
Though the trail will demand we walk that distance BEFORE LUNCH each day…