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Conclusion drawn: I'm entirely too fat and out of shape for this!

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    • Conclusion drawn: I'm entirely too fat and out of shape for this!

      Hey, kids!

      So, the 54 miler from Front Royal to Harpers Ferry...yeah.

      Didn't turn out quite like I planned. I may go into detail later if I feel like it, but for now suffice it to say that while it's a relatively easy section for those who hike semi-regularly and/or are in decent shape, for a fat, out of shape pack sniffer it's not all that easy. So lesson 1 was that I am in even worse shape than I gave myself credit for, which is saying something. Lesson 2 was that a loose plan for each day may be a good thing when you know the terrain and don't have a deadline and are in good enough shape to average 10+ miles per day, but when you have only a squiggly line in the guidebook and you're in horrible shape, a firmer plan that doesn't require as many miles is a good idea.

      I left NC late enough on Saturday that I decided to stay overnight at Teahorse Hostel, catch a shuttle to Front Royal Sunday and begin the hike. I called Laurel at the hostel Saturday before leaving and arranged all that. Saturday night there were six hikers at the hostel when I arrived. I forget what was up with two of them; they were gone when I arrived and went straight to bed after returning. The other 4 were SOBO thrus. Took (presumption on spelling, but that's what it sounded like and I never did ask how it came about), Faith, Torch, and Knees (or something involving "Knee", but they just called her Knees.). Four youngsters, all very cool.

      Got up the next morning and had the Teahorse waffle breakfast, then Laurel and I got on the road. I was on the trail by 8:30. Huffed and puffed my way to Manassas Gap Shelter with a lot of breaks, including around an hour at lunch time.

      Monday, for a variety of reasons, I decided to bail. Yep, I punked out. Called a shuttle out of the AWOL guide and it turned out that even though the guide lists her as Front Royal, she's a VERY short walk from Manassas Gap shelter, down an old fire road to a hardball road, and a shorter walk to her house. Caught a ride back to my car in HF, with thoughts toward maybe driving down to Shenandoah NP and spending a coupld days hiking there, either on the AT or other trails.

      Got to the car and beat a hasty retreat from Teahorse (getting away from another hiker who had been at MG shelter and caught the shuttle with me--long story). Went to Canal House for lunch. If you haven't eaten there, I highly recommend it next time you find yourself in HF.

      During lunch I got pissed off at myself for letting the trail punk me. So I drove back to where the fire road came out onto the road near the shuttle driver's house, humped it back in the short distance to the AT and went on to Dick's Dome (what a hilarious name if you're immature like me!) shelter. Made it there with a bit of light left but not much. Ehh...wasted a good part of the day riding and driving.

      Tuesday I made it a blazing 8.4 miles to Rod Hollow Shelter. Woke up Wednesday morning even more sore than the previous two mornings, if that was possible.

      Yesterday I got up and packed up early, with hopes of knocking out the Roller Coaster's 13+ miles if I got an early enough start and kept on chugging slow and steady. If nothing else I knew I had plenty of stop/camp options along the way. I had already figured I probably wasn't going to make it to HF by Friday (preferably Thursday), but I knew there were lots of bailout points where I could get a shuttle/hitch back to the car, so I was just going to hike each day and go with it.

      Somewhere along the way I knew I was done for. Well, not completely, in that I could have kept on going until Today or Friday and dealt with the aches later. However, I have a battlefield tour this weekend that's going to involve some walking (albeit not with a pack), and damned if I'll miss that because I was bullheaded and "had to" stay out on trail. I needed some recovery time. I thought about staying at Bears Den and then sorting out a shuttle the next morning to the car. A glance at the guidebook pages I was toting and I decided to press on to Snickers Gap to the parking area, call a shuttle from there, and then find a hotel with a real bed and unlimited shower time instead. Got to the gap and there was a couple there who had been out hiking north of the Gap, just getting ready to leave. We chatted a bit and they offered me a ride to my car. YAY for trail angels who are willing to help out a mere pack sniffer!

      So I got to the car, got on the road in the general direction of Hagerstown (HQ for the tour this weekend) and found a hotel for two nights (WOOT WOOT for Marriott Rewards and free rooms!). I got here, bought a six pack of beer and some Epsom salts, and spent enough time soaking in the tub last night and today that I think I now qualify as an aquatic animal.

      So much for not going into detail...

      I'd like to give a shout out to the shuttle driver but can't find the ziploc bag I had with those few pages of the AWOL guide where I found her. She's not in the PDF version I got from wherever I got it, or I'm completely blanking in searching her name. Alyson? Allyson? Either way, very cool lady and very nice.

      Teahorse Hostel is also pretty nice if you're ever in HF, and Laurel is a very nice lady, although seems a little quiet/shy.
      Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less. - Robert E. Lee
    • I think it's fair to say, this is nobody's favorite section of AT. Major effort, minimum rewards (ie. views.) For the life of me I don't understand why Dick's Dome shelter hasn't been torn down, it's really a POS. Worse yet, there's no flat ground anywhere in the neighborhood, so tenting isn't even an option.

      The only saving grace is good food and brews, just off the trail at Snickers Gap and at Keys Gap. In fairness, the other shelters in that neighborhood are fine, but Dick's Dome really stands out as one of the worst on the AT, in my opinion. It's an eyesore.
    • Oddly enough, as much as the days sucked due to the exertion, I loved it. I think my hiking motto will be, "This sucks, and I LOVE it!"

      Yeah, Rafe, that shelter has seen better days. It sufficed for a night's stay though.

      I had planned to sleep in the Manassas Gap shelter, but the hiker who was already there said he's a snorer, so I pitched my tent on one of the cleared spots nearby. Learned a lesson there too. If it feels flat standing on it, LAY DOWN and see how it feels. Pitched my tent and when I laid down it turned out I was head low. Big Agnes UL2 is tapered width and height, so when I flipped around (no way was I resetting the tent) it was a bit tight. Not quite claustrophobic but not far from it. ?(
      Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less. - Robert E. Lee
    • Rasty wrote:

      We've all been there. For me day one always sucks. Day two is just bad. Day three is better.


      It's the opposite for me -- I start out fresh and clean and psyched, and really tear up the trail the first day or two. It's later on, when the early exuberance fades and gives way to inevitable exhaustion, when my attitude takes a dive.

      Two things kept me going during the Roller Coaster -- a nero, a mail drop and a motel stay in Front Royal, and excitement about hiking SNP. (I was SOBO and had been on the trail about 3 weeks at that point.)
    • I can be like that myself... and I'm determined to get over it by hook or by crook. So I've got a trip coming up with no bailout opportunities (short of lighting a PLB) between miles 133.4 and 97.6, and again between 92.1 and 38.3. No shorter way out on either segment but get through or turn back. I'm even insane enough to be planning a six-mile-and-1650-foot-elevation-gain side trip in the long section.
      I'm not lost. I know where I am. I'm right here.
    • Grinder wrote:

      Oddly enough, as much as the days sucked due to the exertion, I loved it. I think my hiking motto will be, "This sucks, and I LOVE it!"

      Yeah, Rafe, that shelter has seen better days. It sufficed for a night's stay though.

      I had planned to sleep in the Manassas Gap shelter, but the hiker who was already there said he's a snorer, so I pitched my tent on one of the cleared spots nearby. Learned a lesson there too. If it feels flat standing on it, LAY DOWN and see how it feels. Pitched my tent and when I laid down it turned out I was head low. Big Agnes UL2 is tapered width and height, so when I flipped around (no way was I resetting the tent) it was a bit tight. Not quite claustrophobic but not far from it. ?(


      Yeah, I can relate...hiking for for me is a love/hate relationship, every long uphill stretch and I'm hurting so bad I'm afraid I'll die and then it hurts so bad I'm afraid I won't die, get to a camp site and can hardly walk and then comes morning, feel like I'm king of the mountain and high on something good, then come the hills and the cycle starts over. The Tea Horse was a nice hostel. I remember Rod Hollow, I left motel 8 in Front Royal before daylight and hiked to the trail, didn't bother hitching in the dark, long story short, I had to hike to Rod Hollow to have water and a flat spot, I was one tired puppy when I got there.
      I may grow old but I'll never grow up.
    • Well, damn, I don't feel so bad now. I thought it was just me with the "holy sh*t can this get worse?" thing going on. I guess it's normal. Wow...this is the closest I've ever been to normal. finger.gif

      Oh, another note: Putting a camera in a bag of rice after dunking it in water works just like for a cell phone.
      Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less. - Robert E. Lee
    • Rasty wrote:

      We've all been there. For me day one always sucks. Day two is just bad. Day three is better.


      Don't beat yourself up! Im the most out of shape in shape guy I know!
      Day 1: Always starts and ends full of piss and vinegar
      Day 2: "Fukc this shyt I wanna burger and a beer and a shower!"
      Day 3: "Ahh ! This aint too bad!"
      Day 4: or until the last day is always "Screw work Im walking to Maine!"
      RIAP
    • I am normally on the trail by 7:30 and into camp by 3:30. For the most part, I stick to my itinerary. I am not the fastest, but I am wicked stubborn. Sometimes I have very little left and I am in pain. Once in a while, the day goes easy. The trail gives enough back that any inconvenience is worth the effort.
      Non hikers are about a psi shy of a legal ball.
    • Drybones wrote:

      It's amazing what a good nights rest can heal, I've had days I could hardly walk when I hit the sack and didn't think I would be able to walk in the morning and get up in the morning with a euphoric high ready to conquer the world.


      No euphoric high until I've at least put in a mile or two. It takes me that long to walk out the kinks in the morning.
      I'm not lost. I know where I am. I'm right here.
    • BirdBrain wrote:

      I am normally on the trail by 7:30 and into camp by 3:30. For the most part, I stick to my itinerary. I am not the fastest, but I am wicked stubborn. Sometimes I have very little left and I am in pain. Once in a while, the day goes easy. The trail gives enough back that any inconvenience is worth the effort.


      IMO you're missing the best part of the day, I like to hike until just before dark, eat dinner around 5:00 and then hike on, you've already eaten so you don't have to cook when you get to camp, just have something you don't have to cook to replenish what you've burned since eating and go to bed...there's something about the woods after sundown that turns me on.
      I may grow old but I'll never grow up.
    • AnotherKevin wrote:

      I can be like that myself... and I'm determined to get over it by hook or by crook. So I've got a trip coming up with no bailout opportunities (short of lighting a PLB) between miles 133.4 and 97.6, and again between 92.1 and 38.3. No shorter way out on either segment but get through or turn back. I'm even insane enough to be planning a six-mile-and-1650-foot-elevation-gain side trip in the long section.


      This extended no-bail zone is what used to make the Hundred Mile Wilderness so special. Time was when you really had to commit to the 100 miles between Abol Bridge and Monson. That's no longer operative, because shuttlers are ready and eager to bring people to and from the intervening trailheads. When I hiked it in 1990, I neither saw nor heard a single motorized vehicle between those two trailheads. In 2010, it was a zoo.

      Still and all -- this cycle of exuberance and exhaustion that we're speaking of is one I'm intimately familiar with. It really nailed me hard on my last Long Trail section hike.

      I think one of the keys to successful long-distance hiking (ha, as if I really knew...) is finding a way to even out the emotional roller coaster that goes along with the physical one. Posts on various hiking forums are chock full of testosterone and machismo, but reality on the trail often sucks, and it's best to not berate yourself for "failing to meet expectations."
    • Drybones wrote:

      BirdBrain wrote:

      I am normally on the trail by 7:30 and into camp by 3:30. For the most part, I stick to my itinerary. I am not the fastest, but I am wicked stubborn. Sometimes I have very little left and I am in pain. Once in a while, the day goes easy. The trail gives enough back that any inconvenience is worth the effort.


      IMO you're missing the best part of the day, I like to hike until just before dark, eat dinner around 5:00 and then hike on, you've already eaten so you don't have to cook when you get to camp, just have something you don't have to cook to replenish what you've burned since eating and go to bed...there's something about the woods after sundown that turns me on.


      I use the afternoon and evening for planning, assessing, and maintaining. I do laundry, clean up, and look at the next day. I like the wind down of an early end to the day. It just makes things not rushed and more relaxed for me. It also allows for a buffer if the day goes rough.
      Non hikers are about a psi shy of a legal ball.
    • A.T.Lt wrote:

      Rasty wrote:

      We've all been there. For me day one always sucks. Day two is just bad. Day three is better.


      Don't beat yourself up! Im the most out of shape in shape guy I know!
      Day 1: Always starts and ends full of piss and vinegar
      Day 2: "Fukc this shyt I wanna burger and a beer and a shower!"
      Day 3: "Ahh ! This aint too bad!"
      Day 4: or until the last day is always "Screw work Im walking to Maine!"


      I'm also stupid enough to drive 8 to 9 hours right before getting out of the car and hiking 12 miles. That has a lot to do why my first day usually sucks.
      Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
      Dr. Seuss Cof123
    • Rasty wrote:

      We've all been there. For me day one always sucks. Day two is just bad. Day three is better.


      I'll second that. Night one I usually can't sleep. Day two I'm sore and so beat from not sleeping the night before that I get some sleep. Day three I'm not so sore and on my way to finding my trail legs.
      "Dazed and Confused"
      Recycle, re-use, re-purpose
      Plant a tree
      Take a kid hiking
      Make a difference
    • the best way to train for hiking is to hike.one of the reasons i always plan alternative daily destinations, is i just dont know how strong i am till im out doing it, by having a shorter alternative, i dont have to stress about pushing too hard.
      for myself, on long hikes, i find the 3rd day is the worst. 1st running on adrenaline, 2nd- still feeling strong, 3rd, everything hurts, 4th things start getting better.
      you just do what you can. its all good.
      its all good
    • I definitely would have benefitted from better planning. Toting the appropriate pages out of the guidebook was about 90% of the planning I did. Not nearly enough. I managed, but it would have been a more positive experience if I'd gone out with a clue.

      Not that it was all negative. I liked it enough I'll go back. Next time I'll be better prepared overall though.
      Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less. - Robert E. Lee
    • Grinder wrote:

      I definitely would have benefitted from better planning. Toting the appropriate pages out of the guidebook was about 90% of the planning I did. Not nearly enough. I managed, but it would have been a more positive experience if I'd gone out with a clue.

      Not that it was all negative. I liked it enough I'll go back. Next time I'll be better prepared overall though.

      i learn something new on every trip.
      its all good
    • Grinder wrote:

      I definitely would have benefitted from better planning. Toting the appropriate pages out of the guidebook was about 90% of the planning I did. Not nearly enough. I managed, but it would have been a more positive experience if I'd gone out with a clue.

      Not that it was all negative. I liked it enough I'll go back. Next time I'll be better prepared overall though.


      When I came out of the Mahoosucs this year, I told my wife I was thinking about being done with it. 2 weeks later I was going through the Carter Moriah Range. After the down off Wildcat E, I was really discouraged. Next section was to be Mount Washington. I was doubting why I should endure such pain. The Presidentials ended up being easier than the Mahoosucs. I was so out of shape starting out this year. Quite frankly I still am. But I kept going back. You are going back. That is the key. You are a little wiser. That is a plus, but it is not nearly as important as the fact that you are going back.
      Non hikers are about a psi shy of a legal ball.
    • My plans came up short this summer too. I had planned 70 miles in 6 days (about 12 mpd), but each day, my right knee got worse. At the end of day 3, I was basically walking on one leg, but I had to get to the bottom of the mtn as I had to get to the creek for water. Fortunately there was a nice camping spot by the creek. There was a road there and if it had any traffic, I probably would have hitched out, but there wasn't, and I had met a guy earlier that day who had spent 1/2 a day trying to hitch with no luck down the road where there was a bit more traffic. So it seemed the best way out was hike 7 more miles the next day to the next road where there was a hostel and a gas station/mini mart. Then just to rub it in, the hiking gods sent a fit guy who was exactly my age doing 25 mpd cruising through the camp site. I was able to hike out the next day, just very slowly with lots of breaks. I took a zero on day 5 and then a day hike for day 6. I guess I need to work out more in the off season.
    • Hiking is, after all, a voluntary activity. There's no point doing it unless it's fun, or providing some sort of satisfaction. I'm guessing most of us have experienced the love/hate aspect of it. I do it to challenge myself, mostly. I do it precisely because it's so physical -- up until quite recently, my work life was almost entirely sedentary, and entirely indoors.

      It's really easy to get discouraged. So much can "go wrong" or conspire to make you tired, grubby, and just plain uncomfortable. One benefit to hiking is that it makes you appreciate the comforts of civilization.

      It gets better with experience, and as your physical condition improves, and as your pack weight declines. Keep a diary and take note of what went right and what went wrong; be honest with yourself, don't sugar-coat it. If you can't update it every night in camp, at least try to summarize it as soon as you get home.

      Some folks enjoy hiking alone, some enjoy it more with company. You might try it both ways and see which works out better for you. My hiking career started with short day hikes and overnights in the White Mountains with very close friends. We hardly ever made more than six or eight miles in a day and we carried enormously heavy packs -- but we had a ton of fun.
    • rafe wrote:

      Hiking is, after all, a voluntary activity. There's no point doing it unless it's fun, or providing some sort of satisfaction. I'm guessing most of us have experienced the love/hate aspect of it. I do it to challenge myself, mostly. I do it precisely because it's so physical -- up until quite recently, my work life was almost entirely sedentary, and entirely indoors.

      It's really easy to get discouraged. So much can "go wrong" or conspire to make you tired, grubby, and just plain uncomfortable. One benefit to hiking is that it makes you appreciate the comforts of civilization.

      It gets better with experience, and as your physical condition improves, and as your pack weight declines. Keep a diary and take note of what went right and what went wrong; be honest with yourself, don't sugar-coat it. If you can't update it every night in camp, at least try to summarize it as soon as you get home.

      Some folks enjoy hiking alone, some enjoy it more with company. You might try it both ways and see which works out better for you. My hiking career started with short day hikes and overnights in the White Mountains with very close friends. We hardly ever made more than six or eight miles in a day and we carried enormously heavy packs -- but we had a ton of fun.


      Well said, Rafe. I have definitely found that my enjoyment and satisfaction have increased as I've become in better shape. It can be demoralizing when you're out of shape and struggle to put one foot in front of the other. I believe many people give up trying because they feel inadequate and then they never change their lifestyle, however much they'd like to. So, sometimes you just have to embrace the suck, keep at it, and keep your mind focused on the prize. :)
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Traffic Jam ().

    • Hey Grinder all is good.. I was most fit when I did it daily - just a few miles around the neighborhood park. I got into a discussion with a thru hiker and he said something profound. "I found its easier when I get up every day and I have to put up the miles. It was bad the first week and it got easier every week. - the section hikers have it harder because they tank each time... " I think he was right. If you take a break for a week the weight comes right back up.


      Thanks for the good read!
      Be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you! :thumbup:
    • WiseOldOwl wrote:

      I got into a discussion with a thru hiker and he said something profound. "I found its easier when I get up every day and I have to put up the miles. It was bad the first week and it got easier every week. - the section hikers have it harder because they tank each time... " I think he was right. If you take a break for a week the weight comes right back up.


      All the thru hikers and lashers I met told me the same thing. When they started out, 12 mpd was killing them. They were very encouraging and supportive, saying that for my first few days, I was doing as well as or even better than they had. But as you point out, those of us who can only get out occasionally don't get the chance to reach that plateau of fitness and "tank each time".

      The other challenge of the occasional backpacker I'm still trying to sort out is the difficulty of the logistics. If you're a thru hiker, your only real deadline is getting done before the season is over. But when I had scheduled 6 days for hiking, I had to worry about being at a road crossing with cell phone service so I could call a shuttle driver to pick me up on time to catch my flight home. With time, the thru hiker can probably do a pretty good job of figuring where they will be when, even though they don't really need to. I failed pretty miserably at that this year.
    • odd man out wrote:

      My plans came up short this summer too. I had planned 70 miles in 6 days (about 12 mpd), but each day, my right knee got worse. At the end of day 3, I was basically walking on one leg, but I had to get to the bottom of the mtn as I had to get to the creek for water. Fortunately there was a nice camping spot by the creek. There was a road there and if it had any traffic, I probably would have hitched out, but there wasn't, and I had met a guy earlier that day who had spent 1/2 a day trying to hitch with no luck down the road where there was a bit more traffic. So it seemed the best way out was hike 7 more miles the next day to the next road where there was a hostel and a gas station/mini mart. Then just to rub it in, the hiking gods sent a fit guy who was exactly my age doing 25 mpd cruising through the camp site. I was able to hike out the next day, just very slowly with lots of breaks. I took a zero on day 5 and then a day hike for day 6. I guess I need to work out more in the off season.


      OMO, I just missed you be a day this summer, but I think you left you knee problem behind for me. :(
      I would rather have gotten there a day or two earlier and met you.
      Seriously it was interesting to hear HM and Byron comparing his symptoms, with yours and mine. Naturally I can relate to your post.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
      Richard Ewell, CSA General
    • It's really hard to generalize about thru vs. section hiking. In '07 I jumped into a six week section hike and maintained a 15 mile per day average for the next 40 days or so. But that was the mid-Atlantic so it was pretty easy hiking, and I had done a fair amount of "training" in the way of frequent 12 and 15 mile bike rides. On my attempted thru in 1990, I averaged 11 miles per day between Springer and Catawba (just under 2 months of hiking.) On the LT these last few summers, I've been averaging 12 miles per day, but basically one mile per hour. In the Whites I figure 1.5 to 2 mph on day hikes, 1 mph with a full pack.