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  1. #1
    Registered User JaketheFake's Avatar
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    Default Introduction and Initial Thoughts of Being Prepared

    Hikers,

    My name is Brandon (JaketheFake) and I live in Houston. A thru hike has been on my list "to do" and I almost jumped into it in 2013...but then decided it would be better in a few years. Right now the goal is 2016 or 2017. I turn 50 in November 2016 and that might be really cool having just finished the trail? For those who have done it...what are the pros and cons of being over prepared versus under-prepared. I mean, this is a 6 month adventure if you start off a little slow does it matter? Do you run the risk of dropping out because let's face it...its chilly in April up there and being prepared is probabally at that point more mental than physical? On the other hand I am terrified about knowing "too much" about the trail and being one of these hikers that has already thru hiked it three times in their mind and from books and talking about it etc. Another unknown are drops and resupply...what are some opinions (there are no real totally right or totally wrong answers). I would like to understand more about drops and resupply. Finally, as a further introduction, I have hunted, trapped, fish and camped all my life. Note...I left off hiking...have not done any real serious hiking, but I do know what it is like to spend a night or two in the woods... I have been doing it since I was 10. Finally, although I won't be able to leave a trail of money, my budget will enable me not too worry about the added cost of buying Snickers "in town" versus in a resupply box...so this has to be factored into how I will resupply my hike. I appreciate all tips and pointers. I am sure some of my questions are answered elsewhere on this site, and I am sure I will eventually explore it fully. For now, I just wanted to say hello and look forward to talking with other hikers.

  2. #2
    Registered User HighLiner's Avatar
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    Maybe you should start by doing some short trips near your home. A lot will be learned that way. Good luck.
    HighLiner
    2000 Miler

  3. #3
    Registered User JaketheFake's Avatar
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    Highliner... good point. I have done some mountain bike/camping along C&O Canal towpath (which ends in Harper's Ferry). So I am not a complete novice. I am considering trying a SMALL stretch before the big push....maybe out in Big Bend in Tejas? But no, I am not going to just show up in Georgia without a dry run or two.

  4. #4
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    to WB! Check out my 'how to hike' thread. It's a bunch of links to other threads that you may find useful.

    Good Luck on your planning.

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

  5. #5
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    Here is my take, keep in mind I am an insignificant weekend/section hiker.

    As long as you don't have any special dietary needs, are not too picky about what you eat, and you don't take any special medications that are not available at a small town drug store, mail drops are not necessary. Very few folks that live in the vicinity of the AT starve to death for lack of available food. I have always been able to find some place to buy food when I needed it.

    So don't stress the resupply, or over plan mail drops. If I were to do a thru hike, I would do a few mail drops, just for comfort items and for my family to send me stuff, but I don't think I would worry about it very much one way or the other.

  6. #6

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    you'll be fine. its just 6 months worth of week long section hikes. you can figure it out as you go along.resupply is usually every 3-5 days and its pretty easy finding stuff to eat.
    you dont need to overthink it. its just walking.

  7. #7

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    Biggest problem with being overprepared is you think you know everything you need to know about thruhiking the trail, but reality is always different. It doesn't matter how many journals you read, your experience will be unique. One of the main reasons so many go home in the early stages of the trail is because reality doesn't live up to their expectations of the experience. If you don't have those expectations, you won't be disappointed. You'll be expecting to just go with the flow and you'll accept the Trail as it is. Over the years I've seen some of the best prepared hikers be the first to go home, because they couldn't adjust to the reality they found.

    That said, I think it is easier to thruhike if you have prior hiking and camping experience. Texas has a lot of State Parks. Many have overnight hiking possibilities. There is also the Lone Star Trail. Get out as often as you can before you leave. If you aren't going for a couple of years, take your long vacation and go someplace where you can learn about hiking and camping in all kinds of weather. (Big Bend is a beautiful place, but it is nothing like the Appalachians. Hot and dry vs. wet and rocky.)

    When I did the AT, I decided in December to hike the trail. I read the Rodale books and the guidebooks, and took off in April. That was plenty of time to prepare maildrops and collect all my gear. On my second thruhike I had three weeks to prepare for my hike (left my job unexpectedly.) That was really all the time I needed. I did only a couple of maildrops, and mostly bought as I went. I used the gear I had acquired in the four years between the two thruhikes. My next long hike I had to wait 7 years because of finances and job issues. I did a lot of research on the CDT-- as much as was possible back then -- which meant I read a few books and spent a lot of time studying the guidebooks and asking questions on the CDT forum. I thought I knew what to expect, and, to a large extent, I did. That didn't really make it any easier. I still had to walk every step, deal with weather, resupply, injury and navigation. What made it easier was that in those seven years, I hiked and backpacked every weekend. I knew I had the determination to finish, the desire, and the experience to be flexible with the vicissitudes of trail life. For the PCT we just bought the guidebooks and took off a few months later. No preparation, no planning, we just went. A lot of the people we met on the three trails were winging it, just as we were. It can be more than enough.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JaketheFake View Post
    Hikers,

    For those who have done it...what are the pros and cons of being over prepared versus under-prepared. I mean, this is a 6 month adventure if you start off a little slow does it matter? Do you run the risk of dropping out because let's face it...its chilly in April up there and being prepared is probabally at that point more mental than physical? On the other hand I am terrified about knowing "too much" about the trail and being one of these hikers that has already thru hiked it three times in their mind and from books and talking about it etc. Another unknown are drops and resupply...what are some opinions (there are no real totally right or totally wrong answers). I would like to understand more about drops and resupply. Finally, as a further introduction, I have hunted, trapped, fish and camped all my life.
    interesting first pos. I'll share my $.02. I think you can and should prepare as much as possible. Like you, I had a lifetime fascination with the AT and a background of being active in the outdoors but had never backpacked prior to doing my thruhike. so I did the best job I could in researching the gear aspect and took some short trips that winter to test my gear in adverse conditions. In other words, don't camp on the pretty weekends.That was helpful...I knew my gear would in fact keep me comfortable in conditions that probably were worse than what I would see on the AT.

    Reading all the AT books did not help me. They were entertaining and fascinating but it's like a teenager learning about sex from a biology textbook. it may be an accurate description but it is nothing like the real thing. It's kind of the same with the short trips I took before the trip... they helped me but somewhere I knew in the back of my mind that in only 2 or 3 days I would be back to my routine. that's not the same feeling you get when you are out for months on end. otoh, one of the tricks to finishing is to just focus on the next short section (eat the elephant one bite at a time) and not dwell on the larger goal.

    as far as resupply, it's fairly easy as others have said. I chose at first to skip the maildrops but about half way through I kind of got burnt out on the standard hiker fare. my wife started dehydrating food and mailing it to me. Not for every resupply but enough to break up the monotony of the instant rice/potatoes/pasta and tuna pouches.

    you have found a pretty good source of information. It will be a bit overwhelming at times because there is so much contradictory information and opinions. what that really means is there a bunch of ways to skin the cat and everyone has their own method. However, in acquiring gear, get the best you can afford from the start. For backpacking gear, the old adage "you get what you pay for" is certainly true.If you linger/lurk here long enough you will begin to recognize the names that serious hikers trust. these will not usually be found at the super wally world in your town.

    good luck and welcome to WB.

  9. #9

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    I read a lot before starting my thru. What I learned when I started hiking was that I knew nothing. And that made it fun too, so don't be worried about being super prepared. Hell, I had never gone backpacking in my life before I jumped on the A.T.

  10. #10

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    It takes 1,000 miles to get in true "thru-hiker shape" IMO.
    So, if you come to the trail completely out of shape and a novice, you very well may get discouraged when your feet hurt, shoulders hurt, waist is scraped raw, and you're surprised at how nothing seems to ever dry out and there are gnats constantly in your eyes.
    Then you sprain your ankle because you're carrying too much weight.

    Will you go home? Or tough it out until those 1,000 miles are up and all of the above is something you've learned to deal with and enjoy?

    Or, a better idea, why not get a few hundred of those 1,000 miles under your belt now and make your thru-hike even more enjoyable???
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  11. #11
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    First thing I'd do if I were you is get another name, 'jakethefake' sounds creepy. Sorry, but there is another thread out there that is mulling over creepy people. If I first met you and you told me your name is 'Jake-the-fake' my creep meter goes from '1' to about '5', quick. If I meet you on the trail and you tell me your name is 'jakethefake' my creep meter goes from '1' strait to '10' and I watch you like a hawk without ever turning my back to you.
    * Warning: I bite AND I do not play well with others! -hellkat-

  12. #12
    Registered User JaketheFake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magic_game03 View Post
    First thing I'd do if I were you is get another name, 'jakethefake' sounds creepy. Sorry, but there is another thread out there that is mulling over creepy people. If I first met you and you told me your name is 'Jake-the-fake' my creep meter goes from '1' to about '5', quick. If I meet you on the trail and you tell me your name is 'jakethefake' my creep meter goes from '1' strait to '10' and I watch you like a hawk without ever turning my back to you.
    Would it make a difference if I told you my "name" was given to me when I was 10 years old and "loafing" during a routine Pop Warner Football practice? I read all the posts about creepy peeps...are you one of those girls? haha! All kidding aside, I get your point. Regarding points, thank you for everyone who replied...there was a lot of good information in EVERY reply. I especially liked Spirit Walker's regarding expectations... and reality versus expectations...it seems that would be a potential challenge of becoming a walking encyclopedia of the AT before trying a hike. TheGabe's input as equally motivating. 4shot's thoughts on maildrops from home and Fiddlehead's thoughts on laying down a few hikes now BEFORE the AT. All good stuff. Thank you.

    One more question for all.... how many ounces does a "creep meter" weigh? Are they unisex or do I need to buy a "female creep meter"? Should I also carry a "male creep meter"? Do they all go to 10....or certain models go to 11? Just planning here and having fun.

  13. #13
    Registered User JaketheFake's Avatar
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    Oh....and mountain squid, thank you for pointing me in the direction of teh "how to hike" thread... I will definately be checking that out.

  14. #14
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    Jake- I'm about to launch a thru, grew up in South Louisiana, but have moved to VA and the terrain is much different. Your questions hit home. I got to spend about two hours picking the brains of two thru hikers at the local independent gear store and the take away is that if you are not financially mega constrained and you have someone who can drop you a box, you can overcome just about any issue. The learning curve is steep at the beginning, and you will be hungry and tired and likely cold at the start, but you will dial in your gear quickly and tend to discard things much more than you need things.

    One thing I do plan to do, is to mail a box to myself in the nearest trail town and just go through the process.

    Also if you are in the "bubble" of thru hikers, there will likely always be someone that can bridge any crazy issues that may come up.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by swonut View Post
    Jake- I'm about to launch a thru, grew up in South Louisiana, but have moved to VA and the terrain is much different. Your questions hit home. I got to spend about two hours picking the brains of two thru hikers at the local independent gear store and the take away is that if you are not financially mega constrained and you have someone who can drop you a box, you can overcome just about any issue. The learning curve is steep at the beginning, and you will be hungry and tired and likely cold at the start, but you will dial in your gear quickly and tend to discard things much more than you need things.

    One thing I do plan to do, is to mail a box to myself in the nearest trail town and just go through the process.

    Yes, indeed. That's called a bounce box!

    Also if you are in the "bubble" of thru hikers, there will likely always be someone that can bridge any crazy issues that may come up.
    Good thinking going on there, swonut..

    JaketheFake... looks like ur going to fit right into this forum! :>)

  16. #16
    Furlough's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magic_game03 View Post
    First thing I'd do if I were you is get another name, 'jakethefake' sounds creepy. Sorry, but there is another thread out there that is mulling over creepy people. If I first met you and you told me your name is 'Jake-the-fake' my creep meter goes from '1' to about '5', quick. If I meet you on the trail and you tell me your name is 'jakethefake' my creep meter goes from '1' strait to '10' and I watch you like a hawk without ever turning my back to you.
    Hmmm....... that old, don't judge a book by its cover adage, sure comes to mind after reading this response.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L’Amour

  17. #17
    Registered User JaketheFake's Avatar
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    I just want to avoid creepy woman at all costs!

  18. #18

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    Don't worry all "creepies" are quickly identified and word of them zips down the trail in both directions.lol!

  19. #19
    Registered User Old Hiker's Avatar
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    Hey, Jake - welcome to WhiteBlaze from a fellow Texican currently in Florida.

    How to section helped me a LOT. Also - lurk a while, watch the "trolls" and take their advice for what's it worth, including changing your name. Check out Amplexus' you-tube video, then look up "amplexus". You may end up with a worse name!

    Do a LOT of research in what you want to carry. I ended up with a LightHeart gear SoLong 6 for my shelter after an ALPS Zephyr 1. Zephyr is still a good tent, though. I just dropped about 1.5 pounds or so with the SoLong (as well as some cash!). I learned weight, weight, weight.

    AWOL has a hikers guide that he updates every year that was VERY useful to me for my 497 mile attempt in 2012. More useful, I think, than anything else.

    The AT guidebooks were a waste of money in my opinion. AWOL covered everything I needed. The AT maps were nice, though.

    Check out trailjournals.com as well - not only the hikers who made it, but those who didn't through the years.

    Good luck - hope to see you in 2016 - part of the "Sweet 16's".
    Old Hiker
    AT Hike 2012 - 497 Miles of 2184
    AT Thru Hiker - 29 FEB - 03 OCT 2016 2189.1 miles
    Just because my teeth are showing, does NOT mean I'm smiling.
    Hányszor lennél inkább máshol?

  20. #20

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    Great trails near Houston - Brazos Bend State Park, The Lone Star Trail; in Houston are numerous trails along the bayous and Memorial.

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