AT 2017: MA, CT, and NY

I decided I’d just do a single entry for my whole trip because in today’s age people just want the bullet points of the trip if they want anything at all.

This year since I was done with the Long Trail I decided to explore a bit more of the AT.  After first thinking I would go north from Harper’s Ferry, I decided that I’d rather start more north just to avoid heat.   Starting in North Adams where I had begun my Long Trail hike would extend the consecutive section that I had done in the north.  After looking at past paces and doing a couple test hikes, I settled on trying to hike around 30 miles a day for about 11 days.  Using that pace, I plotted out general shelter goals for each day and two mail drops, one in Kent, CT and one in Greenwood Lake, NY.  Then I honed my gear list and created food packages for each day, mailing some out to the mail drops.  With my wife, we decided I would start my hike at about the time the solar eclipse started, about 1:30pm on August 17, 2017.  She would drop me off and head down to VA with our children to stay with her parents for the week and a half.


I kept my fairly speedy pace for half of the journey, up until the resupply point in Kent.  By the time I got there I was dealing with my old friend, ITBS as well as a brand new friend called shin splints, so I slowed my pace to an average of 20 miles a day.  This made the rest of the journey much more leisurely and I was able to hike with others and have a more traditional AT hiker experience.  I

enjoyed a couple trail towns and found a new love for every convenience store that was along the trail.

I spent a couple days hiking with Heath Bar.  The shelter sites were full of college orientation groups, private school groups, and AMC groups.  I saw a large number of NOBO thru-hikers the first couple days but by the end of August I only saw a couple stragglers who most likely will not be making it to Katahdin in time.

The trail itself was not as impressive as Vermont or my normal NH/ME haunts.  There were a couple of nice views and exceptions (Bear Mountain, Greylock, the climb up to St. John’s Ledges), but mostly it was a lot of rocky valley/ridge walks in between roads.  The shelters in CT and MA were pretty nice but sucked in NY.  It was a dry year and there were serious water problems through most of NY.  It would have been worse except for the awesomeness of trail angels who left water drops at road crossings.

Activity/Physical Notes

My estimate for how far I wanted to go per day was based on a modified book time: 3 miles/hour + 20 minutes/1000 feet elevation.  That needed to include breaks while I was hiking as well.  On average on this terrain grade that came out to about 2.5 miles/hour.  So that meant 30 miles would take 12 hours.  This number was actually pretty accurate for how I hike and was sustainable from both a cardio and mental aspect.  12 hours when you start early in the morning gives you a couple hours in the evening to mentally and physically rest, eat dinner, and talk to hikers.

The thing that eventually got to me was my ITBS.  I survived a little bit longer than the last time I went out hard like this but the same symptom started to come back.  I got more aching in my hip adductors and the upper part of the IT band so I’m hoping that my very recent attempts to start to strengthen the outside of my hip helped a little bit at shifting the tightness.  I also never hit terminal pain with runner’s knee like I have in the past.  I started to limp and play with my foot fall to try to lessen the amount of rubbing.  Because of this play with my foot fall however, I developed shin splints.  That was new to me.  Sleeping overnight in general would make the ITBS symptoms go away for most of the next day but didn’t greatly help the shin splints.  Another hiker suggested taking turmeric to lessen inflammation.   He claimed it had practically cured his shin splints.  I used iburprofren about once a day when the pain was the worst, thinking it would reduce inflammation and prevent damage.
I’m planning on mostly following up with physical therapy and doubling down on weight training to strengthen my legs.  I might also consider orthotics particularly for during activity and maybe take turmeric (which I was already considering for hemorraghic stroke prevention).

Nutrition Notes

The first day or two were hot and I was pushing hard.  I could not drink enough water or sugar to

keep myself correctly hydrated.  For the first three days I might have stolen a soda from a child just to have that cold sugary drink in my body.  After that I changed my hydration solution (see below) to let me use bottles and bought another Mio flavor enhancer and an Arizona iced tea flavor liquid.  The iced tea flavor was amazing and I used this consistently in my water.  I also bought a pound of lemonade to use in my water which turned out to not get used as much.  I started carrying a lot of candy to snack on and this upped the sugar intake enough that I didn’t need to the sugar of the lemonade as much.  For my sugar snack, I sucked on Jolly Ranchers a bunch and ate Sour Patch Kids.  Both were awesome.  I had originally packed a large amount of dried fruit.  I replaced most of this with candy because I wanted it more even in dehydration situations.

Food that did not work well:
  • Dried apples – too dry, not sweet enough
  • Dried apricots – these were OK, but got ditched in favor of other stuff a lot
  • Sesame sticks – these were close to being good but I think I need the honey kind
  • TJ apple+XXX bars – same as above, they are mostly apple
  • MH beef stroganoff – please Ryan remember this is bland as heck
  • Ritz crackers – super tasty but I need some way to stop them getting squashed
  • Anything labeled a breakfast bar – I had three different kinds and they all sucked
  • Cheese sticks – I had one that I imagined had gone bad and then they were all ruined for me
  • Combos – I liked these but they’re not very dense so I ate the whole package pretty fast
Foods that I either kept using or added:
  • TJ fruit bar w/ chia and flax – sharp enough flavor and moister than the other bars
  • MH breakfast skillet – I love this stuff so much
  • Seasoned tuna packets – this was the big surprise win this time…these are awesome
  • Pop tarts – Yes, best for breakfast
  • Jolly ranchers – for sucking just to keep my mouth busy
  • Sour patch kids – great sugar snack and the sour keeps them interesting
  • Beef jerky – good any time of the day, I ate almost all that I had packed
  • Spreadable port wine cheese – this was delicious and at least lasted a day without refrigeration

Gear Notes

Gear annoyances:
  • I hike with a sock liner (Ininji toe socks) and an outer wool sock.  The outer smartwool sock completely disintegrated over the course of the hike.  Now I’ve had the pair for a couple years and they’ve had a number of hikes in them but they looked really good before I started with no thin spots and they just started spewing wool from the first day.  I will always start with new socks before any long trips in the future and I’m switching to a darned tough.
  • My platypus hoser 3L that I generally love started leaking slowly from the main bag at the bottom.  The plastic was peeling away from itself.  This gave me a wet butt for the whole trip which led to more chaffing and rash.  I’m not switching the brand but I will check my bags in the future to make sure they are in good shape.
  • My phone didn’t fit very well into the hip pocket on my pack.  This meant that I didn’t always zip it up fully and eventually led to it falling out and cracking.  Not good.
  • My sleeping bag with my air mattress is too hot for this season.  When I tried to zip my bag up all the way to avoid mosquitoes, I just sweat like a pig.  I think I may need to try a more flexible quilt solution or something.
  • I will most likely be bringing a tent in the future, like my Lightheart Solo.  The couple times there were mosquito problems, I looked longingly at the hikers with actual tents rather than just tarps.  My tarp worked really well for rain protection and I love the weight of it, but I got more than a hundred bites one night and barely any sleep.
Gear wins:
  • The Zpack stuffsack pillow was really nice.  It was a great size of a stuffsack for my camp clothes and worked well as a pillow.  Thanks Joe, for that suggestion.
  • The Zpack food stuff sack worked really well as the right size to fit in my pack and kept the food dry and most of the smell contained.
  • The Gossamer Gear Mariposa once again rocked as a pack, being durable and lightweight and with the right pouches.  I love it’s features and I’ve pretty much designed my daily gear strategy around the pack.
  • I was using really new Salomon XA Pro 3D hiking shoes and they performed pretty well.  I developed one blister on the back of my heel but I get that a lot and some duct tape let me hike without much interruption.

Hydration solution:

My hydration solution deserves it’s own section.  I started thinking I was just going to use the hydration bladder with an inline filter.  This technically did work OK but: a) the water flow isn’t strong enough to get adequate hydration when you are casually sipping and b) I found I REALLY like flavored water which isn’t possible with a bladder system like this.  So I switched to a hybrid system.  When I stopped for water, I would get 2 liters dirty and immediately gravity filter 1 liter into a smartwater bottle.  I would flavor this bottle.  Then I would drink this liter liberally.  When I ran out of drink, I would start sipping from the bladder and looking for my next resupply.  This generally worked pretty well but it was slow to use as a gravity filter and most of the time I was not using the bladder.  I’d like to see whether I can live without a hydration bladder and use the standard thru-hiker bottle/filter system.  While I like hydration bladders for running and non-filtered situations, it’s possible the filter changes the equation a bit.

Daily Tracks/Highlights

Day 1: North Adams to Mark Noepel Shelter (10.28 miles/3:53 [Track])
  • Solar eclipse
  • Crossed Greylock, great view
  • In my tarp, Yale group took over the shelter
Day 2: Mark Noepel Shelter to October Mountain Shelter (26.19 miles/10:22 [Track])

  • Very dehydrated/hot, but had a couple of convenience stores on trail
  • In shelter, father/son pair hammocked through a large storm
Day 3: October Mountain Shelter to Tom Leonard Shelter (29.42 miles/12:12 [Track])

  • Rain overnight made everything much cooler
  • Crossed MA turnpike, a spot I see a lot while driving
  • Amazing trail stand had soda for lunch, saw owner and kid
Day 4: Tom Leonard Shelter to Limestone Springs Shelter (31.83 miles/13:02 [Track])

  • Valley walk 
  • Crossed into CT
  • Leg hurting, limped last couple miles then down a ravine to the isolated shelter
  • Pat and Hazmat in shelter with me
Day 5: Limestone Springs Shelter to Kent (Algo Shelter) (31.64 miles/13:04 [Track])

  • Early morning walk through Falls Village
  • Long flat river walk then toughest short climb on the trail
  • Dinner in Kent! Met Heath Bar and a couple other NOBOs.
  • Hiked back to Algo Shelter for the night because no good rooms.
Day 6: Kent (Algo Shelter) to Wiley Shelter (13.17 miles/4:57 [Track])

  • Resupply at PO and grocery store
  • Heath Bar came back from shelter.  We had swapped shoes accidentally!
  • Hiked with Rusty for the day, he pushed on from Wiley to get to Pawling.
  • Sheltered alone with Trinity College and family tenting.
Day 7: Wiley Shelter to RPH Shelter (25.51 miles/10:04 [Track])

  • Past RR Station and got ride from Mama Low(?) to deli on road
  • Saw oldest oak tree
  • Made it to RPH shelter to get picked up for dinner with sister Kim
Day 8: RPH Shelter to Hemlock Springs Campsite (22.48 miles/8:47 [Track])

  • Left fancy sour 6-pack in shelter
  • Met Heath Bar again after pushing past Graymoor to try to make Hemlock Springs
  • Tented that night at Hemlock Springs with Heath and Simon.  Worst campsite ever.
Day 9: Hemlock Springs Campsite to William Brien Shelter (14.87 miles/6:32 [Track])

  • Hiked into Fort Montgomery with Simon and Heath for breakfast
  • Stopped to charge phone at Bear Mountain pool after going through zoo
  • Got trail magic alongside parkway from 100-mile/year hiker group
  • Didn’t push on to Fingerboard Shelter because lots of warnings of bear attacks
Day 10: William Brien Shelter to Greenwood Lake (24.84 miles/9:45 [Track])

  • Toughest day on the trail, the terrain got very rocky even though no big climbs
  • Lots of water problems but had a lucky water drop that took me to Greenwood Lake
  • Awesome hot dog and ice cream stop a couple miles out of Greenwood Lake
  • Last couple of miles on the ridge were some of the easiest, ironically
  • Stayed overnight at Breezy Point Inn with Heath Bar, nice stop

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