On October 5, 2016

Long hikes and ensuing adventures

So it turns out that chiropractors pretty much instantly cure vertigo when they adjust your neck. Remember that if you ever get it, because uncured, I would frankly choose kidney stones if I could.
I have been easing back, not doing much, riding the stationary trainer a few times a day to keep my legs loose, doing my warmups, abs, yoga, and getting into the climbing gym a few days a week. I am considering trying to do a few months of pool rehab for my hips and legs, and doing a three-month weight-lifting cycle to get myself back up over 200 pounds while I rehab my poor lower extremities.
Monday or Tuesday (depending on when they pass through) I will be joining some friends for a quick hike of the southern Long Trail (from Sherburne Pass southward to North Adams). About eight days, this will be my first major through-hike since the West Highland Way in Scotland in December 1994. (If you’ve never been to northern Scotland, it is very, very dark over the Solstice. As one Swede we met in Fort William, just a few miles west of Loch Ness and a few miles north of Loch Lomond and Stirling, aptly put it: “To hike in Scotland in the winter is to hike in the dark.”)
Our last day was a 32-mile epic journey that involved some of the steepest hiking I’ve ever done and had us sleeping outside in the front end of what turned out to be the worst storm in the last 40 years of Scottish winters. (The Devil’s Staircase is a winding path that leads up out of an aluminum mining town, and having left my headlight at the bottom by accident, I had to climb it twice—the second time without my 70-80 pound pack, thankfully).
Scotland has notoriously terrible weather that roars down off the steppes of Russia … hikers regularly die on Ben Nevis, a mountain smaller than Mansfield—starting a hike on a beautiful day and freezing to death stranded in an ice or snow storm that blows in suddenly. The day we left Fort William to head back to London, a storm was roaring in, and we only escaped by a few hours, the roads in the area later being closed due to supposed 40-foot snowdrifts.
I also did five days of backcountry through-hiking in Yellowstone earlier in 1994, but I was alone and terrified of grizzlies (rightfully so—I kept coming off trails to find rangers closing them due to high grizzly activity), and so I essentially didn’t eat anything on my 18-mile days because I was afraid of smelling like a Powerbar, and lost almost 20 pounds in the bush.
That said, the only bear I saw on that trip was when I was picked up hitchhiking by three college girls, a Kiwi and two Swedes (yes, it was completely awesome but ironic, as an hour before one of my best friends had driven by me in a van full of campers and thought: “Hey, that looks like Brady! Nah, can’t be!” and drove on. I have never been so happy to be left behind).
Seeing a bear from a car is much less scary.
I am sure, however, that several more bears saw me. Times when I was out hiking spurs (to some lake or feature or other), I would camp at the end of the spur and return the next day only to find the hiking path littered with new downed trees that bears knocked over looking for worms and grubs (Yellowstone was at that time recovering from a massive forest fire, so most of the forest was grassland with dead trees standing). I know that these were bear pushovers and not windfall, because of the claw marks and tracks. It was disconcerting. I hiked very fast and sang most of the time, to alert bears to my presence.
At one point I tore around a corner and found myself in the middle of about five massive moose. Luckily, I scared them a bit more than they scared me, and they took off running while I took pictures. I figured there was nothing that I could do, so if I was going to be charged by a moose I would document it so anyone who found me would know what happened. I remained unscathed, as did the moose.
This time around, I will actually be using the same leather boots (re-soled). I had planned on using my trail sneakers, but then I realized that they are not in the least bit waterproof. My leathers are practically bulletproof, old Merrills, the really well-sewn last leather ones. Hopefully I won’t get too many blisters from those old tanks, but it will be worth it. Likewise my pack, (a huge internal frame EMS custom), my sleeping bag, and my tent (a Walrus—remember when Wally split off from North Face in the early 90s?—I bought in Jackson Hole for my Yellowstone walkabout), all old but highly functional.
I have a much better overnight pack, but I suspect that it will be too small for seven or eight nights of through-hiking and all of the associated gear and food, and I do not have a rain cover for it. My old pack does.
I bought a food dehydrator and I am making jerky (beef, eye of round, marinated in my own blackstrap molasses-coconut sugar and garlic marinade), dried fruit (papaya, mango, clementine, pineapple, grapefruit), dried homemade kimchi (YUM), and of course I will bring thousands of calories of walnuts, which will be my main caloric staple for the trip.
I am really excited for this. I am excited to point my feet in a direction and go there. I am excited to be eating food that I had a significant part in making. I am excited to be taking what might be only my second vacation since going to the British Isles in 1994 (family reunions every four years or so aside). By the time you read this, I will be halfway to Massachusetts, and I should return from Massachusetts refreshed and invigorated (not something I often say about going to Massachusetts, to be honest.)

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