John and I are getting ready to embark on our first multi-night backpacking/camping trip! We are continuing our journey on the Appalachian Trail beginning at Three Forks and will trek to Neel Gap. Altogether, this will be about a 26 mile hike. While I am very excited to get back on the Appalachian Trail, I also have some concerns.
My first concern is the weather. Up to this point we have been blessed with good weather on our hiking and camping trips. However, the weather forecast for our trip dates is not looking too promising. There is a strong possibility we will have some thunderstorms during this outing. We will be sleeping in DIY hammocks with a Kelty Noah’s tarp for an overhead covering. I hope and pray that we will not have a strong storm blow through our campsite during the evening hours. If it does, then I hope our tarp will do its job and keep us dry. This could be the first time it gets put to the test.
As far as hiking during a thunderstorm goes, that worries me as well. Obviously I don’t want us to get hit by a lightning strike! That goes without saying. In addition to that worry, I’m also concerned about staying dry. As of the time I am writing this post we do not have any rain gear other than an emergency poncho. I talked with John about it since he has some prior experience hiking in the rain. His thoughts are that we’re going to get wet either way, either by rain or by sweat. We went for a walk around our neighborhood Monday and it was sunny when we left. However, just over a mile into our walk, the rain clouds came and we found ourselves caught in a downpour! I was wearing a pair of shorts I thought would be good to take on our hike. When we got home I decided I would test them. I hung them over the shower rack to let them dry overnight. The next morning they were still soaking wet! There goes that theory. John was wearing a pair of athletic shorts and those were dry. So now I’m trying to decide if I should buy a pair of athletic shorts, too. I’m also trying to decide if I need to invest in some Frogg Toggs to keep myself as dry as possible. John thinks those will just make me sweat even more. I don’t know, he may be right. I don’t want to take any unnecessary gear, but I also want to be as comfortable as possible.
My last concern is the distance we will have to cover during this trip. We have a two day hike before, but this will be the first time we have hiked three days in a row. There are a couple of reasons this concerns me. The first reason is my knee. When John and I first started hiking I began having knee problems. Going downhill was the worst! The steeper the hill went down, the worse my knee hurt. This problem persisted for several months. I finally saw an orthopedic doctor to find out what was going on with it. He diagnosed me with patellofemoral syndrome which basically means I have an irritation of the under-surface of my knee cap. He recommended some exercises for me to do at home and to use some Kinesio tape during rigorous activity. The problem has greatly improved since then, but I still worry about another flair up. I’m thinking I should probably take the tape just in case I start having any problems. My other concern is water, especially the first day. There will be a 6 mile stretch where there will not be any water supply. This means that we will have to carry plenty with us to get from Hawk Mountain to Justus Creek. This may not be a big deal, but we will have to carry more weight than we would like to. Every once makes a difference when you’re backpacking!
In spite of all these concerns, the one thing I do know is that I always find beauty on the trail that makes it all worth the trip. Also, we’ve both been conditioning to prepare ourselves for this, so I will be eager to see if the conditioning we have put ourselves through pays off. I know we’re both going to be tired, but I hope our endurance will be much improved.
I will write a follow up to this post to reflect on whether or not my concerns were justified. In the meantime, I hope you will find a trail in your area and enjoy all it has to offer. Happy hiking!