A long, but thankfully distracted, train and bus ride brought me to Santa Barbara, California. Agenda for the two days to follow consisted of gear and food preparation. I had a good base of gear that had been purchased via stores online and the "local", yet unfortunately 1 hour away, REI. I say unfortunately, but after hearing that Chris was going to the REI in town just about every day and returning just shy of everything he purchased, maybe it's a good thing! It definitely caused me to do a lot of research into products before buying them. I do have to comment on the power of opinions an reviews from the hiking community that are found scattered around the Internet. Having a lot of options when it comes to gear is good, but at the same time, can become confusing. Outdoor gear companies could probably drum up some serious business if they found a way to sponsor hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. True, there are sponsored athletes out there, but I think the better gear opinion suggestions came from your average Joe Hiker.
I did reach out to a handful of companies regarding sponsorships, even partial, but with no luck. It was good to hear back from those who did reply, and great to hear that some were focusing on supporting non-profits. Kudos to those who are in it for more than just the money! Hopefully more of us can follow your example.
So two days were spend going through already purchased gear, buying additional items, packing, unpacking, and repacking. When I got to the point where I thought I had all my gear packed pretty well, I couldn't fit the two rolls of toilet paper. Problem quickly solved as I realized I wouldn't need toilet paper if I didn't bring food to eat. Oh no. How the heck was all this stuff going to fit in this one pack??? For those of you with pack or volume knowledge, we are talking about a 60 liter pack. To me, that's fairly large. First panic moment...maybe. After unpacking again, reorganizing, and repacking, everything but water and fuel were accounted for (those can go on the outside of the pack). This was one moment I was waiting for. How much weight would I be schlepping on my back day in and day out? 33 pounds. Water and fuel should come in around another 5 to 5.5 pounds, bringing my total pack weight to about 38.5 pounds. Not bad considering I aimed for 30, hoped to hit 40, and realized that it may go as high as 50. There will be a pack scale to weigh in at the start of the trail, also known as the "southern terminus".
Special thanks to Chris' wife Amy, and his brother Tyler for spending hours and a great effort figuring out and preparing high calorie meals for us to eat. Also, thank you in advance for keeping us fed in the future too. Normally people who are at all concerned about their nutrition aim for low calorie foods. We won't quite be taking the Michael Phelps approach, but we will be aiming for about 5,000-6,000 calories a day. Some of these items include tuna packets, Ramen, sausage, cheese, crackers, tortillas, peanut m&m's, snickers bars, trail mix, fruit and nut medleys, pine nuts, Mac & cheese, instant potatoes, protein bars, granola bars, peanut butter filled pretzels, and some sour patch kids thrown in for fun.
Sounds like some healthy meals, right? Haha. Even with the high calorie and fat content, I'm told there's a good chance I'll lose some weight. As a benchmark, I weighed in yesterday just shy of my average, at 185 pounds. Will be interesting to see how my body reacts to this chance from desk jockey to hiking machine. I also decided to cut my hair and clean shave. The plan is to let it go during the hike. We will see if that doesn't become annoying!
Just getting to Atlanta now where my buddy Rob will pick us up and we will head north toward Amicalola Falls State Park where we will meet up with Amy's family. We will stay in our first, but certainly not last, trailside shelter.
For those of you who expressed interest in sending care packages along the way for nourishment, enjoyment, encouragement, and motivation, the best upcoming place to send a package/letter is listed below. We expect to be there around March 28. This place (along with numerous others along the trail that I will mention) will hold packages for about a month.
Ryan Simko - AT Hiker
C/o Bluff Mountain Outfitters
152 Bridge St
P.O. Box 114
Hot Springs, NC 28743
As I'm not sure if I'll be able to post anything tomorrow after we pound out some miles, I'll leave you with words from Alexander Supertramp (aka Christopher McCandless)...
"No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become LOST IN THE WILD"