PCT Prep and Atlantic Coast Pipeline walk

Well, it’s now 17 days until I start on the PCT!  It seems like I’ve been spending all my free time preparing for the trip.  It’s all-consuming, and the downtime I have I’m trying to spend with Ian, my family and my friends. I’ve stopped running except for Bond Brothers Run Club, because I have such a good time there and it’s nice to run once a week.  I’ve switched my runs to hiking with a fully loaded backpack.  It’s heavy, but I feels lighter the more I train with it.

Three weeks ago I came down with some kind of cold or flu type thing, it didn’t affect me too bad, but I stayed home from work for two days and did nothing all weekend.  Ian was sick for 5 days and one of our friends was out for a week with it.  Yuck.  This mess stops here!  I didn’t want to give it to the whole office since we’re busy right now and that’s just my philosophy on sickness.

Food from this weekend - couscous, cauliflower, chickpeas, arugula and curry.
So, the plus side was, between lots of napping, I got my resupply plan sorted out.  The basic idea of it is that Ian will mail me the first few weeks of supplies, with everything included.  From there, I will mostly resupply in grocery stores along the way, mailing myself a resupply package to remote towns without a grocery store.  Ian will also send me hard to find grocery items, like dehydrated vegetables and beans.  I’m limiting these to just a few, though, and they’re mainly in towns with a good grocery store so that I can then send out maximum yummy goodies to myself without having to mail something every week all the way from the east coast.  It also means I have the freedom to change my diet if I get sick of something.  Hopefully I won’t get sick of dehydrated beans.  I’m not worried about getting sick of the veggies - I’m dehydrating a little bit of everything!  Corn, green beans, cabbage, carrots, collard greens, tomatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms, broccoli,  olives, etc.

I realize that I could probably do a whole blog post on trail food, and I will if people are interested.  For now, you just need to know that I’m vegan, and I like to use “no cook” meals.  My dinner meal usually consists of couscous or instant rice, with vegetables, beans and some kind of spice.  All of this can be rehydrated in under an hour with just water.  This saves me the weight of a stove, fuel and a pot.  My backcountry kitchen is an old peanut butter jar and a spoon that I fill up during a rest stop and then keep hiking.  As soon as we stop for dinner, I can be eating in the time it takes for me to sit down and pull out a spoon.

Locals tell us about the pipeline and how it would impact their land.
On the shoulder of busy roads most of the day
Crossing the Neuse River. The pipeline will cross many waterways, plenty of opportunities for leaking to contaminate our water.
Chanting as we walk
Another big part of the prep is physical conditioning.  After figuring out that I will likely need to carry 35-40 lbs on a 30 mile waterless stretch, I realized I need to gradually get my back used to that weight.  I started with 3-4 mile walks around the neighborhood.  In the dark.  Not real fun, but it gives me time to call people I love and talk to them when normally I don’t have time, especially if I’m training for a race.  I’m trying to do that 2-3 times during the week, and then get on the trail for longer hikes on the weekends.  The weekend I got sick was supposed to be two fully loaded hikes of around 10 miles each day.  I was thinking about hiking in a local park so I could still spend time with Ian.  So, I missed those training hikes and some of the training hikes for the next week, too.  Two weekends ago, I walked 15.5 miles on Saturday with my sister as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Walk. 

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Walk

A group of people is walking the entire length of the proposed pipeline through North Carolina to protest and bring attention to the route.  You can check out more about it here:  https://2017acpwalk.org/  I knew I needed to hike with my pack, but I didn’t want to distract from this issue so I left it behind.  It’s important that people are talking about this pipeline, walking the length of it and talking to citizens in the area.  There were a lot of locals that stopped their cars, asked what we were doing and were concerned about a pipeline going through their area.  It was so sad to hear from some of these locals who are being pressured into an easement for Duke Power to spit their land in two or more pieces with this pipeline.  It’s a big pipeline, and one of the concerns is that you can’t drive large machinery over it.  (Like a big combine tractor.)  How are they supposed to farm land they can’t access?  What about leaks?  There are just so many concerns that were raised with this pipeline.  The pipeline would also cross the Appalachian Trail in southern Virginia, one of the most beautiful areas of the trail.  Plus, to top it all off, third-party studies have shown that this large pipeline is not needed.  Really?  Really?  What are we doing here?  We’re using government authority to build infrastructure we don’t need because a corporation has figured out how to make it profitable.

The next day, I was little sore from all the road walking the day before, but I needed to get some heavy pack miles in.  We also woke up to snow, but it wasn’t sticking to the road at all because it has been so warm lately.  Me, Ian, Roscoe, my sister Marissa and her fiance Jason all headed for the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) near Falls Lake.  We dropped our car at the end and piled in Marissa’s car.  The sun came out while we drove and the snow disappeared so quickly.  There was a great bridge and boardwalk near the beginning of the hike that goes out over the water.  Roscoe got a little off leash time since this is such a remote spot and he was so full of energy.  Jason climbed up on the railing and walked along it.

The Rock
Me and Roscoe dog
It turned out to be a bluebird day.  We had packed for snow and now we needed sunscreen and floppy sunhats.  Just kidding, I hate floppy sunhats.  Always in the way!  We reached a sign that said “The Rock” and followed that side trail.  We didn’t see any rock.  We joked that we’d round a bend and Dwayne Johnson would just be sitting there.  No Dwayne, though.  Just a rock beach littered with glass and old fishing lures.  It was a nice view, if you’re careful where you step.  I picked up some of the glass.  Jason did some yoga-balancing act stuff on a log while Marissa took pictures and Ian constrained Roscoe so he didn’t get into trouble or fishing lures.  We said goodbye to Marissa and Jason and they headed back to their car for the long drive back to Virginia Beach.

Sinkhole in the road! Safe for pedestrians to pass, though.
Trail goes past old billboards near interstate 85
The pond where Roscoe ate gross mud
Trail railroad crossing
We continued on.  The day continued to be really nice, and the trail stayed more or less near the lake, wandering inland where a creek would come in before heading back to the lake.  I love this trail when the leaves are off the trees, you can see so much more.  I’m surprised more people don’t come to the trail, it’s not far from a lot of people and it’s prettier than Umstead State Park, but I usually only see a handful out there.  We stopped at a really nice view, a bench near a field and two runners went by.

I had planned on doing 14 miles with the fully loaded pack.  I thought the car was parked at 11 miles in, I figured that would give us some wiggle room in case it was really longer, we could always keep going and turn around.  I had looked at the website very quickly, and it turns out I did some math wrong.  The car was actually parked 17.5 miles away from the start.  We realized this around 12 miles in while we stopped at a pond.  Roscoe ate some pond mud like mutts do.  Then he started throwing up.  Not good.  He still seemed interested in food, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad.  He did throw up all the contents of his stomach, which was worrying.  We were already out, so we just kept going onward towards the car.  The sun set, and we were still hiking.  I had a headlamp, but Ian only brought his phone, so he used it.  We only had a few more miles at that point, and we were making good time.  The moon was rising, a big fat moon occasionally veiled by wisps of cloud.  We hiked through tall pines, their moon shadows too dark to see through without the light.  Reaching a wide meadow, we switched our lights off and hiked briefly by moonlight.  

My feet, trying out my new gaiters.
Powerline views
Hiking in the dark
At around 15 miles, there was a caution tape across the trail.  I don’t know why it was there, but I went around.  As I did that, I was distracted by talking to Ian behind me and I started to twist my left ankle, the one that I sprained last fall.  I’m not sure if I did it subconsciously or was just over correcting, but I then fell on my right side, away from the ankle.  It was a good fall.  By that, I mean, I didn’t hurt anything.  I’m a good fall-er.  I’ve had lots of practice.  I grew up riding horses, and you learn how to fall.  Tuck your arms, land rolling on your side.  Don’t land butt first and for goodness sake, don’t land head first!

I got up gingerly, and I could feel that I had tweaked it at least a little, but it was not super painful.  So, I walked on it.  It wasn’t bad.  I think my fall to the right side saved it.  I’m going to bring my trekking poles every time now.  I was kicking myself that I had forgotten them.  By the time we reached the car, the ankle felt mostly fine and it was almost 9:00.  Too late to be hiking, but we did it!  I’m glad we ended up hiking those long miles, it makes me more confident I can handle the long miles of the PCT.  Roscoe's stomach settled down and he stopped throwing up.  He's fine.  In the next blog post, I’ll tell you about this last weekend’s backpacking trip to Uwharrie National Forest.


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