A Million Flying Bugs

This weekend in Pearisburg, VA we found a beautiful area called Whitt-Riverbend Park. It featured a large, fast-flowing river, open grassy spaces, and a train that ran just above the water. What a scene! So picturesque, so scenic, that it makes a girl want to pack a bag and hike the Appalachian Trail.

Except. There were these little gnats EVERYWHERE. When you stopped long enough to smile for a picture, there they were, trying to settle down on your eyelashes and dive into your ears. I was in shock by how relentless these little buggies were (nature, how could you turn on me like this?!), but Will just said “welcome to my world.” I don’t think I’d do well in his world.

Now that the weather is warm, the animals – and tiny flying bugs – are making their appearance at every turn. Will has seen a bear and three snakes in the past week!

In other news: last week Will got food poisoning and it slowed him down a bit. He’s back to 100% and has started this week strong. There is only one problem – his shoes (or clodhoppers, as my grandpa calls them). The Hokas are not holding up well – in fact, they are falling apart after less than 200 miles. For comparison, the Brooks Cascadias lasted a solid 500 miles on the trail, and Will had them for a year before he even started his hike. So the Hokas are a huge disappointment.

Will contacted the company and explained the situation; they said he could send the shoes in for an evaluation and they may be able to send him a replacement. His plan is to buy a new pair of shoes in Troutville, VA this weekend and stick the Hokas in the mail. They don’t make clodhoppers like they used to.

Speaking of Troutville (aren’t the names of these places the best?)… Will is on his way there! I’ll meet him in Troutville – only 20 minutes from Roanoke, VA – on Saturday. This will probably be the last time I will see him for a while. If everything goes according to plan (when has that ever happened?), this is Will’s schedule for the next month:

4/30 – Troutville, VA (near Roanoke) – mile 729
5/7 – Crabtree Falls campground, VA (north of Lynchburg)
5/14 – Skyland Resort in Shanendoah National Park, VA (north of Harrisonburg)
5/21 – Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (considered the “psychological midway point” on the AT!)
5/28 – Boiling Springs, PA (south of Harrisburg)

Talk to you soon! Don’t forget to check out more photos on our Instagram page, @thetreelogs.



How to Fit Your Life (for 6 months) into a Backpack

Well… the secret’s out.

Will is leaving this Saturday (February 27th, 2016) for a 6-month hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail! As we have shared this news with friends and family, we’ve received varied responses and questions. There are many questions we’d like to answer on this blog- both for those of you who are very familiar with the culture of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers and those of you who are not- but we’ll start by dumping out and analyzing the contents of a backpacker’s best friend – his backpack. Hint: it does not contain a gun (this has been a popular question).

Below we’ve divided all of the gear in Will’s pack into 8 main categories. Read on to learn what goes in the pack and what stays behind (warning: extreme puns ahead)…

Main Gear Cropped

1. Backpack because there would be no such thing as “backpacking” without it.
The popular trail saying “pack it in, pack it out” is both a call to protect the environment and a picture of a thru-hiker’s life – each morning you pack up your life and you carry it. Will is using a Granite Gear Leopard AC 58 (58 means 58 liters, or the size of the bag; a typical thru-hiker’s backpack is somewhere between 50 and 65 liters). Also included in this section: a pack cover for rain protection and a trash compactor bag (a really thick trash bag) which acts as a liner inside the pack. It is white which helps you see inside the bag more easily.

2. Shelter system- because it can get in(tents) out there.
Will is using a Zpacks Duplex cuben fiber tent which is extremely lightweight and durable. This section also includes tent stakes and trekking poles. Using trekking poles to hold up the tent rather than carrying separate tent poles saves on weight. #multipurposegear!

3. Sleeping system because you need a place to “saw logs” after a day in the woods.
At home you’ve got box springs, a mattress, a Tempur-Pedic pillow, and sheets. In the woods you’ve got a sleeping pad, a sleeping bag, an inflatable pillow, and sleeping bag liner. Will’s sleeping bag is a Nemo Nocturne 15 (the 15 means comfortable down to 15 degrees) goose down bag; his sleeping pad is a Thermarest NeoAir X Lite; and his sleeping bag liner is a Sea to Summit Thermolite (essential in cold weather because it adds warmth; also keeps the sleeping bag clean inside).

4. Navigation- because there’s no GPS in the wild.
That little green book in the top center of the photo is the A.T. Guide by AWOL. This book is popular among thru hikers because it lists all the shuttles, hostels, maps of towns, shelters, elevation, and mileages along the A.T. Will also has a Suunto compass, which is not absolutely necessary on the trail because the A.T. is so well-marked, but he likes using a compass and it also has a mirror that can also be used for hygiene (checking for ticks= very important).

5. Nourishment- because your hunter/gatherer instincts are probably lacking.
Will’s backcountry kitchen will consist of a Jet Boil Mini Mo (you cook/eat/drink right out of the pot), a spoon, and toothbrush to wash out the pot. For water treatment, he is using Aquamira drops to treat water from streams. For now he is going to go with #nofilter, but if it becomes necessary he can pick one up along the way. He’ll bring 4 liters of water storage, but will not carry that much at once. He’ll also store his food in a  Zpacks cuben fiber food bag.

6. Electronicsbecause you’ve got to keep in touch with those of us in the 21st century.
Perfect for keeping in touch, taking photos, and staying sane while detached from civilization. Will is bringing his iPhone 6, an Anker battery-powered phone charger which can charge his phone up to 6 times, headphones and an iPod Nano to listen to music, and a StickPic for selfies with woodland creatures.

7. First Aid/toiletries- because you need to stay so fresh and so clean.
Will is bringing a toothbrush, toothpaste, bandaids, nail clippers, Neosporin, sports tape for blisters, Body Glide, homemade salve (really, he made it!), multivitamins, and ibuprofen for sore joints and muscles. He is NOT bringing deodorant. ::cringe:: (“Deal with it.” – Will)

8. Repair kit because everything that can go wrong, will.
When your only worldly possession is your gear, you’ve got to protect it. Will is bringing patches for his sleeping pad in case it gets a hole, cuben fiber tape to repair the tent, duct tape, a mini Bic lighter, small multi-tool, and spare batteries for his headlamp.

So there you have it- our 8 categories of trail living! Notice one important element that is missing from this list? Stay tuned for our next post!

P.S. Follow along on Instagram at @thetreelogs

Meridith and Will