Written by: Emily Ginger "Lightning"
First, I want to do a shout out to my Grandparents who have backpacked and hiked various sections of the AT- Thank you for exposing me to nature throughout my life, for your support in my adventures, and for following my blog! I am proud to be partaking in something you treasure!
It still amazes me that I get to walk up and down mountains all day, everyday! I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be alive and out here enjoying natural beauty because anytime I glance around I see an awesome setting rich with an assortment of plants, trees, rocks, rivers, streams, or mountain ridges for miles. At times the environment feels surreal and I envy myself for being so privileged.
I am impressed at how well our bodies have adapted to these arduous daily work-outs over and through the Appalachian Mountains. Since our strength has increased so has our daily mileage. Some days we walk 16 miles and on others we walk 24 miles. Also, we have entered into the state of Virginia which has a somewhat “flatter” terrain than what we were tackling in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee making the higher mileage more manageable. With my body feeling strong and the terrain being easier, I have taken to trail running. I can’t run uphill, and I can’t run everyday, but on a majority of days I will do at least a portion of my hike running (so far I’m up to 10 miles). I get the same adrenaline rush when I sprint down the trail as I would from longboarding down the streets of Chicago or speed rollerblading along the lake front. I am hoping that after 5 months of hiking I will be quicker and stronger when I return to longboarding, rollerblading, and bicycling at home!
Regardless of whether you are walking or running, doing almost an entire marathon up and down mountains everyday with 30 lbs on your back burns a lot of calories. Out here, food has acquired an entirely different purpose for me and is no longer enjoyed for its flavor or texture. If there are calories in something, I’ll eat it! Every morning when I wake up I’m hungry so I eat right away. Breakfast is two packets of instant oatmeal, freeze dried fruit, and some-odd amount of powdered milk (sometimes I’ll add a packet of hot cocoa mix instead). In the interest of saving fuel and money I just add cold water to my oatmeal, stir, and then eat. It’s heavenly but not enough calories so I eat two pop tarts as well. I usually take a snack break after 3-5 miles where I shovel a couple heaping handfuls of gorp into my mouth and eat a Cliff Bar. This gets me to Lunch. For Lunch I’ll eat some tuna or peanut butter with crackers and more gorp or granola bars. By the time dinner rolls around I have already eaten more than I would in an entire day were I at home in Chicago. Hiking takes a lot of energy, and leaves me hungry, so like I said… I eat anything! For instance, a few weeks ago, we stopped for lunch on a rainy day and we were too cold/ tired to pump some water to make a nalgene of powerade. We wanted the electrolytes so we decided to just pour the powerade mix straight into our mouth, like a pixie stick. Since then, we often just pour a mouthful of “electrolyte powder” straight into our mouth and then wash it down with a sip of water. Another day, while sitting and enjoying a view, Kate snacked on some crackers and I mindlessly ate all of her cracker crumbs that had fallen on the rock. Whatever I drop in the dirt (whether it’s a sunflower seed or a melted piece of cheddar cheese), I pick it up and eat it. At night, instead of boiling more water for hot cocoa, I just use cold water and eat chunky hot cocoa, but I enjoy having the dessert!
Not only have my food standards gone out the window, but so have my standards of cleanliness. We have to filter our water, so we use it sparingly and try not to waste a single drop. When I wash my bowl after every meal I just rinse it with about ¼ cup of water and sometimes I will just drink that “dirty” water. Living outside I’m constantly covered in dirt, but I don’t bother to wash it off because shortly thereafter I will just be dirty again. It’s interesting how relative normalcy is and that nobody notices my “disgusting” habits because these are the norms out here- everyone is covered in dirt or drinking their dirty dish water. I look forward to seeing what other adjustments and changes I will experience while out here!