… but why (not) though?!

Yeah, of course, our impending trip has been met with a ‘Wow’, ‘Get it gurrrl!’, ‘You a brave mf’ kind of attitude. It’s been the most overwhelming response in fact… but when people go in with the ‘why tho’ attitude, they go in hard. Occasionally it’s a genuine curiosity as to why; more often than not though this question is designed by their own insecurities and dumped on your doorstep in an attempt to destroy your confidence in what you’re about to embark on… AND YOUR SOUL.

The problem with questioners of this variation is that they make their pre-formed opinion immediately very clear in their tone: You are section-level mental and must be talked down from this terrible decision. In which case they will not be receptive to an answer that is contrary to their belief-system. I find these challenges vaguely offensive, patronising, and frustrating to counter-act.

For example I was asked continuously ‘WHY?’, ‘Why would you do such a thing?!’, ‘Why do you choose to run off, you can’t keep running away!’ No matter what my answer was, I was berated more in the hope I’d back down and ‘admit’ I was being foolish. Let’s back tf up. First of all, when did travelling, seeing the world, pushing yourself, conquering something become running away? My frustration is with the apparently common consensus that if a person does something atypical it’s perfectly fine to question them in a mocking and almost aggressive manner; if I turned the tables and I approached people, to impose my opinion, to ask, ‘WHY did you have that baby, why did you marry that person, why OH WHY did you do such a thing?!’ I would be in deep shit, fast. I understand we’re from two opposing mindsets; but you see, that type of person doesn’t really want me to answer honestly, because my honest answer would be: “‘Why’? Because I don’t want a Next sale, DFS, First Choice package holiday, Sky Movie channel, beige carpet life like yours, that’s ‘why’“… If I answered in the same repulsed-by-your-decisions manner as they’d asked I’d be the monster, because I was just meant to absorb and laugh off their attack and blush at how silly I’m being.

Can’t, shan’t. You do you and I’ll do me… and, “Me?? Why, I’m hiking the Appalachian trail babbyyy!!”

I do have one counter-question though – Why not?

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Let there be light!

So yeh this happened…

Gotta test these things out and I have to say, I’m pretty damn impressed with my shiny new headtorch!!

Should probably have done this outside but I did walk around the house with the lights off and I didn’t fall over. Tried and tested. Done.

Think this cost me about £30… There are cheaper ones by Petzl – starting at £15 for 150 lumens but I wanted the extra brightness so opted for a 300 lumen one instead. I’m clumsy at the best of times so I’m sure this decision will pay off!

Testing, Testing… I need to pee.

I needed to hike ASAP to make sure my new boots were as suitable as they felt in the shop, even though the store guy allowed me to do the rest of my shopping wearing them – which meant I had them on for a total of half an hour.

Me and my lovely pal Sophie decided to do a shortie hike in the Lincolnshire Wolds, specifically the circular through Fulletby, Tetford, Belchford and the Hamlet of Salmonby, following the Viking pass for some of the route.

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We started a littlllleeee on the late side (12:30pm), but it wasn’t a long walk and we had barely anything to carry. It was however a miserable 0 degree day ,with whipping wind and rain for half of the time and we were mainly walking through open, flat fields. Lesson one for me – in rain and wind, leggings are NOT going to cut it. Especially the Hypercool (d’oh) ones I’d unthinkingly chosen to wear. We were 15/20 minutes in and I could feel my thighs were wind-scorched, luckily I DID have the common sense to bring a second pair with me for extra insulation and I was more than fine after putting them on, but for the trail I will be getting some semi-waterproofs to act as a wind barrier. *Disclaimer, TMI moment*: I also learnt, well, not learnt, because it’s been a life-long thing for me, but more that I had a stark realisation of how much my constant peeing is going to affect me, my partner and my timing on the trail. I mean, being a thing I’ve lived with for a long time now I can really bang out a pee in super-quick-time, but when you’re going into the double figures (yep, really) per day the time stacks up well into the minutes! It is only logical that I invest my money, and invest it wisely…

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We stopped for a tactical Pint (and a half, come on it was a Saturday and a recreational-hike) in The White Hart Inn in a village we stomped through – Tetford. We found it after hanging around a junction in the pissing rain Google-mapping. A man driving past laughing to himself, finding amusement at the sight of us, probably didn’t realise that we genuinely, the masochists we are, find this kind of thing fun. Anyway, the place was bloody glorious as a stopping point for the sodden walker – a log fire, local ales, beers and folklore, a very traditionally-English-looking Spaniel, and, of course, a donated decorative chastity belt.

We lobbed some logs on the fire, dried off our legs, listened to the landlord’s anecdotes, downed our ale and got back out.

It had stopped raining altogether when we got back out into it, but the ground was absolutely sodden and boggy, with deep puddles and sludge galore. My beautiful Mammut boots withstood it all though. They were comfy from the get-go and didn’t let a drop of water in. Thank you Gore-Tex!! After removing my boots at the end of the day I did notice a blister had formed on the top of my wee toe, but this can certainly be put down to the socks (a non-engineered, non-specialist pair I grabbed from the drawer) which I will of course NOT be wearing for my AT hike.

It took us, not counting the stop, 3 hours to do the 7 miles. We walked a fairly leisurely pace and stopped for a fair few photos, along with a very important ascent up a Hay bale mountain to pose… and twerk. In which case, I’m hoping I can average 2 miles per hour out on the trail at least, taking my pack into account, which means it’ll take 6 hours hiking to achieve my desired 12 miles each day… I needs to get training harder and heavier on leg day at the gym to give myself some more power, and I need to order a She-wee yesterday are my main conclusions.

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Decisions decisions…

So the big one, EQUIPMENT.

This is the thing that’s occupied my mind the most since deciding to hike the A.T. Probably because if I get it wrong then it’s going to be an expensive mistake to make.

First up – Pack.

The day I got my Visa approved I stopped briefly outside the embassy and rang Laura to scream down the phone a bit and share the good news then I hopped on the tube with my new-found enthusiasm. I walked as fast as my legs would take me (it was chucking buckets) about a mile to the Cotswold Company store; only to notice when I got there the perfectly situated tube station right outside the entrance. I then proceeded to stand in the rain for another 20 minutes until it opened. I realised as I was waiting that I’d turned into one of those people that I hated. After years of working in retail and thinking people were total nobs for being so desperate to get in a store before 9am; then having to hold in my anger and smile politely when people shook loudly on the very obviously locked front doors. I was now this person! I couldn’t help it though I was practically pissing myself with excitement and the second the doors opened I marched in proudly to purchase my pack. This I had been decided on since day 1. Easiest decision of the whole trip.

The Osprey Aura is by far the comfiest and most suited to female hikers (in my opinion). It’s got this stretchy fabric around the waist/hip area so it feels like one giant hug when you put it on. My upper body is also oddly out of proportion for my height, I’m basically 75% legs, so the fact that this pack comes in a short and medium back size was perfect for me and each option is adjustable. I opted for the 65L pack (short back size). There wasn’t much difference in weight between the 65 and 50 and I’ve never been the best at packing light, so I knew even this would be a challenge for me.

I took this rather well arranged photo so you can see everything I have purchased so far.

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Second up – Boots. 

Now this is the decision I literally cried over! I must admit it wasn’t worth the tears but I’d been an anxious, emotional wreck lately so I couldn’t help it. I’d spent £150 on some Mammut Ayako High GTX boots and I’d tried on about 20 pairs to get to this decision. Quite honestly I was just confused. People were telling me I needed something more substantial with ankle support… others did the whole hike in trail runners. I was 99% sure of my decision at the time. It was only when I wore them outside I realised they were too tight on my instep. I have quite fat feet (when I say fat I mean pretty damn chunky) so after about 10 minutes of walking the dog I had no circulation to my toes and pins and needles everywhere. I then balled my eyes out over the money I’d wasted before realising I’d spent most my life working in footwear so I probably had the skills to clean them up to the point where no one would notice. So yes I did a bad thing! They were good as new once I’d removed the mud and 50 or so stones that got stuck in my soles, so they can re-sell them..

The next pair I bought were the Salomon Quest Prime GTX Boots. These cost me about £135 from Go Outdoors and are literally the best things I’ve ever bought. I broke them in on a 9 mile walk through mud and woodland and they didn’t even start to rub until about 20 minutes from the end. Luckily I went prepared (well my sister did) and slapped a Compede on it. So overall I’m really happy with them; I have a lot more space in the width for my chubby toes and I can feel there’s a good amount of support under the arches of my feet. This was strange to get used to after years of wearing Nike’s and walking flat footed, a few miles in and you really do notice the benefit of having this support. Makes me question my sanity knowing that I used to wear 5 inch heels for an 8 hour shift at work and somehow convinced myself that they were comfortable. Now here I am breaking in perhaps the ugliest things I’ve seen in my life and I’m more excited to wear them than a pair of new Kurt Geigers. I don’t know whats happened to me but I think it’s for the best.

Here’s a close up of my sexy new boots:

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Now as you can see above there’s loads I could continue to bore you with; for those of you that are interested I’ll cover these another time. For now though I’m looking forward to turning my laptop off, grabbing a cup of tea and working my way through a king size pack of chocolate digestives.

Here’s a full list of my equipment so far – Any questions then drop it in the comments for me and I can get back to you!

Osprey Aura AG 65

OEX Leviathan EV 600 fill down sleeping bag

OEX compact 4.0 self inflating sleeping mat

OEX self inflating pillow – (luxury item but I need it!)

Aukey 20,000 mAh lightning power bank

Petzel Actik multi-beam 300 lumens head torch

OEX Microfibre trekking body towel 

Various socks – Bridgedale & Smart wool (both marino wool)

Rab Fuse II waterproof pants

Rab base layers – short and long sleeved

Berghaus GTX Women’s hillwalker jacket 

 

 

 

 

Panicking, Procrastinating, Prepping

Since deciding to create this blog 8 days ago, under the extreme emotional duress of kind and interested friends, family and strangers who just want to see Rosie and I do well, I’ve done a lot of p-ing. Mainly procrastinating (thanking my first ever boyfriend, age 15, for his overuse of this word and making it a staple word in my vocabulary) but also panicking. Big time. The panicking ran along the lines of: ‘Fuck’. More in depth: ‘Fuck, I don’t even have the basics and what I do have is NOT going to cut this undertakinggg arrrgghhhhh.’

First dilemma: The bag/pack/backpack. A major deal. It’s going to be my home and its home is going to be on my back for near enough 6 months, ergo it needs to be right, and by ‘right’ I mean perfect. I asked a couple of questions on forums, apparently dumb questions only an arsehole would ask judging by the responses. I asked “Is a 50L bag a suitable size to take on a thru-hike on the AT?” I was performing a hiking-question-faux-pas of comparative stupidity to slicing my guts open and going for a gentle swim with Sharks and was met with the kind of “how long is a piece of string??” answers you’d expect. Some people went one time with 30L packs and burnt their own feces as fuel to save space and made a nest in a tree every night like a Gorilla and why didn’t I just do that? But other people were helpful and answered my question in a way I had intended to ask it – yes, it is more than possible for a novice long-distance hiker to fit everything they need into a 50L size pack. I made my way to the shops and got me an Osprey 50 Aura AG made specifically for female-width shoulders and not a gender-specific colour in sight. One down.

Second dilemma: Boots. Biggest deal of all the deals. These had to be right, and need to continue to be right for 2200 miles. I was putting the pussy booties on a pedestal about this decision, and too right! In fact, for a good few weeks I’ve been so concerned about this decision that I avoided it entirely. However as we hit 60 days to go 3 days ago, I realised I have to take the plunge and make a purchase so I can get them worn in – tried and tested. I didn’t want to bother the community/wake that monster in Pan’s Labyrinth with the eyeball hands with my stupidity this time, so I went straight online to look at some options and reviews and I came across a pretty interesting and sassy-looking outdoor range by Adidas, ‘Terrex’. Being a gym-lover I am a sucker for Adidas and I trust the brand, but my problem was I had no way to try these on without ordering 3 different pairs (it’s the norm to need to go up half a size or a whole size in hiking boots, plus in Adidas trainers I’m half a size up from my normal size anyway) so I scrapped them and the rigmarole that came with that option. Then I saw some super-light, totally waterproof Salomons which I was pretty sure I wanted, so I went to the shop to try them on… Anyway the short story is I got some Mammuts* (Ayako High GTX, specifically). It goes to show that looking online just is NOT practical for this kind of shopping – you HAVE to try everything on and get a feel for it.

*Serious shout-OUT to my main man Andrew at Lincoln Go Outdoors for spending hours with me talking me through the Boots and other equipment.


My equipment purchased new so far (OEX Leviathan EV Hydrophobic down sleeping bag, Mammut Ayako High GTX Hiking Boots, Osprey Aura 50L backpack, Mountain Equipment Zeno waterproof jacket, which is actually a men’s small but I swiped it in the sale for £80). Photo:

Appalachian Equipment

I’m on a roll now!