So. How have I been since I last came back from the woods? Well, there have been good days and bad days, to be honest. But that weekend helped give me perspective, for sure, and a message from Carpenter telling me to cut the crap was what I needed to hear at the moment. Sometimes I find myself with the friends I need at the exact time in my life that I need them and I wonder.
But the last two weeks have been tests and projects and homework and, while I’ve regained some of my confidence in myself (reflected in some of the decisions I’ve made in my personal life, and some of the distance I’ve managed to get), I still kind of feel like the third biggest idiot in Brown Hall (the mechanical engineering building). Not the first or second anymore, but the third.
So I’m looking forward to some more time in the woods, meeting new people and thinking about whatever I want to think about (please don’t let it be heat transfer). (It’s totally going to be heat transfer. How can it NOT be heat transfer when it’s night time and you’re lying on a sleeping pad with a literal thermal resistance value and your body is generating heat at some rate and your sleeping bag is conducting heat at another rate? It’s always heat transfer.)
So you’ve seen part of the plan. What CANNOT change is anything in the smokies. the Smokies requires that you purchase a permit for whatever shelter you’re going to stay at and that’s where you’re allowed to stay. The end. So that’s all pretty much set in stone, especially for the northern half of the park where it’s more crowded.
After the Smokies, well, that all depends on how I’m feeling. If my knees are dead, then I’ll get a ride back to hot springs, stay at the Laughing Heart Hostel for a night, and relaxicate at the hot springs spa for a day. If it was good enough for FDR it’s good enough for me (har har something about the New Deal with my knees).
If my knees are feeling awesome, then I’d like to get a ride to Erwin and try to bang out 75 miles back to Hot Springs before Sunday. I’d have to look at it and see exactly how feasible it is, but that’s my pie in the sky plan.
New gear? You know it. I’m switching to an alcohol stove this time. Huge weight savings but huge time suck when it comes to boiling water. Looks really cool though.
This stove is courtesy of Stewart, who has a billion that he’s made.
I’m also switching to a CCF pad instead of my neoair xtherm. The xTherm is much warmer (higher R-value, or higher thermal resistance; I can give you the formula for that if you’re interested) but it’s kind of a pain to inflate and deflate and I’m getting lazy, to be honest. They weigh the same, so no weight savings but big time savings.
And the big one? New pack. I got a really good deal on a pack I’ve had my eye on for a while- the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400. Reviews said it’s excellent at transferring the load to your hips, which I need. And it’s basically waterproof, so no need for a pack cover (I hate messing with that). But the best part? You can reach and replace the water bottles in the side pockets while wearing the pack. That pretty much sold me.
Also it’s pretty.
After hiking three miles (in the dark!) to Deer Park Shelter (and wow, this place is a pit) let me be the first to say that I LOVE this pack. I’m resigned that I’ll never get feeling back in my left leg and hip, but it carries like a dream. It helps that my base weight (that is, pack weight with no food or water) is down to about 13 lbs. that’s also without heat transfer homework, so it’s probably closer to 14 after I threw in a few last minute things, but still. I love it.
And lastly, my physical therapist has taped my knees to help them track a little better. Hopefully that will help a bit. It looks pretty cool. She also cut extra tape so I can retape them before big mileage days.
And that’s about it. There’s not much to say about the three miles I hiked tonight. I flew through it. My legs are like that robot that Boston Dynamics (is that the name of the robotics company?) makes. I’m like something out of Fahrenheit 451. I feel like a BEAST is what I’m trying to say. Powerful and strong and capable. I mean, a little winded going uphill, but also strong like a horse. Or a robot. Maybe a robot that needs to be optimized a little.
The shelter log says there’s a big hill tomorrow (today- no service at the shelter so I’ll post this in the morning). I guess that’s a mountain, haha. I’m going to climb that mountain and I’m going to walk for miles and miles until my mind is quiet and my soul feels content with what I’ve accomplished.