Archive for February, 2009


February 25th, 2009

So I was talking to someone the other day about the hike and we both brought up the idea of sponsorship along the trail.  I have never heard of anyone hiking the Appalachian Trail for a fundraising cause, but don’t people have walks for all kinds of different things?  So I was wondering if anyone knew of an organization that might be interested in something like this.  I’m not sure exactly how it work work, and I’m almost out of time to organize something like this myself, but I think it would be really cool to have, say, and American Cancer Society flag on my pack and for get people to sponsor me per mile, or only on completion of the trail or something and give all the proceeds to the ACS.  Thoughts?

Reason #5

February 23rd, 2009



It’s true, I’ve been slacking on my meditations, since the summer really.  I went to a wonderful place in Portland a few times called Maitripa, where you can actually get a Degree in Meditation.  But barely every other week.  I’ve been wanting to do a longer meditation for some time now, and was looking at the Green Gulch Zen Center out in California about a year ago.  they do great three month farming / meditation retreats.  I did a shorter Zen retreat in Cambridge, and man, Zen is tough.  So maybe it’s good I never did the program at Green Gulch.  (As an aside, Tassajara, a sister center to Green Gulch, has has one of the best cookcooks I’ve ever used, Tassajara Cooking.  If you live on the West Coast, it’s usually pretty easy to find in used bookstores.)  I really wanted to do the November Course at Kopan Monastery in Nepal, which would be a perfect continuation of my experience at Tushita.  Unfortunately, getting to Nepal can be tricky, and very very costly.


So then I was thinking maybe I can turn hiking the Appalachian Trail into an extended meditation retreat.  Walking is often performed as a type of meditation in both the Tibetan and Zen traditions, and I will be hiking mostly in isolation.  The purpose of any meditation is to simply be aware of what you are doing and your surroundings.  I think it would be amazing to be aware of every step along that trail.


I realize there is a certain inherent conflict between wanting to finish the hike and meditating; meditation is not about accomplishing anything, while hiking is.  Well kind of, hiking is also about hiking, so maybe it will work out.

Reason #4

February 22nd, 2009

It’s harder to hit a moving target.

Reason #3

February 20th, 2009

Appalachia is awesome!


When I was at RISD I spent a lot of time studying the history and culture of the Appalachians through English courses and a furniture department independent study, which resulted in the following instruments.  The Appalachians have a unique Scotch-Irish heritage that runs the length of the mountains.  Most of the Scots that settled this area made a rather long stop in Ireland first.  In an attempt to clear more land for them selves, and civilize the Irish, the British sent many Scottish Families over to Ireland.  Colonizing Ireland, however, did not go quite according to plan, and suddenly there were all these Scotts in Ireland that didn’t want to be there, that the Irish didn’t want there, and that the British wouldn’t let come home.  So many of them came to America and made the Appalachian Mountains their new home.  In response to this mixed heritage and loss of homeland I made this Banjo and Dulcimer, both of which are uniquely Appalachian instruments. 




So naturally I think it will be great to spend some time on these mountains, and hey, maybe I’ll even get to meet someone who can actually play one of these bad boys.

Reason #2

February 16th, 2009

Mountain Top Mining.


As we speak the Appalachians are dramatically changing shape and appearance due to an enthusiastic new mining approach that literally takes the tops right off the mountains.  Besides destroying the scenery of the oldest mountain range in the world, this form of coal mining has great environmental repercussions for plants, animals, and local residents.  And coal isn’t exactly the cleanest form of energy we have available to us.  Since the damage increases daily, I’d rather hike the trail sooner rather than later, as the effects of the mining becomre more noticeable.  


You can read and hear more about this kind of mining at NPR.


And then take action at

Initial Gear List

February 15th, 2009

Pack 4lbs
REI Quick UL 45 Pack $30*
REI Duck Bag Cover $6*
CamelBak 2L Bladder
Sleeping 7lbs
Tarptent Sublite Sil $199
LL Bean Down Sleeping Bag
REI Self Inflating Sleeping Pad, Short $16*
Kitchen 3lbs
Sideburner Soda Can Stove $0
500ml Fuel Nalgene
Sea To Summit Titanium Spork and Lexan Knife $9*
Aluminium Flashing Wind Screen
REI Lexan Mug $2*
MSR Titanium Kettle $27*
27oz Klean Kanteen
Copper Pot Scrubby $2
Mini Bic Lighter
Platypus 2L Bag $7*
Chlorine Dioxide Water Drops $12
Clothes 7lbs
REI Gore-Tech Boots ?
Keen Slides
EMS Techwick Mid Weight Top + Bottom $45*
EMS Convertible Pants
C9 Long Sleeve Running Shirt $15
EMS Athletic T-Shirt $17*
Underwear ?
PolyPro Sock Liners $6
Hiking Socks, 2 pairs
Woolrich Fleece Pullover ?
The Weather Company Rain Gear $69
Winter Mittens
3 Bandannas
Accessories 3lbs
EMS Trekking Poles
Victorinox Manager $17*
Sewing Needle
50ft Nylon Rope $4
10ft Duct Tape
Thru-Hiker’s Handbook, 2008 $15
Rites in the Rain $4 ?
Love 2009 Daily Journal $13* ?
iPhone –* ?
Otter Box Case $32 ?
Solio Solar Charger $30* ?
First Aid 1lb
5 Gauze Pads $4
8 Band-Aids
6 Blister Treatments and Moleskin $8
2 Butterfly Bandages
Bug Spray
Ibuprofen $6
Multi Vitamins
Hygiene 2lbs
Red Snapper Trowel $2
Toilet Paper
Dr Brohners Soap
Nivea Cream $1
Mini Tooth Brush + Paste $2
10m Floss
Ear Plugs
Total $600 21lbs

* = On Sale
— = Already Owned
? = Weight not included

I also got three stuff sacs for my food, clothes, and sleeping bag, which is compression. I’m using the sea to summit brand, and together they cost $50. My tent and pad came with sacs, and I’m using my sisters dry sac for electronics.

So I don’t have a cool gram scale or anything like that and was doing this all on a regular bathroom scale. Needless to say the weights don’t add up, so something is off, but the total pack weight should be about right, which is to say 4lbs more than I’d like it to be without food and water. Hmm…

Sideburner Alcohol Stove

February 14th, 2009

I’ve made two stoves so far for the hike, trying out two separate designs.  Sideburner on left, topburner on right.


Alcohol Stoves


The first one I made is a top burning penny jet stove.  I used directions at YGingras, they are really easy to follow.  This stove works really well, but it needs a pot stand, which is more weight, and due to the small size of my pot I had a bit of trouple making one that I felt stable enough.  I could get into the science and benefits of alcohol stoves, but Zen Stoves really has all the information you need to know.  For me, the idea of making some of my own gear was really appealing, and in this case very affordable.  Woo hoo for making things!


The next one I tried is really a minor variation on the topburner, called a sideburner.  I followed these directions at Home Made Alcohol Stoves.  The one modification I made was to use a slightly bigger hole in the center, covered by a penny like the topburner.  I like the side burner design a lot more becasue you can place your pot right on top of the stove, however these stoves may be slightly less efficient as heat escapes around the sides of the pot.  A tip for anyone trying to make one of these:  For cutting cans, the scissor technique works a lot better, faster, and easier than the utility blade technique.




I tried making a mini sideburner following the instructions at Zen Stoves, but had a very difficult time of it.  As it turns out V8 cans are much thinner than your average soda can, and thus much more likely the crimp , buckle, and crack through the many stages of putting a stove like this together, and I just couldn’t get mine to stay lit.


February 14th, 2009

I have two big fears going into the hike:

  1. Not being able to finish the Appalachian Trail 
  2. Getting Rejected from the ASU Intermedia MFA / Sustainability MS Program

The first one is particularly disturbing, as I feel like I would somehow be failing myself, which is part of the reason as to why I am doing this at all.  I don’t have much control over the second one anymore, I just don’t know what I’d do with myself if I don’t get into grad school.  Eek.  Interestingly, I’m not terribly concerned about starting too early, getting eaten by bears, or running out of water.  Maybe I should be.

Reason #1

February 13th, 2009

Why hike the Appalachian Trail?


Because it’s there.


February 13th, 2009

This is the question I get most when I tell people that I am hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Why?  It’s a valid question.  Hiking the trail is a huge commitment, it takes great resources; in money, but more so in time.  It also takes huge losses.  While I am hiking I will be largely alone, and vary far from my friends and family.  I have already lost loved ones because of my decision to take these months to hike the trail.  When I tell people I taking this walk, and after they ask why, I am usually met with a very concerned look.  Of all the people I have talked to, I have had but one friend smile and say “wow, that’s great, I know you’ll finish it.”  One.  So I’m embarking on this huge quest with hardly any support; naturally I must have very good reasons for the why.  I hope in the next few days to give some of my initial reasons for my intent and timing of this hike.