Q: What inspired you to go on your six month hiking trip through the Appalachian National Scenic Trail?
A: Since I was a young child, I have always been drawn to adventure and the natural world. At that time cell phone and PCs didn’t exist and being outside was what I wanted to do, whether building a tree fort in the woods, following a creek just to see where it went; traversing a patch of frozen river to get to the island at its middle, or free climbing a 100 foot face at Seneca Rocks, WV. Deep down, there must be some Gypsy DNA within my makeup. Travel and adventure have always been an important part of my life. My first backpacking trip was with a church camp in 1976 on a section of the Appalachian Trail in the Shenandoah National Forest in Virginia. I knew then I would return someday for a longer hike. That trip was almost 40 years ago.
The confluence of time and money are rare in most people’s lives. Having both is a necessity to commit to a six month hike.
Even still, I have had many opportunities for shorter adventures over the past four decades. Ski club trips to Europe in the 80’s. A retirement gift to my father to paddle for 10 days on the wild upper section of the Suwannee River through northern Florida and a solo backpacking trip in the wilds of coastal Alaska in the 90’s. A 30 day solo backpack around southern Crimea, Ukraine in the 00’s. Most recently in 2013, I spent two weeks exploring the fjords, volcanoes, black sand beaches and vast expanse of Iceland with my daughter for her high school graduation.
Planning my next adventure has always been on my mind. I will be laid off from work at the end of next week, so I will have the time. I’ve been saving, purchasing gear and planning since this past summer and expecting the lay-off,, so hopefully I now have enough money to make it to the end of the trail next fall. Help from family, friends and support from great sponsors, like WBK should ensure a happy and successful ending!!
Q: How long have you been adhering to the Paleo Diet, and why were you drawn to this way of eating?
A: I only first heard about eating a Paleo diet this past summer. Dieting has never been something I’ve pursued much. Eating healthy though, has been a life-long goal, although the path has been quite varied.
I grew up eating what was a typical American diet at that time.. Tuna casserole, Hamburger Helper, margarine instead of butter, processed vegetable oils, and pasta were all staples and meals in my household as a child. My mother was a fantastic cook and always provide nourishing meals for my our family. I learned to garden and cook during weekends at my grandmother’s place. To this day, I can trace my passion for growing and eating local, fresh and seasonally available food to my time with her. Thanks Grandma - you were the best!!
In college, I read ‘Diet for a New America’ while studying for a degree in Earth and Environmental Science. I decided that a vegetarian diet was the best for my health and the planet. For twenty years I ate near the bottom of the food chain and raised my daughter on tofu, tempeh, lots of veggies - adding a limited amount of seafood on occasion.
During my adventures in the Ukraine in 2007, I ate my first meat in many years. A very poor local family had offered me lodging and we shared several meals together. I decided it would be rude to refuse what they had on the table. Groats (buckwheat) and veggies had a place of prominence, but it was that chicken dish prompted my slide back into the world of a culinary omnivore.
A couple of years later after completing my Permaculture Design Certification, I began reading about the relationship between animals and the land. How do we heal the planet and improve soils? I believe part of the answer lies in our need to reject the industrial food complex, the corporate agriculture and monoculture expanse of crops laden with herbicides and pesticides, and the practices and mentality behind CAFOs, and again integrate livestock back into small, local and diverse farms. I found out about raw milk for human consumption and started researching the Weston A. Price foundation. I learned to prepare fermented foods like kombucha and sauerkraut. I read about the potential ill effects of processed grains and sugars on human health.
I have come to believe that eating meals that avoid processed grains and sugars and that include local grass-fed or pastured animals is best for my health.
I hope to eat a mostly Paleo diet while hiking the Appalachian Trail. I will need all the help I can get to make it happen. Quickie-Marts and Fast food shops in small local towns along the trail will not have the fresh, nutrient-dense, high quality foods I need to fuel this adventure!
Q: Are you doing this solo?
A: Yes, I am starting this hiking as a solo hiker, but I doubt I will be alone. Depending upon my start date, I will be out on this adventure with many other hikers hoping to complete the same goal.
Q: Why don’t people do this more often?
A: As I said in question #1, the need for time off AND money at the same time probably contributes most to this decision.
Additionally, I think the next obstacle for most people would be fear.
Fear of ______ … you fill in the blank … or read more about my fears in the links below ...
I’ve written more about this in two of my blog posts here:
Q: What are you doing for training physically and mentally?
A: Walking as much as possible. Breaking in several pairs of hiking boots. Hiking with my backpack when time permits over weekends. As of mid-December I will be unemployed and able to commit to a more regular and dedicated training regiment. I hope to cross-train and include riding my mountain bike.
As for the mental training, I’m not sure. I practice clearing my mind and focusing on my breath - a walking meditation of sorts.
Q: What are plans for calorie consumption to get ready for the trip vs during?
A: My daily routine now is pretty normal. Three meals each day with a variety of fresh and local produce and meats. I receive produce weekly from a local farm through their fall CSA which will end next week. Several farmer’s market have local grass-fed and pastured meats.
On the trail, I will need as many calories as I can carry and consume. I’ve read that calorie requirements for this hike at approach 6,000 Cal / Day. Being that I am 6’5” tall and weigh about ⅛ of a ton - I imagine my needs will be on the upper end of this scale. Regular mail drops, resupply in towns, and food from trail angels should help keep me from starving!
Q: Do you plan on doing hunting/scavenging along the way?
A: I will not be hunting, but I have been reading about and researching wild edibles that may be available along the way. Dandelion greens, garlic mustard, wild garlic, lambsquarter, stinging nettle and others should help provide a little bit of fresh addition to my meal should I be able to find them.
Getting any fresh food will be challenging, as food will spoil quickly (at least during the warmer months) and need to be eaten in the first day or two out of resupply towns.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about this trip? What poses the greatest threat?
A: Looking forward to:
The beauty in nature. Walking north through the seasons. Meeting new people.
Facing my fears. Injury. Ticks and Lyme disease. Hunger. Being able to stay warm. Mosquitos. Failure.
Q: What is your favorite product of ours?
A: I’ve enjoyed every one of the Ona bars. Since I have always had a soft spot for chocolate and love a good cup of coffee, of course, my favorites would be the Chocolate and Mocha Java.
Q: Are you planning any other trips following this one?
A: Other future adventures might include: (1)hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela across northern Spain; (2) biking across the USA; (3) a trip on the Trans Canadian Railway, (4) explorations in South America or Southeast Asia, or (5) a paddling trip in 10,000 Islands in SW Florida, but not anytime soon or in this particular order.