Where Have We Been? What’s next …

On September 1, 2018 I will return to the North Country Trail!

… to finish what I began almost 2 months ago. Those details and more can be viewed in the video:

 

Also, my pack and gear list have been completely revised, and now only weighs 34 lbs, including (2) 1-Lt filled bottles of water and meals for 5 days. You can view my complete revised NCT gear list at the following URL:

Revised NCT Gear List

 

And of course, I will journal my upcoming adventure here and on my other social media platforms.

I’ll see you down the way …

 

 

– Kelly

blog: Ramble Afoot
vlog: YouTube Channel
fb: Facebook
ig: Instagram
tw: Twitter

Reflections on the North Country Trail

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It’s been twenty-eight days since I dropped my pack and trekking poles next to the road at the trail entrance and walked that mile along Norwich Road back to the parking area to retrieve the Grand Caravan. That last half-mile I spent hiking on the North Country Trail still feels as if it was the toughest thing I have ever mentally done. Disappointed in myself, it was certainly one of my most emotional experiences, and some part of me has felt lost since then.

I suppose feeling as if I left a part of me there, in that small clearing, sitting on the giant piece of tree trunk cut to be a stool, is normal. Perhaps it isn’t normal at all? All I know is – it just is.

Reflecting back to those first steps taken on the NCT, I find myself thinking about the final ‘takeaway’ from Zach Davis’ Appalachian Trials. To paraphrase Davis, hiking a trail is to be enjoyed. It isn’t about just reaching your destination. Rather hiking is about each and every step you take along the way. If these words are taken to heart, adopted as a hiker’s mantra so to speak, then no step along the way is more important than that first step you take on the trail. The first step is most important, and I took it!

 

I do know that with 9 miles behind me, that small clearing will be the perfect spot to return too, to stop, take my pack off, give myself a quick break, and filter water from the stream to replenish my Smart Water bottles if needed, before I continue hiking the next 47 miles west to Presque Isle and the shores of Lake Superior. I’ll grab my Garmin inReach Explorer, unlock the screen, and select ‘Send’

I’m continuing from here.

Kelly Williams sent this message Sun 9/1/2018 1:00 PM                                                      from: Lat 46.68529 Lon -89.41568

Do not reply directly to this message. This message was sent to you using the inReach two-way satellite communicator with GPS. To learn more, visit http://explore.garmin.com/inreach.

 

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– Kelly

blog: Ramble Afoot
vlog: YouTube Channel
fb: Facebook
ig: Instagram
tw: Twitter

#Hike100NCT #FindYourTrail

Five things I will differently next time on the North Country Trail

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… “Five things I will differently next time on the North Country Trail”:

  1. The first thing I will do differently next time on the North Country Trail is make the 9-hour drive the day before I start my hike, stay the night in a local hotel, and start my hike the following day.
  2. Without question, the second thing I will do differently next time on the North Country Trail is pack a lighter pack!
  3. The third thing I will do differently next time on the North Country Trail is pack more water, or perhaps pack two 1.5-L Smart Water bottles for a larger water carry, and ensure that I hydrate myself much more often.
  4. The fourth thing I will do differently is to take extra time to capture more photographs, record more video, and of course continue writing while on the NCT.
  5. Finally, the fifth and last thing I will absolutely do differently next time is: I will finish my 100-Mile hike on the North Country Trail and get that NCTA Patch!

 

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– Kelly

blog: Ramble Afoot
vlog: YouTube Channel
fb: Facebook
ig: Instagram
tw: Twitter

#Hike100NCT #FindYourTrail

Five lessons I learned on the North Country Trail

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… “Five lessons I learned while on the North Country Trail”:

1. In his ‘Appalachian Trials’, Zach Davis shares the following descriptive commentary when explaining lightning storms: “For those who have never scurried … through a lightning storm, you can’t fully empathize with how distressing this is. Each (flash of bright light) followed by an explosion of thunder causes your heart to jump into the back of your throat, only to quickly drop back down into the depths of your anus”. The first lesson I learned while on the North Country Trail was that if a lightning storm is going to occur, it will do so when most inconvenient and when you’re hiking in the middle of the woods. And that Davis’ description is pretty accurate.

2. The second lesson I learned while on the North Country Trail was that not only is it very easy to push yourself past your limits, it is also very common for novice hikers to do so. Even with extensive training, not only are you most fragile at the beginning of any hike, your muscles and joints take the brunt of it all. As I experienced first-hand, the last thing you want to do is fall victim to the trail because you’re simply impatient.

3. “The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain” – Lord Byron, the third lesson I learned while on the North Country Trail.

4. According to Davis, “Although the trail (offers) a unique opportunity to ‘unplug’ from … society, the ultimate goal … is to finish and enjoy the trail”. The fourth lesson I learned while on the North Country Trail was that for me, being ‘unplugged but tethered’ gave me an added sense of security, knowing I could contact and communicate with society in case of an emergency, and allowed me to enjoy my time on the trail. Additionally, having my iPhone 6S provided the ability to capture photographs and record video to document my adventure.

5. Whether it is about pre-trail feelings and nervous energy, an experience or event that occurred on the trail, or simply looking back in reflection, writing about it allows you the opportunity to gauge the significance and impact each had overall. In my case, and the fifth lesson I learned while on the North Country Trail, was that writing it down allowed me to also share those thoughts and feelings with you.

 

It is my sincere hope that in sharing the words written, photographs captured, and the video recorded you have been able to find some small part of yourself – on the North Country Trail.

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– Kelly

blog: Ramble Afoot
vlog: YouTube Channel
fb: Facebook
ig: Instagram
tw: Twitter

#Hike100NCT #FindYourTrail

Five mistakes I made on the North Country Trail

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… “Five mistakes I made while on the North Country Trail”:

  1. The first mistake I made while on the North Country Trail was actually at the very beginning of it all, when I deviated from my original plan and decided not to hike 3.5 miles East from Norwich Road to the Mile 100 Waypoint, turn around, and then hike 3.5 miles West back to Norwich Road. Instead of being patient, I made a snap decision, turned right, put one foot in front of the other and headed West on the NCT – in doing so denied myself the opportunity to stop, make weight adjustments to my pack (if needed) by placing a few non-critical, or nice-to-have items, back in the Caravan and then continuing onward. Even though I managed to hike three quick miles in about two and a half hours on the first night, not sticking to “The Plan” would take its toll.

 

  1. The second mistake I made was actually ‘not falling’ when my trail runners lost traction in the rain, mud and leaves, and sent me tumbling backwards toward the ground. By not just going with the fall, rather fighting it and trying to stay upright, I injured myself and severely strained a number of muscle groups. These injuries would soon become the primary reason for deciding the take the last option, turn around and back-track to Norwich road, ending my 100-Hike on the North Country Trail early.

 

  1. The third mistake I made while on the North Country Trail was not packing the Superman Suit! My thinking that if I just ate a snack to boost my energy level, drank a bunch of water to re-hydrate myself, slowed down and hiked a little easier, I could somehow push through it all and continue onward – even though every part of my being wanted to believe I could – was critically flawed.

 

  1. My fourth mistake made on the North Country Trail could be called a rookie mistake, and as Zach Davis points out in his ‘Appalachian Trials’ is one that most novice hikers make, namely “bringing too much stuff, … usually starting off with fifty percent more supplies than they need”. As a result my pack weight was classified in EHL (Extremely Heavy Load) category, weighing greater than thirty-five pounds, and was just too heavy. Don’t get me wrong, the Osprey Aether AG™ 60 did its job as advertised and carried it all, but physically I was not ready to carry and support such a heavy pack.

 

  1. Last but probably most important, my fifth mistake made while on the North Country Trail was simply not drinking enough water. Sure, I carried in 2 full liters of water and had opportunities to stop and filter water if needed, but I didn’t feel thirsty while I was hiking, so I didn’t hydrate myself on a regular and consistent basis. I can tell you that after making the decision to turn around and back-track to Norwich road, when I stopped at Mason Creek to filter water and replenish (with both 1-L Smart Water bottles empty), I was already dehydrated.

 

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– Kelly

blog: Ramble Afoot
vlog: YouTube Channel
fb: Facebook
ig: Instagram
tw: Twitter

#Hike100NCT #FindYourTrail

Five successes I had while on the North Country Trail

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As I prepared for my 100-mile ten day hike on the North Country Trail in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I considered what I would do if I failed, and didn’t complete the hike.

If I fail to complete hiking 100-miles on the North Country Trail, I promise to return to list:

5 successes I had while on the trail

5 mistakes I made on the trail

5 lessons I learned on the trail

5 things I will differently next time on the trail

And I failed, epically! Keeping my promise to myself, I have returned to list

… “Five successes I had while on the North Country Trail”:

  1. The first success I had while on the North Country Trail was my selection of gear. All the time I spent researching each item, comparing and contrasting different manufactures, watching gear review videos, reading blog posts and customer comments, literally weighing one item against another, all of it was time well spent.
    • Although slippery when wet and muddy, the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Trail Runners were light on my feet; they didn’t dry completely (lack of sun and dry weather) but shed water quickly, my feet were comfortable, and my toes had plenty of room in the toe box.
    • The Osprey Aether AG™ 60 isn’t the lightest backpack on the market weighing in at 5.2 lbs, but it did carry well, even in with an Extremely Heavy Load (EHL), considered a payload greater than 35 pounds. It fit all of my gear, and I was able to access items easily, especially critical items like my water bottles and my inReach Explorer.
    • The dynamic dual – the Injinji toe sock liner with Darn Tough wool hiking socks – provided cushion and comfort for my feet and isolated my toes resulting in no blisters.
    • My homemade Smart Water bottle ‘pop up’ lid, Osprey tubing and bite valve, paired with the strap magnet, allowed me to sip water as I needed, all while on the go
    • The inReach Explorer+ was simply invaluable as I was able to stay in contact with relatives, support my blogging efforts by actually tracking and documenting my hike, while easily tracking my location and navigating to preset waypoints while on the trail

 

  1. Although it sounds cliché and simple enough, the second success I had while on the North Country Trail was coming to grips and accepting that I have limits – physical, mental, and emotional. Sure these are a part of life, and I’ve dealt with each in some way and at some point along my 52-year journey, but the difference in this case was ‘being in the moment’. I can’t explain it, but there’s just something about being there, being one with nature, lost in the woods yet knowing exactly where you’re headed, putting one foot in front of the next on the trail, that makes every part of you want to keep going – to continue to push yourself, push your limits, take your physical abilities right to their edge, even knowing that in doing so, as your body fatigues even more, you increase the chance and risk of further injuring yourself. No you don’t want to stop, find a place to setup camp, rest and give your body a chance to recover, but you have to. Turning around and back-tracking is a last option, but it is also a necessary one fueled by our simple instinct to survive, when millions of years of evolution trigger our senses in moments unfamiliar to us.

 

  1. The third success I had while on the North Country Trail was that planning works! Planning your hike, from start to finish, considering as many different scenarios as possible, ensuring flexibility is built into your plan, is simply to your benefit and advantage. Being able to put it all together on paper, start my hike, expect and overcome some unforeseen obstacles, and then to still be able to see the half-way point (which was even more spectacular than I had envisioned) actually gave me a sense of gratification and honestly has planted a seed of unrest inside me to return and finish what I started.

 

  1. The fourth success I had while on the North Country Trail was discovering Blueberry RxBars are DELICIOUSNESS in a smooth blue wrapper! So incredibly yummy … see the unveiling here.

 

  1. Finally, the fifth success I had while on the North Country Trail was that “I did it”! and I got a great deal from the experience – from the crackling sound of a branch breaking in the woods that woke me from a dead sleep in the middle of the night , to sitting down next to my pack keeping myself as small and grounded as possible in a thunderstorm, having to remind myself “you’ll warm up once you get moving” as endless drops of cold rain fell from the sky – all allowed me to (in the words of Bill Bryson) “gain a profound respect for wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of the woods. I didn’t hike all 100 miles, but here’s the thing, I tried.” I actually hiked the North Country Trail.

 

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– Kelly

blog: Ramble Afoot
vlog: YouTube Channel
fb: Facebook
ig: Instagram
tw: Twitter

#Hike100NCT #FindYourTrail