Preparations

Sunset from Clingman's Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee.
Sunset from Clingman’s Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee.

Though I have been thinking and dreaming for a while about a doing a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, I didn’t ever really think it would become a reality. Then, the topic came up again and I decided to talk it over with Bud (my husband). I was very surprised at how supportive he was of the idea. The option of him hiking with me is out due to his knee problems. One thing led to another, and he said, “Well, better to do it sooner, rather than later.” So…here I am, planning for my 2016 thru-hike! He has been incredibly encouraging.

In the last two weeks I have spent a great amount of time researching gear on the Internet. I am (of course) trying to keep costs down as much as possible. Though it is important for all hikers to keep their pack weight low, I feel like it’s imperative that I, especially, keep the weight down since I am built so small. Unfortunately, lighter gear is usually more expensive. Bud has budgeted money for my gear (based on what others have said gear will cost.) The figure I have seen estimated was around $2,000. I’m hoping to keep it much lower than that, while not sacrificing quality (or low weight) too much.

Living out in the sticks does not leave me with a lot of options to get gear, other than ordering online. For my shoes, I have decided to go with ‘trail runners’ rather than traditional hiking boots. I have ordered, and had to return THREE PAIRS of trail runners due to them being too small (mostly just not wide enough.) That has been very frustrating. So far, I have tried:

Keen Targhee II WP Hiking Shoes

Zamberlan 130 SH Crosser GTX RR Hiking Shoes

Salomon Women’s XR Mission Running Shoes

All of these are just too narrow, and even if I ordered a size up, they would STILL be too narrow and would probably slip on the heel. Since walking is all I am going to be doing on the hike, it’s important that I get a shoe that fits right. I am thinking about giving up on ordering shoes online. You can just never tell if a shoe is going to be wide enough without trying them on, unless they are sold in widths (and very few seem to be.) Postage to return things that don’t fit is too expensive. It was around $15.00 to return one pair of shoes! Sorry to sound like I am complaining, but I am in shock. I think I am going to drive to Little Rock (almost a three hour drive one way). It’s the closest place that will have a decent choice of hiking shoes, clothes and gear.

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Copper Spur 2  (Photo courtesy of rei.com)

I ordered my tent, a Big Agnes Copper Spur I. It is an ultra-light tent. I got a great deal on it on Amazon. It was so easy to set up, and was, indeed, very light! Then, the other day, I saw that REI had their Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 (a 2 person tent) for only $5 dollars more than I paid for the one-person version, and the weight was not all that much more. It will give me more room, should I want to keep my gear inside the tent. Also, if Bud wants to go with me on a pre-thru-hike trip to try it out, we can both fit in the tent. If the Copper Spur 2 turns out to be as great as I think it is, I will return the Copper Spur I.

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(Photo courtesy of Rei.com)

I have also ordered and received my backpack. It is an REI Flash Pack 58. It is an internal frame, lightweight pack. It was on sale, it was blue (my favorite color) and it had some great reviews. I also like that it has so many outside pockets. I hope it will serve me well!

I have been walking here at home as much as I possibly can. We are in the Ozark Mountains here, so there are plenty of hills to help get me into shape. I bought a pedometer which tells me how many steps I take, how many miles I travel, how many calories I am burning and how many MPH I am walking. Pretty cool. I have been doing 5-6 miles at a time, but not every day.

It is surreal to think that this time next year I will be thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s all I think about lately and I’m so excited I’m about ready to bust!

~Arkansas Traveler~

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A Trip To REI

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If you haven’t done much hiking before, you wouldn’t realize what a learning curve there is when you start hiking, especially if you are preparing for an extended hike. It’s more than just ‘a long walk’. You will be on the trail for months, and everything you own will have to be carried in a backpack. You will be exposed to the elements (rain, wind, snow, cold, heat, etc.) and will be living in the woods for most of that time. Your ‘house’ will be your tent or a three-sided shelter, your food will have to be lightweight and easy to prepare, and your feet and body will bear the burden of all of that weight.

I have been researching to learn everything I can about hiking and gear. Every different piece of equipment and maker of hiking gear have ardent fans, and they are very convincing on why their chosen piece of equipment is best; however, what works for one person, may not work for others. The mantra I keep hearing is ‘hike your own hike.’

A big part of this journey (for me) is researching and making my own decisions for my own trip. I’ve never been a great decision-maker, and have most often left decisions to others. Now, I’m in a place where I am the ‘one and only’ decision maker and I’ll have to live with the consequences of my decisions.

I have ordered and returned so many things already! I keep wavering back and forth and this is after a LOT of research. Sometimes I feel like I am watching an episode of, ’48 Hours’ where I am being convinced that one person is the culprit. After the commercial break, I am convinced it is someone else who did it. Then, I go back to thinking the first person presented is IT. Thus it has been with hiking gear for me. Every argument I read for a particular product has pros and cons. It’s all a matter of choice and what will work best for me. Therein lies the problem, since I’ve not had much experience hiking.

After I received the backpack (Flash Pack 65) I ordered online, I became convinced it was too big. The shoulder straps were hovering about 1-2 inches above my shoulders. I also thought that my shoes were not giving me enough support. Bud, my husband, (who has been my biggest advocate and cheerleader through all of this) suggested that we go to REI. He was willing to make the four hour drive to get to the nearest REI to us in Kansas City.

Long story short, I got a lot of advice and help at REI, not to mention personal fitting for what I believe will be a great backpack. After my experience, I don’t see how anyone can really order their first backpack online.  It turns out that I am borderline in sizing, between a Small and Extra Small. There were three backpacks I was going to try: The Osprey Ariel 65, REI Crest Trail 65, and Flash Pack 65 (in a smaller size).

After being measured, I first tried on the Osprey Ariel in an XS, and it felt GREAT! I was almost sold on it, and then the guy helping me suggested that I try the Osprey Aura 65 AG. He did not have an XS in stock, so I tried on the Small. I also have to add here, that they had sand bags of certain weights which they stuffed in the packs so I could feel what it would be like with the weight I intended to carry in my pack. It was VERY helpful.

The Osprey Aura AG has ‘anti-gravity’ technology which makes you feel like you are carrying a lighter load, AND I COULD REALLY TELL THE DIFFERENCE. I was amazed at the difference between the Ariel and Aura. I was sold on the Aura AG 65 right then and there.

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The guy who was helping me felt that I needed an Extra Small, but since they did not have it in stock, it had to be ordered and shipped to me. When it arrived, I immediately put it on, and something felt horribly wrong. Even without weight in the pack, it was hurting my shoulders.

Bud strongly felt that we should go back to REI (another four hour trip, one-way.) He was thinking that maybe it just needed to be adjusted. Although I was reluctant to make the drive again, I was thinking the same thing. I hated to make another long drive. Add to that, we had to be back in time to lock the chickens up before dark…so we made plans for another long, quick trip.

This time, a different guy helped me, and he tried and tried to make the Extra Small work with different adjustments, but it just felt awful. He finally let me try on the Small again, and I let out a big sigh of relief. “Ahhh….this feels like the hip belt is resting where it was made to go!” I said. It was so much different! The hip belt rested around the top of my hips, and the shoulder straps were no longer cutting into the tops of my shoulders and chest. The weight of the pack was where it should have been…on my hips, rather than on my waist and my shoulders.

The Extra Small felt like some kind of mutant baby was clinging to my back like a spider. The Small felt like a tightly swaddled papoose on my back.

The moral of the story is: When looking for your first backpack, and you are inexperienced, go to a store where they can fit you for a pack and you can actually try them on! The sizes seem to vary with different models, even for the same maker.

I was very impressed with REI. All of the workers there were a veritable fount of knowledge and experience. I also tried on yet more shoes while I was there the first time. The girl who helped me was a hiker, and when she found out the weight of my pack, she suggested a more sturdy shoe. I tried on some Keen Targhee II’s (which I really liked), but then she suggested that I *just try* another shoe which supported the ankles more. I had been opposed to boots because I didn’t want a really heavy shoe. They had a fake boulder there in the shoe department which I was able to climb to see how the shoes would work on the terrain I’ll be hiking on.

I have been a little worried in the back of my mind about not having any ankle support, since I rolled my ankle last year. I’ve heard that once you roll or sprain your ankle, you are much more likely to do it again.

So…I got another pair of shoes:

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ASOLO Fission GV Hiking Shoes

These are not as light as trail runners, but they are much lighter than traditional, leather hiking boots. They give my ankles much more support, they feel like there is much more support on the bottom of my shoe. I don’t feel rough terrain as much (like walking on the gravel road here at home), they have great traction, my toes have plenty of wiggle room, my toes don’t even come close to hitting the tip of my shoes. I have hiked 6-9 miles about 5 times in them, and I don’t have any hot spots, no blisters, no rubbing, no squished toes, etc., and they aren’t even broken in yet! They are also water-proof.

REI allows returns for up to one year, no matter what the reason or condition of the item. Though these shoes are more expensive than trail runners, I’ve read that trail runners have to be replaced at least four times on a thru-hike. According to reviews, there are people who have had these ASOLO’s for 12 or more years and they still look almost new, with no tears or signs of wearing.

I’m still learning how to pack my backpack, and I’m already trying to cut my pack weight. I’ve taken one walk with the backpack with all of my stuff (minus food) and it seems really heavy to me. I made an EXCEL spreadsheet with the weight of all of my items and it was about 17 pounds. (This includes the weight of the pack which is 4 pounds, 2 ounces.) I want to get a scale to actually weigh the pack, because I’m not sure this is correct. It’s all based on weights listed on websites, not actual measured weight.

On that first walk with my pack, I had about 4.5 pounds of water (2 Quart Bottles.) I’m figuring that food for 5-6 days will add another 10 pounds and I think I will be miserable with that amount of weight, based on my first walk with the pack at 21.5 pounds (and I’m assuming my weight on paper was correct.)

We have some ‘hills’ around here that are pretty respectable as hikes go. They aren’t easy. I went about 5 miles with the loaded pack. I came back with a beet red face, and Bud looked worried and told me to sit in front of a fan and ‘recover’. LOL. When I add my food to the backpack -right now- the estimate of my loaded pack will be 31.5 pounds. I’m 5’2″and I don’t know if this amount of weight is typical for someone my height to carry. I think I weigh about 120 pounds, but I might be a more.

I’m looking to try to cut some of the pack weight. As I think about hiking 15-20 miles a day, I can’t imagine carrying that much weight (the 21.5 pounds of my pack is without food.) It was do-able on even ground, but climbing the hills was tough. When my pack is up to 31.5 pounds…I’m just not sure how it will be.

Maybe you get use to carrying that much weight as you get stronger and hike more. I don’t know. If anyone has any advice or suggestions, I’m open to hear it!

I have been trying to connect with a hiking club in this area in hope that I can do some ‘shake-down’ hikes and get some practical, hands-on advice. My first ‘outing’ will be camping either in front of our house, or if I’m really brave, somewhere on our land. We have about 30 acres deep in the heart of the Ozarks. It’s wild enough that we have seen deer, Elk, wild turkeys and pigs. Some of our neighbors have seen a black bear. I have never camped alone, so camping in our front yard will be a big first step for me. I want to try out all of my gear (set up my tent, cook some food, pack everything up, etc.) before I take a real over-night hike.

Taj Mahal Chicken Curry

DSC_0034It is possible to ‘re-supply’ along the Appalachian Trail with absolutely no mail drops at all; in fact, many people think mail drops are just too much trouble, not to mention expensive.

At home, we try to eat ‘Paleo’ as much as possible. I feel the best on this diet. When I get too far off of it, I start to feel bad, and my symptoms flare up. This is why I’ve chosen to dehydrate many of my meals and go with mail drops.

Though I’ve read about some people who have done a thru-hike completely Paleo, it’s really hard (and expensive) to do, especially if you don’t want jerky and meat to be the bulk of your diet. It’s really hard and heavy to pack out and keep fresh veggies.  Canned veggies are too heavy.

Therefore, I’ve made a few compromises as far as my diet. I do okay with a little bit of rice. I like to avoid most grains, including oats. Therefore, if I have either of those things in the recipes I post in the future, it’s just an addition, and not the main course or bulk of the recipe. I’ve also read that rice here in the U.S. contains a lot of arsenic. Here are a few links if you are interested in knowing more:

How Much Arsenic is in Your Rice?

Arsenic in Rice: Should You Be Concerned?

Some of you might think, “Why bother…what’s a little gluten or arsenic going to do?” Well, if you’ve noticed a correlation between eating it and feeling bad, it’s a no-brainer to avoid it as much as possible. Quite simply, I know if I don’t stay close to my diet, I will not finished the trail.

DSC_0026I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting, and I’ve determined that I just don’t like the meals I’ve tried where you dehydrate all of the ingredients and then add them all together after they have been dried. The recipes like that which I’ve tried have been very bland, and I can’t imagine eating them at the end of a hard day of hiking.

I decided that cooking the entire meal, and then dehydrating it is the way to go. So I went my favorite Paleo cookbooks…cookbooks full of recipes that are packed with flavor, and Paleo compliant. “Well Fed,” and “Well Fed 2,” by Melissa Joulwan.

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Melissa Joulwan’s Website

This recipe I’m sharing is incredible, and I know I’ll be the envy of every hiker in the near vicinity when I re-hydrate this meal in the evening. Don’t be put off by the applesauce and raisins in the recipe. Everything melds together so that you can’t really detect these things in the recipe. This recipe is very spicy!

The following is an adaptation of her recipe. Recipes I post here are not an exact science (which I know drives some people crazy)…I’m constantly fooling around with the original recipe to suit my needs. So here’s  a link to her original recipe, followed by how I did it for my Thru-Hike. If it intrigues you, ‘hike your own hike’ and adapt it however works for YOU.

Taj Majal Turkey Curry

DSC_0024And finally…the recipe which is inspired by the genius of Mel Joulwan:

~.~

Taj Mahal Chicken Curry

2 Cups Chopped Chicken Cooked This Way

1 Large Onion (About 1 Cup)

1 Large Red, Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper, Diced (About 1 Cup)

2 tsp. Salt

4 Cloves Garlic or (4 tsp. Minced)

3 TBS. Curry

1 tsp. Dried Thyme

1 TBS. Tomato Paste

1/3 Cup Raisins

1 (14.5 oz) Can Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles (Do not drain.)

1/2 Cup Applesauce

1/2 Cup Canned Coconut Milk

1/2-1 Cup of Chicken Broth (or more, depending on how thick you want the sauce.)

1 Cup Cooked Rice

Directions:

  1. Saute onion and bell peppers in a large skillet until tender (about 5-7 minutes.)
  2. Add Canned Tomatoes, Broth, Raisins, Apple Sauce and Tomato Paste.
  3. Add Seasonings and Minced Garlic.
  4. Stir until combined and bring to a boil.
  5. Add Chicken to skillet.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens (15-20 minutes,) adding more broth if you need it.
  7. Add Coconut Milk.
  8. Add Cooked Rice. Stir to combine. Let simmer 5 minutes.

My Tips:

*Leave out the rice or add more if you like to stretch it further.

*Add more or less broth or tomato paste to suit your taste and texture preferences. I find that the using chicken cooked in the crockpot makes the recipe require a little more broth.

*I have used frozen multi-colored bell peppers in the recipe, and they work great.

*I’ve never used the bay leaf the original recipe calls for, but feel free to throw one in if you are feeling adventurous. It tastes great without it!

*You could easily add some oriental veggies to this for more veggie power.

*For less ‘heat’, use regular Diced Tomatoes, without the Green Chiles

TO DEHYDRATE:

  1. Spread mixture on Dehydrator Trays.
  2. Dehydrate on 145 degrees overnight. I’ve never really timed how long this takes. Let it go until it’s completely dry. Over-drying it a bit won’t hurt anything.
  3. Pack into freezer ziplocks in the serving size you think you will want. I usually do 1 cup or 1 1/2 Cups for a serving.
  4. To re-hydrate, Add an equal part of water into the freezer bag, and let sit until re-hydrated. You can also add the water to the pan and re-hydrate in the pan if you prefer.

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Buffalo River Trail – ‘Shake-Down’ Hike – Day 1

IMG_1577A ‘Shake-Down’ hike is basically a ‘test run’…a chance to test your gear, and to find out what you need or don’t need to take with you on an upcoming long hike. I really wanted to do this before my Appalachian Trail hike.

The Buffalo River Trail is in Newton County, Arkansas. It is a 37 mile hike if you do the whole thing from Boxley to Pruitt. Here is a map of it, if you are interested. There are basically 4 sections, and there are campgrounds at the trail head of each section. The trail is a hop, skip and a jump from where we live, and I have wanted to hike it ever since I started planning my Appalachian Trail hike.

I happened to check the weather and saw that we were going to have some unseasonably mild weather–the high’s were supposed to be in the 70’s, and the Low’s, in the 50’s. The seed of an idea began to sprout, and I mentioned to Bud that I was thinking about going. I woke up on Wednesday morning and decided to go for it. Most of my stuff is always in my backpack. I got my food together (which I have been working on dehydrating fast and furiously) and Bud took me to the Boxley trail head, which is about an hour from our house. The direction I would be hiking would be toward home.

It was about 11:30 a.m. when we started out. I was very nervous. Though I’ve had one short hike to a campground, with an overnight camp-out by myself, this would be my first real backpacking trip by myself. When we were almost to the end of our road, I realized I had forgotten my water bottles, so we decided to stop by the Dollar Store to pick some up, rather than go back home to get mine.

When we were finally on our way, and almost there, I realized with panic that I had forgotten my trekking poles. Trekking poles not only help you with climbing uphill, and steadying yourself going downhill, but with a heavy backpack, they help you with balance and prevent many potential falls. I have balance issues, anyway, because of the M.S., so I couldn’t fathom hiking without them. Bud asked if I wanted to go back home and get them, but I said no. I was already worried that I was getting a late start.

IMG_1579When we got there, Bud found a small tree and cut it down and made a hiking stick for me. I bonded with that stick! I was so glad to have it. I don’t know if I would have made it without that stick! I know for a fact I would have had more falls without it.

It was hard to say goodbye, but Bud and I kissed and hugged each other, (more than once). Bud told me he had complete confidence in me, and that he would be praying for me, and I began my journey at about 12:30. Right off the bat, I had to cross a low water crossing. It was covered in cement, but had water flowing over it. My shoes (Merrell Moab Ventilators) got wet, but I was happy to discover that they dried out quickly.

The first miles of the trail had some pretty steep climbs, but my legs were fresh, and I took them at a pretty fast clip. I was concerned that I had gotten a late start, and concerned about finding a place to camp before dark, so I kept a pretty fast pace.

IMG_1593There were several creeks to cross, but all were low, and I was able to rock hop them with no problem. I stopped and filtered water for the first time at one of the creeks. My Sawyer Squeeze filter fits on a Smart Water bottle, and the Smart Water bottle is malleable, so I can squeeze the water into my other bottle, which is a Powerade Bottle, then fill up the Smart Water Bottle to be filtered later. I was relieved that it went off without a hitch.

The maps do not list where the water sources are, like the guidebooks for the AT do. Many of the creeks are seasonal creeks, meaning they only flow after a good rain, and we have been pretty dry, lately. Also, the trail is not well-marked at all, and there were really no good landmarks to judge how far I had gone, or how soon I would come to a campground. The sun was getting lower in the sky. The thing about being in the mountains, is that in the hollows, it’s gets dark earlier than it does on the top of the mountain.

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I do not have a lot of experience hiking, but since this summer, I have been hiking on our gravel road about every day for 6-8 miles. There are some tough climbs, but it’s not like being on a trail. On a trail, there are roots, and rocks that bend your feet this way and that. They cause you to trip and slide a lot. There were some tough inclines, but my legs felt good, and my adrenaline was pumping, so I did very well on that first day.

I saw very few animals. I saw one squirrel. I saw some cattle when the trail passed through private land.

IMG_1601 I saw what I believe to be Coyote scat…it looked like a poo poo shaped fur ball. At one point, I heard a horrible sound, and I thought for sure it was an Elk. They have introduced them to this area, and we saw some in a field on the drive to the trail head. It took about three seconds for me to realize that it was only the engine breaking noise of an 18 wheeler on the nearby road.

IMG_1603A little while later I heard a loud crashing noise in the leaves off to my right, and I thought for sure it was an Elk. It was only an Armadillo, and it was running as fast as a horse to get away from the terrible monster invading its territory. (That would be me.) It was so funny watching it tear through the woods, because it was practically not even touching the ground as it glided over the leaves in its hurry to get away.

At about 5:00 p.m. or so, I came upon a bluff that had a cleared place where someone had camped before. There was even a fire ring with some wood by it. I decided to camp there for the night.

IMG_1605I set up my tent first. I feel confident with setting my tent up, but I was a little nervous that the sun was setting so quickly. Some clouds had blown in and it was blocking the sun, making it look darker.

IMG_1604I somehow put my rain fly on inside out, and had to flip it over and get it hooked in and secure. I kept tripping over my tent stakes. Then, I unloaded my backpack, and blew up my sleeping pad (Thermarest Pro-light Plus). It’s supposed to self-inflate, but I’ve had to blow it up every time I’ve used it. I got my Enlightened Equipment 20 degree quilt and laid it out, and I put my Sleeping Bag Liner underneath it. My bed was ready.

After I got that all set up, I put on my long-sleeved shirt, because it was cooling down quickly. I decided not to make a campfire, because we’ve had a burn ban out at our place, and I figured it was the same here on the trail. Also, the wind was extremely gusty!

I checked my cell phone to see if I had service. No service. I began to worry, because I knew Bud would be very worried. I had told him I would call him when I arrived at my camping spot -if I had service- but I really expected to have service. It was dawning on me that I would have no way to call for help if I needed to. I didn’t think I would need to. I would just wait until I hit a high hill tomorrow and give him a call…but it was nagging at me that I was ON a pretty high hill already, and had no service.

I decided to go ahead and get my bear bag line tossed and ready to go, so I could quickly attach my food bag  and hoist it up after I had eaten supper. There ARE black bears in this area, but I talked to a camp host a while back who told me that hanging a bear bag was probably not necessary…that the bears around here are not used to people, and don’t associate people with food, like the more tame bears do in other parks. Still, I wanted the practice, since I’ll need to hang a bear bag on the AT.  I also wanted my food to be safe from any raccoons or other critters that might smell it.

Bud told me a camping story about how raccoons ripped into his tent and tore into an ice chest to get to his food. He had to fight them off all night because they were trying to get in the hole in his tent. I didn’t want to take any chances. I’m not sure I tied it up correctly, but I was able to get it tossed over the branch with only a few tries! I threw it underhanded and it worked like a charm. I hooked the bag onto the carabiner when I was ready to hoist it up.

IMG_1609I heated the water for my dehydrated meal (Taj Mahal Chicken Curry) on my little MSR Pocket Rocket stove. I realized that one thing I did not have, was a wind screen. With the wind blowing so strongly, it took a little longer to heat the water up. I put my stove behind a large rock, and that helped.

There is not much worse than eating alone. With the adrenaline wearing off, I began to feel a little lonely. I ate quickly. I wanted to get into my tent before it got dark. I figured I would be less afraid if I didn’t have to see the place when it was dark! I hung my bear bag on the rope, hoisted it up, and tied it to a nearby tree. I quickly brushed my teeth to get rid of my Chicken Curry breath. (Didn’t want any raccoons getting a whiff of that.)  I took a second to watch the sun yawn one more burst of color before it went to bed, and then zipped myself into my tent.

IMG_1610The first thing I did was lay out my headlamp, my kindle, my ‘night-time pee things’, my glasses, etc. so I would know where to find them in the dark. Then, I changed into my Cuddle Duds and got into my sleeping bag liner and under my quilt and I read a book about the Appalachian Trail.

I was not sleepy. It continued to get darker and darker, and I was thankful that the moon was out, because it was like having a built-in night-light with it glowing on top of my tent. I could see the shadows of the leaves dancing on my tent ceiling, as I listened to the wind howl. I read and I read, and still I could not sleep.

Then, I thought I heard something. What was it? It sounded like a pig grunting off in the distance! Not unheard of to find one here. We’ve seen wild pigs on our dirt road close to home. I kept on hearing the grunting sound, but it never got any louder or closer. Finally, I figured out that it was my stomach digesting my Chicken Curry.

I put away my Kindle and tried to sleep, and I began a routine of reading for a while, and then trying to sleep. Reading. Trying to sleep. It went on and on. Thankfully, I can honestly say I was not afraid! Praise God, I was not afraid. I did hear some real animal sounds. Something was rustling in the leaves, and I feel sure it was an Armadillo or Possum. The most exciting thing I heard was the snorting of a Deer, or maybe an Elk? (I really wanted to see an Elk. I’ve only seen them from a distance.)  Whatever it was, it trampled around snorting for quite  a while. I’m guessing it was angry at that strange thing (my tent) in it’s territory. I finally heard it’s feet trampling off and away.

At times, the wind blew so hard, that it knocked leaves and twigs onto my tent, and a few times, I thought it was starting to rain, but there was no rain in the forecast. It started to get colder, and I put on my down jacket and hat. My hat would not stay on my head. I was not comfortable on my sleeping pad. I tossed and turned. Side. Stomach. Back. Side.Nothing was comfortable.

I bought a stuff sack that is reversible with felt on the inside, and can be stuffed with clothes and used as  a pillow. This worked pretty well. For the most part, with my down jacket on underneath my quilt, I was able to stay warm. Later, when I got home, I found out that it had gotten down to 28 degrees that night.

I tossed and turned, and finally, yes…I HAD TO PEE. I couldn’t deny it any longer. For those of you who did not follow my trail journal before I deleted it, I don’t want to go outside in the middle of the woods in the dark to PEE! I had heard of a lady who used a ziplock to pee in. I had used a coconut oil jar when I went on my first overnight campout by myself, and had grown confident just peeing right into it while on my knees. I decided to switch to the ziplock since it took up less space in my pack. In my over-confidence, I didn’t even get off of my sleeping pad to go. I didn’t want to lose all of my warmth by getting completely out of my sleeping quilt. I ended up getting pee on my sleeping pad, sleeping pad liner and cuddle duds. Dumb move on my part, but lesson learned. On the second and third time, I got off of my bed, and to the side. I used my F.U.D. (feminine urinary device) to pee into the ziplock, and SUCCESS! No spills.

Finally, I fell asleep in the wee hours of the morning with my sleeping quilt over my head and a little opening to breathe out of.

(To Be Continued…)