Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Sleeping in the tent again last night, my face was cold. With my fleece sleeping bag liner and extra clothes, last night (32*F) I was no longer cozy but not freezing. I had a hat, since my bag doesn't have a hood; my head was warm enough but my face was cold and that made me miserable. Well, no hiker leaves home without a bandana, so MacGyver strikes again with a redneck ski mask. Hey, it worked.

I didn't have my camera in the tent, which is why the background looks so well-furnished -- I took the pic in the camper. (It's a Lance Armstrong Livestrong bandana; the flash washed out the print.)

So last night, night #4 in the tent, each one progressively colder -- it starts raining again (Tyvek rainfly worked great) in the middle of the night, then changes to snow. And I'm still challenging my 40* sleeping bag to keep up with the chill, even though I was cold in it at 50* and have done more things each night to make it work, hoping not to have to buy another sleeping bag.

I think I'm gonna need a bigger boat. That is, a warmer sleeping bag. On the AT in early spring and again in fall, you can expect twenties and teens (or not, but you have to be prepared.) This backyard-camping gig was an experiment to see how I could deal with rain, and how low I could go in my current bag. The bag didn't meet the Garrett County Spring Snow Challenge, so the experiment is finished. I fixed leaks, drips, and solved a variety of problems, but I am not adequately supplied for sleeping at 30 degrees with 98% humidity. Today I took down the tent and tonight I'm sleeping with my husband in the camper.

I'm not giving up on hiking in cold weather in early spring and late fall. I'm just gonna need a 3-season sleeping bag. The one I've been trying to jury-rig for cold weather is a summer bag Steve got for a bike trip a few years ago. I try to make do with what I have, and a lot of my workable gear is homemade and/or put together out of spare parts. But I'm gonna have to get a warmer bag. At least my face will never be cold.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Well, 3 nights into my backyard camping expedition, I'm learning so fast my IQ just might be going back up. (Blonde, senior, working all winter with toddlers, I've been losing ground.)

I LOVE that fleece sleeping-bag liner I made. I have been so cozily warm and toasty I didn't want to get up. And for some reason, despite being so warm as to be aware of being warm, not a single night-time hot flash since I've been sleeping outside.

Last night it rained all night. Today all morning, too. It sounded lovely on the tent and I slept beautifully.

However, I have drips, leaks, and a wet tent floor.

Drips and leaks: I'm not sure why this is happening, except that the ties to my rainfly slip a little causing it to loosen. It works like an umbrella, only shedding rain if it's taut. I re-adjusted the ties and secured them better.

Then I made a second rainfly out of an extra piece of Tyvek I have.

The Tyvek sheet doesn't have any grommets or loops to attach guylines to, so I did this:

A little ball of tin-foil, rolled till smooth, wrapped with a rubber band, gives the guyline something to hold onto. Yes, MacGyver here had these little tin-foil balls in her emergency kit, having thought of it all by herself. And the rubber bands. Just for such an eventuality. None of it weighs anything in my pack. MacGyver also had extra tent stakes, although they do add a little weight.

Then I staked out the "optional" rainfly guyouts, intended for windy conditions which I did not have, but I guess I need them in rain, too.

Mind you, I am doing all this in the rain. Because I need to learn how to set up and/or fix problems when it's raining.

Wet floor: this is because part of my Tyvek groundcloth was peeking out from under my tent, and rain falling on that ran in under and pooled, just like all the literature, info and intel say it will. I knew this. I had been careful setting up the tent squarely over the groundcloth. But yesterday, when I noticed some sidewall-slacking, I readjusted the stakeout positions, which caused the tent to move off the groundcloth a little, and I was CARELESS and didn't notice and now I was paying for it.

I debated which would be easier:
  • Pull out the groundcloth, dry it, and move the tent over it,
  • Or pull it out, dry it, and shove it back underneath the loaded tent.

I went for the second. It was a hassle. But I got that done and trust me, NO part of that groundcloth is peeking out now.

The final step: at the end where the running-under was happening, I scraped a little drainage trench. Now, in the wilderness, this would violate the Leave No Trace commitment. But here in the State Park, where tents and campers are only allowed to situate on gravel camping pads, it doesn't matter. I'll scuff it back up and no one will ever see it was there.

The advantage of doing all this in the backyard is that I can go into the camper and get what I need. Like a towel. To dry my wet floor. Which meant moving everything, including my sleeping pad and all my accumulated gear.

My sleeping bag had some damp places where it had been dripped on. This is not a disaster; it's one advantage of synthetic fill over down: it maintains its insulating ability even when wet. So does fleece, although my bag liner was still dry anyway.

The night before last, I was toasty warm with my fleece liner, but my head was cold, and when I ducked it under my bag, I couldn't breathe. Yesterday I messed around with it and found there's enough extra length to pull up over my head and make a hood using the drawstring, although it's not a "mummy" bag. So I did that last night but, the bag not being made for that, it was uncomfortable and I ended up tying my sweater over my head like a bandana.

Tonight I'm wearing a knit hat.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Our son Jon went running with me on the same Meadow Mountain Trail that I hiked the other day.

Hoo boy, first bear-sighting of the season!! I knew I was right to hang my food while camping out!

Yup, that's a real bear, and yup, we saw him on today's run, and yup, luckily I had my camera in my pocket.

SavageMan triathletes..... this is the trail section of the course. That's why we ran it today -- I wanted to run the SavageMan course. The International Distance tri goes once around the loop, the half-iron distance, twice.

Holly -- Bear alert on SavageMan course!! :-)

BTW, he moved away from the trail, looked at us for maybe half a minute, then turned and trotted away up the mountain.

Jon's GPS only showed a total of 5.7 miles, but it may have done some as-the-crow-flies averaging since Jon had it in his pocket. It showed 65 minutes for that distance, but we walked the roughest uphill sections. Rough = both difficult grade and difficult surface, rough and rocky. But only for maybe half a mile. Most of it is fairly smooth woodland hiking trail, much of it is a gravel road downhill, and the last mile or so paved.

Jon is the child of ours who's waiting for his second daughter, Sarah, to be born any time. I wish she'd be born today.... it's Steve's birthday. It's 8pm now but what the heck, it's a second birth, it could go down in 4 hours or less....c'mon, Jamie, have that baby!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Well. At 6:30 this morning I looked at the thermometer on my outside tent zipper and it read 50*. I had been cold all night in my 40* sleeping bag with my regular night clothes (t-shirt and boxer shorts) and a light sweater. Conclusion, multiple choice:
  • (a) A warmer sleeping bag (nights can be in the teens in spring in the Smoky Mountains, and any time in New Hampshire and Maine)
  • (b) A sleeping bag liner
  • (c) Wear more clothes to bed
  • (d) A warmer sleeping bag
  • (e) More than one of the above
  • (f) All of the above

So today I sewed up a fleece sleeping bag liner out of a blanket I've been chopping up for other things (like a sleeping pad for the cat's carrying box when we travel.) It was a gift I didn't really need but didn't have the heart to re-gift, so it turns out I'm finding uses for it.

I'll try the liner out tonight. Low temp last night was 50* and dry; tonight 41* and damp is expected (system of thunder storms went through.)

I sat in my tent this evening in pouring rain and discovered a couple of drips inside. I'll have to look online about re-waterproofing it.

It was fun, though, sitting in the tent reading during an afternoon thunderstorm. Maybe not safe, but fun. And it's not impossible I'll have to do that on the AT.... won't always be near a solid shelter when a storm comes up. In fact, in a sudden storm, I'll probably just pitch my Tyvek ground cloth as a tarp.

In fact, it's not impossible I could just go with the Tyvek tarp, period, if I can't leakproof the tent. Maybe I'll spray-paint my Tyvek in a camo pattern or something so I wouldn't have a glaring-white tarptent. I could make a decent tent out of a piece of Tyvek. I have an 8 X 10 urethane-coated nylon tarp, but if I go to just a tarp, the Tyvek weighs ounces, compared to the nylon tarp's 1.5 pounds.

Who knows. I've got almost a year to try everything, find what works, find what doesn't, and learn what things I have to save up $ for.

Off now to test my 40* bag with fleece liner in actual 40* temp!

Friday, April 25, 2008


It's a trail, and it has white blazes, and I'm pretending it's the AT.

Actually it's Meadow Mountain Trail, one of many hiking trails (8 miles' worth) at Deep Creek Lake State Park in Garrett County, MD.
What I'm doing is.... I loaded up my backpack with all my gear (27 pounds including the pack, and food for overnight) and went hiking. I've pitched my tent in an empty campsite in the park (most of them, this time of year), cooked Ramen noodles in my fruit-can pot on my soda-can stove, took a bird bath inside my tent, and I'm going to spend the night out there. I'm inside our camper (where we live full-time) for awhile b/c I have a couple hours to spend before sleeping-bag time. I didn't hike all day long so I wasn't ready for bed at sundown. I'm going to fold laundry :-)
I need practice getting myself organized, that's for sure. Stuff is all over the place inside my tent. Maybe that's normal. And I couldn't find the nylon cord I swore I'd packed to rig up a bear bag (yup, bear country here as on the AT.) Luckily I could just come into the camper and get more. Beats me where that went.
Anyway, I'm not hiking the AT, because Grandbaby Sarah is due any time now (although she could be another 3 or 4 weeks.) It was worth it to re-plan. The other day while biking, I thought of holding her in my arms for the first time, and I started bawling right there on my bike. I wouldn't be able to stand not being close by when she arrives.
So I'm not on the AT but I'm pretending I am (yeah, typing on the computer) and practicing packing and using my gear. And rigging the bear bag.

Monday, April 21, 2008


At 6:30 I was awake thinking, "I'm awake, I should go for a run now before it gets crowded out." I lay there thinking about that and next thing I knew it was 9:00.

Since it was late, I was hungry. My usual breakfast is cooked oat bran with half a cup of yogurt, half a scoop of protein powder, and a serving of canned or frozen fruit all mixed together. Well, I couldn't run for a while after eating that, so I vacuumed including corners, edges, furniture and ceilings.

We drove to daughter Val's where I put our big comforter in her big washer, which including emptying her dryer, putting what was in her washer in her dryer, and folding her dry clothes.

Went to granddaughter Gracie's school to have lunch with her, after stopping at McD's to get her an unhealthy alternative to the school lunch.

Waiting at the end of the school driveway to leave, we saw her dad (our ex-son-in-law) drive by. So we cell-phoned him, he turned around, and we had lunch with him at Arby's.

Back to daughter Val's to switch the quilt to the dryer and start another load of wash.

Back to our camper to do some odds and ends. Change into running clothes, head back toward daughter Val's for half an hour, at which time Steve came along as pre-arranged, picked me up (and Journey), and we drove the rest of the way to Val's, where I took the quilt out of the dryer, switched my current wash load to the dryer, put in another wash load, dried myself off, changed my clothes (put my running clothes in the washer), and we set off to our ex-son-in-law's place where our 2 grandkids were going after school, to spend some more time with them.

Back to Val's to do the washer-to-dryer switch one more time.

Then to daughter Avery's (about 15 min. from Val's) for dinner with her and her husband Scott. Yummy dinner, steak for Steve and Scott, portabello mushroom caps for Avery and me, plus corn on the cob and mashed potatoes and gravy and wine. Mmmm. Our dog Journey and their dog Sybil played and played. Sybil is an unlikely mutt, supposed to be pit bull and, of all things, wolf. She looks like a yellow dingo. I can see wolf in her. She hasn't a single aggressive bone in her body, just 50% play and 50% loving slob. A wonderful dog. So she and Journey played themselves out.

Then back to Val's to say a final goodbye to grandkids Collin and Gracie, as well as Val and her husband Anthony, and collect the day's laundry, finally. It is so good to have even our queen-size comforter clean (it doesn't fit in normal-size washers like those found in campgrounds.)

Tomorrow we leave for Maryland, where new granddaughter Sarah is imminent. When I think of holding her in my arms, my eyes fill with tears.

And now I'm going to bed.

Training today: 33-minute run, 3.1 miles.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


So we spent 2 nights in Arkansas, one in Tennessee (at Loretta Lynn's Ranch, which is a tourist-trap ripoff, don't bother going), one in Kentucky at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown, and last night we arrived in Baltimore OH, where we'll stay till Tuesday, visiting here with our 2 married daughters and their families.

Training I've gotten in:
  • Wednesday, Hurricane Hills, TN: 40-minute run. I didn't measure it.
  • Today, Saturday, Baltimore, OH: 70-minute bike, 21 miles, average 18mph, cadence in 90's. WOW! I thought keeping the high cadence would make me slower. It helps that the area is fairly flat, though.

I'd been hoping to start training for 5-day stretches, alternating run and bike days, but it's really hard when we're traveling every day.


Tomorrow, daughters Valerie and Avery and I are traveling to Maryland to daughter-in-law Jamie's baby shower. Baby Sarah is due May 22, but Jamie's doctor says she could go any day now. She'd be 5 weeks early right now but that was when Abbie was born. The doctor estimates Sarah's weight at 6 pounds, which is what Abbie weighed 5 weeks early.


Tuesday, we head with the camper to Maryland, where we'll stay 4 or 5 days with the family contingent there, then on to Winchester, VA, for our summer digs. It's good, hilly biking and running (training for SavageMan) and 20 miles from the Appalachian Trail, so I can do some section hiking and make my trail dream start to feel real again.


On with the show for today. Granddaughter Gracie the gymnast (9) called me while I was out on the bike, wanting to know if I want to go biking in the park with her. Well, of course I do. There's rain supposedly coming but hopefully it will hold off.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


In a quiet private campground for the night, complete with permanent tiny moss-covered RV's, rusty pickup trucks minus their wheels, and, as I've discovered, no internet access, even with our Sprint aircard, so, by thetime I'm able to post this, we'll be in Tennessee.

Actually, the overnight part of the campground is very nice, and there's a very pretty large pond where you can go fishing, if you're so inclined, which I would be if I had the gear.

A couple of tractor-trailer drivers live here, with their rigs parked outside their little campers. One has this bumper sticker on the back:

and a Christian fish on his driver's side door. Gotta love it.

Last evening, our last night in Texas, an armadillo crossed the road in frontof our truck, the first live one we'd seen. I had begun to suspect there wereno live armadilloes, just dead ones flattened in the road, like possums back home.I figure the armadillo is the southern version of the possum.

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To show the possum it was possible.

Tomorrow we move on, heading for the Loretta Lynn Campground, inside her ranch inTennessee. Very cool. We'll be getting there just the day after her birthday (today,which, by the time I post this, will be yesterday.) She's 71 years old today (yesterday.)Maybe they'll be having a birthday special: free campsites in her campground all week.


Saturday, April 12, 2008


I've been asking myself: Do I have the right to throw some stuff into a backpack and go off by myself for a 3-6month vacation in the woods?

What makes me think I'm so special?

Then, again, if I'm not that special, it shouldn't make that much difference to the world if I'm gone for a few months.

So I'll keep on planning it anyway. With as little expense as possible. One thing I do want to do, and maybe one of the reasons I want to hike the Appalachian Trail, is to make a statement: it's not just for affluent folks who can buy all the highest-tech, state-of-the-art, featherweight equipment to make it easy to go out and play at living a spartan lifestyle.

I want to need to depend on myself, my creativity, my ingenuity, my resourcefulness, my stubbornness, my endurance.

"Grandma" Emma Gatewood was the first female to thru-hike the AT all in one end-to-end trip. She was 67 at the time (back in the 1950's.) She sewed up a denim duffel bag, into which she threw a change of clothes, a raincoat, a wool Army blanket, a plastic shower curtain for emergency shelter, and some crackers, beef jerky, and cheese. Then she waved good-bye to her family and set out hiking in U.S. Keds.

She made it.

Friday, April 11, 2008


After 2 weeks' rest from biking, I started again today, with a 26-miler around the Flower Mound, TX area. It was a beautiful ride, nice open roads with cattle, wildflowers, and very little traffic.

SavageMan training is on!!

My plan is to run twice a week and bike 3 times, with 2 days off. When we get to Winchester, VA, where we'll be spending the summer and fall, I'll add swimming to my running days. We'll be in transit till then, and in Winchester there's a park with a 25m indoor pool, 50m outdoor pool, and gym -- $2 admission for senior citizens.

Sheesh, senior citizen. 'Fraid so.

I downloaded a half-ironman training program from Trifuel.com, but it schedules 6 training days a week and I know I need 2 days off, preferably consecutively. So I'll be modifying it.

So yesterday I ran to the store and walked back with my groceries in a backpack. Today I biked. Tomorrow, I'll run -- maybe 40 minutes. I didn't time or measure yesterday's run but I'm sure the round trip was at least 4 miles, so a 40-minute run tomorrow is reasonable.

Winchester, by the way, has been home to Patsy Cline, Willa Cather, and George Washington, among others. My favorite of the 3? Patsy, of course!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


We needed a few groceries. The store is a couple miles away, maybe 3.

I ran over, and walked back, with the groceries in my daypack.

I've been on a 2-week hiatus from running and biking, to rest and build myself up. I did break down and run 3 miles the morning of the wedding but other than that I've been layin' low.

Why fire up the diesel-guzzling truck to go to the store 2 or 3 miles away for groceries that will easily fit in my backpack? And when I need to learn to shop for things that will go in a backpack, when I do food re-supply trips on the AT?

Instead of a shopping cart, I carried one of those hand-baskets, to keep tabs on how much weight I was accumulating.

Here's what easily went into the pack, with room (and weight) to spare:

Half a gallon of milk
A dozen eggs
4-lb. bag of sugar
1-lb. bag of dry beans
Stick of deodorant
Wedge of Brie cheese
Box of 20 garbage bags
12-pack of Pop-Tarts
2 PayDay bars (buy one, get one free)
Loaf of French bread (in side pocket to keep from getting smashed)

It was easy, I saved fuel and money, burned up some calories, and started something new for myself:

If it's 3 miles or less, I'm going on foot.

Later, I'll up that to 4 miles.

Why drive when I can run and/or walk?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Well, hopefully my daughter Avery is on board her plane and ready to depart Dallas/Fort Worth in 5 or 10 minutes.

American Airlines grounded her 4:45p.m. flight yesterday along with a few thousand others nationwide. They scheduled her for an 11:00a.m. flight today, which was also cancelled. They scheduled her for a 5:25p.m. flight aboard American Eagle, which, according to a call from her half an hour ago, was expected to start boarding momentarily and depart on time.

There is a severe-thunderstorm/tornado watch for the area but nothing happening right now. I don't think there's any reason for a weather delay.

Hopefully our daughter will arrive back in Columbus, OH, later this evening. She says she's been in a better situation than a lot of people: we were nearby to take her to, and from, and to, and from, and to the airport with just 20-minute drives, and to stay with overnight. She's not like many parents with tired kids, or elderly people, with no recourse but to sleep in the airport.

She also says that, given the circumstances, the AA personnel at the airport have been so courteous, efficient, knowledgeable, and accommodating, that she will probably fly American again.

It was great to have her for the unexpected overnight.

It's occurred to me that Avery's flight plans are like a lot of my plans in my life.... I seem to have trouble getting them off the ground.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Photo from Eureka! tents

I have pitched my tent on the grass next to our camper and plan to sleep out there tonight. It looks like this one, but a different color. My husband is away for the night, so indulging my hiking/camping/backpacking/AT obsession tonight will not annoy him. The weather is going to be balmy, 70* F. I've got the tent situated so the breeze will blow in through the no-see-um-netted door. ("No-see-ums" are little flying bugs that bite. So small you don't see them. The netting is fine enough to keep them out.)

Our nephew's wedding in Dallas on Saturday kept us busy the whole weekend, with seeing relatives, meeting new ones from the other side of the family, and the bride's family as well, since now they're relatives too :-) It was a huge, beautiful, super-festive wedding, one to remember for years and years.

Steve is still with family, at his sister's (groom's mother) vacation home. I'm not there because I'm sick again. Red goopy eyes and coughing up crud (the stuff I cough up and the stuff coming out my eyes look like the same stuff.) I need a couple days to rest up.

But I'm going to sleep outside in my tent, which makes me happy. I can pretend I'm on the trail. I don't feel all that sick, just have this creepy cough (couple weeks this go-around)and conjunctivitis (woke up with it the morning after the wedding). Just like what I had before the Austin Marathon, without feeling bad. I'm tired of being sick. It's been going on for 2 months. I'm going to the doc for bloodwork when we get settled again at the end of the month.