AT Hike 2022 – Water and a start date!

How I find and filter water for drinking and eating.

Jan 24th – Yep, less than two-and-a-half months before I get back on the Appalachian Trail. So many thoughts swirling around inside my head, and many, many emotions.

While John has been away the past couple weeks, the extra alone time has allowed me to focus a lot on the upcoming hike with minimal distractions. Everything from “what’s in my pack,” food and resupply thoughts, technology, reading past hikers experiences and watching YouTube.

Today was a good day to revisit my water system. For those who aren’t aware, water is plentiful on trail most of the time, but it needs to be filtered always. There are many methods one can use to filter their water: boil water, iodine tablets or the easiest solution is a portable water filter. The filter most commonly used is Sawyer. It works so well we use it at home to filter lake water into jugs. Few days ago I filtered 9x4L containers which is enough for a few weeks.

I don’t know why, but you cannot buy this product in any Canadian retailer except for Amazon Canada. A great thing about this filter, that if you take care of it, it should last 3-5 years filtering thousands of gallons.

From Sawyer website, the filter will remove: Bacteria, protozoa, E. Coli, giardia, vibrio cholerea, Salmonella typhi, and microplastics.

Today was maintenance day which involves backflushing the filter using a syringe (supplied with the filter) with clean water. Then you back-flush with a solution of non-scented bleach and water (1 capful per 1L water).

The filter is designed that it can screw onto a Smart water bottle, allowing you to dip a bottle in a lake or stream, screw on the filter and drink clean water. On trail, I will normally carry a 700ml bottle with the filter attached and is easily accessible on my backpack strap which has a holder. On each side of the backpack are pouches that hold two 1L bottles. These are for clean water only, unlike the 700ml which is unfiltered water. And finally, I carry an empty 2L water bladder that if water is scarce, will fill this up to ensure I won’t run out.

The process sounds complicated, but there is a method. As I’m hiking during the day, I’ll be passing streams as well as hills/mountains where water will trickle down. I’ll unscrew the filter, fill it with water and screw the filter back on. As I hike, I can drink right from the filter. As I near the spot where I’ll be setting my tent for the night, I will have already planned in advance a water source prior to reaching camp. I’ll take off my pack, remove the filter from the bottle and attach to the 2L water bladder that would have been filled first. I’ll fill both empty 1L bottles, and depending on the next days availability of water, I may lug the bladder full of water as well.

Carrying water just adds to the pounds of weight I carry on my back. Excluding food and water, my backpack with all my gear is about 15lbs. Now, add 6lbs of food + 2-3L water – that’s 25-27lbs. Most people attempting the Appalachian Trail would love to carry “just” 27lbs. Last year I met someone who had just weighed their pack: 52lbs!! The good news is each day as you consume food, your pack gets lighter.

2L bladder holding unfiltered water attached to filter and 1L Smart water bottle.

Jan 31 – Well, it’s official: April 6/7 will be my start date to attempt to Appalachian Trail. I’ve booked our hotels in Dahlonega, Georgia for April 4-7. We’ll need a couple days to get down there as it is a 2,300km drive. Probably stay a night in Guelph and then Cincinnati, and finally Dahlonega.

Why Dahlonega? As in past attempts, it was always a joy to stay at Amicalola State Park Lodge. It overlooks the trail, has a visitors centre and is convenient as the trail is right out the door. But this year, after watching a YouTube video of a hiker who got very bad food poisoning having eaten at the lodge. And not just him, but another person as well. I always liked the lodge for the nice rooms, but I was never a fan of their food. So when a second hiker gets sick, the last thing I want to happen is throwing up the first day of my hike.

Dahlonega is a cute town 29 miles away. Lots of motels, hotels, restaurants, and other shopping amenities. On April 5th, we’ll drive to the visitor centre at Amicalola Park and do what hikers do before they begin their hike: 15 minute orientation on best camping practices, backpack weigh-in, picture of the arch (start of the trail) and sign the guest register.

From there, it’s an hour drive to Atlanta. Both of us need to get US SIM cards for our phones. Finally, I hit up a Walmart and Target for food resupply. Maybe have lunch at Chipotle’s?? Then back to Dahlonega.

Haven’t decided as yet if I’ll start the trail the following day (April 6) or the 7th. I’m thrilled for John as I suggested to him first thing when I knew my start date is where Nascar is racing. Great for him six hours to Martinsville, Virginia for races April 7-9. So happy he gets to take in a couple races.

So that’s about it for this update. If you haven’t as yet seen my YouTube page, I made two videos: one on why I’m hiking the AT and the other is about the gear I’ll be carrying. You may or may not know – depending g how well you know me – how hard it was to record myself. I feel the first video was a breakthrough.

Final note on what I’m doing to keep in shape. Not much because it’s been so cold out, but when we do get warm days like tomorrow, I’ll get a bit of walking. For now, it’s hopping on the indoor non-electric recumbent bike. I pedalled 200 miles in January. I hope to push that to 300 in February. ☺️

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