Sadly, but no surprise, I’ve postponed my April 2020 hike. Biggest concerns were resupply issues on the trail, uncertainty as to which hostels/motels/restaurants would be open, and whether or not my travel insurance would cover costs related to Covid-19.
Fortunately, was able to get 100% refunds on travel insurance and 2 nights stay at Amicalola Lodge.
I’m contemplating a flip-flop in June, hoping things have changed by then. For my friends who aren’t familiar with “flip-flop,” this is starting the trail halfway (West Virginia), then hiking north to Maine. Once Mt. Katahdin has been reached, I would get transportation back to West Virginia and hike south to Georgia.
Fingers crossed that this virus will peak by then. In the meantime, lots of snow, but the weather is warming up. Forecast next two weeks suggests temperatures will be hovering around freezing.
Just about every day that has passed since I left the Appalachian Trail in 2019, it has gnawed at me that I started, but didn’t finish. It felt like a crushing defeat and a failure.
Time and feedback from friends and fellow hikers have helped me to rethink what I did accomplish. I did the planning. I stepped foot on the trail and I hiked. I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, but I didn’t fail at trying. I’m not a quitter and have something to prove. Maybe it’s this year, maybe it’s next year. I will not stop trying.
I know what I did right, and what I did wrong. A lot to think about the past 12 months. I think the biggest change was being ill-prepared physically, and in the end mentally as well. A hiker saying goes something like this: don’t quit on a bad day. Well, I did. And I’ve regretted it every day.
I thought coming from northern Ontario, middle of winter and four feet of snow, that I could simply step on the trail and get my trail legs. Wrong! No trails where I live have elevation climbs greater than maybe 30 feet. I know I didn’t stretch enough which made my hip and knee joints very sore. And finally, I never drank near enough water.
So what changes have I made? First off, I joined a gym in a town 20km away. I’ve been using the treadmill couple days a week with a 25 lb. pack. At a minimum, I’m simulating carrying the pack and adding incline while I walk. Even after a couple hours I don’t even notice the weight of the pack. I also have a new before and after hike stretch routine.
Last year I had heard of a chiropodist in Kapuskasing. Visiting her was the best thing as I learned I had plantar fasciitis. I didn’t know it when I was hiking, but it sure explained why my feet were sore. She fitted me for orthotics and the result is my feet have never been better.
Yesterday I purchased travel insurance for six months. Pretty pricey, but going to the US without health coverage would be awful if something happened. The policy is $10 million coverage; likely enough coverage for a few nights stay 😆.
John and I will leave our homestead first week of April – just like last year. We’ll likely stop in Guelph, Cincinnati and then Georgia. John is planning to go to NC for a few days then back to Canada.
My plan while on trail is to write a short blog, but delay publishing for a few days for safety reasons.
Until then, we’re stuck in winter. Lots of snow, but it is warming up. Past couple days the temperature has been above zero. I spent a few hours on the roof yesterday shovelling near waist high snow. I think our log structure is sound, but want to be sure because when the snow starts melting and turns to ice, it’ll add extra weight to the roof.
I can’t believe how bad I am at blogging. Consider me a part-time blogger as there isn’t a lot new in my/our world. What got me to providing an update was a post I made on Facebook, that for some reason, people find our new lifestyle of interest.
Two months ago, John and I were shopping at Canadian Tire. We saw an Instant Pot for sale, and thought why not. It didn’t appear to use too much wattage especially when we’re getting up to 14 hours of sun per day.
The IP (short for Instant Pot) has been amazing. Firstly, it cooks food much faster than say an oven. I cooked a 4 lb. chicken the other day in 20 minutes. And best part, didn’t have turn on the oven. It’s been so hot and humid here lately that the stove doesn’t really get used at all.
Second great thing about the IP, it has many uses aside from pressure cooking. It makes yogurt, steams, can be used as a slow cooker, and even make popcorn!
With all this success, I wanted to say via a Facebook IP group how much I like the IP. I went on to say I don’t think i’ll get much use out of it come winter. The problem is summer versus winter. The sun rises here in summer around 5:30am and sets 9:30pm. However, we don’t begin generating electricity until 8 or 9 am. In winter, the sun might rise around 8 or 9, but it sets around 4pm. So shorter days in winter, but the sun also isn’t as strong.
Given the difference, any appliance like say a toaster, microwave, coffee maker, or IP – has a heating element that uses a lot of amps. Only way to get around this in winter is to run the generator. It works, it’s loud, and uses gas. Our gas prices up here are over $1.35/L…or over $5 a gallon. We usually need to run the generator in winter for 3 hours a day, 3x a week.
Some suggest getting more solar batteries. Easier said than done, but they must be stored indoors. Our house has only two bedrooms – one for sleeping in, the other is a pantry and office. Currently, our 8 solar batteries are contained in two boxes in the bathroom. There is no room for more.
Back to the Facebook post. To my shock, it generated close to 4,000 likes and 400+ comments (about 1/5 are my comments responding to posters). My intent wasn’t to get attention, just to say how much I like my new IP. Surprisingly, people found our off-grid lifestyle interesting.
One comment I always get: “you’re not off-grid. You have cellphones and internet.” Incorrect understanding of what off-grid means, and simply means you’re not tied to the electrical grid. We generate our own electricity. Our water is drawn from the lake. We don’t have a septic system, but a compost toilet. We do not have cellphone service, but to get a signal, we have to drive out to the highway. Our heat source is wood stove. I hunt and fish a wee bit, and I can and preserve food. Next year our greenhouse will be up.
So yeah, we have internet via satellite dish. And we have BellExpress Vu via dish as well. Big deal. Winters are long here.
We had our first guests – Pauline and Hoppy from Ottawa. We had a wonderful 3+ days of food, drink and card games. Guests are always welcome…anytime of year.
We bought a second property a few months ago. We had seen a for sale sign and called the agent. Turns out the previous owner had bought the property, built a massive 1,000 sq. ft. garage…then sadly, his house burned down. We got the property rather cheap. The garage is all John’s to tinker with. LOL, I doubt I’ll see him much at home as he’ll be up there. The property has an amazing view of the lake, perched high on a hill. There is also a massive shed for storage, plus a couple years storage area for firewood.
Things are quiet now, John has been in Ottawa for past 10 days, and will be returning in another ten. I’ve been trying to stay cool, try not to get bitten by black flies and mosquitoes. Bugs are nowhere near bad as I’ve heard they can be. I’ve also been hauling wood from this property up to the other one as it is better storage.
I guess the last thing is something always on my mind: Attempting the Appalachian Trail in 2020. I’ve been training, but haven’t committed 100%. I have a few hikes planned on the Coastal Trail at Lake Superior. There, I can hike the longer 120km or the shorter 60km one.
Eek! Another cold day here in the North. Current temperature is -36C, but windchill adds another -7…So about -43C.
So yeah, we’re experiencing our first winter up North. Neither of us are new to cold…well we are Canadians. I’ve lived north of the Arctic circle (Inuvik) for three years, and I lived 17 years in Northern Saskatchewan.
What is new, is how the cold affects us living day to day. Our pipes to the bathroom have frozen. No surprise there. Fortunately, we still have running water in the kitchen. I’ve setup a bowl for us to wash our hands for the time being.
John is trying to get to Kapuskasing today, but one of our vehicles won’t start. We’re on solar, so plugging in the vehicle isn’t an option. He’s running the generator now to boost the engine.
We have a fire going 24/7, but still can’t get our place above 20C. I’ve closed the bedroom door, opened the blinds to let the sun in. We go through a lot of firewood. Yesterday, I went to one of our woodpiles to collect a sled full of wood, it was -36. The cold doesn’t get to me, but it was a tad hard breathing in. Darn near impossible to get the humidity up past 18%. Even with a giant pot of water, cast iron kettle of water and two fans on the woodstove, the humidity barely budged.
There is an upside. Yesterday we had 8 hours of sunshine. Forecast for today and tomorrow is 8 hours each day. For most of early January we didn’t get even an hour of sunshine, so 8 hours is awesome. It’s just after 9am, and we’re already seeing a charge in thensolar batteries.
Not much else to do other than wait for a break in the weather. I have some rabbit snares setup throughout our property, but I think even the rabbits aren’t going out. I’ve made some pretty great trails through the forest that I snowshoe on. Snow is about 3 feet deep in some places. (Update: two rabbits so far)