This is some of the story of the Addie solo test run North Country Trail (NCT) overnight which began with Stealth Mayo and Ew Banana Peppers Plan B sandwiches. Ryan and I stopped at a gas station Subway for lunch before dropping me off, the Subway actually was closed, so we had to do plan B gas station deli cooler pre-made sandwiches which seemed like they’d be o.k. by the label. But his sandwich had an undisclosed layer of mayonnaise (which he hates) and mine had the mayo in a separate packet. So we swapped sandwiches and I picked off the roughly 6 pieces of banana (nasty) pepper and ate his. I hate not only the burn from peppers but also I hate the taste. Like the taste / smell is similar to barf taste to me… I’m o.k. at bell peppers occasionally fresh, hit or miss cooked… and the banana peppers were pickled or something so they had an even weirder ghost twang residue in the sandwich, even if they’re not “center of the sun” hot when you eat them directly. They left a mild taste trace but the sandwich was fine. However, there was a mystery later when I was burp-tasting flavor like late evening and the next morning and finally figured out it was the stupid banana peppers I didn’t even eat directly and had eaten other stuff more recently. Sigh, it could have been a lot worse! Anyway back on to what this post is about instead of more of how much I hate peppers.
Looking to the next year or several, Ryan and I are hoping to do some long distance hikes, either together or with Ryan doing mobile support checking in on me and doing trail magic between check ins. Since I have mostly done the ‘support from home’ end of his major hikes, I have a lot less backpacking experience. I’m by no means sedentary and have some exposure to some common dilemmas and concepts but my Achilles tendons are still not 100% and the tendons above my knee are still slowly mending from the long cycle trek. I’m not a people person in general, but the last time I did an actual solo overnight in the outdoors camping was… like 2001/2001 New Years Eve on a week long Outward Bound Course in the Boundary Waters winter camping skiing/dogsledding as a Girl Scout Wider Ops thing. Part of the adventure was a one night solo. I had cold mac n cheese n peas because I cooked them and accidentally spilled my water on my tiny fire so I was focused on keeping that going to thaw snow and warm my water for my overnight bottle then finally got back to eating. I had a blast but it was a challenge.
I’ve done other camping and hikes and stuff, but my only other multiple day life-list trips are basically when I just started high school, a several day trip on Isle Royale with my family, and the 10 day capstone course for my Outdoor Rec degree which involved 7 days of backpacking in the backcountry with other classmates.
I haven’t really been out much lately and haven’t really had many adventures over several days were the goal was just start here on this day, make it to these next stops to eat and sleep, then the last stop to get picked up, with no real structure other than do the distance, don’t die or break stuff or lose gear, and hopefully have fun and see cool stuff.
So step one: pack my pack and do a solo overnight seemed a good idea, and overall as I write this before I go to bed it could have been worse…
I did spend several hours fuming because I ended up missing a (very un-obvious) turn and hiking at least 2 extra miles through some annoying pond-ed 2 tracks. My arm GPS distance and map distance and signage distance all differed which was annoying to say the least and sort of part of how I missed turn.
Once I got back on track following the white blaze feeder trail to blue blaze NCT, I started settling in. An unexpected but mystical-esque waterfall really helped put me in a better mood shortly after I got back on track and managed to keep a smile for the rest of the hike until I found a place to camp despite the distance discrepancy to my intended destination. I finally arrived and found an ok spot for my tent and got that set up.
Then I got lucky and found a place to bear bag without having to spend an hour looking despite the prevailing tree vibe of mature hardwood with bare trunks up a long way before they y fork and no convenient horizontal sizable branches in the sweet zone high enough but not too high. I set the rope up before eating in case it got dark while I ate and after I ate even if it wasn’t dark the hard stuff was done, I’d just tooth brush and hang all the smelly stuff then go to bed.
I brought an experimental dinner: Sweet potato instant flakes. Turns out they’re just gross enough to be annoying and more annoying because I like sweet potatoes… like on their own. But this was basically potato flakes with orange flakes and a bunch of sugar and … like pumpkin spice? Not totally wretched but definitely not buying them again. Dessert of brownie mix with some hot cocoa and chocolate protein powder was fine except I added a bit too much water so it was like cold thick hot chocolate. But it was chocolate, mmmmm. And then hung the bear bag, got changed and ready for bed, took some pictures and got my mat and bag out, then wrote some of this. Stay tuned to see if I make it home!
I did survive the night, although an attempt at a headstand/handstand the previous evening to celebrate managing to find the actual North Country Trail gave me a lasting souvenir. It maybe looked a little grazed (not even scraped), slightly bruised and a tad tender when I went to bed. When I got up it was definitely more tender and much more bruised. It progressively over the next few weeks got more bruised and stayed tender, then the bruise became a scab at the surface, and then as the scab has progressed and fallen off, it’s leaving a shiny pink almost scar-like area of skin on a hard raised welt…It really didn’t feel that bad at the time but I suspect I angered something deeeeeeeep in my leg and it’s going to be a while before it’s not a hard lump on my leg. The tenderness has mostly subsided except for direct pressure on the scar or scab as of today (September 29).
By morning I was really didn’t feel like messing about with the small stove I brought to make warm instant oatmeal. I wasn’t actually planning to do that anyway, I figured with the expected temperatures and my easy-feed nature, I was going to just plop some ambient temperature water on it, let it sit a bit, and eat it. I’m generally not picky about some things. But I didn’t even feel like messing with that, so I ate a protein energy bar thing and packed up, and headed back out.
On my way back, I got a bit annoyed because as I saw the day before, the turn I missed was marked, but like I had thought, the trail up to that point had been very sparsely blazed for a good long while after being well blazed. When I missed the turn, I had been busy watching my footing over a log water crossing and it had been ages since I had seen a blaze, and I had mentally summed up the situation as “Well, it’s a pretty obvious 2 track situation, so they probably figured why waste blazes” and has stopped looking at every tree for a white blaze a long time ago. And after a while, I was getting annoyed I hadn’t seen any blazes, but figured the area looked logged in in the last year or so, maybe a bit longer, so maybe the blazes had been knocked down and nobody had maintained the trail… and eventually I had gone far enough I would have passed the intersection with the main trail and hadn’t seen any trails at all come off… so I turned around and scoured every stride both sides. I wasn’t trusting my arm GPS as super accurate, so I wasn’t even sure what my distances were overall anyway, just they didn’t jive with what the map suggested or the signs… ok so the signs, the map, and my Garmin all were off from each other.
So watching behind me all the way back on the two track portion of the return trip seeing just 1 point marking the turn and no actual obvious path where the path did leave, and then a long ways with no blazes to continue to confirm as I walked out that watching for blazes was actually reasonable and worthwhile because there would be one in a random unexpected place marking an unexpected turn… ok this got complicated to say and I’m not sure how to rephrase it… Anyway, seeing there was a long stretch with no blazes to keep me looking for after the initial stretch being very obviously blazed made me feel less stupid and more frustrated. And I had been relying on two tactics to stay on course “follow the white blazes to the blue blazes,” AND “you’re going to be going onto a trail, not bushwhacking, so even if there isn’t a big intersection sign there should be an intersection to notice.” The map showed the feeder trail going to the NCT and hitting it like a T, so either I’d dead-end onto the NCT from the feeder (it would be pretty hard to miss), or maybe because of the logging maybe extending the feeder trail, I eventually suspected I’d be crossing the NCT, and see a trail cross the two-track I was traveling with obvious trail on both sides of the trail… neither of which were the actual reality. What I walked past on the trip out was a small sign high up a tree when I was looking down to avoid the puddles after navigating a log water crossing (think like a raft in shallow water, not a lot of hopping large gaps but slippery wood to maintain footing on), and a tiny trail-less grassy patch like many other grassy areas without a trail which had no trail attached to it unless you literally crank your neck to look backwards. If the initial direction of travel on my outward trip was “noon/midnight 12” on a clock face, it would have been looking back to about 4 or 5 o’clock to see a very narrow un-obvious path leave the grass but never actually meet the two trak I was on. And since it was the feeder trail making a huge zig off the two-track, there wasn’t a path on the other side of the two track to give a clue to start looking backwards at grass. The zig was definitely NOT on the map.
Well anyway, I made it back to the parking lot, slightly annoyed with myself for missing the small trail turn marker, and more annoyed that the trial wasn’t marked better, or more accurately on the map. I even met Ryan coming to pick me up, arriving early and walking in on the path a bit to walk out with me the last little ways.
So we now know I’m clumsy but don’t lose my brain if I’m alone in the woods. I can handle some unexpected frustrating stuff, and yah I fumed a bunch but still made it through the night, to my goal and ate my unexpectedly blech food and slept with a full belly, had enough water, stayed warm, and didn’t lose my mind or do anything stupid to try to force where I was to fit the map where I should have been.
I’m definitely not a pro, but I’m not hopeless or clueless and ready to keep camping and hiking! I did get a bunch of fun pictures and video clips, I’ve put some in the slideshow and a small few above. Thanks for checking in!