Trials – The Grocery Bag Trick

Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park from the top of Chick Hill in Clifton, ME.

Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park from the top of Chick Hill in Clifton, ME.

As I prepare for my trek along the AT, I find myself drawn to different blogs giving tips by actual hikers who’ve completed the trail. I found some very unique and intriguing ideas, so I decided to try them out at home. My favorite tip is found on the appalachiantrials.com site in the article “10 Tips on How to Stay Warm Winter Backpacking”. (View article here: http://www.appalachiantrials.com/10-tips-on-how-to-stay-warm-while-winter-backpacking/) The tip is to put a plastic grocery bag from a resupply over your sock before stepping into your shoe. This keeps your socks and feet dry, as your trail runners will get wet while tromping through the snow. I have tried this method out several times and I am very satisfied with the results. The plastic bag works as a vapor barrier, therefore water from the snow stays out. Likewise, this makes it harder for sweat from your feet to evaporate. Therefore, your socks will still get moist, but your feet will stay warm as you adventure.

I have tried this method in two different ways. The first was as the website suggests. Throw on a pair of socks with a bag on top and slip your feet into your shoes. With this method, my feet were comfortable for the entire time I was snowshoeing. However, my feet must have been moving around, because when I removed my shoe, there was a small hole in the bag where snow-water had leaked through. Still pretty effective at keeping the water out, but I thought I could do better.

The set up.

The set up.

Plastic bags over my socks!

Plastic bags over my socks!

The whole package.

The whole package.

So, I tried placing an extra pair of socks OVER the bag in order to keep it from shifting. This also provides and extra layer of warmth and protection. This method was successful at keeping the snow-water out, but I still had damp socks because I sweat from my feet. This also means that the outer sock gets pretty wet and will need to be dried out before reuse. However, I find this method successful, because my feet were warm and comfortable for the entire hike!

First sock layer.

First sock layer.

Plastic bag cover.

Plastic bag cover.

Second sock layer.

Second sock layer.

With my shoes on.

With my shoes on.

With gators on, you can't even tell the bags are there!

With gators on, you can’t even tell the bags are there!

Since I got similar results with both methods, I’d say it a matter of preference. With the first method, your feet may shift allowing water to leak through the bag creating wet spots on your socks. With the second method, you are sacrificing an extra pair of socks to keep your feet only damp instead of wet. Both methods resulted in warm and comfortable feet. I will continue to try out both methods as I train for the Appalachian Trail. I’ll let you know if I come to a conclusion on which method is superior!

Note: The bags do make noise when you walk but the sound of trudging through the snow covers it!

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Training – Week Two

Amy and I during our ski adventure to the UMaine Ski Trails.

Amy and I during our ski adventure to the UMaine Ski Trails.

I realized this week that I am very much a social adventurer. I don’t necessarily mean lots of people; one will do and is sometimes preferred! I just like to share my experience with someone else. Like last week, when my friend and I saw, no experienced, the flight of a HUGE bald eagle! As we walked off the ice and back to the woods, the eagle leapt from it’s perch and flew in a large circle over our heads. Now, knowing that the Bald Eagle, on average, has a wingspan of six to eight feet with talons and a beak that would put up a good fight against my eyes made the experience all that more awe inspiring. Having the bird fly that close overhead had us saying things like “WOW” and “OH MY GOSH”. I realized being with a companion made that experience much more memorable. I do enjoy solo trips, but looking back, my best memories occurred when I was with another adventurer. Therefore, as I move forward with my training, I will try to enlist friends to experience the outdoors with me.

You can find my fitness plan outline here at http://www.fitclimb.com/page/6-week-beginner-mountaineering-plan-week-2. Week two of training went as follows:

Monday: With fresh snow overnight, the University of Maine’s ski trails were begging to be explored! My friend and I set out for a late morning classical ski and ended up skiing for two hours. We enjoyed a beautiful day and great ski conditions, even with a few un-groomed trails. After I got home from skiing, I completed three sets of strength and balance exercises.

Fresh snow on UMaine's ski trails.

Fresh snow on UMaine’s ski trails.

The un-groomed field on a sunny day.

The un-groomed field on a sunny day.

Tuesday: I was feeling very stiff, so a long yoga workout was in order. Here is the workout I completed:

Wednesday: The workout calls for 40 minutes of stairs. Since I workout from home, this means walking up and down my stairs. This was quite boring, so I climbed for 10 minute intervals with a set of strength training in between. During the intervals, I would start out walking one stair at a time and then moved up to intervals of two and three stairs. I was very tired at the end of this workout!

Thursday/Friday: Rest Days!

Saturday: I visited my AT hiking partner over the weekend, and today we went for a three mile hilly run. Another beautiful day and I felt strong!

Sunday: Today, my knee injury flared up as I set out for another three mile run. I had to stop after a mile and a half in order to prevent myself from another injury. I walked a mile and a half back home.

This week of training was slightly disappointing for me. I really wanted to train harder than I did, but was held back. I am really looking to take it to the next level for week three. That means more outdoor adventures. Stay tuned for details!

Training – Week One

A sunny day on Perch Pond.

A sunny day on Perch Pond.

I dive head first into my training as we hit the seven week mark. This burst in training is partially to do with the date but very much so to do with the weather. Finally we see some snow! As an outdoor recreationist, I am increasingly having difficulty exercising indoors. I find staring at a TV much less stimulating than being in the woods. Music helps make gym type exercise more entertaining, but, let’s be honest, music does that in most situations! Gym rant aside, Maine finally got hit with some snow that has worked its way up the AT, intensifying as it hit New England. Mother Nature seems to be consistent with this. The weather in Maine can be as rugged as its mountains. But alas, the change in weather has sparked a push for training.

I am using a fitness plan outlined on Ali Alami’s FitClimb site, here: http://www.fitclimb.com/page/6-week-beginner-mountaineering. This will serve as the base of my training, meaning I can train harder but I will fit these workouts in as a minimum. Here is what I accomplished during week one:

Monday: I used dynamic stretching to warm up. This means you stretch while you move. I stretched for roughly ten minutes. After this I decided to brave the snow and jumped on my mountain bike. I ended up riding for 35 minutes along the bike path and access road. I was biking over a small layer of snow on the bike path. When I got to the road crossing, I decided to try out the snow covered dirt road to the paved bike path. It took some getting used to, but was a fun new way for me to experience biking. I’ll be looking into fat bikes in the future! For strength training, I completed one set of ten reps of the following:

  • Step ups (front and side)
  • Step downs
  • Push Ups
  • Crunches
  • Plank
  • Mountain Climbers.

These were the recommended exercises from Alami’s page. This is the base of what I’ll be calling “Strength Training” in this and future posts.

Tuesday: Rest Day

Wednesday: The plan calls for 20 minutes of cardio. To do this I decided to go snowshoeing at the Perch Pond Recreational Trails in Old Town. I ended up snow showing for two hours and was able to see the majestic flight of a bald eagle who was hunting from a tall pine beside the pond! The entire walk was beautiful, as the freshly fallen snow glittered and sparkled in the sun. Who needs diamonds when you’ve got white snow and a sunny day?!

Close-up of Bald Eagle on Perch Pond.

Close-up of Bald Eagle on Perch Pond.

A picture of myself on Perch Pond with a pouch full of gear!

A picture of myself on Perch Pond with a pouch full of gear!

Thursday: This was a very successful day of training. To start, I did dynamic stretches for about ten minutes. I did 20 minutes of strength, with a few new exercises. I then completed 20 minutes of stairs doing intervals of walking, running, two and three stairs at a time, and sprinting. I then did 20 more minutes of strength. After exercising indoors for an hour, I’d had enough! I geared up with my two main training buddies and headed for the Bangor Forest. It was night time during a snow storm, so we were completely alone out there. We walked for four and a half hours on our snow shoes! When we got back to the car, it was stuck in the snow and we had to push our way out of there. By the time we got home, sometime between 1 and 2 AM, we crashed hard! What a fun and exhausting night adventure.

Sage (left) and Krystian (right) as we embark on our late-night snowshoe.

Sage (left) and Krystian (right) as we embark on our late-night snowshoe adventure.

Friday: Rest Day!

Saturday: Today I headed to Acadia National Park with a training buddy for some more snowshoeing. Since the park is on an island off the coast of Maine, most of the snow had blown away. This created icy conditions and very little snow pack. For safety reasons, we decided to hike along the carriage roads. We hiked for two and a half hours and got some great view of the island’s mountains and the ocean beyond! I would definitely like to come back here to train and hike some of the hiking trails.

Carriage Trail in Acadia National Park

Carriage Trail in Acadia National Park

Blue ice along carriage trail.

Blue ice along carriage trail.

Sunday: Rest Day!

So that was it for week one. Stay tuned for week two! A special thanks to my training buddies for making my training fun and exciting!