3/5 UPDATES!!!

Hey Y’all!

I know its been a while since my last update, (so many things, so little time left!!!) but here we go! So to update you on my progress, I have been finalizing details, prepping mail drops and deciding on WHERE to send them, highlighting my AWOL guide like crazy for dog friendly places and so on, and getting all the last minute gear together. I will be posting a ‘gear guide’ here in the next week or so, so stay tuned for a video and update on the gear page on this site! One thing that I’ve noticed the internet is severely lacking in that would have been more helpful for my choosing the gear that I have would be more before vs after thru hiking gear comparisons. There are a few out there on youtube that showcase specific individuals and their before/after choices, and I def have watched those again and again for reference to see if maybe I’m packing too much or the wrong thing. So I am def going to  be creating a before and after video post-trail to hopefully help future thru-hikers make decisions. Hopefully someone will find it useful or at least learn something from my failures in years to come. 

Anyways, UPDATE!!! I have a trail name! In ref to my love for ponies, my wild child streak, and my accident I have taken the trail name “Rodeo”. You can look forward to the adventures of Rodeo and Scout the Adventure Beagle not ONLY through this blog and other social media forms, but also through APPALACHIAN TRIALS! I got an email from Zach last week inviting me to be one of his 2014 bloggers and I’m beside myself with excitement to start writing! If you have anything you’d like to see or article topics you want to suggest, LMK!!!

Gear talk time. So I had ordered a super comfy therm a rest pad, which I LOVED and slept on for a week straight. Then Jesse’s darn puppy Ranger ate it. Like literally. Rolled up in its stuff sack, the damn dog ate my sleeping pad. Then, after I had it re-rolled and ready for disposal, he FREAKING ATE IT AGAIN….-_- so now my gear shelf is way high up and out of the reach of evil puppies. At least I’d gotten it on  sale. So anyways, I’m still searching for a replacement sleeping pad, but the majority of my gear has been collected. I got an amazing deal from Osprey and ordered a pack from them, when it gets here later this week I’ll go into more detail, and was accepted for a program with Ruffwear who is going to allow me to get great deals on gear for the little man as well. I got my t shirt from Team Reeve, which is a pretty light blue athletic shirt that matches 90% of my gear (how did they know??? <3) Things are coming along well and I’m getting ready for the biggest adventure of my life, I just wish someone would fast forward time a few weeks! 

Until next time, happy trails! 

-“Rodeo”

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Badger Sponsorship Application Video

So my video didn’t get accepted as a finalist for the Badger Sponsorship but I thought I’d post it anyways, who knows maybe I can redo it and get some attention for my cause anyways? =) Anyways, enjoy for now!

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Backpacking With A Dog

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So you’ve decided to bring ‘Ol Yeller along with you on your next weekend adventure…Great! Having a dog on the trail can be a rewarding bonding experience for both the owner and canine. Dogs on trail provide so much entertainment, comic relief, and open doors for so many social encounters with fellow hikers.  If negligent in pre-trip planning however, dogs can be a nuisance, affect your relationship with others, and can ruin the whole experience. Now before you and Fido pack the car and head off, here are a few things to consider prior to your departure:

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Are dogs even allowed here?

Be sure to go online or call ahead and learn the park’s dog policy. Most places require dogs to be leashed at all times and never left un-attended. Some may require you to purchase a pet pass or show documentation of a rabies vaccine, and then there are places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that don’t allow dogs altogether. Now of course working therapy dogs are excluded from these bans but those animals are considered medical ‘tools’ for those who have a legitimate need for them. It’s not exactly ethical to lie about having a dog for medical purposes just to bring him with you and you could be looking at some nasty consequences in trying to cheat the system. If a park doesn’t allow dogs, do yourself and Fluffy a favor and pick another location for your adventure.

Is my dog realistically fit to do this trip? Consider age, shape, etc

Consider several factors here. Can that two month old puppy’s bones support the 20 mile weekend you’ve planned? Or maybe your dog is getting up there in her years, can she make those steep hills with her fragile state?  You may not want to admit that your dog just isn’t ready when you are, or that your long time adventure buddy is reaching retirement status, but do what’s best for your dog. 

What about physical fitness level? Just like people, dogs can be lazy, overweight, crazy active, or somewhere in the middle. Even if Cujo can stand (or sit) to lose a few pounds, don’t risk injury and force your morbidly obese mutt to shed all that weight over the course of a week.  This is supposed to be fun after all, not a canine version of The Biggest Loser.  If you’re looking to add some calories to your dog’s backpacking meals, pour a little olive oil over his dry food or mix his regular food with high performance dog chow (but definitely don’t switch all food as this can cause an upset stomach).

What about your dogs health? If he’s built with short stubby legs, three miles may seem like twenty as he scrapes low rocks and branches while moving those little legs twice as fast as you. Scout, being a beagle, has epilepsy and when very stressed out he goes into seizures. If your dog has a medical condition or old injury, consult your veterinarian before attempting a backpacking trip.

Is my dog trained well enough? Will he chase wildlife, jump at hikers, or run off?

Even if your location doesn’t have leash laws, always keep one at the ready. Or, play it safe and keep even the most well behaved dog leashed at all times. I admit, on occasion Scout is allowed to run free but only if he is the only dog and if we are in areas where hikers are scarce. Even so, a strange scent or scurrying animal can send your dog into the ‘GO GEDDIT’ mode. Make sure you’ve got Scooby 100% under control at all times, ESPECIALLY if you lose the leash.

When you do cross paths with other hikers, will your dog sit politely until invited over or will he lunge playfully and smear muddy paw prints all over his new best friend?  No one appreciates dogs that lunge at wildlife or cause a hectic barking scene with each passing hiker.

If staying overnight in a shelter, will your dog beg and whine for attention or steal food from those around you? What about when you meet a hiker who is afraid of dogs? Even a happy-dog smile can be interpreted as a bared-tooth snarl by some dog-wary people. Try to be mindful of hikers who signed up for a peaceful getaway in the woods, free from the frustrations of other people’s pets.

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Am I prepared to clean up after him along the way?

Lets face it, even prissy dogs can be messy. For one, dogs don’t give a whole lot of warning when they’ve got to go, meaning you may not have the time to get them far enough away from the trail. In accordance with the Leave No Trace guidelines, are you willing to dig cat holes for Snoopy’s poo too? If your dog doesn’t finish his food and leaves bits lying around, will you risk attracting other hungry animals at night? If he gets into the fire pit or trash bags (or heaven forbid, food bags) at shelters, can you sacrifice the hours of daylight better spent covering miles to pick up food while apologizing to fellow hikers? If not, maybe you should consider leaving your pooch at the kennel or a friends house for the weekend.

Can I handle the extra time and effort to make it with a dog?

What about at the end of a long wet day when its time to hit the hay and you strip off your soaking clothes and slide into your sleeping bag with your warm, dry sleeping layers. Then comes in Lassie with her 4 inches of matted, muddy, wet dog hair wanting some refuge from the rain as well. Letting her inside means keeping her safe and comfortable but would sacrifice your own comfort. Can you handle that? What about carrying and filtering extra water? You brought her here so you need to be prepared to put your dog’s needs first.

Now that being said, hiking with Scout has made every adventure ten times better than they could ever have been without him. His playful personality mixed with his beagle charm usually means every thru hiker, scouting troop, elderly couple, and little kid wants to kiss and hug him and feed him the snacks they were saving for later.  Since Scout became active, his seizures have all but disappeared and he’s overall a much happier dog. While he definitely requires special care on the trail, it’s a life that suits both of us equally and makes every experience an adventure we’ll never forget.

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Donation Page For Team Reeve Up n Runnin!

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The late Christopher Reeve, immortalized as ‘Superman’ on the big screen, and as a visionary and hero in his personal life, wisely stated, “At first something seems impossible; then it becomes improbable; but with enough conviction and support it becomes inevitable.”

Currently in the United States, there are nearly 1 in 50 people living with paralysis — approximately 6 million people. That’s the same number of people as the combined populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. And that number is nearly 33% higher than previous estimates showed.

Great strides have been made; people are living healthier, vibrant lives, and some are walking again thanks to the work of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The Reeve Foundation is committed to finding treatments and cures for spinal cord injuries. To achieve this goal, the Foundation funds some of the most brilliant minds in neuroscience – researchers who are poised to deliver the answers that will change the lives of spinal cord injured people worldwide.

As many of you have seen from my blog, in October of 2013 I suffered from a horse back riding accident that left me with a concussion and a crushed vertebra. I spent three months in a back brace hardly able to twist and do daily tasks as my spine slowly began to heal itself. I lost my job as a large animal tech and it seemed like my life was falling apart just after I’d gotten it together from graduating school and starting a career. I’m normally a very physically active, outdoorsy person and suddenly there was so much I couldn’t do. One thing that became a major part of the healing process however, was planning something I had only ever dreamed of: backpacking across the United States on the Appalachian Trail. The AT is a 2,200 mile hiking trail stretching from Georgia to Maine and on average will take about 5-6 months to complete. Finally the back brace is gone and I’ve been able to recondition myself with various strength building exercises and routines. The doctors have cleared me for takeoff and come April, I will see you all on the trail!

Now a big part of the hiker community is the motto ‘pay it forward’. It means pay back the kindness and the ‘trail magic’ that was shown to you both on trail and at various points in your life. Lets see if we can pull together and raise $2,200 for Team Reeve. This money will enable continued research, education, and services for patients and their families. Together we can hopefully help inspire other people to step outside of their comfort zones and have an adventure, no matter heir limitations!!!

Joining the team or making a donation to the Reeve Foundation is simple. I have set up a webpage to make it easy to donate online (via credit card or PayPal). See the link below. You can even use this link to donate via your smartphone.

http://www.christopherreeve.org/teamreeveallstars2014/trailmagic

All donations are 100% tax deductible.

Happy Trails,
Brittany and Scout

PS: You can also make a check out to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation (be sure to include my name and All Stars in the memo field)and mail to:

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation
636 Morris Turnpike, Suite 3A
Short Hills, NJ 07078
Attn: Team Reeve

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Why Am I Hiking The Trail?

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At the advice of a Mr. Zach Davis, author of Appalachian Trials, I have created my own version of lists to motivate me as to my reasoning behind this hike. The idea is that whenever I hit a rough patch on the trail, or when I want to go home and give up, this should be my motivator to stay on track, reminding me WHY I’m hiking. If nothing else, it will remind me how much I would be disappointed in myself if I wasn’t able to finish (didn’t your parent’s ever tell you how disappointed they were in you after you got in trouble? Doesn’t that hurt worse than any spanking?). So without further ado and in no particular order, I give you my reasons:

 

I am Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail because…

  • I’m out of college but haven’t yet begun a career. I have no major commitments at this point in my life and won’t be at a stage like this again until I retire from my chosen career path.  I don’t want to put living off until I’m 3/4 done with my life.
  • Because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and the injury from this broken back, I am afraid that I won’t be able  to do the things I can do now when I’m older
  • I’ve been enamored with the trail since I first learned about it at Summer Camp and have been jealous every time I’ve met a thru-hiker veteran. I want to be a part of the AT Community and not let life (and hikers) pass me by.
  • Rather than filling out countless job applications for post-college employment, I want to take a little while to breath and hopefully learn which direction I should be heading towards
  • I had a close call with my accident and I was very lucky that it wasn’t more serious. I never want to let go of my active, adventurous lifestyle and I want to share that kind of lifestyle with others. Old people or young, in shape or in shapes, sick or healthy, handicapped or not -it doesn’t matter….I hope that whatever funny, terrible, painful, exciting, boring, sweaty, smelly, soaked, dirty, greasy, hungry, aching, blilstered, hot, cold, and exhausting adventures I have will give people a good laugh, maybe teach them something or help them prepare for their own adventure, and inspire people to step just beyond the boundary of their comfort zone.
  • Mom told me I needed to walk my dog more.

When I successfully thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I will…

  • Have so many hilarious stories and new friends that I met along the way.
  • Always pay it forward and do my part for Trail Magic
  • Gain a better understanding of who I am and how I plan to tackle life post-school
  • Hopefully have a revolutionary ‘lightbulb’ moment that will in turn fund future adventures like this one. Perhaps turn to writing or blogging to teach others, inspire and share stories.
  • Be able to handle whatever life throws at me. If I can survive bears, wild cats, raccoons, ticks, venomous snakes and MEN out in the woods while carrying all my belonings on my back like a turtle, I can certainly deal with trivial modern day obstacles.
  • Get another tattoo marking the latest major milestone of my life (sorry in advance Mom)

If I give up on the Appalachian Trail, I will…

  • Probably delete my facebook and never do anything worth mentioning
  • Basically have signed my life away to working a meaningless job with no recognition or future, rather than bringing out my bubbly personality and inspiring others.
  • Consider myself a tourist in my own country, not someone who has a deep understanding, love and appreciation for the land.
  • Have to answer to all of the ‘I told you so!”s from my friends and family who thought I was a nutcase from the beginning.
  • Try again the following year
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Tweets @ATTrailMagic

Tweets @ATTrailMagic

Hey y’all so I finally broke down! After years of refusing to hop on the Twitter Train, I have created an account to continue spreading the word of this adventure through the use of social media. Be sure to follow me at ATTrailMagic (I promise I won’t flood you with constant posts!). 

Happy Trails! 

-Britt

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“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” -Unknown

Finally we got snow! Not much, only about half an inch but it was enough to make the chill in the air worth it. Jesse and I decided to take the boys out to see if the Cascades waterfall had frozen over and sure enough, we got to see quite a sight at 9am this morning. We woke up early and hiked through freezing temperatures, the dogs even had booties on, but it was worth it. The prints in the snow showed that only two people had beaten us to the falls that morning, but we def met several excited groups on our way down. Took some pix to share with everyone, but honestly its late and were planning another frozen adventure tomorrow (not sure where yet) so I’m off to bed once I get these posted! Stay warm, watch out for ice, and Happy Trails! ❤

Brittany

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Just what the doctor ordered! A recap of the last 3 months.

So as you all know I was involved in a horse back riding accident in mid October that left me with a concussion and a severe compression fracture on my L4 vertebrae. For the first few days I was stuck in bed, hardly able to move my toes but thankfully showing no real signs of permanent nerve damage. Bruised, broken and swollen all over, I was fitted for a very itchy and uncomfortable brace that I am pretty sure was constructed by no one less than Satan himself, and was sent home to rest up for what was predicted to be roughly two months. Two months of no bending, twisting, lifting, riding horses, or pretty much anything fun. At the time I was working as a large animal technician at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, and due to my injury and inability to perform the requirements of the job I was terminated from their employment. So great, stuck in a brace with no horses, no work, and no income. Times were about to get tight for sure.

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Just under the two week mark from my accident, I called a newer friend up, a Mr. Jesse Hutchison, desperate to get out of the house. I was going stir crazy and needed to see something besides the inside of my bedroom. With Jesse’s help in supporting me (like, literally. I physically needed help for almost every rock or step we passed) I was able to make it up the small Cascades hike that I had done dozens of times before while in attending college. What I had once considered an easy hike fit for kindergarten field trips had become not only a struggle, but an intense workout.

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As the weeks dragged on my newfound free time allowed for the planning and plotting and concocting that is now turning into my Thru-Hike. Jesse and I began making it a regular thing to get out and take Scout, my now overweight beagle and long time hiking partner, on whatever hikes we could manage. Back brace and all, I got back in sync with the only thing I loved doing just as much as I loved working with horses. I took time back from my busy schedule of work and barn and work and barn and work and sleep and food and barn. I spent time with my family. I reconnected with old friends. I celebrated holidays without distractions. Jesse and I picked up my dad from the airport on his way home from Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day. I had time to start planning this thru-hike I am about to embark on. At first it seemed like my life fell apart right when it was coming together, but now I see that everything happens for a reason, exactly the way it is supposed to happen. I would probably be overworked and unhappy with my job still if my green little horse hadn’t spooked that day.

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So Jesse and I hiked. We hiked everywhere, McAfees Knob, Dragon’s Tooth, Pandapas Pond, Tinker Cliffs, State Parks, National Parks, all over the local sections of the AT…. and with each hike I knew that although I was taking a huge risk, I was making the right decision to give up work for five to six months to backpack with my dog from Georgia to Maine. To WALK, 2,200 miles just six months after breaking my back. There are a million reasons why I am hiking, to raise awareness and support for the Christopher Reeve Foundation, to take a break from school and work in order to find out what I want to do with my life, to get into better shape and physically push myself, but on reason above all remains. I am hiking because I can. I am hiking in celebration of my life and my ability to do what so many others cannot. I am hiking because no matter what struggles life pushes at me, I know that I can overcome them and that I will always be able to keep moving forward.

Yesterday I went in to the Dr’s for ANOTHER series of radiographs and bending and twisting exercises. They have officially, FINALLY cleared me to lose the brace altogether. Sweetness….I still have a stunted range of motion, and I still have back pain that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. But I am mobile, I can bend and move and lift and twist and even (slowly) run again. I can swim and go to the gym and carry my own groceries and tie my shoes and wrestle with our dogs and I even got a new job at a call center that, surprisingly I love. I have new friends and old friends and am happy. This broken back might have been just the thing the doctor ordered to set my life straight after all. =)

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Stay warm guys! Several Announcements!!!

Stay warm guys! BRING YOUR PETS INSIDE!!! For anyone planning to adventure out in the arctic conditions we are all currently experiencing, make sure to dress warm and stay safe! Those rocks get slippery and with conditions reaching the negative digits all over the US you’ve got to layer up! In fact, here is a great article on the art of layering with some good comparisons of diff materials and what to look for depending on the type of hike you are about to endure. Def worth checking out! =) 

http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/a/11061/Introduction-to-Layered-Clothing-Systems

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In other news, I know it may be a little premature but. the plates on my car ran up and since I had to get new ones anyways…..

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ERHMERGERD!!!! I am so freaking excited about this hike and cannot wait until its time to depart! I’ve collected most of the gear I need from some very generous people, Christmas and through my own searching and ghetto-rigging. (For ex, why spend money on a ditty bag when you can just modify those cheapo drawstring bags companies pass out for free? They end up at goodwill for like 10c and all you need to do is cut one of the two drawstring straps off (the remaining strap has a variety of uses!) 

In other other news, I found a hiking partner too! Several new friends and I have been trying to coordinate start dates and while nothing is set in stone with any of them yet, the boyfriend has decided that he too is going to take part in long distance hiking. Whether or not Jesse decides to do the whole thing will depend on several factors as we move along the trail (him coming along would mean either bringing Ranger -the new dog- who is still pretty new to the whole scene or finding someone back home to long-term pet sit. There is a LOT of planing and detailing and gear collecting on his end but either way it will be awesome to have a definite hiking partner for the start of the trip. So everyone wish Jesse and Ranger good luck in preparing themselves for a good long hike too! Also to my guy buddies, Jesse is in need of pretty much everything for backpacking so if you have a sleeping bag or other gear please let us know what you’d want for it! We are already set on stoves, water filters, etc. 

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For those of you wondering what’s going on with Scout the Adventure Beagle, he’s pretty much in hibernation mode (along with Jesse’s puppy Ranger. They are finally starting to like one another!)

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Anyways, YAY! So excited, remember to help out you can always donate at my gofundme account (link in toolbar above) and if you have any gear you are looking to donate or sell at a cheapo price, lmk what you’ve got! =) 

Thanks guys and as always, Happy Trails! 

-Brittany

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Scout learns to cross the A-Frames

HAPPY NEW YEARS CAMPERS! Hope you all partied hard and had a great time! On the last day of the year, my friends and I went to see the Keefer Oak on part of the AT out by Newport. Diff sources say diff things, that it’s the largest or 2nd largest tree on the AT, that the girth is about 18-20 feet, etc. Either way, its a HUGE tree right on the trail. In the process of hiking that day, Scout learned to cross the A-Frames on the fence lines. It was hilarious, and in the last few seconds of the video you can see him tripping and getting a leg stuck on the ladder. Oops. After that, Jesse and I drove to NC to see some of my friends from college and we stayed up playing board games like Catch Phrase and Apples to Apples. Big crazy party hoppin right? It was a good time, and I tried a mixed drink I’d never seen before. Baileys Irish Cream and Root beer. It sounds terrible but was actually super tasty, and I’ll def be copying that recipe for future use. Anyways, hope everyone enjoys whatever time off work is left!
Happy Trails!
Brittany

 

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