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Discussion Starter #1
So I'm doing something pretty out of character for me. I grew up a country boy - playing in the woods, camping every now and then, fishing a bit, mountain biking and trail hiking. The past decade or so has been full of pretty much everything but any of that. I signed up for a charity event through work called The Crucible Hike. Basically, we, as participants, secure donations in support of a local veterans support organization which helps with housing, education, employment and other life services. In turn, we hike 70 miles over three days - the entire extent of the Laurel Highlands Trail in western PA - to show support for the burdens that many of our veterans face daily. This is taking place this weekend, Sept 7-9.

This trail is very challenging with drastic elevation changes, loose rock, tree roots and everything else that comes along with the area. I've been training my body and mind for the last 5 months in an attempt to finish this thing. First day is 24 miles, second is 27 miles and the last day is 19. I'll be carrying about a 25lb pack, camping each night at specific spots and traversing five counties. I've prepared my clothing and gear as best as possible, but I'm still nervous/terrified/excited about this whole thing. If any of you well-seasoned distance hikers have any last minute advice for me, I'd greatly appreciate it. Some well-wishes and prayers would be even more appreciated!

I will not solicit donations here, but if this sounds like something you would like to support, PM for details about how you can donate to the cause as there is still a little bit of time before the donation period closes.
 

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That is a very big commitment and sacrifice you are making, under full consciousness of the perils that await. Though I enjoy hiking and camping, I am not in a position to take on such an undertaking. What you are doing is truly a selfless act.
I do not know your faith background, but any big undertaking as such, my advice is to ask God for guidance and care of you and provide comfort to your loved ones, family & friends, as you embark on this journey.

Four years ago, my friend and I hiked the Grand Canyon from the South Kaibab trailhead to the Bright Angel Campground and then back up to the Bright Angel Lodge. It took us about 15.5 hours to cover 15.8 miles and were extremely stupid doing that in July amidst all the heat. Our descend was 18% grade and 4780 feet and climb was 10% with 4380 feet, totally stupid to attempt in a day. I know, though I had not prepared one bit for it and I just prayed to God that I have his hands on my shoulder and my friend and provide comfort to my wife and my friend's fiance.

I wish you the best and my prayers are with you.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
That is a very big commitment and sacrifice you are making, under full consciousness of the perils that await. Though I enjoy hiking and camping, I am not in a position to take on such an undertaking. What you are doing is truly a selfless act.
I do not know your faith background, but any big undertaking as such, my advice is to ask God for guidance and care of you and provide comfort to your loved ones, family & friends, as you embark on this journey.

Four years ago, my friend and I hiked the Grand Canyon from the South Kaibab trailhead to the Bright Angel Campground and then back up to the Bright Angel Lodge. It took us about 15.5 hours to cover 15.8 miles and were extremely stupid doing that in July amidst all the heat. Our descend was 18% grade and 4780 feet and climb was 10% with 4380 feet, totally stupid to attempt in a day. I know, though I had not prepared one bit for it and I just prayed to God that I have his hands on my shoulder and my friend and provide comfort to my wife and my friend's fiance.

I wish you the best and my prayers are with you.
I'm very strong in my relationship with the Big Guy. I see Him as a close personal friend who is always with me. I've actually been reading the book "Play the Man" with my men's group the last few months and one of the chapters is about doing a getaway into the wilderness so one can truly feel God. Although there will be almost 100 other people on this journey with me, it's just me, the trail and Him. I don't feel as though I've prepared myself physically to the point of feeling confident (life gets in the way of doing long hikes), but with my mental preparation and spiritual strength, I believe I can have my mind control my body.

It's a breath of fresh air to hear someone speak openly about their deep faith. I do it often even if people look at me weird. There are greater powers at work here and far greater pain felt by our veterans that what I will feel over these three days.

"With Him, I can do anything"
 

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Amen. My faith gives me the strength and desire to live and not once do I feel ashamed, weird or shy about my relationship with God. Since the age of knowing right from wrong, I remember my faith with God, though my faith journey has not been stellar, I know where my 'being' comes from. You will do just fine and I am confident that this will be one of many experiences in life that you enjoy, cherish and revel in. Nothing compares to the sacrifice one makes for the good of many, and not just their own. As you know, God is always with you and with your faith in him, you will enjoy this three day experience in the wilderness.
The book you are reading sounds very interesting and I threw it on my wish list on Amazon.
 

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That's a brisk pace, especially so with elevation deltas. Very similar terrain down here in SE Ohio, the wife & I are avid hikers, have done a few 20 mile days in the Hocking Hills. You will feel it for sure! The key is good pace w/proper breaks, and stay hydrated.

If you're looking for inspiration beyond your faith, I suggest reading Grandma Gatewood's Walk. Amazing woman, even more amazing what she was able to overcome & do. Should boost your confidence level exponentially!

Otherwise, get your daily "training hikes" in, and don't cut corners on gear. The good stuff really helps.

Best of luck, and most importantly, enjoy the "ride", and be safe!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Well, as if doing 70 miles in three days wasn't going to be enough of a good story, it looks like I'll be doing it in the remnants of a tropical storm. Guess I'll just have to be like Lieutenant Dan on the top of the shrimp boat.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Update: I made it 31 miles before I had to bow out. The weather on the first day was actually quite nice with no precipitation, but then Gordon reared his ugly head overnight. We were pounded with over six inches of rain making conditions miserable and dangerous. The trail turned into a river and there was not a dry anything to be found.

As for me, I started out too fast and burned too much energy in the first 5 miles. I guess it was the excitement and the old cross country racer in me. I felt a hot spot on my right heel around mile 18 which turned into a full and open blister by mile 20. I got it 2nd skinned and wrapped and finished the 24 mile day at 6:45pm Friday. Other than my feet, I was fatigued, but still upright. I laid in my hammock listening to the rain pummel the rain fly most of the night and contemplated not starting the next day. Being that I would have felt like a failure for not trying, I gave it a go. Two miles in, I was soaked to the bone. No amount of waterproofing could have helped with that much water, so my boots, socks, clothes and pack were infiltrated. More blisters formed and, by the first checkpoint, I was done for. If the weather was better and I had paid more attention to my feet, I could have gone farther, but I did not want to risk serious injury.

Out of 58 people who started the full 70-miler, 6 quit before the end of the first day, 12 more completed the first day, but did not continue, 15 more (including me) hung it up at some point during the second day and 10 more did not start the third day. Only 15 people finished the whole thing out of 58 and they are warrior rockstars in my book. Truly an amazing feat of physical and mental prowess.

With the knowledge I now have, I will pack smarter and train harder for next year. I may even have several friends and family members joining me.
 

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Good job Ian, better luck next time. Glad your knew your limits and bowed out before injury. You can be proud of your effort.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Good job Ian, better luck next time. Glad your knew your limits and bowed out before injury. You can be proud of your effort.
Thank you, sir. When I threw in the (very wet) towel, I had slipped a few times and nearly went down on some very large rocks. The trail was no longer a trail as it had turned into a river. If this were a few years ago, I would have taken more risks, but I have my family to think about now. A broken ankle was not something I was willing to risk for the sake of going a little farther.

Bottom line, I raised $1500 for our veterans and was able to go much farther than even I thought I would. I'll chock this year up to experience and be much better prepared for next year.
 

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Just read your post and great job raising money for veterans in need. I've done the entire Laurel Highlands trail but in 5 days time, so 3 days would be very long days for me hiking (10+ hours) at 2.5 pace with 25 lbs.

Can I ask which shoes/boots you wore? Wish I had come across this when you first posted, my recommendation would have been get your carry weight as low as you can on your budget and break your budget on shoes/boots. You said you prepped your gear as good as possible so I was curious !

When it comes to backpacking/hiking in general I tend to be thrifty with my purchases... except when it comes to footwear (just like tires on a car).

If you ever do this in the future or plan on getting back into the game on a consistent basis, I recommend Lowa Renegade GTX's for boots or another higher quality boot. Never had a hotspot or blister and come broken in out of the box. You get what you pay for ! I did a 6 day 80+ miler in the Rocky's in July and my starting pack weight was just a bit over 40lbs... feet never felt so good on the trail.

Good luck in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Just read your post and great job raising money for veterans in need. I've done the entire Laurel Highlands trail but in 5 days time, so 3 days would be very long days for me hiking (10+ hours) at 2.5 pace with 25 lbs.

Can I ask which shoes/boots you wore? Wish I had come across this when you first posted, my recommendation would have been get your carry weight as low as you can on your budget and break your budget on shoes/boots. You said you prepped your gear as good as possible so I was curious !

When it comes to backpacking/hiking in general I tend to be thrifty with my purchases... except when it comes to footwear (just like tires on a car).

If you ever do this in the future or plan on getting back into the game on a consistent basis, I recommend Lowa Renegade GTX's for boots or another higher quality boot. Never had a hotspot or blister and come broken in out of the box. You get what you pay for ! I did a 6 day 80+ miler in the Rocky's in July and my starting pack weight was just a bit over 40lbs... feet never felt so good on the trail.

Good luck in the future.
My choice of boot was the HiTec Altitude VI. I did exhaustive research on boots and footwear before making that purchase because I knew my feet were going to be the most important part of my body to protect. The HiTecs came very highly rated and, luckily, they were also quite affordable. The boots themselves fit me extremely well and they are comfortable and light. They didn't let me down at all. Being a leather boot, they do require more break in time than others. I don't believe I broke them in well enough before this hike. Nonetheless, my feet are very blister-prone anyways and I did not do a good enough job of prepping them in anticipation of that.

My other biggest issues were that 1. I did not train properly to get my feet used to the punishment they took and 2. I was vastly unprepared for the wet weather. My legs, although they did get sore, were strong. My lungs had no issue keeping up. I had my pack weight down to 22.4lbs without water and it was not a cumbersome weight to carry for the long-haul. There were a few things that I really didn't need that would allow me to get my pack weight below 20lbs.

I fully plan on doing this thing again next year and beating it. I'm not one to try something and give up if I don't finish it the first time. I have SO much more knowledge about this hike now than I did before it. I will be in much better condition and be much better prepared for it next year.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Just wanted to update since registration for the 2019 hike is now open. More information can be found here:

https://www.classy.org/event/the-crucible-hike-5-years-of-pain/e219102

I have already begun my training and collecting new/different gear based on my learning from last year. First and foremost, I bought new boots. The ones I had for last year were NOT meant for the long distance this hike entails. I did a bunch of research again and spoke to a few of the pros at REI. They had knowledge of the hike itself and had helped a few people in the past in picking out boots. I was fitted and they made recommendations based on my foot shape. It boiled down to either the Lowa Renegage GTX (as suggested by OhioKevin) and the Salomon X-Ultra 3 mid. I was on the fence about both and just simply wanted the best tool for the task regardless of price. The one REI pro did tell me that they had a few of the Lowa's be warrantied because the sole delaminated from the upper part of the shoe after a few months of use. Several online reviews confirmed this, too. The Salomon's had glowing reviews with many folks saying they held up great to distance hikes. An added benefit is that they are extremely light at 15.8oz. each and are less expensive than the Lowa's (as stated before that didn't matter, but it is nice). So, I ended up with the Salomon's and I couldn't be happier with the fit and comfort. They feel like they won't require much, if any, break in time and will yield much better results for me in preventing blisters. I've put a link to them below.

https://www.rei.com/product/122167/salomon-x-ultra-3-mid-gtx-hiking-boots-mens

Additionally, I ditched the hammock idea and went with an ALPS Mountaineering 1-person tent. It weighs 4lbs total including the carry bag, which is the same weight as my hammock, straps and rainfly were together. It will be a heck of a lot easier for me to set up and sleep in for the one night I'll need it and I won't have to worry about several different pieces of gear in my pack. Lastly, I went with a 3 liter bladder-style water carrier. Last year, I used two Nalgene bottles that hung off the sides of my pack. Not only were they annoying, but they were difficult to carry for distances.

So, I'm going to beat this thing this year. I have just over 8 months to train and prepare. With the unbelievably useful knowledge I gained last year and the strong desire to make the full 70 miles, I will be way better prepared for this. Here we go!
 

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I have already begun my training and collecting new/different gear based on my learning from last year. First and foremost, I bought new boots. The ones I had for last year were NOT meant for the long distance this hike entails. I did a bunch of research again and spoke to a few of the pros at REI. They had knowledge of the hike itself and had helped a few people in the past in picking out boots. I was fitted and they made recommendations based on my foot shape. It boiled down to either the Lowa Renegage GTX (as suggested by OhioKevin) and the Salomon X-Ultra 3 mid. I was on the fence about both and just simply wanted the best tool for the task regardless of price. The one REI pro did tell me that they had a few of the Lowa's be warrantied because the sole delaminated from the upper part of the shoe after a few months of use. Several online reviews confirmed this, too. The Salomon's had glowing reviews with many folks saying they held up great to distance hikes. An added benefit is that they are extremely light at 15.8oz. each and are less expensive than the Lowa's (as stated before that didn't matter, but it is nice). So, I ended up with the Salomon's and I couldn't be happier with the fit and comfort. They feel like they won't require much, if any, break in time and will yield much better results for me in preventing blisters. I've put a link to them below.

https://www.rei.com/product/122167/salomon-x-ultra-3-mid-gtx-hiking-boots-mens
I have the Salomon X-Ultra 3 low's for my summer hikers, and really like them. Great support, and so far, wearing like iron. My winter hikers are Oboz Wind River, love them also. In warmer weather, I like two thin pairs of socks, and in cold weather, a thin pair first, with a heavier pair on top. Check out Darn Tough socks (made in Vermont) for great hiking socks.

Good luck this year!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I have the Salomon X-Ultra 3 low's for my summer hikers, and really like them. Great support, and so far, wearing like iron. My winter hikers are Oboz Wind River, love them also. In warmer weather, I like two thin pairs of socks, and in cold weather, a thin pair first, with a heavier pair on top. Check out Darn Tough socks (made in Vermont) for great hiking socks.

Good luck this year!
That's great to hear about the Salomon's. I considered the lows, but this particular hike is extremely rocky with ruts and roots. I need the ankle support provided by the mids. Even for a mid-height boot, they're still plenty light enough. This hike is in early September, so I'm not worried about colder weather. Nearly everyone I've talked to recommend the Darn Tough socks, so I may invest in six pairs before this year's hike. The ones I used this year are a wool-synthetic blend that I think worked really well for their intended purpose. I used Fox River sock liners with them and changed them every 10-12 miles.

As a former long-distance hiker, the only things I would add to your kit would be wool socks (preferably Thorlo Trekking), polyester underwear (preferably Coolmax), and hiking sticks (preferably Leki).

https://www.thorlo.com/socks/tkx/650

Coolmax clothing for less. Performance moisture wicking apparel

https://www.leki.com/us/trekking/poles/?f=31|53||653|31||31||653|31|
Those are all things that I had last year and worked well. See my sock comment above, but I'll look into a few new pairs. I was worried about the wool socks being too hot on my feet with temps that time of year being in the 70s and even 80s, but it seems that isn't the case. I have four pairs of long-leg compression shorts made from moisture-wicking material that worked extremely well last year. No chaffing or rubbing anywhere down there. Lastly, I had a set of lightweight adjustable trekking poles that held up well. I believe they saved me from expelling too much energy on the first day as the elevation changes were abrupt. Only downside is that I formed blisters on my hands from them. I'll likely use a pair of light work gloves this coming year to counteract that.
 

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I'll likely use a pair of light work gloves this coming year to counteract that.
In the distant past I have used unpadded fingerless bicycle gloves. My current favorites are Firm Grip Carpenter Gloves purchased at Home Depot but available at a much greater price on Amazon. I'm on my third pair over the years.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Firm-Grip-Large-Gel-Pro-Carpenter-Work-Gloves-55232-06/300908999?keyword=carpenter+gloves&semanticToken=d01100010+>++st:{carpenter+gloves}:st+cnn:{0:0}+cnb:{0:0}+oos:{0:1}+lca:{562680}+qu:{glove}:qu+nr:{carpenter+glove}:nr
 

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Discussion Starter #18
^^ Excellent suggestion. Being that I do carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc. as a hobby, I own a few sets of work gloves already. My favorite pair would likely work, but they've been... well loved, as we will say. A new pair will likely find its way into my pack before this hike. I like the fingerless design as it would still allow me to have full use of my fingertips for dexterity sake (taking the cap off of the water hose, opening food packets, snapping a few scenic pics, etc.) but protect my hands where I need it most. I got pretty bad blisters on the insides of both of my thumbs as well as on my palms last year, so these would probably fit the bill.

In addition to the big things like boots, pack, tent and clothing, it's amazing how many little things one needs to complete a physically demanding challenge like this one. I thought I was prepared last year, but I was sadly mistaken.
 

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Only my opinion but 3 liters of water that time of the year in that area seems excessive to carry, i would rather carry other things. Can you map out water sources along that trail you plan on hiking. I carry 2 liters and have no problems but havent hiked the desert. I use a Sawyer Squeeze at water sources for refills, they are cheap, filter many things and will filter thousands of gallons. Its best to buy a couple one liter water bottles (dont use the bag they give you its a hassle) drink that water and use the bottle for filtering into the other. If your getting new hiking shoes make sure there broken in to be on the safe side. I have never had a problem but some do, watch out what others say (hiking shoes are all over the board) the best and costly might not be good for you. There your shoe tires thats why there are many posts on different likes on RL tires :grin: Be careful have fun this time, at least you kind of know what your up against this time. Are you going solo.......
 

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Dont know if you plan on filling your camel back or whatever you have, but thats a lot of water to carry for a close to or a fall hike. Do you have any water sources along the way,if not map it out. If so, I use a Sawyer Squeeze and will do 2 liters per water source depending on the distance to the next and or how much I have left. Temp, how much I have left, time of day, how far to next source ect.... Are you going solo, Good Luck this time, sounds like fun. EDIT: Stove? Edit again: damn computer went thru a restart half way thew my post, so a double post. My bad..............
 
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