The New & Improved Dasek Family

The New & Improved Dasek Family
Clive Nicholas Dasek (2 days old)

The Dynamic Duo

The Dynamic Duo
Daddy Longlegs and Sassy Sunshine sketched by Stewball

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Final Stretch

Monson, ME. Yeah! We were going to ease into Monson today but we heard that Tropical Storm Danny's threat to Eastern, ME was imminent. As a result, we ended up hiking 35.4 miles into Monson yesterday, my biggest single mileage to date and surely my biggest for my 09' thru-hike.

Monson is 112 trail miles south of Katahdin. It looks likely that Rocket, Feed Bag and I will summit next Saturday (9.5). Before we do that, we have to hike through the "One-Hundred Mile Wilderness". This section starts after we leave Monson and is not really wilderness or one-hundred miles, but it is absent of any paved roads, meaning we have to carry a little more food and it's probably not a good place to break an ankle and have to get rescued.

I'm happy the trail is wrapping up. Two and a half months apart from Sassy is much more time than I'm ever willing to bare with again. I realize how much of an awesome friend and partner my wife is. Truly, truly there is no one I enjoy my life with quite like Sassy.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I can see the light!

If you've ever wondered if the old saying is true, take it from me absence does make the heart grow fonder.
In 16, possibly 14 days Daddy Long Legs and I will summit Katahdin and complete this long, challenging, sometimes painful adventure we embarked on (by the time it’s all said and done) five months ago. As for me the time couldn’t arrive soon enough. As DLL hikes down the miles I feel more and more anxious and emotional. It doesn’t take much for me to get choked up and when alone break into tears if I see or hear anything that reminds me of him/us. While all of this is going on inside of me it somehow doesn’t over shadow how proud I am of my husband. Though a huge part of me wants to be home in Seattle with him living our lives an even larger part of me is so excited for him to complete this dream of his. To be with him the entire way, maybe not physically, but in support and spirit has been amazing. I would never trade it for anything. Don’t get me wrong this hasn’t been a walk in the park (no pun intended) and I miss my best friend more than I ever thought it possible, but the closeness I have felt with him in this time apart is irreplaceable. God has blessed me in ways I never imagined.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Day in the Life

I've been fortunate to catch up with an old friend named Alaina who I knew when I was in college. We both waited tables together at Outback Steakhouse in Milwaukee, WI for four years. She is currently working as a Kitchen Manager at a large camp in NH and I'm taking the day off to hang out with her and her husband, kayak, play basketball with a bunch of 12 year-olds, and consume some serious calories at the camp’s buffet style meals. Since I have a little time, I'd like to share some aspects about my typical day and gear.

Quick note: I really look forward to any comments or questions you have about my hike… it gives me something to post on. I can be emailed at or some of our blog followers have posted comments on this blog. Either way, I’ll get your questions and would love to reply back to you.

For the most part, I've been hiking anywhere between 15-25 miles/day depending on the terrain and my proximity to towns. My average week is around 120 miles with six days hiking and a day off. The grade of the terrain in VA, MD, and PA was relatively relaxed, so I was able to hike bigger miles more frequently. I think 173 miles was my biggest week. Lately, I've been hiking with Bonesey and Rocket and the terrain has been quite tough in the Northeast. I'm currently in Lyme, NH and I will be entering the White Mountains of NH around Wednesday. The Whites are considered by the majority to be the most difficult portion of the trail because of the elevation - often 3000-4000ft of vertical elevation - and they are often steep and rocky. However, reward comes with the hard work. For North Bounders (NOBO's) like myself, the Whites are the first time we're above tree line meaning amazing vistas that are unmatched by the rest of the trail.

We tend to wake up around 6:30am. The day begins with packing up our gear, grabbing water and a quick breakfast. We're on the trail by 8am and we'll get about five to eight miles in before taking a breather and getting a snack. I should note that even though I often say I'm hiking with a group, mostly we're separated by 10-30 minutes from each other; sometimes we never see each other until the end of the day. Anyway, when we are hiking together, we'll sit around for about 30 minutes, Rocket will have a smoke and we'll look at our data book to plan out the rest of the day. Our second break is usually at a deli or general store. I'll try to grab a sandwich and ice cream or something substantial to make up the calories. We hiked 3-3.5mph in VA and PA and 2.5mph in the Northeast; a 20 mile day will currently take about eight hours of hiking. Due to breaks, we'll hit camp around 7pm. We enjoy stealth camping in the woods the best, but we do camp near shelters too although we rarely stay inside the shelters. Flat ground void of roots and rocks and the proximity to potable water are the two main factors when choosing a suitable tent spot. Once we find our tent spots, I'll begin cooking, Rocket starts a fire, and Bonesey just... well, just stands there and looks like the ultimate thru-hiker. After dinner, I'll grab some rolling tobacco from Rocket and enjoy my one cigarette for the day. I then climb into my tent around 10pm and scroll through pictures I've taken on my camera to look at Sassy and/or delete the ones that didn't come out well. Finally, I'll cap the night off by spending 5 or 10 minutes in my Bible – lately, I've been reading through Isaiah.

I find that I drink 4-6 liters of water a day depending on the weather. Water has never been scarce due to the frequent rain we've had, so it's rare that I'll carry more than a liter. In fact, I ditched my Camelback after a couple weeks and I only fill up a 1L Nalgene. I do carry an MSR 4L water tote that I use when I'm at camp. For filtering, I carried a Katadyn water pump for the first 1200 miles. The pump has an input that is inserted into a stream and the water is manually pumped through a filter and then flows into a Nalgene or Camelback. Since Port Clinton, PA I ditched the pump and picked up Aquamira water drops that treat water with chlorine dioxide. Aquamira leaves a slight chlorine aftertaste, but is much lighter to carry and easier to use.

A typical male hiker burns 4000-5000 calories a day, so anything with fat, carbs, and protein is a plus. The great thing about the AT is the close proximity to towns. Since NJ, we have crossed a road with a deli or general store once every day or two. This helps us augment what food we are already carrying and also allows us to resupply. I carry more food then most because I like to eat, and I do eat lots; three days is typical for me.

I tend to do a dry a breakfast that consists of a bagel with peanut butter/Nutella and gorp (synonym for trail mix); lunch is often a deli or snack food that I have in my pack; dinner is my favorite because it is usually my only hot meal of the day. In between my main meals, I snack consistently during the day to keep the Hunger Monster away. When I cook dinner, I use a small alcohol stove and I'll melt down cheese in about an inch of water so I end up with an oily consistency. I'll pack out some fresh vegetables from town and Rocket picks chanterelle mushrooms that sporadically grow on the trail. I then simmer peppers, fresh chopped garlic, and chanterelles for about 5 minutes. Then, I'll add pasta or couscous and let my dinner cook. Finally, I'll add some salt or seasoning mix along with some type of protein, usually pepperoni or tuna. I get so much joy out of cooking a hot meal after a long day, so I don't mind the work and cleanup.

There is this subtle competitiveness with hikers being "ultralight" or minimalists. Most hikers, including myself, often think they are more savvy or experienced if they carry a tarp instead of a tent, no stove, or a bed sheet/liner instead of sleeping bag. There are many options out there and there is definitely a strong correlation between weight and comfort. For example, I carry a top of the line 2-person tent made by Big Agnes called the Copper Spur UL 2. This is a double walled tent meaning it has a rain fly that covers the tent. It is also free standing because it has light-weight aluminum poles that keep it in place without steaks or tying off a guy line. Along with the footprint - a nylon liner I put down underneath the tent - it weighs 4lbs. It is easy to set up, has good ventilation, and plenty of room for two people if you include the vestibules. After Sassy left, I considered getting a tarptent that weighs about half of my tent; however, I find I am a creature of comfort and I stay dryer than anyone else during the rain. On the flip-side I have to lug around 2lbs more than other people who carry tarptents.

My cold weather sleeping bag is the GoLite Adrenaline 20 down bag. It is awesome! My summer bag is the Lafuma X650 Pro Synthetic Fill 40 degree bag. I overpaid for this bag and I do not recommend using it below 50 degrees unless you enjoy an awful night of sleep. Funny that they say it's a 40 degree bag.

I've been carrying a Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 Internal Frame Backpack. I've made a couple adjustments to lightening it up, meaning I've cut a bunch of the bells and whistles off. It weighs about 3.5 lbs. With my three days of food and water my pack weighs about 30-32lbs which is probably 5lbs heavier than what most hikers carry. As I mentioned, I like to be comfortable and there are wet and sometimes chilly days. I like to be warm and well fed after a long day of hiking; it makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. I'm sure I could continue to find ways to trim down my pack weight, but unless I get injured I don't really care to because I'm close to finishing.

Thanks for spending time to read our blog.

Daddy Longlegs

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's Next?

First thing: The link should get you to a cool slideshow of my pictures. All the pictures are up to date and the most recent pictures are first shown.

I’m 75% done with the AT and the idea of there being an end is becoming more real every day. When I was a 1950-mile or 1236-mile hike from Katahdin, it was difficult to comprehend there being a finish line; rather, I knew my world would be this white blazed trail until September or even October. Yesterday was my four-month anniversary since my start date, I’m a third of the way through Vermont. The end is coming.

My biggest dream last year and since I was in high school was to thru-hike the AT. That was it. The AT was the pinnacle, the ultimate experience, the 'if I could do anything' dream. Now there is still 538 miles to go; the trail is nowhere complete, yet I know summiting Katahdin this year is highly likely. But what happens when I can throw this dream up on the shelf because it’s yesterday’s news? What can be bigger and more gratifying for me than this? Sometimes I’ve thought it might be the 2650 mile-Pacific Crest Trail or running a sub 2:40 marathon, but I’m really coming to feel that being a father – and an excellent father for the record – is The Dream.

I look around at the people I hike with, my friends and colleagues back in Seattle and Milwaukee, even Sassy and me, and I see that having a good dad is rare, in many ways more rare than thru-hiking the AT. Running a 2:39 Boston Marathon would be a tremendous goal and likely the apogee of my physical achievements, but even memories and trophies deteriorate after time. An excellent dad can create a legacy, something that doesn’t die, and something that continues to be talked about and emulated by others for generations. I’m still thinking and praying about what exactly this means for Sassy and me when I’m done with the trail, but what I do know is that there are amazing things I will experience that will trump the AT, PCT, or whatever. Being a dad is definitely one of those.