After all the mistakes I made on the OHT the first time, I had learned my lessons the hard way. I was determined to upgrade my gear to the lightest and most durable I could possibly find within my limited budget. So I set about researching every aspect of my gear list, and broke every piece of it down to the bare essentials. Every single piece had to positively answer all the following criteria:
- Is this a necessity or a luxury item?
- Do I really need this?
- Is there anything else I could use that I already possess that could do what this item does?
- Is there a lighter, better, or more durable alternative available within my budget?
- If there are alternatives (and there are always alternatives), research, research, research!!
- Will the researched item(s) enhance my enjoyment of the great outdoors?
- If the research is positive, and I can afford it, then purchase the new item to replace and upgrade my existing gear.
- Watch with delight as my base weight drop lower and lower!!
I spent most of the remaining months of 2012 taking every piece of my gear through the above list, and by the end of it I had reduced my base weight from 30lbs down to 14.90lbs!! And this was my base weight for late February/early March when there was a good chance of it still being very cold. With a few more additions I will be able to bring my summer base weight down to the 10lb mark!! I’m very happy with that.
I’m going to publish my new gear list on this site shortly, so please feel free to comment on, and critique my choices. Please bear in mind that I am aware there are lighter options out there (especially Cuben Fiber shelters), but at this moment they are out of my price range. I am very happy with the shelter I eventually settled upon.
The other issue I was determined to face head on was my fitness levels. Obviously I was woefully underprepared the last time, and I was adamant this was not going to happen again. My lack of fitness meant that I was unable to enjoy the trail anywhere near as much as I should have done. I toiled and labored where I should have been enjoying the scenery and the aura of the Ozarks, and I ended up with a painful knee injury that could have been prevented with proper physical preparation before the hike began.
I have a unique problem when it comes to physical fitness. I would love go out and purchase a course such as “Insanity” offered by Beachbody.com, or some amazing Russian Kettlebell workout program like “The Extreme Cardio Kettlebell Workout” available at Dragondoor.com, but the simple truth is that I can’t.
I am still very weak down my whole left side, making it impossible for me to run without falling over. My hip flexor muscle has never recovered, and I constantly struggle with steps and stairs, so I am heavily restricted in my work out choices.
Before the last trip I walked around the local park every morning, more often than not carrying around 25lbs in my backpack. Living in Lubbock, Texas brings its own unique issues to training for mountain trails: It is about as flat as any piece of earth I have ever encountered!!
Every few weeks I made the journey out to Caprock Canyons, a rugged and scenic canyon area in West Texas. About 100 miles away, it is the nearest area I know of that has elevation gains to train on, and I went there as often as I could.
Other than that I was in the local gymnasium walking on the treadmills. I knew I wasn’t in the greatest of shape, but I was shocked as to how inadequately prepared I really was. Whatever physical activities I end up doing the next time, I was going to be much fitter. I just had to work out what exactly I could do to attain that level of fitness.
It took my knee a long time to recover from whatever happened to it on OHT 1 as I like to call it. I went to the doctor and had an X-ray done on it, which came back good with no issues found. I was glad there was no structural damage to it, and I didn’t pursue an MRI, or other means of looking for any soft tissue damage. I am still enjoying the benefits of paying back major medical bills from when I had my stroke, and I couldn’t afford to incur any further charges for my knee, so I let it go. The swelling went down within a couple of weeks, but the pain still persists to this day, although nowhere near as acute as when it first happened.
Events never seem to work out as I plan them; not even a simple one to get fitter gradually over a period of months rather than weeks. True to form, just as I was starting to evolve a gentle, but lengthy workout program to get me ready for the next time, disaster struck yet again. A major injury struck me down with such a force that I lost 35lbs of weight in just six weeks!!
All plans for anything, never mind physical fitness were shelved for three whole months, and I had lost my window of opportunity to get fit in a slow, methodical manner. I was now right back to having to get fit quickly in order to avoid a repeat of the previous trip. So now I am back to the drawing board in attempting to find a suitable fitness program that will give me good cardio fitness as well as strengthening my joints and muscles. I’m still searching…