Learning From Past Experiences Preparing For Franconia Ridge 2019

Franconia Ridge Loop Panorama Crop 02

Franconia Ridge Loop Panorama

In a couple weeks, early September 2019, I will be hiking the Franconia Ridge Trail in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains for the second time. To begin with before last years hike to prepare myself I read a lot and spoke to quite a few folks who had done the hike. Even with that knowledge and experience of others I wasn’t ideally prepared for my hike.

Basically my initial hike last year was fantastic I did learn a lot about myself and this particular hiking experience and there was a lot of room for improvement.


Mistakes I Made Hiking Franconia Ridge

Carry Too Much Weight

Camera Gear: To begin with the single biggest mistake I made was over packing and the extra weight was brutal. Let me break it down. The biggest mistake was my decision to bring My Nikon D810, a couple lenses and a full size tripod.

That’s a total of 10.29375 (164.7 ounces) pounds of camera equipment! What am I doing different this trip? I’m glad you asked! last year when I returned from New Hampshire I posed a question on a photography forum, the question was “what photography equipment do you take hiking?”. The responses were very informative because many photographers responded and and their responses covered most types of hiking on the planet. An interesting and unexpected response emerged and that was the singling out of a camera, the 14.22 ounce Leica D-Lux 7 Digital Camera.

That nod to the Leica grabbed my attention and also scared me a bit because Leica cameras are notoriously expensive. That said much to my surprise the D-Lux 7 is under $1100! This is due largely in part because it shares a lot in common with the Panasonic Lumix DC-LX100 II Digital Camera. Fortunately for me though I don’t need to buy one. My close friend Greg was headed to Alaska on a hiking and fishing trip and asked for a camera recommendation so he could leave his heavy Canon 60D at home. I recommended the Leica and he bought it. He also graciously offered to loan it to me for my Franconia Notch hike. So using the Leica will reduce a whopping 9 pounds off my pack weight! Think about that for a minute. That’s about 1/3 of my Osprey Talon 33 Backpack’s loaded weight.

Packing For Others

Because I was hiking with Erin and Willow (dog) I carried extra food and two liters of water for Willow along with pet first aid supplies. While Erin and Willow are not joining me if they were Willow would carry her own supplies just like us humans do. A liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds. So not packing or a dog easily reduces 5 pounds from my Osprey Talon 33 Backpack.

Packing For Worst Case Scenarios and the Unknown

I read all kinds of horror stories about unexpected dangerous weather conditions on Franconia Ridge and I have respect for all those warnings but I really didn’t need to bring multiple light sources, extra batteries, four days of protein bars etc. I simply would not attempt the hike with any known possibility of dangerous weather. It’s also important to note that on a gorgeous early September Saturday there are several hundred people hiking the ridge. That’s a lot of fellow man looking out for one another. There is also the Greenleaf Hut to provide water, food and assistance. I also brought too many layers of clothes. This is hardwired in my head. I hate being cold so I tend to over dress and carry too much clothing. This time Ill  bring what I need, no more no less. I will resist the urge to overthink and over prepare.

My avoiding the mistakes and lessons learned from above I figure I will start with a pack weight of about 15-17 pounds including the 5 liters of water in my Osprey Talon 33’s reservoir.


Training To Hike Franconia Ridge Trail

Hurbo Vertical Climber Maxiclimber

Hurbo Vertical Climber Maxiclimber

I’m mostly doing what I did last year which is a lot of bike riding and long hikes at local parks. That’s all good for my stamina but last year I wasn’t prepared for the extremes of the climb up and the more painful ascent down. Those extremes used muscles I don’t fully utilize in my normal exercise routines. This year to prepare I purchased the $130 Hurbo Vertical Climber Maxiclimber from Amazon. The Hurbo Vertical Climber Maxiclimber utilizes your body weight to simulate a step/stair type of machine that also works your upper body. When I first purchased it i could only manage 6 minutes, it nearly killed me and it hurt to walk for 4 days and it hurt exactly the correct muscles. I love this thing, It is amazingly effective and a shocking value.


Foot Health

Not sure If I mentioned previously but I was born with birth defects on my hands and feet. While it’s not normally an issue in my day to day life and it’s also in my opinion not an excuse for me. The issue with my feet is I was born with ‘Webbed feet”. The term webbed is not entirely accurate. There’s no webbing between my toes, in fact it’s just the opposite. I was born with no separation between my toes except for my big toes. during the first few years of my life the doctors performed plastic surgery on my feet to somewhat separate some of the toes. Not sure if the effort helped, made things worse or did nothing but I do know my feet give me grief.

I’m prone to ingrown nails, nails growing into the adjacent toes, nail fungus, athletes foot and odd calluses. Last years hike these calluses and the athletes foot were the biggest problem with my feet .

The athlete’s foot makes the skin on the bottoms of my feet hard which in turn causes them to split wide open on occasion. This is very painful. I often fill the cracks with pain relieving Neosporin or a cream that contains Lidocaine to numb the pain. Then I cover the bottom of my foot with the biggest bandaids I have. The calluses also cause me grief when my feet sweat. Last year during the descent the calluses were so soft from sweat they began to tear off the bottoms and sides of my feet. It was awful but I kept moving on.

This year I decided I was done with all this and have taken steps to get my feet under control. Nightly now Im soaking my feet in a mixture of hot water and epsom salts for about an hour. Initially after soaking the first few times I used a calluses shaver to remove the heavy calluses. Now I’m using a calluses stone or file while my feet are in the water just before I’m done soaking. A little each night and my feet are starting to look pretty good. After I’m done soaking I rub some Dr Teal’s Epsom Salt Gentle Exfoliant Softening Foot Scrub “softening remedy” on my feet. I rub my feet for a couple minutes softening remedy then I let them site for a few more before rinsing them off.

In an effort to take advantage of the epsom salt soak to combat athlete’s foot, before bed and first thing in the morning I am applying Lotrimin Ultra Cream to me feet and pouring Lotrimin Foot Powder into my shoes. Lastly I’m attacking the fungus nails directly with “Toenail Fungus Stop Nail Repair Pen“.

I’m two weeks from my hike and while my feet are not perfect they are the best they have been in decades. Happy healthy feet are conducive to a good hiking experience.


Conclusion

I think that about covers it, reduce the weight of my backpack, pack smarter, improve my workout routine and heal my feet. I did leave out one embarrassing item. Last year while waiting for a sandwich at Wayne’s Market I slid my hand in to my pocket and felt a horrible sensation, you know the one, the sensation of a knife cutting your flesh. You see I had a small assisted opening pocket knife in my pocket that had somehow managed to open and when I placed my hand in my pocket it sliced me pretty good. fortunately the nice girl working there helped me out. So this year…no sharp objects in my pocket.

Stay tuned for the results of my hike.

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