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I believe in Bigfoot. Well, I more readily believe in the possibility of Bigfoot because I’ve been trying to get a picture of a bear while I’m in Shenandoah. I’ve had some close encounters, a juvenile bear in a blackberry patch about 10 yards from me and a bear about the size of a Mini Cooper crossing the trail about 50 yards ahead of where I was walking. Both times I could not get my phone or camera out fast enough to take a picture before the gentle giants lumbered off into the undergrowth.

Because of my bear photography experience, I understand the angst of those people trying to get a picture of the ever elusive Sasquatch in it’s natural environment.

I returned to the AT in an effort to shakedown my gear for my upcoming New Zealand trip and continue my physical conditioning to get me ready for Te Araroa. I’m pleased to report my foot is back to 100% and I enjoyed the 30 or so miles I covered in the park. But I have decided I’ve had enough rain. Being wet for days on end (and it has rained EVERY day I’ve been back out on the trail) has taken it’s toll. I would rather be a bit more comfortable as I get ready for my next adventure.

I have decided to hit a gym and prepare on a treadmill, knowing it will not be the best option for New Zealand, but it’s the best option to keep my spirits up prior to departure. I did have time, despite the rain, to be sure all of my equipment is ready for New Zealand. Everything is easily carried and my pack will top out around 28 pounds with food and water while hiking Te Araroa.

The only gear issue I still need to resolve is my sleeping pad. I have a Big Agnes AXL and while it is absolutely the most comfortable pad I’ve used in years, it is also the noisiest pad I’ve ever heard. My last night in Shenandoah, I took an informal poll among my shelter mates and the general consensus was that the noise generated when I rolled over was probably what scared away any mice in the night. While the effect is desirable, the noise is not. I’ve contacted Big Agnes and they’ve offered some solutions, I just need to decide what to do moving forward. I will say their customer service has been excellent. I do not regret for a moment my decision to use their tents (I own the Copper Spur 1 & 2 man tents) and other equipment. Any company that stands behind their gear when a customer has an issue is good with me.

I’m definitely still excited about my adventures, I’m just being realistic about keeping my morale up and staying in the best possible shape for my overseas adventure!

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