Did you know that hikers LOVE our NuttZo 2GO packets? If you aren’t familiar with the outdoor/hiking community but it’s a HUGE, enthusiastic, passionate crowd. They rely A LOT on word of mouth from fellow ‘hikers’ on online forums – of which there are many! We recently connected with Jessica, who was sweet enough to write a post on several forums telling people about NuttZo, while also was away free NuttZo 2go packs for anyone wanting to try them and pack them in their backpacks for their summer adventures!!! We LOVE this!!! So make sure to read her post below and ENJOY!
From coast to coast, America is blessed with a wealth of fantastic hikes. But undeniably, one of the nation’s most iconic walking sojourns is the famed Appalachian Trail. Spanning more than 2,000 miles as it wends through 14 states between Maine and Georgia, the Appalachian Trail has lured outdoor enthusiasts since its completion in the late 1930s. Save for a summer bounty of hiking boots, it’s a path unbent by mass tourism and the pace of modern world. But a thru-hike is no walk in the park, so-to-speak. The sheer distance, repeated encounters with topographical violence, prodigious amounts of rain that can fall in apocalyptic fashion and the occasional curious bear all join forces to make it a tramp not to be taken lightly. With that said, many will trumpet the widescreen vistas, lungful’s of fresh air, and benevolent trail angels as just some of the many reasons why these hardships are so very worth it.
Eager to trade views of skyscrapers in her hometown of Houston for verdant meadows and uninterrupted blue sky, gung-ho Nuttzo ambassador Jessica Hastings and her boyfriend will set off from Mount Katahdin in Maine in July 2016 with the lofty goal of setting foot on Georgia’s Springer Mountain several months later. We caught up with Jessica for the lowdown on her Appalachian Trail goals and how she plans to gas-up for an adventure of a lifetime.
When was your first inkling that the Appalachian Trail thru-hike is something you’d like to tackle one step at a time?
My first steps on the Appalachian Trail were taken on a day-hike with my mom in New Jersey three years ago. I remember going home that day and Googling the Appalachian Trail and being amazed and inspired that it went all the way from Georgia to Maine. One trail that spans fourteen states! I decided that one day I would hike the entire thing.
Whether it’s some sort of spiritual awakening, the need to escape the tedium of a desk job or simply a great fitness challenge, people venture onto the Appalachian Trail for different reasons. What drives you to make now the time to tackle a thru-hike?
A few months ago I was hiking again with my mom and trying to explain the restless, unsettling feelings I was having at the time. I felt like I was being pulled in two directions: one, to excel at my career and the other to explore and travel. It never occurred to me that a corporate career after college wasn’t the correct path until my life became my cubicle. Suddenly I stopped in my tracks, looked around at the beautiful foliage and the dirt of the trail under my feet and thought “I wish I could just hike every day.”
The Appalachian Trail, for me, is a symbol of breaking out of that preconceived ideal and trying something radically different from what I was expecting of myself. It’s letting go of my financial and status aspirations and instead pursuing the desire I have to connect with nature. The hike is also a chance to really test my physical and mental strength and endurance. The way I see it, I’ve got little to lose and so very much to gain out of seeing the sun set every day and sleeping under the stars night after night.
To date, you say your longest trek has been 5 days but it will take 5 to 6 months to complete the 2,190 mile Appalachian thru-hike. How are you planning mentally and physically for this epic challenge?
From all of the research I’ve done, nothing can really prepare one to take on the Appalachian Trail from end-to-end. However, I’ve been upping my speed on the Stair Master and doing more weighted exercises to prepare as much as I can, physically, for the trail. Also at the risk of sounding like a total geek, I’ve been meticulously preparing spreadsheets for my gear, food and other logistics. I’m talking planning every single meal by macros and organizing exactly where and when I will be receiving my prepackaged mail-drops (boxes with a 5 day resupply of food). Finally, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out the highest quality, lightest weight and most affordable gear. I got my base weight, which is the weight of my pack and all of my gear excluding food and water, down to a mere 15 lbs.
Can you elaborate a bit more on your gear selection process since that is such a major factor in thru-hiking success?
In the beginning, I had a very romanticized, Kerouacian idea of my thru-hike. I thought I’d just put everything on my back and start climbing mountains. Que sera, sera! That didn’t last very long. The planning process has completely enveloped me for the past four months (aforementioned excel spreadsheets). Chris and I have spent hours deliberating the pros and cons of tenting vs. hammocking, sleeping bag vs. quilt, alcohol vs. canister fuel….the list is endless. Trail runners or boots? Should we resupply our food by mail-drops or in towns? Smartwool or DarnTough? What do we do if one of us gets injured? Do we both get off the trail or does the other person keep hiking?
Only about 1 in 4 hikers make it all the way. Perhaps it’s the nefarious gnats or too many days spent in soggy socks. What do you forecast as being your biggest obstacles to reaching the finishing line and how do you plan on overcoming these to keep on tramping?
The biggest thing [my boyfriend] Chris and I are both terrified of are ticks. Lyme’s disease has devastated a few people that we know, so we’re really trying to do all we can to prepare and shield ourselves from the disease-carrying ticks. We chose to hike in late summer for this reason, and we will be getting all our clothing sprayed with premetherin to deter the little guys. As far as injuries go, we hope for none but are prepping for the worst. We’ll both be taking turmeric every day to reduce inflammation, and we’ll be eating a diet rich with protein, amino acids, vitamins, and healthy fats to ensure our muscles and bones are getting what they need to carry us the whole way.
A body in motion for so long requires plenty of fuel. If we peaked into your feedbag what eats would we find?
NuttZo! Dried fruit, plant-based protein powder, dark chocolate, tuna and salmon packets, mixed nuts and seeds, my mom’s grain free granola, instant coffee packets, dehydrated veggies and corn tortillas!
There are plenty of nut butters on the market. Why do you have an appetite for NuttZo?
I don’t eat legumes, but I dream about eating spoonfuls of peanut butter right out of the jar. I tried almond butter for a long time, but it’s just a little too bland for me. NuttZo made all my dreams come true by combining 7 nuts and all their yummy flavors into one jar. Oh, and my lucky number is 7!
You say that your diet is mostly Paleo. What made you gravitate towards this dietary lifestyle and why do you believe it can be of benefit in keeping your energy levels up during the hike?
Everyone’s relationship with food is a journey that is constantly evolving. I only recently found a healthy relationship with my diet. In middle school I suffered from a mild eating disorder and since then I’ve starved myself, binged, and tried all of the diets you can think of to try to obtain happiness with my body image. While I’m still learning every single day about the things I eat and how to properly fuel my body, I’ve come to a really good place with the way I eat. I discovered the Paleo diet about two years ago. Paleo, as far as I’m concerned, means paleolithic and that’s exactly how I eat. I try to stick to lean, vegetarian proteins, healthy fats and less carbohydrates. Eating less carbohydrates (and therefore, less sugars) means I don’t crash after I eat, and the added protein and fat gives me energy that lasts all day.
If a bear is charging your boyfriend and stash of NuttZo, which are you more likely to try and save?
Chris can defend himself. I’ll be saving the NuttZo.
Trail nicknames are popular among thru-hikers. Any thought on what would be a good one for you?
I don’t want to jinx it!
What “trail magic” are you looking most forward to?
Any and all of it! Mostly ice cream or beer if I have to be specific though.
What is one quirky fact we should know about you?
-I was born with two of my middle toes curled into each other on both feet (I think the formal condition is called clinodactyly). While I got surgery to un-curl them, they still curl together on their own and which is makes it very painful to walk sometimes. I’m hoping the trail will help me overcome the pain and make me a more resilient person!
From cramped tent space to, um, strange smells are you ready for the challenges that this hike can mount on the relationship with your boyfriend?
Chris and I met as we were both laughing at a joke told by the guy sitting next to us on a plane ride. Laughter has been a constant in our relationship ever since and we both strive to bring only positivity to our relationship. This carries over to how we approach conflict in our relationship. We take the really serious things seriously, but we let the little things go. I think and hope that this will help us overcome a lot as we take on the hike together. It helps that we’ve camped together many times, too, and as far as the strange smells we aren’t afraid to tell each other to change socks or wash up at the next river.
I also want to stress that Chris is the most supportive person I’ve ever known in my life. He encourages me every single day and in the sweetest way, a way that makes me feel like I can conquer anything. He takes on my challenges with me and cheers me on. I have a really good feeling about this journey knowing he’ll be by my side.
How can people follow your progress on the trail?
@trailjess on IG and a blog with an interactive map of our progress is in the works!