This is a test to check out posting from a mobile Device. REI has a twenty percent off sale. Going to use my discount to buy a pack. Can’t wait.
Am noticing in the Trail Journals that a number of ’13 thru hikers are dropping out due to excessively cold weather. Judging from their comments, many seem unprepared mentally and are ill- equipped. These intrepid souls also seem inexperienced winter campers. You have to be harder than woodpecker lips to live outside in extreme cold for a long time. Experience doing it is a big plus.
Note to self: Pack the -15*F sleeping bag and expeditionary grade down parka and pants. The weight be damned. They can be shipped home from VA. Better than being miserable! Continue reading
I’ve been doing a lot of homework over the past couple of months.
It all started with reading Lost by Cheryl Stayed. That excellent read reminded me of what I’ve been missing by being away from hiking for so long. I followed that with David Miller‘s AWOL on the Appalachian Trail. It seemed like a very straight forward account of just how mentally and physically challenging a 2,000+ mile hike is. My only criticism is that I thought it may have glossed over the far north end of the trail.
Following “AWOL,” I motored over the the ATC HQ in Harper’s Ferry. I spent more than an hour in conversation with a very helpful gentleman who patiently answered my zillion questions. I joined up, bought some books and maps. Among the books were the two Barefoot Sister books. They are marvelous adventure stories that pictured the trail from the viewpoint of a couple of precocious 20-somethings. I think I have a reasonable idea of what the experience will be like.
I’m now focusing on gear since almost all of mine is worn out or obsolete. Trail Tested by professional hiker Justin Lichter was very insightful. They only thing he really didn’t cover is personal hygiene and doing the dishes. It was very good for boning up on modern gear. The fabrics are magic!
How to Hike the A.T. by Michelle Ray also was a very good refresher that is AT-specific. She left nothing out and I sent her a note of thanks. Of all things, my greatest challenge is going to be weather. The wild temperature swings and rain will be challenging. It seems, according to the journals, that they really wear some people down quickly.
I’ve made four trips to REI to check out gear and to talk to helpful folks. I also bought my first pair of boots for this hike. It’s never too early to break them in. They’re Salomons – the same as my last pair. After trying on about a dozen pairs, they’re the only ones that fit. I’ve walked about 20 miles in them near where I live. So far, so good.
I’ve also been reading the trail journals and watching the vest array of YouTube videos. I’m paying careful attention to the journals and how people are managing or not the various challenges and issues that come their way. Some of the writers are very authentic. I especially loved one story from a guy who found some bear spray in a shelter then candidly related the story of how he managed to douse himself with it by accident. Not everyone would be that honest with himself or his readers.
Now starting to plan the shakedown hikes. I joined the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to both learn more and to invest in the AT itself. I’m hoping to make this a life-long relationship.
Also joined “White Blaze” and have begun to read the class of ’14 forum. Will engage with them soon. I noted one sixty-year-old woman who’s starting in Feb. That’s also my tentative plan. Once I get the Medicare application done and the taxes filed, I’ll be ready to go. If there’s extra snow, I’ll just buy snow shoes. We’ll see how it goes.
I’m approaching the end of my working life. I’ve had a satisfying career, but need to figure out what comes next. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with and around 18-24 year-olds most of my life, so I’m my outlook and orientation skews much younger than the average retiree. Fortunately I am a life-long athlete who would be considered fit if I were a 30-something. Therefore I have a broader range of options that most folks who contemplate life after social security bell begins to toll the beginning of the last phase of life.
I consider the phases of life to be youth, adulthood and retirement. As I enter the final frontier, to borrow a phrase, I want to involve myself in joyous and meaningful activity that benefits myself and others. Since I’ve worked in an office most of my life, something like nonprofit office work is in the “don’t even think about it” category.
This blog is where I’m going to share some of my thoughts and rationale; and my adventures. It’s being written primarily for me and for my family and close friends. So it’s not intended to even be noticed or impress anyone, or win any prizes for that matter.
After working at senior levels in the military, the corporate world, higher education and the federal government, my head is about to explode. My mind is bureaucratically warped and its full of sclerotic bull that needs to be jack-hammered out and forgotten.
The process of figuring out who you are now and what you want to become is different for everyone. For me, an epic quest is just what the doctor ordered. It’s characteristics must include physical and mental challenges, use of wits and sustain itself over enough time to test my commitment and bring out both my best and worst.
My research suggests that a through hike of the 2,100 mile+ Appalachian Trail (AT) would do the trick. A through hike takes the average person about six months and tests their will, their skill, and their temperament. Finishers report absolutely positive life-changing experiences, not to mention the many good people they meet on the trail and along the way.
Even if you’re an expert hiker who’s in shape and equipped with all the right gear, success isn’t guaranteed. The vast majority of people drop out. Most quit for a wide range of reasons including simple over use injuries, infected blisters, strains and sprains, broken bones, illness, weather, they run out of time, damage equipment they can’t afford to replace, and in extremely rare cases, a raft of really bad things such as severe allergies, snake bite, bears, or encounters with malevolent humans.
For my part, I am competent in the woods at any time of the year. I started as a very active Boy Scout. I’m a graduate of the Army’s Winter Warfare School in Alaska and was certified by the Minnesota National Guard as a winter operations instructor. I’ve lived on a glacier in Alaska, skied northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area in mid-winter (overnight temps averaged -35 F, and I have climbed and hiked in the Colorado Rockies during all four seasons.
So where’s the challenge? However fit I may be (I run almost daily and lift serious weights multiple times weekly), the reality is that I am in my sixties. I’ve learned there’s a reason people claim to be twenty, thirty, forty and fifty somethings, but you never hear anyone claiming to be a sixty-something. I think it’s mostly because you have wrinkles, you wear glasses, gray hair if you are fortunate to still have hair. Athletically, your tendons aren’t as flexible, your max heart rate is lower, and you can feel the cumulative wear and tear on your body. I sustained an injury five years ago to my right foot that could be problematic.
I also, 30 years of getting out in the wilderness as often as possible, I haven’t pick up a backpack in 20 years. The risk of over-confidence is definitely there. So I’m going to need some practice hikes. I’ll go out initially for two or three-nighters on tough trails in Shenandoah National Park . Once I get my mind and my gear sorted out, a multi-week shakedown cruise along the AT is in order.