Kensington, MD, March 2, 2016 — It’s that time of year again when the call of the wild echos through the ether. This is when we plan, pack, lace ’em up and get it on.
The year starts in Georgia on the AT. For one, I’m anxious to see if all the planning we have done to manage the early crowds actually is beneficial. All I know is that a lot of time and energy have gone into the improvements.
Next it’s the National Park Service’s centennial. Shenandoah has challenged folks to celebrate by hiking a hundred miles in the park in return for a free patch. My friend and first hiking partner Mary and her son Ben will be hiking there on a 600 mile-long AT section hike in mid-April. I plan to tag along for all 105 of Shenandoah’s miles.
From there it gets fuzzier. I have my ridgerunner hikes and trail crew week – only one this year. I’m signed up for a Leave No Trace master educator course and a talk on backpacking at Sky Meadows State Park, Va. for National Trails Day.
We’ve hired two returning ridgerunners and four new folks for this season. More on them at another time.
There’s an opportunity to hike the northern half (Oregon and Washington) of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and/or the Colorado Trail. Lastly, once school is back in session, finishing the Long Trail in Vermont is carved in stone after having to miss it last year.
I’m learning not to predict too much. Plans do not survive contact with reality, and this year reality is holding a lot of face cards. I’ve taken on some executive responsibility with my trail club that’s going to eat time, and have been nominated for a professional lifetime career honor that, if selected, I will accept in person come hell or high water.
Top of the first inning is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain, Georgia. I’ve noted and written about my friend Denise’s plan to thru hike this year. Well, she gets dropped off at the trailhead around noon on March 9. I’ve made the arrangements to be there like a beacon to cheer her on and hike the first 80 miles of the AT with her. She will nail her hike to the wall.
The weather in Georgia has been all over the map. Hey, it’s in the south you say; it’s bound to be warm. Well considering that the entire AT in Georgia is above 4,000 ft., cold weather, sleet and snow are factors throughout March.
I’m packing now. My pack is going to weigh much more than normal. For one, I’m carrying my food in a bear-proof container, not so much for the bears, but to set an example to others who don’t take bears seriously.
As for which sleeping bag, jackets and other clothing, I figured I’d split the difference between zero degrees F and 70F.
Stay tuned for dispatches.