I finalized my plans for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike.
I’m registered with the AT Conservancy to start my hike April 16, 2019. Registration is completely voluntary. It’s in place to help alleviate the stress of hundreds of thru-hikers all starting at the same time. I’ve got a Greyhound bus ticket to Gainesville, GA and from there a shuttle driver, Ron Brown, will pick me up and drop me off at Amicalola State Park. Yes, I’ll be doing the approach trail. Some folks, the White Blaze fanatics I presume, argue that it’s not part of the AT, but the AT Conservancy recommends starting there. It’s also where I’ll pick up my AT backpack hanger. And in all truth, the approach trail is only 8 miles long. What’s that compared to the overall amount of walking that will be done? Nothing I would argue.
I’ve done several hikes on the Lone Star Hiking Trail to test out my gear . . . and my body. My mind and gear are fully capable of this trek, but every hike on the LSHT, some part of my body has failed me: feet, knees, back, buttocks/hip. Yes, I’ve pulled a muscle in my arse! Bending over (without my pack on) to simply tie my shoes no less. I’ve hiked through all the pain for 2 to 3 days on all occasions. But, how’s that gonna fare when I have to continue hiking through it all for months? I’m hoping that 800 mg of ibuprofen can sustain me through the pain and allow me to relax enough to let things heal up and get stronger. I forgot the IB on my last hike when I pulled my butt/hip muscles. Sheeshh…The good news was that once I put my pack on, the weight put my whole body in a state of compression and the pain subsided. And bless you trekking poles, too!
If you watch any of the videos or read anything written about thru-hiking, you’ll see blisters. OMG, the blisters! Have I mentioned the blisters? Now, I have been really fortunate in my life to not ever get blisters on my feet. All the running, walking, hiking that I’ve done and I’ll get hot spots, but they turn to calluses really fast. I can walk through a pulled muscle, but a 1 inch diameter circle of raw flesh on my heel that is burning and weeping and welding itself to my sock, having sand pressed into it and staying wet from walking through water? Can I do that? Holy hell . . . that crap looks and sounds painful! I’ve never had to do it. But, then again, a lot of people would wonder how one hikes 14 miles with a pulled back.
I guess it’s all just, “You do what you have to do.”
I’ve been asked, “Why? Why are you doing this?”
There’s a user on Instagram that I follow: https://www.instagram.com/iantuttle/ He’s interviewed numerous hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Go read some of the interviews.
This long distance hiking thing is certainly not for everyone. But, then again, neither is free solo climbing, scuba diving, mountaineering, ultra-marathons, motorsports racing, free diving, spelunking, or sitting around all day binge watching Game of Thrones for that matter.
In the end, it’s about connection. Connecting to nature. Connecting to other people. Connecting to myself. Connecting to the past through the present and bridging it all to an unknown future.
Or maybe it’s about something else. I don’t know. I just enjoy being in the woods and walking. Things fall away and leave an empty mind. It wanders and ambles just like the hike itself, but there’s really no stress. Walking meditation. And once you do your miles and make camp, there’s a real feeling of relaxation.
Once in a while your system will get a freakish adrenaline rush (walk across a snake on the trail that suddenly moves as you step over it) and you’ll be yanked back to reality in a less than a heartbeat. You’re not really there, off in the recesses and dark crevasses of your most personal thoughts, and suddenly, a blinding jolt of energy, a wildly deep breath, your eyes dilate, senses are on high alert, time stands still for a microsecond. The sympathetic nervous system pauses the conscious brain and removes “you” from control for that instant which is an eternity. And just as abruptly as you were there, but gone, you are back and saying, “Holy freaking nightmare! I’ve got to be more alert on the trail.” Then, the thought vacuously leaves your mind and you obliviously slip back into the low alert state of putting one foot in front of the other.
I imagine resuscitation by a defibrillator feels like that.
I planned originally to take my Canon DSLR and two lenses with me. The camera, lens, and batteries add around 5 pounds to my pack. Couple that with the fact that none of my camera gear is weather sealed and I began to question whether it was a good idea. After taking it all on three previous hikes, I concluded it was really a pain to hike with, would detract from rather than enhance my experience, and made the decision to leave it behind.
As my rather ancient iPhone 4 was pretty much on its last leg and Jodi’s was in its final death throes, I shelled out the rather large sum to purchase two refurbished iPhone 7 Pluses. Not coincidentally, Jodi’s iPhone completely died right after I placed the order. Literally within hours. I think Apple knew and euthanized the phone. So, I’ll be taking and using the iPhone exclusively for pics. The camera is pretty phenomenal and great pictures really are about the photographer and less about the gear. Or so I’m telling myself.
Feature image from: https://pixnio.com/objects/signs/sign-at-the-end-of-the-appalachian-trail#