As you read this, there are less than 30 days left until I leave for Springer Mountain in Georgia to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail for 2,190 miles to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I can’t believe that the big day is approaching this fast, and I’m chomping at the bit to get started and find out what wonders are in store for me during this adventure. There is a lot left to do to complete final preparations, but here is where things currently stand.
I am so ready to do this! Recently I have been connecting on Facebook with other aspiring 2017 thru-hikers and it looks like a fun group. I have already become “Friends” with several people that are starting on or near the same time that I plan to start, so at least we won’t all be strangers when we get together for the first time. I also enjoyed a training hike with the other gentleman from Pensacola that is starting a week ahead of me. It was fun to discuss our gear choices and thoughts about the trail.
I’m still scheduled to attend the Wilderness First Aid course in a couple of weeks, and I hope to take away some information that may be lifesaving. The Appalachian Trail Kickoff (ATKO) Seminar scheduled at Amicalola Falls State Park the weekend before I start hiking seems to have developed a hiccup. The ATKO is less than four weeks away and the organizers still have not posted a 2017 schedule. Despite a reassurance email I received from the assistant organizer Bob “Sir-Packs-Alot” Gabrielsen that the program was on track, the lack of a schedule at this point leads me to think that maybe things are not proceeding as planned. I will be keeping a close eye on program developments so that I have plenty of time to adjust our reservations at the Amicalola Lodge should the ATKO fail to materialize.
As the rock band Chicago used to sing, “I do believe I’m feelin’ stronger every day.” I’m still making it to the gym six times a week, but as I reported in the article “Hike Training for the Appalachian Trail,” I have seriously committed to hiking four days a week with a full pack and increasing miles. While this evolution is far from comfortable (an understatement), I would much prefer to experience the discomfort now (while I can go home, snivel to my wife, and soak my feet in hot water and Epsom salts), rather than experience it on the trail. And the progression has been marvelous! Today, in hot, humid weather, I crushed ten miles in about three hours. There is something uniquely gratifying about covering distances like that under your own power.
In the absence of some amazing new gear showing up in a Kickstarter campaign (e.g. it defies gravity), I’m all set with the gear that I will be carrying at the start of my hike. I’m certain that I have obsessed about, and over thought, every single piece of gear in my pack, but it needs to keep me safe under a variety of conditions and, more importantly, I must carry it on my back for five million steps. Sometime over the next couple of weeks, I will be making a ‘What is in my Pack” video to share with you. There are already hundreds of these videos on YouTube, but producing one has sort of become a rite of passage for the modern thru-hiker, and therefore I feel compelled to join the throng. Besides, my brother-in-law said that he wanted to see it, so I may have at least one “like” in the bag.
Food Planning and Preparation
The dehydrator is putting in some overtime this month as I prepare my dinner meals. Dinner was purposely left for last because of the shorter shelf life of dehydrated beef and chicken as compared to the other foods I have been drying. I have all my resupply boxes set up with the other items that are going to be shipped to me, and as soon as the dinners are complete I can put the finishing touches on this project.
I know I promised you a video series on my meal preparation process, but that project has been placed in a deferred status. The addition of “mile crushing” to my physical preparation routine takes a huge bite out of the time that I have available prior to my start date. While I have recorded much of the video, I simply do not have time right now to put together quality presentations. I know my legions of followers are probably dismayed over this development, but I will get the “Making Your Own Backpacking Meals” series completed someday.
One of the biggest concerns right now is my water supply on the trail. There has been some good rain over the past couple of weeks, and I’m hopeful that the drought situation in the Southern Appalachians will improve prior to my start date. Not that there is anything I can do about it anyway, but I may need to add an extra water bottle to my kit. At least all the forest fires seem to be under control and I’m so appreciative of the firefighter and emergency services personnel that responded to that crisis.
Other than the above, the only things left on my to-do list are to automate a few bill payments, file our personal tax returns, and get my hair cut. I’m even finished with Season 6 of Game of Thrones! The mountains are calling and soon I must go.