Monday, January 4, 2010

My hiking dream is to thru hike the entire Appalachian trail. All 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine. I will never be able to do this hike unless something bad happens, ie losing my job. I am way to disgustingly dependable and boring to actually quit my job, or take a leave of absence for 6 months. I am a guy who walked around with my jaw broken in 3 places for two days, and only missed work the day they wired my jaw shut, and only then because they knocked me out to do it. (I still got in a four mile run in the snow). Even if I could get the time off, we couldn't afford for me to be 6 months without a paycheck. So my solution is to hike it in sections over the next who knows how many years. So far I have hiked the entire states of Maryland and West Virginia. Don't be real impressed as the trail only runs 41 miles through Maryland, and only 4 miles through West Virginia, but nonetheless I have completed two of the 14 states. This June my plan is to start at the beginning of the trail at Springer Mountain Georgia and hike the entire state of GA. This will knock off 75 more miles and one more state. My 13 year old Nephew will be hiking with me on this trip. He is a big kid and I am hoping he will serve as basically my pack mule. Hiking 75 miles up and down the mountains of Georgia is not the problem. Hiking 75 miles up and down the mountains of Georgia with a 40 pound backpack is the problem. With my running 59 miles a week, my legs and stamina are great, but my upper body strength leaves a lot to be desired. The broken jaw I referenced earlier contributed to my lack of upper body strength. With my jaw wired shut for 3 months, I wasn't able to eat anything but liquids and consequently I lost quite a bit of weight which I really couldn't afford.
I haven't gotten the weight or the strength back completely, so as soon as the weather clears up, I will start walking around town with my backpack on, no matter how goofy I look. Packing your gear for long distance backpacking is all about saving weight and having your pack as light as possible. When a backpacker looks at equipment, if you are a true backpacker, you don't ask "how much it costs", you ask "how much it weighs". A backpackers pack consists of a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, stove, propane, tent, water filter, camelback water pack, cooking pot, cup, knife and fork, shovel for burying (no further explanation needed), towel, bandanna, soap, toothbrush, camera, and first aid supplies such as mole skin for blisters. You then need to carry enough food to last you between resupply points. This could be as long as a week or more. You want to find food easy to prepare, light, and high calorie. You can burn 7500 to 10000 calories a day, hiking up and down mountains carrying 40 pounds on your back. Some examples of trail food include: Bagels with peanut butter, Ramen noodles, trail mix, animal crackers, jerky, instant mashed potatoes, pasta, power bars, and MandMs. Water is very heavy so you don't want to have to carry very much. There are few water sources along the trail, so you need to rely on creeks and streams. You must always use your water filter, as there is very little worse to a hiker than having Giardia on the trail. There is not always an available bush to get behind with your shovel. So its with all these things in mind, that I prepare for the hike this spring. If I do 70 miles a year, I will only be about 85 years old when I finally reach Mt. Katahdin. For those of you who have never backpacked, I am sure you find this to be a crazy pursuit, but it would only take one trip to get you hooked. There is nothing like being out on the trail being self sufficient, and responsible for your total well being. It is a challenge every day. The biggest part is mental. You hike ten to twelve hours a day, stop, put up your tent, cook supper, go to bed, and get up the next day and do it all over again day after day. The rewards though are worth it. You meet some of the most interesting characters along the trail. There was a father and daughter we met along the trail in Grand Canyon that we spent a week with on the trail and became life long friends. The views you see are views very few see. The wildlife you see, is wildlife most people only see in zoos. We have gotten up close and personal with a black bear, a 3-4 foot rattlesnake, and a skunk who decided to climb in my backpack and eat our bagels. Any of you out there who read this and would like to experience the joys of backpacking, there is always room for one more on the trail...

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