Happy Hiking New Year: 2018 is finally here!
This is THE YEAR
I’m awake before dawn on this first day of the new year,
filled with anticipation and a slight sense of panic.
This is the year I thru-hike.
Some of my cohort are already on the trail, striking out early in spite of the cold. It’s 21 degrees this morning at my home near Atlanta, and highs on Springer Mountain will only reach 22. Tonight those intrepid hikers will experience a -2 degree wind chill.
This is the south, but that doesn’t mean it’s warm!
I wish my fellow 2018 classmates well, and I pray they’re well prepared. I know the gear I have today wouldn’t get me through a night in these temps, and I’m making some adjustments just in case my April start comes with some unexpected cold.
Ready or Not
The little bit of panic I’m suppressing isn’t about temperatures, though. It’s the realization that I’ll be hitting the trail full-time in just three months. That sounds like a long time, but those 12 weeks will fly by. I’ve got so much to do to get ready. Will it all get done?
My planning so far has been all about the hike. Do it have the right gear? Can I lighten my pack? Where should I send resupply boxes? Which of my friends and family will meet me on the trail?
I’ve had all my checkups, from a routine physical to a mammogram—my sister had breast cancer and I never skip that one—and the obligatory colonoscopy (because I am that age now, lucky me). Other than a few nagging but not uncommon issues with feet and knees, I have a clean bill of health. If I manage to avoid getting hurt between now and April, I’m good to go.
Now I need to focus on the much less glamorous details of everyday life, like finishing work projects, paying taxes, and preparing my household to run without me. The gritty reality of my thru-hike is staring me down, screaming about the mundane yet essential preparation tasks I’ve been avoiding.
Some thru-hikers sell everything and hit the trail unencumbered. No job, no permanent residence, no ties to hold them back. In a way, I envy their freestyle approach, but it’s not for me. I have a house, pets and a family who will continue living life as usual while I’m gone.
The tasks I normally handle like grocery shopping and paying the bills will now fall on my husband. My young adult daughters will likely be moving to new apartments without help from mom. How will we handle our expenses? Will someone be around to let the dog out? Who is going to make food for the cat’s special diet? Will anyone remember to dust?
I’m sure everyone will survive without me, but I feel obligated to make the process as easy as possible. That means a lot of work in the next few months cleaning, organizing, planning, and communicating.
Time for Fitness
On top of that, I’m starting my new year with the realization that I could and should be lighter and more fit. I dropped my boot camp membership a couple of months ago to save money and other than weekend hiking the AT in Georgia (I finished!), I’ve been pretty lazy.
My lack of cardio conditioning shows up in spades when I hike up mountains, and my recently acquired knee pain is likely due, at least in part, to the extra 25 pounds on my small frame.
I’d like to improve my fitness before my hike starts, which means more hours at the gym for yoga and swimming, plus extra hiking, indoor rowing and of course, eating better. That all takes times and planning, too.
Embracing the Blessing
It’s an amazing blessing that I can undertake my AT journey in this new year, and I’m certainly not complaining about the logistics. I’m just very aware today, the first day of 2018, that the countdown clock is ticking. Like the ball dropping at Times Square, the moment for me to step out of the car and onto the trail will be here faster than I think.
Between now and then, I’ll greet 2018 full force, embracing the opportunity that so many only dream of. I’ll remind myself that every little task, from choosing the right sleep socks to setting up a recurring order for cat litter on Amazon is all part of the wonderful process of undertaking a thru-hike.
Glamorous or not, I’ll do what needs to be done. On April 1, I’ll be ready to hike.
Happy trails, and Happy New Year!
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