In Which the Restart Plan Is Revealed
We are going to do this. I say “we” because my brother Chuck (that’s he on the right) will be hiking with me from Springer Mountain to Neel Gap. After my thoroughly inauspicious start on February 1, Chuck brought me back to his place in Fayetteville to recover and figure out what comes next. Over the past month I have enjoyed his and Suzy’s hospitality (yes, I did chip in on the groceries) while working to get my act together, my pack lighter, and myself in better shape. Letting things warm up a month was an added benefit.
Somewhere along the way, Suzy suggested to Chuck that he hike with me for the first week. Chuck will be busy with his church youth group for most of the first weekend in March. We decided to head out after that. The plan is to drive up to the Above the Clouds Hostel on Monday, March 7, and catch a shuttle back to Springer Mountain. We won’t try to go far that first day since it will be after noon before we actually hit the trail. I expect we will stay at the Stover Creek Shelter and get a fresh start in the morning. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be roughly six miles each with stops likely at Hawk Mountain and Justus Creek, ending up at Woody Gap and Above the Clouds. (Is this making any sense?)
Friday morning we will catch a shuttle to Neel Gap and spend a couple days hiking back to Above the Clouds, at which point Chuck will pick up his car and drive me to Neel Gap. Then Chuck will head home I will start walking north.
What Has Changed in the Meantime
As you may recall, I started up the Approach Trail on Tuesday, February 1 with a ridiculously heavy pack and me not at all ready. It did not go well. You can ready the gory details in my earlier post. Pulling back into Chuck’s driveway on Saturday was a real downer. I wasn’t supposed to be back there less than a week into my planned thru-hike. I had serious doubts about whether I could even do this. On the other hand, if I did not do the hike I had no idea what I wanted to do next. But being 71 does not mean I am done with living life and doing things. As I wrote at the top of my “why I will be thru-hiking the Appalachian Trai” list, “It has been far too long since I have done anything really outrageous.”
I knew that if I was going to restart my thruhike with any chance of success, a bunch of things were going to have to change drastically. Here are some of the things I have changed.
- Myself. My head wasn’t in it when I started, nor was I in shape to start. The month break has given me opportunity to relax and think things through. Chuck and I have been walking regularly, with dummy loads in our packs. My legs and stamina are doing much better.
- Pack weight. My pack weighed 55 pounds plus when I started up the Approach Trail. Not smart. I have heard 20%of one’s body weight as a good target. For me that means 36 pounds. I can handle 36 pounds. Even boosting it to 40 pounds proved more than I wanted to carry up and down hills. (One of Chuck’s friends took us on a five mile walk up and down her choice of big hills on the Peachtree City golf cart paths. Ooph.) Chuck informed me the car is not going to back out of the driveway until my pack is less than 40 pounds.
- The pack. My wife mailed me my wonderful REI Flash 55 pack. That in itself saved me four pounds. The old external frame pack has been retired. As one of the folks on the trail said, it is a good pack but the wrong pack. I’ve worn the REI pack with 30 pounds while breaking trail on snowshoes up and down hills in Letchworth State Park in New York. I like it.
- Sleeping bag. I was grateful for my zero degree bag those first few days of February, but with the March restart, I’ll risk going with my lighter bag. I expect it will work well. I’ll still have my puffy and woolies and booties. That saved me another few pounds and a lot of space.
- Cold weather clothing. I started out with two long sleeve wool shirts and sets of long underwear. The extra set is being borrowed by Chuck. I added a short sleeve wool shirt from The Trek. I still have the heavy wool shirt I bought some years ago on closeout from REI. It is one of the best pieces of clothing I have ever purchased. I am keeping my REI raincoat and rain and wind pants. While not ultralight, they are still light and sturdy and have served me well.
- Warm weather clothing. My training walks around Fayetteville quickly convinced me I needed to have my wife send me my baggy REI hiking shorts and my lightweight Tilley hat. I did not expect to need them so soon, but that was with the February 1 start. I am not taking zip-off pants. I do not like fumbling with little zippers and cold hands. And the pants bind on my knees and thighs as soon as I sweat the least little bit. I can easily pull the wind pants or my wool hiking pants over the hiking shorts.
- Stove. I switched out my alcohol stove for my little MSR butane stove. Not only is the butane stove less hassle and quicker boiling but, when I add up the related fuel and paraphernalia, it is lighter than the alcohol stove.
- Other stuff. Considerably less of it. ‘Nuff said.
Friends and Supporters
I started following the #AppalachianTrail hashtag on Instagram back in 2018 when I first decided to thruhike the AT. When I learned about The Trek I started following thruhikers here. Along the way I have met some really fine folks who have become my mentors, cheerleaders and encouragers. Without them I would not have made it this far. Thank you, one and all.
Soli Deo gloria
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I wish i could taste some freedom as you. In meantime expecting photos
Glad to hear you will be hitting the trail again and with much less weight. I like the way your brother thinks!
Way to go Pearwood!!! Way to go!!.
Yeah! I’m looking forward to following your adventures! Slow and steady! I follow and have followed several writers on Trek through the years. A few finish and more just disappear (their writing…not them) 🙂 It’s cool to follow you through your restart. I hope to hike the trail in the future and know long mileage days will never be in my trail experience so I hope to learn from your slower pace….if you want a slower pace…if you go fast I’m sure I’ll learn things also. Enjoy the beauty of it!!!!
Sounds like a good plan. Glad you are going at it again. Enjoy the journey.
Pearwood. I wish you safe travels and best of trail luck. Following your progress and might be fortunate to cross trails somewhere in Virginia.