Ish Gets Real
I am among those hopeful thru-hikers who have researched, surfed the net, watched YouTube videos, made best-friends-for-life at REI, and perhaps, like me, made a spreadsheet listing gear items, sorted by category, price and weight. On my Outlook calendar anything thru-hike-related is colored in a rust-orange shade. On paper I couldn’t be more prepared.
But I haven’t backpacked since 2002 or maybe even 2001, and the last time I day hiked on the AT (in Massachusetts, near North Adams) was in 2003. Nevertheless, I am, you know, special because I’m a hopeful thru-hiker.
In a few days I’m going to the annual Gathering hosted by the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, or ALDHA, in Abingdon, Virginia. There are several options for where to stay while at the Gathering. ALDHA has gotten discounted hotel rates for attendees and an RV lot and private campgrounds are available. Also, as their website states, there are “plenty of tenting spaces in an open field right onsite.” I haven’t camped since 2002 or maybe even 2001, but since I’m that special breed, the hopeful thru-hiker, obviously I would pitch my Nemo Hornet in the open field right onsite.
I’ve never staked my Nemo Hornet outside. It’s never been outside except for the trip from REI to home.
For days I have grown more and more anxious thinking about getting to Abingdon before nightfall, finding a spot in the open field right onsite and pitching my tent, possibly for the second time ever. I researched the hell out of the tent before I bought it, of course, and I can put it together inside after many hours of practice.
Finally, this morning, panic and common sense forced me to acknowledge my limitations. My plan to tent outside was driven by ego and a sense of superiority, of how special I am because I’m a hopeful thru-hiker – although I’ve never pitched my tent.
Before I even had coffee this morning I called and booked a room at a hotel in Abingdon. The relief this brought me shifted my mindset about the Gathering. I am now focused on the program and excited to hear the speakers and meet experienced hikers. I might even get some tips on things like selecting a good site to pitch a tent.
But it gets real next week, when I do my first shake-down hike. More about that soon. Right now I have to get busy learning how to stake out my tent in the real world.
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