One Final To-Do List Before I Leave
I am a planner. I am a list maker. I make wall planners and there will normally be a piece of paper somewhere in my bedroom entitled “To do.”
I made my first AT-related list approximately one hour after I discovered that the AT existed. It’s entitled, “Big things to think about,” and is dated Jan. 4, 2017. Somehow, over two years and many lists later, I still have a few big things to think about.
How did I get to being less than three weeks away from starting my hike and still have things left to do?
Answer: Life gets in the way.
During those two years I also had a degree to finish, money to earn, and lots of life to live through.
For example, last year I spent the whole summer planning to do my first practice hike along the Hadrian’s Wall trail in October. When it came round to it an accumulation of events in my life meant that this simply wasn’t possible. I then started a job where I never got two consecutive days off, so going away for a practice hike would be impossible.
This leaves me three weeks away from my start date and without any solo backpacking trips under my belt. I did my last shift at work yesterday, giving me three weeks to do practice hikes and work out if any of my gear isn’t up to scratch. It may sound a bit last minute but that’s the way it’s had to be.
As far as on-trail planning goes, I’ve made a rough plan for my mileages and resupply points for the first two weeks use of AWOL’s NOBO guide. I highly anticipate that I will deviate from this plan, but knowing I have a rough guide to follow is comforting. After those two weeks I’ll probably plan just far enough ahead that I’ll know where my next resupply is but no further.
A big thing I’m hoping to gain from this hike is to learn to live without a plan. I can’t plan for what Mother Nature is going to throw at me. I can’t plan for what injuries I might obtain or which towns I might want to spend more time in.
That being said, I think I’ve just got time for one last to-do list before I go:
My to-do list:
—Finish gathering bits for my wash kit/repair kit/first aid kit.
—Either learn how to hang a bear bag or buy an Ursack. Food storage around bears is something I have absolutely no experience of. Advice from the internet has ranged from “I used my food bag as a pillow” to “Why not carry a bear canister just to be safe.” This seems to be one of the issues that my brain has decided to obsess over and as yet I haven’t made a decision. Today I’m thinking Ursack, tomorrow that might change.
—Work out how to change the date and time on my watch. It’s currently three days behind and says 21:00 at 9 a.m.
—Decide how I’m getting from Atlanta to Dahlonega.
—Set up a phone contract with Three, a UK mobile provider that supposedly has a good international usage policy.
—Do my two practice hikes. On Monday I’m heading up to the Yorkshire Dales for two nights and the following Monday I’m going out onto the Hadrian’s Wall trail for a night. These are my first solo backpacking trips ever. It’s currently forecast to be pretty wet and cold up there so it should be good preparation for the current weather on the AT!
—Learn how to use my Garmin InReach.
—Download a lot of music/audiobooks/podcasts/Kindle books onto my phone.
In these three weeks I also have many friends to visit, and lots of rowing to do. My start date has been specifically chosen to allow me to compete in one last rowing race before I leave (I say this as if I’m some high-level athlete. I row for a club whose motto is “Not bad for a first outing,” and I’m mainly in this race for the fun of it. Still takes a lot of preparation, though). I’ve got to pack up all my belongings at home and do a bit of admin for the job I’ll start when I return.
I’ve used the words “have to” and “got to” a lot in this post. What I really should be saying is “get to.” Although not all these tasks are exciting they are all part of something very exciting. It’s very easy to get caught up in small details and let it all become a burden rather than an enjoyable experience.
More and more I’m realizing that right now, life is pretty cool. When I left work yesterday and colleagues asked me what I was going on to do I got to reply with “I’m going to America to go hiking for six months, then I’m moving to Cumbria to work on a nuclear power plant.” Things could be worse.
My most important task for the next few weeks is to enjoy spending time with my family and friends. That and to get excited for the what’s coming next!
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