“To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge” – Socrates
I’ve gone public. Everyone knows I am ACTUALLY really truly attempting to hike the entire Appalachian Trail this year. So what now? Well that means I have a whole lot of preparation in store and a very limited number of days to do so. Preparing to live in the woods for 6 months, well, it has its own unique set of challenges. So many in fact, one could spend each and every waking moment worrying over the details, from dehydrating lentil beans to the ever important gear list. A gear list I’ll judge over a million times before leaving. It’s also probably a good idea to at least attempt to be in as good physical shape as possible before leaving. How about Mother Nature? What if this year is colder or hotter or drier or (insert any epic natural disaster scenario) than ever before? Oh yea… there’s also that whole mental preparation aspect Zach talks about – which in my humble opinion is indeed the most important! How is a first time thru-hiker supposed to navigate through the endless sea of information, contradicting rules & recommendations?
Well my approach isn’t all that complicated: Do YOUR best, absolutely have fun with it, include your loved ones, and as Socrates said so long ago -admit you know nothing. Short of doing it oneself, nothing can truly prepare someone for what it takes to start and finish a thru-hike of the AT. With my 2015 AT adventure roughly only 60 days away, I refuse to get sucked in to the preparation madness and equipment panic that can set in with a start date right around the corner. I still have a lot of work yet to do, but dammit I’m going to have fun doing it!
- Exercise: 20+ miles a week, with my awesome dog Oliver, continuing to add more weight to my training hikes.
- Gear and Food Prep: Practice, practice, and practice. Each item I carry will be used, packed and repacked many times before I step one foot on Springer Mountain. Make a detailed gear spreadsheet down to the ounce for each item (to be posted).
- Mental Preparation: Appalachian Trials, Whiteblaze.net, and every former thru-hiker I can talk to.
A week in review:
This past week I kicked my plan into high gear. Walking my hometown can get old pretty quick, so Ollie and I will be getting out to explore the greater Philadelphia area hiking trails as much as possible, even in the cold! My first hike of the year was an 8 mile hike through Valley Forge National Park. As a history junkie, it was awfully cool to see where George Washington’s Continental Army stayed during the American Revolutionary War. Walking past those small wooden cabins, where soldiers were packed in like sardines and endured brutal winter conditions surrounded by disease and death, I could only imagine how hard it really was. Yet despite all those overwhelming obstacles they persevered to victory and the founding of a nation. Perseverance – I know there’s got to be an AT metaphor in there somewhere.
This week I also had the chance to attend, for the very first time, a REI garage sale event. At these ‘garage sales’ REI puts out used to new condition returned gear and clothing for sale at steep discounts. After only minimal research, I learned that people get all sorts of crazy on these days. Its exactly like Black Friday, only more beards. Online research mandated that one arrives early to this REI holiday, and we got there 2 hours early only to enter a line 60 people deep! The first person had arrived the night before and slept in a tent. I hand it to them, Im pretty sure they did indeed score a nice tent and sleeping bag. Im not a black Friday shopper, I’d rather order online, but this trip was worth it. I spent in total $200 for about $500 worth of top quality gear in excellent condition. The biggest savings was a brand, new never worn REI Revelcloud hooded packable down jacket that sold for $160 (in another section of the store). I was able to purchase this jacket for $47.83. Supposedly there is a small pinprick on the fabric on the right shoulder, but I couldn’t even find it without my sisters help. For any aspiring thru-hiker the REI garage sale is well worth checking out.
As my preparation moves closer and closer to completion, it’s all beginning to feel very real. In just a few months, all this planning and research will be over. I’ll be on the trail, one foot in front of the other. No REI garage sale or perfectly planned mail drop will prepare me for what adventures lay in wait. When those first days on trail arrive, I’m going to think about the words of that very wise old dude; true knowledge is to admit I know nothing. I have no clue what the trail will have in store for me. The trail dictates the terms, not me. I’m just along for the ride. So when shit hits the fan – and it surely will – said shit on said fan is actually part of the plan. I accept I can’t prepare for everything that could happen on the AT, It’s part of my plan.
(By the way… I’m pretty sure Socrates must have thru-hiked the AT at some point. Where else could all of those great quotes come from?!)
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