In Which I Reach Saturation in my Preparations
I have made my lists. Edited my spreadsheet based on AWOL’s work. Planned my first couple of resupplies and now have all the gear I will need to start. I have entered the realm of the gram weenie. Weighing everything and second guessing everything too. I have been doing so much preparation, I have reached the point that I call Saturation.
Back in the 80s when I was learning to be a Coast Guard Electronics Technician, we were learning about diodes and transistors and also the term saturation. Simply put, it refers to a “maximum”, beyond which the system becomes unstable. We started to use the term with each other from time to time. After a long night of studying for an upcoming test, we would say we had reached Saturation. We were either ready or not. There was no use reading over your notes any more. It was go time.
A Window of Opportunity
I have been hoping for a Thru Hike for the last several years. Even though, as the A.T. Museum manager, I was immersed in the Hiking Culture, I was sort of chained to that general area. I have been doing sections (and re-doing some of them) as much as I could, but I was craving more. Luckily, I saw a possible window open in 2017 and that window is now a reality.
I have to admit, that when I first started saying that I would be hiking in 2017, it was just to answer the constant question I would get from Museum visitors. “Have you hiked the whole trail?” It was getting to the point that I would cringe when asked that question. Yes, I had hiked several hundred miles of the A.T. Some parts several times over. I just felt a little inadequate that I didn’t have my 2000 miler badge yet.
One day, when I was asked the question, I just said, “Next year, we are going to do it.” At first, it was just something to say to move the conversation along, but after saying it a few times, it started to become reality. When I talked to LoGear about it, she pretty much asked, why not? Let’s do this. So I continued to say it and each time I said it, it became more real.
I already had all the gear I needed, but had been tweaking my kit pretty much every time I went out. I wanted to get my pack weight down, but sticker shock needed to be rectified. Now that we were actually going to do this, it was time to start the serious preparation. My kit had worked for me so far, but there had been many times that something I was carrying wasn’t working as good as I wanted it to. I had some bulky and heavy items that were OK for a week long section, but would wear me down if I was going to go long term. I slowly started replacing what I could, when I could.
Now that we were going to do the whole thing, I needed to start thinking about what to do for that second, third, fourth resupply and beyond. How would I transition from late spring gear to summer? Do we send any resupply boxes or just “live off the land“? How many miles do we want to average each part of the hike?
I was a successful Section Hiker, planning and executing each section, be it two nights or two weeks. Preparation and execution are my forte. I also am skilled at being flexible, improvising and adapting. All this is going to be, is a series of Section Hikes stacked one after the other. No problem.
Then I entered my Gram Weenie stage. I had a scale that I used for work and I started weighing everything that I was carrying or wanted to carry. The website LighterPack helped me get a visual idea of where I could make my adjustments. I slowly got my pack weight down a few pounds. One ounce at a time. I’ll never be an ultralight hiker, but I definitely improved my pack weight.
I went to AWOL’s website and downloaded his resupply spreadsheets. He has three on the site. A 12 mile a day average, a 15 mile a day average and an 18 mile a day average. We had made the decision that we would start out slow. No matter what, our packs will be their heaviest at the start with a little extra gear for the still cold nights of the Southern Appalachian spring. I took each of the spreadsheets and created my own tailored one that fit our potential schedule. We would start out at about 10 to 12 miles a day average, then move up through 15 mpd, then 18 then back down to 15 and 12 in the harder New England section. It is just a general plan. No battle plan survives contact with the trail. The plan is there. It is merely a guide.
I have combed through the pdf version of AWOL’s A.T. Guide. Highlighting potential resupply points and looking for all the treasure hunt Xs. I keep my 2016 version on the table next to the couch and just pick it up and study it from time to time.
Our gear is complete, but we continue to second guess everything. I am at the point of Saturation in my preparations. I’m ready to go now, but still have over 100 days until we kick off. It is time to stop the preparation at the risk of becoming unstable.
I will tone down my mental preparations for now and focus on preparing my body a little more. I walk every day and will increase my gym visits and start walking more with a load as I try to drop a few extra pounds and prepare my body for the rigors it will endure when we hit the trail in April.
I guess I will never actually be done preparing until it is time to start hiking. Even then, there will be a daily preparation of how far to hike each day and where will we zero and resupply, but that will just be a part of this wonderful thing we call a Thru Hike. Out there, we will still see a lot of saturation, but this time it will involve water and its tendency to be everywhere you don’t want to to be.
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