I Revised My Start Date to June 1, 2021

I gave in to reality.

Plan A, as you may recall, was to thru-hike in 2020. Surgeries and pandemic took care of that.

Plan B was to start March 1, 2021. I dutifully registered my start date with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Formalizing the registration made me realize even more how unrealistic a start date it was.

Today I canceled my registration and submitted at new registration for June 1.

Why Plan C?

My chief reason for pushing back my start date is the pandemic. The next few months are going to be ugly. We are all weary of the precautions and restrictions. Folks are letting down their guard. New York State is doing better than most but we’re still getting hit hard.

I am not an experienced (or young!) enough long-distance hiker to do a largely self-supported thru-hike, which is what would be required for a March start. By June I stand a chance of a somewhat more normal thru-hike, at least one where I will not have to be worried about putting town people at risk. I can deal with limitations on the trail as long as I can safely get into town to resupply.

I will still get to celebrate my seventy-first birthday on the trail. Yay, me!

I know I won’t be able to finish my thru-hike in 2021. I’ll see how far north I can get before the weather forces my out of the mountains. I’ll pick up from there in 2022.

The Mind Game

Closely related to the pandemic is the mind game. Every thru-hiker I talk to tells me that anyone in reasonably good shape can thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. One has to recognize one’s own limitations and be sensible about the pace, especially at the beginning. Dora said, “No one is in shape for the trail. The trail gets you in shape for the trail.” Barring injury and sickness, thru-hikes are won and lost in the head.

With all the uncertainty of the pandemic and of my own “real life” this past six months, there is no way I am going to have my head into this by the beginning of March. Physically I could do it. Of that I have no doubt. Mentally? No, I don’t think so. Not yet. I need time to pull myself together.

I could feel the tie loosening as I admitted to myself that I needed to delay by three months.

Today’s walk

What a gorgeous day. It was just about freezing with bright sun and a gentle breeze. Days don’t come much prettier than this. And places don’t come much prettier than Durand Eastman Park in Rochester. I put on my pack, walked out the front door, and half a mile later was in the park. I walked about four miles, a mile of road walk and three miles up, down and around in the park. (Don’t let anyone tell you that New York State is ugly.)

My long, skinny fingers have always had lousy circulation. I start wearing gloves long before other folks, and by time they are reaching for warm gloves I’m in mittens. I don’t mind the cold but I do mind cold hands. I wore a pair of Thinsulite-insulated mittens with my REI waterproof shells. I will soon have to pull out the leather shells. At any rate, today I was warm and comfy.

Today’s picture

The cameras stayed in the hip belt pouches today. Here is a simple cellphone picture from the same park a week ago on a similarly beautiful day.

Durand Eastman Park on a beautiful day.

Blessings,
Steve / pearwood
Soli Deo Gloria

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Comments 14

  • Avatar
    John : Dec 9th

    Pearwood,
    I believe to enjoy your hike, you have to feel mentally comfortable and to feel mentally comfortable you have to hike your own hike. Fortunately those hikers with more life experience are more resilient mentally and can resist pressure to hike someone else’s idea of a through hike. Happy hiking, I am looking forward to your posts.
    John

    Reply
    • Avatar
      pearwood : Dec 9th

      John,
      Thank you. I believe you are correct. At the tender age of 70 I’ve impressed all the people I care to impress.
      Blessings,
      Steve

      Reply
  • Avatar
    dave beaty : Dec 9th

    I think thats a wise choice,particularly the way things are going these days

    Reply
    • Avatar
      pearwood : Dec 9th

      Thanks, Dave.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Moose : Dec 9th

    Kudos and best wishes from Albion, NY!!

    Reply
    • Amara Gardner
      Amara Gardner : Dec 9th

      I’m feeling pretty intimidated by the pandemic as well, Pearwood. I’m trusting that my mentors will advise me to put it off if need be, but for now I plan to take all precautions possible and limit exposure to others.
      I’m also worried about my hands being way too cold, I have to find a good warm pair of gloves and then I will feel much better about the cold.
      I’m excited to see the photos you take, I know someone who was a photographer in the army many years ago but he still hasn’t shared them with me! Maybe one day… I’ll keep looking at what you share though 😊

      Reply
      • Avatar
        pearwood : Dec 9th

        Thanks, Amara. Don’t be afraid to shift to mittens if you need. Be sure they can break the wind. I’ve discovered using trekking poles that my hands are very much exposed to the elements.
        I do like my old cameras.
        Blessings,
        Steve

        Reply
    • Avatar
      pearwood : Dec 9th

      Thanks, Moose! (:-{D}

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Chris Armstrong : Dec 10th

    Best of luck. Would you consider Plan D if you are able to get a vaccine earlier? I am keeping a close watch on vaccines and am hoping to have one before I go. If not I’ll have to drop into a Walgreens / CVS while on the trail when they become more widely available.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      pearwood : Dec 10th

      Chris,
      Possibly. Suffice it to say that everyone’s plans are subject to change at this point.
      Blessings,
      Steve / pearwood

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sam Cermak : Dec 11th

    Well said, Steve!

    The photos you post are beautiful – I can’t wait to see the pics you take on the AT.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      pearwood : Dec 11th

      Thanks, Sam. It’s been pushed back enough times now that it’s feeling more than a little surreal.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Melissa Pearson : Dec 13th

    What about a plan D: flip flopping? The mountains are lovely, but the mid-Atlantic in the summer is brutal. But quite viable to hike the Shenandoah quite a long time after things get too dicey for the New England Mountains. Could even let you hike South with fall.

    Regardless I think it sounds like a wise decision. Best of luck with your journey!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    pearwood : Dec 13th

    Thanks, Melissa,
    Everything is tentative at this point other than not starting in March. I really don’t have this all figured out yet. It has been a most interesting year.
    Blessings,
    Steve

    Reply

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