Shakedown Complete, I’m Ready to Roll
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
A few weeks ago, I ventured out on my final shakedown. It was my chance to test the gear that I spent well over a hundred hours researching. I ate, slept, and breathed with thoughts on what would be the latest, lightest, and best-fitted gear for me. My mental preparation incorporated meditation and reading up about the journeys of others before mine. The hours, the research, the purchases, the returns, the seeking of advice… the list goes on and on for what needs to be completed before stepping off Springer Mountain on March 19. It’s easy to get lost in the preparation. As I drove up the mountain road to the trailhead for the shakedown, I was reminded of this fact. I had a plan, but little did I know I was about to get punched in the mouth! I left my house the morning of the shakedown at 6:30 a.m. I started my day before the sun and was able to watch it rise in the rearview mirror. At 8 a.m., I had arrived at Caledonia State Park, where it was now 15 degrees colder and an added bonus of four inches of snow and ice over everything. I was expecting rain all weekend and had prepared myself with the mental attitude of “embracing the suck.” I stepped out of the car, no pack on, and fell in the first 30 yards. Lying there looking up into the blank, empty sky, I knew it was going to be a long 20 miles.
Just Keep Walking
My hiking partner had Microspikes and about 30 pounds of weight on me. He was able to break through the top layer of ice and maintain solid footing. I attempted to follow in his steps since I was unable to get solid footing by breaking that top layer of ice. Many times I thought I was hitting his footprint, often leaving me sliding back down the hill. That first part of the morning was rough. We covered about three miles in two hours. The temps began to rise above freezing and Mother Nature now decided it was time for rain. The once bobsled-style trail now became a lovely four inches of slush from Pine Grove Furnace to Caledonia State Park. We would spend the next 24 hours and 17 miles in these conditions. On day two, as we pushed through the last few miles and approached our cars, I kept asking myself one question: “If the car wasn’t there, could you keep walking?”
Despite the falls, the wet, the cold, the ice, the snow, the inevitable pains… Yes, I wanted to keep going! I wanted to backpack to Georgia, then flip-flop back and hike north. Regardless of the less-than-stellar conditions, the whole ride home I couldn’t help but feel even more excited for my journey. I had fully embraced the suck, and at the end of it, wanted to just keep walking.
-Backwards Hat- Forward thinking.
EDIT: It’s taken me really long to publish this post. It is one of the final things I need to do before I depart in 18 days. Since returning home from the shakedown, I have been in a giant funk. I feel like a plane in a holding pattern on the runway just awaiting for the green light to take off. With this, I have began to question everything! Am I strong enough for the trail? Why am I doing it? Could the money and time be put to better use? What if I don’t finish? Why am I leaving my girlfriend and two dogs for six months? The self-doubt has been increasing. I am prepared. I am ready. I am the few who will complete this trek. But how do you deal with these issues? Drop me a message or comment. Thanks
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