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


My Gear List via Lighter Pack


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Comments 6

  • Daddy Longlegs : Mar 1st

    Swirling questions will always be waiting to spring upon you and create indecision. One of the hardest things is to ‘Be present’. It’s the best advice I can give for every aspect of not only your trail adventure but everyday life itself. As the Dalai Lama put it: “There are only two days in the year nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live”.
    The AT can make this difficult (because so much planning feels requisite to achieve your goal) but, if you focus on today, you’ll get there. You got this, Lance. You got this!
    Good luck and Happy Trails,

    • Lance Ness : Mar 6th

      That quote changed my day! I appreciated the down time and ability to sit out the couch and enjoy time with my dogs. Sometimes a comment like your changes everything…. Thank you Daddy Longlegs!

  • Beth : Mar 5th

    Your gear is excellent. You’re young and strong. The opportunity to take on this adventure may be difficult to obtain again. Go ahead…. you can do this. And if, after you are out for awhile, you decide you have gotten enough out of the journey, the rest of the trail will still be there for you to hike later. Even if you’re only out a couple of weeks, the experience will change you forever in a good way. Go for it!! Happy trails!!

    • Lance Ness : Mar 6th

      Thank you Beth! I’m 12 days away from heading to GA and I cant wait!!!!

  • Trail Rabbit : Mar 6th

    I feel inclined to comment here.
    I totally understand the funk/ limbo/ holding pattern feeling. Been there many, many times in life so far and I’m still dealing with them in various areas. One of my ‘holding patterns’ is for the AT thru hike. I plan for it to happen someday but, we currently have 2 children in college and funding is tied up there for now, and my wife doesn’t want me going off having “fun” on a thru hike while she stays home and works. Haha!
    It’s difficult at times to see and read about all of you getting to pursue your thru hikes but, i keep reminding myself that I will get my day. I just hope my health holds out for it. But, till then, I’m doing all I can right now to stay healthy, fit, and active. And it’s been especially tough to stay conditioned since we moved to an area that doesn’t have the long trails, the great elevation gains, mountains, and distance I was used to where we once lived. These are things I can’t dwell on and let bring me down right now. I do what I can with what I’ve got. You have the chance now so go do it! And keep the rest of us inspired along the way.
    I also will share this…
    Don’t over think things. That can become a hindrance at times. I’m a musician as well as a hiker/ backpacker/ runner (among many other things). I believe the same principle applies here that I tell younger performers who I run across and share with me their thoughts and hesitations when it’s go time for a performance. Once you know you’ve done as much prep as you possibly could, then it’s time to simply trust yourself, jump in, and let it flow. Sure you deal with any bumps if and when they may happen along the way but don’t get mentally hung up in them.

    You’ve stated you know you’ve prepped enough. You’ve got this. Now all you have to do is trust yourself, relax, and enjoy the journey.

    • Lance Ness : Mar 6th

      Thank you for the reply! I love reading this and about you. Your AT day will come. Seems like you have the right mindset…. just get outside and hike as often as possible and enjoy being outside. Thank you for the advice and words of encouragement. Thanks for following my journey…. someday i hope to follow yours!


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