Southbound Thru-hike With Banjo On The Appalachian Trail.
The Big Announcement
That’s right folks! This first blog post signifies my big, official, commitment. In late May of 2016, I’m leaving my home on the Canadian West Coast with a banjo on my back. I’ll head for Mt. Katahdin, Maine, USA. There I’ll begin my southbound journey down the Appalachian Trail. Because it feels like I’m going down hill when I go south… kidding… I understand topography.
Why Am I Hiking The Appalachian Trail?
Solitude. I’ve always enjoyed walking through the woods and being alone. It’s the best way to think. And I love thinking! Its like there are gears connecting my legs to a brain motor. When the legs walk, the gears turn, and I think good stuff! Ever since I completed the Bruce Trail in Southern Ontario in 2010 I’ve had my sights set on the AT.
Why am I taking my banjo?
I’ve been a dedicated banjo player for 7 years. This trip must be done with a banjo. I don’t think I could go alone without it. I have a strong love for bluegrass and old-time music, which, as many of us know, is rooted deep in the Appalachian Mountains. I could not and will not make a trip through these regions as a banjo player and not have my banjo. It’s a weight and challenge I’m willing to accept. But wait, there is more!
It’s A Film Project
I am documenting everything! I am bringing a pelican case full of Gopro gear with as much memory and battery as I can carry. My intention is to capture as much as possible. This includes the adventures of hiking and my musical discoveries along the way. It’s a self-filmed wilderness experience combined with a documentary on bluegrass, old time and other forms of traditional Appalachian folk music. It’s gonna be good!
For this part of the adventure, I’m representing Nimblefingers Bluegrass And Old Time Music Workshop in Sorrento, BC and the Pacific Bluegrass and Heritage Society (PBHS), based out of Vancouver, BC. These communities have been influential for me with progression on the banjo, performing, and of course making new friends who share the same musical passion as me. I’m proud and honoured to represent these two organizations.
Transition: From Work to Play
The most important part of preparations is my body. I could spend all my money on the best gear but it’s useless if I’m out of shape. My profession is my biggest advantage. I’m a Treeplanter. it’s not volunteer work and its not landscaping. It’s reforestation and it’s piece work. I get paid so many cents per tree to plant them into logged clear cuts across Canada. I live in my tent in a bush camp for a few months and plant anywhere from 2000 to 5000 trees a day.
Google Treeplanting and you will find endless articles, poems and songs that all list the same trials and tribulations of the job. I will just say that it sucks. I love it so much but it fucking sucks! It’s the lifestyle that I love. We all have a love/hate relationship with this profession. Daily we move through the land stuffing thousands of seedlings into the ground only to eat, sleep in your tent, and wake up to do it again the next day. It’s dirty hard work but at the same time it’s beautiful, rhythmic, therapeutic and lucrative if done efficiently. This goes on for months!
Wait a minute, this sounds like an AT thru-hike except I don’t have to bend over every 3 steps. Sign me up.
You don’t have to be crazy to plant trees but it helps. I think any AT thru-hiker would understand. It’s quite simple. When it’s all over, we appreciate the good times and laugh about the bad times. And those good times are amplified when they are peppered between challenges and hardship. We forget about the shitty stuff because humans are naturally optimistic. It takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown. We only remember the shit when we are in the shit. Then we deal with it, and then it’s over, and we move on because we know better times are ahead.
I’ll be planting trees for the 3 months leading up to the AT. I think the physical and mental nature of my job will give me the strength for an AT thru-hike.
I’ll be accumulating more gear over the next few months and I will keep you all updated. So far here is what I have
- Gold Tone Open back Banjo
- MSR pocket rocket white gas cooking stove
- Hennesey Hammock Tent
- Woods ultra lite sleeping bag for 7 degrees celsius. (I still need something warmer)
- Gopro Hero4 with a snake arm and clamp
This Is Quite A Task! Lets Break It Down
Hiking SOBO is more challenging than NOBO. It’s also a smaller seasonal window to complete the trail. On top of that, I will be taking time to film and play music with locals. Thanks to the help of Nimblefingers and the PBHS I have already established various contacts who are deeply involved with their local bluegrass and old time communities on and near the AT. I can venture off the trail to find these communities but time management and my average walking pace will be important If I want to get to Georgia before December. At 15 miles per day average I can do it in 145 days. That’s just under 5 months. I’m giving myself 6. Oh yeah, this is doable. 15 miles is 24km. When I hiked the Bruce Trail I averaged 30km per day. That’s 18.7 miles. Lets go!
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Sounds like an adventure that is follow worthy. I’m looking forward to your future posts.
Thanks for the support More! I will stay as regular as I can on preparation updates in the upcoming months!
I’m hiking the Bruce Trail next May, following Spring northward. I’d love to know more about your experiences.
Hi Mark! That’s great! It’s a wonderful trail. I did it southbound. I lived in St. Catherines at the time. Longest walk home ever! I do have my revised journals entries if you are interested. its about 10000 words. It’s broken up by each day and it took me 26 days. I can email them to you.
I’ve always wanted to play the banjo. Tuned to an open G what could be hard about that? I’m to confess that the short string threw me and it seems that study is required.
I hope our paths cross somewhere on the journey!! I am starting a thru-hike in March NOBO and plan to have my backpack dulcimer with me on part of the trail. I am having one made just for the hike. If you see the trail name Dulcigirl…. that’s me!
Hi Karla that’s awesome! I have been researching on dulcimers lately and was hoping I would run into one on the travels. we shall definitely stay in touch!
Hey I’m a NOBO 2016’er and I would absolutely love it if we ran into each other and played some tunes. Might bring along one of my stringed instruments too.
There’s always a million and a half reasons why you can’t, but there only has to be one reason you can
Hi Crookedfoot! A multi-instrumentalist? It would be great if you brought one along! I guess mandolins, ukes, fiddles, would be most efficient but upright bass’s are pretty sweet too! we should stay in touch and cross paths!
Very cool! I am looking forward to following this.