Staying Found pt. 2: Befriend Everyone on the Trail
In my last entry, Lost on the Lincoln Woods Trail, I ended with, “For me, staying found while on the AT isn’t something I’m taking for granted. Further, I’m now committed to knowing the how, when, and why of the “where” I am when hiking.” When hiking solo this becomes ever more important, not the least in the early months of the year.
To summarize, I had to end a hike earlier than planned because I lost the trail and, thus, tons of time, setting me up to traverse a ridge in the blustery darkness. I was woefully disoriented and ended up injured. As I descended Mount Bond Cliff the following morning with some fresh, hike-ending lessons, a day hiker named “Sugar Rush” was completing her day ascent along the same route. As we chatted I learned that she’s a teacher (instant friends), worked as a ranger, outdoor guide for middle schoolers and completed the Long Trail in Vermont. When she learned I’m starting the AT in the near future, she quickly mentioned a fellow Long Trail-er going by the name of “Guthook.”
That’s Guthook. This dude slayed both the AT and PCT, among other notables. Intense; arguably intimidating.
Given I was learning how to navigate in the backcountry, Sugar Rush continued to explain that Guthook was the main man behind a series of apps for hiking and that I would do well to check them out. She was right: the key lever to my success hiking really came down to having, understanding and using excellent trail information. Entering “Guthook” when searching apps lead to not just an app for the whole AT yet also 10+ other trails across the country.
Clearly Guthook’s AT Guide was going to be a source of highly usable information – it was, and I’d highly recommend checking it out to see if it fits your needs. I’m also using the ubiquitous David “AWOL” Miller’s 2016 NOBO guide (to which Guthook is named a contributor) to compliment the AT Guide’s interactive information.
So, having learned some lessons and experienced the trail magic of a great recommendation from Sugar Rush, I later asked her if reaching out to Guthook himself would be possible. She responded, “(w)hat makes you think he hasn’t already heard about the dude I met who got lost on the Lincoln Woods Trail?” With the introduction already made, I connected with Guthook (real name: Ryan) and he was all about helping to review my gear and answer the questions all first-time thru-hikers seem to have. We even had the chance to meet up to further talk through life on the trail as well as preview some really helpful features for future inclusion in the AT Guide app. So, intense or arguably intimidating?
Yes, very much so: intensely comfortable to be around in that Ryan is a sincere and giving guy and intimidating given the literal and figurative AT knowledge bank he possesses. Combined with his parallel Star Wars knowledge bank, he’s just downright rad. Over the course of a couple hours sharing information with me, I realized I was essentially in a coaching session; now, when I use the AT and AWOL guides to plan, I realize I’m also taking these coaching tools on the road. They’re all going to helpful as I make plans for daily pacing and benchmarks.
We all have the tools and guides we rely on, be it hiking or on our way to work, giving us usable information to help make decisions that matter. Behind all these tools are really dedicated people looking to help make others successful, and I’m fortunate to have learned that before my hike. Yes, I’m bringing some helpful tools with me and I also feel as if I’m carrying those helpful relationships, too. I feel way more prepared knowing I have a couple more people to help me process the journey. Always befriend everyone; it’s hard to tell how they’ll add an immense amount of value to your trek, yet they will.
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Well it’s just about time for you to head out. How exciting! May God Bless you and protect you on your thru hike. And I hope he sends more friends your way. ?