The Anticipation, It’s Killing Me!
As Dr. Frank-N-Furter says multiple times through Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), anticipation is the worst thing a person can feel. I also anticipate humming along to the soundtrack of this cult classic for many hours on the trail.
I do realize this completely outs me as both a former theater kid (I also was in a production of Rocky while in college) and someone who overthinks, anticipates and is just ready to get going already! With three weeks to go before I hit the ground (well, stairs) at Amicalola Falls, I thought I would share some of the things I am doing to stay sane and prepared before the start day arrives.
1. Check, check and check again.
Don’t be like Brad and Janet and go into mysterious castles in the rain!
As we get closer to flying down to Atlanta and trekking up to the starting arch, I am fine tuning the smaller details of my packing list. While I have not had the time since being back in the States to go on a shakedown hike, I am doing plenty of pitching my tent and sleep system at home, editing my Lighterpack and doing a lot of thinking about food. With inflation the way it is, I want to deviate from expensive trail meals and get creative with ramen, Knorr sides and beef jerky.
I am also getting used to the packing of my pack with a bear canister wedged in there, my tent, and making the switch to a nylofume liner instead of a bulky pack cover. The final cog in the wheel is to buy a new pair of trail runners, which will likely be the Hoka Speedgoats – which I have used before – or La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor. It is going to take a trip to my local REI to settle on the right pair!
- Do I know how to quickly set up and take down my tent and sleep system?
- Can I fit all my gear into my pack (yes, this is something some people forget!)?
- Are my water filters working and/or backflushed?
- Do I have appropriate clothing and footwear for the season and expected weather?
2. Plan up until your first re-supply.
All of the advice I have been reading or receiving (solicited or not) has told me the inevitability of things changing throughout your thru. However, the spreadsheet-oriented nerd in me cannot arrive and fully fly by the seat of my pants. I came to an inner compromise of planning up until the first resupply of my choice – about 4 or 5 days out from Springer. The best way of approaching this seems to be treating the Appalachian Trail as a long series of section hikes, which makes it less intimidating!
Daily planning will happen on the FarOut app on my phone, checking for basic amenities like privies, shelters and water sources, with hostel planning and shuttle or hitching also on the horizon. The name of the game is to be flexible and recognize that things will change, maybe drastically, and one has to adapt to the current situation.
- How many days of food do I want to start with?
- Do I have a food storage system that I am familiar with and know how to use?
- When will I like to take my first zero or nero?
3. Devise a safety plan.
Dr. Frank-N-Furter knows safety comes first!
Do not pack your fears, but assess the risks. What are your steps in case of an emergency?This includes if there is a family emergency in the “real world” and how people can contact you in those situations, should they happen. This is for your sanity and to also reassure parents, significant others or the other important people in your life.
- What prescription medications do I need to have on me at all times?
- How can I reach my loved ones in the case of (insert incident here)?
- How can my loved ones reach me in the case of (insert incident here)?
- How will I manage bears and small bears (mice and rodents) on the trail?
- What is in my first aid kit?
This is truly up to you, the individual. I tend to err on the side of caution. You have to do what works best for you!
4. Eat vegetables and fresh fruit.
Just don’t eat your friends…
Most advice on the interwebs talk about the sweets, dried meat and powdered mashed potatoes you will consume day in and day out, only to eat fresh fruits in town on resupply days. While I hope to pack out tomatoes or cucumbers (a personal favorite) when I can, I want to enjoy all the fresh salads, soups and specific foods I will likely not eat for a while. This ranges from pupusas to the shiro wot at my favorite Ethiopian joint, as well as Talenti gelato.
My years of hiking have taught me that the main topic of conversation and thought is usually about food: what we ate that day, what we are going to eat, and what we want to eat! I craved vegetable pad thai for nearly all of the seven days I spent in the Rwenzori Ranges. Ask yourself:
- What foods am I likely not going to be able to eat on the trail?
- What are my planned eating habits on the trail (dietary restrictions, meal prep, cold soaking versus stove cooking)?
- What are the substitutions or additions I can bring into my meals (condiment packets, hot sauce) to improve your meals?
5. Hang out with your friends and loved ones!
Let’s do the time warp… again!
While this is a goal I have been working towards for a long time, I also know I will be less reliably in touch with my people not physically accessible and may miss out on important moments. I have been spending time with my family and attending various events (weddings! reunions! Shabbat dinner!). After living abroad for so many years, it also is nice to be around for events I previously had to be present via a computer screen.
I am glad I also got to spend two months before setting off to Georgia to hang out with friends, including some who have travelled to see me (!) and doing dinner parties, game nights and impromptu dance parties. While I will have a group chat sharing updates with people, I will also spend FaceTime and WhatsApp video calls to have proper updates with folks before I log off for a while.
- Are there any important events I need to attend before I set off?
- What are some places (museums, bars, restaurants) I’d like to frequent before I leave?
- Who do I want to catch up with before I head out?
What are the things you do before a big trip or thru hike to get excited, quell anxiety and feel ready And yes, I wrote this to the tune of the Rocky Horror soundtrack. Don’t dream it, be it folks! Happy hiking.
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