What To Do While Waiting
With a gear-list mostly dialed in and an unwavering commitment to hiking the trail, I found myself feeling like there wasn’t much left to do for my hike except wait for the start date.
Then I became unemployed.
Who would have thought (he said with heavy sarcasm) that having an extra 40+ hours in your week to do whatever you want would lead to one getting a lot of personal projects done? Such projects like updating your backpacking blog with what you have been up to in the last two months.
What To Do While Waiting
Quit the Job
I work (well I guess “worked”) in live theatre and the last performance of our Christmas musical was in late December. (After spotlighting 60+ performances of White Christmas, I am going to pass on Irving Berlin music for a few years). I planned the end of my employment to coincide with the end of this show for two main reasons.
- Leaving at the end of a production is courteous timing for my theatre.
- Having two months of free time to get my life in order before my start date is a luxury I want and am able to afford.
Plan Your Medical Treatments
After a recent colonoscopy, I learned that my Crohn’s disease is in deep remission. The news was life changing, but it wasn’t medicine changing. I still have to get infusions to keep the disease in remission. Additionally, my insurance only covers in-state treatments. This means I have to get off trail every eight weeks to get my infusions in Wisconsin. Factoring this into my hiking plan was one of my largest pre-trail headaches, but I’m glad I have everything squared away now.
The plan is to get infusions every two months. My parents have agreed to pick me up from the trail for each of my infusions. Once my treatment is complete, they will throw me back in the car and drive me to wherever I got off trail. Trust me, I remind them frequently how much I appreciate them.
I think my infusion schedule will impact me in two primary ways.
- I will lose a cumulative two weeks of trail time due to traveling.
- It will be harder for me to maintain a trail family, if I find one.
I am honestly not too worried about this. Since I am starting in February, losing two weeks shouldn’t press me up against Katahdin’s mid-October closing. While I would hate to fall behind travel companions due to getting off-trail, I am choosing to view this as an opportunity to meet other people I would otherwise have not bumped into. Plus, I’m sure I could catch up with a tramily if I really set my heart to it.
Finalize Your Gear Choices
When I posted my gear list article, I got a lot of helpful suggestions in the comments about gear I could consider. This inspired a few trips to REI and a handful of changes to what I’m bringing to Amicalola in February. There was a lot of fine-tuning with my gear, so I’ll just cover the notable changes.
1. 1100ml Steel Cookpot -> 650ml Titanium Cookpot
- I barely filled my old cookpot to half capacity when cooking, so I swapped it for a smaller size with a lighter material. Not only does my new pot take up less space in my bear cannister, I also shaved half a pound from my base weight.
2. Trash Bag Liner -> Osprey Pack Liner
- I couldn’t get a satisfactory seal with my improvised trash bag liner and Osprey was having a sale. A few clicks and a week later, I have a pack liner to keep my gear better protected when my backpack inevitably gets soaked.
3. Altra Lone Peak 6 (size 12.5) -> Altra Olympus 5 (size 13)
- Same toe box. More cushion. Happier feet.
4. Question-A-Day Journal -> (Nothing)
- Instead of carrying almost a pound of book, I am just taking pictures of all the questions and answering them on my phone each day.
5. Inflatable Pillow -> Synthetic Pillow
- I sleep on my side and stomach, so I learned I need a pillow that can compress and doesn’t slip off my sleep pad.
6. (Nothing) -> Sleep Clothes
- A dedicated shirt and a pair of boxers for sleeping. Something dry to slip into after a day of hiking.
Inspire the Next Generations of Hikers (Hopefully)
My sister teaches 8th grade English and she asked if I wanted to kick off her kids’ research paper unit. Never one to turn down a chance to blab about the AT, I agreed to talk to her classes. I covered the general history of the trail and thru-hiking, my experiences preparing for my hike and the best practices for finding trustworthy information online. The kids were incredibly attentive and asked great questions. Though there were a few that made me laugh. Some of my favorites include:
- What is your favorite flavor of ramen? Chicken
- How do you fit six months of food in that bag? Allow me to explain the concept of resupplying.
- What happens if you die? It won’t be my problem at that point.
Prepare to Hike Your Own Hike
As I was preparing for this trek, I was developing an unhealthy focus on completing the trail. I thought that walking past every white blaze and summiting Katahdin this year was the only way I would be able to view my hike as a success. Anything short of that was a failure and a waste of my time. In hindsight, I was mostly stressed that if I didn’t finish the trail then other people would think I was a failure. I felt I had to meet other people’s expectations of a thru-hike in order to justify my hiking decisions.
Then, the obvious struck me. If I’m hiking this trail for myself, why do other people’s definitions of success matter to me?
With this realization, the pressure I was letting imaginary others put on me is beginning to dissipate. Typing this out has made it even clearer to me. I am at peace with my preparations. My goal is to complete as much of a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail as possible and enjoy as much of it as I can. I am confident that I will complete all ~2,200 miles but if it’s less than that, I will be okay.
Come what may, I will have the bliss of nothing to prove to others and a trail to hike.
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