The Waiting on Spring Series: The Final Check List

The Waiting on Spring Series is a three-part series preparing aspiring thru-hikers for their 2,185 mile journey along the Appalachian Trail.  This is part 2.  Be sure to check out part 1 (Losses and Gains of Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail) and part 2 (What You Should Know for the First Few Days) as well.

Okay, so you’ve got your pack, your sleeping pad and bag, your cooking set up, your tent or hammock, your clothes bag, food bag and water bladder. You’ve got two shirts, a pull over, a down jacket, a pair of base layer pants and some convertible pants to shorts you’ll hate in no time and keep until Summer to save weight. You’ve got a hat and gloves, your trail runners and two pairs of socks and a few Band Aids you call a first aid kit. You’ve got a quarter of a toothbrush and travel size toothpaste, you’ve got a baggie of pills you’ve memorized the shape and color of, some duck tape and a headlamp.  Throw in AWOL’s guidebook and you’re ready.

Or are you…

Let’s not forget that this time is a pivotal point in your description of self. The moments about to unfold before you will be what you define yourself by for quite some time. You will want to enjoy and remember these moments as well as you can. So let’s not forget that while cutting weight in any way is a grand endeavor, it is also worthwhile to thrown in a few things to help aid in downtime enjoyment and the making of memories you will have from the rest of your life.


1) Journal

Excuse my chicken scratch hand writing.

Translation: June 24th, 2013, Another hot day. Out running thunder storms by a hair. Bugs too bad to sleep in shelter so must tent in down pours. Boy scouts suck. (This was somewhere in Connecticut. The misery of those rainy, buggy days is still crystal clear in my mind.)

I understand that some people just aren’t into the idea of a journal but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. I am a (self proclaimed) writer and still my journal was just a very cut and dry description of each day. I also kept a blog that was updated every time I was in town and that was where more of the juicy details were funneled into. But now I have a very comprehensive outline of my hike and I am so grateful for that!


2) Book


So many people say not to start with a book and I agree that maybe a copy of The Hobbit or that one intimidatingly large Harry Potter book is probably overkill. But a small book is a great idea (the image may be a bit overkill, as well). It is true that you are more likely to have reading time later on down the trail when you’re crushing miles and getting into camp by 4pm still. But books also give you a good reason to not push on to the next shelter and overexert yourself. Also, watching a book travel up the trail is really fun. Sharing a book with other hikers is a blast as well, whether that means passing it off when you’re done or just cutting off 50 page sections of it so four people are reading the same book at the same time.


3) A List Phone Numbers and Addresses


This isn’t a suggestion. This is me telling you to do this and shaming you if you haven’t already thought of it yourself. If you’ve got a list of addresses then you can remember who to send post cards to. More importantly, when your phone rides off in the back of a van in Big Island, Virginia (population negative ten) then you’ve at least got some numbers written down so you can call someone back home.


4) Your Lists (Sarah shows you what to do)

This is also less of suggestion and more of a ‘just do it for your own good”. Just like the phone numbers and addresses, all it takes is taping a print out into the cover of a journal or a book or laminating a little card and putting it somewhere in your pack where it wont disintegrate. .


5) A Trinket

photo 1

Its probably best if it can second as something useful but either way, carrying something meaningful the entire length of the AT is a really neat thing to do. It takes a beating and at the end you love it more for it. I carried a bandana that my now deceased father use to wear when he playing banjo in local bluegrass bands. I had stolen it when I was in high school and it had already been through a lot with me but the trail nearly did it in. (Note: Don’t spray deet on a bandana and wear it as a head band. It drip deet sweat into your eyes and eat at the bandana with time. You will spend the rest of the trail sewing together the fragile bandana and worrying for your eyes.)


6) Ear plugs


I couldn’t sleep with a clear conscious if I didn’t at least mention it. Maybe you’ve been told, maybe you just assumed. Either way, pick up some of these ultralight weight, super cheap little friends so you aren’t staring into the darkness listening to a snoring symphony.

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