Tips, Tricks & Tall Tales – 42 days in
I almost dropped off the grid. At this rate I will write approximately every other month when on the trail. I’ve got a lot of updating to do on my trail journals and I’ve totally neglected even a quickie on this site. Let’s make this extra long and dirty to make up for it. I’m going to tell you how a boring 2,000 mile journey on the Appalachian Trail is not actually boring at all. I will also try and give a quick run down of the happenings in the world of Affirm – my trail name.
Allow me to talk poopy on Sprint as a starter. Young hikers of my generation are constantly hating on their service providers who make the inconceivable gift of infinite knowledge/communication possible. I shall be no different. If you have Sprint, you should consider the fact that you will almost never have service when you’re out and about. Its true that my phone is on airplane mode a majority of the time but getting reception has been extremely difficult. That’s okay with me since I’d rather be here in the now as much as possible but it makes anything that requires internet a near impossibility when it comes to depending solely on my iphone. Forget about trying to send texts and making phone calls. I recall having a moment on the top of Bluff Mountain with 4 bars. Every single phone call I tried to make failed. That was the first time in a long time I actually got the Sprint service indicator – You know that feeling of hope that suddenly transforms into a metaphorical glass ball that drops to the floor in slow motion? That was my world on top of Bluff Mtn. All because of Sprint (*tear jerk*).
Anyways. Put your phone away and indulge in trail life. You do get service when in town and only then is it okay to ignore everyone around you and become a slave to your magic portal to the universe you carry in your pocket. Laughing at stupid stuff takes up a huge part of your day. Your abs get a decent workout from said stupidity. Never will you spend 2 hours laughing at the idea of bears tumbling downhill unless you’re backpacking. Word on the street is that if you get chased by a bear, your best chance is to run downhill because bears are fat by nature with shorter front arms and big rears. Thus they are physically prone to comically snowballing into a pile of leaves at fast speeds on a decline. I mocked the “bearer” of scientific knowledge only to google it and realize that this is apparently legitimate bear topic logic. Yeah, I know… We’re retarded but we typically spend 10-12 hours a day walking up and down mountains. So standards for just about anything tends to be drastically lowered.
I wouldn’t say my standards have diminished entirely though. I still don’t care for beds/linens all that much. Nor do I have specific food cravings or wanting of television. Seems like I’m an externality in the world of thru hiking. I judged my fellow hiker peers when I walked into a motel crammed full of hikers hypnotized by the Discovery Channel showing the “Worlds Sharpest Things”. What I’m truly loving is the immense freedom that comes with being a solo hiker. No schedules, no rules (besides the ones you impose on yourself), and no annoying buddy to question your misguided bright ideas. Let your ideas fly like an untrained unicorn. Some of these many excellent ideas are carved from the bones of “bright idea” makers before their time came. It would be an insult not to partake in them and tell the magnificent story later.
Well take a tip from me. Take 3 in fact.
1) Bring your titanium spork with you to the grocery store whenever you resupply. You do want to eat that half gallon of ice cream right outside on the curb and make every fat kid in America jealous.
2) Let yourself get dehydrated before the Chinese buffet. You don’t want to waste room in your tummy with water so you can shovel an extra 2 plates into you before calling it a day.
3) Don’t be afraid to name your pet rock. Pet rocks love being carried by someone else’s pack. You don’t have to set it free into the wild because you love it so much.
My thru hike began on April 3, 2014. According to AWOL’s guide, I’ve trekked 531 miles of the Appalachian Trail since then. If you want to relate thru hiking to some kind of main stream sport, I guess I’m repping the land of San Diego. I feel like a member of the Jamaican bob sledding team at the Olympics whenever I am asked where I’m coming from. There’s been a few instances of trail magic but honestly the best surprises on the trail is playing with dogs.
I’m about to leave Marion, VA to get back on the trail for a lazy few days. Yes, that means I’m missing Trail Days. I decided to avoid it like the plague. Even though there has been an unbelievable amount of cool people that you get to meet on the trail. I’ve only had one encounter with shady people so far and nothing debilitating has happened where I would start considering whether or not I need a break. I’ve taken several zero days just to indulge in these neat little Southern towns and I have the luxury ability to hop from one hiker bubble to another which increases the amount of cool people you run into.
To some I am known as the Big German for sending a poor hiker on a wild goose chase – I dropped my camp shoes on the trail without knowing it and told the good samaritan hiker they must belong to the Big German ahead of us. Tikka kept telling me I reminded him of Harold & Kumar when I was with the one other Asian guy on the trail so far (we caught a hitch in Damascus which later resulted in a DUI checkpoint and I couldn’t help but yell out “we’re Mexicans!”). Others remember me as California or the clover ninja.
Unfortunately I can’t think of a single crazy story that has happened so far and I’m in a bit of a rush. However I did manage to find a scale at the Mt. Rogers visitor center and it looks like I’ve lost around 12 pounds since the start of this hike. This led to me awkwardly feeling my breasts and arms in a café later marveling at how soft I am in the upper body nowadays. Kind of reinforced my theory on hitchhiking. I seem to do really well at it and suspect it is inversely correlated with how well I’d fare in prison. So yes… I go for the clean shaven, happy and handsome hiker look instead of desperate and pitiful.
What I’ve sent home/didn’t really use:
Novara leg warmers
long thermal underwear
beanie/toboggan/whatever you call it
Serius all weather gloves
mosquito head net (may use it in New England)
2 liter camelpak
What I gave away:
Ibuprofen (I don’t bother)
Tincture of Benzoin (someone else needed it a lot more than I did)
Stuff I’m glad to have but don’t use much:
softshell rain jacket
Stuff I depend on:
48 liter pack with hip pockets and side pockets I could reach easily
Sierra Designs Light Year single person tent
thermarest zlite pad
20 degree synthetic sleeping bag
thermalite liner bag
exoficcio give n go briefs
darn tough socks
trangia alcohol stove
Sawyer mini filter (and plastic bottles)
rubber band wallet
bandana and/or pack towel
More to come. Maybe. Gotta bounce.
We should also attend to things like these, observing that even the incidental effects of the process of Nature have their own charm and attraction. Take the baking of bread. The loaf splits open here and there, and those very cracks, in one way a failure of the baker’s profession, somehow catch the eye and give particular stimulus to our appetite. Figs likewise burst open at full maturity: and in olives ripened on the tree the very proximity of decay lends a special beauty to the fruit… So any man with a feeling and deeper insight for the workings of the Whole will find some pleasure in almost every aspect of their disposition… he will see a kind of bloom and fresh beauty in an old woman or an old man…
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