Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Goin' hiking

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will be doing a long section hike on the Appalachian Trail, from its southern terminus, Springer Mt., Georgia to, hopefully, Erwin, TN. I've got 22 on trail days allotted between bus trips. I bought two one-way bus tickets. One from Rockford, IL to Gainesville, GA, putting me about 30 road miles from Amicalola Falls State Park and the approach trail to Springer Mt. My return ticket is one-way to Rockford from Johnson City, TN, about 18 miles from where I get off the trail in Erwin, TN, but also accessible via a plethora of alternative bail-outs. Best laid plans, if weather works out and I develop happy feet, I could make it all the way to Roan Mountain, TN. There is an incentive for doing the additional 40 miles -- a plethora of beautiful balds, Roan Mt., and Overmountain Shelter, one of the coolest camp spots on the entire AT. I just don't know if I have the stamina to make it that far.

I remember riding through Johnson City on a Greyhound bus in 2001 en route to Atkins, VA, and a section hike of the AT back to Trail Days. The last time I was on the AT was in 2003, when Esther, Trainwreck and I, did a loop hike to Mt. LeConte in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On that trip, I finally got to see a clear view from Charlie's Bunion and overall had great weather. This is very unlike what was experienced during our 2000 thru-hike.

Who knows what the weather will be like through the Smokies this time around. I'm not worried too much about it. That kind of worry does no good. Make necessary adjustments, strap up, check one last time, and then hike on in whatever conditions present themselves. What I try to be alert to is wetness and hypothermia. The former begets the latter, and unless you're conscientious of the signs, hypothermia can sneak up on you. Luckily, I've got the right gear to stay dry and have been hypothermic a few times, so I know the symptoms.

I'm doing this hike on the cheap. All of my trail food will be either carried initially or sent to me in maildrops at: Hiawassee, Ga., Fontana Dam, NC, and Hot Springs, NC. My goal will be to stay in the woods as much as possible. I do have to allot some library time, though, to look for jobs online so I can collect unemployment. But other than that I will not spend any nights in town. I can't afford to. And I am only justifying the trip in the first place because I want to pay for it almost entirely with money earned collecting aluminum cans. It's a reward for practicing frugality, simplicity, and creative resource management (i.e. scavenging skills).

Let's break down the finances a little bit: I have $400 can money, but spent $255 on bus tickets. I have $100 or so extra non-can moneyto buy food and postage for maildrops. The remaining $145 will be spending money on the trip. This means I can spend at least $20 at every town stop and I won't have to feel deprived of much needed restaurant food/beer/extras. And since I can sleep indoors any old time, I will spend every night, no matter the weather, outside. That, folks, will be the ultimate challenge of this winter-time hike. Do I have the will and the stamina to leave the comforts of civilization in a snow or rain storm and camp out on the trail? The last time I was at Springer I would say No. In light of experiences since, the answer today is a qualified Yes. Let's just say I won't spend money to sleep indoors, but won't refuse a trail angel's offer. Fair enough?

I've also decided to post my journals from the trip on Trailjournals, so look for a link to that page. In the meantime, check this blog and sidebar for more words of wisdom about backpacking, dumpster diving, the differences between the old and new versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and any other crazy schtuff that goes swimming through the stratosphere..