Preparation

In a Month, I’ll Be Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Immediately after leaving the Appalachian Trail last August 8, I knew I wanted to complete the journey. Happily, my wife, Betsy, supported my desire to do so. In February, I bought my airplane ticket for a July 21 flight on Southwest from Denver to Boston. I confirmed that I can ride the same bus back to Hanover that I rode from Hanover to Boston last August. Recently, I bought a return ticket from Boston to Denver for August 25.

Preparation for finishing the AT poses far fewer challenges than hiking the entire trail. I pretty much know what to expect and how hiking the AT works. Last week, I had lunch with Clay Evans, a freelance writer formerly of Boulder. I met Clay last July at the Graymoor Spiritual Center in New York. He finished the AT last fall. Clay warned me that hiking through the White Mountains is, by far, the most physically taxing part of the entire AT, but also the most beautiful and interesting. I recommend reading Clay’s bog posts.

My main task this year, apart from finishing the trail, is to accept the trail as it is. Last year, I frequently complained to myself about excessively steep or excessively rocky sections. I did so in spite of knowing that complaining wouldn’t improve my mental state or improve the trail. But I complained anyway. I’m done with that.

Since I left the trail, I’ve continued my normal physical training regime of three trips to the gym each week and speedy 4-mile walks on the off days. My bodily systems seem to be in good working order, although the front part of the bottom of my left foot and the bottoms of my left-foot toes feel a little numb in spots. Nerve damage, maybe.

I’ve finalized my gear list, which is pretty much what it was last year when I left the trail. The biggest difference is my upgraded kitchen (see photo): a new food pot and new canister stove. I’ve never used a canister stove and want to see if I like it. I’m leaving my well-used alcohol stove at home. My predicted pack weight (less fuel, food, and water) is 10.0 pounds.

This year, I will resupply from food boxes that Betsy will mail to locations along the trail. AWOL’s AT Guide identifies hostels and visitor centers on or fairly near (within hitchhiking distance) the trail where I can retrieve the food boxes. Resupply locations are relatively close together, such that I’ll mostly carry 2-3 days of food. After a resupply, my pack (with one liter of water and a fuel canister) will likely weigh about 20 pounds. Not very heavy.

I’m excited to get back to the trail and see the White Mountains and Maine. It’s all new country for me.

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