Training Hike, Carvers Gap to U.S. 19E
Tell me why, tell me why, is it hard to make arrangements with yourself?
The plan for this weekend was to get in one last overnight training hike. The plan was for it to be the first test in cold weather of my full sleep system, and to make sure all of my other gear was fit for a thru-hike. The plan was to confirm I was prepared, that I was physically and mentally ready to hike from Georgia to Maine. There wasn't much about this weekend that went as planned.
For several months I have been focused on today, the day I was to step off from Springer Mountain, Georgia, and begin a 5-6 month walk to Mount Katahdin, Maine. A week ago those plans were put on hold when I had surgery to repair a hernia.
Training Hike, North Old Mac to South Old Mac Loop
But I guess I'll get there, though I wouldn't say for sure
As soon as I felt up to it after my hernia repair surgery, I have been trying to steadily increase my activity. The first few days I took walks in my neighborhood of about 1.75 miles, 2.5 miles, 5 miles, and then 8.3 miles. I felt ready today to finally get back to my old training site, Frozen Head State Park, for some real hiking and a better assessment of how I'm doing.
When my doctor said I had to have hernia repair surgery, I expected I would only need to delay my thru-hike attempt by about three weeks. Instead of leaving on March 7, I could leave any time after April 1. That was my presumption, you must understand. I knew I didn't have the final say.
I'm ready. More than ready. Maybe too ready.
It took most of the day before I realized why this day felt so unreal, as though it wasn't really happening. For more than 10 years this was always a day that was coming "someday."
There's an expression thru-hikers often repeat. No rain. No pain. No Maine. I still had 2,189.8 miles to go to reach Maine, but as I stepped today off the summit of Springer Mountain, I already had the rain and the pain. They continued for much of the day.
This was a day of improvisation, which I am quickly learning is an important skill to have when hiking long distances. It began slowly. I soon regretted that I had chosen to take my time waking up and getting on the trail.
I wasn't eaten by a bear last night. That's a plus for any night in the woods. I didn't even see a chipmunk or squirrel. Now the next thing to focus on was the approaching weather.
Some people might describe the weather of this day as bleak or nasty. I thought it was glorious.
There is only one thing a hiker likes more than food, and that's free food. Today was that kind of trail magic and it happened twice!
If you only think about the Appalachian Trail as a footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine you are not fully understanding the trail. For you see, it is not just a place to walk a long distance. It is a community. In many cases, the community members are strangers to each other, yet they all share a common interest in the hiking experience. For some, that interest comes not just in hiking, but in making the experience better for other hikers.
The argument I had in my head last night, which started after my conversation with trail angel Miss Janet, continued through the day. As I left Hiawassee and resumed my hike I kept hearing her say, "You're going too fast."
The ability to create and control fire is one of the few things that distinguishes us humans from all of the other creatures of the planet. Sadly, there are times we do not use it wisely. Today as I hiked up and over Standing Indian Mountain, I saw the damage fire can cause when someone decides to strike a match and burn a forest.
"The trail provides" is a phrase frequently uttered by thru-hikers. It speaks of an uncanny likelihood that, at any particular moment when you are in desperate need of something, your need will be fulfilled. This usually happens in an unexpected way. Today I learned the truth of that phrase.