When I speak of a plan, I'm not just talking about a few vague notions of what might happen. I mean I have worked out what I want to happen, and I usually have backup plans in case it doesn't happen that way.
It's just like the plan I had when I went to the doctor's office a couple days ago for a pre-hike checkup. As usual for these kinds of visits, the doctor would say, "I can't find anything wrong with you," and I say something lame like, "That's what you get for good, clean living."
Except this time the checkup didn't go according to plan. And I didn't have a backup plan.
Instead of following my script, the doctor said, "You may need a hernia operation before you start your hike."
No! I didn't plan for this! The plan has always been for me to start hiking from Springer Mountain on March 7. That's less than two weeks away.
Now I have no plan at all because I have to wait a week until I can see a surgeon to confirm the diagnosis.
So this is what I was trying to reconcile as I began what was supposed to be a confirming last training hike.
If there was any consolation it was that the destination was one of my favorite sections of the Appalachian Trail. We would be hiking northbound from Carvers Gap to U.S. Highway 19E. This section of trail covers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Southeast.
In my plan, I would be hiking this section again in one month. Now I don't know when it will be. I don't even know if it can still be a northbound hike.
Of the dozen or so times I've hiked this section the weather has sometimes been brutal. Snow, sleet, rain, high winds and bitter cold, I've experienced it all on this section of the AT.
At least I knew to prepare for that.
Except this time when we arrived we had bright sunshine and pleasant temperatures.
I was hiking with four boy scouts and three other leaders. This is an annual trip for the troop. For some unknown reason, though, this year's turnout was unusually low.
For me, the small group size was a good thing. It meant there would be fewer reasons to slow down or take unnecessary breaks.