Since the inception of my AT Thru-hike, I’ve had alot of friends and family express interest in meeting Badger and me on the trail. Whether for a day, section, or “vacation”, my answer is usually the same, “Yeah sure, if you can keep up. Lemme know.”
With no real commitments I have been able to successfully skirt the issue without hurting anyone’s feelings, or seeming like a pompous dick. I guess the reason that I have used this generic answer is two fold;
1. Though I know all of you who have offered to hike with me would in a perfect world, most people have commitments and taking time off to “just hike” usually sounds easier than it is (so I’m accounting for flaking).
2. I think people see attempting to “thru” as comparable to day hikes, which it is NOT.
The life of a thru-hiker is something most people can’t fathom until they do it themselves (I know this was true for me). Besides the fact that “calling to meet-up”, a common practice in the post-cellphone era, is almost impossible because
1. phone battery and electricity, for the matter, are an extreme luxury, so I can’t just keep my phone on waiting for your call. Even if I could, it wouldn’t help because
2. the Verizon Guy never walked the AT asking “Can you hear me now?”, if he did he would know that “No douche, we can’t!” service is super shotty and most people kill batteries within an hour because it all goes to finding a network.
If we were able to just “call and meet up on the trail” a second problem would arise, you probably wouldn’t like the lifestyle; it’s not camping as most of you think. In fact, just as an example, I can count the number of beers that I’ve had while “on the trail” or “in camp” on 1 hand, not because I suddenly hate beer, but because every hiker must pack in and then out everything that they want/need between towns. And beer is HEAVY for the actual caloric value.
If you’re still like “That’s cool man, I still want to hike a few miles with you” let me explain a “typical day” for me as a thru-hiker.
I wake up with the sun, somewhere between 6:15 am – 7:10 am. Stuff my sleeping bag and pad into my pack, get my food bag down from the bear line and eat breakfasts (this usually consists of me force feeding myself calories in the form of Stickers, broken generic Pop Tarts, maybe 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter, and beef jerky down my gullet barely tasting anything).Then it’s time to brush my teeth and have my morning constitution, for which I either lean against a tree and go “al natural”, or if I’m lucky I get the “privacy” of a privy (a 3 walled structure that houses a plastic toilet over a pile of human compost on which to sit, finish, wipe, and then grab chips of mulch from a provided bucket and throw to help decomposition). Then it’s time to return to my tent, once again don my hiking uniform, and tear down my tent site. After repacking my life into a 65 Liter pack, I hoist my 35 -40 lb bag onto my back and take off to “do miles”, hoping that I remembered to obtain and treat at least 2 liters of water the night before, if not I will spend most of the morning searching for drinkable water. With my pack strapped on, simulating being choked out by a midget on my back, I will set out to do at least 15 miles for the day. Ascending and descending all day, stopping only to P, relax, and stuff more empty calories down my throat.
Don’t get me wrong the views are beautiful, but it is mostly me, by myself,.. walking at a pace of between 2.5 and 3 mph, sometimes facing rough terrain or a “tough hill” (In thru-hiker terms a “tough hill” = ~ 100 ft elevation for every 0.1 m, everything else is just “bumps” or “ridge running”). Occasionally, if one should arise, I will stop at a shelter, sign the registry, take in more empty calories, assess my physical status, and push on trying to get as many miles under my belt as I can before finding the perfect location to set up camp before nightfall.
Setting up camp is simple, If I decide to stop at a shelter and deal with the symphony of snores, to which I usually add a bassline, I will arrive by about 3 – 4 pm, blow up my air-mattress, unroll my sleeping bag (claim a spot), go retrieve and treat about a gallon of water and decide what in my diet of Snickers, Jerky, and Peanut Butter I will have for dinner. If the shelters are full, or I want any semblance of privacy, before taking-in any calories, I will find a reasonably flat space to set up my 1 person tent. After “eating” I will stuff any leftover food and food garbage back into my food bag, throw a nylon twine around a tree limb and hang, or “bear bag” my food, brush my teeth, probably write in my journal, and then go to bed. Usually asleep before 9:30 pm. All to be rested enough to wake up with the sun and walk 15 – 2? miles the next day.
Now Doesn’t that sound fun?
Some days, I actually enjoy eating and get a pleasant surprise in the form of “Trail Magic”, Badger did a great article on Trail Magic here, but in short Trail Magic is when non-hikers, or day hikers, decide to “help” thru-hikers, like myself, by providing us with special gifts that we can’t or have trouble, packing on our backs (like a hot meal or cold beverage).
If you still want to join me for “a hike”, Cool, but you’ll need equipment. Everyone on the trail needs:
- a pack & pack cover (rain is common)
- stuff sack (for clothes and food)
- sturdy shoes/boots
- sleeping bag
- trekking poles (trust me they help)
- tent (I only have a 1 person, unless you want to cowboy)
- headlamp (to see and hike at night)
Not to mention specific dates, if you tell me specifically when I can give you a best guess (within 40 miles) of where I will be.
If “hiking” with me seems like alittle more investment than you would like to make, there are a few other options. I won’t zero (take the day completely off)… well depends on who you are… but I (probably) won’t zero multiple days for anyone. So here are your options;
You could provide Trail Magic (no matter what if you come and see me I will request that you provide Trail Magic), we could arrange for a place to meet, you can provide Trail Magic, and we could spend the night in a nearby town, or stay on the trail, do low miles, and camp out at night.
or we could Aqua Blaze, some places on the trail run parallel to rivers, some people rent canoes and coolers, do lower 6 – 10 miles, while floating a cooler behind them. I want to try this, so if you’re down, let me know.
Either way if you still want to join the adventure and visit, let me know when and we can figure something out. But for entrance into the AT Community, I will require some form of Trail Magic. It’ll be worth it, you’ll be able to meet the most amount of people, who will love you and talk of your generosity for ages for the cost of about 2 pizzas and a case of soda and beer.
So hit me up with specific dates and I can’t wait to introduce you to my new world.
P.S. I am still looking for a ride to and from Bonnaroo , and I will zero for as long as needed if you can hook that up.