Appalachian Trail (AT) Happiness: Looking Like a Greenhorn
There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more. ~ Lord Byron
As I’ve mentioned previously I have undertaken planning to do a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). My hope is that I will walk all 2,200 miles of the AT from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Katahdin, Maine starting in late February or early March, 2015. This is my trail journal where I hope to take you from my decision to do this, through my preparation and then notes from the trail and hopefully all the way to Maine. All of this in my journey and process to live happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane
So although I’m no means a novice hiker, I’ve done long hikes in Europe and Asia, I’ve hiked all over North America and even in the Amazon, I’ve never quite done anything like an Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike. On some of my longer hikes they’ve been supported, think Sherpas and yaks. Some have had the opportunity to sleep indoors most nights, maybe not fancy, but damnit four walls, a door and a platform are great when it’s sub-zero outside. I’ve done more than my fair share of camping, but the challenge of the AT is that all of the challenges are rolled into one.
This will be long distance walking, there will not be any support to carry a load, and except for zero days there will be no four-walled, platformed sleeping option. So of course that means camping nearly every night, I’ll probably spend some nights in the trail shelters, you’re actually required to in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
I’ll be bringing a camping hammock instead of tent, it was a decision I weighed for a time, sleeping is far more comfortable in a hammock, however the tent would be lighter and warmer. In the early days of the hike, nights will be cold and it’s tough to keep a hammock warm without carrying extra weight. I believe I have a solution that will suffice, the real test will be sleeping outside in New York one night this week, it’s been a cold winter and I shouldn’t see anything worse on the trail than I will in the New York woods right now.
I’m also bringing the hammock because at some level I’m somewhat anti-social and looking forward to the solitude the trail will afford me. I like people, scratch that, I like long-distance walkers. They have a tendency to be kinder folks with a great attitude on life. So I’m sure I’ll meet more than a fair share of good people and some I may even spend some time with on the trail. But I’ll be happy to avoid crowded shelters most of the time, and always happy to avoid mice, which annoy me to no end.
So putting all of this together, the AT will be in many ways a very new and exciting experience. When this journey starts, I am not likely to look like a very experienced hiker, first time out with my hammock set up (test runs are great, but nothing like the real thing and setting up in the wind and rain), newer cooking system and just the full routine of the trail. Initially I’m sure my PCT bear bag technique will leave something to be desired in its early day’s execution. My Tykek ground cloth is going to crinkle loudly, and until I get a few more nights under my belt there is always the potential embarrassing flip over event in the hammock. I had one the other day testing out my set up.
Now I know I will not be alone in looking a little green at the beginning of this hike. There will be people with far less experience than I have when they start out. There will inevitably be people who have made the mistake of never doing their full set up until their first night on the trail. So I’m sure I’ll be far from the most inept camper out there, but there’s something especially pointed about having other eyes on you when you’re feeling less than confident and things are going wrong. The most important thing to remember at those moments is to dissolve your ego, literally laugh out loud at yourself and be willing to swallow your pride and ask for help if you need it.
Or, be setting up alone off the trail in your hammock where no one can judge you and you can laugh at yourself as much as you need to until you get it right. So if it’s late in the day and your hiking up the Appalachian Trail and you hear booming laughter coming from a few hundred yards off the trail, feel free to shout a hello and come over and have a cup of cocoa with me. That way we can both have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane