Less than a week away and other concerns.

I’m really glad I took this detour to Minot, ND to visit with my mom and stepdad before setting off for Atlanta and the Appalachian Trail, now less than a week away.

 

Ranch in Minot, ND as seen from my mom and stepdad’s backyard.
 
A week or so ago, I lamented the seemingly unending list of tasks that must be accomplished before I left Seattle – and for the most part, I’ve been eventually able to cross them off the list. I’m exhausted.

Over the past two weeks, I took an amazing trip around the Olympic Peninsula to say goodbye to the beautiful state of Washington (and a very dear friend). I worked out a nutrition plan to determine my caloric needs while hiking. I carefully packed away all my possessions and moved them into a storage unit. I spent too much time buying last-minute necessities from REI, Patagonia, North Face. I went to five different Walgreen’s over multiple days to stock up on cheap beef jerky and almonds for my mail drops. I worked a full schedule at Elliott’s until the very end. I handed over the keys to my apartment. And the whole time, I kept finding time to say goodbye to some of the important people I’ve met while living in Seattle. And then, quite literally, I hopped on a plane for Minot.

 

Ruby Beach is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
 
I really haven’t had an opportunity to just sit, rest or really even think. It’s been go-go-go for some time now. So I’m thankful the folks have gone to bed and I’ve got a few minutes to check in here – and then tomorrow I fly from Minot to Minneapolis to Indianapolis to Atlanta before meeting up with all my old friends back home for dinner. I’m excited to go to Indianapolis. I really hope the 46 minutes I spend there treat me well.

Hopefully, when I’m not running from gate to gate tomorrow, I’ll be able to finish my gear list. It’s gotten quite long indeed. But everything fits in my pack with room to spare. This morning, I hopped on a scale to see how much my pack weighs (base weight only, so no food or water). It’s clocking in right at 25 pounds. I’ve read of folks going lighter, and I’m sure I could too (and probably will). But for now, and considering all the technology I’m bringing to keep up with this site, that weight will have to do. Just take it from me – I’m ready to go and I’m carrying some pretty cool stuff.

It’s been very hard saying goodbye to Seattle, if even temporarily. I’m sure it’ll be hard saying goodbye to my folks tomorrow as well as to all my friends and family in Atlanta over the upcoming week. It’s tough to just walk away like that. I suppose that nervousness I felt last week has given way to the very real acknowledgement that this thing is happening soon. I think I’m just anxious to make this idea of living and hiking on mountains my “new normal”. But again, those excited feelings don’t come without a pile of bittersweet goodbyes and a tinge of regret.

Over the next few days, when I’m not barbecuing or just regularly stuffing my face (gotta put on some pounds), I’ll be finalizing my mail drops and purchasing the few remaining bits of gear (knife, mace, fuel) that I didn’t want to travel with.

That brings up a good point. I suppose I should probably tackle the two questions I’m most frequently asked (besides Why?):

First, what about bears? Am I afraid of bears? Will bears eat my food? Will bears eat me?

Bears. It’s funny. I didn’t think about bears at all until folks started asking me about them. From what I can gather from past thru-hiking journals and online AT resources, I really don’t have to worry about bears. There is such a thing as “bear safety”, as ridiculous as that may sound. But I trust it.

Apparently the point is to not smell like food or act like an idiot. To combat these, I will hang my food every night and use my zoom lens. A titanium cup hangs from my pack and makes enough racket to alert bears to my presence. If I accidentally surprise a bear, I’m supposed to slowly back up and speak to it with an authoritative voice, even if it bluffs a charge at me. If all else fails, I’ll have the aforementioned knife and mace. I’m resourceful.

Which brings me to the second most-asked question: Are you carrying a gun? What about murderers and thieves on the trail?

Here’s the deal – I’m from Atlanta and I’ve been mugged. Would carrying my pistol then have prevented my mugging? Hell no! The dude jumped out and surprised me. I would have been caught with my pants down and could have paid the ultimate price. The same logic works on the trail. When I was mugged, I did have a gun at home and that didn’t help. Likewise, if I’m carrying on the trail, any piece would have to be carefully stowed away deep in my pack to keep it dry – if I need it in a pinch, I won’t be able to get to it.

And I’m not carrying a sidearm – I actually might want to meet like-minded individuals during this hike and visibly packing heat wouldn’t attract the kind of attention I’m looking for.

Caution is the key word. I generally know a con when I see one – again, I’m from Atlanta. And if all else fails, I’ll have the aforementioned knife and mace. I’m resourceful.

I’ve done my research and hope to act accordingly, to the best one can assume they’d act if they’ve read as much as I have anyway.

And there’s been many other questions – hopefully I’ll get a chance to ramble out some answers between eating, shopping and packing in the coming days. It’s late and I’ve got three planes to catch tomorrow. ‘Til next time.

Here we go.

After a few iterations, I’ve decided to get this website started again. In less than two weeks, I’ll be leaving Seattle to attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

 

A year ago, I decided to do this thing. It meant giving up on what I perceived to be a dead-end career in PR and refocusing my energy on what I hope will be a life-changing experience. It meant going back to waiting tables full-time and then some. It meant moving to smaller apartments. It meant saving my ass off and training just as hard.

 

I think I’m ready to go. The 2016 AT is 2,189.1 miles long, stretching from Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. I’m hoping to kick this thing off on Wed, March 9 and finish in mid-August, five months later.

 

Starting next week, everything I own will go into a storage unit. Mail will be forwarded and bills will go on auto-pay. I saved enough to ensure I can attempt a thru-hike without breaking the bank at all. Barring minor purchases, I’m fully geared up, tip to tail.

 

It’s my intention to use this website to chronicle the whole thing. I purchased a Zagg foldable Bluetooth keyboard to turn my iPhone into a makeshift word processor. To power both, I bought a Ravpower 26800mAh external battery – it’ll charge my phone about 10 times before needing a recharge itself. I’m also bringing my Sony NEX-5T digital camera with a standard 16-50 lens and a 55-210 zoom, with extra rechargeable batteries. I’ve tested the whole thing out and should have no problem using the Sony app to upload photos and the WordPress app to update this blog – if I can get a cell signal, that is.

 

It’s my goal to provide daily updates – mileage, diet, elevation and all the other technical stuff that comes with backpacking in the Appalachians. I admit, it’s a major commitment. But it’s been done before, hundreds of times. I’ve followed sites like trailjournals.com for years just to read what it’s like to backpack one of America’s long trails.

 

Hiking the AT is a childhood dream come true – one that is now occupied with some very adult concerns. While I hesitate to set any sort of expectations regarding personal growth or whatever, I do remind myself that the simple act of hiking and camping on mountains is a good thing for the mind, body and soul.

 

Currently, I’m doing well. I’m excited and nervous at the same time – there’s a lot left to do here in Seattle before I leave. I don’t foresee updating this thing daily until I start the hike – I will add a “Gear” section soon.

 

I do want to say thank you to my family and friends for all the encouragement and support I’ve received lately. I’ve been asked some really great questions – mostly about bears. I’ve made a lot of really great friends here in Seattle, both at the 5 Spot and Elliott’s. I’ve fostered some close relationships with some truly amazing people. A year ago, I didn’t expect to be attached to so many when I left.

 

I am looking forward to spending some quality time with my mother and stepfather in Minot, ND before flying to Atlanta to see my father, sister, grandmother and the rest of my family and friends. And then I’m off.

 

It’s just right around the corner. I’ll do my best to update before I start – no promises. Thanks friendos.