Since deciding to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, it’s been a fraught couple of weeks. This post is devoted to sharing some of the fraughtness.
Most backpacking shit I currently have is fine for a three to four-day trip. But with a looming 150 consecutive days and nights on all types of terrain in all kinds of weather, a few upgrades were advisable.
The biggest item is a tent. The tunnel-shaped two-person jobbie I bought at Morrie Mages Sports in downtown Chicago in 1983 is still holding up, but the rain cover has a tendency to collect puddles, and it’s incredibly heavy in these days of lightweight options. So I sprung for a $325 Nemo Hornet I. Like many modern tents, it’s dome-shaped, and it weighs less than a bag of frozen peas (slight exaggeration). I had to special order it and haven’t yet set it up, so it remains to be seen if I can adequately squeeze my fat ass inside.
Also bought a high-tech rain poncho. Rain is one of my big miseries while hiking, and I wanted something reliable. Considering I forked over a hundred greenbacks for this piece of plastic, it better be good. Also got a rain jacket, which should offer protection plus warmth when I hit that chilly New England weather in September.
I learned that iodine in large doses can adversely affect one’s thyroid gland. Therefore, gone are the Potable Aqua iodine pills I once used to sterilize water on short section hikes. Still debating on what type of filter I should get, since there are so fricking many of them. As Jethro Tull once sang, Nothing is Easy.
Also pending are backup boots for when those jagged rocks of eastern Pennsylvania chew up my current pair. I usually wear Vasque, so I’m deciding on either Vasque Breeze AT Mid GTX or Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX. Both get stellar reviews. Don’t ask me what “Mid GTX” means, or why a ski equipment firm is in the hiking boot business.
Reading material: I decided on Marcel Proust’s seven-volume Remembrance of Things Past. If I can get partway through the second volume by the time I reach Mt. Katahdin, I’ll be happy.
There are lots of little things still to acquire, but I’m in no big rush for moleskin.
I’m not a “gear head” or fashionmonger, so I think I’ll stick with a wooden stick instead of buying a pair of flashy trekking poles. This despite my neighbor, Curt, raving about his own poles. Speaking of Curt, he’s been enormously helpful.
In my book Evergreen Dreaming I briefly mention Curt. He and his wife Brenda live behind us. I see him occasionally—usually pushing a lawnmower—on my evening runs. He’s tall, stocky, with a bushy beard and hair down to his waist. After getting out of the army, Curt (trailname: Lonewolf) solo-hiked the A.T. in 1997, then did the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) four years later.
When I told him I’d decided to literally follow in his footsteps, Curt got real excited. He was not only nice enough to share with me his ’97 hiking journal (They Spoke of Damascus), but he volunteered to get me in shape with some hikes at nearby Caesar Creek State Park and Shawnee State Forest. He’s also advising me on important matters like choosing a good trail name, how to properly wipe my rear end in the woods, and where the best trailtown bars are.
Last Sunday, Curt and I (trailname: either Greenpete, Peat Moss, Omoo, or Stinky Old Man) rose before dawn and drove up to Caesar Creek for a pleasant 13-miler. We plan to do a two-nighter at Shawnee once my Hornet arrives. The cool thing is, Curt likes to pound beer as much as I do. So when Shawnee rolls around, I’m debating whether or not to skirt park regulations and use canned Budweiser instead of rocks to weigh down my pack…with the thought that my return hike will carry less weight. On second thought, forget the debating…it’s a done deal.
That’s it for now, fellow Longitudinals. Oh yeah, if you would like to contribute to my charity, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), you can click here. Many people today suffer depression, especially since the pandemic hit, and AFSP is a great cause. I’ve already raised close to the halfway mark of my goal of $2,189, so I’m now thrashing around northern Virginia. And to those of you who have already contributed, a huge MERCI BEAUCOUP.