Every morning when I wake up, I look at the weather forecast before getting dressed for work. On Wednesday morning, I was surprised to see a little icon with clouds and snow flakes greeting me. What the heck? I know it’s been a cold couple of weeks, but we still have over a month until it’s officially Winter. OK, I can deal with this. Just put on a dress, a heavy pair of tights, my puffer jacket, a hat, and a pair of gloves. Yeah, you don’t have to tell me; I know how to work it (in case that’s not clear, I’m joking).
I don’t have an issue with the cold as much as I have an issue with the temperature change upon entering my office building. If I wear long sleeves and long pants, I inevitably begin sweating (I mean “glowing”) the minute I step inside. I accommodate my sweat glands’ overactive imagination by wearing easily sheddable layers. Oh, and I also blast the A/C unit behind my cubicle. That’s right: in the middle of winter, it’s spewing out 65 degree air just to counter the effects of the warm, stale building air. How else am I going to enjoy a cup of hot green tea if I’m already overheating?
After work I braved the impending snow storm (oh, it was a blizzard! a blizzard, I tell you!) to go to my local REI for an evening workshop on hiking the Appalachian Trail. You may recall that I went to one last month, but I figured there might be new content since the title of the workshop was slightly different. When I arrived, I saw the same speaker and asked him if he would be covering the same topics. He said that most of it was overlap and that he wouldn’t be insulted if I ended up walking out.
I was already there, and I figured I’m always up for a refresher, especially since I had completely lost the notes I took a month ago. Seriously, Jor? I’m kicking myself over it too because, although I’m not particularly well organized, there are only so many places a few sheets of paper could hide. First lesson of the evening: always scan valuable documents and email them to yourself.
I’m glad I stayed because I’m a month further into my planning and processed the topics covered with a different perspective. For example, I’ve now purchased my tent from an REI garage sale, and I wasn’t sure if it would be a deal breaker that it already has two small holes in it. The speaker and other REI staffers not only directed me to a surprisingly inexpensive rip-stop tape to repair the holes, but also gave me advice on how to strengthen the seam of my tent. And they provided opinions on the use of a tent footprint. For the record, I’ve decided to start out without a footprint to save 5 ounces in weight – and incidentally $60. I can always change my mind if water pooling underneath the tent becomes an issue.
I also met a couple of other women that are planning to begin thru-hiking in the Spring. One woman is 20 years old and has taken this as a gap year exclusively to accomplish a thru-hike. When she shared her age, I was actually quite surprised. At 20, I also spent a year away from school – to serve in AmeriCorps, but I think of that as a completely different ball of wax. To have the confidence, especially as a woman, to set off into the woods on one’s own and to rely on one’s own instincts and skills? That was not something I gained until very recently. And even now, I try not to think about it too hard for fear that I’ll starting rocking back and forth in a fetal position.
The other woman I met is in her 50s and, at least as of Wednesday night, was not completely committed to a departure this Spring. She said she wasn’t sure she’d be ready in time. Since I made my decision to thru-hike, I’ve been pushing the “Live life now” approach to any quandary.
“Jor, should I have a baby now or wait until I’ve worked a year?”
“There’ll never be a perfect time. Do it now!”
“I want to move to Nashville, but I also want to get out of debt.”
“As long as you can pay your bills…”
“I’m not really hungry, but I want a cookie.”
…OK, that last one is not really a good example of my sound, thoughtful, intelligent, mature judgment calls as of late, but you can’t win them all.
Either way, I told her that I didn’t know a thing about hiking the A.T. two months ago, and now I’m beginning to feel confident and close to ready. Oh, and by the way, I’ve never actually spent a night in the woods outside of the context of car camping. I think I convinced her, but I guess time will tell. We three women exchanged email addresses and parted ways. With any luck, hopefully we’ll cross paths in several months (oh my gosh, the months are dwindling!).
Oh! I almost forgot. The workshop speaker once again covered the topic of clothes. Again, now that I’m a month further into planning, I have a much better idea of clothes that I have and/or may need. If you’ll recall from a previous post, I now have a couple of perfect pairs of zip-off pants. I also have a synthetic North Face puffer jacket, a long sleeve mid-weight Smartwool shirt, long underwear, a cold weather hat, ExOfficio underoos, a beanie, gloves, wool socks, hiking boots, and rain gear. When the speaker began going through the list of essentials, I still wasn’t sure that those items would be enough.
I was picturing myself walking in the rain or snow with my breath visible and bones chilled. But as he continued on, reiterating the necessary items, a new image popped into my head, one from just that morning: getting to the office and progressively shedding my gloves, hat, puffer jacket, boots, and thick tights. I eventually even resorted to tying my hair back in an attempt to cool off my neck and stop the flush from overtaking my face. Add a 30-35 pound pack to my back and an uphill climb. Best guess is that my sparse wardrobe will be more than enough.