One year ago today, I stepped foot on Springer Mountain, the Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus in Georgia, and began walking north. It feels like a lifetime ago. In the same breath, I remember everything about that first day. The blindingly white snow that lined the road en route. The waterfalls of ice on the treacherous climb up to the southern terminus. The grin plastered to my face, a byproduct of bursting with nervous energy.
The following weeks and months passed with an intensity as yet unmatched in my adult life, even the seemingly bland days. Ask me about the day that I hiked past a particular site, shelter, or even mile marker, and I’ll undoubtedly be able to conjure an anecdote or opinion or, at the very least, confirm the weather.
In contrast, the past five months have passed by in a relative blur, a well-deserved respite from such intensity. I’ve spent much of that time reflecting on my thru-hiking experience, and one aspect has noticeably faded into the background, namely the pain. I’m almost positive that my feet and ankles hurt constantly during my six months on the trail. And all the scars on my legs are evidence that the terrain really roughed me up. Emotionally I was so over the trail that I vowed to take at least a couple of years off from hiking. I’m sure of this because my journal entries have told me so.
But the funny thing is that I can’t seem to relate to that pain. It doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect. The good thing about this is that I feel energized to start another long hike, if less mountainous and half the length. The bad thing this is that I’m acting like an idiot in my attempts to pack for this newest trail.
The other day I started gathering gear that I plan to bring on the MST.
I dumped everything I could think of on my bed. Somehow, superfluous items like conditioner, deodorant, a razor, moisturizing lotion, and sunblock made it into the pile even though I ended up chucking them out of my pack last year. And, like the novice I was at this time last year, I was once again convinced that I actually need them.
Organizing isn’t my strength. I’d grab something out of my gear box and try to pile it with something related. “Sleeping bag. I think that goes with camp clothes because I’ll need them both at night. Wet wipe. That sounds like an approximate rhyme for ‘light,’ so it should go with my headlamp.” It got out of control pretty quickly.
When I couldn’t deal with that task anymore, I put all the gear away (as demonstrated below) and moved onto planning food to bring.
For this hike, I’m more or less taking my Resupply Strategy from the AT and doing the exact opposite. On the AT, I had boxes of food sent from home. This made sense because a variety of companies generously donated food, which cut costs. What I realized, though, is that, even with my gluten free diet, I could probably have gotten by on the AT mostly by resupplying in towns. After a while, I was craving the blandest of hiking foods, such as raisins, peanut butter, instant rice with cheese, and protein bars, nothing I couldn’t get along the way.
There’s also a feeling of freedom and adventure associated with resupplying ad hoc. Who knows? I may end up out of luck, eating candy bars from a gas station for a day or two. Hopefully not, but I’m excited to see what happens with this new approach.
That being said, my brain seems to be stuck in a state of risk aversion, no doubt doctored by five months of creature comforts. “Sure,” I think to myself, “I’ll resupply as I go, but I should really bring a few things from home to cut down on costs in the beginning. I mean they’re sitting in the cupboard anyway and will go to waste if I don’t use them.”
I happen to have a sizable supply of Gatorade powder (my little sister works for Pepsi). It took me a month on the AT before I realized how much better I felt when I drank Gatorade, and I don’t want to make that mistake again.
With that in mind, I packed a ziploc bag with a dozen servings. For some reason, carrying three pounds of Gatorade powder seemed reasonable. I put the bag aside and moved onto real food.
I recently bought a 26 ounce jar of almond butter. This amount usually costs like $15-20. Since I got it at Costco, I’m pretty sure I paid 79 cents or so, and it’s perfect thru-hiking food.
I also pulled aside a two-pound bag of gluten free oats, a quart-sized bag of raisins, and a 9-ounce bag of beef jerky. And I figured I’d buy a few pieces of fruit at the last minute. My pack will be heavier in the first week until I eat down some of this supply, but I’m sure the weight won’t be too challenging.
Did I mention that the first resupply point is 30 miles into this flat trail?
I’ve planned to pack like ten pounds of food to save, at best, $20. The thought of having to buy Gatorade when I have plenty at home is weighing more heavily than the potential physical struggle and foot and knee pain. Somebody, please talk some sense into me.
Recognizing the nonsense in my approach, I threw my hands up at that task too and went for a walk…
…with this guy.
This thru-hiker amnesia really is getting the better of me. Even though I can calmly acknowledge how ridiculous bringing ten pounds of food is, I’m still inclined to do it. I have problems.