This weekend a new movie came out about the Appalachian Trail, called “A walk in the woods”. It’s based on the book of the same name by Bill Bryson. The book is a mixture of his comedic trail adventures and some trail and natural history. The adventure part is funny and the history part is pretty depressing. Like a lot of National Geographic documentaries, it’s a mixture of, “Hey check out this beautiful stuff. By the way it’s all going to be destroyed soon.”
I knew the movie was coming out sometime this year, and it was pretty funny that a friend of mine planned an AT hike the same weekend. After all, I’ve been hiking for a couple of years now, and I’ve yet to set foot on the AT. Starting off in Virginia sounded fine to me. I wanted to start at the beginning, in Georiga. By a twist of fate and the strange facts of interstate planning, it turns out that while Springer Mountain is closer as the crow flies, you can’t get straight there. Virginia, however, is almost a straight shot up a series of four lane divided highways and interstate spurs. So It’s actually faster and easier to get to Virginia from where I live. Parts of North Carolina are even closer, but I’ve already got hikes planned for the fall around the Smokies.
Unfortunately my friends can go on a longer trip this time than me, so I looked at going a few other places, and finally decided to try and meet them while doing an out-and-back hike. I’m going to park my car, walk a certain distance, then turn around and walk back to the car, over three days, hoping to run into my friends Saturday afternoon. This means that my first AT hike is also my first “Solo” Hike.
I say that in quotes, because it’s Virginia on the AT along the Blue Ridge Parkway over Labor Day Weekend. So, I highly doubt I’ll really be totally alone at all, especially Saturday afternoon when I turn around to come back south. The AT isn’t like some other parks I have been to. I went to Gorges state park in January of 2013. Me and David walked 20 miles, and saw one other person over two days, and that was right at the end near the parking lot. The AT is much busier than that, so I’ll never truly be all alone.
But, it’s the first time for me being completely dependent on myself in the woods. When I go with a group, there’s always someone there in case the batteries crap out in my water purifier (happened first day of a three day trip), there’s a gear failure (raincoat turns out NOT to be waterproof – happened), or there’s a medical emergency (not yet, but I’m waiting). This time I’ll be parking the car, locking it up, and trekking off into the wilderness alone. I’ve come to terms with it – after all, I’m a grown man with a pack and some experience, I should be able to handle a little trip along one of the most well marked and famous trails in the US, right?
While I’m out there, I plan on hitting another milestone. I’ve gotten to 595 geocache finds. So I plan on getting 4 before getting on the trail, and finding one on an overlook called “old fart’s knob” before getting to the Blue Ridge Parkway. That will put my 600th find on the Appalachian Trail.
A few things I haven’t decided.
- Water – I have two different methods of getting and drinking water. The first is a one liter bottle and my Steripen UV purifier (with the aforementioned one-time dead battery). New batteries will provide more than enough life for this trip, a single set is good for up to 150 liters. Maybe with a backup inline filter for when I inevitably drop the damn UV end on a rock (it’s a 2″ glass bulb sticking out of a 5 inch plastic housing). My other choice is my inline filter and camelback bladder. I like the camelback, it’s easier to drink from without fighting the bottle back into the side pocket of the pack. But with the bottle at least I know how much I have had to drink, and how much is left. With the bladder, I only know I’m out when I suck air through the tube.
- Hammock – I have three now. My full-bore summer hammock by Hennessy with a mosquito net and everything. My ENO with no net or frills of any kind. Lastly my new Tie-Dye ENO copy. I’m leaning towards the Hennessy, since it has the bug net, and it’s September in Virginia. I won’t be THAT high up (between 2000-4000 feet), and it’s not that cold yet, so I’m really worried about bugs. If it was only overnight, I would take both, but three days is a while to carry the extra hammock. I’d love to start out in the open hammock and then swap if the bugs were too bad. It wouldn’t take long. But I feel I need to choose.
- Food – I like to usually make some sort of meat product the first night, but I don’t think that would be wise all alone in the woods. Bear are my principal worry, and I’d rather stay away from smelling like a freshly cooked fish or steak. I have a dried dinner thing I bought at REI, I could divide it between two nights. Or I could go with Bagels and Beef Jerky, for my “Foothills Trail Hamburger”.
By the time you read this, thanks to modern science and automatic schedules, I’ll be coming down into Daleville, so these choices will have been made and the results known. I’ll fill you in on the results. I might even get to post from the trail, since the AT has better cell coverage than places I usually go.
*Yes, I know these pictures are re-used ones from other posts. They don’t take up any more server space this way, and I don’t have any new pics to post yet.