Book Smarts

Cabin Living - - Contents - —Tay­lor Pool

Just do­ing the re­search may not enough to pre­pare you for the Great Out­doors holds in store.

Ihad al­ways been in­ter­ested in hik­ing the Ap­palachian Trail (or AT, as the cool kids call it). I had heard sto­ries about the amaz­ing in­ter­ac­tions peo­ple had on the trail, with both hik­ers and na­ture, and I had heard about the great per­spec­tive oth­ers had gained by hik­ing the AT. And, after a few years of putting on a lit­tle weight, hik­ing the AT seemed like a great way to get in shape, too.

So, in late May 2007, I de­cided to plan my trip to hike the AT for 40 days straight to Mas­sachusetts. (Thirty was too short in my mind.) So there I was — out of shape and with­out a clue.

I got an all-en­com­pass­ing guide to the Ap­palachian Trail from the per­spec­tive of a “through-hiker” (some­one who has hiked the trail in its en­tirety). It listed wa­ter, shel­ter and post-of­fice lo­ca­tions along the trail. I read it twice. I mapped out the sec­tion of the trail I would be hik­ing, lo­cated the shel­ter and wa­ter spots, and thought I was done.

Then came the gear pur­chases. I bought my stove, pack, boots and tent, plus some other lit­tle trin­kets for the trail that I thought I might need. I even bought $500 worth of pre-made meals and Pow­erBars. (Be­cause that’s all I would need, right?) I made boxes of food that I would mail to post of­fices to put on hold, I said goodbye to my friends and fam­ily, and I was off.

I started at Harpers Ferry, West Vir­ginia, and hiked north like a mad man. I had my iPod, with a sweet au­dio­book on, and was trekking at a very un­rea­son­able pace; be­fore I knew it, I was at my first day stop­ping point. This couldn’t be! I wasn’t sup­posed to get here in three hours! But I was.

In­stead of stop­ping, though, I fig­ured I would get to my next point and get a head start on to­mor­row. Four hours go by, and I’m al­ready past day two’s marker. I am killing this trail! I’m think­ing that I will be in Mas­sachusetts in no time. I ac­tu­ally made it to my day-three stop­ping point, when my body breaks down. I had just hiked 21 miles in one day with a 60-pound pack on. (My pack was ex­tremely heavy be­cause I packed tons of un­nec­es­sary items, like three pairs of “night time shorts,” two changes of “day clothes” and a bunch of other ran­dom things, like an iPod.)

Luck­ily, I had my cell­phone and made a call to get picked up some­where in Western Maryland. I was done. As many through-hik­ers and other AT hik­ers whom I have told this story to have said, there are many parts of my story that de­scribe how un­pre­pared I ac­tu­ally was for this trip. Some say that I was com­pletely “book ready” for the AT. But in no way, shape or form was I “trail ready.”

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