Monthly Archives: November 2011

Announcing a challenge!

Happy Thanksgiving! The weekend is drawing to a close and its almost time to head back to work. It’s going to be hard to get work done over the next few months knowing that my start date is less than 4 months away. I already find my mind wandering. We’ve had a spate of good weather lately, and when I walk into work on a morning perfect for hiking it is hard not to think about the trail and how great it would be to be starting now. Even when we get a cold rain, it’s hard not to wonder whether March and April will be rainy this year in the south. With all these unseasonably warm temperatures, I’ve started hoping we’ll have a few less sub-freezing nights at the beginning of the trail.

The key to maintaining focus for the next few months is to set some intermediate goals, both for work and for getting ready for the hike. At work I have to start transitioning my responsibilities to other people while completing a few more projects before I leave. As for the hike, I have plenty of prep to do in terms of gear, logistics, travel, etc. But I’ve also set a goal of raising $16,000 for Delta Society during my hike, and so far I have raised exactly $0. Part of that is because I’ve only recently started letting people know I’ll be going on the hike, so they haven’t had time to donate. I’m sure others are waiting until I start the trail or finish it, but I’d much rather complete the goal early, and that’s where the challenge comes in.

Introducing the 3 month pre-hike challenge! I have had the same haircut, granted with varying lengths and dwindling levels of fullness (darn you genetics!) almost my entire life. Unless you knew me when I was in elementary school and witnessed brief phases of crew cuts and spikes, you have never known me with different hair. Nobody has known me to not have ANY hair since I was a baby. Hence the challenge:

If $5000 is raised through my donation website by March 1st, I will shave my entire head as smooth as a baby’s bottom! That’s right, I’ll wax my dome so you can see your shiny reflections in it! I’ll even videotape it and I’ll post it on the blog for everyone to see! While raising money for a great cause, a fringe benefit since I don’t plan to cut my hair at all on the trail is that I’ll also be giving myself a way to measure exactly how much my hair grows between Springer and Katahdin, the start and end of the trail (bets on final length to come later!).

So get the word out! Blast those emails! Hitch up the wagons! Loose the pigeons! Fire up the telephones! Link your blogs! Post and re-post on Facebook/Twitter/Google+/etc! The link is below so you can copy-paste it to friends, co-workers, strangers, whatever it takes! Don’t let this opportunity to blind yourself with the reflection from my chrome dome pass you by!

Categories: Fundraising | Leave a comment

Am I excited?

Have you ever noticed how events in life seem to correlate? During the summer I was teaching an environmental science class at the local community college. The day after we covered air pollution I was driving on the interstate and noticed the ozone warning in effect. This morning I was thinking about watching Dan in Real Life. Instead I watched another movie, but an actress who played one of Dan’s (Steve Carell) daughters was in the movie I chose to watch.

I keep getting asked lately whether I’m excited. It’s only going to become more frequent as my start date approaches. People always ask whether you’re excited when you’re about to do something that’s rare. Weddings, retirement (I assume), a big trip. I started trying out different answers to the question, but then the other day I started reading a new trail journal. Portrait hiked the trail this year northbound. On the train on the way to Ga he had time to ponder the same question. I like his answer better than any I’ve come up with so far.

Last week Christy and I visited my dad in Georgia. While there we went to Amicalola Falls State Park, which is where the approach trail for the AT begins. The approach trail is about 8.5 miles of waterfalls and uphill to get to the top of Springer Mountain and the true AT trailhead. It is clearly designated by the visitor’s center and a giant arch.

On the corner of the visitor’s center hangs my nemesis: the scale. When thru-hikers begin they sign in at the visitor’s center and weigh their packs. My goal is to keep that pack as light as I can. There are several things that seem to drive hikers off the trail in the first few weeks, including 1) Going too fast too soon, 2) Having too much weight in your pack, and 3) Not realizing that they don’t like backpacking. The third won’t be a problem for me, as evidenced by my training hikes. The first two I know first-hand are problems because they cause injuries, but both can be controlled by not hiking too far the first few days and keeping your pack weight down.

While in the visitor’s center my dad chatted up some of the guys working there. One was a really nice older gentleman who talked about his work as a trail angel in Georgia. The other guy working there that day was younger and mentioned that the ATC over-estimates the percent of people who complete thru-hikes. Instead of 25%, he argues it is closer to 10%. I’m inclined to believe him – I think the ATC numbers include people who have finished multi-year section hikes of the trail. So let’s call it in between and say approximately 1 in 7 finish. He asked if I had been backpacking before. I said yes, but didn’t elaborate. He asked if we had hiked the approach trail yet. When I said no, he suggested that we try it so I could get an idea what it was like. His tone implied that I didn’t know what I was in for and it would kick my butt come March. I should have caught his name so I could send him a postcard from Katahdin.

We explored the waterfalls a bit. Amicalola is known for having the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi. While walking around we noticed a guy with a pack and Christy commented that it was the same pack I have. He heard her, and turned to say that it was a good pack. Turns out he was a southbounder who had just finished the trail that day. His plan now? Keep going. The Benton MacKaye Trail leads to the Pinhoti trail not far from Springer Mountain, and the Florida Trail beckons. Altogether, these trails make up the

So, am I excited? Let’s just say that as we were walking around Amicalola I felt a strong desire to throw a pack on my back and start hiking north toward Maine.

Categories: Background, Preparations | Leave a comment

Wife’s perspective

When people find out that I’m going to thru-hike the AT, there are 2 usual reactions. In order of frequency, they are:
1) Your wife is going to let you do that?
2) Your job is giving you the time off?

I’ll address the second another time, but for the first, I usually respond with 2 answers:
1) I have a wonderful wife who is excited about supporting my dream.
2) I made it a condition of us getting married.

I’m actually not joking about the second, I actually did make it a condition of us getting married. At the time I think she half-thought I was kidding; half-thought because she knew that this was something I truly did want to do someday. However part of getting married is supporting each other to accomplish your dreams, and this is one of mine. It has been for at least 11 years. When I get back it will be her turn 🙂

Now for my first answer. Christy truly is wonderful, and the key word in my usual answer is “supporting”. Christy is going to play a key role in helping me accomplish my dream. She is going to be coordinating my zero days, mailing my mail drops, meeting me periodically along the way, taking care of the dog and cat and everything else at home, and I’m sure tons of other things I can’t think of right now. My hike is also in many ways going to be her hike.

Perhaps the best way to explain it is through the words of the wife of one of this year’s thru-hikers. Rusty Bumper is one of the thru-hikers I followed on this year. He gave one entry to his wife so she could explain what she does, how she handles him being gone, and how she feels about his hike. I’ll let her tell you in her own words. Feel free to read the rest of the journal; he updated it daily and I found it to be a fun read.
Rusty Bumper

Categories: Background, Preparations | Leave a comment

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