It’s been a little while since my last post. I have now messed up the weekly schedule I had been keeping. I also don’t have one big topic to cover. However I do have lots of little stuff that has been floating around in my head. So this post is going to be quite a hodge-podge.
First, although the donation contest is over and I will not be chrome-doming it at the beginning of the AT, there was over $500 raised for Delta Society! I’m pretty stoked about this, particularly since it puts me (and Miranda’s mug) at the top of the rankings on FirstGiving! However the second place fundraiser is right behind me, so I’m obviously going to have to come up with another motivating factor in order to maintain my lead. Anybody with ideas should put them in the comment section! There could be a voting contest to determine how I shave my beard at the end of the trail, or maybe a postcard sent from the next trail town to the top donor for each section of my hike! Anything is fair game, so give me your ideas and by next week I’ll announce the new contest!
I sent all my gear, food, etc to Georgia ahead of me. I want to take everything I can onto the plane as a carry-on so I needed to reduce the dimensions of my pack a bit. There are also some things I was worried about getting through airline security with. Here are some of the things I sent ahead just to be safe: stove (it self-ignites with a piezo), liquids (hand sanitzer, sunscreen, etc), 4 dehydrated meals to get me to my first resupply at Neel’s Gap, tent poles and stakes, trekking poles, Pro Bars, and several other things. On the plane I will take my pack, tent (minus poles and stakes), sleeping bag, some first aid stuff like bandaids and moleskin, my clothes, and some other miscellaneous gear that shouldn’t pose a problem with airline security.
I’m making a list of the places I want to stay or see on my hike. I only get to do this once (probably) so I want to make the most of it. Some of the places on my list so far are: Standing Bear Farm hostel, Kincora Hostel, a restaurant in Port Clinton that a co-worker has been raving about, Dartmouth, and many others.
This last Friday was really hard at work. I couldn’t concentrate for a large part of the day. I don’t know if that was because my start date is approaching or because it was a Friday. The weather outside was great too, so that could have been a part of it. We’ll see how this week goes. I still have a lot to get done before I leave, both at work and at home, but it is definitely do-able.
I’ve had a lot of last-minute expenses pop up, most of which we planned for but some we didn’t. Luckily we’ve budgeted for unexpected things, so none of this affects my trip at all. First I wanted to get my car in for an oil change before I left. It was due for one anyway and this way it would sit for several months with clean oil. I forgot that I also needed new tires, so that put a dent into the savings. We also got our legal house in order – wills, power of attorney, and advance medical directives. These are things we needed to do anyway, but with me heading out for 5 months in the woods it seemed like a good thing to get done before I left. I’m especially glad we got the power of attorney done because, should anything arise, that will give Christy what she needs to get things done in my absence. Although I’m glad we got them done, they also took a bite out of savings. And finally I pre-paid for 20 doggie daycare visits for Miranda. Those will be instrumental in maintaining Christy’s mental health while I’m gone by tiring out the puppy. We usually take her once a week, partly to keep up her socialization with other dogs, but primarily to get all her excess energy out! Nights after doggie daycare are so quiet in our house! 20 visits should last for most of the time I’m gone.
While I’m on the topic of finances, I should talk a little bit about what it takes to hike the trail for those people who will read this blog and use it in their own thru-hike planning. Depending on how you do your thru-hike (maildrops or trail resupply, gourmet meals or ramen, gear choices, at-home expenses, etc) will change a lot about how much it costs you to do a thru-hike, so before I get too far into this let me caveat by saying I’m doing a fairway/ballpark estimate here.
The first thing to consider is that you won’t be working for about 6 months so there is an opportunity cost to hiking the trail – you won’t get the money you would have been paid had you stayed and worked. Second are gear costs. You can figure somewhere around $200-$300 each for a pack, sleeping bag, and tent if you don’t have them already or want to upgrade to a stronger/lighter design. Then you have other miscellaneous gear that could easily add up to about $1000 by itself (trekking poles, clothes, shoes, pack towel, stove, cook pot, etc). If you’re an experienced backpacker who already has this gear then your gear expense may be trivial. You’ll probably need to replace your shoes a couple times along the way, but your other gear should be ok. If you’re not experienced and you’re starting completely from scratch I recommend you budget at least $1000 and probably more like $2000. Of course there are ways to get your gear cheap – buy used or off-brand, DIY gear, no-cook meals (no stove/pot needed), etc. I won’t get into all the options here. Suffice it to say that gear can be expensive and you should budget some money for it. After you have the gear you should think about on-trail expenses (food, hostels, etc). The rule of thumb when I started considering this adventure 10 years ago was to budget $1/mile of trail. 10 years later I haven’t seen an updated figure, but would expect that may have risen due to inflation. If you budget about $3000 for the on-trail expenses I think you should be close. Finally are at-home costs while you’re gone. If you’re a graduating college student these might be small, especially if you put all your stuff in your parents’ garage for 6 months. If you’re married with kids, they will be larger. Some of the costs you might want to consider are housing (rent/mortgage), insurance (home, medical, life), loan payments, bills (electricity, water, etc), groceries for anyone at home, taxes (income, property), and travel expenses if anyone will be coming to visit you on the trail. All-told, between the amount of money you miss out on in salary and the amount you spend on the trail and at home, you can figure back-of-the-envelope that you’ll have almost a year’s worth of salary less in net worth at the end of this whole thing than you would have had had you stayed home and worked. If you can stomach that, then it might be worth pursuing.
One more week of work left. I have a bunch of lunches planned with co-workers and a dinner or two with friends this week. I was asked this weekend what my last meal will be before I start my hike. I’m not sure. My friend thought I would pick steak, but I may opt for pasta instead. I’m not sure it matters because I’ll still get town food along the way. Either way we agreed that the best thing about hiking on the AT might be that you get to eat everything you want and STILL lose weight while doing it. Also on the topic of food, can hiker hunger begin before you set foot on the trail? I think my gluttony has been increasing the last week or so, probably in anticipation of the aforementioned ability to eat everything in sight without consequences.
One week from tomorrow I fly to Georgia, and one week from Wednesday I start walking.