SETTING THE PACE

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SETTING THE PACE: The smooth curves of Georgia soon gave way to the drastic and iconic gaps of southern Appalachia, where the trail can drop 1,075-feet in a matter of 1.5 miles, then immediately climb the same elevation and distance back up. Woooork-Oooout! The reward was always worth it, a revealing view spied through the nakedness of the winter woods. Cruising along these contours, I continue to develop my trail legs, and thus far, I’m pretty impressed with myself. In under four days I reached the GA/NC border, 87 miles from my start. I added an addition 6 miles that night, arriving at a very inviting shelter,  it’s floorboards all to myself. And tonight, after another long, but rewarding day, I’m hunkered down in another shelter, my companion: a white mouse looking to be optimistic on whatever he can dig his teeth in.

If I’m going to have any chance in completing the Calendar Triple Crown this year, I need to set the pace up front, and I need to push through the challenges even though it’s a demanding day of miles(Ive hiked between 23-27/day as of this week). First of all, it’s winter, so there is drastically less daylight than summer. I walk from dawn to dusk, and then some. It hasn’t yet been a week, but the rhythem of the hike is set in place, and I wake in the dark and finish in the dark via headlamp. I think of this experience, and the hike through winter on the Appalachian Trail, to be a test of endurance and a test to find comfort within the discomfort. Like coffee…it’s like a superpower! And I remind myself that each day will have more sunlight,  that the warmth of spring and summer is really not that far off, and that plenty of hikers have spent many a mile guided by the light of their headlamp.

On a different note…

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BEHEMOTH PACKS: Seriously, I thought this type of thing didn’t exist anymore. Packs the size of small refrigerators, in which a whole bunch of extra belongings are affixed to any strap not already in use to carry some unnecessary item. I met one man sitting beside a creek, a very kind man who I hope finds a way to adjust his gear and stay true to the trail on his quest to Maine. I was excited to meet another person, and was looking forward to gathering some water to make a cup of coffee for the afternoon’s miles so I sat down and chatted for a while. He was a kind man, openly honest that he had little clue of what he was doing, which, one look at his mammoth pack (and its sidekick dry bag that held his sleeping bag that he attached to his sternum strap) and you knew he was in for a makeover if he had any serious interest in making it to Maine. Looking out for the newbie, I told him to take advantage of one of the outfitter ‘s shakedowns, where they strip all the useless and heavy gear off your load and mail it home for you. I gave him my advice on a few basic matters: 1) that he did not need to carry a month’s worth of food, and that trail communities are hiker – friendly, and that hitch-hiking is really not that scary. 2) Consider getting trekking poles, as it would help with his aching knee. 3) Ditch the data book and pick up the AT Handbook. Heaps more information, and still easy to carry. 4) Chuck the extra clothing that he’ll never wear, including two pairs of swim trunks. I gave a good chuckle to that one,  especially because it’ll be at least four months before he’ll need those. Three nights ago it was 16-degrees! Trail registers on both sides of ths border left the few hikers out here freezing their newbie asses off…including me! I don’t even dare take off any baselayers most of the day. I literally hike and sleep in the same layers and then add more if it’s that cold. Like today…

FRIDAY SHOWERS: An hour after leaving camp one morning, just after taking in sunrise on top of Standing Indian Mnt., it started to rain. First, just slightly, and then a complete downpour. For seven hours straight. Fortunately it wasn’t a cold rain and with my waterproof layers on and my trekking umbrella rigged onto my backpack ‘s straps, I was able to keep my trekking poles in hand, while keeping alot of the rain off my core and face. Then, about 2:30pm, after nearly running to a shelter to warm up and brew coffee for the final 12 mile push, something magical happened. There I was, watching the sides of the shelter get hammered by rain, layering on all my hiking clothes to prepare for the cold and wet, when I decided to put in headphones and listen to music. I pushed play and just as soon as I was headed out from under the comfort and protection of the shelter, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” started to play. And instantaneously,  the rain stopped, and the afternoon sun warmed the earth. Misty clouds rose out from their hiding spots. SWEET LOVELY MAGIC, indeed.

Okay, gotta go. Slept in this morning and now I gotta cruise if I’m gonna make it to the NOC before the store closed. Looks like ALDHA is gonna be there and lots to eat. Let the hiker hunger pull me forward!

7 thoughts on “SETTING THE PACE

  1. How magical for you to experience hearing the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and then having the rain stop. Beautiful! Glad to read that you are getting so many miles in and still surviving some pretty cold temps. Good luck in NC!

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