.:: If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.--
Henry David Thoreau ::.
C & N since 1998
.:: Thursday, May 19th ::.
~ 12:24 AM ~
"...i forget what eight was for!!...."
Graduation is over. Tomorrow, I board a plane for Atlanta. Updates to this page may be rare or nonexistent. When I return, I will post more regularly. I will also have stories, observations, and photos to share. Can't wait. Check my Twitter account (@sutcliff) for any info after tonight.
Yesterday, I mailed 2 of my total 4 drop boxes. Given my veg diet, I cannot rely on campers sharing leftover hot dogs or Southern hospitality that shares Southern comfort food. However, if you have a spare waffle, I will accept. Also, I have a personal philosophy that does not deny gifts so I will probably pass anything inedible to me to a fellow hiker. I wish to have a reliable food sources until later in the trip when I can count on two major grocery stores during town stops. One is a Kroger and the other a Sav-A-Lot. Plus, my doctor wanted to make sure I was not eating too much salt. I could not agree more as my taste for salt has declined and I can taste it quite clearly. I rarely crave sweet but prefer bitter. For example, coffee (black as tar) and beer (hoppier the better). In my drop boxes, which are 10 lbs. is the the following: instant oatmeal, instant breakfast, Pop Tarts, granola, Pemmican Bars, instant rice, quinoa, instant mashed potatoes, and Fantastic Foods meals. Yes, 10 lbs. is heavy to carry and most parts of the trail away from Post Offices are uphill. This simply means I will eat the heavier items before leaving town, throw away the trash, and pack the rest.
After my slightly eventful trip to the post office that conjured images of Kafka for me, I headed to the trail. At the Post Office, I also shipped an E bay package to a buyer in Guam. I have a rule that I ship only in the US. Well, Guam is a protectorate and our postal system is connected. I can mail anything to Guam like I would to Texas with the exception of a customs form. On Saturday, I tried to use the automated self-service machine and was told I needed a customs form. I went on Monday and told the employee this: "I tried to mail this on the self-service machine but it told me I needed a customs form". He replied I did not need a customs form and then handed me a customs form. He then directed to step to the side to fill out the form so he could wait on the other customers. It took me a minute to fill out the form but it took him another 10 mins. and two customers to get back to me. Then, it went fine. But, the form/no form/form is a clear example of why people should read more Kafka. As for me, it reminds me that I really am not the crazy one.
I hiked 8.2 miles on the Lewis and Clark Trail with full 40lb. pack. I was very pleased that I cut weight and the pack stayed at my expected weight. One couple out yesterday asked if I was staying the night or just practicing. I have also seen hikers practicing on the same trail in the past as it is not an overnight area but sometimes people carry full expedition packs because there are decent elevation changes. The hike, with a 30 min. break to air my feet, took under four hours. I am ready. A clear adjustment I will have to make for the AT is to take more breaks and take off my boots & socks on those breaks.
Either today or tomorrow, I am posting a video of my drop boxes and unpacking my pack to stow in luggage for our flight.
"...I read somewhere... how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong... to measure yourself at least once...."
I dropped off Ellis to my parents today. It was difficult but it is a necessary step to my progress to make my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail a reality. I wish he could come with but I understand why he cannot. He knows what my boots mean, he gives me a look when a backpack comes out, and he actually loves hiking. I am amazed that he knows the trails as well as he does. Ellis would kill himself to keep up the pace on the AT and I would not want to see him struggle. It would be impossible to keep him clean and dry. Plus, he is too social to walk off lead, which would make him a distraction to me and a bother to fellow hikers.
With the start six days away, I am wanting to start but with that slight amount of anxiety of facing a new adventure. Can I do it? Have I bite off more than I can really chew? Will I fail? At the same time, I know I am mentally ready, in great shape, and prepared. A way that I have been calming myself is by wearing my hiking gear when running errands the last few days. For example, I wore my boots today and my sandals yesterday. It is not noticeable to others (with the exception of my mom examining my boots today) as outdoor gear is fashionable. For me, it is a pleasant reminder of what there is to come. My beard is coming in. Neale does not like the feel but likes it better as my face is thinner than the last time I gave up shaving. Plus, I have a close haircut to delay the "wild man look" that is sure to com in July.
I have spent a considerable amount of time reading and practicing for it. I must have read 10 books on hiking in under a year. From journals to how-to manuals. Multiply that by 100 for web pages and searching forums. I have good gear. It may not be the best of the current selection but it has served me well and I have taken care of it. I also made a few mods when I needed to get something to work. For example, my fleece vest did not come with a drawstring so I added one. The amount of support and interest people have expressed is overwhelming at times. I realize that for many people extended backwoods hiking conjures fear. One of the first recommendations for hiking is not to go alone. But, I do all my overnights alone. I have been more alone in Missouri than I will be during a summer trip on the AT. Also, many hiking manuals offer suggestions on how to overcome camping alone or solo in a tent with another member nearby. I never had a problem being alone and doing so looking at the stars was just a splendid light show to me. Too many people think rape is a real threat in backpacking. Second, many people have asked me if I will carry a gun. Third, people have recommendations on what to carry. They need to remember one pound on your back at home is 4 pounds on the trail. I don't have any reason to think someone would want to sexually assault me and a gun is weight I cannot spare. I will rely on my good judgment and preferred avoidance of non-hiker strangers on the trail. Avoid shelters near roads and spend very little time at road crossings. I don't plan to hitchhike or linger in towns. In reality, the biggest threat to a hiker is falling down, which I could also do (& have) at home. Also, for conditioning, I have spent the last 16 months boxing, kickboxing and doing Krav Maga. So, if push comes to shove, I can unleash needed offense with necessary defense. But, my biggest adversary will be myself, weather, and critters like mice in shelters.
Afoot and light hearted,
I take to the open road,
the world before me,
The long, brown path before me
leading wherever I choose.
“SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD”
I loaded my pack with my AT load on Friday and will weigh it tomorrow. It should be in the 40-45 pound range. For practice, I am carrying 4 days of food for an overnight. I have to bring cold weather gear as it will get to 40 degrees tomorrow night. Presently, GA is much warmer.
With it so close, I hope to rise to the challenge. I believe I will but as with all new tasks, I am curious how I will react. I look at as a new type of freedom. Not to say I feel trapped here. But, I need something different. I believe the experiences of an extended hike will bring me a new perspective here at home as well as professionally. I have been at LC since 2003 and taught an overload class load every semester including summers. My lightest teaching load was 4 online classes in 2009 and the majority of my peers do not teach summers. They think I do it for the money but it really was my desire for quality control. But, I need to let go and do summer adventures for my own health. The next few summers will be long distance hikes. Neale already asked about where the halfway point for the northern part of the AT is located (Vermont). Then, the Pacific Crest, Ozark Trail, and Central Divide.
After an investigation, we have come to the conclusion that Neale's car does not have a speed dial function.