In 2023, I will hike sections of the Appalachian Trail, creating videotaped presentations on cultural and natural history in each section. I’ll be documenting the preparation here, so sign up for updates as the project comes together…
I haven’t written in a couple months, partly because I devoted a full month before Election Day to get-out-the-vote efforts and partly because there hasn’t been a whole lot to say while I hashed out some details of next year’s hike.
“Next year” – that’s a couple weeks away, which means I have to pick my pace right up. I’ve made a few decisions, some of which are changes, as follows.
Schedule: Two phases instead of one
My original plan was to do my full video series during the month of May, but I kept worrying about the pace of such a schedule and the potential for hot, buggy weather and decided to split my 2023 venture into a spring segment (May) and a fall segment (September/October). So the new plan is to travel north in May and south in the fall. I’ll be headed to the trail at the end of April as planned and have bought my return train ticket for three weeks later (Amtrak roomette again).
I have the first week and a half or so sketched out, starting in Harpers Ferry and heading into Pennsylvania. After that I’ll jump up to New Jersey to see the fam. There’s still lots of TBD in the details, but I did finally sit down and do the math on some mileage and landmarks.
Physical Preparation: The good, the bad, and the weight loss
On this front, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that although I quit physical therapy and never made a follow-up doctor appointment, after spending a fair amount of time walking while at the ALDHA Gathering in October, my knee improved tremendously, even though it ached quite a bit while I was there. My body doesn’t seem to like the gym or physical therapy, as I’ve tended to emerge from both endeavors with more problems than when I started. Walking has always been the best activity for me, both for weight loss and for general fitness. The other piece of good news is that I have lost a total of 29 pounds from my highest weight. That still leaves at least another 30, but so far, so good.
The bad news is that since returning from the Gathering, I’ve done hardly any walking, and didn’t stick with my goals for overnight hikes either. I just have to get disciplined. I’m confident I will.
Gear: Literally weighing options, plus trying not to be a Boomer (even though I am)
I’m still struggling to learn to use my GoPro. I changed the settings so it automatically uploads new footage to the cloud and then couldn’t figure out “which cloud” it went to – I sat at my desk thinking I should just get “Boomer” tattooed on my forehead. I signed up for a course on Udemy that I’ve been slowly making my way through. I just need to get through the idiot phase of learning something new and then start using it as much as possible. As someone who’s addicted to learning new things, I know how this process works. I’m just letting myself feel intimidated.
Because I’ll be adding weight to my kit with the video equipment, I’ve gone back to my gear spreadsheet to see where I can shed weight. I bought an REI Magma 30 sleeping bag, which is half a pound lighter than my REI Joule 30, which had to be replaced anyway because it is shedding down at a torrential rate. (Last time I used it, I woke up in a tent full of feathers). The Magma is lighter than any bag I’ve ever owned, but because of that it doesn’t feel like it could possibly be warm. I’ll find out how warm it is if the weather actually cools down long enough for me to do a southeast Texas winter overnight hike – i.e., in the 40s overnight, in the actual woods, which occurs only a few weeks of the year.
My biggest source of excitement and amazement is the 29 oz. Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack I just bought. It’s not only amazingly lightweight. I got the 60 liter small size and it fits my 4’9” frame better than any pack I’ve ever tried. I haven’t taken it out on trail yet but just wearing it loaded around the house is a thrill.
I had already bought the new BearVault 425 about a minute after reading the company had made the new small size, so I don’t need any changes there. I may still need to take my BV450 on the AT (bought in 2017 for my planned 2018 thru-hike), but I’m hoping to get away with the smaller one because it actually fits comfortably in the Mariposa and it’s about a quarter-pound lighter than the 450.
I still can’t bring myself to buy a single wall tent or a non-freestanding tent to replace my Big Agnes Copper Spur (49 oz for the tent, rain fly, poles, stakes and stuff sack, plus 6 oz. for the footprint). I can’t bring myself to spend an outrageous sum on a single wall DCF shelter when I’m so happy with my double wall, semi-freestanding tent. I’ve lightened up two of the “big three” and although I didn’t pay full price for the new pack or the new sleeping bag (shopped a sale at Gossamer Gear and used REI points toward the bag), I’ve still dropped a few hundred bucks, plus the GoPro and accessories, so I need to stop shopping, like right now.
Next and most important: Subjects to cover
I’ll be back with more news when I get more details pinned down on the video subjects. The time is drawing so close!
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