Some of you know that I’m going to be leaving April 9th to return by/on Monday April 18th. If my back holds out that is lol! Some of you also know that when we decided to get Whiskey it was right after a random back injury that hasn’t ever quite healed up. Getting Whiskey helped me rehabilitate. The dog had to be walked. I had to do it. I had to get my butt up and get that crazy dog out into the world so he could burn off energy. He pulled and he pushed. He rushed and stopped suddenly. He kept me on my toes literally. My walking increased. I remember the first hike I took after hurting my back. I could have cried. It hurt but I was so happy to be in the woods and walking. I had on a back brace but by God I was in the woods! The dog certainly helped me get there and now I’m putting my back to the test by doing this long distance hike of 86 miles. It’s been hurting because of the prep work I’ve been doing. A lot of heavy lifting… the burn is constant. I can handle burn. As long as it doesn’t deteriorate into something immobilizing then I truly believe I can do this. I just don’t know if my back will hold up but I won’t know till I try and I’d rather try doing it on the AT than in our backyard, so off I go. Wish me and my back luck will you?
So, this 86 miles of the AT will be completed in 8-10 days (I gave myself wiggle room on both ends). For ease of explaining the trip to friends, family, and coworkers I’ve condensed it to “I’ll be hiking for 9 days.” Thank god for medians.
I know my blog is mostly about Whiskey and me, but this little section of it will be much less Whiskey since I’ll be hiking the trail solo. However, since my blog aims to also be about the outdoors, I’d be remiss to not blog about my experiences. I also would like to believe (mistakenly or not) that someone undertaking the same thing could learn from what I’ve written about it. I certainly frequented a ton of blogs and trail journals (fancy name for hiking blog) to see what others had said about xtopic or ytopic.
So the major theme that comes up over and over again in conversations is fear that this hike is not safe. Here’s my thoughts on it, for what it’s worth. But to be honest, and with no insult to anyone in my life- those people who’ve been concerned about safety are mostly people for whom such a hike would hold no appeal- it isn’t something they’d ever want to do for fun in other words. But those I know who would like to backpack, or do, are full steam ahead happy for me. I wonder how much the unknown just simply becomes fear, instead of potential when it isn’t something we are selves would want to do willingly? Just a thought…
Safety: There’s been a lot of concern (and one outright “don’t go, you’re an idiot”) about my safety and this undertaking.
In order to keep peoples fears at a minimum here’s what I plan to do. I have a phone and at my husbands insistence an extra battery (Doesn’t he know what those things weigh!!!!???) I will be checking at each shelter I come to at night for a signal. When I get one I will call. If I reach a shelter with no signal enough to call I will send a text. If it is not enough of a signal to text then I will turn on my phone the next day at every clear mountaintop where I might reach a signal and try to call. There might be days where I have no signal but from what I’ve read online I shouldn’t have to go more than 2 days without hitting one somewhere. My phone will be off to conserve battery. I’ve turned off all extra features on the phone to conserve battery life.
I’ve also had some Kung Fu back in the day. No seriously, I took Kung Fu lessons. And I’ve had two self defense classes. I won’t be packing but here’s the thing- I don’t intend to go all hiiiiya! on anyone because the trail is one of the safest places you can be. There have been lots of reports done on how much violence occurs on the trail versus “real life” in the places people actually live and work. Your risk factor on the trail is very very (and I mean very) low. But my philosophy on this is this- it can happen to you anywhere, anytime. Don’t live your life afraid to walk somewhere because you’re afraid of what can happen to you. You are falling prey to terror if you do that, and you’re letting that terror rule your life. Live your life, don’t hide because of fear of what ifs. My other philosophy is this- when I was a social worker I worked in some very dangerous neighborhoods. The best advice one of my teachers gave us before setting us free into these places was “act like you belong there. Like you have every right to be there. Hold your head up high and confidently blend in. No one will mess with you.” I still believe this. Be strong. Hold your head high. Be brave and believe you have every right to be there and people won’t mess with you. If it’s true for the hood it has to be true for the trail.
Okay this one could definitely be up under “safety” but I’m going to address it separately. I’m going alone only in the sense that I haven’t met who I’ll be hiking with yet. But from February through the beginning of May 2500+ hikers will start out in Georgia to thru hike the trail. This doesn’t even include any section hikers or spring break hiking enthusiasts. So I bet I will be on the trail approximately 20 minutes before I meet someone I’ll no doubt see (and see several someones) for the next 9 days. A lot. If I wanted to really be alone I would not go at the busiest time of the hiking year that’s for sure! Hiking “families” tend to form up pretty fast and everyone gets to know everyone who keeps pace with them. I’ve already talked to a few women who are starting out a week before me and therefore should be on my section of the trail when I start it. So, no worries. I won’t be alone. Well, I will have enough aloneness to enjoy the trail but I won’t be alone in the way of “in the wilderness, fall into a ravine and you have to eat your own arm off to get out” type alone!
Why aren’t you taking Whiskey?
I’ll try be brief here. He’s not conditioned for such a long hike. I’m going to start him small on weekend backpacking trips. 86 miles is too far. He’s not physically up to (and neither am I) but I can stop and catch my breath when I want and I have a choice and fully understand what is happening. He may hate it after the first 20 miles but is an unwilling participant. I need to test him out and see if he loves it. I do not want to hurt my dog. Just as I could hurt an ankle or wrist, or lose toenails (done that) he can also hurt an ankle on the sharp rocks, fall and injure himself, get snake bitten, lose toenails, get his pads ripped (very likely if their pads aren’t used to it and/or started off at very low mileage with lots of off time- something I can NOT do if I want to finish on time). Just like we get blisters his pads will get hurt. You can limit the damage with hiking booties for dogs for extra padding but I haven’t bought him any to work with yet. So to sum it up- A short trip? Sure. But this long? No. It seems cruel and wrong. I want to test him first and build up.
Next time: a dream in pieces part 2, what it means to thru hike the trail and when your dream isn’t your dream any more…, and after that I’ll be blogging about what I saw, did and learned on the AT!!!!!!!!!! Then I promise it’s back to parks and trails and dog stuff on here!