Hiking again

I have finally been able to get out and hike. With moving, working, and staying at friends and family’s homes I didn’t have any time to hike but last week I got out there and I feel much more confident now. I overdid it a little bit and hiked pretty hard on Friday and Saturday but it’s probably good for me.

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Mt. Defiance – photo by Severt Lawyer

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Angel’s Rest – via Wahkeena Falls

9 1/2 days until I hit the trail. I am not feeling nervous about starting the trail, I just hope I can tie up all the loose ends before I leave. I have to get my health insurance taken care of, finalize my gear, and a few other small tasks that seem to be adding up.

Whatever concerns I still have, I am still super excited to get out there and hike. I can’t wait to wake up in my hammock and only have to think about how many miles I want to do that particular day.

 

I’m Homeless

I finally finished moving out of my apartment. I underestimated the amount of useless shit that I have and it took about 4 days longer than expected. Every time I move I always say that I’ll never do it again. The difference this time is I did not move from one place to another. Maybe I should say I will never move IN to another place. With the help from my friends and family I am not paying to store my stuff in a storage unit, which feels really good.

I went back last night to pick up one final load of my things and the new tenant had partially moved in. It’s kind of like seeing an ex with their new boyfriend – it felt awkward. I will miss my old apartment and neighborhood but my excitement about what is to come overshadows that.

My final day of work is this Friday and then I will have a birthday/(going away temporarily) party on Saturday. After that I will wake up jobless and homeless with plenty still to prepare. One thing I have not been doing is hiking. We got hit with a snowstorm here in Portland so at least I was able to walk around in the foot deep snow with my gear to test my shoes/socks/gaiters setup and I have to say I am pretty happy with it.

Starting Sunday I will have plenty of time to hike and backpack. If I was smart I would sleep outside every night until I leave in March.

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January 18th – Mt. Hood – low of 22 degrees previous night.

Notice given

Today I gave my 2 week notice at work. My last day will be February 14th.

A Confession

I have never gone backpacking for more than one night.

Once I am done with work I will have a lot of opportunities for multi-day trips but as of now I don’t have a lot of experience. I am not worried about this fact but I just thought it was interesting since I will be going from 1 night to 6 months soon.

Over the summer my friend and I planned for a 2 night trip but forest fires and thunderstorms forced us to cancel. Then, this past holiday break I got the flu and was not able to get out.

I will blog about my experience after my first multi-night backpacking trip. Hopefully that will be before March 8th.

Things I worry about

I am pretty confident in my physical ability and to some extent, my mental ability to hike the trail. I do however have a few worries.

For one, I am concerned that I am going to get injured in some freak accident before March. A couple weeks ago I was walking to work and crossing a 4 way stop and a car ran the stop sign. I stopped abruptly and as my momentum was pushing me forward the car past inches in front of me. I also avoid playing basketball just because I have a fear that I am going to roll an ankle. I go to a gym with a nice basketball court and I will sometimes go shoot free throws but I try to avoid much more than that.

Along the same lines of an injury I am worried that I may have a financial surprise and be forced to dip into my AT savings. I am ahead of budget as of now so I have been spending a little bit more on my gear than I had planned – I hope I don’t regret it.

I still have a lot of logistics to take care of before leaving March 5th. While this is a major concern, after I quit my job I will have 2 ½ weeks to get everything in order.

I am looking forward to just having trail worries not real life worries.

Sacrifices

Spoiler alert: I am not sacrificing much

I have read many books and trail journals of AT thru-hikers who have had to sacrifice a lot. Most even have to plan years ahead of time to accommodate their career and family.

I feel that I am in a unique situation that I am able to do this. My life won’t be impacted that much by taking off 6 or so months. There are only two things that I am a little apprehensive about.

One is my apartment. Right now I am living my most favorite area I have lived in since adulthood. I live in a small neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. There is a large park 1 block west of me and some nice stores and restaurants 2 blocks east of me. There is a bike path less than a half mile away and a short hiking trail even closer. Portland has some of the lowest vacancy rates in the nation so it would be difficult to find a place when I got back, not to mention how difficult it would be in Sellwood (my neighborhood).

The other concern I have is my career. I am already having a problem with getting out of desktop support and specializing in something more challenging. If I didn’t choose to hike the AT maybe I would be in a much better place career-wise a year from now. Also, what will a future prospective employer think about me pausing my life for this length of time? The way I am justifying this is that I would probably regret not hiking the AT a year from now and that maybe a future employer will see my hike as a positive, not a negative.

It turns out my landlord is willing to work with me on sub-letting my apartment while I am gone. It will be hard to find someone to fit this role but at least there is hope in keeping my place.

I am also quite confident in finding at least temporary work when I get off the trail. Besides, who knows what my desires will be when I get back? Maybe I’ll want to find temporary employment again and then do something similar the following summer.

There are of course other obvious people and things I will miss while I’m gone. I will miss the majority of the Portland Timbers season to which I have 2 season tickets for. I will miss my friends and family. And I will miss Oregon. Compared to others planning to thru-hike the AT I don’t think I have much to worry about.

Why?

I have a few reasons for wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). For one, I would like to lead a less sedentary life and be more willing to get out of the house and do stuff. Another is that I want to make up for lost time; a year ago I had surgery for a severe hernia that affected my social and physical activities for about 8 plus years. It is still embarrassing to admit that (I will detail this in an upcoming post). I also want to have an attainable life goal, while having time to think about my future. These are some of my reasons for wanting to spend half a year out on the trail in 2014.

A year ago I wouldn’t have even considered doing this. So, how did I come to make this decision?

Around March my Dad told me that he won Mt. Whitney lottery for 2013. He then asked if I wanted to join him (he had two permits). At first I dismissed the idea, thinking I am not experienced enough. Besides, even if I was, I didn’t have time to get in shape. I halfheartedly told my dad that I would do a couple of hikes to see how I feel. I ended up not hiking for about 6 weeks. Springtime came around and I started to go on a few hikes and I didn’t feel that great. Still, every weekend I would hike again and I would feel better and better. Even so, Whitney was barely a “maybe” in my mind.

My friend Jen overheard me talking about the possibility of summiting Whitney. She said that she had done it and that if I have the chance I should definitely attempt it. I don’t know why that moment pushed me over the edge, maybe it was just the simple “matter of fact” way she put it. I emailed my dad to tell him that I was in.

I started hiking every weekend, sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. I wanted to at least be physically ready for Whitney in September. I start to slowly research backpacking gear, and then I go on a few one night backpacking trips. I find Andrew Skurka’s video about backpacking gear and long distance hiking. This led me to start to read about the Appalachian Trail online. I talked about the AT at work and a coworker leant me a book called “Just Passin’ Thru” – about an owner of an outfitter right on the AT. I started to wonder if I could ever do something like that. Then I thought “why CANT I do something like that? What’s stopping me?”

I am single, have no kids, no pets, and my employment is temporary. So I dive in deeper, wanting to learn everything I can to see if it is feasible. Will I have enough money? What will I do with my car? What about my apartment?

Once I had an idea of how I would handle those logistics I make the decision and let my friends and family know. I was worried about telling people because of the psychological effect known as ‘Substitution’ – where when you tell someone your goals and get satisfaction from that, you are less likely to follow through on them.  I am very comfortable with my decision, I’m motivated to start, it’s all I can think about – I will be in Georgia in March.

BTW, I made it to the summit of Mt. Whitney. See the photo in the header for proof.

Making the decision

I have finally made the decision to thru-hike the AT next year. This blog will detail my preparation leading up to early March when I plan to start my hike and then I will update it while I am on the trail.

In my next post I will explain why I decided to do this hike and my experience with hiking/backpacking (not much).

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