We are now at the 100 day mark. Things will either come together, or be stalled for a few days, but we are in agreement. We are leaving, walking, and sleeping in the woods. Hopefully we will finish, and I have fretted enough over gear to make that happen.
We had a “cold snap”, or as WSB put it an “arctic blast”, come through the metro area. It dropped temperatures significantly. Like in the 20s, and lower. It made me come to my senses. I had to formulate a plan for that type of weather.
Luckily we are members of REI, so I had a coupon for 20% off. I bought one of those Co-Op jackets. At less than 100 dollars, and 650 fill-down, it was hard to turn down. As any successful thru-hiker will tell you (or me), clothing makes up the bulk of your insulation. I planned on spending a hefty chunk of change on a high dollar down jacket (aka Puffy Jacket) from a brand name. Something like Patagonia, or North Face. I even went over to Go-Lite since they filed Chapter 11 and are liquidating. Something stopped me. Funds. I can’t justify spending heavy amounts of cash on something I will wear intermittently.
Facts are facts. Granted, we are leaving at the beginning of March, and it will probably be cold at night, and in the morning. During the day we will be generating enough body heat to produce sweat. Not the time for a high performance down filled jacket. This thing, in all likelihood, will be worn at night, in camp. It will be an extra layer while I sleep. So I went with light, inexpensive, and middle of the road.
So what will I do if it is snowing in the GSMNP? I’ll wear the damned down jacket, and put my rain gear on over it. I’m not stupid. I have also decided that suffering is going to be mandatory. Move, and stay warm. Stop, and get cold. Procedures are what keep you safe. So I came up with a “cold weather plan”. It is probably the same one most thru-hikers use after the first week or so.
1. Put on down jacket
2. Put up tarp (if tenting/hammocking) or set up in shelter
3. Begin heating evening meal
4. Water collection
5. Once camp is set up, eat
6. Change into camp clothes (including that down jacket), put everything else in waterproof sack
7. Lay out my quilt/sleeping bag (to let it regain loft)
8. Hang out with the hippies and hiker trash until tired
That’s a cold weather plan? I looked it up on Appalachian Trials, Whiteblaze.net, and Andrew Skurka. Yep. That’s a cold weather plan.
Other things are more difficult to plan for. Like the actual hike. Where to stop at the end of the day, where to resupply. I bought a copy of AWOL’s A.T. Guide, the little green book so many AT hikers use to plan this sort of thing. The average hiker, NOBO (north bound), will make two miles an hour on the trail. With breaks, and necessary stops to gawk, this adds up to a whopping ten miles per day (average) for the first few weeks. It is uphill to be fair.
Using the AT Guide I planned out a fair proposal and showed it to Bailey. Not impressed. Maybe he wasn’t interested in it? I had little notes written out: Day 7 Muskrat Creek Shelter (mile 81). He flipped through the book, and kept it for a day. The results? We don’t need a plan. Is that a plan?
No. But so what? While it might seem ridiculous to not know the geographic location of where you will lay your head ahead of time I am learning it is not necessary. I am sure on days 1-7 we will still be in Georgia, and after that North Carolina. I am pretty sure it will rain at some point, and we will be out walking in it. I will find a new method of making Ramen palatable, and it might involve stir fry. What is it with adults? Thinking we have to know what is going down every minute of the day? That’s the first thing I’m planning on not doing.