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The last day

The living room looks like REI erupted out of the sofa. Two 15 degree down bags, tent, shoes, packs, socks, a water filter, stuff sacks, and a bunch of other crap, all crowded onto something the size of a decent surfboard.

We went out yesterday to finish up some purchases, mainly shoes for Bailey. We ended up at Going Gear, over in Smyrna. While the uninitiated would think “survivalist” when they walk in the front door, that is not the case. Go on inside, it’s okay. The guy who fitted Bailey’s shoes did an AT thru-hike in ’07, and while I have shed my anxiety over it, Bailey recently found his. The young man found several pairs of shoes and talked to him about what to expect, and he offered some nuggets of wisdom.

1. Don’t do the approach trail. If you’ve seen the falls before you can see them again later. It’s miles and miles of straight up, and you aren’t even on the AT. Bailey’s reasoning was it would be a test, to see if he was ready. The clerk said you won’t know if you are ready until you hit Neel’s Gap, thirty miles up the trail. No sense in adding eight miles of misery to end at the top of a mountain and camp for the night. Get dropped off at the top and start from there. For the record, we have climbed the “steps” to the top before, and it is a beautiful place.

2. Wait a day. If you ever think about coming off the trail, and just going home to a nice warm bed, a shower, cooked food, television, and all the comforts of modern life, just wait one day. You will change your mind.

3. If it stops being fun, stop doing it. This doesn’t negate the “wait a day” philosophy, it just illuminates it. If you find yourself miserable, and not enjoying anything on the trail, for days, or weeks, the hike is over. Go home. Seriously. You’ll only bring other people down, and make yourself wreck.

4. Avoid shelter rats. The mice that congregate within the walls of the shelters at night are notorious, but so are the shelter rats. The problem with shelter rats is that they talk. They might be college dropouts who are spending the last bit of their education finances. Maybe they saved up enough to get from Springer to Damascus, or they dropped in from somewhere else. These people are the ones who would be considered dirt bags everywhere else, but because it’s the trail they are hikers. They mooch, and sometimes steal. Some of them are there for no reason but the party, and he told us there is plenty of that. The shelter rats will fall off the trail soon after Damascus, because they are not out there for the trail. They are there for the party. After Damascus, shit gets serious. Time becomes a concern. Pennsylvania looms ahead, and then the march through New England and the high mountains. Shelter rats are not capable of physical effort, so they can’t follow. Keep moving.

5. If it gets too cold at the front end, get a room. They’re cheap.

6. Bounce Box.

7. Mail drop at Fontana, but time it right. Resupply there with the first hiker bubble can be tricky. Like most businesses it is first come first served, and if you like Nutella you may be SOL.

8. Treat it like a really fun job. Your job is to hike, and filter water, and cook ramen. You might as well sing or try to dance.

9. Buy a nice journal and write down everything. A journal you can keep, and glue pictures in.

10. Take lots and lots of pictures. Use an SD card and mail it home when it’s full. Have spares.

11. Don’t give yourself a trail name. I wrote about that, and he confirmed it. I didn’t ask him about it, he asked us and we told him we didn’t have one. Some guy called himself “The Colonel” as a trail name, but they changed it for him, to Mouseketeer. Because he bought mouse traps and surrounded his sleeping area with them in a shelter.

If you are in the Cobb County area, and are in the market for hiking and outdoor gear, do yourself a favor and visit Going Gear (in person). They are very knowledgeable and have a great selection. Many things are less expensive there than at REI. They also have Icebreaker socks. You can order online also, and their sale prices apply.

So we are done, pretty much. Just piddly crap to buy, like putting together a first aid and repair kit, some synthetic underwear, and a tyvek ground cloth for this tent. I promised videos, but so far I have failed to produce. Blame it on the rain.




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