In about six weeks Bailey and I are absconding. While the anxiety and anticipation mounts, in only small doses, we, or to be more specific he, came up with another one of his really great ideas.
For those that haven’t followed this upcoming adventure from its genesis up to this point: Back in the day I had always wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, but due to circumstances and decisions it never came about. One afternoon, after completing “Confederates In The Attic“, by Tony Horwitz, I brought up what I thought to be a pretty good plan.
Bailey has a deep rooted interest in history, and we had discussed the book as I read it. Horwitz hooked up with this guy who was a grad student and “re-enactor” who played a CSA infantry soldier. While traveling the highways and byways of the South Horwitz is invited to come along on a “history hike”, where the Confederate Pretender “stealth camps” at various historic sites related to the U.S. Civil War. Some of it is completely legal, a good bit is not. Anyway, the whole idea sounded interesting to me, and it would have been fun. Sneak onto the Gettysburg Battlefield late at night, Bull Run, and even Andersonville. I heard ghosts populate the areas. So that was the original plan. Bailey found maps, and podcasts galore to help with the planning. Michelle was even down with it. The planning began, and Michelle found hotels and historic sites. We would drive these “blue highways” and when necessary Bailey and I would stealth camp while she stayed in a hotel room. Not exactly backcountry travel, but a pretty cool experience all the same.
A few weeks later, after a hunting trip, Bailey comes to me with this idea: Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Apparently he read where some girl and her father had just completed the PCT, and were currently on the AT, and to top it off they were planning on doing the Continental Divide Trail. She would be the youngest person to complete the “Triple Crown”. Bailey wants to set a record, and time was ticking. Why not? So the mock Confederate/stealth camping invasion vacation went in the toilet and we began planning an AT thru-hike. The natural progression would then be the Pacific Crest Trail and then the Continental Divide Trail. The thing is, this girl has already set the record, and Bailey will be outside the age range of “Youngest Triple Crown”. That doesn’t bother him. I can tell because he hasn’t brought it up since we started putting things together for this thru-hike. So we leave in about six weeks to head north to Katahdin. That’s all we know, but…
Lay’s Potato Chips: You can never eat just one. We are in the early stages of research for the PCT and CDT, and we do plan on doing them, but school and obligations will not allow “back to back” thru-hikes for us. We honestly want to have all these memorable adventures, and I want to do these things with my son. Strike while the iron is hot, and they are still interested, because eventually they go off to college, get married, get jobs, have kids, and then everybody gets bored.
The Mississippi River! This is what he cooked up in his brain last night. We kayak, or canoe, the length of the Mississippi River from the source to the sea. I’m down for that. Here’s why:
1. Time: It takes nowhere near the time to float and paddle down the Mississippi as it does to hike from Georgia to Maine. About the same distance, but the current helps, and most people make over 30 miles per day. It is possible to do the entire river in as little as two months. We could start at the end of May or beginning of June and he would be home in time to start high school. We would also be unburdened with having to schedule pick-up in order for him to complete the state mandated testing, like we currently are. Michelle will have to meet us in Damascus the first week or so of April in order to transport us home, we hang around here for several days, and then on the last day of testing we drive back to Damascus to pick up the trail. That will be almost two weeks of zero days.
2. Weight: You can pack real food! And you don’t have to worry about base pack weight! It all goes into the canoe or kayak. No carrying all your stuff, the river does it for you.
3. Adventure: fewer people “thru-paddle” the Mississippi than thru-hike. It’s been done, and is done every year, but only about 30 or so people do it. Check off the box that says “exclusive club”. Plus it’s not that hard. Seriously, if you can row, you can do this.
4. End point logistics: It ends in Louisiana, and if one were to get to the very end it is the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana. You can hop off in New Orleans, but it would only be a few hours longer until the final buoy. We have family and friends that live in proximity of NOLA (Gulf Shores, Alabama) so picking us up at the end wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. No need for a plane/train/bus/automobile to be financed. And who wouldn’t want to hit up New Orleans?
Some people have done this immediately following an AT thru-hike. I think we might plan it out a bit more, but this is the next one. When? I’ll get back to you on that.
New Food: Knorr Pasta Sides are the defacto food of long distance backpacking. I’m not sure if the company is aware of it’s most popular use, because I don’t recall Michelle ever having prepared any of their products for dinner. I’m not convinced anybody does. I will speculate Knorr products are probably used more by the backpacking and outdoor travel community than those who are at home. It doesn’t matter, they keep coming up with new stuff, and for that I am grateful. Here is the newest one we tried:
Bailey gave this one a shot. I went grocery shopping with Michelle and found the Knorr Rice Sides were ten for ten dollars. I grabbed all of the more obscure ones, you know? The “international” selections. Here’s the low down on the White Cheddar Queso: it needs milk, about 1/4 cup. Thats not a deal breaker on a thru-hike. Bailey prepared it in the kitchen using actual milk. I’m going to say it can be done with powdered milk in the GSI Soloist. He liked it, and came up with the resupply option of putting precooked chorizo in it. The Beef Fajita isn’t bad, and I threw some black beans in it. You could make burritos on the trail (precooked chorizo), but I think the weight cost will come back on us.
I like these, and we used a good number of them on our backcountry hunting trip this fall. It beat the hell out of Ramen, which is not one of my favorite foods. I’m not a sold out fan of the Idahoan Instant Potatoes either, but I’m aware they will be my reality for close to six months. I’m hoping Dollar General Stores along the trail are carrying these newfangled Rice Sides though.
The other item we tried was the Velveeta Shells and Cheese. We did this one yesterday, and neither of us liked it. I like my wife’s mac and cheese, which is actual mac and actual cheese. Bailey likes the Kraft boxed up version. I’m still ambiguous regarding the Kraft Box Crap and Cheese. I am not ambiguous regarding the Velveeta. I don’t like it. It is too salty, tastes like crap, and the faux cheese pack is too heavy. My opinion may change after months on the trail, but I doubt it. 46 years have gone by and I still will not eat liver or brussels sprouts. Bon Appetit, hiker trash.