70 miles. 48 hours. Through the snow.
What could go wrong?
Plenty! But that didn't deter these seemingly skilled blokes from making an attempt.
I (middle) have been training for almost a year with various distances and pack weight. E. (Left) is training for his first Ironman and A. (Left) has an impressive resume of adventures to his credits, including surviving off the land for four days when a hurricane destroyed his kayak/camping trip in the upstate NY Finger Lakes. We seemed to be fit and ready.
Temps were in the high teens and low 20's *F. We began hiking at 6:30pm and maintained a steady pace, keeping warm while carrying all of the needed supplies, including snowshoes. Our packs weighed anywhere from 27lbs and 35lbs. Mine was 35lbs.
It was a BEAUTIFUL night, with a bright half moon that lit the forest. I did not use a headlamp while we hiked because my eyes were adjusted and I could see the existing footprints in the snow on the path ahead.
Everything was going splendid until we reached mile marker 6. I have included the elevation map to give you an understanding of what we were contending with: elevation, weight, cold, snow. The snow was not too bad, but there was a constant 3 to 8 inches that we were trodding through.
I had been forecasting about the "F-You Hill" far in advance of this trip. It's awful and there is no recourse short of going up. What makes the experience even worse is that the path is fairly wide, steep, and long. You stare up the mountain in a straight line with no end in sight!
Sadly, before reaching the top, one of the party needed to throw in the towel.
Call it quits.
He was ready to curl up and sleep on the spot.
And I was fine with this.
For this party member, the entire trek up the mountain had ongoing trials with muscle cramps and frequent stops to catch their breath.
My question was: "What do you want to do?"
We consulted the map.
Since we were standing on a logging road, conceivably we could walk a seemingly level surface to reach civilization, but at 10:30pm where would we go from there?
I also had my two person tent that we could cram into to stay warm, even if for a few hours to rest.
Other options included pressing on for another ten miles to reach the next shelter area or backtrack two miles to the shelter we have already passed.
We opted to go back and stay the night at the shelter.
As you can imagine, we picked a shelter, made a fire, cooked some delicious food, and tried to warm up as we got through the chilly evening waiting for morning.
Since we no longer were on a schedule, we took our sweet time to get up, eat again, pack everything and head into town to get picked up.
This wasn't the legendary story that I was hoping for but I learned many valuable lessons. Firstly, when hiking with others the safety of the other members take priority. I've made that mistake before and despite the anticipated glory of completing an outrageous hike, the strain on a friendship is not worth it.
Thank you Mary for teaching me that.
Also, despite not completing the trail, at that moment, I was ready to keep pressing on. I was not bothered by the terrain, time, or temps. If it were not for the overall safety of the party, I probably could have continued the hike on my own.
Witnessing my friends needing to hang it up and acknowledging my ability to continue affirmed that I am prepared to tackle the Appalachian Trail.
I am still wary about 25 miles each day, but time will tell. The ultimate goal is reaching the end, but sub-100 days is a wonderful goal to strive toward.
Please share this project with friends and family. We are less than two weeks when I will begin the Odyssey and I look forward to sharing my experience with you.
Lastly, please consider donating from the website. 100% goes to polio eradication and you'll receive a tax receipt. Rotarians will earn their Paul Harris Fellow points and all contributions will get a 2:1 match from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.