Follow the White Blazes
I remember when Jack D., from High School, told me about working in Maine for Americorps. It seemed like a cool gig, and he talked about hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail. This last weekend, I was able to visit, ever so briefly the AT. This was my first real backpacking trip.
We went with a group of 14, and split up into two separate groups of 7. One of my main observations was the differentiation between backpacking and bicycling. I felt that backpacking was drastically easier. I don’t think that physically it was much easier, but because we were traveling with all inexperienced backpackers, we traveled at a slow rate. A VERY slow rate. My roughest calculations but us between 1-1.5 miles per hour. That means if we were backpacking for 8 hours, we wouldn’t do much more than 12 miles. The only day that we had a full day of hiking was on Saturday, and we hiked about 9 miles. It felt short to me.
Thru-hikers that we met were putting in about fifteen miles a day, which seemed like twice as much as we were doing.
I think that backpacking is really designed to be a solo, or duo task. The majority of thru-hikers of the appalachian trail are single men. I think there is something about walking in the woods for hours upon hours that is hard to do with more than one person. It’s a kind of part of the Western American dream. The idea of conquering and taking over individually, dramatically, and without any help. I don’t think this is healthy, but it’s certainly the image we have of a mountain man.
I met one thru-hiker, named Delaware Dave atop McAfee’s Knob, the most photographed spot on the AT. I took his picture with his phone, and as we were leaving, he gave me his website. To check it out, go to http://www.delawaredaveswalk.com . I didn’t get to talk to him for a long time, but at least we had two simple things in common! We were both named dave, and we both sported red bandanas!
With both backpacking and bicycling, there is something noticable: Silence. Not the lack of noise from birds, wind, or traffic, but the lack of conversation. There are hours and hours of silence, letting the mind run and think about just about everything.
In my experience, often the only time I allow myself daily personal meditation is during showers. It’s no wonder that’s when creative ideas and thoughts come into play. This weekend was a preview of what this summer will be like. And I’m not particularly worried about it.
We’ve still got some minor equipment to purchase and things like that, but really, my main priority right now is to finish the semester strong. By my calculations, this semester has been and will be my hardest semester throughout my undergrad career at Spring Arbor.
To infinity! And beyond!
Here we go!