Tag Archives: Northbound

More Updates

I recently went home to Michigan to visit my parents, turning a short vacation for my motorcycle club into a week-long trip.  Yes, Michigan is my home.  Maryland is my residence.  Deal.  During this trip, I was able to relax, think… and let my parents know about my plans for the trail.  Here are a few updates from the past few weeks.

Notifications

They have been made to all immediate family members, and all reactions were pretty much on par with what I had predicted they would be.  Mom freaked out, but was supportive in the end.  Dad was quiet and contemplative, but supportive.  Sister was excited about the new adventure.

I had planned to tell everyone separately, which worked out nicely.  When I got home, dad was on his way to a wedding, so mom and I went to dinner together.  (Hello, Bennigan’s Monte Cristo samich!)  She could tell I had something on my mind, so about halfway through the meal, I broke it to her.  Her response was priceless.  Staring at me with a wide-eyed, scared look on her face, she simply stated, “That was not what I thought you were going to say.”  Then we laughed.  But we discussed it a little while we finished eating, and by the end of the meal, I had her on board.  “While it’s nothing I would ever try to do, I think it’s great that you are even going to try this and I support you.  I’ll be worried out of my mind for six months, but I support you.”  Thanks, mom!

A day later, dad and I went across the state to fish for salmon in Lake Michigan with an old friend.  While the fishing was slow, a day out on the unusually calm water when I should have been in planning meetings at work was the best Monday I have ever spent!  On the ride home, I took the opportunity to tell dad.  His first words: “Cool.  So are you telling me so I can tell your mother?”  Good thought, dad, but mom would kill me if I did that.  Actually, I think his initial reaction was a bit more shocked than mom’s, but also a bit quicker at accepting.  After all, dad was my hiking partner during two Philmont treks all those years back, so he has an idea of what to expect, and having two knee replacements himself, he can somewhat understand the urgency at which this life goal needs to be met.  By the end of the day, I had his support, too.  Thanks, dad!

Not wanting to wait until August (my next visit to good ol’ NYC), I decided to simply email my sister.  She is busy with her Manhattan job and an almost-three year old with ENDLESS energy, so email has always been our form of communication, allowing us to talk when it is convenient to each of our individual schedules.  She responded back a few hours later with more excitement than I expected, but with all the support and enthusiasm I have come to expect from her.  And a dozen questions, also expected.  Love you sis!

I still need to tell the motorcycle club, and I would like to tell a few close friends before just blasting the announcement to social media.  And I cannot forget the bosses.  I know there are a lot of questions coming, as people research what this all means – let’s face it, I gave my family a lot to digest real quick.  But all in all, I will mark “notifications” as mostly completed.

(UPDATE:  When I originally wrote this post a few weeks ago, this last statement was accurate.  However, after spending this past weekend with the bike club, I realize that I have quite a few more notifications to make.  I have at least a dozen or so friends that I want to tell in person, and not via social media… so for now, “notifications” are only partially completely…)

<phew>  Now that all of THAT is done, now I can start worrying about other things.  Like sleeping bags and backpacks and footwear.  Definitely footwear.

To NOBO or To SOBO… that is the question.

I know I have discussed which direction would work out best for me before, but there are some new issues that weigh in the decision, so I need to talk it out.  Lucky you.

For whatever reason, I still have the urge to just declare I am doing a Maine to Georgia hike.  There is something that is very appealing about the solitude, the difficulty, and the later start.  Mostly the solitude, I think.

That said, I have been informed that the summer event I will be coming off trail for is not in the middle of July, but rather the end of June.  So the debate is now do I start whenever Baxter State Park opens, and only hike a week or two before leaving the trail, or do I wait until the beginning of July to start, if I chose to do a SOBO hike?

If I decide to go north, I could start earlier, and get a good chunk of the hike done before coming off the trail, making it a mini-vacation (yes, a vacation from vacation…).  If I hike north, though, I will be forced to miss the May event that I had wanted to attend.  If I can only do one event, I would choose the mid-summer one.  The club will understand.  So maybe that is a moot point.

I am still very torn on which direction to go, but ultimately, I feel that the “logical” choice now is to start early and hike north with the crowd.  I am not sure how I feel about this yet, as I tend to like my own space.  Yes, I have a tent… and plan to use it!

Gym

In an effort to increase my fitness level, and since I seem to be at a constant loss for time to get out into the woods, I have started attending the gym more frequently.  By “started”, I mean the last week or two, so please do not applaud too loudly.  But I have already noticed a difference in my knee.  It is not really a matter of strength yet, but in movability.  I think the added movement is helping to keep things loose, which in turn is making my leg feel better than it has in a while.  As a bonus, the gym has a lap pool, so every other day or so, I get in and swim some, which is great for my knee and for my cardio, not to mention negating some of the heat we have been dealing with on the East coast.

I am also looking into starting a yoga routine.  My P.T.A. suggested this before I was discharged from her facility, but I did not put much thought into it at the time.  Back then, I had a hard enough time just walking up stairs.  But now, I feel I need to take a more active approach to keeping my strength and my flexibility at top notch.  I already do some minor stretching in the morning, before getting out of bed, but I think adding yoga will help even more.  If anyone has suggestions on a good DVD or instructor in the area, please comment below and let me know!

My fortune cookie says I am doing ok!

My fortune cookie says I am doing ok!

Freaky Finances

I would be lying if I said everything was moving along completely smoothly.  In all honestly, I am having mini- (and not-so-mini-) freak out sessions about twice a week, mostly over the finances of this whole thing.  It is no secret I am not the best with money, but I see the list of items I still do not have and the quickly depleting bank account, and I worry that the funds will not be there to support this whole thing.  I am sure it is just me stressing, and money is the easiest thing to focus that stress on, but for now, it is my demon.

I have already cut back on a lot of extraneous spending, and have a few more things in mind to cut out.  And since I know I will be putting everything into a storage garage for this, I am starting to go through things to see what I can sell off.  No need to store an old tv that is large and heavy – might only get $50 for it, but then I will not have to store it.  So I am trying to work through this.  Deep breathing is important.

So things are progressing, just slower than I had expected.  I am sure when fall and winter hit, and my schedule gets a little less hectic, planning will kick into high gear.  If you have any comments, advice, or topic suggestions, please use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

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North or South

I have started some of my initial planning for my Thru Hike.  You know, how far to hike each day, where to stay, mail drop lists, and such.  But one question is still hanging out there for me – North or South?  It seems a lot of people randomly pick it, or it is based on whatever is more convenient for them.  For me, I am not sure which I would rather do.  My initial reaction is that I want to hike South, which always leads to the famous toddler response of “why?”.  Honestly, I have no real clue… it is just the direction my northern blood inspired me to pick.  So let me discuss with myself a little.  And yes, I do talk to myself… that does not mean anything.

NOBO

Source:  http://millinocketconnections.com/wp-content/uploads/Mt.Katahdin-3wr.jpg

Source: http://millinocketconnections.com/wp-content/uploads/Mt.Katahdin-3wr.jpg

The argument for going Northbound is simple – you can start sooner and (hopefully) finish sooner.  Most NOBOs tend to leave Springer in March or April.  From everything I have read, it also seems to be a little easier to go north as the terrain starts a tad simpler and gets gradually more difficult.  This would allow you to find your hiking legs while the terrain is less harsh, and be physically ready (or spent??) for the harder stuff.  I also like that your first few days or weeks are not immediately taking you deep into secluded forests, far from help, pizza and electricity.  This seems practical if you are not too sure of your backpacking skills and want that safety net to fall back on, or think you might need outfitters nearby where you can adjust, swap, or downright start over when it comes to your gear selections.  I am not sure that will be a consideration for me, though.

The negative side of this direction is that it seems to be the more popular choice – and therefore, the more crowded.  I am actually looking forward to SOME solitude on the trail, and having to fight for a spot in the shelter between two snoring bunkmates every night does not sound too appealing to me.  Also, due to Baxter State Park closing for the winter season on October 15, there is a definitive deadline, and any illness, injury, or lollygagging can wreak havoc on your plans to actually finish a Thru Hike.

SOBO

Source: http://www.cnyhiking.com/ATinGA-ApproachArch32.jpg

Source: http://www.cnyhiking.com/ATinGA-ApproachArch32.jpg

Traveling Southbound has its merits, too.  The obvious is that there is no set-in-stone deadline to finish.  Sure, weather in the southern mountains can be just as harsh, but Amicalola Falls State Park does not close its gates for the winter.  I like this flexibility.  I also somewhat like the punishing thought of having what seems to be some of the harshest and most secluded parts of the trail in the first month!  See, I told you I was insane.  As stated above, I like the somewhat more solo nature of a southbound trip, too.  What can I say, I have always been an introvert and enjoy my alone time.

The downside of heading south is that you have to wait longer to start… Baxter State Park does not open until after May 31, and patience is not one of my fortes.  Not being able to start until June or later to start might drive me crazy!  Then again, sometimes leaving at the year’s half way point may be easier than taking the middle half of the year off.  One thing about going south that I am not sure is even an issue is that it seems, as far as I can tell from my readings, the southern terminus is a bit anticlimactic, whereas northbound hikers have Mt. Katahdin as an inspirational finishing point that they can physically focus on miles ahead of reaching.  Maybe I am wrong, though, as I have never seen Springer Mountain myself.

Personal Considerations

Source:  Unknown

Source: Unknown

As is always the case, there are some personal considerations that must be taken into account, as well.  The first is my desire to attend the National Police Week event my bike club hosts every May.  I suppose I could start hiking and then get off the trail for the long weekend, if I needed to, but ultimately, I want to be in the D.C. area for Mother’s Day weekend.  I also plan to get off the trail for about a week in July, to attend the bike club’s annual rendezvous event, and I am not sure I want to get off the trail twice like that.  If I go Southbound, I would still be in town for the May event, and would then only need to get off trail for the July event.  The second consideration, which may be more of a convenience than anything else, is that it would seem easier to take a leave of absence from work starting at the half-way point of the year, instead of taking off the middle portion of the year.  However, there is also the chance I will not have a job to come back to – I have not broached that subject yet.  That brings up another possible issue, though – October, November and December tend to not be great hiring months for full-time work, at least in this area.  Maybe the New Year would be a better time to start that process.

And if I am honest with myself, there is a part of me that likes the idea of finishing atop Mt. Katahdin, with the iconic peak sign and the fabulous views offered.  It just seems to be a more highlighted finishing point, as opposed to the top of a hill surrounded by trees.

Luckily for me, I have over a year to figure this out.  It is certainly something I will have to spend some time thinking about, though.  I wonder what thought processes other Thru Hikers have had with regard to deciding which direction to go.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this, so if you have any input, please use the comment box below.

I welcome any comments or topic suggestions you may have, and as such, invite you to feel free to use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”

MapCompass16_small