Wednesday, April 29, 2009

AT Trip Report

A week ago, my intent for this blog was to hopefully layout a detailed description of an enjoyable hike in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. Organized several months ago, “Toothless” with ATHiking the Podcast ( was kind enough to invite me on a 7-day AT trek with a handful of other willing participants. To me, this trip was something to look forward to as being able to escape the confines of work and parenthood for more than a weekend has recently been near impossible. I also planned on testing out some new gear and hopefully learning from many of the experienced hikers who have joined Toothless on these trips twice per year for the last several years.

Unfortunately, destiny had a different plan and I ended up reaggravating an old basketball knee injury on some loose rocks which had me leaving the trail long before I planned on departing. This definitely killed my spirits and weighed heavily on my mind as I waited 11 hours for my wife to track me down and pick me up. Apparently, the trip also weighed heavily on others too as only 7 of the 18 finished the entire trek. Ultimately, everyone who finished the trip mentioned it being a pretty monumental feat as the section hiked is known as being one of the more difficult areas in Virginia with tough footing and fairly extreme elevation changes. As a result, I can’t really give a good trip report because my time on the trail was entirely too short and it wouldn’t be fair to those who persevered while I sat at home with the Honey-do list I thought I had avoided. What I can say is that I remain impressed with the plans and dedication that go into these trips and I want to ensure Toothless was well acknowledged for his efforts. I also remain very encouraged when I meet other hikers as it is always nice to see the same passion I hold to be alive and well in others of different size, shape, fitness, and background. I can think of few activities where a collective “team” mentality thrives despite the fact that hiking is a dominantly "individual" activity. I also tend to enjoy the inherent honesty of those putting forth the effort as hard work and passion seems to have a way of bringing out the goodness in people which is all too often lost in our daily lives. I also enjoyed the company of Rylan with who is as genuine and welcoming as he is on the podcasts.

I’ve attached a couple of short videos and one picture to this podcast only because the weather was definitely something worth noting on this trip. From the second the van stopped to let everyone out, it was either pouring snow, sleet, rain, hail, or gusting wind. Oddly enough, it would be in the 90’s in the same week which would break Virginia heat records on at least two days. As a resident of Virginia and it being late April, this was as shocking to me as it was for others who weren't familiar with what to expect. In many ways I enjoyed the experience of the harsh climate only because I’ve often heard thru-hikers complain of the frequently changing weather. Often these comments are discounted as trail lore intended to enrich an otherwise challenging journey. The reality is these stories are true and I can say that from experience. At one point we passed a thru-hiker who had started his journey in February. He was wearing shorts and passed us saying somewhat cheerfully but begrudgingly, “I sent my winter stuff home last week”. Simply, you never know what you’re going to get on the AT – even in late April in Virginia. Despite the weather, I was quite happy with my lightweight gear and quite surprised how functional it was overall. My Patagonia Houdini wind shirt was worn 100% of the time and provided just enough warmth and wetness protection to allow me to be quite comfortable in only a short-sleeve Ibex merino wool shirt as my base layer. I was also quite surprised that my 20 ounce quilt converted Western Mountaineering Caribou MF sleeping bag stood up to the elements without flinching in the slightest. I think those are the two pieces of gear which kept my attention the most as I needed to rely on them for their functionality without fail. To be fair, another piece of gear which was literally the difference between whether I hit the trail or stayed home was my pair of Gossamer Gear Lighttrek 4 poles. They are just incredible and amazingly lightweight. The fact that I screwed up my knee has nothing to do with them, but moreso poor footing and degrading personal fitness.

Looking forward to my next trek – plotting, planning, and healing.


Philip Werner said...

It was still worth going, right? Those early spring section hikes are always tough. We hit a rough patch on a hike in NH last weekend and me and my hiking partner had to bail early, as well. After your rehab, I'm sure you'll be out there again. Be well.

The Pilgrim said...

Hey there, Jolly Green Giant, gr8 post! Any hike is a good hike, rain or shine. They never seem to last long enough, do they? I enjoy your blog, keep it up!
aka, The Pilgrim.