Thirty days from now, I’ll be on my way up Springer Mountain in Georgia to begin hiking the Appalachian trail. 30 days. Part of me thinks I should be doing more to prepare. But all of the exercise related activities I should be doing are too far away from my cozy pile of blankets to tempt me into braving another bleak Bucharest day. Tomorrow for sure, I’ll go for a run. Yup. For sure. Besides, in 30 days I’ll have plenty of opportunities to start getting rid of my winter insulation.
Somewhere in southern Virginia, nearly two years ago, I was perfecting this underappreciated faculty for “pacing” myself. The mornings that I woke freshly showered, with a belly full of cooked food and several days of rugged trail in front of me were the worst. Fortunately, I met an equally talented “pacer” to hike with. His trail name was Paul Bunion. Together we sucked the marrow out of sections of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Tennessee, North Carolina, and southern Virginia. (You may be thinking of the tireless lumberjack Paul Bunyan, but the Paul Bunion I sketched in the image above had feet that looked like the knobby exposed roots of trees lining the trail). I’m fairly certain we were the first Trail Tourists (or at least the most dedicated). No town was too small to bypass, and we made it a point to enjoy all the comforts that town life had to offer, even if it required spending an extra day (or two). The quantity of miles we covered each hiking day weren’t nearly as important as the quality.
There were detours (for cultural reasons of course). Most were interesting hostels or scenic views within hiking distance of the Trail, but on one memorable occasion, Mr. Bunion introduced me to Bluegrass at an outdoor festival near Blacksburg, VA.
The life of a Trail Tourist wasn’t just casual strolls and sightseeing. There were quite a few of those freshly showered/full-bellied conversations about taking one more day to rest. We had a coin that we would flip – heads we stay, tails we hike. I argued that 2-out-of-3 was a more scientific means of determining our plans, but Paul was an unyielding enforcer. His resolve was impressive considering the foot pain he endured after long hiking days.
I can still see Paul Bunion resolutely shouldering his pack as I sit on the edge of my bed explaining that it might rain. I miss that.
Ahhhh… I better go for a run. I get to hike the Trail in 30 days!
(Thanks Paul for letting me share a bit of our 2014 AT hike)