Saturday, September 22, 2007

Appalachian Trail Pre-Trail Journal - Entry 1

This morning I set off on my journey down the Appalachian Trail. Well, quite possibly this morning one year from now. Maybe two.

Starting this (pre-)Trail Journal at this point in time is almost pointless. Right? Then again, it seems like a perfect time to start, exactly one year (or two) to the day that I will begin the trek.

Questions: how far will you be going? From the day I start until the day I finish, I'll have hiked a minimum of 2,174 miles (3,498 kilometres) on the trail.

From where to where? From Mt. Katahdin in central Maine to Springer Mountain in Northeast Georgia. 14 states, I believe that is.

Don't hikers usually go South to North, starting in Georgia and finishing in Maine? Yup. But I don't want to do the usual, what (almost) everyone else does. Doesn't appeal to me whatsoever.

How long will it take? It could pretty easily be done in 5 months. But I think I'm gonna go rather leisurely and finish in 6 months time.

Do you think it'll be a difficult hike? Not in the least. While I've never backpacked more than about 250 miles in a single stretch, I have tackled countless days and weeks of terrain more difficult than any part of the Appalachian Trail.

6 months of hiking? Why do such a hike?
Well, first of all -- there won't be hiking each and every single day. There'll be a day off here and a day off there to kick back in a trail town and just relax. And second part of answering to why do such a hike -- Why not?! It's there. It looks like a pretty cool hike. There almost doesn't even need to be any other reason! Does there?

Is there another reason? Funny you should ask. Yes, there is another reason. I'm going to raise money for charity. To me, that is the most important reason to hike the Appalachian Trail, or any long trail in the United States. I don't believe in selfishness and to just go and hike it for you, because you want to, to see what you'll get out of the experience, well, to me that's wrong.

We live in a world of such horrible suffering across every continent. It's up to us to help our neighbor. I live on this planet called Earth and so do you, I'm assuming... and so do people in Rwanda and Romania, Ecuador and Eritrea... they are my neighbors and to not help them when I can, when they need help, that's not right. The Appalachian Trail has in the past been used not only for a good hike, but also to raise money for non-profit agencies that use every cent given to help others.

Okay, so what charity will you raise money for? I'm not exactly sure yet but I have several good ideas. I'm leaning towards hiking for maybe two or three different charities. There are literally hundreds and maybe even over a thousand that I could support... but to give just five dollars to 1,000 charities, that would be no good. Well, it probably would be good, but I'm going to narrow it down to two or three, I think. I'm leaning towards landmine removal in various countries, and famine relief and clean water for Africa. Something along those lines. It kills me to know how bad it is in so many places. We live in luxury like kings comparitively... and we, ya know, I'm talking in general here, we take everything for granted. It's so easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others while going thru life just spending every cent you make to try to enjoy yourself. Thankfully there are people who live more humble lives, people who genuinely care about helping others. Americans might give the most to charity -- but they could and should give more.

How much money that you raise will go towards paying for your hiking expenses? Ahh, good question. I'm thinking about using for myself a Grand Total of Zero Dollars and Zero Cents. To put that another way: $0.00. I will not accept one cent over that.

Why not just donate to charity the money you would spend on your hike? Another good question. Hypothetically, if I spend $2,200 out of my pocket, and at the end of the hike I know that I raised $2,201, not including money given that I will never even know about, isn't that better? Plus there's the awareness that I will raise concerning important issues that I'll be hiking for.

I'd also like to be an encouragement to others to use the A.T. (and other trails) for charitable purposes. I think that answers that. Wait a minute, almost answered. I don't want to raise just 1 dollar over what I spend on the hike. That's an absolute minimum... but truly I'm thinking more like $10,000.

Haven't you ever heard of "Hike Your Own Hike"? Won't focusing on raising money for charity take away from your hiking experience? Doesn't matter if it does because the #1 priority is not me. The #1 priority is those who can benefit from me putting one foot in front of the other. Why just walk when you can walk and help at the same time?

Alright, so you said you're leaving a year from today, September 22? How come? Crowds for one. I despise the warm weather for two. How's that? I'd like to enjoy the solitude of the trail without so many people who start their hike around the same time, from, oh, what, Feb 1st to April 1st or so. I'll get to see more of Autumn in New England. I'll have snowfalls and more crisp cool nights. And I chose September 22 because that'll be the first day of Fall and I thought I'd stretch my journey out to exactly 6 months long, lasting all of Fall and all of Winter.

You'll be on the trail for Christmas and New Year's Eve and the Super Bowl and the whole football season? And for the new shows premiering on TV each Fall??? Yup. First of all, I could care less about any TV shows that people will be watching while I'm sleeping outdoors in the woods. If there's anything good and interesting and worth watching, I'll catch it in syndication someday... maybe. I probably won't see the Super Bowl or football on Thanksgiving and I'll miss the World Series, too... but if the Mets aren't in it then no big whoop. (But if My Mets are in the playoffs in October, missing that when I'd normally watch every pitch will be a sacrifice I'll make to help others.)

No matter what, being out there will be a sacrifice in some ways. I'm more than willing to make that sacrifice in order to raise money for charity. Oh, and Christmas is too disgustingly commercialized and crazily hectic in America anyway so skipping that doesn't bother me in the least!

Why not hike this year? Why next year or maybe even two years from now? This, for me, is the worst question and answer because I don't want to think about it. My dog, who I've had since he was 10 weeks old, just recently turned 12 years old. He's got some arthritis and has slowed down a whole bunch. Sadly, he isn't the amazingly wonderfully cool hiking dog that he used to be -- so he can't go on the journey. And to leave him for more than 4 or 5 weeks at a time at this age is too much. He's obviously not like a real human child... but he islike a child in some ways in that he depends on me. For the past 12 years, Cassidy's been the most constant thing in my life. To take on the A.T. now before he passes away could put me on the trail as his life comes close to its end. One thing I personally want is to do my best to make his every single last day on Earth as spoiled and happy as can be. So, I can't do the hike until he has passed away... and it really bites thinking about it just this much.

You've got awhile to plan then? Yup. I've already started somewhat. Not a lot but a little looking at some maps, reading some Trail Journals of others. I think about the trail at least once a day.

When are you going to have another pre-Trail Journal post? Beats me but it'll be front and center when I do! Any more questions?

1 comment:

Oceanshaman said...

Damn. Looks quite enticing. Want a trail partner?

one says one number and the other another
but they were set at the same time. Hmmm...

Calvin and Hobbes in the snow -- animated