Hiccup

After returning from a weekend with the grandkids (The ATC post) and being sneezed on the entire time, I got sick. And I’ve stayed sick for the past three + weeks. Okay, maybe not entirely the fault of the grandkids, but certainly a contributing factor. From sniffles, to laryngitis, to a full blown sinus infection, every time I thought I was getting better, it was a hoax.

Stella
Stella, the latest Lipnickey canine.

One practice hike I took early on when this annoyance was just getting started probably didn’t help. I loaded up with nearly a full pack (everything excepting toiletries) and went out for 10 miles. Although the terrain was mostly flat, the footing wasn’t. With my pack weight at 31 pounds, I was pleased at my 3 mile per hour pace. And, Stella my trusty companion met a horse for the first time along the way. Bonus! The euphoria ended quickly as the next day I hit a wall.

I finally went to the doctor and am now on antibiotics. I lost three weeks of prep and conditioning. Hoping the antibiotics kick in quickly and I can get some miles in before it’s time to leave. I haven’t been this sick in years. Figures. If I don’t get well soon, the trip could be jeopardy. If the site disappears, you’ll know the outcome!

The ATC

On Saturday January 30th, my son Chris, my daughter-in-law Jenny, and myself took a drive from my son’s house in Middletown, MD to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), located in Harpers Ferry, WV. The building is a mere .2 miles off the AT.

ATC

There were a number of interesting items on display, but to me, the most incredible was the photo history of every aspiring thru hiker that has taken the slight detour to visit. Stop in to the ATC, get your picture taken and you’re deposited into a photo album. Also listed are some vitals like your start date, trail name and date of the picture.

I don’t remember exactly when the tradition started, 1970, 1971, but needless to say, there are many, many photo albums. The first album holds about two years of hikers, and as you might imagine, one album per year for a steady period and then the trend reverses, with multiple albums to hold the hikers for a single year. I expect this trend to continue.

It’s a great repository, and during our visit, someone who had thru hiked a few years earlier, brought his girlfriend in to view the photographic evidence. Classic stuff. I hope to replicate that activity, bring the grandkids in, and show them when I could still walk!

The Boardwalk

As my plans took shape, I realized I should get a better idea about what I was getting myself into. So naturally, I found the flattest, simplest section of the AT I could find, the Pochuck Boardwalk segment in Sussex County, NJ.

Diane and I headed up there on December 13 on what turned out to be one of those ridiculously warm days we’ve been experiencing. The boardwalk is spectacular. It is about one mile in length and winds through fields and marshland. Associated with the boardwalk is a 110 foot suspension bridge. I went so far as to post on FaceBook that the Pochuck Boardwalk is the nicest boardwalk in New Jersey. And, it doesn’t even have skee ball! Of course, some of my friends in south Jersey begged to differ. They simply don’t know what they’re missing.

Pochuck BoardwalkPochuck Suspension Bridge

We hiked for about eight miles that day. It was great. I got to trial a few pieces of equipment so very good from that perspective. Given the ideal conditions, we saw lots of other people out enjoying the sites. I have to say though, the amount of garbage we saw on that particular section of the trail was depressing. Come on people, it’s pretty simple really, clean up after your dog and pick up your trash!

If all goes well, I should be back in the area at the end of July. I can imagine with different colors and vegetation growth it will look completely different. I can’t wait!

Planting the Seed(s)

I first started hiking and camping with my brother Lou in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. We spent some time in the Catskills, the Adirondacks and the Whites.

On Algonquin
On Algonquin

The majority of our forays were in winter. When people asked why, the response was, no bugs and no people! Or, maybe the inadequate heating system in our bedroom better acclimated us to the colder environs. Who know!

For those who hail from or are familiar with the Binghamton area in the time period noted above, who can forget the Eureka annual tent sale and the Nippenose Gamblers Sales! That’s right, find a tent (a Timberline no less) with a misplaced glue line and save 50%!

Then came the kids, and all of those associated activities. Although we did do some car camping, the majority of available free time was spent at dance recitals, school activities and sporting events.

In 1998 Bill Bryson released A Walk in the Woods. A terrific read from any number of perspectives, it definitely rekindled the memories of hiking, camping and being out in the woods. Should an attempted thru hike of the Appalachian Trail be added to the bucket list?

It took Robert Redford many years to finally bring an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s book to the big screen. Since we both had enjoyed the book immensely (and Diane is a huge Robert Redford fan) when the film finally arrived, Diane and I had no choice but to head to the local theater.

It was on the way home from the movie, we’re driving along, talking about the film, when Diane goes, you know, if you don’t find a job by April, why don’t you attempt a thru of the Appalachian Trail? I know you always thought about it and the window on your ability to actually complete it is closing.

Although that last comment stung a little bit (the truth is like that sometimes) it was a gracious gesture on her part, and the thought took hold.