AT day one

Well, I’m finally here… I’ve dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), and this time I’m actually doing it. I’m in Tennessee, and it’s the start of day one. Eight days on the trail is the plan, my first section hike of what I hope will be many.

My German Shepherd, Johnny Cash (Cash) will be my hiking companion. THAT was a bit of a gamble… this is his first long hike and I’m a little nervous about how he will do. We recently did a couple day hikes with his pack on, and he spent two nights in the tent with me. I am pretty confident he will be okay, although I’m worried about his paws getting sore or cut.

Johnny Cash... loaded up and ready to go!
Johnny Cash… loaded up and ready to go!

I left yesterday morning at o-dark-hundred, and it took about 14 hours to drive from Milwaukee to my brother Brendan’s house in Mountain City, TN. I kind of like long days of driving. I had a good audio book and iTunes playlist full of good driving tunes. In truth, I didn’t listen to them much… I always seem to have plenty to think about.

One of the things I thought about as I left in the pre-dawn yesterday was about how there was absolutely NO WAY all the stuff I needed to carry was going to fit into my backpack.

My trusty 45 liter Kelty pack had served me well for several 2- and 3-day backpacking trips in the last couple years, and I had no reason to think it wouldn’t work for 8 days.

Late last night my husband came into my office where I had everything out in piles. He looked around at everything, then looked at my pack. “How are you going to fit all of THIS into THAT?” I gave him a reassuring answer — something about bungee cords, I think — but my heart sank a little as I realized he was right. I had not actually tried to pack my bag with all the stuff I knew I needed to take with me. I shoved everything in big blue IKEA bags into the trunk of my car and took off this morning, trusting I’d figure out a way to make it all fit.

I decided to make a stop at the REI outfitters in Indianapolis en route to see what my options were. $185 later I walked out with a new 75-liter backpack that I knew would take me there and back. So much for hiking being a frugal vacation!

This morning I double checked my maps and coordinated logistics with Brendan. Our plan was that I would drive to my starting point today (Thursday) and hike for two days. Then we would rendezvous Saturday morning for a day hike together. I loaded up Cash’s bags with dogfood and water and got him in the car. I shoved everything in my new pack and stood up to take it to the car as well.

I could barely lift it.

For a moment my mind flashed to the book “Wild”. The protagonist, Cheryl, nicknamed her pack “Monster” because it weighed almost as much as she did. She could only get it on her back by crawling under it like a turtle and gradually working herself into a somewhat standing position.

Mine wasn’t THAT bad, but I could tell it was going to be tough going the first couple days. I questioned how necessary it was to carry my iPad and case, extra charger and extra phone. Oh, well. I could always leave them with Brendan on Saturday if I changed my mind.

Off to the trail we go!

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