2,168 miles. It’ll take about a week, right?

It’s hard to fathom 2,168 miles. Especially for someone who doesn’t get out of Ohio very often; I’m not sure how to establish that much distance in my mind. What am I going to say to myself that first night camping in Baxter State Park? “Well David, you have another 2,158 miles and 5 and a half months to go.” I find that to be a really significant question for myself. Even one semester of school is only 16 weeks. I figure you can’t think of the distance too much and just go for it. If you think about things like this for too long you wind up talking yourself out of it. Where’s the adventure in that?

Frodo’s journey through Middle Earth on his way to Mt. Doom is estimated to have taken somewhere between 5 and 6 months, so not too different from what I’m doing. Minus the whole being stabbed thing, getting my finger bitten off, getting kidnapped, being guided by a mutant (who would probably get his on TLC show if he lived in today’s society), hanging out with a wizard, being an ass to my best friend and just in general being a whiny little pain in the ass. Other than those things I might as well be traveling to Mt. Doom.

I think starting in Maine will be a great plus for me. I will hit the 100 mile wilderness fairly early, and if I can get through that, it will just be a huge confidence boost for the rest of the trip. Dealing with the swampy conditions, the black flies, the isolation, the non existent resupply and all the other joys the Maine wilderness will throw at me early on will make the trip all the more exciting. I imagine the weather will be pretty nice that time of year. I am pretty eager to start the trail so maybe I’m just romanticizing what Maine will be like? Either way, I think getting through the 100 mile wilderness will make the total distance seem more obtainable.

Whenever I think about my journey I start to think about all the adventures that Edward Abbey took. Traveling through the desert alone, dodging government planes, limited water threatening to kill him, and loving every minute of it. I’ve never read anything by him where he was traveling through Appalachia, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wrote a book about it. I just nab his books whenever I see them at Half Price Books.

2,168 miles. That’s a staggering number. A Purdue University study found that it takes 364 licks, on average, to get to the center of a tootsie pop. As a child I found that to be one hell of a journey. If I took one lick per mile I would go through about six tootsie pops. Give or take. I’ve never measured my tongue to know if it’s an average tongue or not. 6 tootsie pops isn’t much weight, but I’m sure my tongue would get a little raw eventually. Since I’m not even sure if I’ll have healthcare while I’m hiking, I’m going to avoid all those tootsie pop licks.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy has 587,287 words…..and if I felt like doing some math at 1 in the morning I would come up with some pointless statistic to tie it back to the 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I figure War and Peace would add a lot of weight to my pack so that’s where I’ll leave it.

The greatest show to ever exist, M*A*S*H, went for 11 seasons and 256 episodes. If I watched one episode of M*A*S*H per mile while on the trail I would miss out on a lot of cool birds and trees. Then I’d probably blindly stumble onto a bear cub and get mauled by their mother. Combine that with perhaps no healthcare and that equals to a lot of intestines the hospital will refuse to put back into me.

I have a friend who hiked the trail north to south a few years back and she said it’s all about forgetting the hiking. Don’t think about hiking, just keep moving. Once you think about hiking the distance can become overwhelming and be discouraging. It’s going to be a long hike and I not only accept it, I am completely looking forward to it. I may not be able to construct 2,168 miles in my mind, but I do know I am ready to experience every one of those miles. I think coming to this realization is important when deciding to hike the trail. We all know it’s going to be long and probably pretty tough at times, but trying to stay in a mindset that makes you look forward to each mile is key. I know that once I’m on the trail it will be different, but I’m staying upbeat about the distance.

I think that first night in Baxter State Park I’m going to say to myself “It’s going to be one hella’ walk, but the best damn walk I’ll ever take in my life.”

“A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”

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