Sunday, April 19, 2009

Appalachian Trial

This is my blog as I prepare, Lord willing, to hike the 2175 miles of the Appalachian Trail starting March 5th, 2008. Then for the next 4-5 months, I will be somewhere between Springer Mountain (the southern point) and Mount Katahdin (the northern point). The trail goes through 14 states: Georgia, N.C., Tennessee, Virginia, W. Virginia, Maryland, Penn., N.J., N.Y., Conn., Mass., Vermont, New Hampshire, and finally Maine!

Here are a few tidbits about the Appalachian Trial to chew on!

* 5 million footsteps to reach Maine
* 82,366 white blazes marking the trail (avg of one every 39 feet)
* 6,000 calories burned daily by a thru-hiker
* 265 shelters or lean-tos dotting the trail (avg of one every 9 miles)
* 12 minutes for record-holding thru-hiker to devour a half-gallon carton of ice cream at the half-gallon challenge in Penn.

Home Sweet Home

Well the Webster's dictionary defines a home as: one's place of residence. So, that means that my 1 lb. GoLite Tarp will be my home away from home for the 4-5 months on the trail.

It doesn't look all to bad and check out these perks!

1. It has 3 stable sides (as long as my tree limbs hold up)

2. So far it hasn't leaked on me yet (all though i haven't really tested it in a severe storm yet.)

3. I have a picturesque view out of my front door to take all the beautiful sights of the woods

4. I can pet any animal that may come up to my entrance way...another way to reconnect with nature!

5. And check out the square footage in that place! Man, there must be atleast 60-70 sq feet there! What am i going to do with all that room!

6. No dusting, sweeping or moping needed!

7. Finally, I can cook, eat, bathe, change clothes, do laundry and sleep all in the same spot! Now how is that for being efficient!

So as you can see, this place is well worth the dough i spent...and i didn't even have to get an adjustable rate morgage for it! I feel blessed!

Ahhh. Home Sweet Home.

The Backpacker with no name

Hello all,

Only 38 more days remaining, which seems like an eternity. To pass the time, I have been reading journals of previous AT thru-hikers. I stumbled across a journal of a man, who hiked the AT trail in 1983 (when i was 6 years old!). Since there are no TV's, books, X-Box's, Rock Band, etc... there is a lot of time to think and read the trail registers!

You may wonder what are the trail registers? Well they are your form of entertainment along the trail (like your magazines in the bathroom!). Each shelter has one, and thru-hikers sign there names if they stay there. Also you can post information on trial conditions, or you can be creative and put down stories, comic strip drawings or say hi to fellow thru-hiking friends that maybe arriving later. A thru-hiker usually stops at the shelters, takes a break and reads through the registers.

Well this gentleman, George Steffanos, came up with this ongoing story of the "Backpacker with No Name.", and placed them in the trail registers on his 1983 hike. Since it is the 25th Anniversery of his hike, I would like to share one with you.

"The Backpacker with No Name" by George Steffanos.

The midday sun beat down mercilessly on the Moreland Gap Shelter as I strolled in, leading my faithful mule. Oddly the place was full of emaciated backpackers. They watched with guarded expressions as I dropped my pack and started to prepare my lunch.

A skeletal boy edged timidly over and sat down next to me. Greedy eyes surveyed my Tang and peanut butter crackers. "Want some?" I asked.

"Oh, it is no use, Mister," he said in a curious, flat monotone. "Ramone will be the only one to feast on those crackers."

I reached my hand inside my faded, old serape, fished around in my pockets, and finally pulled out the half-smoked stump of an old cigar. "I don't know who this Ramone is, " I said. "But, nobody is enjoying this roughage but me."

Oh, you mustn't talk like that, Mister!" the boy cried. The other backpackers stared at me, fear and despair haunting their hollow eyes. Those nearest to me stood up and shuffled to the other end of the shelter. I shrugged calmly, pulled my hat brim down a little lower over my eyes, leaned back, and munched a saltine.

"I'll take the rest of those crackers, americano," said a harsh, flat voice from behind me.

I turned slowly, carefully removing the cigar stump from the corner of my mouth to spit out a stray shred of tobacco. Facing me across the shelter was the biggest, ugliest woods rat I have ever seen -- more than eight feet tall, with a huge, round beer belly. I pulled out a match and struck it against the stone of the shelter's foundation. With cool deliberation, I lit my cigar and exhaled a long, slow tendril of smoke.

"I am Ramone," he said, his lips moving a little out of sync with his words. "This is my shelter, and any food that comes into it is mine!"

I gave him my trademark dubious sneer and dropped my cigar butt down on the ground, crushing it slowly out with my boot. I picked up a saltine, calmly spread peanut butter on it, and popped it into my mouth.

"Now you die, filthy americano!" he snarled, a full half-second before his lips began to move. He lunged for his rifle.

"Mphmrmph!" I replied, spitting out cracker crumbs. I flipped the right side of my serape over my right shoulder for faster access to my right hip. He quickly lifted his rifle, but I pumped three quick shots into him before he could fire. A weird, Spanish-sounding music was playing in the background as he slumped to the ground, his eyes filled with horrified amazement.

"Who are you," he groaned.

"A backpacker," I said.

His eyes rolled over and he said no more. I strolled leisurely out into the blistering heat, wondering where the heck those bells and trumpets playing in the background were coming from.

The other backpackers came running from the shelter, laughing and shouting. The boy ran up to me and tugged at the corner of my serape. "Hey, Mister, who are you?" he asked.

I smiled, flipped him a granola bar and headed up the next ridge

Twitter & Flickr

While hiking these 2175 miles, a lot of things can happen to a thru-hiker. But thankfully to today's technology, I can keep my family and friends aware of my health and safety as I transverse the wilderness of the Appalachian mountains! Granted it is dependent on a lot of factors such as:

battery life of my cell, reception coverage, ability to use my hands, weather, ect..

So as I hike the trail, I will be texting messages throught the day using Twitter! It is on the right hand side of the page, and will updated each time I send something. The update will be 140 characters or less. I have some practice messages up currently. If it is too hard to read let me know and I can attempt to change my background to help ease the eyes a bit. Hey, I care about the health of my readers!

So, even if I cant get to a computer to post a "real" can still see what is going on to me on the trail! How cool! So once I leave...keep checking even if I dont post a new blog entry...cause I just dont know how often I will get to a computer! I am suppose to be ROUGHING it!

Also, I am trying to figure out how to send pictures from my cell phone right to my blog. So stay tuned. I believe it is possible, just need to figure it out! Any tips will be greatly appreciated! I have set up a Flickr account, and have linked it to my blog. So I have managed to get this far! Less than 23 more days! YIKES!

Amee - The greatest wife in the world!

Since I had to work all day on Valentine's day, I am writing this post on the day after.

I just want to say publically that my wife, Amee, is the greatest wife in the world! I love her so much!

There are not many wives out there that would mind it if their husbands went "walking in the woods" for 4-5 months! I am a very blessed guy. Amee has been loving, gracious and very supportive to me during this whole planning process! Even, when I have been buying my gear (which isnt the cheapest...but something sparkley and expensive is in the works when I get back...just for her!) She is awesome and very godly!

We have planned that she will come out and visit me every three weeks until my brother's graduation at the end of May. That means...Hot Springs, NC; Pearisburg, VA; Harper's Ferry, WV and wherever I am right before my brother's graduation. After that, I won't see her till I finish at Mount Katahdin.

Here is the schedule. Each location is a day's drive from Lafayette, so she will drive out to the town on day one and find me that night..probably by my stench! The next day we will spend the whole day together (after taking numerous showers and washing my clothes!!) and do what ever tickles our fancy...just NO hiking! This is a ZERO day for me! Then finally Amee will head home early the next morning back to Lafayette, which will be the hardest since she knows that it will be another 3 weeks before she sees me again. And, I will begin hiking again anxiously awaiting our next rendezvous.

I think missing Amee will be the hardest part of the whole trip! I think so far in our marriage we have only been apart for one week, and here I am leaving for 5 months!! Yikes! I have a friend from work, and that is the reason she got off the trail after 1000 miles...cause she missed her husband so much. So it is a very big motivator and stubbling block.

But, I am thankful for such great friends in the career class, who I know will continue to love on her and be there for her as well! She may not even miss me after hanging out with all the ladies from the class! ;O) Plus, she received many gift cards from her whole family to pamper herself while I am away.

Well, anyway. Kudos to my wonderful wife, Amee, who I love with all my heart! She is the greatest! Love ya babe!

p.s. Amee's turning 31 in 3 more days!!! Oops...was I not suppose to tell how old she was turning! lol :O)

Trail Humor

Yes, that is right...three more days! Things have been a whirlwind around the Redden home. Between finishing my last few days at work for a while and getting everything packed and ready for Amee when I leave, I cannot believe it is soooo close!

Well I thought I would post one last story by George Steffanos. His stories on his '83 thru-hike are amazing. He is a very talented writer. Anyway, this story is in the style of General George Patton. Enjoy....

When I stopped at Punchbowl Shelter for lunch, four backpackers were already settled in for the night. I walked over to the first one and asked, "How far did you come today, son?"

"Forty-five miles, sir!" he replied in a strong, clear voice.

I told him to keep up the good work and moved over to the second hiker. I asked him the same question, and he shot back, "Thirty miles, sir, but both of my ankles are sprained!"

I told him I was proud to be hiking with men like him, and vigorously shook his hand.

The third hiker's reply was a sickly, but firm, "Twenty miles on a broken leg, sir."

I was overcome. I knelt down, said a little prayer for the lad, and kissed his forehead.

Then, I walked over to the fourth hiker.

"I've been here at this shelter for six days," he sobbed. "I just can't seem to shake off this depression. Virginia is too much for me. It's all the same. I can't stand it! Everything is all the same! I can't take it any more!"

I grabbed the yellow coward by his collar and yanked him to his feet. "You no-good, lousy, stinking coward!" I screamed. "You don't belong here in this shelter with these fine men! Get out! Get back out on that trail, and I hope you fall off a cliff! You make me PUKE!!"

He ran out blubbering into the forest, quivering like a leaf. I know that Ike is going to give me heck for this, but, then, the AT is heck. I love it, though.

--General George Steffanos


AHHHH! Only 2 more days left.

Today I woke up at 4:50 am ON MY DAY OFF!! That has never happened! I am definetly not a morning person at all, but I hope I become one on the trail! Well once I woke up, my mind kicked into high gear thinking of all the things I need to get done today! Why is it that when ever you pack for a big vacation, you always know that you will forget matter how organized you are! I just hope it isnt something I desperately need!

I do have my insurance card (a tip from my co-worker!) just in case I get mauled by a black bear...which my co-workers are sure will happen! And if anyone knows my love of trying to pet any animal...they could be right! lol.

Also I have been thinking of all the love and kindness my fellow co-workers showed to me on my last weekend of work! The threw me a carry-in on BOTH of my last 2 days of work! I think they were trying to fatten me up as much as possible before I leave! Thank you... Lois, Marilyn, Donia, Mallory, Jessica & Monette!

Marilyn and Tracy even came in on their day off to say good-bye and bring me more essentials for the trail...poptarts, twizzlers, blister treatments, beef jerky, snickers, ect..! Thank you... Lois, Marilyn and Tracy!

Marilyn, who is a AT section hiker, also brought in a 3 foot map of the AT and posted it on the unit, so they can keep track of me on my adventures! What awesome co-workers I have been bless to work with. I will miss you guys!

I have been thinking of some of my goals as well. Here are just a few:

1. Make it through my first night on the trail!
2. Make it through the first week on the trail!
3. Break down the "wall" in Virginia (the longest part of the trail!)
4. Hike the beautiful White mountains of New Hampshire!
5. Summit Mount Katahdin!
6. Daily devotions and bible readings
7. Memorize as many of the psalms as possible
8. Journal daily
9. Avoid getting Giardiasis - a nasty diarrheal illness