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Thursday, April 7, 2011

My New Lofty Goal: The Appalachian Trail

Our extremely knowledgeable editorial secretary informed me a couple weeks ago about a travelogue that would be given at the New Lebanon Library regarding a local woman's solo hike on the 2, 175 mile Appalachian Trail. Sue, our secretary, knows me very well indeed (so well, that she knew to tell me about the upcoming Thunder From Down Under male revue at Vapor too).

Now, I love hiking and I'm really looking forward to the spring/summer/fall hiking seasons here but I've honestly never really thought about hiking the Appalachian trail. To me, it was kinda like my thoughts on climbing Everest - sweet bragging rights but I'm just not that crazy.

After all, the AT, as hikers apparently call it, goes through 14 states and those who attempt the trek have a success rate between 10 percent and 29 percent which is a lot lower than the 23 percent to 60 percent success rate at Everest.

My other goal of swimming the English Channel has a success rate around 40 percent. Overall better odds, really. Even though only about 600 have made the swim in the 130-years since the crazy 23-mile dip started.

The speaker at Thursday night's talk, who finished the AT journey in 2010, convinced me that the trail could be a very worth while six month trip (or 47 days if you're reeeeally nuts like Andrew Thompson in 2005). Canaan resident Joanna Ezinga said she did not initally intend to do the whole trail but that is what ended up happening.

She faced unending blisters on her feet, a dislocated rotator cuff, dozens of rain drenched miles, the loneliness associated with walking much of the trip alone, some malnutrition, and a menagerie of animals including bears and venomous snakes (in the words of my favorite fictional adventurer "Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?"). And on top of all that she was hiking about 15 miles a day and climbing lots of really tall mountains, the tallest being around 6,600 feet.

Who in the world would put themselves through all this and come out smiling? Well, more than 11,000 people have hiked the entire trail (many known as thru-hikers since they did it all in a single trip) but still thousands of others hikes sections of the AT annually.

For Ezinga, she said she would do it all again since it put you in a situation few people rarely enter where it is just them and the bare necessesities of what they need. She reflected that it made you realize what you really do need and how we are surrounded by so many luxuries.

On her trip, she carried about 25 pounds of supplies including one set of clothes, a small tent, food, personnal items, a propane-fueled cooker, sleeping bag and an inflatible sleeping pad. She collected water along the way in streams and other sources, and disinfected the supplies with bleach (about 2 drops for a liter of water, or more if the water is iffy). And she went off the trail into nearby towns for food, showers, and other supplies, usually every two to eight days.

Now, she hopes to one day be able to teach area women some of the skills she learned along the way - the AT was her first and last hiking trip. She was a triathlete and continues to be a personal trainer.

We are lucky in that this area is not far from the AT in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont so day hikes are feasible.

In all honesty with myself and the bloggerverse, I'd probably be more likely to be a non-thru hiker and finish the AT in portions. But maybe I'll change my mind.

Now, what I really need is to find one of the 600 people who have swam the English Channel and get some input on that. At least there are no snakes involved...but there are jellyfish and super tankers.


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