PREPARATION AND PLANNING
From L to R that's The Lone Buckeye, Wild Bill, and me after our first thousand miles!
There are many ways to hike the AT, but I knew from the beginning that I wanted to "thru-hike". Completing the entire trail in one year or less is considered a thru-hike. About 1,200 hikers start out each year with the goal of completing the trail but only about 200 hikers actually make it all the way. That was a special group of people in my mind and I wanted desperately to be one of them!That leads to my next topic...
If I was going to make it all the way to Maine before the snow began flying, then I knew that I had to be mentally hardened to do so. Most people don't make it because they weren't mentally prepared. I would bet that the majority of physical injuries on the trail could be traced back to a poor or dwindling attitude about being on the trail.
How do you prepare yourself in this way? Simply said, you can find that out by asking yourself one simple question..."How bad do you want to do it"? For 5 or 6 months you've got to want to do this more than anything else in the world. From day one, I fiercely wanted to be a 2,000 miler and nothing...and I mean NOTHING was more important to me at that point in my life!
HOW LONG FOR PLANNING?
I first dreamed about hiking the AT about 20 years before I actually did it. I had always read about 70 year olds hiking the trail so I originally figured that I'd save this adventure for my "old" age! In 1979 I did finally put it on my LIFE LIST of things that I wanted to accomplish, but for all those years it continued to brew and bubble somewhere in the back of my brain until 1993 when the idea festered into an explosion of reality... I just knew that it was time to go so I committed myself to a departure date in the spring of '94, about a year away.
Although the idea had incubated in my head for many years, I felt like one year of serious research and planning was necessary (for me)to prepare a 5 to 6 month hike. While it is entirely possible to begin a thru-hike in less than a week, why would I want to cheat myself out of the excitement of planning and anticipation?! For me planning is almost exciting as doing the trip itself.