Day hiking has been bad for my whatever-it-takes mentality. Okay, that’s probably not fair, as my weather-related slackadaisical attitude started when I stopped training for marathons which, as the calendar snottily points out, was a few years before my interest in backpacking began.
A marathon features a set date, typically chosen by a combination of tradition and the good sense of the race director. Given that there is a potential for any sort of weather on that date, it is prudent to train in everything, just in case. To that end, I’ve suffered -30F wind chills, 115F heat indices, sheets of rain, sleet, blizzard conditions with snow and 60MPH wind gusts, and more. One sure thing about a 26.2 mile race: Given the logistics required to set it up, only an extreme natural disaster will prevent its taking place.
I sat inside the other day waiting for the rain to stop before I ventured out for a weighted practice hike. It was 40 degrees, foggy, rainy with a light breeze. It would have given me the chance to test out the rain cover on my trusty Kestrel 28. And given me a taste of a spring/fall hike on the AT. One sure thing about the Appalachian Trail: It rains there. Often.
So why the waiting? I’ve lost the marathoner mentality. And I need to reacquire it, and quickly. Because, as sure as the AT runs from Georgia to Maine, I’m going to need it. Day hikes can be spontaneous and cherry-picked around nice weather, but I’ll have to schedule my 3-10 day jaunts on the Trail in advance, and I can guarantee that I won’t see 3-10 days of perfect sunshine, even if the forecast predicts it. Pop-up showers (not to mention sleet and snow) are a thing under the tree canopy that makes up the majority of the Trail.
And they’ll happen. Whether I’m ready for them or not.