I managed to squeeze in one last run on my favorite local trail between all the packing and planning this week. It was perfect spring weather and perfectly soggy in spots, a fitting finale for this dirt and trees lover.
That little 2.5 mile out-and-back has come to mean a lot to me over the last five-and-a-half years, both as a runner and a hiker. I logged hundreds of miles in the midst of its solitude, first as a trail runner, then on casual weighted practice hikes while I got my body used to carrying a backpack. I’ve seen deer, foxes, rabbits and a lone coyote. I even treed a startled black bear cub one morning as I turned tail and fled, not wishing to come between the little one and its mother. On the athletic fields that blossom from either end of the trail I pitched my tent outdoors for the first time, dug the tips of my trekking poles deep into mud and snow, and gave the Vibram outsoles on my Merrells a trial-by-fire on wet and slippery terrain of all types.
There are hundreds of woodsy trails in Virginia, and I’m so looking forward to tramping on as many as I can, whenever I can. And as I sit in my living room watching the movers empty our belongings into a twenty-five foot truck, I’m anxious to get started on my exploration of the Commonwealth…
The other day I read an interesting article about a man who took 28 years to complete a section hike of the AT, and it encouraged me greatly. I’ve set a goal of completing my section hike in 10-12 years and I thought, given how many thru-hiking memoirs I’ve read, my target was a less-than-ambitious slog. Turns out it’s not.
The thing I keep forgetting is the concept of “Hike your own hike!” or HYOH. That applies to all aspects of getting it done, including elapsed time. And given that the raging currents and swirling eddies of life often lay to waste the most honest and ambitious of plans, I can see how a section hike could go from my modest 10-12 year plan to a twenty-eight-year odyssey.
My goal is to tackle a 100-ish mile chunk once a year, then do another hundred or so over the course of a few long weekends. I’m hoping to save all of Virginia for weekend hikes, and travel once a year to knock out a century-mile section.
That’s the plan. However, I’m sure the 28-year guy had a plan that ended up not dovetailing at all with reality. But he stayed focused and diligent, and I’m sure he’s proudly claiming his “2,000-Miler” status from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy:
When I get there, whether it takes my expected 10-12 years or his 28, I’ll happily claim mine too…
At the end of the month I’ll be moving to Virginia. For a handful of reasons that won’t be spelled out here, I’ll be taking up temporary residence for a few weeks in a family member’s empty apartment. Ever the minimalist, I’ve decided to use my sleeping bag as my bed. Which means that I need to (finally!) order the sleeping pad I’ve been eyeing since March as a buffer between me and the floor.
The only question now is, do I set up the inner portion of my tent to get used to the confining nature of a one person shelter? I mean, I’ve pitched it indoors before, albeit temporarily:
Of course, I’d much rather see it in a more natural habitat:
But I’m not sure the property management company at the apartment complex would be too thrilled about having a tent pitched on the lawn next to the building that houses the fitness room and movie theater.
They do have a lazy river that runs into the swimming pool. That would probably be a better spot…