The practice hike went wonderfully, albeit miserably. I was hoping to hike sections 22-28, from Sunflower, through Pine, and on top of the rim past Blue Ridge Reservoir. What happened instead is that I slogged up a steep, long, rocky, brush covered mountain for 6 days, 2 of which WERE’NT in a driving rain/sleet.
I always tell my wife, when there’s rain in the forecast, that it’s getting to be perfect backpacking weather. I actually didn’t mind the wet slogging, actually. The worst part of the environmental challenges was that the mud sticks to your shoes and eventually you are stomping with 10 lb feet. Then, unexpectedly, the mud will fly off your foot and you’ll high-kick into the air, throwing off your balance.
The worst-worst part of the rain was that my dog, Emmie, didn’t have any protection from the elements. I felt terrible. I don’t mind subjecting myself to hardship, but not others; and especially not an animal that wasn’t really given the heads up to prepare. So, I’ll be buying a rain/fleece jacket for her for upcoming trips.
Anyway, the trip taught me a lot of valuable lessons; first – I need to lose weight, both from my body, and from my kit. I took some things I didn’t really need that weighed me down. My knees and back were in modest pain the entire time, but oddly enough it wasn’t any WORSE while backpacking . . . I guess if the pain is going to exist anyway I might as well have some fun, right?
One of the most crucial lessons I learned was that “just a little extra food and water” weighed a lot, and that I really need to get better at “nutrition/hydration management”. What this means is that I’ll need to make sure that I’m not stuck carrying any more crap than I’ll need until the next re-supply. That “what-if I get stuck and need to survive” scenario just isn’t going to happen. Even if I do get hurt I’ll only be stuck there for a day or two; hell with my body-fat I could survive there for weeks. I’d just have to crawl to a water source.
So, as I write this I’m actually in the process of coming up with a proposed itinerary. From there I’ll be able to roughly calculate each day’s hiking distance and factor in “zero/nero” days, plan resupply/maildrops, and have a rough guide for the times I want to stay in a hotel when I pass close to some towns. As I’m doing the math & extrapolations I have this voice inside my head that recites that adage: “a plan is worthless but planning is everything”.
It is what it is . . . the best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley.