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Brian "Gadget" Lewis
Begins: Mar 12, 2014
Date: Mon, Feb 24th, 2014
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I think I'm changing from a thru-hiker to a chunk-hiker. A chunk-hiker isn't someone who is necessarily chunky (though attempts to address that through backpacking are a distinct part of my plans!). It's somewhere between a thru-hiker and a section-hiker, where a "chunk" represents some fairly decent percentage of a long distance trail.
My planned "chunks" for 2014 include about a month on the Appalachian Trail starting March 12th, and then, tentatively still at this point, about half of the Pacific Northwest Trail, starting (also tentatively) from the Washington Coast and walking generally eastwards from there (as going west from there would get pretty wet pretty fast!). This PNT chunk is contemplated for an early July start, snow levels permitting.
I also plan to do a decent amount of biking on a trip with my wife and some friends in May/June, hike about a hundred miles to do PCT section K (northern 'K') with my wife in August, and do a canoe adventure also with spouse and other friends in September. So quite an outdoor year for me despite not thru-hiking anything.
Why chunk hiking?
Multiple reasons; one factor is that I need to get an eye injection every few weeks, and this has been quite a hassle since the underlying problem surfaced in 2009. My first thru-hike was in 2008 (PCT), and then in 2010 I just made some assumptions about what I could get away with when thru-hiking the Appalachian trail, and as a result I'll never see clearly out of my right eye again. So some substantial cost there. It was a hassle to work around on the Continental Divide Trail too in 2011.
Another factor is that I find that about a month is what it takes me to hike off my annual winter weight gain. I'm hoping that I can do that on the AT this year, and then reasonably maintain weight and fitness levels to feel stronger, earlier on my other trips.
And chunk hiking is good in-and-of-itself. A several-month thru-hike is very cool in a way, but it's also quite a committment, and one does begin to miss various aspects of being home. I'm not a fan of (just) section hiking, because it always feels to me that I'm still just getting into the rhythm of things when the trip is over. On a longer (chunk) hike, I'm out long enough to lose significant weight and get my legs and lungs strong --- so I pay the price at the start of the hike and then have some time to really reap the rewards.
Anyway, it's a compromise that I think makes sense for me now, to give me some long-distance hiking freedom without some of the costs (but certainly also without all of the benefits) of a true thru-hike.
While my PNT (Pacific Northwest Trail) plans are pretty tentative at this point, I do plan to do *something* in July. If snow levels allow, it sounds like my friend Lucky might join me for that. I'm thinking of making Oroville, WA my goal, it should be reasonably close to the halfway point. You can find more about the PNT here.
My Appalachian Trail (AT) plans are much more specific. I fly to Atlanta on March 11th, stay at the same Hiker Hostel that I started with in 2010, and start hiking on March 12th, i.e., just over two weeks from when I'm writing this (Feb 24th, 2014).
This all started because my old hiking friend Milky decided this was his year to complete his Triple Crown. I met him on the PCT in 2008, and he and I hiked most of the state of Montana together on the CDT in 2011. So now he's thru-hiking the AT. He's a heck of a nice guy, and the idea of hiking with him from the start was almost irresistable. I'm pretty sure that Lucky will be starting with us too, just as he did when I hiked the AT in 2010. And Lumbar might well be there too --- not certain about that yet. It should be a great time, just hanging out with those guys again.
Since we all have some decent hiking experience, it's a lot easier to plan this, and a lot more casual. I'll go with mostly the same sort of gear thatI went with when I started in 2010. Maybe a little on the heavy side, but it can still get quite cold on the AT in March.
I won't have any resupply boxes for just a month of hiking. Last time I had one sent to Fontana Dam, but unless the others are doing one there, I won't this time.
I have a one-way plane ticket; I have to be home for (of course) another eye injection towards the latter part of April, so when that starts getting close I'll pick a place to get off trail and just wing it from there to try to get home in time. I expect I'll be feeling bad to leave the trail at that point --- particularly since I'm going through some of the toughest parts (a cold start, heavier gear) and leaving right around when things start getting easier. There's no way I could join Milky later and keep up with him, however; if you want to hike with a thru-hiker, best place to do it is from the beginning.
I had contemplated just adding the Appalachian Trail part to my 2010 AT journal, but decided I should really leave that as a 2010 journal only --- hence combining 2014 activities in this new blog/journal. Somewhat of a mish-mash, but I really like keeping a blog for my longer trips !
Gadget's Trail Journal
Other Trail is located off the beaten path, somewhere between the soles of your feet and your imagination.
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