Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where's Busch?

While out on our Appalachian Trail trek last week, we met lots of cool people. We were southbound in the Nantahala N.F., and the early thru-hikers were northbound. Guys with names like: "Firewalker", "Doc", "Sherpa & Ducky", "Mouse", "Iceaxe", "Wildcard", "Busch", "Red Oak", "Squirrel", and many more. They were a delight to get to know a bit. We asked a lot of questions about strategy, gear they carried, as well as many about how they came to find themselves on a long distance hike.
     I was impressed with how easy to talk to they (nearly) all seemed to be. It was interesting to hear their stories. Each of us had our favorites, but we are pulling for each of them to finish the trail. And we were all insanely jealous to only be on the trail with them for a week, when they get all summer.
     If you are curious to the mindset or process that they will go through, one of them is blogging his trip by phone from the trail. Busch wasn't a backpacker before he started his trip. He told me that prior to Springer Mtn., he had never slept in a tent before. So his take should be interesting. Here's the link to:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trip Planning; Evolution of an idea

     Every year, the "Legends Patrol"(self-named) plans a big trip. It may not involve hiking, but we make a point to get together and do something fun. Something worth planning. Usually, we start considering next year's ideas while we are on this year's trip. Last year, it was a 2 stop trip. Montana for some skiing, then Vegas for some hiking at Red Rock(among other things). The year before, it was a 24 hour road trip to Montana for sailing, kayaking, skeet shooting, and a visit to Glacier Nat'l Park. Three years ago, it was a flight to Europe for a road trip ranging across Germany to Amsterdam, Austria, Munich(Oktoberfest), and the Czech Republic. This is how we maintain our long friendship. Mostly we aim for outdoorsy stuff. Always searching for a new story to tell. Face it, without the stories, you're not really legends.
     A year ago, while doing a bit of desert hiking, we decided on a Grand Canyon trip. All 4 of us agreed. So after we returned to our respective homes (Arkansas, Montana, and Honduras) the emails started flowing. Slowly at first because not everyone actually enjoys planning the trips. Turtle said,"you plan it and keep it cheap, I'm in." Will(Cory) said,"It's gonna be hard for me to gather info from Honduras..." Scopa is the busiest person I have ever met.  So the non-idea guy(me) with the runaway mind tackles the job. I can't help it. What follows is my process in pseudo-timeline form.

   We decide on GCNP in March. Scopa picks out some trails. Turtle and I buy books to read up on it.

   Very little communication. Independent research.

   Scopa has decided on a 2 part hike. The Hermit trail, then a car trip and hike into Havasu Canyon. I start looking at maps.

   Begin looking into logistics for transportation from 2-3 locations to our destination. Trains, planes, and automobiles... Cost is a factor as is duration of travel.

   Scopa calls the Nat'l Park rangers and inquires to conditions for our time period and chosen trails. Is informed that many miles of the trails will likely be closed due to snow and ice. Scopa and I decide on pushing this hike back a year or two and going with the next item on the to do list. A section hike on the Appalachian Trail. 

  Emails flowing nicely now. Decided on Great Smoky Mt. National Park in TN. Scopa's sister lives in Knoxville=cheap lodging and possible shuttle. Will agrees to fly into Northwest Arkansas to join Turtle and I for the road trip. One day of travel each way gives us 8 days on the trail for only one week(ish) of vacation time. Turtle and I got in a weekend on the OHT. It was good to test some new, lighter gear. Ordered maps.

   Now that location was fixed, we all went back to independent research. Holiday season begins. People stay busy. Will came to town and went on the OHT with me for a 4 day trip. Froze his tropical rear end off. I got to test more gear and techniques out. Scopa came a couple of weeks later and hiked a weekend on the OHT(I joined for a day).  Both of our military members coordinated their "leave" time, I bid mine. Dates selected: 18MAR-27MAR

   Began planning actual itinerary. Researched weather for that time frame, asked around about trail conditions in that time of the year. Fired off emails to both the GSM hiking club and the Nantahala hiking  club. Decided to hike the Nantahalas instead. We are hoping to avoid snow. Nantahalas are lower altitude and latitude. Ordered maps and guidebook. 

   Decided on a plan A & B. Plan A is Fontana Dam to Standing Indian Mt.(Deep Gap trailhead). 81 miles SOuthBOund. Plan B is same, except if we are behind schedule we take a shortcut and cut about 12 miles off of South end. These were decided to encounter as many NOBO thru-hikers as possible. Hiking is a social event! Gear lists start getting compiled. Will ordered a bunch of new gear and had it shipped to my house. Turtle ordered a new pack as well. 3 of us decided to buy new shelters. This is the best time! Menu planning begins. Scopa is dehydrating dinners for all. Turtle is handling our odd homemade GORP for our lunches/snacks. Will and I are handling the breakfasts(oatmeal and breakfast bars mostly). 

March 1-8:
   Downloaded GPS tracks and coords for Turtle to input. Will booked tickets stateside. I'm weighing my gear and counting down. A couple of last minute gear purchases to accommodate our plan better.

March 9-17
    Taking care of real life things to make sure we're ready. Dog-sitters, baby-sitters, oil change for the truck. You all know the drill. Scopa ships bounce box at some point in here.

The plan:
March 17: I pick up Will at XNA, late evening. Packing. Last minute check of
                  the gear list.
March 18: Morning- Will stops at local gear shops for last minute shopping,
                  then packs.
                  Noon- Turtle picks us up en route to Knoxville. 10 hour road trip
                   for 3 of us. 
                  Evening- Scopa flies directly to Knoxville. Sleep on couches & 
                  floors at Scopa's sister's house.
March 19: Morning- Gear in truck. Drive to Fontana Dam. On trail by noon 
March 20-25: Hike SOBO at our own pace. Check in with shuttle when we
                  reach NOC(Wesser, NC). Retrieve bounce box there as well.
March 26: Morning- Finish our hike.
                  Noon- Meet shuttle. Retrieve other vehicle. Back in Knoxville by 
                  5:00 P.M.
March 27: Return trip home

     I have to admit that most of this is completely unnecessary. I can pack for a weekend trip in about 10 minutes. I can pack for a weeklong trip in about 45(hafta go buy freeze dried food). It's simple. Decide where and when to go, get map, pack, hit the trail. But if you are trying to coordinate a group trip from thousands of miles apart, you want it to work. You want it to be wrinkle-free. Besides, a year's worth of daydreaming saved me as much money on entertainment as it cost me in new gear.