What Have We Been Doing Lately?
If you are not a long distance hiker or have not spent much time around them, you may wonder how two people can put their lives on hold to take an adventure like this. The answer is “It isn’t easy”. With a small lull prior to starting our hike on March 1st, we thought we’d give you a current update.
Planning a trip like this is filled with great anxiety and anticipation. There is so much about this trip that is new to us that we vacillate between fear and confidence depending upon what we learn and hear from others. The factors that cause us concern are the long distances covered by this trip, the extended time period needed to do it, the different conditions to be encountered in the west, the difficulty of dealing with heat and possible lack of water sources, and our unfamiliarity with trekking on bicycles. Plus, we are telling everyone in the world via the Internet what we are trying to do. What if we fail for any one of a dozen possible reasons? The pressure is on to do what we say we’re going to do!
Since Bill retired in December and Laurie left her job on Jan. 22, we have been extremely busy every day trying to organize this trip. The first priority was to figure out the route of the trail and mark it on maps. We obtained the four existing ADT maps that have been published by Trails Illustrated (website at http://www.colorado.com/trails/adt/index.html) so far which cover Delaware to Kansas City plus California. While these maps are great for general planning, they don’t identify the route in enough detail to follow it on the ground. By using these maps and by talking with Reese Lukei, the National ADT Coordinator, and the ADT State Coordinators, we were able to get a general knowledge of the trail route. We then bought all kinds of maps; topo maps, Forest Service maps, state Department of Transportation county maps, State Park maps, county atlas books for West Virginia and Indiana, and Delorme atlases for all the western states plus Delaware/Maryland. We even collected guidebooks for those sections that are on established trails like the C&O Canal, the North Bend Rail Trail, the Buckeye Trail, the River to River Trail, Katy Trail, the Colorado Trail, and Kokopelli’s trail. Several of the state coordinators provided helpful information by marking routes on a county atlas or by providing detailed guidebook info. For the rest of the states, we worked with Reese an entire weekend to transfer the route from his masters onto our maps.
The next task was to meticulously measure from point to point on all these maps and compile what we call a Data Book or a Trip Plan. The Data Book lists every town and it’s available services, every campsite we could find on a map, most road crossings, and when on hiking segments, all the minor ones too. We listed the required maps to use along with references to supplemental maps. One thing we found is that maps from two different sources covering the same area do not always agree. One always has to ask “Do these roads or trails really exist or not?” As pointed out in Eric and Ellen’s book, many trails shown on Forest Service maps have been abandoned over the years. This is particularly true out west. We searched the Internet to get information on towns, bed and breakfasts, zip codes, and information on trails that are part of the ADT. It is absolutely amazing how much information is there at your fingertips on the computer.
Our Data Book is now almost 50 pages long. We have used it to estimate our daily mileage and expected dates of arrival along the entire route. Our mileage estimates are only guesses at this point since we have never ridden long distances with fully loaded mountain bikes, especially over rough terrain.
Speaking of bikes, that’s another area we’ve spent time on. After getting the bikes, panniers, and all the accessories, we’ve only been able to ride them about 500 miles this winter. We hope this is enough experience and are thankful that the first 400 miles of the trip are not hilly. We just spent an evening with the head mechanic at our local bike shop going over maintenance and repair procedures. Thanks Doug.
We have been boning up on our first aid skills by reading two books, watching a video, and getting a short course seminar from a friend. Thanks Mark. We spent several evenings with experienced backpacker friends who have hiked in the west and in the high desert country. Their advice and encouragement has been very helpful. Thanks Bob, Shell, Parthena, Clint, Eric, and Ellen.
We bought Kodak slide film and mailers for sending our photographs home. We bought all the food for the hiking segments in Ohio and Illinois and packed it into 5 boxes for shipment to ourselves at post offices along the way. We dehydrated over 50 pounds of fruit, spaghetti sauce, and beef jerky to provide more variety in our trail diet and to make the food light weight.
We have been taking care of several neglected chores around the house. We had a very large leaning and diseased tree removed from the front yard. We had new gutters installed on the house. We discovered carpenter ants in the columns of our screened porch. We hired a man who used to work for me and his friend to rebuild the porch and we have done the painting. Thanks Punchy.
We made arrangements for getting the lawn mowed. We prepared our tax return early to get that out of the way. We have searched for a tenant or housesitter to have someone live here while we are gone. We are working on arrangements to deal with all the mail. We are trying to sell our 1992 Plymouth Acclaim. Anyone out there interested? We figure it will only depreciate during our absence plus we need to cancel the insurance on it. We made plans to take our dog to our son’s house. He is really special to agree to this! Thanks Mick and Kris.
We have also taken care of a lot of Trail Club business. Since Bill is the President and Laurie is the Membership Chair of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club, there is plenty of ongoing business to deal with. When Bill accepted the job of president, it was conditional upon the vice president agreeing to cover the job during Bill’s absence. Thanks Mike. Laurie will be meeting with the temporary membership chair and will soon turn everything over to him. Thanks Pete.
Finally, by talking with lots of people and exchanging email messages with dozens of others, we have learned a lot already about this country and we haven’t even started hiking or biking yet (except for 41 miles of West Virginia). We expect that the ADT is very much like the Appalachian Trail in that the people we will meet are what will make the trip special. Since these chapters are posted on several websites, it may not be obvious how to send a message to us. You can send email to us at HappiFeet@aol.com. Also, thanks to Bill O’Brien and Wingfoot for posting our chapters at http://www.connix.com/~aldha and http://www.trailplace.com respectively. Look under “What’s New” on both sites to find us.
So that’s it for Chapter 4. Chapter 5, hopefully, will come to you from someplace in Ohio several days after we start our hike there on March 1st.
© Copyright, William & Laurel Foot, 1997, Lynchburg, VA.
The Happy Feet