Pre-hike Prep and Anticipation


Blue Hills Practice Hike - 3/8/2009:


Thursday, December 18, 2008
90 Days
Ninety days from today, on March 18, 2009, I should be standing under the arch in Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, starting my hike up the 8.8 mile long Approach Trail to the summit of Springer Mountain and the southern terminus of the Appalachian trail.

I don't think this is any kind of surprise to the few people who read my blog. I think I've talked about my plans to thru-hike the AT enough that everyone knows. But just in case I'm wrong, take this as an official announcement: My plans for 2009 include an attempt at a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail. This is something I have thought of doing ever since I first learned about the AT back in my Boy Scout days, and for the first time in my life it is something that I can actually do. We have no mortgage, no car loans, no loans of any kind. Anju is off on her own and I am no longer a day-to-day, hands-on parent. Jodi earns a good living, and while it is certainly not trivial to walk away from 6+ months of salary, neither is it impossible.

So come March of 2009, I will be resigning my current position and
heading for Georgia. If all goes according to plan I will reach Maine,
some 2,176 miles later, sometime in September or October. That is,
however, a big if. Only about 20% of the people who start a thru-hike
actually complete it. People drop out for many reasons; they get
injured, they run out of money, they get bored or discouraged by bad
weather. Sometimes a crisis at home brings them off the trail. That
20% is a sobering statistic. It takes a lot to put your everyday life
on hold to take on this attempt, and it sure would be a shame to find
myself off the trail and back home soon after I left.

Ninety days seems like a long time to wait to start this adventure,
but at the same time it seems like it is just around the corner, and I
have lots left to do before I leave. I won't bore you with those
details now, but I may write more about that later.

If you are reading this and you happen to be one of my co-workers at
Homesite, please keep this under your hat. Thanks!

Allen F. Freeman


Friday, December 19, 2008

Tom asked if I am doing any training for my thru-hike. I suppose
training would fall into two categories. One would be training in the
skills of backpacking. Well, I've been backpacking since my Boy Scout
days, so I haven't been doing anything special int hat regard. I did
start, a couple of years ago, revamping a lot of my gear to embrace a
lot of the light-weight hiking paradigm, so much of my basic gear has
been replaced. For instance, my old external frame Kelty backpack
weighed 6 1/2 pounds, empty! My new pack weighs something like 22 oz.
The biggest equipment change was the switch from tent to hammock. The
hammock is super comfortable for sleeping, and certainly makes site
selection a lot easier since I don't have to worry about finding
level, clear ground, but it does make managing my gear a bit different
as I can't just throw a lot of stuff inside the tent with me.

But I think what Tom was really asking about is physical training.
Certainly, I have never hiked day after day for months at a time, and
I am not sure how one would train for that, other than to hike day
after day for months at a time. But I do get out for the occasional
weekend backpack, and I know that I am capable of hiking 10 or 12 or
15 miles and getting up the next morning and doing it again. I am a
runner, and that keeps me in pretty good shape, although running is
not hiking. I completed my second marathon back at the beginning of

My hope, my plan, and my intention is to keep running through the
winter, and hopefully find myself starting my hike in decent shape
physically. And I intend to start easy, holding my mileage to 10 or 12
miles per day at first, and giving my body time to adjust to the daily
workload. Hopefully that will help me avoid any overuse injuries.

I always find it hard to stay active in the wintertime. It's not the
cold that bothers me so much as it is the darkness. When I get home
from work at 5:00 in the afternoon, and it is dark outside and all the
streetlights are on, my body feels like it is nighttime and time to
shut down and rest. For some reason getting up in the dark in the
early morning never bothers me the same way, so I have shifted from
running in the evening after work to running in the morning before
work. That's not working out as well as I had hoped, and my running
has slacked off a lot over the last month or so, but I still plan to
sign up for the Half Marathon (or maybe I'll sign up for the full,
what the heck!) at Myrtle Beach in February, and knowing I will be
doing that is going to drive me to get out more often and build my
mileage back up.

I figure I won't be the most fit person starting a thru-hike this
year, but neither will I be the least fit. And one advantage of age
over youth is that I've learned the value of perseverance. As long as
I don't give up mentally (and everything I hear tells me this is
really a mental challenge far more than a physical one) , I should be
able to deal with whatever physical ailments might come my way.

Allen F. Freeman


Monday, December 29, 2008
Getting There

As my Christmas / Hanukkah gift this year, Jodi bought the ticket for
my flight from Boston to Atlanta on March 17. With that nailed down I
then made my reservation for a shuttle and a night's lodging at the
Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega. (
If all goes according to plan, this is how I will get to the start of my hike:

- Fly from Boston to Atlanta
- Ride MARTA from the airport to the North Springs station (the
furthest north station)
- The folks from the hostel will pick me up at the North Springs
Station and drive me to the hostel
- After a night in the hostel bunk room and breakfast, the hostel
folks will shuttle me to Amicalola Falls State Park on the morning of
the 18th where I will start my hike using the Approach Trail to get to
the summit of Springer Mountain

Allen F. Freeman


Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Ten Weeks

Ten weeks, seventy days, from now -- well, actually just about 70 days and 57 minutes -- my flight to Atlanta is scheduled to take off.
Ten weeks. Boy, time seems to be flying. That means in just about 9 1/2 weeks I will be leaving my job, which means in about 7 1/2 weeks I will be giving my notice.

There is lots to do in the remaining ten weeks. No, not at work. I mean to get ready for my hike. I am waiting for the 2009 edition of "Appalachian Pages" to be released and mailed out in the next couple of weeks, then I can finalize my schedule and decide where I will have Jodi send mail drops to me and where I will shop in local stores. And someday soon I need to gather all the warm weather gear I plan to use for the early, cold, weeks of my hike, and see if it actually all fits in my pack. But in the end that's all just details. Those things need to be taken care of, but they are not the hike. When I start to worry too much I remind myself, it's just walking.

Here are some words that I read long ago, and which somebody recently reminded me of.
They were written by one of my favorite authors, Edward Abbey, in the forward to "Appalachian Odyssey- Walking the Trail from Georgia to Maine," by Steve Sherman and Julia Older, published in 1977.

Appalachia. Appalachia . . . Good God I lived there, in the northern
fringe, on a little sub-marginal farm in western Pennsylvania, for the
first eighteen years of my life.
Eighteen years. Good God. Finally rescued by Hitler and the war (The
war), the draft, the United States Army, God bless them all.
Otherwise, who knows, I might still be there driving a coal truck for
the strippers, or teaching English to sullen delinquents with
TV-shriveled minds in some grimy small-town high school, or even--God,
the soul curls to think of it--traipsing the Appalachian Trail from
end to end, for fun! for recreation! for re-creation!

Well, so I escaped. But my brother Howard, he's still living back
there, making a living, driving coal trucks, building gasification
plants (he's a high steel man), raising three wild kids. But he has
guts, unlike me. And my mother, and old man, they're still there,
surviving in their little house by the side of the road where
forty-ton super trucks thunder past every thirty minutes, shaking the
foundations. The farm was sold, years ago, and the old house burned
down, and the wild blackberry are taking over the fields that the
strip-miners didn't get to first, and over that whole remembered
countryside of childhood now hangs the awful sound of industry. On a
clear day you can see for maybe two miles. Powerlines draped from hill
to hill. Constant traffic on the network of highways that look, on a
map, like the red breakdown of varicose veins. Trailerhouse slums and
"mobile-home" ghettos spreading across the slopes of abandoned farms.
Most working people in America can no longer afford to live in real
houses, no longer have enough free time to build a real home for

But in the burgeoning towns and cities the skyscraper banks rise up,
tombs of tinted glass and frosty steel, towering above the surrounding
tracts of fiberboard and plywood, aluminum and formica, where the
serfs live. Death to the land. Death to all the old American dreams.
How absolutely prescient was Oliver Goldsmith when he wrote, two
centuries ago, of a similar malaise falling on England:

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.

No need to go on with this dirge. Harry Caudill has said it all, much
better, in Night Comes to the Cumberlands and in his recent book, The
Watches of the Night.
Thus our native Appalachia. In large part a commercial, industrial,
profiteering wasteland, America's first great National Sacrifice Area.
(There will be others.) But the wonder of it all is that some of the
original beauty of the land yet remains. The flame azalea still blooms
in the Big Smokies, and the blue phlox, the Mayapple, the mandrake,
the rhododendron, the toadshade, the trillium, the showy orchid, the
hobblebush, the dogwood, the wild chokecherry. In our Appalachian
autumn a multitude of ancient hardwoods burst out in seventeen
different shades of red, gold, rust, the hues of October in infinite
number. From Georgia up to Maine, the rush of spring-green, the
exultance of ten thousand different species of flowers, and then in
the fall the movement of color in reverse, from north to south.
Lonesome farmhouses still hiding back on red-dog roads, down in
hardscrabble hollows, up near the summits of cloud-shaded hills. Coon
dogs baying at the smoky moon. The winding streams, the covered
bridges, the deep woods where the deer still flourish--now more than
ever!-- and the black bear still raid the hogpen, the chickencoop, the
backpacker's portable kitchen.

The backpacker? Who else? For through the middle of the capitalist
squalor and naturalist splendor runs the Appalachian Trail, a
ridiculous footpath 2,000 miles long running the length of the
Appalachian Mountains, up and down a thousand peaks, in and out of a
thousand valleys, across a thousand meadows, through a thousand forest
glades. Myself, I've walked only a few short stretches of it in Great
Smokies National Park. But almost everyone who's heard of it, or come
across it, the idea--the ideal!--of some year actually getting into
harness and walking the entire Trail has always haunted the back of my
mind. It's one of those outdoor dream-adventures we all dream and very
few have the nerve to realize. Like traversing the Grand Canyon from
end to end; like hitchhiking through the Sahara and into the Congo
past the Mountains of the Moon down the planet's awesome curve to the
Kalahari Desert and the Cape of Good Hope; like skiing down Fujiyama;
like personally inspecting each and every active volcano on the face
of the earth.

Many talk, many write. Some do. Steve Sherman and Julia Older are two
who've done it. This is their book about the walk and it's a good
book. In it you'll find everything you ever wanted to know about
hiking the Great Hike. Everything and then some--none of the misery
has been left out, none of the tedium, none of the chiggers, snakes,
mosquitoes, or odd-ball fellow hikers, and none of the glory,
exaltation and satisfaction either. They say they'll do it again
sometime and I, for one, believe them. (You may not.)

Appalachia is in trouble, but that's not news, the whole country's in
trouble, under assault by the insatiable demands of an insane
expanding economy and what the journalist Tom Wolfe (of New York; no
kin to the real Thomas Wolfe, the writer) calls a "happiness
explosion." Fueled by more Valium, alcohol and the St. Vitus Dance
than by happy people, this explosion is real all the same, and its
destructive disruption of the North American continent condemns our
children and our grandchildren to a form of poverty heretofore unknown
in human history: confinement for life to a wonderful department store
set in the midst of a steaming junkyard three thousand miles wide.
They will not love us for it.

But wait a minute! One thin ray of hope shines through the smog and
uproar. One thin bright ray: it is the conscience of the American
people beginning to stir at last, beginning finally to question and
sometimes even resist the Master Plan of industry and technocracy.
From the consciousness of loss and danger rises the glow of a national
earth-use morality. We call it environmentalism; the conservationist
cause; the light of sanity and moderation. Julia Older and Steve
Sherman speak for that cause, not with a sermon, as I do here, but
with the implicit meaning of their experience. In this Appalachian
Odyssey they have voted with their feet. All over America a million
others are doing the same. Some day soon these votes must count--and
be counted.

Edward Abbey

Home Pennsylvania

Allen F. Freeman


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My mind wanders. That's simply a fact of life, and perhaps age. And this morning my mind has been wandering back to those hazy, lazy days of summer. You know, those days when I was fit and in shape. Every year I vow that I am going to somehow hold onto my fitness through the winter, and every year that vow comes up against the cold and the dark and the ice, and shrinks back in defeat.

Last weekend some of my GMC friends were up in northern Vermont staying at one of the cabins on Wheeler Pond that the GMC owns, and playing in the snow. I couldn't make it, but I did see some of the pictures, and somebody took pictures of Jay Peak looming to the west. Those photos brought back some wonderful memories of the day I spent running the Jay Peak Half Marathon last summer, and prompted me to re-read my account of that day. I thoroughly enjoyed going back in time and am just conceited enough to think you might enjoy it as well, so here is that account:

On Saturday, July 26, 2008 Jodi and I were up in far northern Vermont so I could run the Jay Mountain "Half" Marathon. I put "Half" in quotation marks because the half marathon distance is 13.1 miles but the Jay Mountain Half is officially listed as 19 miles.Jay is a trail race. In fact, it's official name is the Ultimate XC Vermont Edition, and the organizer, Dan, really does mean to make it the "Ultimate" race. One of his volunteers told Jodi his goal is to make you cry for your mommy before you finish. Well Dan, sorry to tell you that you failed. I certainly hurt plenty, but I was having way too much fun to cry.If I hadn't run Jay this year I would have been in New York City to run the NYC Half Marathon on Sunday. I ran NYC last year in 1:53 or something like that, and I remember people complaining about the hills in Central Park.The Jay Half is a trail race so comparing it to a road race is completely unfair, of course. But let me start by telling you that it took my over 5 hours to complete the Jay course. My watch read 5:09:30 when I finished, though I haven't seen the official time posted yet.A few minutes before the race started Dan called the runners together and went over a few points about the course. He told us things like "If you pass somebody stuck in the mud up to their waist, please help them get out," and "when you get to the first culvert on the first stream portion of the course, stay to the left to climb up the rocks. If you go in the middle the water will be over your head and you won't be able to climb up into the culvert." Okay. Got it.That finished, we lined up for the start. Usually at the start of a race runners push towards the front, but in this event there seemed to be a general reluctance to go first and everybody hung back trying to be towards the rear of the pack. I managed to get myself about 3/4 of the way back. Dan counted down from ten, said "Go!" and we were off up the first grassy slope at an easy jog. In a few minutes we were into the woods and running along a path more or less in single file. We were heading steadily uphill but not very steeply and the runners were sorting themselves out as people occasionally passed or were passed. There were a few muddy stretches and at first people, including me, worked to skirt the mud and keep their feet dry. Later on during the run I would repeatedly think back on this and laugh.The first few miles continued like this, with a few more muddy stretches thrown in so that everyone got their feet wet and dirty and could quit wasting time trying to stay dry. Then we turned right and suddenly the world tilted up. In fact, it tilted up so steeply that there were actually ropes stretched from tree to tree to allow us to haul ourselves up the hill hand over hand. That was fun!Somehow I don't remember a lot of detail of this section. I think the first aid station was at about mile 4. A bit after this we were running along through the woods again and could hear a mountain stream tumbling down over the rocks. Soon the sound got louder and sure enough we broke out of the trees and found ourselves right in the stream with the orange flagging we were following strung from tree branches over the stream. We all turned upstream and started wading from rock to rock in water that was anywhere from ankle deep to waist deep. We struggled up the stream for a long time, until we finally came to the first culvert. Here we had to climb up into the mouth of the culvert which we used to run under Rt 242, then back into the stream until we reached the second culvert. I'm not sure how long the stream portion of the course was. I have 1.5 miles in my head, but I'm not sure if I read that somewhere or heard it or what, so it may or may not be accurate. In any case, after the second culvert we climbed out of the stream and up to the second aid station at the base of one of the ski trails at Jay Peak. I believe this aid station was at something like 7.5 miles. From here it was about 2.5 miles, and about 2600 vertical feet, to the summit of Jay.There was a 3 hour time limit to reach the summit of Jay; those arriving after that limit would be pulled from the race. I reached the second aid station in just a few minutes under two hours. Two hours to go 7.5 miles! From here I could look up and see the summit of Jay w a y u p t h e r e. If I were hiking up Jay I would figure about 2.5 hours, using the 30 minutes per mile plus 30 minutes per thousand feet of elevation gain formula. I knew I had to reach the summit in about 65 minutes so I started off pushing a bit harder than I would have liked to. Absolutely nobody was even trying to run as it was way too steep for that. I started plodding up at a pace as fast as I thought I could sustain. I actually passed a few people on the way up, including one poor guy puking his guts out on the side of the trail. As we neared the summit the ski trail got even steeper and I and others were reduced to walking a few paces then stopping to breathe. Finally just before the very summit we turned off the ski trail and joined the Long Trail as it scrambled over the rocks to the summit. I made the climb in 45 minutes, with 20 minutes to spare! Whew!After drinking as much Gatorade and water as I could hold, eating some snacks, and refilling all of my bottles, I set off running down the other side of Jay, on ski trails just as steep as the ones we had just struggled up. Near the bottom we turned off onto a cross-country ski trail which soon turned into a sea of mud. For the next several miles the trail taught me a lot about mud; all the different varieties and consistencies and depths of it that can exist in the woods of Vermont after a solid week of rain. Sometimes it was only ankle deep, sometimes I sank in to my shins or to my knees. Sometimes it was so thick I would sink in and not be sure if my foot was ever going to come back out or not, and if it did whether my shoe would still be attached to it or not. Sometimes I swore. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I giggled. There was another aid station in here somewhere, but I don't remember exactly where it was. I do remember telling the volunteer that handed me a cup of Gatorade that I wished it were a relay so that I could stop there and she could carry on. She just laughed at me and refilled my Gatorade cup and offered me a brownie.So we ran in mud for miles and miles. How many miles? I don't know, really. Finally the route broke out of the woods and I found myself running down a dirt road. Wow! I could actually run. I wondered how long this would last, and what nasty surprise this would lead to. The route signs pointed down this first dirt road, and I was passed by a couple in a car and I remember wondering what they would think when they saw me running down the road coated in mud up to my thighs with more mud splattered all over my back and coating my butt and even my water bottles since I had fallen in the mud just a few minutes before. The route turned left and uphill on another dirt road and I kept running, marveling that part of the course was actually runnable, then took another right turn and went gently down until a sign finally directed me off the road and back into the woods. To my great surprise the route here was mostly dry and wonderfully runnable terrain, but by now I had been going for over four hours and I found myself only able to alternate walking and jogging. Between watching my footing and checking out the piles of moose scat along the trail, I stole a glance at my watch and noted that while I thought I was doing great with my strategy of alternating walking the uphill and trickier parts with running the level or downhill parts of the trail, I was actually barely managing a 15 minute per mile pace. Oh well, barring catastrophe I knew I wouldn't be pulled from the race and would be allowed to finish, so I just accepted my pace and forged ahead.Eventually this trail brought me to another stream, and this time instead of running up the stream we were running down it, which is even harder since the current tends to want to sweep your feet out from under you. This stream even went over a little cascade which objectively probably wasn't all that scary, but by now my legs were showing signs of independence and were not always responding to commands from my brain, so I muttered something about this being "slightly insane" and managed to pick my way down without being swept away and carried on.Finally, we reached a point where the course sign pointed right up the stream back and we ran up to and across the road, then around the "infield" area and back through the same banner we ran out of to start the race. Just before the finish line there was a small drainage ditch and as I jumped over it I fell with my nose literally a foot away from the finish line. I jumped back up and over the line. Finished! Wow!Once we got home Sunday afternoon I downloaded the data from my Garmin into my computer and looked at the elevation profile of the route. The total elevation gain is shown at 4,561 feet. The profile looks like a huge, inverted 'V', with the summit Jay Peak in the center. My data shows a total distance of 17.0 miles, while the official distance is listed as 19. I'm not sure which is more accurate. I know the course does get changed a bit each year, and I don't know how they measure the course. It really doesn't matter. It's not really about the distance, it's about the terrain.I did carry a camera with me -- a waterproof disposable -- and took a few pictures. If any of them come out I'll post them. Also, at the last minute Jodi decided to shoot video at whichever of the aid stations she could get access to so she brought her new camera with her. I've seen the raw footage and it's good, though it's only at the aid stations and she couldn't access the really crazy parts of the course. Jodi will be editing the footage into something coherent, but I'm not sure when that will be. She shot in HD and needs to upgrade her version of FinalCut Pro before she can edit it as the version she has can't handle HD. Oh, and of course she got me falling at the finish line on video for all posterity.


The count-down continues. It is now nine weeks until I start up the Approach Trail and my thru-hike commences. I do wish I was in better shape. Lately I have been running only on the weekends. We have gotten out with our cross-country skis a few rimes, and I hope we can do so again this weekend. I do walk several miles every day. I walk a bit over a mile to and from the 'T' each morning and afternoon, and on most days I walk a couple of miles at lunch time. But all in all I feel like a slug, as I do every winter. Hopefully if I start easy I'll be okay on the hike.


Monday, January 19, 2009
Boston Public Garden - Noon

Allen Freeman


Sunday, January 25, 2009
Pump Up The Volume

Last weekend I said that I wanted to pull all of my cold weather gear together and try to pack it in my SMD Starlite too see how well it all fit. I never got around to doing it last weekend, but I did it yesterday. Well, working in the comfort and relative warmth of my living room I was able to cram everything into or on the pack, but it was tough. And I didn't have 3 to 5 days of food in the food sack, either. There is no way this was going to be practical packing and unpacking every day for weeks on the trail. So now the question is: what to do?

I could just use my Kelty Super Tioga, which is a load carrying monster of a frame pack. It will easily swallow everything I need to carry, but that pack weighs 6 1/2 pounds with nothing in it! There has to be some solution that will fall somewhere in between the 30 oz of my Starlite and the 104 oz of the Kelty.

So I spent some time last night and this morning looking at packs online, then Jodi and I took a trip to our local REI to touch and play with the packs they had there. Two packs caught my eye; the first is the Osprey Aether 70 (, which in a size large weighs 4 lb 12 oz and offers 4400 cu. in. I also liked one of the Gregory packs, it offered similar volume and what seemed to be more convenient outside pockets, but it weighed 1 lb 2oz more than the Osprey, and with that weight it was approaching the weight of my trusty old Kelty frame pack, so I decided on the Osprey.

Now REI was offering the Osprey at full retail price, $259, and I knew I could get it substantially cheaper elsewhere. Usually the staff at REI is very attentive and someone would come over and ask if we needed any help, but that didn't happen today so I didn't feel like I owed REI this sale due to them investing time in me, so I felt no compunction about coming back home and ordering the pack from an online retailer for $60 less than REI charged.

So now I am waiting for the pack to arrive sometime this week, and I'll go through the exercise again and see if I can fit everything in this new, larger pack. From the bit I played with the pack at REI I think it will be a very comfortable pack to carry, so I hope it is a good match for the volume of cold weather gear I will be carrying for the first weeks of my hike. Yeah, it's pretty warm in Atlanta by mid_March, but the trail is in the mountains of northern Georgia, between 4,000' and 5,000', and the weather there definitely offers up a taste of winter.

Once the weather warms up and I am through the high mountain areas, I will have Jodi send me my light-weight summer sleeping bag and I will send some of my heavy clothes and my winter bag home. At that time I will decide whether I want to continue using the Osprey backpack, or whether I will switch back to my SMD Starlite for the summer.

I am also still waiting for the current 2009 edition of Appalachian Pages (,and once that arrives I can finalize my tentative schedule and decide where I am going to have Jodi send me food resupply packages, and decide little details like which maps need to be sent in which mail drops.

Well, there are now 51 days left until I fly to Atlanta, and 52 days until I start up the Approach Trail.


Six Weeks!

Not much to write today, other than to note that there are just six weeks left between today and the day I climb the Approach Trail to the summit of Springer Mountain!
Allen F. Freeman


Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Challenges and Temptations

Tom asked: "What do you think the biggest challenges will be? What
will tempt you the most to leave before you're done?"
Of course I can offer only suppositions until I am actually out there
and doing it, but there are two things that I think will present my
biggest temptations to quit. The first will simply be missing Jodi so
much that it overrides any ability to focus on and enjoy my life on
the trail. The other situation would be spending a week hiking in
constant rain, or a prolonged hot spell hiking through the
mid-Atlantic states, or maybe a hell of mosquitoes and gnats in
southern New England, and being so physically miserable that I lose
focus on the bigger picture and can see only the current, but
temporary, misery.

Bicycle touring is somewhat analogous. It is a deeply satisfying and rewarding way to travel, but it isn't always "fun." Sometimes getting from here to there is simply a job of work that needs to get done.

I am told that thru-hiking is more a mental and emotional challenge
than a physical one. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if I am up
to that challenge or not.

Allen F. Freeman


Thursday, February 12, 2009
Fully Committed

I gave my notice at work today. Come March 6 I will be officially unemployed, so it'll be either find another job or go hiking. I think I'll go hiking!

Allen F. Freeman


Friday, February 13, 2009
Bankruptcy Of Purse vs Bankruptcy Of Life

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea-"cruising," it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

"I've always wanted to sail the South Seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the routine of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.
Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

-- Sterling Hayden


Saturday, February 14, 2009
Appalachian Trail Map


Sunday, February 15, 2009
Planning a Thru-Hike

I promised someone I would write a little bit about planning my hike. There are lots and lots of resources for someone planning an AT thru-hike. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has kind of a thru-hiker outline page on their website. They also sell a host of books about the trail, including the "Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Planner". I also have the complete set of AT maps purchased from the ATC.

There are also a number of websites devoted to the Appalachian Trail and other long distance trails. Among these are WhiteBlaze, which hosts a number of forums about the AT, and TrailJournals, which hosts journals of hikers on the AT and other trails.

There are also three different "data books" to choose from for the AT. These books distill the most essential info from the guide books (which I own but will not be carrying) for the entire trail into a list of mileages between shelters, campsites, springs, and road crossings, and add info about the services available in the towns most often used for resupply by hikers. The one I am carrying is "Appalachian Pages".

Working from information I gleaned from these books and websites, I worked up a spreadsheet that has a tentative schedule that lists all of the town stops I expect to make in order to resupply with food and other consumables, with the number of days between stops based on a typically average thru-hike pace. Then I did my best to determine which of these stops provided adequate shopping to be able resupply locally, and which would require a mail drop from home. I have a total of 12 mail drops on my schedule, and at the appropriate time Jodi will send off a box with food, maps, and whatever else I might need.

This spreadsheet resides on a server that I can log into from any internet-connected computer, so I can access it and update the schedule as my real pace unfolds on the ground, and Jodi can access it to keep track of what and when she needs to send things to me.

What people might not think of is that a large part of the planning for a long-distance hike isn't about the hiking at all; it's about keeping the rest of your life running back home while you are not there for an extended period. Things like mortgage and car payments, license renewals, tax bills, health insurance premiums, and whatever else. This is all a lot easier for me because I have Jodi who will be still be at home keeping that part of our lives humming along. For single people or couples who hike together, this can be a huge part of their planning. I do all of my banking on-line already, and I've set up my credit card to be automatically paid every month from my checking account, so my plan is to have a set amount of money transferred to my checking account every month, then use my credit card and debit card to pay for things along the way.

As for keeping in touch with home and the rest of the outside world, I will be carrying my Treo smartphone and the same folding bluetooth keyboard I used last summer while Jodi and I were bicycle touring. I hope to keep up a more-or-less daily journal, although I do not expect to be able to actually upload entries daily.

So, I've created a plan. Planning is important, but only a fool would expect his or her plan for such a long undertaking to actually play out flawlessly, so I hope I am capable of being flexible enough to yield to reality as my hike unfolds.

Thirty days and counting!


Monday, February 23, 2009
Mount Moosilauke

I had an amazing weekend playing in the snow in the White Mountains of New Hampshire this past weekend. I almost didn't find the cabin on Friday and was heading back towards my car as the sun set, when I ran into some of the others in my group who actually knew where the cabin is located.

On Saturday we snowshoed up to the summit of Mount Moosilauke. The krummholz was coated in snow and rime ice, and the sun was shining out of a deep blue sky, making it a real winter wonderland. It was ridiculously windy up there so we stayed for about 90 seconds before turning around and heading back down into the cover of the trees. We were fortunate to have such great weather for our winter climb.

I didn't get any pictures of the mountain because I hadn't charged the battery in my camera and it died before we got up high, but I do have a few pictures I took while snowshoeing around looking for the cabin on Friday, and at the start of our trip up the mountain on Saturday morning. Andy took some great photos and was kind enough to share them, so I added them to my photos in my photo gallery. You can see them all at:


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Some folks have been asking about the gear I will be carrying with me on my thru-hike. The weather is pretty uninviting outside today, and Jodi is working so I am home alone, so I took some time this morning and did a little photo-essay on my gear. Rather than post a long series of photos here, I posted them to my photo gallery instead. You can find them here. Be sure to click on the photos to see the full description.

I don't have the weight of every item. I don't own a scale so I can't weight them myself. Below is a list of some of the major items that I do have weights for. The weights given are the catalog weights so you can assume that the actual weights differ a bit, but hopefully not by much. Note that most of my clothing is not included in these weights, nor is food and water. You can figure roughly 2 pounds per day for food, so anywhere from 6 to 12 pounds depending on how many days until the next resupply. I usually start the day with 2 quarts of water, so that's a bit over 4 pounds.

Cold Weather Gear list

Item Weight (ounces)

Backpack - Osprey Aether 70 76

Hammock - Hennessy Explorer Ultralite 41

Hennessy Undercover & Underpad 14

Thermarest Prolite 4 24

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0* Long sleeping bag 46

Lowa GTX mid boots 40

Montbell UL Down Inner Jacket 7

Westen Mountaineering Flight Jacket 11

Marmot Precip Jacket 14

ULA Equipment Rain Wrap 3.2

Sea to Summit Pack Liner 3.4

Jacks-r-Better pack cover / gear hammock 3.75

283.35 ounces

17.7 pounds

Warm Weather Gear list

Item Weight (ounces)

Backpack - Osprey Aether 70 76

Hammock - Hennessy Explorer Ultralite 41

Hennessy Undercover & Underpad 14

Western Mountaineering Summerlite 32* Long 21

Lowa GTX mid boots 40

Montbell UL Down Inner Jacket 7

Marmot Precip Jacket 14

ULA Equipment Rain Wrap 3.2

Sea to Summit Pack Liner 3.4

Jacks-r-Better pack cover / gear hammock 3.75

223.35 ounces

14.0 pounds


Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Mail Drops

Below is the list of places I will be calling in for mail with the date I expect to arrive at that location. The dates are of course only estimates, and as the projections get further out into the future they are less and less accurate. As the hike progresses I will try to remember to update this schedule to more accurately reflect reality.

April 01, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O NOC Outfitters
13077 Hwy 19W
Bryson City, NC 28713

Please hold forAT hiker ETA 04/01/2009

April 03, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O General Delivery
Fontana Dam, NC 28733

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 04/03/2009

April 09, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O Standing Bear Farm
4255 Green Corner Rd
Hartford, TN 37753

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 04/09/2009

May 02, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O Relax Inn
7253 Lee Hwy
Rural Retreat VA 24368

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 05/02/2009

May 09, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O General Delivery
Pearisburg, VA 24134

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 05/09/2009

June 06, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O Appalachian Trail Conservancy
799 Washington St
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 06/06/2009

June 20, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O General Delivery
Port Clinton, PA 19549

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 06/20/2009

June 25, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O General Delivery
Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 06/25/09

July 14, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O General Delivery
Dalton, MA 01226

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 07/14/2009

August 01, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O General Delivery
Glencliff, NH 03238

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 08/01/2009

August 14, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O Pine Ellis B&B
20 Pine St, PO Box 12
Andover, ME 04216

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 08/14/2009

August 27, 2009

Allen Freeman
C/O Shaw's Lodging
PO Box 72
Monson, ME 04464

Please hold for AT hiker ETA 08/27/2009

Allen F. Freeman


Thursday, March 12, 2009
The Blue Hills

I have been spending my time this week taking care of all the little last-minute details that need to be taken care of before I leave for Georgia. Things like laying in a supply of the foods I eat on the trail so that Jodi won't have to do all the shopping in order to send me my mail-drops, making sure all the things that use batteries have fresh batteries in them, and making sure all the things that need to be charged are fully charged.

I have also been getting out to hike in the Blue Hills reservation as often as I can. I have my backpack packed with all the gear I plan to start my hike with, so I am hiking with all of my equipment, and four days worth of food. It's a little silly hauling this backpack around on day hikes, but it's a good way to get my legs used to carrying the extra weight.

The weather has been what you might call "variable" this week. Last Saturday it was in the 60's, and the mid-50's on Sunday. Then on Sunday night a winter storm rolled in and it snowed all day on Monday. I skipped hiking on Monday and spent the day tweaking some of my gear.

On Tuesday I was back out in the Blue Hills. It was a beautiful morning with the trees coated in snow and ice. By late morning the sun had warmed everything enough that the snow in the trees was melting and it was like hiking in the rain.

I was out in the Blue Hills again today. It was in the high 20's when I started around 8::00Am, with a nice cool breeze blowing up to 30 mph. With all thw wind I decided to stay off the ridges and I explored parts of the park I haven't been in before. Did you know there was a CCC camp in the Blue Hills during the Depression? Well, I didn't. At least, not until today, when I stumbled upon the site pictured below.

They did some awfully nice rock work, which is now out in the middle of the woods and most people will never see it. It's kind of a shame.


Monday, March 16, 2009
Adventure's Eve

Months ago I added a countdown timer to my desktop, set to count down
until the time my flight leaves Boston bound for Atlanta. At the time
I put it up the day counter contained three digits. Now, the day
counter is down to zero. There are 15 hours, 39 minutes, and 27
seconds left until my flight is scheduled to take off at 9:05 tomorrow
morning. The next time you hear from me, I'll be in Georgia.
I have been watching the weather in the north Georgia mountains. It's
been rainy through the weekend, but the sun is supposed to come out
tomorrow, and it looks like mostly clear and reasonably warm weather
through the coming weekend. That means I should enjoy good weather my
first few days on the trail!

Allen F. Freeman


Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Hikers Hostel, Dahlonega, Georgia

Not all that much to say today. The flight from Boston to Atlanta went off as scheduled, my backpack was not lost, I did not get turned around navigating the MARTA train, the shuttle from the hostel was only a few minutes late, and I arrived here safe, sound, and in possession of all of my stuff. What more can one ask?
The hostel is full of excited hikers ready to start their trips in the morning, as well as a few who have been out for a few days and are off the trail for a break.

The weather is wonderful, in the 70s and sunny. I hope this weather holds for a few days.

That's all for now.

Allen Freeman


right arrow cyan.gif (1095 bytes)

Copyright 1996 - 2011 Allen F. Freeman
Last modified: November 03, 2011