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Prep time essential for hikers

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I’m sorry. I know what I will be writing about for a good part of the coming year, and it may get old. Therefore, I must apologize in advance.

You see, my oldest son came into the room last week and asked: “If I decide to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, will you and Mom try to stop me?”

I looked him square in the eye. My chest poked out just a tad. I stood as erect and solid as a man could possibly stand. And I responded.

“If you decide to do a thru-hike, we will sit down, go over the plan of where and when, and I will meet you all along the way with food, fresh clothing, and will drop you off in Georgia and bring you back from Maine when you complete it.”

We discussed it further, well before his mother found out of course, as she was not going to talk him, or us, out of it.

He had researched it pretty well. He understood he would need to begin training for it, as it is an endeavor that you don’t embark on a whim. He purchased a lightweight backpack and began working on his supplies, so he could test weight. He worked the straps to get it properly balanced and the center of gravity at a point where he felt the least amount of tug on his shoulders and back. He worked the bag to the proper order of belongings, so the ones he would need while hiking were readily available and the ones he only needed when setting camp were packed more securely and water tight.

He showed us his backpack several times, proud of the progress he was making in the preparation, even having his little brother, his mom and myself try it on.

And this weekend, he wanted to test it.

This is exactly how you do something like taking on the Appalachian Trail. You prepare and you test. You don’t decide while in the first 200 miles that you did need something or you didn’t need something. You figure it out now.

That is what he was doing.

Generally, thru-hikers will set off in March or April from Georgia and head north. Hitting areas like the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine in the winter can be a death sentence. Mount Washington is part of that range, is part of the AT (Appalachian Trail), and considered to be the worst place as far as weather in the United States. In fact, for three-quarters of a decade, Mount Washington held the world record for fastest surface wind at over 230 miles per hour. You would much rather be there in August than 

November.

Knowing weather can and will be unpredictable for such a long period of time, Turner decided that with the cold front, it would be a good time to test himself in the elements.

He has a few different camping alternatives, and this time, he would be using the Tentsile hammock tent. The Tentsile is not a typical hammock. It is triangular in shape, requiring three locations to strap. It also has a pole that keeps the top from sagging giving you the tent portion. The nice thing about the Tentsile is you can also use it a ground tent if need be as well.

Both Turner and I already determined there was a more efficient way of hanging it than the strap mechanism that came with it, and it could be done with less weight, which is very important for hiking a trek of this magnitude.

Despite his mom’s worries over the few nights he was gone, everything tested perfectly.

Of course, this column will touch on staying overnight, over a weekend, and over longer periods of time in the future. But for now, just as with Turner, we will build up as we go.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.

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