Today, I attended the Hiking the Appalachian Trail: Trip Planning class at REI College Park, led by Michaela. The class was ok, and it was exactly what I expected it would be, which is to say, not super helpful, given the prior reading I had been doing. It didn’t actually answer many questions I had, since I had already been musing about this for years, and done a whole lot of internet reading, and spent four hours talking with other REI employees a few days before, though it did validate some of my thoughts, so it was still useful to me. But for someone who hadn't done any of the research I had already done, it would have been an excellent introductory class.
From the conversation I had on Tuesday at REI Columbia, I had been debating whether to get a headlamp, or bring a flashlight, or just use the flashlight on my phone. Now, though, I’m definitely leaning towards getting a headlamp. If I need illumination, it’ll most likely be at a time where my hands will be best put to a use other than holding a flashlight.
Awesome, one more thing that’s going to need electricity. (Beside my phone and watch.)
Everything else I’ve read suggests bringing 50 ft of rope (for use stringing up food overnight so as to be inaccessible to animals), but the slides at the class suggested 100 ft. Michaela suggested it was so that if you had to lose rope (because e.g. say a knot became un-undoable and you had to cut it off), you still had sufficient rope for further use.
My plan so far has been to do a three day hike somewhere in Maryland with gear as a prep hike before committing to doing the trail. I am seriously considering the need to take a backpacking basics class of some sort as well. Actual instruction would be beneficial, as opposed to hoping I’ll learn everything I need from internet video and actually in the field. Unfortunately, I don't know if there's any classes that are going to work, schedule-wise.
I'm really kicking myself now for not actually doing an overnight camping trip sometime between 2011 and now, like I told myself I would.
This next month is going to be challenging and require a lot of work to get ready and pull off. I hope I’m not deluding myself that I’m going to be able to pull this off, especially since I haven't really done much in the way of real hiking in the last year or two. All the 15+ mile days and 25+ mile weekends I piled up in 2011 as "practice" kind of sucked some of the enjoyment out of it back then, and most of it was sidewalks or sides of roads, which doesn't even begin to come close to actual hiking.
On the other hand, since it's been a bit too cold (or soggy) outside for walking, I’m really glad that my back-up exercise routine has been to walk up and down the stairs in my house a whole lot. Now I just need to do it carrying 40 pounds of weight.