All posts by Steve Adams

I originally registered on this site prior to hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2014. The two-volume memoir of that epic journey is now available on amazon.com. Carpe diem!

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Full head of hairI’ve been something of a silver fox for many years now, with the luxurious grey mane being probably my best feature.  So it may seem rather incongruous of me that today I followed through on my plan to dispense with this mass of grey hair for the duration of my hike.  My lovely wife wasLosing it terribly nervous about the prospect and, to be fair, I was a little uneasy.  However, we went to “His Place,” a great, traditional men’s barber in Ellenton, where Wendell, the proprietor, worked his magic.

The vast majority of my hair was history within seconds, while Wendell, gradually and Baldyefficiently, shaved closer and closer to my skin until I was as bald as a baby’s backside.  Don’t blink as you watch the time lapse video, as you’ll miss the first 95% of the hair in the first two seconds.

I recognize that I now look like an escaped convict, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate it a few weeks from now when the weather starts warming up and nothing nasty can find a home underneath my hat.

By the way, please check the new page on this site.  It is the Last 2,000 Miles and is one I had intended to leave a few weeks, though events have now overtaken me.

 

Food, Glorious Food

As something of a trencherman myself, the rather unappetizing pile of processed rubbish currently sitting on my dining table ready to be packed, has made me a little glum about my food prospects on this trip.  However, my wife slipped neatly into gear last night and made a whole load of lentil soup, then dehydrated it overnight.  I was somewhat dubious when I saw this crispy concoction this morning, yet took some on a hike in Myakka River State Park this afternoon.

I was actually going to try out my tent in conditions other than my living room, so I took some food along to try to get a taste of the whole experience.  I also carried a pack of over 30lbs.  Let me tell you, the first few steps were something of an eye popper, yet I soon got used to it.

Diane has been fairly scathing about the packets of ramen noodles, the Mac n’ Cheese and particularly the Cheddar Potato Soup Mix, which even looks fairly vile from the picture on the packet.  She has drawn my attention to the high salt, fat and sugar content of most of this stuff and today proved to be not only the guardian of my health, but also my personal chef on the trail.  The soup was delicious and I’m only posting now so that you can see my reaction on film when I tasted it. As they say down here, “You can’t fake fresh.”

It takes a village

Since I made up my mind to attempt this mind-boggling hike, I’ve been speaking to a couple of networking groups, of which I have been a member for several years.  I used to be the Property and Casualty insurance guy, trying to network and grow my own business, along with sharing referrals to help others grow their businesses.  Now, however, I’m the oddity in both groups, with nothing to sell other than my overwhelming, schoolboyish, excitement and gleeful enthusiasm about my adventure.

Enthusiasm from others is often difficult to gauge, particularly when you are trying to extol the virtues of a wind mitigation inspection, or telling people of the important nuances of flood coverage, yet there has been no equivocation about the hike.  People have been uniformly enthusiastic about this and I think it is because I am coming at the subject from both a place of pure joy at the prospect and one of naïveté due to my complete lack of experience in the environment. Continue reading It takes a village

..and now say goodbye to “King” and hello to …

It is staggering to me how much time I’ve spent on preparing for this hike, while the issue taking up most of my time hasn’t been what you might think.photo

I know that it is crucial that I understand how my gear works, so I’ve used my stove and watched many Youtube videos of how it all fits together and actually works.  I’ve taken out and set up my sleeping pad and sleeping bag, so I’ll know what to do on my first night.  I’ve even ordered a silk sleeping bag liner in order, according to a rather slimy looking guy on Youtube, to prevent my body oils and odors contaminating my sleeping bag.  Nice.  I’ve spoken to many people, and read many books and even recently joined the Florida Appalachian Trail Club to try to absorb as much of their experience as possible, as if by osmosis.  They say that failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so I am confident that I’ve worked out most of the early kinks that will hit me on the Trail.

However, one thing that I have been unable to resolve – until now- has been my trail name, that secret identity that apparently all hikers take on when they first step into those daunting woods.  An earlier post referred to “King” and my reasons for that name.  Since that post, I’ve been uncomfortable with not only the inference of the name but also the amount of explanation that it will take on the trail if I’m not to be thought of as a totally arrogant Brit.  I think the arrogant bit is a given; I’m just trying to control the degree. Continue reading ..and now say goodbye to “King” and hello to …

Loneliness of the long-distance hiker

For the past few months I’ve been preparing for my upcoming hike on the AT and have been concentrating on my kit, toughening up my feet and wearing in my boots.  Ive also been fattening myself up in preparation for the expected weight loss, though I suspect that is more because I am a greedy hog than any conscious effort on my part.  However, one thing that is difficult to prepare for is the loneliness that is necessarily going to be part of my experience at some time or another.

That said, I have had some experience of this in recent weeks, without having been particularly conscious of it.  It is only now, sitting here typing another post, that I’ve become aware of my wife’s brilliant strategy to assist in my preparations. Continue reading Loneliness of the long-distance hiker

Not so wild life

I was sitting on my porch yesterday afternoon, in the late sunshine, reading yet another Appalachian Trail book. I was engrossed as the light faded and, using my Kindle app on the iPad, I was hardly aware that I was gradually plunging into darkness, as the iPad is so well backlit.

You may recall that my only encounters with wildlife thus far have been with some wild boar on the Little Manatee River trail and a rubber snake in a gated community. As a consequence, I’m hardly the grizzled veteran for whom wild animals hold no fear. Indeed, I am to long distance hiking what Katy Perry is to deep sea drilling. That said, I feel relatively comfortable facing most animate objects in the coming months, so it is somewhat jarring to report another brush with reality.

As I say, the sun had entirely gone and I was quietly minding my own business when a frog had the temerity to jump straight out of the gloom onto my hand. In the dark, this is more than a little unnerving and I confess to jumping like a 10 year old girl and, very possibly, starting to emit a squeal that I quickly caught in my throat. Of course, it passed in an instant and I laughed at myself, yet I’ve had to recall something that I read recently, that the fear of something is not a valid reason for not doing something. That is a wild paraphrase, but I’m sure you get my drift.

Of course, I’m as frightened of frogs as I am of rubber snakes, yet I know that it is the sudden movement that I need to get used to. With nearly 2,200 miles to cover, there will doubtless be many moments of unexpected movement, so I guess these tiny false alarms are all part of the process.

Roll on my first bear encounter. Then I’ll really have reason to jump.

Why am I doing this?

Now that the hike is drawing closer, (less than  5 weeks away) I thought I’d try to give you an idea of why I’ve chosen to be uncomfortable, exhausted, hungry and smelly for about six months.  It has to be said at the outset that I am a man of home comforts.  Frankly, give me my remote control, my sofa, my TV and my wife providing me with endless snacks and I’m pretty much good to go.  Why, you may ask, would somebody willingly give that up for 6 months of lonely, hard work and discomfort?

When put in those terms, the answer is not immediately apparent, even to me, but I’d like to share a couple of moments that conspired to put me on, and keep me on, this path. Continue reading Why am I doing this?

Animal Crackers

This blog post contains an admission that speaks to my woeful lack of experience of “the wild.”

Last week, I continued to wear in my new boots, with a 6 mile trek around my neighborhood.  There is a very pretty gravel track that goes by a lake and I really enjoy the walk.  Just as I joined the path, I noticed a snake about 30 feet away, in a different direction to the path I was taking.  It was coiled and not moving, so I pulled out my phone, took a quick snap, then zoomed in on the snap and posted it on Facebook.  I asked my friends if they knew what the snake was and, after a number of unsure responses, with a rat snake, a garden

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snake and a damifino (whatever that is) snake as options, I started thinking back to the moment I saw it and I think the clue should have been that it didn’t move – at all.  As a consequence, and to my eternal shame and blushing embarrassment, I believe it was the well known snakius rubberis, routinely purchased for a buck at Dollaris Generali.

Yes, that gruesome looking beast, coiled and ready to spring, was probably no more than a mass of rubber, painted for effect and no more likely to spring at me than the Statue of Liberty.  Exactly why it was in the path I have no idea, though I suspect it was there for precisely the effect it had; it was put there for some mug to come along and I happened to be the mug who saw it and fell for it.

This doesn’t bode well for my upcoming trip, as I’ll likely mis-identify all sorts of animals on the trail.  So, when I tell you that I’ve seen a mountain lion, read cat.  When I report a bear sighting, read raccoon and any talk of moose should be downgraded to Bambi immediately.

This is indeed a step into the unknown; I just hadn’t realized that identifying live from inanimate objects was going to be yet another issue to watch out for.

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Say hullo to King

One of the things I’d really like to sort out prior to this trip is my trail name, which seems, from my reading, to be such an important item on the trail that it would be foolish to leave it until the last minute.  God forbid that I leave it until I’m actually on my way, as I could find myself at the mercies of my fellow hikers, who may bestow such gems as “Midnight Pooper” or “Snoring Bear” on me for my tendencies in either direction.

As a consequence, and without irony, I need to explain why I feel the need to introduce myself as “King.”  This isn’t about self-aggrandizement, nor about ego in any way, though it has something from my wife, from my profession and from my original country, so it may be more appropriate than it may first seem.

The first, and most important reason, is that it is my wife, Diane’s, choice.  She is the one who has cleared the decks for me to have this adventure, she is my biggest supporter and will be stocking me up with food via mail drops and the occasional visit.  She has always wanted to give me the name since I told her how I got it originally.

Back in 2009, when I was setting up my insurance agency here in Florida, I had passed the requisite exams for P&C business (homeowners, auto etc), but I had a bit of time to kill prior to starting my agency.  Consequently, I thought I’d use that time to get my life and health licenses, just in case I decided to develop them.

I attended classes in Florida and, as a rather mature student, I didn’t actually speak to any of the other students until our instructor, a self-named “Southern Cracker”, called David, asked me a question.  Giving the answer, I was aware of a sudden shift in the room as everybody turned to me, clearly the only Brit in the room.  “You sound like the King,” he shouted.  He didn’t seem to mind that the Brits hadn’t actually had a king for over half a century, nor that my accent couldn’t conceivably be called king-like.  Fellow Brits will tell you that the Southend accent is a long way down the scale when it comes to comparisons of accents in the UK.  Nonetheless, I was King for the rest of the course and even referred to as such by my fellow students.

So, King it is, though I’m aware that I’ll likely have to explain it every time I meet somebody on the trail if I’m not to be regarded as an arrogant Brit which, of course, I probably am.

Are we there yet?

My lovely sister-in-law, Suzy, asked me recently how far I’d be walking, so I tried to give her some context.  Knowing that she has driven several times from New York down to her folks’ home in Orlando, a distance of about 1100 miles, I said “it is basically the drive from Brooklyn to Orlando and back again, but up and down mountains instead of I95.”

I’m not sure who was more awed by this context, Suzy or me.  I knew it was 2185 miles and I knew it was over mountains (I even recall vaguely that we peak over 100 mountains in New Hampshire alone).  However, having made the drive from New York to Orlando a few times myself, I realized that I had articulated the trip to myself for the first time in terms that were accessible to me.  This is a long way, by any standards, and I am suddenly more in awe of those who have completed this multi-Marathon and I must say that it gave me pause for 5 minutes.

From reading many books on the subject, my sense is that most people only have a vague idea of the distance when they begin the trail.  They obviously know the mileage as a number, while also knowing that it should take about 5 to 7 months, but they can’t truly see it for what it is – a massive undertaking from a physical, emotional and mental perspective all at the same time.  I’m sure, as I take those first, hesitant steps, I’ll be taking in my surroundings, breathing in the smell, indeed, the taste, of the woods and mountains and experiencing everything in a way that can only be done by taking those first steps.  Reading all the books in the world, hiking 10 miles locally at a time, cycling 30 miles, none of this is going to actually help me with those first, tremulous paces as I step out, alone, into a whole new world that is beyond my current thinking.

How cool is that?