Tag Archives: Appalachian Trail

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 …

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?

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?

Enthusiasms

I’ve been plagued by enthusiasms all my life.

I was going to learn to play the piano, I was going to have a book published, I was going to learn Japanese and I was going to really improve at golf. There are some who have noticed my penchant for collecting wives as something along the lines of an enthusiasm, though voices in that direction have stilled since they met my current wife.

The piano playing is mediocre, at best, the first 27,000 words of my novel form less than a light pamphlet, while my Japanese simply allows me to sit in the back of a cab in Tokyo and request the driver to return me to my hotel, not exactly the Gettysburg Address. To be fair, I do say it so perfectly that the driver does a quick double-take in the mirror and starts to berate me furiously while I just raise my shoulders and look bemused. The less said about my golf, the better.

The point of this is that, throughout my life, I’ve started things and rarely actually carried them through and, at this gestation period of my great adventure, I’ve been reflecting upon that rather trickily self-aware truth.

I really don’t want this hike to be an enthusiasm that flickers briefly, though brightly, then fades away. One obviously materialistic reason is that I’ve spent, or will spend, about $2500 on new kit and clothes that has pretty much no other purpose than to help me to achieve my goal. However, the Appalachian Trail is a dream that was always an unlikely goal but, with circumstances aligning, has suddenly catapulted itself into the forefront of my life. The fact that my wonderful wife is my biggest supporter in the endeavor is another terrific blessing. The trail is staring me in the face like an insolent challenge and I really don’t want to get out of the way. It is deliciously real, tantalizingly attainable and so imminent I can almost imagine those first few steps.

I want everybody to feel how I feel right now, if only once in their lives. I’m excited, a little scared and very ready for this.

No, this isn’t an enthusiasm, it is my time to follow through on a dream.

First contact with wildlife

Now that the blog is up and running, I thought I’d better actually do a short hike to start to wear in my new boots.  Everything is new, never having hiked before, so I’m a little like a new boy at school.  Hopefully, I’ve chosen well, though the early evidence isn’t entirely encouraging.

I looked around my local area and, recognizing that Florida lacks a anything ressembling a hill, I set my modests sights at Little Manatee River Loop, which winds through the forest for just over 6 miles.  I took a small backpack, plenty of water and some nuts and cranberries to tide me over for a couple of hours.  It was only in the lates 50’s, early 60’s, so very comfortable. Continue reading First contact with wildlife