Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Notes From The Appalachian Trail Part 6: What To Wear

There is no place else that I can think of where a group of people would stand in admiration of a smelly homeless person with a pack on their back, all of them wishing they could be that guy. Yet, on the trail, that smelly homeless guy is actually the king of hikers: the AT Through-hiker. This is the guy that is on a quest to do the whole thing from Maine to Georgia in one year. We stand in awe, because with our measly backbreaking 3-4 day excursions, we are merely tourists pretending to be hikers, he is the real deal...but get him down to McDonalds or at your local park, you'd just think he was another bum.

I only saw one such hiker, and he took a look at the size of our group eating lunch at a shelter, and hurried on to complete his journey while we quietly watched with respect. There are actually quite a few people each year that try to do the whole trail and now it has gotten to the point that just doing the trail itself is not enough. The trail is full of rumors about people that are legend along the trail. We heard about "Stumbles", a guy that many people have met that seems to be constantly inebriated, and three sisters that were attempting the whole trail while barefoot. There was also Pat, who was doing the whole trail in his Scottish uniform with kilt, spats and all. Then there was the guy we ran into in the dark, that looked like a large girl in a dress, but had a Johnny Cash voice.

Me? I was happy to have made my part of the journey and get back home in one piece. I did learn a lot about what to wear and what to not forget. The major piece of clothing I forgot was a regular jogging t-shirt. Just a short-sleeve wicking shirt. I probably have 20 of them at home, but never thought something like that would be useful when the temperature was supposed to range from 40 to 60 degrees. I did bring something I thought was better, a compression shirt. This shirt was awesome, if you wanted to sweat when your fingers were still cold.

Another great item was my zip-off fishing pants. Paul suggested that I bring these along. They are lightweight and the legs zip off at the knees so you can convert the pants to shorts. They seemed like they would not be any protection from the cold at all, but they were perfect, and I used the zip feature every day.

It turned out that my best friend in the whole world was a $20 fleece hoodie I bought at Gander Mountain just a few days before the trip. It kept me warm when I got cold and made a nice cushion on top of my pillow. (I had a special hiking pillow I borrowed from my son's collection of hiking gear, essentially it was a bag of acorns).

Bottom line, hiking is all about layers. Paul showed me how 4 layers of light clothing can do the job. You start off a little cold and by the time you've hiked 30 minutes, you've peeled down to your t-shirt, or like me, if all you had was a compression shirt...you go shirtless.

Come to think of it, I'm probably some kind of legend on the trail by now...the old shirtless, homeless guy hiking around with a Gopro on his head....

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