Saturday, December 3, 2016

Notes From The Appalachian Trail Part 10: Smokey Mountain Time

Probably the biggest surprise to me about backpacking was the emphasis on time. I'm the kind of guy that loves watches. I have many and am always looking for one more. I can't say exactly why, but it must be like women and shoes, or at least my wife and shoes. She has shoes she has never worn, but we have yet to pass by a single shoe sale without a 45 minute stop to see what she needs. I'm not quite that bad, but I could be..

My brother Paul on the other hand, disdains watches. Always has. They are a sign that you are beholden to the man, that somebody can make you be somewhere at a certain time. He gets there when he gets there..that is until we went hiking together. Suddenly, all day long we needed to know what time it was. I mean, we are out in the woods, everything we need is on our backs, nobody is expecting us, we either get where we are going, or we die trying, and the time isn't going to make much difference. We are told there will be one cellphone between all of us, and it won't get reception anyway. I knew enough to leave mine behind, my battery is good to about lunchtime on any given day, and without data, I wouldn't even be able to look at pictures of cats.

It turns out that my newest addition to my watch collection: the Sunnoto Traverse Alpha, was not to be an object of ridicule like my survival knife, but something that came in quite handy. #1..this baby held a charge for 2 days before I used the GPS hiking feature, and then I was able to quickly charge it using an inexpensive battery charger. We always knew what kind of progress we were making, which was very important when you were trying to make 13 miles a day. We knew when to step up the pace, when we could take longer breaks, our changes in altitude and temperature and more.

Unfortunately, the feature that I was the most excited about let me down. I pride myself on how many steps I can record in a day on various exercise bands I've owned and once even hit 30,000 steps in a day while on a camping trip with the boys, in which we walked all day long to stay warm and there was nothing else to do. On this trip, I was getting a lousy 16,000-17,000 steps after walking from dawn to dusk. No allowances made for the pack, climbing over trees, rocks, steep ascents, nothing.

Chase must take after his father. He brought a watch which never worked the whole trip, in fact I think he left it as a trail magic gift for somebody that would be willing to buy a battery for it. Paul, on the other hand is now thinking about what kind of watch he can buy that is MUCH superior to the Sunnoto Traverse Alpha.

Note: Timing is everything. Our original plan to hike in Maine was doused by Hurricane Matthew cancelling our flight. That was our last good weather opportunity to hit Maine this year. If we had waited 3-4 weeks before changing our plans to North Carolina, all we would be seeing would be burned out forests...if we got to go at all. Even when you don't have to punch a clock, the time matters....

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