Thursday, May 5, 2011

My adventure on the Appalachian Trail

By: Edna Daugherty, Activities Director at Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center
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Now that I’m back to reality, I feel that I need to culminate my experience.
My favorite part of the adventure was meeting fellow hikers. They came from all over the United States and beyond. The hikers were all over the board when it came to age. I certainly wasn’t the oldest nor was I the youngest.
While hiking from Springer Mountain, Ga., until we arrived in the Smokies, the majority of all of the hikers we met were hoping to do the through hike (going all the way to Katahdin.) Once in the Smokies, we met more hikers that were there hiking sections of the trail.
I experienced all sorts of weather, from warm, 80-degree, sunburning days, to 25-degree freezing, sleeting, snowy nights. All of which I wouldn’t trade. It was all part of the experience.
Most of the time I used my tent. My tent was a one-person tent which kept me dry and warm. Once we arrived in the Smokies, if you were not a through hiker, you needed to apply for a reservation for the shelter. Knowing this, we left our tents in the car.
The shelters in the Smokies held about 14 or 16 people, all of those were reserved for section hikers, except for four spots for through hikers. If the shelter filled up, only then could you tent camp in the Smokey Mountains.
A big concern of my friends and family was the food. We went into town every 4 to 5 days to resupply. While we took a day to resupply at the grocery store, we also took advantage of staying in a hostel or a hotel so we could take advantage of the showers.
The food we ate had to be able to stay good without the use of refrigeration. My favorite meal was Cherry Pop-Tarts for breakfast with a cup of coffee. The lunch meal I favored was peanut butter and a banana on a tortilla. Dinner favorite was country gravy with beef chunks with bread mixed in.
I was a little intimidated by knowing that I may have to hitchhike. I was brought up that this was not something that was acceptable and, in this day and age, not safe. While my hitchhiking endeavor went well in this setting it is still something I won’t be doing anytime soon.
Hitchhiking to and from the trail is something that is commonplace there. We first met a 63-year0old lady that through hiked the trail last year. Our next pick up was a man who owned the hotel we were going to. We also were picked up by two very caring women whowanted to make sure we got to where we were going.
The only questionable ride we got was really our own fault. We took a ride in the back of a pick-up truck without telling the driver where to drop us off. I got a little frazzled when he passed up our drop off point. We finally got to our destination with a lesson learned and no one hurt.
Trail magic was a treat and always a surprise. You could be crossing a road and all of a sudden see a group of people cooking food for through hikers, or be walking along the trail and find an Easter Egg that had a Snickers bar inside.
A typical day consisted of waking up around 6:30 to 7 a.m., having breakfast, and then packing up for an 8:30 a.m. departure. We would generally take a break about every hour for a few minutes and then take a half-hour lunch break around 1 p.m. We would resume hiking and come into camp about 4 p.m.
After setting up our tents and unpacking our packs, we would go and get water and treat it so it would be drinkable when we needed it. Finally we would fix our dinner and sit around and talk for awhile. After dinner we had to hang our food bags so they would not be a temptation for the bears. Turning in for the evening was usually when the sun went down around 7 p.m.
Two of the items I carried seemed a little strange to the other hikers. The first item was my chair. I saw no other chairs. At 1.78 pounds, my chair is a luxury, and did raise quite a few eyebrows. I find it very hard to sit on the ground and then to get up. When I want to sit, I want to sit. I have been strapping my chair on my pack for the last 8 trips and find that it is worth it to me. I Love My Chair!
The second item was my Samsung Galaxy Tablet. This is an electronic device with which I would journal and take photos and then send my daily posts home.
Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek, Starved Rock Lodge’s marketing director, would then post them on our website. This certainly was strange and not common. Most hikers were journaling with paper and pencil.
The thing I had to watch was my battery life. I found that I could go about four or five days before I had no battery.
There were some ups and downs throughout the vacation; however I wouldn’t change a thing if I could do it over. Everything I experienced was part of the whole.
All in all this was a great experience. I am very fortunate that Starved Rock Lodge let me go and have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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