Jack and Wayne and the Nine City Southern Appalachian Bus Tour

Remembering Jack and Wayne along the Appalachian Trail!

Write in Front of Me

Jack and Wayne lookalikes.jpgThis is neither Jack nor Wayne.  It is the Real Hiking Viking.  But, when I look at him it reminds me of the wonderful wildness that was Jack and Wayne, and they looked very much like him.

The story you are about to read is true; photographic existence of the parties mentioned has yet to be discovered.

Straight up and down; then straight up and down again! Georgia trail maintainers seemed clueless about the need for switchbacks on the Appalachian Trail, which made the footpath through the infamous Georgia gaps more of a roller-coaster endurance test than a pleasant trail. Fortunately for backpackers and hikers tracing the AT through the southern Appalachians Jack and Wayne were there.  Or maybe not.

Jack and Wayne appeared with a shock – all laughs and boisterousness – on day three of my hike. The rigors of the trek had thinned the crowd into…

View original post 747 more words

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Comedy, Dreams, Hiking, Laughter, Living, Outdoor sports, outdoors, Walking

“I want to go hiking, where do I start?”

As the backpacking and hiking season warms up and you’re wondering about hiking and where to begin, let Carolinatrekker be your guide!

Carolina Trekker

questions-before-planning-139229684-1440x1008

“I want to go hiking, where do I start?”

I get asked this question – or a variation of it – A LOT. I guess for some of us, just knowing where we to go hiking and how to get started is something we take for granted. In my years of hiking, I’ve come to realize most people didn’t grow up on a rural, heavily wooded tract of land where you could hike every day like I did. They didn’t have relatives to teach them how to camp like I did. They didn’t have anyone to teach them about gear, or how to read a map. The great advantage to those getting into hiking today is the internet. It wasn’t that long ago that you had to do a little leg work to obtain a map or a field guide ( or guide book). Now, we can log onto…

View original post 741 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Living, Outdoor skills, outdoors, Pacific Crest Trail, Wildlife, Writing

Appalachian Trail wisdom: “Cronin’s Law”

8815116713_3a0c05379c_k

Photo courtesy wesbl at Flickr

As late winter snow falls gently outside my window, my thoughts wander to the Appalachian Trail.  I open my WordPress blog reader and check on the brave souls who have already departed Springer Mountain for Katahdin.  My mental Rolodex flips past the memory of a number of people I backpacked with.  Most I remember quite a bit about.  A few hold a more tenuous slot.  Many hikers and backpackers I remember for what they did, and what they said.  But one stand out for his economy of words and actions; so much so that it has left a permanent impression which haunts me to this day.  His name was Mike Cronin.

What little I remember about Mike is that he was from New England, a resident of the Boston area.  And though I never personally heard him say it, I remember the six words credited to him which I would catalog in the category of genuine “trail wisdom.”

It came to be known as “Cronin’s Law.”  It is still as valid today as it ever was.

Having slogged over a sweltering sweaty week through the Georgia “hills” along the AT, I was impressed with two realities: the lack of switchbacks (the trail simply went straight up and straight down!), and how it seemed it took forever to reach a summit.  There were no signs which said “Summit in one mile” or anything like it.  On reflection, I suppose such things would have driven hikers half mad with frustration and unfulfilled anticipation.  Best to leave such things alone!

Dealing with the switchbacks was relatively easy, since my lower body strength was more than adequate to the muscle-burning task.  On the other hand, I suffered from the company of a few hiking companions who seemed more than impatient with making dramatic progress and who expected to enjoy attaining the “peak” experience in rapid time.  Should the trail wind or meander on the uphill side far too long  (which it often did) they would commence to spit and curse and often grouse “When are we going to reach the top?!”  Now, while I agreed with their sentiment and appreciated their desire, I also knew that you cannot force nature and geology and trail dynamics to acquiesce to your whim.

“We’ll get there when we get there,” I said, or something like it.  And while we eventually made each and every summit, it was not without the price of enduring their swearing and complaining and whining about how long it took to get to the top.

Enter “Cronin’s Law.”

A backpacking companion informed me about Mike’s method for dealing with “summit attainment frustration.” He call it “Cronin’s Law.” On hearing it, I quickly adapted those six magic words and became somewhat of a trail evangelist by spreading the gospel according to Mike Cronin.

It seems that adapting “Cronin’s Law” helped a hiker stop looking up expecting the peak to be just around the next tree or boulder.  Expectation could be tempered with patience and it would than be easy to simply enjoy the moments of the hike, to let go, and let the eventual arrival at the mountaintop happen when it would.  I experimented with the simple method and found it helped me greatly to be “in the now” wherever I was on the trail, instead of feeling the pressure to “bag peaks” or “make miles.”

Henceforth, whenever I heard other hikers and backpackers crank up the complaining I would say gently: “Remember Cronin’s Law.”

After the glaze melted from their stare they would ask me what that was.

Clearing my throat and smiling benevolently, I explained.

“Never assume you’re at the top.”

“That it?!” they would ask.

I nodded.

It appeared Cronin’s Law was unacceptable madness, and they sputtered and sweated and turned away, trudging down the trail leaving behind a string of verbal invectives.

In the silence which descended, I said the words softly out loud.

“Never assume you’re at the top.”

At that, I smiled again and resumed my hike.

While few others adapted this trail wisdom, I found it useful – especially when I entered the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where the “top” took a  long time coming.  I look back fondly over those words, which make up what little I know or remember of Mike Cronin after all these years.

I offer them to you, gentle reader, in the hope that when you encounter the slippery slope and elusive peak along a trail which twists and turns and seemingly mocks your efforts to win altitude, that you will find solace and expectation that you will attain your goal.  You will at last stride proudly to the summit, caressed by a cooling breeze, the echo of “Cronin’s Law” having been a part of what enabled you to stand where your hiking boots find you.

Leave a comment

Filed under A.T., Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking, Life changes, outdoor gear, outdoors, Writing

The compass of your heart points North

Ground thawing, snow disappearing, thoughts warming, birding singing more. My heart and mind turns to thoughts of the Appalachian Trail! Welcome to Monday Flashback.

Write in Front of Me

Dramatic dawn - courtesy jjjj56cp at Flickr Dramatic dawn – courtesy jjjj56cp at Flickr

There will be nothing to compare with it — standing at that iconic bronze plaque atop Springer Mountain in Georgia, with a journey of over 2100 miles lying before you.  You will feel exhilaration and anxiety, both creating a complex stew in your stomach.  You’ll snap a picture of the marker.   If someone else is present you’ll have them take a photograph of you standing by the tablet.  Then, hoisting your pack for the first of what will be countless times, you’ll take that first indelible step.  All is in readiness.  The months of reading and thinking and planning behind you.  The compass of your heart points North.

As you journey, keep this in mind:

Photo courtesy adaptiman at Flickr Photo courtesy adaptiman at Flickr

The trip is a messy, dirty slog and you won’t get a decent shower or bath too often.  But you will find…

View original post 675 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Appalachian Trail

The Dare Out There

CLgAk-7WgAAU0ue.jpg

“On the street of by-and-by, one arrives at the house of never.” – Cervantes

The pressure is strong; the urge unrelenting.  The demands of life – work, earning a living, plus a thousand other things – quickly jam into each nanosecond of our existence, leaving little time to catch our breath, plan meaningful futures, or nurture things which matter most, such as relationships and finding a life purpose to fully commit to.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to take a leap of faith.  You have to simply put all other things aside and go; even if you don’t know how you’ll get there or what will happen when your backpacking boots move beyond the starting line at Springer Mountain, Georgia.

You just know: “I’ve simply got to do this.  Now!”

Somehow you just know.  The food that will fuel your soul, the sustenance which will galvanize you into going inside and giving yourself time to think and get to know who you are – lies in the glory of nature.  Yes, there will be a price to pay in pain and hardship, loneliness and ache.  But if you cross the zone along the trail (for me it was about the fifty mile mark) where it feels something has shifted and that you’ve somehow “broken through” the majority of your resistance and second-guessing, you will know you can achieve what you set out to do.  Hike from Georgia to Maine!

That’s when things will get really interesting.

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine (or in any other configuration you choose) will always be a benchmark for the rest of your life.  Even if you should not succeed in completing the entire trail, you will discover your outlook is brighter, your spirit bolder, your boundaries of possibility expanded.

My advice is not to fuss too much about which gear to use or whether or not you should saw the handle off your toothbrush.  Not if it delays your setting out too long.  I spent a year in research, gathering equipment, and planning.  Even then, I hit the footpath with a pack weighing 55 pounds to start with.  By the end of my trip that weight had drastically dropped to about 30 pounds.  The thing to remember is that is plenty of room to learn as you go.  Stick with the basics and set out.

Treat the land as if it were your own back yard.  In recent years I’ve been dismayed to learn the trails has suffered from littering and graffiti.  If you care about stewarding the world you live in, leave shelters and campsites better than you found them.  You will be amazed at how good you will feel when you spend a few extra minutes sweeping out a shelter with a broom!

Take time to – as the old saw goes – “hike your own hike.”  Leave high-daily-mileage setting to those who feel the need for such accomplishments and focus on your own; the pace that enriches your soul and makes your spirits fly when you unload your pack at the end of the day.

Whatever date on the calendar you mark to begin your journey, remember that the dare out there will bring out everything that is within you, both good and bad.  And that’s OK.  You are about to grow in ways you could never imagine before.

Leave a comment

Filed under A.T., Adventure, Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Discipline, Dreams, Hiking, Long distance backpacking, outdoors, Transformation

What haunts me about the Appalachian Trail

Never a springtime comes that I do not find my thoughts directed strongly toward Springer Mountain, the AT, and all that it holds.

Write in Front of Me

English: Entrance to Spooky Woods in Dalbeatti...

If a ghost is a memory that will not fade, then the Appalachian Trail is my own personal phantom.  It haunts me in all the good ways a significant life experience can.  If it’s a good thing to be visited by a spirit of achievement, then the AT is certainly among the finest one could ever envision.

I am haunted by the approach trail at Amicalola Falls, Georgia, which felt like a rite-of-passage backpacking to the start of something superb, difficult, daunting, and mysterious.

I am haunted by Springer Mountain Shelter, where I first dropped my backpack on the first evening of many I would spend hiking the trail.  I remember the rugged reliability of a wooden refuge created by so many hands, by so many trail and maintenance clubs, who literally poured out their love in sweat and effort so that I might have a place to rest…

View original post 511 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Appalachian Trail

Trodding in “thin places”

Flashback to an exploration about “thin places” and the Appalachian Trail!

Write in Front of Me

It’s happening.  I’m picking it up reading the blogs of a number of hikers along the Appalachian Trail.  Here’s what I see:

Mid-May has arrived.  Those who began from Springer Mountain in Georgia in March have passed through.  Some have continued on and are now in Virginia.  Others have left the trail.  Reasons are many: physical injury, lack of funds, getting fed up with the early snows and heavy rains, or simply realizing that the trail wasn’t all they hoped it would be.

Photo courtesy Stuck in Customs at Flickr Photo courtesy Stuck in Customs at Flickr

Then there are the blue-blazers who feel the need to mix it up and rearrange their journey.  That’s as it should be.  There is never any shame in a change of plans.  In fact, I believe that it’s been beneficial for some — because they’ve broken open like an egg, fractured like a brittle chrysalis.  It comes through in the words…

View original post 228 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Appalachian Trail