I retrieved the old Kelty Tornado from a storage room off my garage and loaded it with 32 pounds of hard cover books. At least that’s the weight that the bathroom scale indicated. After adding a bottle of Gatorade and another of water, I shouldered the pack and headed for a nearby park. With the temperature in the upper 40’s and a bright sun overhead, the day looked like the perfect one for that first “practice hike” in preparation for March.
The hike began in a fortuitous manner as I spotted a shiny nickel before travelling the first one hundred yards. I bent down and picked it up, remembering days of youth when finding a coin brought so much excitement to a boy of ten. Those were the days when a found quarter would purchase a coke, a candy bar, and a comic book as well. So I pocketed the five cent piece, partly for good luck, but mainly just for reasons of nostalgia. If I had been on the AT, I might have left it where it lay, not wanting to add extra weight.
As I walked toward the park through neighborhood streets, the pack felt odd at first. By the time I reached my destination, a little less than a mile from home, I was again getting accustomed to the added weight on my back. So for almost exactly three hours I walked on wooded trails. They were fairly flat, with only minor undulations along the way; however, my 8.6 mile walk proved to be a good workout. Twice I stopped for short breaks of about five minutes each, and I paused three times to speak with acquaintances who were also out for a stroll on a beautiful afternoon.
Walking along a lake at various times while in the park, I asked a couple of fishermen if they were catching anything. One replied that he had just arrived but motioned to another who he said had a “bucket of fish.” I didn’t stop to look, but I know that I would have, if I had been hiking on the AT. I look forward to chatting with locals along the trail, especially those who are sitting by a pond, lazily passing an afternoon.
When I arrived back home and evaluated this first hike with a full pack, I was pleased to find that other than a little stiffness in my right hip, everything seemed to feel fine. Still, it was only 8.6 miles of rather flat terrain. But I was carrying over 30 pounds which is no small order. After I decide on a new pack and other significant gear, I’ll hopefully get the pack weight down considerably before arriving on Springer. The day was a gorgeous day for a hike in the park, as I’m sure many days will be when I start my walk on the Appalachian Trail.