AT 2017: Making a Few Final Preparations (Finally)

Doctor, doctor, give me the news

Resupply items

When my doctor told me I had to have hernia repair surgery, I expected this would only delay my thru-hike attempt by about three weeks. Instead of leaving on March 7, I figured I could leave anytime after April 1.

That was my presumption, you must understand. I knew I didn't have a final say in the matter.

DateTuesday, March 21, 2017
WeatherClear, sunny
Trail ConditionsSmooth going from here
Today's Miles0.0

The person who would make this decision was not my doctor, though his viewpoint certainly carried weight. The last word on when I started my hike had to come from a higher authority.

My wife.

She's been monitoring me closely to make sure I follow my doctor's instructions during recovery. I've been scolded more than once for lifting something she thought might weigh more than ten pounds.

Gravity with his surgeon, Dr. Daniel Graves

In order to get a final sign-off from Kim, I visited Dr. Daniel Graves in his office. He was my surgeon and scheduled me today for a post-surgery checkup.

Dr. Graves asked a few questions before saying he was satisfied with my recovery. Although I still should not lift anything more than ten pounds until April 1, he told me he saw no reason that prevented me from starting as I planned.

That pronouncement met Kim's criteria, so now the date is set. I will start on April 3. That date was chosen because I have read many hikers start an AT thru-hike on April 1. I figured starting a couple of days later would mean the trail wasn't as crowded.

There are a few items remaining for me to complete before I can go, though.

Maildrop boxes

One of the biggest items on my to-do list is to prepare a few maildrops for the first three weeks of the hike.

It used to be common for thru-hikers to prepare dozens of boxes of food and other supplies, which they would then schedule to be sent at intervals to destinations on the trail. Fewer people have all of their food shipped to them now. A greater number of businesses that provide hiker services have opened near the trail, and that's made it much easier to resupply with short trips into towns.

I don't really need to send any food, but I sending a couple of resupply boxes to pick up during my first three weeks on the trail. I wanted to do this because I am trying to make those weeks as efficient as possible.

I would like to get through the Smokies before April 23. If all goes well, I will get picked up there by my wife and leave the trail for a week. I will be to attending DrupalCon, a web developer convention that is scheduled for April 24-28 in Baltimore.

The first food box I will pick up will be delivered to Neel Gap in Georgia. That is the first resupply option and it happens to be located on the trail. The second box is going to Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina, which is also on the trail. I will arrive there after about 12 days.

An outfitter store is located at both of these stops, making it possible to purchase resupply items there. I don't plan to spend the night at either of these locations. Because I can make a quick stop to retrieve my box and go, I won't need to spend time shopping and repackaging everything before continuing down the trail. This will save me time for getting to Davenport Gap, where I will get off the trail.

I'll need to make couple more stops during the first three weeks, I'll have more time there to shop for food. Hiawassee, Ga. and Franklin, N.C. are farther off the trail, and will also be where I can take showers, do my laundry, and eat town food.

My final resupply stop during the first three weeks will be when I arrive at the start of the Smokies. My two sons are planning to join me for the 72-mile hike section of the trail through the national park. I will arrange for them to bring a resupply box to me when they meet me.

There are many other things to do before I leave, like completing a few last-minute gear changes I've decided to make. Still, I feel like I'm about as prepared as I'm going to be.

Doctor, doctor, give me the news
I've got a bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill
I've got a bad case of lovin' you


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.