Thru attempt, 2014: 673 miles
Silly attempt after stopping Thru attempt, 2014: 18 miles
Finish Mass. section: 80 miles
So about 770 miles or about 1/3 the Appalachian Trail's entire length.
I've been on a consulting gig full time, but they've pulled the plug on the project and I suddenly find myself (in a few days to two weeks) with time and nothing formal to do.
The Trail is a gnawing, grinding, beast that calls to you softly, "come back, come back." Its claws are open, teeth showing, but you only here the soft words, "come back."
With my first hiking partner trying yet again this spring to get some distance on the trail but stopping, and my second hiking partner well into his third thru attempt, I've been dying to get back out there. But with the contract running through the end of the year, or so we thought, I just had to give up on any plans for going out again.
Well, that's changed. Which means I need to set aside the Brian Wilson concert at Tanglewood, and a reunion with my fraternity brothers in Rhode Island, to start organizing another section hike.
Have dug through our outside storage locker and closets here gathering hiking equipment, and ordered a ton of "gap" things from Amazon. New boots (current ones a bit less stiff on toe than I'd like), insoles (the ones in your base boot are junk), Mountain House freeze dried dinners, super light flip flops, ear plugs (don't go in a shelter to sleep without them), portable phone charger, AT Guide - Northbound - 2016.
Current plan is to fly to Roanoke VA, get a hiker shuttle (basically, an ex-AT hiker or a friend of the trail) to where I stopped in 2014, and start heading north again. The question is when? Trying to work out my final date with my project, but likely will be on Trail June 6th or 13th.
Plan is to hike until the latter part of July, which if I make it would have me through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and about a third of the way into Pennsylvania. Would come off trail, spend 10 days or so home - with a week of that in Maine - and decide then whether to continue or stop for the year.
I know the Trail now. I know the people, the long days of hiking through a green space where you can see nothing other than the trail and the trees. It gets boring. Its also hard, with your full-time job to hike 8-10 hours while keeping an eye out for dangerous situations and an adequate water supply. But its also fun. You literally cannot see the places I've seen unless you hike to them. The people are fun. The ones you hike with, the Trail Angels who greet you with a cold soda and a big smile, the random stranger who offers a ride into town. They all contribute.
Last time my "Trail Name" was Paul Bunion, named by my American-Peruvian hiker friend Trudger, in honor of my nobby feet. Why a trail name? Because if you go missing, or someone's trying to find you, there could be 5 Jeff's within a couple day's hike, but only one Paul Bunion.
This time I'm starting as Jeff again, and see what name I pick up.
In the end, hikers say "Hike your own hike." So if I stay on for 5-6 weeks as planned, or give up after a week, its my hike. I get to own whatever comes out of it.
PS. Hiker shuttles drivers are not free, but they do specialize. Rate is universally $1 mile, from pickup to drop off. The advantage with using them is they know where the trail heads, a random taxi or Uber won't.