Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Logistics of a Long Walk

To quote Samuel L. Jackson's character Mitch in the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight, "Do not make an assumption, cause when you make an assumption, you make an ass outta you; and umption!"

Making inaccurate assumptions about walking 2100 miles can do one of two things, scare one off completely from the idea if it is unrealistically assumed the worst is bound to happen, or get one in a world of hurt if an overly optimistic, nothing can happen, rose colored glasses approach is taken.  One of the sageful things I have learned in life, which comes mainly from
living and paying attention to how I just screwed my life up, is to do ones best to strike balance in all things.  In other words, hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

The top ten assumptions that are guaranteed no-brainers on this trip are fairly straight forward:
  1. I will need to eat
  2. I will need to drink
  3. I will need to sleep
  4. I will need to urinate & defecate
  5. I will become sick or injured
  6. I will get rained & or snowed upon
  7. I will get hot & cold (probably in the same day)
  8. I will do stupid things
  9. I will be subject to random acts of the universe
  10. I will be tempted to quit
Basically, one can assume anything that might happen during normal life in a six month period will probably happen with greater frequency and severity while out in the middle of nowhere.  The difference is to be in the right mindset, to be prepared, and to adapt readily when one discovers inevitably they are not prepared.  True, everyone should be doing this already.  But the cradle of society most live in now has so many safety nets cast about, you have to nearly willingly chose not to utilize them to come out with a dire consequence.  Out on the trail, most of those safety nets are missing or very far away.  Hubris will be most folks undoing.

Several books and websites describe the equipment you carry will be like your house on your back.  I appreciate the metaphor for the uninitiated, but in all practicality, I don't want my house on my back.  I quote a famous madman: 

"A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff." 
 George Carlin 

When planning for a hike, the last thing I want to do is acquire more stuff to carry, which will happen in the planning stages if one is not careful.  I would rather think of my gear representing a chain of economical motels I stay at briefly while traveling.  Austere and inexpensive.  No cable TV, no WiFi, no vibrating magic finger bed.  Ok, I will give in on the WiFi since for safety sake a smartphone is a given nowadays.  But giving up the rest is one of the prime reasons for going on this expedition in the first place.  

So, while still maintaining the philosophy of balance, I also will strive to utilize the principle of KISS - Keep It Stupid Simple.  Primarily this will involve considering the above stated assumptions and addressing them with as few physical items as possible.  Multi-task/multi-use components will save both money and weight.  For those who are fans of Alton Brown as I am, you know what I am saying.

A bit of gambling, or what those on Wall Street would call "risk assessment" will need to be used to pare down my load as well.  This amounts to seriously considering the likelihood of certain catastrophic events, adverse situations, insurmountable obstacles, or annoying intrusions one might encounter on the journey.  It will also involve knowing my own capacity to cope.  

If I were a younger man, which I was long ago, I would either have been more cautious, or more reckless, thus skewing my preparedness accordingly.  Being older and (hopefully) wiser will be invaluable in deciding that I don't need the extra pack of band-aids, the SAM splint, and the one pound 120 feature swiss army knife with included satellite phone.  It will also make sure I do have that smartphone, a quality water filter, a backup supply of water treatment tabs, a proper set of rain gear, the right type of footwear, a map, etc, etc.

Because I am not young, I am confronted with limitations due to my deteriorating, fat-ass physique.  I may find I require items that a younger, thinner version of me could have grunted through not carrying.  I have already invested in the best hiking air mattress I could afford to lay my weary old bones upon.  I have also determined I will need to wrap my ankles to prevent a hike ending twist.  Oh, and a tube of Flexall will probably be a good thing since I will have to forgo my morning hot showers needed to get the muscles to actually move at all.

Funny how gaining wisdom involves looking rearward, and having wisdom permits looking forward.  If one is truly wise, they may find themselves to be looking forward more often than rearward, though one who is truly wise will never think they can only look forward.  That is pure hubris.

I will follow up on the actual decision making process for gear selection, more planning philosophy, and maybe some financial related issues in the coming months.  Comments are welcome.

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