The First Miles
Part 1 of the great Appalachian Trail adventure!
I never met a hiker with a good word to say about the trail in Pennsylvania. ~ Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods
My brother’s wife Rita drove him and his friend John from Philadelphia to Pen Mar Park in Maryland then watched them disappear into the woods. Hopefully they would find the path that leads to the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail, one of the most arduous and cursed sections. Joe has wanted to walk the trail ever since the summer he was 15 and I was 17 and we decided it’d be fun to trek the entire 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine. One preparation trial arranged by our wise dad in a local state park in which we got lost and stumbled for 20 hot uphill miles to find our campsite sort of squashed that idea. But it’s brewed in Joe’s mind ever since and now he’s off with a tent, sleeping bag, and a 35 pound backpack. John’s is a good 15 pounds over what he really should be carrying. One way or another they’re determined to make it through 150 miles of the approximate 230 miles of the state’s trail.
Partial list of what is in Joe's and John's backpacks: Solar phone charger and batteries Hiking gaters Allergy and pain medicines, complete first-aid kit and a lot of blister bandages Water filtration system Headlamp Two of everything change of clothes Some hygiene necessities Bug spray Bear horn and warning bells Journal and a book That all seems fine. It's what they're carting for food that seems sketchy. Partial list of food supply: Tea and coffee Granola Protein and fiber powder and bars Peanut butter Spices Powdered eggs Tortillas
Joe is thrifty (our sister Sue says cheap) and he bought much of his food at a local Dollar Store where he picked up various packets of Knorr rice and noddle dishes, Bumble Bee tuna, and whatever else he could find that came in a sealed envelope ready to eat or reconstitute with water.
I did the math: At 150 to 155 pounds and 5’ 11” Joe should, on a normal, non-strenuous, day consume between 2,000 and 2,600 calories. Considering his goal is to walk at least 10 miles a day and much more if it’s up to him, Joe should be taking in as close to 2,600 as he can. The website Trek, based on calculations from WebMD, clearly states that the average male on the trail needs to consume at least 5,921 calories.
This was Joe’s breakfast yesterday after walking three miles.
That’s 180 calories right there. His coffee may add 60 calories more. If he mixed a heaping spoonful of peanut butter to one of these it would greatly increase the calories but nowhere near enough to see a grown man through.
I’ve decided not to worry too much because, as noted on Saturday, Joe is plucky and intrepid and not stupid. He’s meticulously planned every aspect needed to complete his dream. There’s also several opportunities along the way to meander off the trail and into a town where, like many hikers before him, he can gorge himself on several huge meals.
I wish I was with him, just as we imagined long ago. This bout with COVID seems to be retreating and maybe I can meet up with him as we had planned at Duncannon (day 5) or Swatara Gap (day 7 or 8). He should hit either of these by the end of the week which may be enough time to see if my energy and general fitness returns. Then I’d bring a lot of REI meals, including a dark chocolate cheesecake (600 calories) that a more experienced hiker than any of us recommends for a glorious treat when you collapse in the wood at the end of a long day.