In a few days, my wife and I will leave Wisconsin for the drive to Georgia and the start of my AT thru-hike. This has been a long time in the planning. I was so serious about this being high on my “list” (I despise the term “bucket list” so I refuse to call my bucket list anything other than a list) that it was a major factor in retiring when I did. I shocked the office I managed when I announced my retirement but really floored them when I explained why – i.e., I wanted to have time to hike the Appalachian Trail as well as other long distance trails. For many, the reaction initially was, “well, I wonder what the real reason is for him leaving?” Eventually, they were convinced that, no, he really means this, there aren’t juicy office politics at play. They were probably disappointed to realize this.
My true rational was /is quite simple. Realistically, once you reach a certain stage of life, you can’t count on things remaining the same (specifically your health). This is a polite way of saying that the older you get the better your chances are of well, no longer being around, so to speak. Putting something off might mean never getting to experience it. My wife usually starts to mutter when she hears this line of thinking coming out of my mouth – she would heartily agree that I’ve tended in life to be more of the glass is half empty kind of guy. My rejoinder to her assessment has always been pretty weak, e.g., “well, you married me. What does that say about you?” I suppose her response could be “well, when you were younger you did a much better job of hiding it”.
Be that as it may, for the past 12 months, I have focused very intensively on planning my thru hike. Now it is almost here. As mentioned in previous entries, some (again my wife among them) might characterize me as being a tad stubborn. Unfortunately, this is well documented in the choices I’ve made in planning the hike. Recommendations I’ve read in multiple places include: a) don’t thru hike northbound from Springer to Maine – it is too crowded; b) if you do, certainly don’t leave in mid to late March, it is REALLY too crowded then; c) don’t carry more than 3 to 5 days of food at a time; d) absolutely don’t use resupply boxes – just go into town and buy what you need. So, after extensive research, I can report to you that I am doing a classic northbound thru-hike, starting in late March, using mailed resupply boxes for ALL my needs. Oh, and I will average 9 days between resupply points while on the trail. Sounds like I listen to advice, no?
But, while some of you might anticipate feedback from the trail on the consequences of my many stupid decisions, I have an excuse for not publicly owning up to it, at least not immediately. My blog, which I have become quite fond of feeding, will go on a diet. Yes, I anticipate making updates from time to time as I hit a town for a zero day but typing 1,000 words on a smart phone isn’t going to happen. So, expect much shorter and less frequent entries. In brief, don’t anticipate extensive mea culpas.
But, having made all these major, albeit bad, decisions, I was left to search for other things about which to obsess before I started hiking. Hey, that is one of the advantages of being retired, right? You have the time to really invest in worrying about seemingly irrelevant things. In this case, my thoughts turned to … the norovirus. One of the pleasures of my AT research has been discovering how much of an issue this seems to be. Prior to that research, fear of the norovirus (as well as motion sickness) was a convenient excuse that I pulled out when my wife periodically suggested a vacation on a cruise ship. It seemed I could always whip out the latest edition of the newspaper and point to some poor Caribbean cruise ship that had just docked in port while half (or more) of the passengers had problems with both ends of their alimentary canals.
Charmingly, I’ve learned that the norovirus is apparently not confined to cruise ships. In fact it seems a significant concern along the AT. I first became aware of this a few years ago while hiking a piece of the AT. I ran into a mother/daughter team who were about to complete a flip/flop thru hike as they neared Harpers Ferry. Apparently, a chunk of the shelters near the southern end had been shut down because of the norovirus while health authorities attempted to decontaminate them (the shelters, not the hikers). Didn’t sound pleasant.
Anyway, this first spurred my research into proper hand sanitizers – apparently the ones you get in your local drugstores or supermarkets don’t touch the norovirus. But, internet research, feeding my neuroticism, led me to purchase online a brand that allegedly deals with it effectively. Then, just a few days ago, I unfortunately took on what a friend calls “a bad load of feed” and have been suffering the consequences, which Google tells me could be the norovirus, if not just plain vanilla food poisoning. What can I say? As I spend quality time in our bathroom, the blessing in disguise is that, as a consequence, I might have norovirus immunity once I hit the trail (if I am so lucky to have been exposed). I can assure you that this was unintentional.
But, as a sign that I have further to travel on the obsession spectrum, I give you the following: There are discussions on the web about how to best intentionally expose yourself to the norovirus before you start your AT thru hike so that you will have immunity during the hike. I’m not kidding. I am convinced that this is not fake news. I also believe that this is useful information to share with my wife. It should prove to her that, at least compared to certain other AT hikers, she could have done worse.
Resolution of this medical issue has left me with very little else over which to obsess. But, rest assured, I am still looking.
I probably need to hit the trail before I come up with something though.