Be Prepared

As is the case many times when I begin work on this weekly message, my immediate situation overrides the ideas that I should be considering for a good discussion about your Owen County Community Foundation and Owen County. I’m sure there’s a vital issue of philanthropy or community development that I should be covering but instead all I can think about is getting ready for another hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Early next month, a mere 17 days away, my friend and hiking partner and I will set out on our fourth foray onto this amazing 2,300 mile trail from Georgia to Maine. I just throw out the full range of the trail for kicks and to impress because we’ll only be concerned with a 47.1 mile section over four or five days. In our previous three hikes we’ve covered just over 110 miles.

What I’ve learned on the first hikes is that there is no substitute for preparation. So, appropriately, I’ll steal the Scout motto and “Be Prepared.”

To enjoy a backpacking adventure, you have to get the right gear. Since everything you need for the multi-day hike is all packed neatly in a backpack, taking the time to plan your pack and memorize where you put everything is crucial. You also need to be comfortable using your gear. I’ve learned I need to be well practiced on setting up my hammock sleeping system because when it’s time to pitch camp on the trail, it’s at the end of a strenuous hike. Knowing how to set up camp when you are extremely fatigued is an important skill. Hang one end of hammock – sit and rest. Hoist other end of hammock – sit and rest. So on and so forth.

Another important skill I practice is hanging a bear bag. A bag containing all food items and anything else of interest to bears has to be hung high enough in the trees and far enough out on a limb to keep your food safe from raccoons and the overly friendly black bears along the AT. You’d think throwing a weighted rope over a high branch wouldn’t be a big deal, but I’m here to tell you, throwing skills diminish when all you have the strength for is crawling into a sleeping bag.

Getting my old carcass ready to climb rocks and walk for seven or eight hours every day carrying a 25 pound pack is the biggest challenge. This year, the first four and a half miles of our hike up a Virginia mountain called “The Priest” will involve a climb of 3,095 feet. Just a coincidence but our house here in Owen County sits on hill with an elevation pretty close to our planned starting point. I’ve been hiking or running every morning and trying to imagine walking out my front door and going straight up a mountain for 3,000 feet. Daunting.

The Priest has been heavy on my mind for the last couple of years. Our 2016 hike ended in defeat as I surrendered at the base of The Priest at the urging of my aching knees and hips. My last look at the AT that year was gazing up that steep trail and vowing to come back and conquer the climb. The following year we crossed Maryland and I was in pretty good shape so I really enjoyed the hike. I want to repeat that physical preparation.

The challenge of getting back into shape as a 63 year-old is a brand new experience. I’ve never been this old. In my youth, it went something like – get in shape. Now I have to consult with my nurse wife, my family doctor, and my cardiologist. My heart doctor suggested I take a stress test prior to the trip. He seemed to thing taking the test in his office might be preferable to taking a stress test on the face of The Priest. Not a bad suggestion, I suppose.

So, I’m spending a lot of thought and energy right now being prepared. It’s a good place to be because it puts one’s mind on progress and improvement. There’s no time for idle worry – there are specific steps I need to take to prepare for, you guessed it, taking a lot of steps.

I hope that our community gets out to enjoy the joys of taking walks on a trail. Our MYPath Trail System team is preparing to extend our trail so we are also taking all the steps necessary to make sure we’re ready for the next phase of the MYPath project. As in anything, success will require preparation. So, be prepared and enjoy your next undertaking.

Your Owen County Community Foundation is committed to helping our communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value the beauty of Owen County.

If you would like to know more about the MYPath Trail System or how you can work with your local OCCF to use your charitable gifts to help your community, contact us. You can give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit us in person at our office on the south side of the Courthouse Square in Spencer, 60 E. Market Street.

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