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Appalachian Trail

Finishing, “A Walk in the Woods”, Bill Bryson’s personal tale of tackling the Appalachian Trail (AT), made me think of some of my own outdoor adventures. Fortunately, these memories were brief and relatively benign as I don’t like to sleep in the woods that much, have trouble setting up even today’s idiot proof tents, and never carried a backpack filled with gear for any distance longer than walking to a Chastain concert.

The allure of dropping everything and hiking the AT does have some romantic quality to it, and the fact I live in Georgia and have seen Springer Mountain, the AT’s south-to-north starting point, makes it even a real possibility. The counter-balance to this fantasy is that I can’t spell REI and as a kid, I saw the movie “Deliverance”. That by itself is a good reason to never set foot in North Georgia.

But North Georgia has come a long way and if you can somehow avoid all of the bikers, there are some beautiful sections including Big Canoe, where I once had a house, and the Chestatee River, where I once worked up the courage to go on an overnight “camping with canoeing included” excursion with my daughter and a raft of other fathers and daughters. (I was the trip’s scribe and wrote a humorist, say I, essay on this experience before blogs were prevalent and email was my only distribution).

While my recent outdoor creds have been gained near the southern start of the AT, I actually earned my true camp badges in ropes, forestry, first aid and acting like a big baby deep in the Maine woods near the Trails finish line. Please note I scaled Mt. Katahdin as a 12 year old, survived Black Sandy Island as a 9 year old, and ate all the lobster on the field trip to Boothbay Harbor (that doesn’t count). Somewhere during those years I also made my first movement au natural, with no splash, no toilet paper and no real interest in having to do that on a regular basis.

I also recall that I went on a teen tour one summer which involved six weeks of camping. We stayed occasionally at the KOA campgrounds, the Ritz Carleton of outdoor living, many featuring pools, showers, real bathrooms and well stocked vending machines. I can’t for the life of me remember what our tents looked like, but I vividly remember the cute 16 year old girls from Long Island and winning the glazed donut eating contest.

Now my step brother, Peter, well, he is a woodsman extradonaire. He actually hiked most of the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail (CDT) from Mexico to Canada one summer with his friend, Mike. In terms of stature, I’d say the CDT trumps just about anything in “Get Off The Couch And Turn Off The Electronics” summer activity category. While they certainly deserve all the credit, praise, recognition and adulation for their accomplishment, it took a village to get Peter and Mike across the proverbial hydrological land hump and every family member had a role to play, from the timely shipping of care packages to remote locations to logistic details only us little people cared about.

My job was in post-trip publicity where I pulled some strings with my employer to actually get them on national television (thank you). In my high powered assistant assignment editor position at the then fledgling CNN network (it was only a few years old at that point), I worked my magic to pull together a 90 second masterpiece focused on Peter and the stray dog he picked up on his journey.

As you see, the dog, named Mange, had to make the radical adjustment from wondering freely in the wild mountains of the West to navigate apartment living in NYC’s urban jungle, where dogs in the winter wear coats and their owners need to pick up after them. We found a dog psychiatrist, (yes, they have those), to evaluate Mange’s condition and after immediately prescribing Xanax, he pronounced Mange as well adjusted as any other NYC resident.

Our Peter and pet centered funny, touching, still picture-filled news piece ran on a slow news day one early afternoon and all was good until the phone call from Ed Turner, the big cheese those days at CNN Atlanta headquarters (and no relation to the super big cheese Ted either). He threatened all of us with our jobs if that story ever ran again, and so ended Mange’s media career.

As I look to the future, I don’t see a mid-life crisis Appalachian Trail hike in the cards, but I am interested in more outdoor adventures. The notion of walking on a trail carrying a pack, one foot in front of the next, seems like good clean fun, sort of like carrying your golf clubs. Physically, I’m up for it, and if I can avoid poison ivy, learn to hang my food, read a trail map and keep a good positive attitude even if it rains (“the more miserable, the more memorable”), I have some potential. Maybe I can bring my iPhone along for the ride, crank up some Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger singing, “Just keeping on walking, don’t look back” and who knows where I’ll go.

2 Responses to Appalachian Trail

  1. Cristopher Adolf says:

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