The AT Series: A Good Traveler

Pondering Planning

Nine days remain until May 24, when I begin my seven-day/70-mile walkabout on the Appalachian Trail. I’m excited and want this adventure to begin, but I have much to do. Time is abundant, time is fleeting, and while I ponder this paradox, I put off planning as time tocks away.

For guidance, I return to Lao-Tzu, only to end up frustrated that the dude died between 2,521 and 2,621 years ago (give or take) and is not here to explain his paradoxes.

One verse addresses travel:

A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.

The Tao te Ching
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

What the heck do I do with that?

I remain without plans, other than initial necessities.

For example, I’ve done the math, a remarkable feat for an English major: a minimum of 10 miles a day. That’s fixed if I’m intent upon arrival, which I am. Even before the journey begins, I’ve run afoul of Lao-Tzu.

I want to walk the line between planning and not planning.

Planning thus far:

  • I’ve picked my path: Devil Fork Gap northbound to Carver’s Gap: 67.2 miles. (I’m rounding up.)
  • I purchased the map below, perused it, put it away.
  • I stuffed all my old gear into two backpacks to sort through and am yet to dump the contents into a pile from which to pull what I’ll need.
Every piece of camping gear tossed into two backpacks.

Yet to be planned:

  • What to bring?
  • How much weight do I carry? (Return for future post: “Weight Matters.”)
  • Where to sleep each night?
  • Where to re-supply three or four days in?
  • Who’s going to pick me up?

I have no contingency plans: Where can I get off the trail if injured or too exhausted to finish? What if the spring I’m counting on for water has run dry. Far more frightening: What if I come upon a thru-hiker whose trail name is Mirage, and he spends five miles trying to convince me that I can see him but he isn’t real? How do I politely leave Mirage behind?

I have much to do, Lao-Tzu, and as much as I admire the intent of your quote, your plan won’t work for me.

About Malcolm W Campbell

Father. Husband. Writer. Teacher. Outdoorsperson. And something else... Forgetful?
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2 Responses to The AT Series: A Good Traveler

  1. Barbara Griffin Campbell says:

    Do you suppose Lao-Tzu ever hiked???

  2. Funny. Actually, he rode a water buffalo, or so the story goes.
    Have fun in Montana!

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