Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I haven't given up on the AT. I'm revising.

I am still going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

I'm lengthening my goal by a year. Instead of 2008, I'll do it in 2009.

2008 will be the Year of the Baby. The year of the Austin Marathon. The year of SavageMan. Who knows, maybe the year of the Boston Qualifier after all. (Or not, on that one.)

I had been afraid that, after the Year of the Baby, would come the Year of My Mother, followed by many Years of My Mother, taking care of the woman who took care of me, until she does not need me anymore, by which time I might no longer be in condition to undertake the pilgrimage.

But I think: My mother wants me to fulfill my dream goal of hiking the AT. She's said so. She wants to live to see me do it. She doesn't want me to wait till she's gone.

And so, to be sure she's cognizant that I am actually hiking, my goal now is to make it while she's still living on the earth, to give her the satisfaction of knowing that I made it.

My mother believes I can do it. She's watched me through 23 marathons and 2 IronMan triathlons. She wants me to achieve this next ultra-endurance goal. She would find it appalling that I put off, even cancelled, a lifelong dream to take care of her.

I think, with that in mind, I can arrange, if necessary, for her care while I go and do it. Already, in recent weeks, she's gotten a housekeeper to come for several hours twice a week, gotten one of those "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up" bracelets, and arranged for weekly garbage pickup. She arranged these things for herself, with a little nagging. Her housework, her safety, and her garbage have been my 3 most critical concerns with her. If it all works out and she doesn't deteriorate in the next year, I will plan on starting my hike in March of 2009 (unless I qualify for Boston, which I seriously doubt.)

Today I've started a new project. My hiking poles. I had a pair of manufactured aluminum (or some kind of metal) trekking poles with screw-in-or-out length-adjustments. I used them all summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on the most rugged parts of the AT. They broke this fall, at the adjustment points. I got them in Wal-Mart for $20 for the pair (Swiss Army Gear, they weren't less-quality than my Swiss Army Knife.) You can buy screw-length-carbon-fiber titanium hi-tech adjustable hiking poles for a couple hundred dollars. I find this a bit much for a couple of sticks.

So I bought dowel rods. They're the perfect length and grip thickness for me, cost $6 apiece, and are practically indestructible. I thought they had less character than, say, a pine or maple limb I might scavenge in the forest and de-bark and hone to my requirements. But such limbs tend to curve, or be cracked, or be secretly fragile from X years in the elements before being found.The dowel rods are straight and reliable in their seasoning.

They started out plain but won't end up that way. I'm adding character. Today I started working on the first one. I wrote my name and Steve's on it, with our wedding date underneath: 8 - 26 - 1972. And wood-burned over that, so it's my own handwriting. Then Steve signed it, and I wood-burned his signature, with his birthdate. This evening, our daughter Avery and her husband Scott came over, and I had each of them sign it, and woodburned over their signatures, and put in their birthdates. I'm going to have all my children, their spouses, and their children -- my grandchildren -- sign it. And my mother. And I'll wood-burn everyone's signature and birthdate. That way, my whole family will be with me, each in their own handwriting, when I hike the Trail in 2009. I'll have Abbie, who will be 6, sign for her little brother or sister, who will be going on 1. I'll leave the Trail for his/her first birthday party and then go back to continue and finish.

I think, on the other pole, I'll attach an AT hiking medallion. This second pole will be for the names of my friends: email friends, Blogland friends, Internet friends, whoever wants to go with me. Then, while on the trial, I'll have new Trail Friends write their names on it, and when I finish the Trial, I'll wood-burn them in. Press hard, you are writing through 2,175 miles.

I am going to have the coolest hiking staffs on the Trail. And they won't break.

When they're farther along in their evolution, I'll post a picture.

These staffs comfort me. I am still going. Just not this coming year.

It gives me more time to plan, more time to "practice," more time to learn.

And time to do SavageMan. Date: Sept. 14, 2008.


Downhillnut said...

Awesome! I love it! Take me with you too :)

Jack said...

Your poles sound like a winner, I may have to look into making something like this myself. I always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, but I guess I need to win the lottery first - maybe next year ;-)

Polly said...

Ellie - I made hiking staffs like this for Christmas one year. I put a rubber crutch tips ( from the hardware) on the bottom. Toward the top, I made a tiny survival kit - a trash bag, fish hooks, matches, and wrapped it tightly around, then overwrapped with copper wire and some 1/4 inch rope. They turned out very cool. I also marked mine like a measuring stick on the bottom 12 inches - for measuring water, snakes, whatever!

Polly said...

I am humbled to be included on your staff. I bow to your athletic prowess.

Dianne W. said...

Adding to Polly's crutch tip, you can buy cane tips with metal grips for icy surfaces as well.

I'm so glad you're keeping your dream alive!

E-Speed said...

that is the most awesome idea ever. What a special way to included everyone in your journey!