Wednesday, May 16, 2012: Things are looking better. Three zero days and a lot of AT map and guidebook study have turned the tide.
Monday I was in a funk. It took me all day to travel back home - many stops along the way. I didn't even start driving until noon, and didn't arrive until sunrise Tuesday.
Yesterday I began the serious assessment - self examination and reality check - which is reflected in yesterday's post. I also took two long showers, got lots of rest, did all the necessary shopping (bought new trail running shoes, as the old ones are rapidly falling apart) and did four loads of laundry.
Today I slept more than I have in months, and spent nearly 8 hours of serious research and analysis, looking at maps and books and internet information covering every one of the last 796.6 miles of trail I have yet to hike to get to Katahdin.
The basic question I needed to answer before I would even consider going back to the trail is this: If I can't average more than 1 mile per hour on some of the toughest stretches of New England trail, are there enough parking and access points to allow me to still achieve my unique goal? That goal (if it isn't already clear) is to become the first person to hike the entire AT both ways in one calendar year without support and without spending a single night camping or otherwise sleeping in the wild (i.e. back home before midnight every night - home being my 'poor man's RV' or 'two-ton steel tent' as I call it).
So ... is that possible? Are there enough access points where I can park and do my out-n-back day hikes every day all the way to Katahdin?
I am delighted to say that the answer is an unqualified YES!
In fact there are *more* than enough access points through the toughest parts of the White Mountains and western Maine. Some of them require 2 to 4 miles of spur-trail access-hiking each way, but these insert me into otherwise very remote and long stretches of difficult AT.
And in the 100 Mile Wilderness - toll roads are my friend. Jo-Mary Road alone branches out to provide me with five different access points spread out nicely along the trail. The Katahdin Iron Works Road gives me another critical insertion point. In two cases I can get to the trail by way of ski lifts or ski trails if necessary.
The logistics of the long drives between access points will be a challenge, but once I'm inserted into my starting point for the day, the hiking challenge will be manageable.
In fact there is hardly a day I will have to hike 20 miles, even where the trail is flat and easy through the remote areas of eastern and central Maine. The reality is that Great Smoky Mountains National Park presents by far the greatest challenge to my method of doing the trail - in the form of those four 30+ mile day-hikes. And those are well and truly behind me!
So the burden has been lifted. I'm rested. I know that I'm on no 'Fool's Errand'. I'm ready to head back to the trail. Bring it on!