Friday, December 27, 2013

Appalachian Trail Known Knowledge

Page 9 of the The Onion Book of Known Knowledge, which came to me as a Christmas present from an old friend, presents the following entry for the Appalachian Trail:
2,180 mile-long path along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States that is the worst, least efficient way to travel from Georgia to Maine.  Traversed each year by those who deny the existence of America's vast transportation system for some inexplicable reason, the Appalachian trail takes roughly four months to hike but can be covered in two days by car, 26 hours by rail, or five  hours by plane--three fully air-conditioned means of conveyance that offer zero chance of getting bitten by mosquitoes, spraining an ankle, or going weeks without bathing.  If one absolutely must walk from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin, a for more sensible choice would be to use Interstate 95:  It's a straight shot, and there are plenty of stores and hotels along the way so that one doesn't have to travel across 14 states while carrying 50 pounds of gear.  Overall, hiking the Appalachian trail offers nothing but the chance to grow a mangy beard and waste time.  It literally defies logic.
Pretty accurate as to the facts stated.  The writer presents all  key facts about the AT:  length, termini, number of states, and some typical risks.  Hiking time is not entirely accurate.  Some can thru-hike in four months; six months is more typical.  The writer is correct in stating that planes, trains and motor vehicles are a faster way to Maine from Georgia than walking.  I definitely agree that thru-hiking the AT defies logic but have my own conclusion about its worth.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A December Hike

13-14 December 1993.  GaliuroWilderness, Arizona.  Late afternoon at Powers Garden.  This trip repeats one of my earliest Arizona hikes.  Seemed easier this time.  Experience and conditioning probably.  Came in with Gary from Deer Creek, starting about 12:30 after driving down from Phoenix.  We made good time walking--got in around 5:30 but had to set up and eat in the dark.  December days are short on light.  The trail was generally good and not hard to follow although it was hard for me to match the actual terrain to the topo map.  We had lots of good views to the north and saw some pretty spectacular sandstone cliffs at the junction of Horse Canyon and Rattlesnake Creek.  Deep pools in the area would be inviting if they are still here in the summer.  Powers Garden is much as I remember, a very lush riparian zone.  The long night is cold; I'm pushing the limits of my gear. 

Morning is colder still and slow to warm.  Little sun reaches this canyon till later in the day.  We eat and rig up before shedding our outer clothing.  The trail leads down Rattlesnake Creek for about a mile.  We step over frost covered leaves.  The climb up the flanks of Kennedy Peak warms us up--the day is clear and cool but the sun is warm.  We take several leisurely breaks as we climb, especially toward the crest where  much of southern Arizona comes into view.  We pass through patches of snow descending the north side of the ridge.  The terrain is open here as we begin the final descent to Deer Creek. As we wonder about some trail uncertainty, we encounter an unsigned junction and after make what proves to be a correct choice.  Now we're back on the rolling terrain encountered at the hike's start, completing our loop. The late afternoon light here provides a spectacular highlight to the red outcroppings and the grassy foothills.

A contemporary account