BEFORE one gets to the official Appalachian Trailhead on Springer Mountain in Georgia, there is an 8.1 mile long approach trail. In other words, Day 1 of hiking will be GETTING to the AT. Hike 8.3 miles to the first shelter on the AT, and you’ve accomplished 0.2 miles of the 2, 174 miles you plan to walk. Blow up air mattress, flop in sleeping bag, sleep peacefully from being so exhausted that you did a whole 0.2 miles. Personally, I find it really funny.
Oh, and to add to the hilarity, there are 604 stairs that one needs to climb on that 8.1 mile approach trail. Six hundred and four stairs. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a heck of lot of stairs to me. I wonder how many people plan a thru-hike to Maine that give up BEFORE they reach the actual trailhead? Six hundred and four stairs.
So yesterday I strapped on my 33 pound pack (did you notice it’s down from 42? Woot!) and “hiked” 604 stairs. 16 stairs at a time. 16 up from the basement, 16 back down. 16 up, 16 down. To keep track, I realized that if I did 6 sets of up and downs that I would have gone up 100 stairs. So I needed to do 6 sets of 6 up and downs to get to 600 stairs up. I turned on some Gypsy Swing music, and had a glass of water waiting for me at the top of the stairs as a reward.
Every time I got 6 sets done, I took a little mini-break to drink some water. I didn’t sit down or take the pack off, but just gave my knees a moment’s rest. Then I’d do another 6 sets. Then another. And another. Before the 2nd song of Fishtank Ensemble was over (they are long songs), I was 2/3 done with only 2 more sets to go.
To keep a uneventful story shorter than I normally would make it, I completed my 6 sets of 6 faster than I thought and my knees weren’t hardly even complaining (I’m not even sore today!).
But here’s what I learned. Well, two things I learned. First, 6 repetitions of 6 sets of 16 stairs does NOT, in fact, equal 600. It equals 576. Oops. I told you math is not my forte. To help, I did have to end at the bottom of the stairs and do one more 16 steps back up to the main floor – so I did 592 stairs. OK, just needed to clear that up for all you Einstein’s who were beginning to think I was an idiot. Yeah, I figured it out just now with a calculator.
More importantly, I learned the value of meeting little goals within a larger task. 6 sets of 16 stairs seems do-able. Six hundred and four stairs makes my lungs hurt just thinking about it. It takes about 5,000,000 steps to hike 2, 174 miles (that does not include steps taken to get into a town to restock or that poor miserable day you hike 10 miles SOUTH before realizing Maine is not in that direction). But my trek is not 6 months of 5 million steps. It’s 3 days then restock. Then it's 5 days with a reward of staying in a hostel. Then it's 4 days with happiness brownies waiting for me in the mail drop. Then 7 days, then 5 days, then 6 days... you get the picture. If I just keep an eye on the next “set” of days, and forget about the 5,000,000 steps, I’ll be on Katahdin before you know it!