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Friday, March 27, 2009

A Major Hiking Goal Decision

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As some of you know, I've been working on hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail for 17 years. Each year I've been able to do one or more sections, and I've now completed 3518 miles. I've hiked all the red on the map, and the blue is what is planned for May. The official estimate of the trail length is 4600 miles, but my total will come in at about 4400. That's because sections that I've had to connect with road walks will be longer once they are off road.

I'm always torn between wanting to make a big deal out of my quest and preferring to remain a bit shy. (One can't be too shy when there is a book to sell.) But I've been very quiet, except to a few close friends, about what I'm going to now publicly share here.

Anyway, as of right now, there is no other woman who has hiked as much of the trail as I have. Two other women should be mentioned. The first person to follow the entire route of the NCT was Carolyn Hoffman. Right after the trail was authorized (1980) she set out to find it. She hiked a lot where it went through National Forests, and rode a bicycle on roads to approximate the rest of the way. Also of note is Sue Lockwood who accompanied Ed Talone on the first thru-hike in 1994. Sue was in kidney failure and had to take time off for dialysis along the way. She hiked about 3000 miles of the trail. Only 7 men have hiked the whole trail!

Yup, I COULD be the first woman to hike the whole thing. I've been really quiet about this, because I've known that some woman could set out and do a thru-hike and be the first. I've been saying for over a year that I was now close enough to my goal that if I learned of someone who was setting out to hike the trail that I could accelerate my schedule and still be the first.

And that is just what is happening. In May, Bonita "Mother Goose" Helton plans to begin a two year hike of the North Country Trail. This is no hiker wannabe. She has hiked extensively out west, and has done the whole International Appalachian Trail. Unless she gets injured or becomes ill, I'm sure she'll succeed.

So, I've been thinking about whether I really want to be the first woman to hike the whole thing, or whether I want to continue at my pace of about 200 miles a year to savor the experience. I've decided that I want to be the first.

This means that I'll need to hike just over 400 miles this season. Preliminary plans are to finish Minnesota and do some more of Michigan this year. This post is getting long, but this is just a huge deal for me... the planning, and the finances, and letting many of my other pursuits languish while I focus on this dream.

See Only a Few Miles But O So Good for my last NCT hike that counted toward my quest
See The Essential Adirondacks for a short article about last summer's hike in the Adirondacks (was my monthly newspaper column)
See Triple Play in the ADKs for a longer article about last summer's hike in the Adirondacks
A journal of a North Dakota hike is available on Xanga, but posts there don't have permalinks. If anyone would like to read it you can go to Sharkbytes on Xanga, then in the bottom left corner choose July 28, 2007 and click GO. This will take you to the preparations for that hike and then you can work through the hike with the "previous" and "next" choices in the bottom right of the page. Xanga's awkwardness is one reason I left!


WiseAcre said...

Too cool. Either way you go it will be a real accomplishment. I'd love to do it myself. Too bad I'll have to wait until I retire.

I always wanted to canoe from your 'blue' section in WI to home. (where the St. Lawrence River leaves the US) I told someone of that and he went and did it - took all summer. (must be nice to be independently wealthy) I might yet do it - spend long times alone with only a tent for shelter - not get rich.

Wish you had some of the trail in the Adirondacks left - I'd have made some time to hike with ya.

Happy Trails!

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi WiseArce! Thanks for being the first to comment. I'm really feeling very shy today. We just finished the Daks this past summer. I forgot that I wrote about that too, I'll put a link at the end of the post to those stories. Of course paying for this is going to be an issue too. I have a little money saved for a crisis, and I've decided that it will go for this project, but it is probably only enough for this summer's treks. But I just HAVE to do this. I've worked so long at this that I don't want to be an also-hiked.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Oh- and what a great canoe adventure that would be! I assume you know about the "new" canoe trail that starts at the Fulton Chain and heads through New England.

Rick (Ratty) said...

Wow! What you've already done is a huge accomplishment. This is nothing to be shy about. Even if you don't end up being the first, it's pretty great. I hope you make it. It sounds like you have a very good chance. I'm glad you wrote about it, it's pretty cool just to read about something like this.

Lin said...

WOWEE! You are some hiker-babe!! I'm so impressed. I hope you do it, I hope you beat 'ol Mother Goose! Go, Sharky, Go!

Kenno said...

Wow, I am soooo impressed. I wish you the best of luck and health. I think that would be so much fun. Maybe some day when I am retired I will try to do something like this. If the knees still work.

I have hiked through our great national parks, but that is nothing compared to your experiences. I think Minnesota will be gorgeous (a little cool) in May.

All the best to your adventure and achievement. BTW, will you blog each day's miles?

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- thanks for the encouragement. I'm excited, but I have learned to expect mostly strange looks from the bulk of the population!

Hi Lin- Well, that's sure how I feel. I am definitely going to go for it.

Hi Kenno- Hope you get to hike when you are ready! I won't be able to blog every day on the May hike, for sure... this is the most remote section anywhere on this trail. But I'll post when we hit civilization and I can access a computer.

The August trip will be less interesting, but will have more chances to blog about it.

betchai said...

wow, definitely not something to be shy about, i am with you in wishing the best of the conditions to finish the hike, that is really a great accomplishment.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi bethcai- It will be fun to have you and my other blogging friends travel "with" me on this quest.

tashabud said...

Hi Sharkbytes,
I'm wishing you success. This is not something to feel shy about; it's something to be proud of.

Just for my curiousity, if you plan to hike 400 miles this year, how many miles will you be hiking a day? Also, I do hope that you have company during your hikes? It's a jugle out there. LOL.

Good luck and God bless,

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi Tasha- I usually hike with someone. There are 4 of us going on the first 130 miles. I might do the next 60 alone, but it's a very safe location. Then 2 of us will do 180 together in August. When we have full packs... are backpacking we average 10-12 miles a day. When it is roadwalks and a day pack I can average 15-17. I'm not one of these 25-mile-a-day hikers.

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