Note: If you'd like to follow along the journal or explore the trail, click here for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Interactive Map as well as a good description of the Appalachian Trail.
This journal was first published on the Trailplace web site in 1999, and was kept up to date during my hike by a good friend of mine. Whenever I had the chance I would post my scribbles to him from trail towns and he would transcribe them onto the internet - that's if he could figure out my writing! Because it was being written while I was on the go, often when I was tired and would much rather not have had to bother with it, I found many faults with it when I finished my hike. In spite of this, I resisted the temptation to try and polish it, deciding to leave it more or less as it was. I think it's more authentic that way - and it certainly brings the whole experience back to me in a way that it wouldn't if I made too many changes.
So here it is, I hope you enjoy it!
A word on trail names
It's a long standing tradition on the Appalachian Trail that all thru-hikers take a trail name. I think this is partly to do with the idea of self discovery. If you don't give yourself one, others will give you one. And since this may not be very complimentary there is a lot to be said for preempting your fellow hikers by giving yourself one. I chose "Frodo" partly because it was after re-reading the "Lord of the Rings" in 1998 that I finally decided to pack in my job and take off into the unknown. I identified very strongly with the character in the book because I too felt very reluctant to leave my comfortable life, but at the same time driven by a need I didn't really understand. I also had the vainglorious idea that perhaps in assuming this name, some of his same characteristics would rub off on me. Since these are exactly the kind of characteristics you need to hike the AT - guts, determination, stamina, good humour, camaraderie etc - I think this name should stand me in good stead!
A word about me
I was born and raised in London, England and soon after I graduated I moved to Canada where I've spent most of my life, getting married and raising a son and daughter there. For the last few years we've been living in Terre Haute, Indiana. I've had a very interesting and enjoyable career as a control systems engineer working first on icebreaker propulsion systems and then on metal rolling mills. Early in my career I had a memorable adventure busting through the NorthWest Passage on the maiden voyage of Canada's largest icebreaker as she accompanied the American supertanker "Manhattan". This was the first, and last, time a giant supertanker has been through the NorthWest Passage. I'm glad they decided not to do it again; the environment up there is just too fragile. I've lived in several different places in Canada, the United States and England, but the most impressive was the Saguenay region of Quebec - right on the edge of a vast, unspoiled wilderness stretching all the way to Hudson Bay and the Labrador Coast.
I've always been very keen on the outdoors. My first joy was white-water kayaking, which later gave way to the more tranquil sport of wilderness canoeing and still later to sailing. My favourite sport is cross-country skiing. Even when I lived in Quebec and could ski right out of my back door, I couldn't get enough of it; and I still drive 1800 miles each February to do the Canadian Ski Marathon. The skiing naturally led me to winter camping, but I really didn't start hiking in a big way till I moved to Indiana and couldn't indulge myself in sailing or cross-country skiing.
Since this journal was first written I've moved back to Canada, and I'm now living with my wife in the capital, Ottawa.
I first saw the AT during a backcountry ski trip in the White Mountains about 18 years ago. I was so amazed by the concept of a continuous 2200-mile wilderness trail that ever since then the idea of doing a thru-hike has been lingering in the back of my mind. When my two children finished college it became a possibility and in the last year it's become an obsession, so much so that I decided to take early retirement and "just do it".
My other big love is music - all sorts but especially choral singing. I've sung in everything from church choirs to barber shop quartets but I've always mainly enjoyed performing in the big masterworks. I'm sorry I shall miss our local choral society's spring performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah. Oh well! You can't do everything.
About my hike
I'd like to take my time - starting around 5th April and finishing just before October 15th should give me enough time to enjoy it and not be forced to hurry. I want to travel as light as possible. This means not only paring down my pack weight, but also clearing my mind - leaving all that "civilized" baggage of prejudices and preconceptions behind. I want to travel with an open mind, to see what I see and hear what I hear, and try to learn from it.
I'm going solo but I trust I'll meet some compatible people along the way. Also, several friends have expressed an interest in joining me for a section or so - I hope they do. My daughter and her fiancé will join me for a week somewhere in Virginia, bringing their two dogs - a German shepherd and a Doberman (bears look out:-). Then if my son decides to go to grad school at MIT this fall, I'm hoping to talk him into climbing Kathadin with me.
Strange to say, I still don't really know why I want to do this. There are probably all sorts of reasons. I love the wilderness, the fresh air, the wonderful scenery and the rush I get from healthy exercise. Sometimes I think it'll help me to make the transition from the stress of hi-tech industry to the more placid life of retirement - to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, to discover what's important and what isn't. I might say I'm looking for spiritual renewal, the space and time to learn something about myself, the natural world, and how we all fit into it. Then, in case that sounds too pompous, I might just say I want to have fun, enjoy good company and make some lasting friends. In effect, I don't know. I'm just trusting my instincts on this. I suppose most people must think we're all quite mad, but those of us who have this curious urge are actually in very venerable company. Think about it - people have been doing this kind of thing for eons. Perhaps it's even a basic human need. These words were written by Chaucer back in 1386 and are just as fresh and apt now as they were then. He might even be talking about me!
When that Aprille with his showers sweet
The drought of March hath piercèd to the root,
And bathèd every vein in such moisture
Of which virtue engendered is the flower;
When Zephyr eke with his sweet breath
Inspirèd hath in every holt and heath
The tender branches, and the young sun
Hath in Ram's sign his half course run,
And small birds make melody,
That sleep all night with open eye;
So worketh nature in their hearts,
Then folk do long to go, do long to go, on pilgrimage .........
Good luck to all my fellow "class of '99". I hope you enjoy yourselves and find your dream. I'm looking forward to meeting you out there on the trail.