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[at-l] Itinerary/Safety

For the 97 thruhikers -

Seems like there's a considerable level of concern about Rachel's
posting of her "itinerary" - so maybe 'someone' should say a few
more words about this.   So here I go again - seems like I must
love the taste of dirty socks .

First - as Rachel said - she deliberately offset the dates.
And she didn't tell us which way, did she?

In reality, the whole subject is nearly meaningless - for a
couple reasons.  First because she's planning on hiking with
several different people during the first several weeks.  So
she won't be alone for that time.  Secondly, her trail name
may be Solophile, but if she really wants to be alone she'll
have to work at it.  I won't expand on that much here - enough
to say that any thruhiker can find solitude when they really
want it, but it's harder for females.

Most importantly, though, the itinerary is meaningless except
as a planning tool for resupply and as a "structure" to make the
folks back home feel better and give them a place and time to
send mail - and some assurance that you really do intend to
come home again.

I'm an engineer - some of you know what that means.  For
those who don't - it means I plan everything down to a level of
detail that most of you can't even emagine - and I enjoy doing it.
And, in fact, I'm doing it again for another long trail right now.
But what I also know is that the plans we make now won't last
3 days when we actually get on the trail.  As the old military
adage goes - "No battle plan survives first contact with the
enemy".   Nor is Rachel's itinerary likely to survive very long
on the Trail.

Personal exerience was that by the time I got to Troutville, VA
I was 15 days "behind schedule".   I "made up" 9 days and was
only 6 days "behind schedule" when I pulled into Bear Mt, NY.
And then I "lost" 6 more days and finished at Katahdin 12 days

Only I didn't consider it "late" - it was right on time
because it was when I got there.   All the words in quotes back
there are meaningless - I was out there to walk the trail, not
to prove how good a planner I was.   So whether I finished
"early" or "late" was of no interest whatever - as long as
I finished before the snow closed Katahdin.

OK - the message here is that Rachel isn't likely to stick to
her "schedule" either.  If the nutcases want to find her, they'll
have to work at it a lot harder than just reading her "schedule"
off the Internet.   Will she be 5 days behind her "schedule" - or
5 days "ahead"?   Or 15 days?  Which way?   And where?

I'm not gonna advocate everyone posting their "schedules",
and I'm not gonna say anyone shouldn't do it.   But if you do it,
just remember that those schedules are guidelines - not gospel.
Yeah - I've known a few people who insisted they HAD to "stay
on schedule".  A few (very few) of them actually made it.  Most
of them didn't - and a lot of them blew themselves right off the
Trail with blown out knees, tendonitis, shin splints, sprains,
broken ankles, etc.   I don't think any of you want your hike
to end like that.

I'm gonna say something about security here, too -

Specifically about the Shenandoah -   I'm not gonna try
to explain the factors that set up the murders last summer,
but as thruhikers you'll be moving every day - and that
alone makes you safer.   There are also a couple other things
you can do to increase your safety margin  - when you're
going through the Shenandoah stay together and don't camp
alone.  Pay special attention to your "feelings" about people -
don't stay with or around people who make you nervous.
And if you're male - as a matter of self protection (with
respect to the law enforcement agencies) keep records of
where you stay and with whom every night.

One more thing - guns ARE illegal in the Shenandoah.  And
carrying one is NOT advisable.

As for the "DMZ" - it's a myth that's been perpetrated on
thruhikers for too many years.  The area that people were
calling the "DMZ" last year wasn't even the same area that
was the "DMZ" in 92.   Misinformation is a wonderful thing,
isn't it?

Anyway - once again I've said more than I intended, so I think
I'll go back to work.  We'll see some of you on the 25th.

Walk softly,

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