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[ft-l] FTA - AT 1998

Is anyone else on this mailing list going on Kenneth Smith's FTA Appalachian Trail 1998 backpacking trip?
I went last year and it was great!  One of the best trips I have ever been on.  I am looking forward to getting back to the mountains again this year.  You could say I've got mountain fever.
I'm trying to again work-out for this trip.  The better the shape I'm in, the more I'll enjoy the trip.  I'm doing steps on a car ramp; you know the ones you can buy at the auto parts stores.  30 minutes of steps on the ramp and my thighs are tight.  But, if I remember the last trip correctly, I had more problems on the downhills!  The downhills really hurt my shins and some stress in my knees.  My question for this list is, "What exercises can I do to prepare for the downhills of the mountains?".  I've looked around in my area for hills, ramps, overpasses or bleachers -- but I'm hesitant to work out in this "high crime" neighborhood.  Any ideas anyone?
Happy Trails,
Jeff Walters
Anywhere is walking distance, if you've got the time.
(Steven Wright)
Florida Backpacker's Trailplace