Friday, March 20, 2009

It Just Got Real

I've always known that this day would come, but now it is finally here. It's time to pack my bag, sleep my final night in my own bed, and prepare for life in a backpack.

The past week has been a hectic one which is why I haven't had the time to post anything lately. I took my $500+ worth of the best that Costco and Ocean State Job Lot have to offer up to Foxy's place to make our mail drops for the trip. All unperishable and all fantastically delicious. Ahi tuna steaks, beef jerky, vegetable orzo, cheddar broccoli soup, Annie's Mac N' Cheese, quinoa, dried fruit, and enough gorp to fill a kiddie swimming pool. While our mail drops will be few and far between, we will eat like kings for those couple of days.

However, the trip took a backseat when I found out my girlfriend was going in for surgery the day I would have started hiking. So, after a little finagling, we pushed the trip back five days so that I could be there. The surgery went great, but as she got better, I was getting worse. The trip that had seemed so far away was now the only thing left to do.

Now it's time to say goodbye to all of my friends, my family, and to the comforts we all know. Time to say goodbye to Mama's meals, the El-R, and a real mattress to sleep on. To my cell phone, to my computer, to movies, television, and screens in general. To nights out, to paychecks, and to the real world - and damn, it sounds good.

Foxy and I sat down one night in Vermont and tried to answer the simple question of, "Why?"

I gave a long-winded answer, exploring the many morals positions one can take when facing a challenge like this - to test myself, to find myself, to learn about what I'm capable of, to grow as a person, to follow-through with what I said I was going to do, and in general, to simplify. All noble and all true. Is it the right answer? After 25 minutes of rambling through all of these reasons, the only answer that felt right was the simplest one.

Because it's there.
If it was good enough for Sir Edmund Hillary, it's good enough for me.

I guess that's why I have to start walking. I know where I'll be going, but where will the trail take me? We shall see.

Hopefully to a better answer.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Serious Mental Debate

For the past 48 hours, my mind has been in serious mental debate of what to do with this trip. I had set in my mind that going for the entire AT was the only thing that I wanted to do, but as soon as Coniston calls me up, the trip was cast in to doubt. Do I play it safe and take up a contract with Coniston and have one more of the classic Coniston summers that I've learned to love? Or do I go all-in and risk it all to see if I can actually pull of the feat of hiking 2171 miles with my own two feet? This debate raged on.

First off, you (meaning me) know that Coniston is always a great time.
Who says that the AT won't be even better? I mean, you have worked at Coniston for six summers already
Yeah, but this position is the type of managment position that you can prove your worth?
Prove what? That you can do a job you've held for the past 6 months? It's true it will be good, but you know you can do it.
Sure, but do I know that I can really hike the entire AT? It's 2171 miles for god sakes. Besides, hiking 1200 miles isn't exactly cake and lollipops. What if you hate it after a month? Break your leg? Get sick? Get poison ivy all over your balls? Then you'd wish you had the security of being able to go back to camp, that's for sure.
What if you get three months in and realize that you could actually pull it off. You - Eric Rightor - could hike the entire AT, but noooo, you have to report to Coniston. Sure, it's not even close to the worst fate ever devised, but this is something you've been dreaming about for years now. Is your dream worth selling for one more summer at Coniston?
Well, the trail isn't really going anywhere.
Neither is Coniston.
Three months isn't bad. Not bad at all.
You're right, but stop being a pessimist. 5 months and finishing what you started is a lot better and you know it.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what if...
What if what? You can "what if" yourself up to your eyeballs and you won't get anywhere.
OK. You're right.
I know.
We're both right.
If you say so. We're both you, remember?
Right. Still, 1200 miles after 3 months on the trail, then a summer at Coniston is a great 5 months by any standard.
But is that the goal? You can take that deal, but then you will never know if you could have ever done it all at once. It's not the biggest deal that you finish it all at once, but you will never know if you could have if you don't try.
But you were willing to leave for...
Yeah, yeah, I know, but you can't think about that. That's a special circumstance. This is right now.

This is your one shot at doing this. Pure and simple.

And that's how it ended. After talking with friends and family for hours about this and a couple sleepless nights, it came down to that: This is my one shot to do something truly remarkable and to see it from beginning to finish. No cutting it short. No excuses. This is my one shot to go for it and if you don't take it, it won't come around again. So I made the call, and for the first time since age 10, I'm not going back to Camp Coniston. I'm 23 today actually, just so you know. Whew.

There was a lot more that went into it, but that sums it up. However, there is one more clever tidbit that made the decision a little easier.

Last night, before going to bed, I get a text from Wilson Roberts, a CIT of mine last summer out West. Expecting a "Happy Birthday!!" message to come up, I didn't think much of it when I was scrolling down. It read: "You won't hike all 2000 miles of the AT! You won't"

The boys from Needham know EXACTLY what this means, but many of you may be puzzled by this. Let me explain: If someone told you that you wouldn't do something, you undoubtedly had to do it. It was unwritten law - an formal declaration questioning your very manliness, and if you didn't act upon it, you were doomed to at least of week of ridicule. I told this to Wilson out West who thought it was hilarious. Hence the message.

My response? It's the response that any fine gentleman would have to give.

Say I won't.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Preparing for Life in a Backpack

Well, it's go time.

Foxy and I are ready to strap life onto our backs. The gear is bought, the menu is in place, and now we are just waiting for the 21st of March to come by. So what does one bring on a 2000 miles trip? I thought you'd never ask.

-Osprey Atmos 65 Backpack (light and built for ventilation - and with how I sweat, I need all I can get)
-Lafuma Extreme Kilo 35 degree bag (light and compact)
-Ultralight Hennessey Hammock (besides being light and versatile - it's a hammock! What's not to love?)
-Halulite Pot (light, durable, and a good conductor)
-8 Inch Knife (For cutting cheese and stabbing bears)
-Orikaso Fold Flat Ware (Save space and totally lickable to save from washing)
-Gold Bond (Never leave home without it)
-Merino wool boxers, tights, t-shirt, and socks (doesn't stink and it feels so nice)
-Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket
-Magnesium Fire Starter
-First Aid Kit
-Gloves, hat, pants, long sleeve, food, water, hiking poles, pack cover, paracord, blah blah blah...

That's it. Foxy and I will be swapping books back and forth to keep up the conversation. He'll start with "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence" and I'm going with Walden. I think they are pretty fitting books for a romp in the woods.

Hopefully I'll be able to keep this blog going and keep you all posted on life on the trail.

This should be one hell of a trip.