Walken’

Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Archive for February, 2008

Don’t Give Up the Ship

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A couple of weeks ago I visited the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. They have a truly breathtaking campus and a really, really good tour through their visitors center. It was fascinating learning about the lives of the midshipmen and how so very different their experience is from your average college student. For many people the highlight of the Naval Academy is seeing the Chapel along with the crypt which contains the grave of John Paul Jones. It is a truly awesome sight, and as I understand his grave compares with that of Napoleon.However, for me, I was waiting for something different. In Memorial Hall is displayed perhaps the most famous flag in U.S. Navy history. “Don’t Give Up The Ship” were some of the last words of Captain James Lawrence as his frigate the USS Chesapeake was boarded by the British sailors of the HMS Shannon in 1813. His best friend was Commodore Oiver Hazard Perry who was about to go into action himself with a small fleet on Lake Erie. He had a blue flag made with the words “Don’t Give Up The Ship” and renamed his flagship to the USS Lawrence, for his fallen friend. What followed was one of the most famous battles in US Naval history and Perry would be victorious.I have been in love with ships since I was a little kid and I think if I were to join a service it would be the Navy. Seeing this flag in person shook me with the full power of its history and meaning. If the Naval Academy were nothing more than a small one room school and they had this flag on display I could not have been more pleased. I decided right then and there that this flag was going on my pack, as a patch. It will go with me from Springer to Katahdin, as a reminder to myself and others who see it that this is something worth doing and worth finishing.

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Got a place I can plug this in?

Time is getting short! I move out of my apartment within 2 weeks, then I am on the road for work for a month, then on the trail April 1. So basically I just have 2 weeks to get my stuff together and ready to go. For the most part I have all of my gear now. It has been fun going on a seemingly endless shopping spree for this new-fangled piece of kit or that. That really tickled my geek side, and not often do I get to justify such spending. I am not going for ultralight hiking here – my base pack weight should hover around 18 pounds. However, I am going as light as possible while still carrying a considerable amount of luxury items, which include 1.5 pounds of camera gear, a bible and about a pound for the phone, ipod and keyboard. Nothing like bringing high tech comfort into the woods! Of course, a lot of folks say this is missing the point of being in the wilderness.

I can certainly understand that point of view, in fact when I first heard of the concept of bringing an mp3 player I was really put off. However I don’t really consider the Appalachian Trail a wilderness. It is a 2,200 mile long park, convenient to half a dozen major cities and dozens of small towns. It has man made shelters, hostels and hotels for sleeping. It has grocery stores, post offices and a zoo. It has out houses and rest rooms. Showers and laundry can be had about every 5 days or so. It has pizza joints, all you can eat buffets and bars. There is cell phone coverage along some of the trail. It is not necessary to bring a map or even a compass on the trail.

That is not to say this will be easy. None of the stuff above, save the shelters and outhouses exist outside of the occasional encounter with a trail town. Once you go in the woods, you carry what you need or you starve or freeze. There are treacherous sections for footing, unpredictable weather and rattlesnakes. And none of the luxuries will do your walking for you. However, because of the conveniences and the sheer distance involved the AT has taken on less of a wilderness character to me and more of that of an odyssey. It seems only appropriate to take gear based upon on how useful it is to me. Because the AT has places to plug in my gadgets, they suddenly take on an even more utilitarian nature that should improve my use of time in towns, etc.

So am I going to walk down the trail hour after hour listening to mp3s? Heck no. I’m here to enjoy nature! But I’m glad it’ll be in my pack when I need it.

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