PLANNING AND IMPROVISING ON THE TRAIL

PLANNING AND IMPROVISING ON THE TRAIL

Matt HealeyThursday,16 May 2013

The Snap:

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a massive undertaking. There are physical challenges, mental challenges, and logistical challenges. In past posts I have focused on the physical and mental challenges. Today I want to focus on the logistics of the trail.

The Download:

There are two approaches to large logistical problems: planning or improvising. Building a plan seams like the best approach. After all, planning is important. There are plenty of good cliches like “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail.” I agree with this; it is important to have a plan. The logistics involved in a hike like this are impressive. How far can you go each day? What does that mean from a resupply perspective? Do you have to do more miles because you are running low on food? How much water should you leave the shelter with? How hot is it? What does the elevation profile look like? How far to the next water source? Planning helps you address all of these concerns, and not having a plan can cause problems.

But you also need to know when to throw the plan out the window and improvise. I had a great plan for what has become known as hell day. Temperatures  in the low 30s, freezing rain, and wind. The plan was to do approximately 10 miles. I made it 5 and then the plan changed because the weather did not cooperate. Once that happened, the remainder of the plan had to change. Granted that was an extreme case. However, there have been many other events where the plan had to change because of unforeseen events. For example, improved fitness is leading to longer days (I can go farther than planned), thus changing the plans. So while planning is important, so is the ability to improvise. Having been on the trail, I feel like we undervalue the ability to improvise in life. It seems like improvising is a necessity caused by poor planning. It is not. It is a requirement since we can not know the future.

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Image Credit: Flickr



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