Thursday, July 16, 2009

boB Goes to Iceland

In 1996 I walked from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. People are often amazed at this as if walking was a difficult thing to do. Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy actually.

I spent much of my time on that stroll with Paul Palm aka Bachelor boB. After completing the AT, boB did a stint playing the trombone for the U.S. Navy. Apparently during his hitch working for Uncle Sam he saved up all his pay and spent none of it, except to go hiking in various places around the Pacific Rim. He has been out for several years now (probably a good thing for the the Navy and for boB). Last year he spent some time walking in Patagonia (in South America, not the clothing company). This year he is apparently going to Iceland. I got this email yesterday.

I'm still packing when my departure is less than 12 hours away, as usual. This is just a test/first mass e-mail. If you're getting this it's because, a) I think you'll probably want to hear about my 4-week hike across Iceland, b) you already know of my hike and want to hear about it in order to confirm that I'm still alive, or c) you already know of my hike and want to know as soon as I croak so you can come collect some of my goodies.
Having survived my 6 weeks in Patagonia last Xmas, including the solo (and nearly gearless) crossing of Viedma Glacier and the crazed/failed attempt to hike around Tierra del Fuego, I think I'll be fine in Iceland. All I really need is for nothing to erupt during my time there. Famous last words?
Anyway, e-mail will either be far more rare or more frequent than from Argentina/Chile, depending on whether I truly head across the island (coast to coast) or opt to ring the coast (flatter, greener, populated areas). I'm more itinerary-free than I've ever been on a trip, so I don't really know which it will be yet. Reading guidebooks on the flights and seeing what others at the first hostel are headed for will point me in a direction. It's an island, so any direction will ultimately work.

I'm glad to see the boB is learning to live spontaneously. Of course, he made plans when he hiked together as well, but usually chucked them about 2 minutes into the day. It looks like he has rather given up the practice altogether in favor of just striking out. Interesting enough when the trail is all blazed for you. Should yield some interesting results when there is not trail.

Today I get a follow up:
Not very auspicious beginnings. The flight from NC to Philadelphia was delayed for hours, which would have caused cascading flight misses. So I flew to Charlotte, NC instead, then Charlotte to Boston. The Boston arrival was later than my original from Philadelphia, but my tension was unwarranted, since check-in took about 1 minute and the departure was later than my foggy brain recalled.
The problem was Boston to Iceland. A five hour flight that covered 4 timezones. We landed when my brain felt 2am, but the sun here says 6am. (Of course, it gets light here around 2:30am.) PLUS, never underestimate the endurance of a 2 year old. They can bounce on a seat, yelling in excitement for 2 hours, then scream in misery for the next 2. All while they should be dead asleep, since it was 9:30pm-2:30am to their brains. I searched, but couldn,t locate the eject button for their seats.
So, my initial idea was to leave directly from the Int,l airport and walk straight across Iceland (west to east), with no resupply, for nearly 4 weeks.. After reading books, maps, and websites, even I decided that that wasn,t a workable plan. (Still no set plan; that,s today,s to-do.) Well, guess what the guy sitting right next to me on the flight is doing?!
Exactly that. He walked away from the airport with 26 days of food, which fills *two* packs: a full pack on his back and a day pack worn backwards on his chest.
My pack, with 21 days of food, but no water, weighed in at 48 lbs. I then added my camera bag and the bag of clothes I will wear. Not counting the shirt, pants, and shoes I was wearing, the scale said 60.5 lbs. I,m gonna die. Oh, the 48 lbs. is about 22 kg. This guys, pack was 26 kg. He really may die. And he,s well smaller than me. We swapped contact info to see what happens. For once I have firsthand knowledge of someone doing something nuttier than me. I,m feeling both unprecedented relief and envy/rivalry.
So, while some of you are just waking up and others not yet up, I,m trying to defeat jet-lag by just skipping a night (which the flight abbreviated to 5 hours anyway). I,ll buy maps, fuel, etc., set-up camp in Reykjavik,s campsite, and try to come up with a 4-week plan. Something not too strenuous, since my 21 days of food is only 1,150 kcal/day and I,m already feeling hungry.

You may have deduced that boB is single, and has no children of his own, thus little sympathy for either the parent or the child on the plane. Also, that he is a first class and very artful complainer of a high order, but never lets any of that stop him from doing anything. In fact, half of the fun of walking with him was just listening to the sheer erudition of his complaints. I'm not sure what the other half of the fun was.

Of course, for most hikers, complaining about pack weight and lack of food are the two mainstays of existance. Of course, if you think about it, they generally run in inverse proportion to one another, so that a skilled hiker NEVER runs out of something to complain about.

Then later today, this:

Oh, I forgot to mention. Iceland looks like the Moon, but with moss, lichen, and flowers. Not very foot friendly. Those 12-15 km/day estimates may be more accurate than I thought. Looks like slow-going terrain.

As far as I know, he has never been to the moon, but who knows...

And just for reference, 60 lbs is a lot of weight. Soldiers do that and more, but nobody claims it to be easy. I currently carry about 30 lbs for a 5-6 day trip. If I spent some money on lighter gear I would be at about 20 lbs. But still, with 4 weeks worth of food at one shot? It would be hard to get away with less than 40-50 lbs. I think a sled, a travois, or even a wheeled cart might be a good option. Don't think boB hasn't thought of that.

He usually takes lots of pictures. It used to be ONLY 35mm slide film, but that was back then. Goodness knows what he uses now. If I can get some, I'll keep you posted.

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