The adventure started out as simply reading “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. "A Walk in the Woods" completely immersed my sense of adventure and I mistakenly told Mike Kidd about the book. He subsequently read my copy of the book and was hooked also. The domino effect was already at work when he lent the book to Bill Knittle(Mike’s farm neighbor in Seton (close to Rolla). John Wiethop was going to be the fourth member of the expedition until he read the passage about snakes. In the meantime another friend of Mike’s from Seton, Bob, became interested in the expedition.
Now we had to decide where this grand adventure would take us. Dave Volk had hiked the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park with 3 other friends, so I relied on his trail experience. Dave stated that the Shenandoah Park area was picturesque and he recommended the Loft Mountain to Thornton Gap stretch of about 54 miles. He hiked this section in May with three other friends. The place was set and the date was decided upon as Labor Day Weekend.
Being a novice at hiking, I read several backpacking magazines, inquired at the different sporting goods stores, checked the Internet, for equipment for this daring undertaking. Subsequently bought a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, mess gear, hiking socks, and food. Everything necessary to be an experienced hiker.....well I looked like an experienced hiker. Mike and Bill were even practicing by hiking with backpacks beforehand. I was way too busy at the time and why should I use all my energy up beforehand, I was going to save it for the hike.
My intentions were to pack light. RIGHT. Forty-two pounds of equipment and food, I thought it was a good weight but I didn’t include the drinking water in this calculation. I had no intentions to be Stephen Katz on Springier Mountain. This refers to Bill Bryson’s hiking partner who threw away quite a bit of his hiking equipment on the first day of their hike due to the weight factor. Bryson jokingly stated, “a person could completely outfit themselves from the equipment abandoned on Springer Mountain” (the southern starting point of the Appalachian Trail).
Well the grand adventure started with the guys picking me up Saturday at six in the morning for our drive along Interstate 64 through Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia and finally to a motel at Waynesboro, Virginia. The entrance to Shenandoah National Park was less than ten miles away at Rockfish Gap which is the southern end of Shenandoah. After riding in a car all day and the anticipation of what laid ahead, I found it difficult to fall asleep.