“It would be irresponsible not to speculate.”
– Peggy Noonan
For long hikes I prefer to sketch out nightly stops and food drop points, even though The Plan is likely to change with weather, mood, and injury. This gives me a chance to identify the most convenient post offices for receiving packages, as well as the shelters that happen to be spaced optimally for my particular pace. I can game out the trade-offs between going an extra 4 miles round trip to Post Office A versus 2.5 pounds increased average pack weight by waiting for Post Office B. The Plan also makes it easier for Base Support to schedule food package shipments and estimate my location when I am out of communication range. But The Plan is just a plan, not a covenant, so if I need to take a day off in a shelter to rest up from a sprain, avoid a day-long down-pour, or hang out with new trail friends, then so be it, and no guilt is attached.
The Plan for 1988 was reduced to a single sheet of paper printed on both sides, kept handy and consulted often. The Plan for 2012 is in spreadsheet form, available as a Google Doc to modify during the trip via smartphone and share changes with Base Support.
Here is an early version of the first few weeks of The Plan, showing how I organized the information. (It feels weird publishing the entire plan ahead of time because of imagined stalkers, which would imply imagining anyone reads this blog. I will present the entire plan after the trip.)
download as Excel file
Column F shows day of week, so I can avoid problems with post offices closed on Sundays and reduced hours on Saturday. The formula for F2 is
and that formula is copied down the column. An asterisk as first character in Column A indicates that line does not increment the day count, to include information about a location mid-day such as a mail drop. The formula in E3 is
It is easy to insert an extra day for rest or recuperation by inserting a line.
Column C shows daily mileage, computed from Column D, “Miles from Springer”. The formula in C7 is
Daily mileage goes way down in New Hampshire, due to large elevation changes.