I'm trying to figure out what to do when my job goes away at the end of the first quarter of next year. There are rumors that another part of Kodak will be hiring around then, but the fact that I'd suddenly have an unlimited amount of free time at just the right time to start a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is awfully tempting. And if I follow my plan of having kids in 2004 or 2005, this may be my last chance to do it for several years.
- A post by rivka the other day brought up what's probably the single biggest reason not to: I'm not sure that I can stand to go away and leave Amanda for six months. Especially not right now when our relationship is really kicking into high gear; the next year or so will be an extremely important time for us. Would I be pining for her every step of the way? And what impact would this have on us, long-term?
- My car loan is an intractable problem. To get the 0% interest deal, I took a fairly aggressive schedule of payments, which are more or less going to require me to be employed continuously through the end of August, 2004. I'm not sure what I'd do in any event if I don't find work at the end of March....
- What do I do with the house? Put it on the market? Refinance it to a 30-year mortgage and rent it out? That's going to depend on whether I'm staying in Rochester, or heading elsewhere, which in turn is going to depend on discussions with Amanda and the availability of work, so this isn't just a thru-hiking problem, but it still complicates matters.
- I've also got a ton of leftover consumer debt from my transition. I've actually been good about diverting most of my discretionary budget toward paying that down, but there's still the problem of monthly payments, and it's kept me from building up a nest egg that could be used for hiking.
- And there are still a few unanswered logistical questions: lightweight (Trek and hammock) or ultralight (Breeze and X-Cape)? Use maildrops, have just a bounce box, or buy everything in the field? Esbit tabs or alcohol? Hut hop, work for stay once or twice, or ignore the huts entirely?
- And what will the economy be like after Katahdin? I'd need to find employment right away even if I could juggle all of the above.
Based on all that, I don't think that I can really get away with thru-hiking this year. On the other hand, taking a few weeks to go hiking and clear my head might be just what the doctor ordered at that point. So I think I'll plan to get my gear and my procedures together as if I were starting a thru-hike, and go through the drill of schlepping myself down to Springer Mountain and heading north. Perhaps I might get as far as Fontana Dam, or mac_arthur_park's place near Damascus....