Let my boss know today that I’m leaving town on June 1st, and that I’ll need a letter of recommendation before I go. The look on his face was worth it, just by itself, I think. Spent about the last five hours or so tooling around with all kinds of free map and gps apps for the iphone before caving and buying the one that got mentioned more than once – GPS kit.
It does everything I need it to do, and damn near everything I want it to do. Serve as a GPS, obviously. But it can also work off of offline maps, actually follow a damn route [I haven’t played with that yet, but it’s in there]. You’d be horrified to see just how many of the GPS apps – even some of the pay ones – are really just prettified versions of the google map app that comes with the damn phone. I don’t need pretty. Pretty wastes battery. I need function. I need to be able to tell at a glance – assuming I can get enough of a signal for the GPS – where I am, and about how long before I have to pay attention instead of just enjoy the walk/bike. It also has the option to post your current position to Facebook and twitter. I’m not sure if I’m going to use the Facebook one, but I definitely intend to tweet at the end of every day of hiking. Even set up a twitter account for it with *gasp* my real name. Linkety link (Note: I’ve changed my twitter handle since I wrote this, so I’m not going to link to the old one =p)
It’s remarkable how stressful planning all of the preliminary stuff for my journey is. I have a headache just from trying to find the right GPS app for my purposes. I predict much swearing as I pore through the Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario provincial maps for the TCT, as I scribble down which trails I have to go on for optimal travel. I downloaded Google Earth so I can plot the distance of one branch versus another, and so I can get a decent idea of the terrain. One trail, for instance, may be 5km shorter than another and end at the same point, but it may be all hills and valleys while the longer one could be flat, and thus actually take less time to travel. On the other hand, the longer branch may seem to have a more promising view. Then once I figure out all that, I need to download the trail specific maps for my route so that I don’t pull a Bugs Bunny, and take a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
The name of the trail itself is an incredible misnomer as well. It’s called the Trans-Canada Trail, but it’s a whole bunch of different trails that interconnect, run through cities, or disappear entirely. It’s not done, you see. There’s probably about 6,000 km of it that they still need to finish according to the official website. Just a quick glance at my current location has three trail ends nearby.
I’m not even sure if I intend to hike it or bike it. Biking it will definitely save me some time, and allow detours away from my main destination to do things like say “Hello” to Hello Tauren [though I’d have to regretfully decline any of her lauded baked goods due to diabetes =( ], but I’d need to buy a new bike as well as a whole bunch of accessories for it to make travelling such long distances with it easier and safer. Saddlebags, a man-powered flashlight should I get caught in the rain, or still travelling after sunset due to uncampable terrain. That could easily set me back $1500 on top of all the normal gear I’d have to purchase. But, that initial expense may end up being cheaper in the long run, as hiking the trail could easily take double or triple the time, and I’d have to resupply along the way. These are the sort of things I have to come to a decision on soon.
Obviously I need to buy other travelling accessories. I’ll need bear spray as well as a bear horn. I’d need a big hiking backpack if I’m walking as well as a normal backpack for food so it’s separated. If I’m biking I can keep most of my personal belongings in the saddlebags and have a large-ish backpack for for run-over and food. I don’t want to keep the food on the bags attached to my bike because if wildlife gets into it, I run the risk of having my mode of transportation muffed up. I need a good one-person tent, preferably one rated for the arctic. I don’t expect to deal with those kinds of temperatures; that’s part of the reason why I’m waiting till June, but they’re sturdy as all get-out. Sleeping bag, either an air mattress or some foam pads. I’ve not slept in an actual real bed for something like six years now, so oddly, sleeping on the ground is going to be one of the easier hardships during my travels.
At the end of every day, I’ll be tweeting my GPS location, and writing stuff down in a notebook. Every couple of days I’m either going to have to stay in a cheap hotel or a youth hostel. I’d avoid that if at all possible, but a lot of the travelling depends on my phone’s GPS so I can’t afford to let the charge run out. Especially if I need to contact emergency services [not even necessarily for myself. Us humans are bastards, and while I may be a prick sometimes, I’m not a bastard. I’ll help when and where I can]
This trip is something I’ve wanted to do for at least five years now, probably closer to eight, honestly. I definitely made it a goal as something to do before I’m thirty. The original goal was to travel the whole thing, but I think I’d be content with the distance I have before me. It promises to be an incredible journey [cats rule, dogs drool!]. But right now? It’s a headache.