Current reading: AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, by David Miller. (It’s a faster read than Dozois’ Thirty-First Annual Collection, for which I am grateful.)

Hiking all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail in one go has a certain tinged-with-insanity appeal to it, but it’s a safe bet that I never will. Odds are slim that I’ll ever set foot on the AT (as the footsore cognoscenti are fond of calling it), let alone hike any significant portion thereof.

I can walk nine or ten miles in one day, on the (mostly) flat & (mostly) paved streets of Champaign-Urbana, if I put my mind to it; but maintaining twice that pace, out in the wild, climbing up & down mountains, every day for four straight months – the wise man strives to know his limitations, and that would definitely exceed mine.

The thought of sleeping in “shelters” that don’t provide much actual shelter, but do provide mice, bugs & other assorted nasties, isn’t all that appealing, either.

Worst of all – for an activity pursued in the remote wilderness, hiking the AT is a strangely social activity. If I ever managed to walk twenty miles in one day, the last thing I’d want to do is talk to strangers about it.

AT hikers are – apparently – fond of picking up a stone at one end of the trail, carrying it to the other end & leaving it there. One imagines a large population of stones, original provenance long forgotten, circulating endlessly back & forth along the AT.