[at-l] Enola, PA AT attempt for Nov 10

Craig Wickmann tech.mann at verizon.net
Tue Oct 25 20:29:44 CDT 2011

I'm sure that one way or another,  we will be reading about him.

Craig -Old Crow-
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Amy Forinash 
  To: RockDancer 
  Cc: <at-l at backcountry.net> 
  Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:14 AM
  Subject: Re: [at-l] Enola, PA AT attempt for Nov 10

  Wow. Um. Sixty miles a day in winter with a full pack?  

  Sent from my iPhone

  On Oct 25, 2011, at 9:41 AM, "RockDancer" <rockdancer97 at comcast.net> wrote:

    Enola man attempts to shatter Appalachian Trail record

    Read more: http://www.cumberlink.com/news/local/article_6851372c-fe34-11e0-9861-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1bnhSMcV9


    That's what Matthew Huffman will be chasing when he embarks on a bold endeavor to "not break but shatter" the Appalachian Trail speed record.

    The 25-year-old Enola resident plans to depart from the trail's northernmost point in Mt. Katahdin, Maine, early next month - probably on Nov. 10 - in an attempt to complete the trail, which snakes through 14 states from Maine to Georgia, in record time. Just this August, hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis managed to motor through the approximately 2,181 miles of the trail in 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, according to records at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

    Until Pharr Davis hiked along, Andrew Thompson's 2005 record of 47 days 13 hours and 31 minutes hadn't been touched since he established it in 2005.

    "I don't just want to break it," Huffman said of Pharr Davis' record in a recent interview. "I want to shatter it. It's kind of a statement for me."

    Huffman's plan is to carry his 32-pound pack by himself, and he will only receive two food drops, courtesy of his younger brother, 22-year-old Adam Huffman - the first in Shippensburg and the second in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

    "I'm zoning the world out. I don't want anyone taking me in," Huffman said. "It's supposed to be raw. It's supposed to be me and nature and wilderness, not me living it up."

    He doesn't want to jinx himself, but admits he's gunning to break Pharr Davis' record by three days.

    That kind of speed averages out to 60 miles a day.

    A statement

    If crushing Pharr Davis's record is a statement, what, exactly, is he saying to the world?

    On the surface, it's a simple message about pushing the human body beyond normally accepted limits.

    "People are capable of far more than they give themselves credit for," he said. "They say psychologically we only tap into 10 percent of our potential and I think it's the same physiologically, too. It's about getting your head past what your muscles are doing."

    Oh, and "good nutrition" is equally crucial, he says, which is why he's packing plenty of tuna, Power Bars, tortillas and his own hand-blended kind of granola bars bursting with almonds and peanut butter.

    Delve a little deeper into Huffman's motivation and the 5-foot-8-inch, 160-pound Navy veteran will tell you he wants to heal a heart that's right now in smithereens while resurrecting some self-respect.

    He had a job as a maintenance technician. But he and a former employer recently parted ways due to irreconcilable differences.

    He was on the cusp of getting married. But he and his fiancee broke up two months ago.

    The way he saw it, he could allow himself to plummet into a pit of despair or he could set his sights on a tangible - albeit Herculean - goal.

    "I felt like my life was crumbling around me," Huffman said. "I almost picture myself like Forrest Gump when he just starts running and doesn't stop. I'm not me anymore. I lost my motivation, I lost my push."

    Huffman said that instead of brushing aside failure and forging on, as he's done in the past, for the first time, he began soaking it in and believing that if he failed, he was a failure.

    Going for the AT speed record is a way of getting that "push" back, of "starting [himself] from the ground up" again. He might finish his college degree in legal studies or become an outdoors adventure guide when he gets off the trail.

    "This is about proving to myself, more than anything else, that I am what I know I am," he said.

    He's promised himself he won't worry about what's ahead.

    "Never get too far ahead of yourself is how you have to do it," he said, "so I'm going no more than 100 feet at a time, to to that rock, or whatever."

    ‘Honor system'

    Bob Sickley, trail resources manager at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Visitor Center in Boiling Springs says he encounters people like Huffman "almost never."

    "Most people want to complete it [the Appalachian Trail] and have a wonderful, meaningful experience," Sickley said. "We don't officially recognize speed records. The trail is out there for contemplation and enjoyment. The only recognition is completion."

    It's not that the conservancy is opposed to keeping speed records, but doing so is often a thorny task, added Brian King, a spokesman with a branch of the conservancy based in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

    "It's on the honor system for everybody," King said. "It's not that we're against it. It's just really difficult thing to verify and prove." The AT conservancy's main objective is to preserve and manage the trail so future generations can enjoy a sacred space in which the human spirit can connect with nature, according to its website.

    Mounting obstacles

    Huffman will be bolting through that sacred space at breakneck speed during the southbound season - the time during which it's suitable to start in Maine and hike to the trail's south terminus in Springer Mountain, Ga. Both AT Conservancy spokesmen indicated that Huffman has the odds stacked against him.

    For one, there's some "really, really horrific weather" in New Hampshire's White Mountains right now, Sickley said.

    "Mount Washington used to have the highest record wind speed of anywhere on the planet," Sickley said of the highest point in the northeastern United States. "There's the potential for some really bad weather, but the greatest challenge now is that the network of support services that exists for hikers tends to be skewed to the northbound [hikers]," he said.

    Declining hours of daylight and Huffman's determination to be completely self-sufficient also register as serious obstacles, King said.

    Pharr Davis, who basically "power-hiked" the trail, didn't carry her own pack and had assistance setting up and breaking down camp every night.

    "Jennifer and most of the other people trying to do this are out during June, July, August in a lot of daylight with a lot of support," King said. "They weren't carrying 30-pound packs. He's [Huffman] set up a lot of challenges for himself."

    But the way Huffman sees it, he's got plenty of stuff on his side - his age, a long stride and an unbreakable will.

    "I've been to the wall before and I've gotten past it," he said, reflecting on will-testing trials he weathered in Navy boot camp and beyond.

    And as the Tom Petty song goes, Huffman won't back down.

    "Unless I'm hallucinating, I'm not calling for help," he vowed. "When other people start giving up, I love it because I'm the one that isn't giving up. Your legs feel like Jell-O, but who cares? My family always tells me when I set my mind on something, I can accomplish it. Nothing's going to stand in my way. Not even my own head."

    Read more: http://www.cumberlink.com/news/local/article_6851372c-fe34-11e0-9861-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1bnhMQoEW

    Arthur D. Gaudet

    RockDancer on the Appalachian Trail

    Rockdancer97 at comcast.net

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