Monday, May 04, 2009

Twenty Mile Hike

The Mountain Club of Maryland puts on an event called the Hike Across Maryland every other year on the first Saturday in May. Since the 1980's, amateur radio operators have provided communications for the event organizers at several checkpoints along the way. The event covers 40.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail from the Maryland and Pennsylvania line, Penmar, to the Maryland and West Virginia line at Harpers Ferry.

For this year's event, I thought it would be a good idea to use APRS tracking for the sweep hikers at the tail end of the line. A few of the checkpoints were equipped with APRS, some with laptops for position display on a map. Late last year I thought I would be able to hike the entire 40.9 miles. It wasn't too long into my conditioning that I realized that I wouldn't be able to hike the full 40. I was hoping for a few more hiking volunteers, but I was the only one available. I decided I could hike 20 miles, from Washington Monument State Park to Harpers Ferry.

The APRS tracking worked pretty well, but the battery for laptop at the last checkpoint died about 45 minutes before I arrived with the last hiker. It was also helpful to have basic voice communications on the trail. While I didn't have to say much, there were a few times when they were looking for a particular hiker, who was at the back of the pack, and I could call back with their location.

I don't know what made me think that I could hike 20 miles :) that is 10 miles more than I had hiked in at least the last 10 years. I made it the entire way, but the last 3 miles or so I was beyond my limit. it is a good thing that as the sweep hiker, you move at the pace of the last hiker on the trail, and some of the folks that had done the 40 miles were moving at a slower pace at the end as well.

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