I’ve got butterflies fluttering around in my stomach. The kind of feeling I get when I’m about to experience something new, exciting, and unknown. Tomorrow I leave for the country of Jordan where I plan on hiking the Jordan Trail from the Palestinian/Syrian border all the way down to the Saudi Arabian border, a total of 450 miles.
What have I gotten myself into? I’ll be doing a solo hike in the rugged and remote desert wilderness – from the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea where Moses and his brother Aaron roamed to the ancient land of the Nabateans to the spectacular deserts of Lawrence of Arabia. Unlike the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trail, there is no trail to follow; it’s just a series of 36 GPS tracks that two energetic Jordanians put together. The ‘trail’ doesn’t even officially open until March 31 so not many people have hiked it. There are no physical maps, only GPS waypoints to follow.
For the most part I’ll be in the hinterlands of northern Arabia. Bedouin camps, plush olive groves, rugged desert mountains, forests, Roman ruins, and spectacular desert scenery will break up the monotony. But it’s the renowned culture of the Jordanians that I’ll be immersed in that excites me the most. Several times I’ll emerge from the wilderness into tourist towns where I can sleep in a real bed, resupply, rehydrate, and catch up on lost calories.
There are several more things I need to attend to and few more errands to run then I’m good to go. The hiking/camping preparations are almost second nature to me and I had all the necessary equipment. It’s this GPS and smartphone thing that’s getting me. I’m one of those few people who have owned neither. Since there are no maps, all the navigation must be done with a GPS. My life is dependent on it. If it breaks or runs out of batteries, I’m in serious trouble. I loaded a map of Jordan and the tracks given to me by the two Jordanians and I now have a pretty good grasp of how to use it.
There is a 60-mile stretch where there is no water, food, or village. What I plan on doing is hiring someone with a 4-wheel drive vehicle to cache food and water. The trail and jeep roads don’t intersect so it will require going off trail a bit to pick up the cache. The problem is that when I’m hiking I’ll have no idea where the cache is in relation to the trail so what I’ll do is make a waypoint for each cache. In doing this I can go off-trail to find the waypoint.
I’m also new to the smartphone thing. I bought a Samsung Galaxy and loaded a bunch of useful apps. Put on Skype and Gmail to communicate with my wife and text editor to write and upload blogs with. I also put on an app to organize pictures and an extra memory card to store the pictures. Of course with all these gadgets I need batteries to run them so I bought a bunch of rechargeable batteries and a battery charger. But it’s not that simple – Jordan has three different types of 240 volt (we use 110 volts in America) electrical outlets, so on top of all the other stuff I have to carry three plug adapters. My backpack will be much heavier than it was on the Colorado Trail.
Between the extra weight and the navigation, I don’t plan on doing high mileage days!