So, as we found out yesterday, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, apparently weary from the bruising fight over accepting stimulus monies, decided to take off while no one was looking for the Appalachian Trail, to commune with nature and eat Gorp. And some day, at a moment of his choosing, Sanford will descend Mount Katahdin bearing President Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate and announce his plans to run for President of the United States, with all the woodland creatures of the East Coast under his thrall.
Actually Sanford's spokesman says that the Governor will return on Wednesday, which means that in all likelihood he has just holed himself up in a lean-to somewhere near the South Carolina border, for the purposes of "goin' fetal" for a while. Nevertheless, as Matt Yglesias points out, the Appalachian Trail is a very long and very wildernessy location. So one ought to consider the possibility that Sanford intends to be a "through hiker" and follow the trail to its end. Well, those prospects remind me of Mary Williams excellent essay on through-hiking and self-discovery in the May 2009 issue of The Believer:
The Appalachian Trail, or AT, is to many American hikers what Everest is to climbers: it's the thing they must do if they want to be taken seriously. I wanted to become...a "through-hiker" -- someone who does the whole trail in one season, all 2,175 miles of it, from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. Thousands attempt it every year but only one in four succeeds. The hike usually takes six months.
Now that all that stimulus money is basically running South Carolina, it hardly seems like a bad time for Sanford to make for the trail. What's the worst that can happen? To my mind, Sanford has only one worry: getting stuck with the wrong trail name. I'll let Williams explain:
The tradition of taking a trail name goes back to the early 1970s, and nearly all hikers use one. If you don't name yourself, someone will name you. I met a guy named Cum Shot (after a crowd gathered to watch him lance an infected boil with explosive results) and a cute sixteen-year-old girl who was christened Trail Bait.
Wow! Has Sanford abandoned one unforgiving pursuit for an even more unforgiving one? Let's hope that he's considered the issue of his trail name carefully, because I'd hate for him to get stuck with the wrong name. I repeat: I would hate for readers to suggest humiliating trail names for Mark Sanford in emails with the subject line: "THIS SHOULD TOTALLY BE MARK SANFORD'S TRAIL NAME."