Some activators like to throw a few things in a bag, find a summit ID and the GPS coordinates for the summit, and head out the door. Some activators like to carefully plan a trip in advance. I’m a planner. Some might say that I’m an extreme planner.

I create a detailed plan, but I’m not a slave to my plan. From the moment I head out the door, the trip is an improvisation, loosely based on the plan. I used to work for a Navy Commander who liked to say, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” I like to think things through carefully, to try and anticipate possible challenges, so that I increase my chances of a successful activation. In my first 40 activations, I had the following failed activations:

  • Once, I reached a summit and a thunderstorm started as I was setting up my antenna, and I beat a hasty retreat.
  • One February, I encountered a surprise stream which would have required wading, and the temperature was too cold to get wet. (I came back 2 weeks later with lightweight waders.)
  • On one attempt, I discovered that the trail didn’t pass as close to the summit as the map said it would. This would have turned my planned short bushwhack into a long bushwhack. (I came back in the winter, when bushwhacking is easier.)

When I plan an activation, I usually plan a “Plan-B” summit, in case I can’t get to my first choice. In the examples above, despite my failed Plan-A, I did activate one (or more) other summits on that day. Plan-B is a good thing, because who wants to spend hours driving to the mountains only to drive home without bagging an activation?

I’ve attached a sample trip plan as a PDF. In my “live document,” the schedule is an embedded spreadsheet, so the next time I attempt the trip, I might change the start time, and the times in the rest of the spreadsheet will recalculate themselves.

I give my wife a subset of this guide, so she knows where to send the rescue squad if I don’t return. That’s also the basis for the “Worry if…” line in the schedule. i.e. Don’t call the rescue squad until after that time.

You’ll note that the guide includes entries for “Last McDonalds” and “Penultimate McDonalds”, although this particular guide does not list locations. Stone Mountain is close enough to my hometown that I don’t need this info for this trip. For longer trips, the last McDonalds is where I can get a quick breakfast, use a flush toilet, and there’s almost always a gas station nearby. It is a point where I can get anything I need from “civilization” before I head off into wilderness. I generally try to take care of my needs at the penultimate McDonalds because I’ve found the last McDonalds closed for remodeling on occasion, so the penultimate McD is my Plan-A and the final one is my Plan-B. You might like Waffle House, or some other joint. I’m not crazy about McD, but I can count on getting enough calories to last me until supper.