26 Mar 2017
Most of the folks reading this blog are aware I am retiring at the end of March, and intend to hike the Appalachian Trial (AT) beginning the first week of April.
I have been thinking of hiking the AT for several years, have done a ton of reading on the subject, and have taken two test hikes on the Trail. One was a four-day, 40-mile trek and another was a seven-day 70-miler. I got the kinks out, tested my gear, and I think I know many of the challenges I may face. I am going to give it my best shot.
Here are a few pictures from my test hikes.
The AT, a national scenic trail, stretches across 14 states and is 2200 miles long. It spans from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The AT has an elevation gain and loss equivalent to hiking Mt. Everest from sea level and back 16 times (this is not a typo). Average time for completing a thru-hike is about 6 months. Only approximately 25% of hikers attempting a thru-hike actually complete the journey.
Most hikers completing a thru-hike start in Georgia and proceed north to Maine. AT lingo refers to this option as a “NOBO,” or northbound thru-hike. A very small percentage of thru-hikers start in Maine and finish in Georgia. This option is called a “SOBO,” or southbound thru-hike. Lastly, an increasing number of hikers choose what is referred to as a “flip-flop.” Flip-floppers start anywhere between the two terminal points of the trail, hike to one end, then return and complete the remainder of the trail. Any of the three methods qualify as an official thru-hike by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, as long as the hike is completed within 12 calendar months. I intend to do a flip-flop.
My plan is to start roughly at the midpoint (Harpers Ferry, WV, home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters) and hike NOBO. If I am successful, I will complete the New England portion in the summer, avoiding the unpredictable and sometimes inclement fall weather of the Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine mountains. Then I’ll head down to Georgia and continue NOBO ending back at Harpers Ferry.
My wife, Diane, has been very supportive throughout this preparatory period. Although she has no desire to hike the trail, she intends to meet me often along the way. We will see parts of small-town America we have never visited. I truly believe this will be an adventure we will cherish forever.
Traditionally, all thru-hikers have a trail nickname. For obvious reasons, it is preferable to choose your own than be given one! My trail name will be “The Old Guy” for two reasons: first, it fits; and second, it is the name Diane’s father, Barney, always used to refer to himself. He died last year at the age of 93. I have nothing but great memories of Barney, and choosing this name honors him and the manner in which he conducted his life.
I have no idea how frequently I will update this blog, as reception can be spotty on the Trail. Battery life and charging is always a concern, and typing on a phone is far less convenient than typing on a full-sized keyboard.
Having said that, my intent is to post weekly, and share this hike with you. I hope you will enjoy coming along.