Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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.

Nolichucky River, Erwin, NC
French Broad River, Hot Springs, NC

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.

11 thoughts on “Hiking the Appalachian Trail”

  1. Hank, I can think of no better way to honor someone you love but to use their sprit to motivate you. Good luck and I will follow your trek. Godspeed!!!


  2. Hank – can’t think of a better thing to do to transition to retirement. I’ve done a few sections of the trail around Roan Mountain and read lots of stories by through hikers. Good luck and fair weather! I will be following your blog..


  3. We love your trail name and know Pepere would be honored you chose it. The boys are very excited to hear about your big mountain hiking adventures! I hope you have a selfie stick because the boys will want to see scenic pictures with you in them! Be safe and enjoy yourself. You deserve it!


  4. Good thoughts and wishes (and a few prayers) are going your way. Let me know ahead of time when you will be in NH. I’m about three miles from the trail. You can make a stop, rest, eat, do laundry and have a great visit with your sister! Also don’t forget the offer I made to pick you up at trail’s end, Mt. Katahdin. Stay safe, enjoy, and best of luck. Looking forward to reading all your posts. Much Love.


  5. I look forward to following your journey and reading your updates to Mike and Vince with a map in hand! Prayers for your safe travels


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