Since sharing my plan to thru-hike, I have truly appreciated all of the interest, questions, and concerns family and friends have expressed. Initially I had many of the same questions, and have spent more hours than I would like to admit scouring blogs, Youtube videos, hiking forums, you name it, for opinions and answers. I’ll try my best to answer some of the most frequent questions I have been asked thus far:
What is the Appalachian Trail?
A 2,190 mile trail, spanning over 14 states. The trail starts on Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends on Mount Katahdin in Maine. The overall elevation change is equivalent to hiking up Mount Everest 16 times! It takes approximately 5,000,000 steps to complete the entire trail…that’s a lotta walkin’!
Are you hiking the entire trail? How long will it take?
Hiking the entire trail is my goal! It usually takes hikers 5-7 months to complete and I am shooting for somewhere in the middle, around 6 months. My schedule will be fluid to account for zeros (days I go into town and hike zero miles), bad weather, injuries, illness, etc. Fingers crossed the latter two are not factors! I am planning to start around 8 miles per day and build up to as many as 20-25 miles per day on flatter terrain. I have to be finished by October 15th, when Mount Katahdin closes for the season.
Are you hiking by yourself?
Yes – at the start. One thing I am looking forward to is the Appalachian Trail community and meeting many people along the trail! When I registered my start date back in November, there were already 29 other hikers registered to start the same day. Hiking northbound, starting in March, makes it pretty difficult to go a single day without seeing another hiker. I will also have some family and friends joining me at different points along the trail!
Are you carrying a gun?
No, and I have been surprised how often this has come up. Surprisingly, the biggest dangers on the trail are ticks! Getting Lyme Disease would be a bummer, so I’m treating all of my clothes with Permethrin a few times throughout the trail to hopefully mitigate the chances of that. Black bears and Rattlers are also on the trail, but I’ll just leave the rattlesnakes to be and, regarding the Black Bears, just picture my 5’3″ frame getting as big as possible, yelling, and banging my trekking poles together…intimidating, right? The bears will really only be interested in my peanut butter and Nutella anyway. I appreciate the safety concerns, but rest assured a little common sense and basic safety knowledge go a long way in the woods.
What will you eat?
The AT is considered one of the more “civilized” trails of the long trails. The trail runs through or near towns every 3-5 days, allowing me plenty of food resupply opportunities at groceries, gas stations, or post offices (where I will be sending myself resupply boxes about once a month). Some hikers choose to forgo resupply boxes completely and rely solely on store resupplies, but I have been cooking lots of dehydrated meals and will look forward to hot, home-cooked meals on the trail. You can pretty much turn any of your favorite recipes into a lightweight, dehydrated meal, that you then re-hydrate on the trail.
The resupply boxes I am putting together will also include any gear items I need replaced, prescriptions, toiletries, or anything I am really craving on the trail. I will give my mom a few days notice and she will stick a box in the mail and send it to the post office I anticipate arriving to next. Thanks, Mom!!
What about water?
The AT is one of the “wetter” trails and anticipating rain every 1 in 3 days is a safe bet. This means lots of water sources! I’ll be carrying a water filtration system to ensure I am drinking clean water.
Are you sleeping in shelters or a tent?
There are over 200 shelters on the AT, spread anywhere from 5-15 miles apart, and I will gladly sleep in shelters when the weather is nasty. However most nights I will be sleeping in my tent. I will occasionally stop in some of the towns along the trail with hostels and hotels. Fun fact: some hostels offer WFS (Work For Stay), giving hikers the option to do things such as dishes or laundry in exchange for a free overnight stay.
What gear are you taking?
Gathering all of my gear has been a work-in-progress, processing lots of research, word of mouth reviews, and doing gear testing of my own. I am about 90% complete with my gear list and will do a blog post with all of my gear prior to leaving. Thanks to everyone who has given me recommendations or pieces of gear!
How can you be contacted on the trail? Can I send you mail?
I will have my phone with me, so phone and email are options. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. My phone will mostly be used for taking pictures and on airplane mode, so don’t worry if my response is delayed!
Thanks for thinking of me! If you would like to send me mail on the trail, please contact my mom at email@example.com and she can tell you the post office addresses where I can grab mail!
If I think of more common questions, I’ll be sure to add them here!