Ask the guy who's hiking the Appalachian Trail

In about three weeks I’ll be starting what will hopefully be a 2,150-mile hiking trip.

Questions people often ask are:

How long is it going to take you?

About six to seven months.

Are you going alone?

Yes and no. I don’t have a designated partner, but I will have company; every year there are over a thousand people attempting to hike the entire trail, and the bulk of them start out in March from Georgia, just like me. The trail is also extensively used by people out on weekend camping trips, dayhikes, etc.

Where will you sleep?

There are something like 200 shelters along the trail. Most are basically three walls and a roof and are usually located near a good water source (creek or spring). I will sleep in them occasionally, but my preference is generally to camp out a hundred yards or so away – close enough to be social, far enough that people won’t hit me with shoes for snoring.

What will you eat?

Energy bars, nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky, chocolate, and whatever can be cooked by adding boiling water; usually some kind of pasta, maybe with some tuna added. I will also gorge when in town every 4-6 days

Is it safe?

Define “safe.”

You’re taking your cell phone, right?


Did you have to quit your job?

The college where I teach has very graciously given me a six-month leave of absence. Even more graciously, they’re continuing to pay the employer portion of my health insurance while I’m gone.

Have you read A Walk in the Woods?

Yes. For those who don’t know, AWITW was a 1999 bestselling book about two guys hiking the trail. It was responsible for a huge jump in the number of people hiking the trail in 2000-2001. Bryson is a controversial figure for some members of the AT community for a variety of reasons; nonetheless if you’re looking for a book about the AT, his is the one I’d recommend.

The other books I’d recommend are Earl Shaffer’s Walking with Spring and Bill Irwin’s Blind Courage.
Okay, that’s a start. If it matters to anyone, I may use your questions in writing a FAQ for a website I am creating.

Let me know when you’re coming through the Harrisburg area, if you can.

Good luck.

I’ve done the GA part including the Amicalola approach. Enjoy, it’s quite nice.

query: what has been the level of reported Hanta virus infestation in the shelters of late?

No idea.

Tentatively, late June/early July. I have family in Palmyra, so I’m planning on spending several days in the area.

I hope you can post to this thread or blog or something. Sounds great!

Please don’t judge Tennessee by Gatlinburg.

What will you take along to read?

May I ask “why not?”? (And is that correct punctuation? I’ve been coding all day.)

A guess: you want to leave all vestiges of civilisation behind, even if they could save your life?

Another: what’ll be the point? Many areas would have poor or non-existent coverage (that’s a guess in itself), and what with all that networkl-roaming and 6-7 months out there leg-roaming, and no mains to charge it up, it’ll be mostly dead weight anyway.

So, what’s the real reason?

Be careful hiking alone. My wife started a through hike, from North to South, when she got out of college. It ended when she slid off a mountain and sprained her leg badly. Fortunately she was hiking with a friend. My wife never finished, but her friend did, long after. They got written up in the Berkshire Eagle for doing it. This was in 1974 - she never heard any of Watergate.

Recorded books on MP3 player with expandable memory

Bible if I can find one that’s both light and rugged

The occasional disposable paperback

You pretty much figured it out: Calling home every night sort of ruins the whole “solo trek through the forest” vibe for me, and IMO a phone and charger are too heavy to carry “just in case.”

Charging could be done on trips to town, then milking the battery until the next stop. Reception is very spotty, but not non-existant, and improving: some people do carry cellphones, blackberries, even laptops. I once watched a guy lying in his sleeping bag in 20 degree weather call his mom and ask her for basketball scores.
And you want one question mark, put inside the ending quotation marks, and technically you also need a comma, though increasingly that’s dispensed with (i.e.: May I ask, “why not?”).

I’ll post a link to the blog when I’m finished making it ready for public consumption, sometime in the next day or two. So far it’s been more just for me.

Wow, good on you. I’ve only done a few sections, mostly in the Shenandoah National Park. I hope you like green tunnels! :smiley: You’ll need a new pair of boots after Pennsylvania, I’ve heard.

You should keep us posted on your town days…I’ll bet there’s quite a few dopers willing to provide a little “trail magic” when you pass their way, myself included.

It sounds like you have done a lot of hiking before, what sort of physical preparation have you done?

What do youi think will challenge you the most?

How much weight are you taking?

What sort of rain gear do you have?

Is there actually a trail for all of the trip? What I mean is, I remember reading before that there’s a number of (small?) sections where you have to walk along the shoulder of a highway or somesuch, but that they were working on improving the trail in those areas.

Edited to add: For restocking your supplies, are you going to buy as you go, or will someone be mailing you packages along the way?

If you can let us know when you’re coming through the Whites I’m sure I can arrange some trail magic. I’ve been known to hike up on the ridges in the heat of summer with ice cream and beer for the NoBos.

No,. None at all until the last 2 years.

Not enough, that’s for damn sure. But I’ve been working the treadmill at my apartment complex. Hopefully an hour a day or more between now and when I leave. Surprisingly, many successful thru-hikers will tell you that training for a hike is a waste of time.

The mental/emotional part of it.

Including clothes and fully loaded with food, ~40 pounds.

Frogg Toggs to start with, a poncho in summer.

Some places, yeah, and yes they’re always trying to fix that. It even goes directly through some smaller towns.

95% as I go. maildrops mostly only for prescription meds and a few other specific things.

Brother, if I make it to the Whites, it will be magic. And I will take that beer.

First of all, best of luck–I hope you make it the whole way.

Second, I was just reading last night about backpacks that have a solar panel that will allow you to charge a cell phone or iPod or whatever. You just need the charger you’d use in your car. I totally understand wanting to leave it all behind, but in case you change your mind… Juice Bags

Third–total aside–I met a girl in October of 2001 who was out on the trail on 9/11 with a group of people doing maintenance on the trail. They didn’t get to a town until 9/14 or 9/15, so it was pretty shocking for all of them to learn what had happened.

What is a good budgetary figure for a through hike?