I haven’t shared much about the specifics of my upcoming hike because to me they are either 1) very simple or 2) very boring. But Tom pointed out that if I’m going to be directing any and everyone interested in our journey to follow along here, perhaps I should get a bit more verbose about the subject.
The hike is the simple part. You put one foot in front of the other. Try not to fall down. Try to stay dry, not so stinky, and somewhat not hungry. Repeat as necessary.
The details of the planning/decisions leading up to that first step might be deemed boring. But since I’m not chaining you to the computer and taping your eyes open, here I go!
K and I will be starting at Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian trail. Tom and K’s husband, Q, will drive up with us on a Monday. It’s a full day’s drive from Tampa so we don’t plan to start out on the trail until Wednesday – giving us a day to recoup, regroup, eat some good meals, etc.
We’re staying at one of the cabins at Amicalola State Park. There is about an 8 mile approach trail from the visitor center to the actual start of the AT. It is a big deal with thru-hikers whether you do this approach trail or not. Due to the fact that we want to give ourselves every opportunity to reach our destination (Damascus, VA) we will skip the approach trail.
We hope to make it to Damascus, VA before Memorial Day weekend. About 5 weeks. This has us averaging 15 miles/day with no zero days. (“zero day” = a day where you hike zero miles) Some people say this is an aggressive plan. I can’t disagree. But we are using a well-established day-to-day plan that has us start out hiking 7-10 miles a day and building up. Remember: we don’t have shit else to do. Even walking 2 miles per hour we can do 16 miles in a day and still have time for cooking/camp set-up/resting/etc.
We have tickets home from a small airport technically in TN (about 40 miles from Damascus) where Alligent Air flies to Clearwater/St Pete. But we purchased a flex option so we can change the itinerary as needed.
A lot of people hear about long-distance hiking and their mind is completely blown by the idea at the amount of time it takes. But the reality is, long-distance hiking is a WHOLE BUNCH of 3-5 day trips strung together. How long you have between towns/hostels/etc depends on what trail you’re on, but most will agree that the AT is the easiest trail to thru-hike in part for the amount of civilization available to aid you.
So about every 3 days or so, we plan to sleep in a real bed. We will either stop at a hostel or sometimes a larger town with several accommodation options. Every time we stop we’ll also be able to do some laundry, shower, and re-supply our food. Sometimes the options will be sparse – grabbing convenience store food or rummaging through a nature center’s snack aisles. We do have a box of food we know we like/can’t live without (my Starbucks VIA is included) that we will ship to the first of these difficult re-supply areas. We have a couple other locations we have in mind for the box (called a bounce box in hiker lingo because you “bounce” the box to yourself up/down the trail) but we don’t want to set too much in stone. We’ll get on the trail and see how we feel.
That sentence sums up a lot of our plan. We’ve done two shakedowns together and made several changes to gear/packing/clothing based on those. We’ve scoured the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion for all the details about trail towns and where we want to stay/re-supply. And we’ve both stressed getting in shape in general. But we can’t know how we’ll feel, how our bodies will react. To decide we have to stay on plan could be disastrous. We need to just get on the trail and see what happens.