So What is the Appalachian Trail and Why Would Anyone Want to Thru Hike it?

First off, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve never even been backpacking myself. But for my confused friends and relatives I want to explain exactly what the Appalachian Trail is.

Picture this: Winding atop the peaks and ridges of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, stretching over 2,000 miles of American soil there is an ever changing, ever fluid trail.

This trail exists and is known as Appalachian Trail, sometimes shortened to “the A.T.”. It begins in Georgia and follows the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains north to Maine. Every year, from around the world, hikers gather at Mt. Springer in Georgia in preparation to walk every last step of those 2,000 plus miles to the trail’s completion in Maine. Those who complete the entire trail in one go (waking up every morning and walking, going to sleep every night foot sore from walking, and waking up the next morning to do it all over again) are called thru hikers. The act of walking the entire trail in one go is called a thru hike. I intend to compete my own thru hike in the summer of 2018.

White Mountains New Hampshire

A section of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire

But why hike it? What motivates thru hikers to trade the comforts and luxuries of home for six months of sore feet and mosquitoes? I can’t speak for everyone but for me it’s a way to test myself, to do something hard that takes commitment. But more than that it’s a way to get away from our busy world and be at peace without the bustle of everyday life. And it’s a way to be with the mountains which, from my childhood, have captured my imagination and called to me.

And you don’t have to be Superman to complete a thru hike. Anyone can do it.  5 year old Christian Thomas has hiked the entire A.T. as have Bill Irwin, who is blind, and Lee Barry, who was 81 at the time. My point is that if you have the will the physical ability can follow. Thru hikes aren’t something reserved only for titans of ability and experience.

As I said I intend to complete my thru hike in the summer of 2018. I’m only in the planning and research stages right now but I’ve got plenty of time to prepare. If you’re interested in following my progress then stick around. I intend to update this blog regularly with gear purchases, more detailed plans, reviews of the short preliminary hikes I’ll be going on, and everything else thru hike related. Perhaps even the A.T. itself when I get to it.

If you have any more questions about the trail itself definitely check out: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Website and the Wikipedia Page. And below is a map of the Appalachian Trail. I included it in my first post but I thought It would be helpful here too, given the topic I’m discussing.

Until next time,

Eliza

app trail map

Map of the Appalachian

Progress Update One! (Progess Update #1)

Dear all,

Well, I’ve started research. A little before my last post I purchased a book about backpacking: Walking Softly in the Wilderness. It’s a little outdated (1998) but I got it used and it was the only edition they had. Actually it was a book that promised information about backpacking and I picked it up on that merit alone.  Regardless it’s proving to be a wonderful introduction to the world of backpacking. I’m especially interested in the equipment chapters because I honestly haven’t found anything about that on the internet and I’m eager to learn. 

walking-softly-in-the-wilderness_25880457966_o

Walking Softly in the Wilderness by John Hart


Right now I’m planning on a preliminary hike this summer in fair weather over a weekend, preferably. But it looks like I’ll need to have, at the very least, boots, pack, and possibly tent purchased already. And that’s just the big things. Maybe I’ll rent a few of them to try out and see what I like.

As far as physical training goes I’m still going pretty light. Yesterday I went about three miles all in all. Some walking indoors, some out, and some on machines, all for different effects. I did a bout of hard, uphill running on a treadmill which lasted about three minutes and threw in some weight machines for my legs and abdomen. I was pretty satisfied with that. Not that it’s any simulation of what the trail will be like but it was progress in the right direction. If I could do that three times a week, working my way up to doing a lot of it outdoors with my pack on, I would be thrilled. But my schedule just isn’t set up that way yet. Until it is I might only be able to get in one session like that a week. Then again I have some year and a half to train. I needn’t panic.

That’s all for this update. I just wanted to let you all know where I am as far as my prep goes. I think I might alternate between posts about what I’ve learned and what I’m doing and buying, and posts to fill in any questions about what exactly my intentions are with this crazy thru hike thing. Hopefully as this blog continues the explanatory posts will go down in number. But I am intending this blog partly as a place for my friends and family to go if they have more questions than I can answer about the A.T. or just want to follow my progress.  For them and even someone just interested in the process of preparing and completing a thru hike, even if they don’t know much about the A.T. itself, I want to include some background and explanation posts. Plus I’ll learn more about this complex subject too! But as time goes on hopefully this blog can become predominately updates on my progress.

Until next time,

Eliza

First Blog Post!

And so it begins. My first post about my journey to the Appalachian Trail

I might as well start at the beginning, as this is the beginning of my blog. When I was about ten I found a book on my kindle titled Halfway to the Sky. It’s about a twelve year old girl who dropped everything and ran away from home to hike the Appalachian Trail. She was escaping issues similar to those I was dealing with at the time and the book struck a chord with me. That was the beginning.

After that the A.T. became a sort of promised escape for me. If I could just get through high school then I could run off into the mountains and do difficult, wonderful, and ridiculous things. Like carrying everything I own on my own back, and getting everywhere I go on my own feet. You know, like Aragorn.

But there is a second pull the A.T. has for me: the mountains themselves. Dista20150404_135500_19366055708_ont blue peaks blanketed in trees; not magnificent and snow capped like the Alps or Himalayas but ancient and rolling and peaceful. The mountains I grew up around are about 480 million years old, among the oldest in the world (though not the oldest as they were once thought to be), and I can feel that ancient majesty whenever I see them them. I took the photograph on the left on my phone in early April 2015. It’d been months since I’d seen the mountains and I couldn’t contain my excitement anymore and sent it to my friend. It’s not a particularly special photo in terms of composition or color or focus- I just snapped a hasty shot out the window- but I hope it conveys the majesty of these peaks. Or at least my love for them.

Because of the pull the Appalachians have on me and my deep longing to escape and do something hard and adventurous I’ve decided to thru hike the A.T. It’s been a vague idea and goal for six or seven years now but this Spring I started making official plans. I’m thinking Fall 2017 to Spring 2018 since I need a few months before August to prepare for college. But the point is: this is happening.

More on the trail itself in the next post. For now there’s a map below so you can get a feel for its length and location.

Until next time,

Eliza

 

app trail map

Map of the Appalachian Trail