Trail Life

If you’ve never gone on a long camping trip before, you’ve probably got a lot of questions about backpacking life. Let us lay it all out for you:

A day in the life:

  • 06:00 and/or butt crack of dawn: Rise and shine. Get up, pack up, and hit the trail.
  • 06:30: On trail eating a mobile breakfast like granola bars and walking to warm up. This step may be postponed 15 minutes for instant coffee if it was a rough or cold night.
  • 07:30: Fully warmed up, shed all excess layers like jackets, gloves, etc. About 2-3 miles in. Eating 100-200 cal/hour in snacks so that Levi doesn’t get cranky.
  • Around 11:00 – 12:30: Stop somewhere with a nice view (or at least a comfortable place to sit) and eat a small lunch. Mileage goal at this point is 10-16 miles depending on terrain.
  • Around 15:00 – 16:00: Still snacking. If we’re above our mileage goal for the day, we will relax our pace. At this time, we should have gone between 15 and 25 miles depending on terrain and number of breaks.
  • 19:00: Start looking for optimal campsites. If we find it, we will take it.
  • 21:00: Also known as hiker midnight. If we aren’t in bed, we should be. A successful day will be between 20 and 30 miles of hiking.

Frequently Asked Questions:

So, do you, like, hunt down and fish for your food? Do you scavenge for berries and stuff?

We will be bringing food with us, and will resupply in towns every 2-5 days. While hunting and fishing is allowed with permits in certain parks along the trail, we do not plan on bringing any gear with us. It’s too heavy. We have been known to snack on berries.

How do you get your food? What about things like tooth paste and toilet paper?

Every 2-5 days we will be making stops in towns that are on the trail or within eight or so miles from the trail. We plan on packing up food, toiletries, and other goods prior to the trip and shipping them in what are known as ‘resupply boxes’ to post offices, hostels, and businesses in these trail towns. We will also have opportunities to shop at local stores and businesses to supplement our supplies.

Are you going to be camping the whole time?

Most of the time. We do plan to overnight in trail town hostels or hotels once every couple of weeks or so. If storms are really bad and there are no towns nearby, we will take refuge in the shelters that are scattered along the trail.

How big is your tent?

We have the biggest tent. Our tent is bigly, it’s the lightest, and best tent there is. Nobody has a better tent.

Aaaaand back to reality. We don’t use a tent – at least not in the traditional sense. Kristen uses a hammock and tarp, and Levi uses a ground tarp and splash bivy (sort of a small tent).

You never said anything about a campfire. What about that and the songs and just hanging out in nature?

We don’t plan on having many campfires for a few reasons. The first is that many parks don’t allow them outside of established campsites, and we don’t like established campsites (we’ll explain in a future post). Another is that we don’t plan on spending a lot of time in camp. We want to see and do as much as possible. Hanging around camp won’t be a daily staple of our routine, but we’ll do it occasionally based on what our trail friends are doing.

How many changes of clothes do you bring? Do you bring deodorant?

We do bring extra clothes. Levi will be bringing two whole extra socks, and Kristen will have two socks and an extra pair of underwear. Because saving space and weight is so important, every item of clothing needs to have a specific purpose (or even multiple purposes). We don’t have the desire to carry things we don’t absolutely need.

We are going to smell and get dirty regardless of whether we have five changes of clothes or 15 sticks of deodorant. It is inevitable. Our clothes will be quick drying and anti-microbial, however, which helps with keeping us healthy in humid and wet conditions.

If you do see us on the trail, you might not want to hug us.

Wait. Levi isn’t bringing an extra pair of underwear?

Nope. Good luck, Kristen.

Why We’re Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Hiking 2,200 miles… That’s an undertaking. You must be serious, stupid, or a little bit of both to try an adventure like that.

   Probably both.

FOUR to SIX months, and you sleep in the woods the whole time? I could never do that.

   We’re not in the woods the whole time – sometimes we’re above treeline…

Aren’t you scared of bears and spiders and snakes and lions and ticks and…

   Yeah, most of those things. Well maybe not lions.

There are plenty of reasons not to hike the Appalachian Trail. Ask all you want, some of those reasons just don’t shake us. We’ll try to dispel any concerns you have in future posts; for now, we’d like to explain our reasons for hitting the trail.

We love the outdoors

We both love camping, hiking, travelling, and experiencing nature. Backpacking the Appalachian Trail is the ultimate testament to all of the above. We value everything that the AT is, and everything it stands for.

Now is the perfect time 

There’s no time like the present. We are both in situations where we can take breaks from the working world. We’re still young. We don’t have any toddlers to drag up Mt. Washington in 40 mph winds. Finally, we’re in sound physical condition. No one could pick a better time to do the AT.

Physical and mental challenge

The Appalachian Trail has a 70% failure rate due to the environmental, psychological, and physiological challenges one faces between Georgia and Maine. We’ll be fighting through cramps, blisters, black flies, long days, rainy days, rainy weeks, interrupted sleep, heat waves, cold snaps, you name it. We’re excited by the challenge, and want to push ourselves to our limits in order to accomplish something as great as the Appalachian Trail.

It makes for an epic start to our lives together

Talk about trial by fire, right? If we can make it 2,200 miles together, we’ll probably be pretty well set for the rest of the road. Not to mention, we’ll create stories that we can tell and retell (and embellish) for the rest of our lives.

 

A Brief Description and History of the Appalachian Trail

America has many long walking trails, spanning from a few dozen miles to a few thousand miles. The oldest recognized long trail is the Appalachian Trail, which spans almost 2,200 miles along the Appalachian Mountain Range in the eastern United States. It is a continuous walking path from Georgia to Maine marked by semi-frequent white ‘blazes,’ in most cases a 3-4″ vertical brush stroke of white paint on trees, rocks, or whatever may be bordering the path.

The Appalachian Trail was conceived in 1921 by regional planner Benton MacKaye, and in 1925 work began to connect existing trails. The trail was completed in 1937 under the leadership of Myron H. Avery. In 1938, a hurricane destroyed sizable portions of the trail in New England. Due to this damage and World War II, the trail was not officially opened again until 1951.

The first claimed thru-hike (hiking from one terminus to the other continuously) came in 1948 by Earl Shaffer. This claim has been highly criticized due to damaged portions of trail and further shortcuts taken by Shaffer.

The first thru-hike by a woman was claimed by Emma Rowena Gatewood in 1955. Known as ‘Grandma Gatewood,’ the 67 year old completed the trail with a shoulder sack instead of a backpack and Keds instead of boots. She then completed the trail two more times at 72 and 75 years old.

In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Trails System Act into law, opening the door for the Appalachian Trail to become a federally protected part of the National Parks System.

Today, the trail is open for day hikers, overnighters, section hikers (those on a multi-day trip that do not plan to complete the trail in one trip), and thru-hikers. There a few recognized ways to become a thru-hiker:

  • NOBO – Hike the trail ‘northbound’ from Springer Mountain in GA to Mount Katahdin in ME. This is the most popular way to complete the trail, and hikers often depart in March and complete the trail in mid-fall.
  • SOBO – Hike the trail ‘southbound’ from Mount Katahdin in ME to Springer mountain in GA. A less popular way to take the trail, hikers often depart in June after snow melts in the north and complete the trail in late-fall. We will be hiking SOBO for our thru-hike.
  • Flip-Flop – Start from the middle and hike to one terminus, then return by car or plane to the middle and hike to the other terminus. This can also be done from terminus to middle. This is a good option if the hiker wishes to avoid the ‘hiker bubbles’ (large group of hikers generated by the usual SOBO and NOBO hiking seasons).

Shelters are spaced every six to ten miles along the trail to aid during serious weather. Shelters are helpful in a pinch, but can appear in various states of disrepair. Additionally, it is not uncommon to find assorted species of ‘mini-bears’ (squirrels, chipmunks, and mice) inside the shelters as many misinformed people like to bring food into the shelters with them when they sleep.

We hope to post again in the next few days. Our next topic will be ‘Why We’re Choosing to hike the Appalachian Trail.’ Thanks for reading!

Additional resources on the Appalachian Trail: