Sunday, December 26, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions

What will you wear?
How long will you be gone?
Where will you sleep?
Will you shower?
What will you eat?
How many miles are you hiking?
Who are you going with?
Why do you want to hike the A.T.?
How much will you take?
What will you do when you see wild animals?
Are you sure you want to go?

We get asked these questions and many many more! If you have a question, please feel free to ask! We will try out best to answer...but some things, we just don't know yet!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Game Plan

Finally, we have an timeline, a plan, a goal. We sat down in Gatlinburg Tennessee, and, inspired by the mountains, we worked out an idea of where we will be and when. Here it is:

May 4 Start north in Buchanan, Virginia
May 18 Enter Shenandoah National Park
June 2 Arrive in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania (Be picked up for David's graduation and a short family vacation)
June 10 Restart in Pine Grove, PA
June 24 Wingdale, New York
July 8 Woodstock, Vermont
July 22 Oquossoc, Maine
August 5 Katahdin Mountain in Maine-the northern terminus
August 6-18 Extra time in case we run behind schedule; if on time, we will move the rest of our schedule forward!
August 20 Rachel's wedding in Michigan
August 22 Start south in Buchanan, Virginia
September 5 Damascus, Virginia
September 19 Newfound Gap, Tennessee
October 3 Springer Mountain-the southern terminus of the trail and the end of our journey!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2,181 miles!

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy just announced in the new 2011 Appalachian Trail Data Book that the official length of the Appalachian Trail is now 2,181.0 miles. Relocations and re-measurements in 2010 meant an additional 1.9 miles for the legendary pathway.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Blues

So every time I look outside and see the snow or walk outside and feel the cold, I think to myself, "And I'm going to go live in this? Yeah right!"

But then I remember that we are not actually starting our hike until the beginning of May, and by that time, the snow should be gone. And though there will be cold nights, the temperature will not be in the single digits.

Sometimes I get scared that I won't be able to walk 2,200 miles. Other times, I am so excited that I wish I could start tomorrow. Sometimes the thought of eating rice and pasta for 5 months scares me. Other times, I can't wait to walk into town and devour a pizza single-handidly. Watch out!

When I'm bored these days, I find myself Googling the Appalachian Trail. Or following postings on I'm hooked.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tips and Tricks from

A couple of tricks that can come in handy. I'm a custom home framer so I try to incorporate some of the materials I use at work into my hikes. I can enthusiastically endorse masons string line (avail at any hardware store or home depot for $2/200ft) for hanging bear bags, guying out your tent or anything else you use a heavier rope for. The stuff is virtually unbreakable & resists abrading. Case in point, I have to string across rough concrete to measure & level steel beams, etc. Tough conditions & the stuff never breaks. Best of all, it weighs nothing & has tremendous strength. (Sleepwalker)

They have PV foam towels used for drying cars in Wal-Mart in the automotive section...come in a clear plastic tube, cost 6 bucks. It's my most useful piece of gear. When completely dry & folded it feels & weighs about the same as a Styrofoam block the size of a pack of cigarettes. It absorbs 20 times its weight in water & releases 96% of it when you wring it. Makes a great bath towel, cut up it makes great headbands & wristbands, it dries your tent off in the morning like nothing else does. (Swift)

Duct tape, duct tape, duct tape not something new but I love this stuff. I use it for everything. (CaptChaos)

You can take a zero miles day in the woods much cheaper, & perhaps less stressful, than in town. Can't spend money in the woods. (Doctari)

When you come upon a Winnebago or folks having a picnic, introduce yourself & ask if you could by a few slices of bread. In no time you'll be feasting on all kinds of good stuff. (L. Wolf)

Throw in a dispo razor, motel-sized conditioning shampoo, & bar of motel-size soap into each of your mail drops. Pick up your maildrop before getting a shower. No need to worry about buying them in BFEville before you get your town shower that way. (Minnesotasmith)

I throw my extra clothing (socks, underwear, pants, shirt, etc..) in my stuff sack for my sleeping bag & use it as a pillow. (Green Bean)

Never quit on a bad day.You complain all the way up the mountain, but on the way home you start planning your next trip. (ATRagamuffin)

Years ago I hiked until I was exhausted & then took a break. During my thru-hike, & ever since, I have begun taking a short break EVERY HOUR (give or take a few minutes). What I've learned is that I can hiker longer & farther in a days time without being so tired when I get to my campsite for the night. I also have noticed is that I have fewer aches/pains. Coupled with the more frequent rest stops are increased snacks, which maintain more constant energy levels instead of the highs/lows I used to encounter. (Slogger)

If You Don't Use It Every Day You Probably Don't Need It! (mrc237)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Miles per State

Maine-281 miles; the northern terminus of the trail
New Hampshire- 161 miles; includes the White Mountains
Vermont- 146 miles
Massachusetts- 90 miles
Connecticut- 52 miles
New York- 88 miles (less than an hour from NYC)
New Jersey- 74 miles
Pennsylvania- 232 miles (very rocky)
Maryland- 41 miles
West Virginia- 2 miles (half-way point at Harpers Ferry)
Virginia- 544 miles (contains a fourth of the trail)
Tennessee/North Carolina- 371 miles
Georgia- 75 miles (the southern terminus of the trail)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Common A.T. Must-Know Terminology

2000 Miler is a person who has hiked the entire distance between termini of the official (white-blazed) A.T., either by thru-hiking or section hiking.
A.L.D.H.A. The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association began in 1983 as an off-trail family of fellow hikers who’ve all shared similar experiences, hopes and dreams on the Appalachian Trail and other long trails. ALDHA sponsers the Gathering each October and member volunteers compile the The THru-hikers' Companion for the ATC. Membership in this nonprofit group is open to all.
Alpine Zone: the area consisting of all the land above tree line in New England. The alpine zone is best defined by its plant life. Conifers such as spruce and balsam grow as Krumholz near the tree line, giving way to tundra-type lichens, moss, and shrubs above.
A.M.C. The Appalachian Mountain Club, maintaining the AT in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Grafton Notch in Maine.
AMC Huts In New Hampshire's White Mountains, in heavy use areas and above treeline, the AMC provides buildings called Huts for backpackers to stay overnight.
A.T.C. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy The Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) is a volunteer-based, private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation, management, and promotion of the Appalachian Trail as a primitive setting for outdoor recreation (on foot) and for learning. ATC is both a confederation of Trail-maintaining clubs and an individual-membership organization.
Avery, Myron Myron Avery, 1931-1952the first 2000 miler, and the man credited with building the Appalachian Trail. Chair of the ATC from 1931 until his death in 1952.
AYCE 'All You Can Eat' Restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets are very popular with hungry hikers.
Bald A low elavation mountain surrounded by forest yet devoid of trees on the crown. typically covered with meadows, balds can offer great views and are a good place to find wild berries, they also attract much wildlife.
Baseball Bat Shelter (Floors) An old style of shelter construction in Maine where the floor would be constructed out of parallel logs each with diameters not much greater than that of a baseball bat.
Baxter Baxter State Park, where Katahdin is, and the AT's Northern terminus on Baxter Peak.
Bear Bag The bag used by hikers to hang their food out of reach of bears and other critters, see 'Food Bag.'
Bear Cable A permenant cable rigged high between two tree specifically for hanging bear bags.
Blackflies There are about 40 species of these tiny biting insects that breed in running water and flourish in late May and June in Maine.
Bivouac To sleep outdoors without a tent or proper gear, usually done only in emergency situations.
Bivy Sack is a lightweight and waterproof bag that covers a sleeping bag. Simple, sometimes cramped shelter.
Blazes are painted, 2-inch by 6-inch, vertical white rectangles that are placed at eye height on trees and other objects, in both directions, to mark the official route of the Trail. Side trails are marked with blue blazes. You see horizontal, diagonal, arrows, and other blazes along the Trail.
Blow-down is a tree or shrub that has fallen across the Trail. Maintainer have dozens of words to describe each kind of fallen tree.
Blue blaze Spur trails off the AT to bad-weather routes, views, shelters, water sources etc are often marked by AT style blazes painted Blue.
Blue-blazer is a long-distance hiker who substitutes a section of blue-blazed trail for a white-blazed section between two points on the Trail.
Bog bridge Narrow wooden walkway placed to protect sensitive wetlands.
Bounce box a mail-drop type box containing seldom used necessities that is 'bounced' ahead to a town where you think you might need the contents.
Bushwhack to hike where there is no marked trail.
Cache (pronounced cash) is a supply of food and/or supplies hidden for later retrieval.
Cairn A obviously manmade pile of rocks erected as a trail marker. Chiefly used above timberline. Should be close enough to see the next one in heavy fog, and high enough to see above fallen snow.
Caretaker The person who maintains and collects fees at certain shelters and campsites.
Cat Hole A small hole dug by a hiker for the deposit of human waste.
Companion The ALDHA Thru-hikers' Companion is an AT guidebook compiled by AHLDA volunteers for the ATC.
Cove is a Southern Appalachian word meaning a high, flat valley surrounded by mountains. Cades Cove in the Smokies is the one most people know about.
Corridor The Appalachian Trail is a long and narrow Park, sometimes less than 100 feet wide. The Area set aside for the AT to pass within is called the Trail Corridor.
Cowboy camping is where one camps without any shelter - just spread one's pad and bag out under the stars and putting one's faith in their opinion about the weather staying dry.
Data Book Published for over 25 years by the ATC the Data Book is a consolidation of the most basic guidebook information into a lightweight table of distances between major Appalachian Trail shelters, road-crossings, and features--divided according to the guidebook volumes and updated each December to account for Trail relocations, new (or removed) shelters, and other changes.
Dead Fall: A maintainer's term for a fallen dead trees across the trail.
Double blaze Two blazes, one above the other as an indication of an imminent turn or intersection in the trail. Offset double blazes, called Garveys, indicate the direction of the turn by the offset of the top blaze.
Dodgeways are V-shaped stiles through fences, used where the Trail passes through livestock enclosures.
End-to-ender is an alternative term for 2,000-Miler.
Fall line: The fall line is the most direct route downhill from any particular point
Flip-flop a term used to signify a hiker that starts hiking in one direction then at some point decides to jump ahead and hike back in the opposite direction.
Food Bag a bag a hiker carries in their pack specifically for keeping all their food in. It is typically suspended from a tree at night so bears and varmints don't get into it.
Gap A southern term for a low spot along a ridge line, called a col by northern individuals.
Gear head is a hiker whose main focus is backpacking and outdoors gear.
Giardia more properly known as giardiasis, an infection of the lower intestines cause by the amoebic cyst, Giardia lamblia. Giardia resides in water so it is wise to always chemically treat or filter your water before drinking. Symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, loss of appetite and vomiting. Also know as, a backpacker’s worst nightmare.
GORP goold ole raisins & peanuts, or some other variation thereof.
Gray Water (Dirty dishwater.) Some campsites will have designated spots to dump your gray water. Such designated spots may be provided with a strainer so that you can remove your food particles from the gray water and pack those out.
Ground Control Hiker support that handles the 'real world' concerns like bills and pets,and mails a hiker packages.
FSO 'From Skin Out.' When considering the weight of gear, its important to remember that your total gear weight 'from the skin out' is as important a total as what your pack weighs.
Handbook The Thru-hiker's Handbook is an AT guidebook compiled by Dan Bruce.
Harpers Ferry The ATC's National Headquarters and Information Center is located in Harpers Ferry WV, about 1000 AT miles north of Springer Mountain.
Headlamp A small flashlight attached to a band or strap and worn on the head.
Hiker Box A cabinet or box at hostels where hikers donate unwanted food for the hikers coming behind them.
Hammock A sleeping system that combines a tent and sleeping bag, hung between two trees.
Hostel An establishment along the trail that has bunks, showers, and sometimes cooking and maildrops, for AT hikers.
Hydration System An 'improvement' on drinking out of a bottle, consists of a plastic bladder, hose, and mouth piece/valve that allows hands free drinking.
HYOH Hike your own hike, and not imitate someone else's.
Hypothermia Potentially fatal condition caused by insufficient heat and a drop in the body's core temperature. Classic symptoms are call the 'umbles', as the victim stumbles, grumbles, mumbles, and fumbles with confused thoughts.
Iceberg Icebergs are large rocks planted in the ground at an overused campsite to discourage any more tenting.
International Appalachian Trail The IAT runs north and east from Maine's Katahdin to the Gaspé Peninsula in New Brunswick, and nows across to Newfoundland.
Katahdin The AT's northern terminus is at Baxter Peak on Maine's Katahdin. Katahdin is a Penobscot Indian word meaning Greatest Mountain.
Knob A prominent rounded hill or mountain. A southern term.
Krumholtz Literally "crippled wood", the stunted and gnarled trees found near treeline, especially in the White Mountains.
Lean-to is another word for a three sided open shelter, used primarily in New England.
Leki a brand of hiking staff resembling a ski pole, common name for all poles made by the other brands.
Long-distance hiker is a somewhat indeterminate term applied to anyone who is hiking more than a few weeks, and who usually has to resupply at least once during his or her hike; often used interchangeably with the term thru-hiker.
LNT means 'Leave No Trace', a philosophy and skill used to pass as lightly as possible when backpacking.
Lyme Disease A debilitating illness carried by small ticks.
Long Trail Vermont's Long Trail runs from the Massachusetts to Canadian border, the southern third in conjunction with the AT.
MacGyver After an old TV show where the hero would construct useful devices out of common materials. To hikers it means to build or repair gear with imagination.
MacKaye Benton MacKaye (rhymes with high, not hay) is the man who in 1921 proposed an Appalachian Trail as the connecting thread of a 'project in regional planning." MacKaye envisioned a trail along the ridgecrests of the Appalachian Mountain chain from New England to the Deep South, connecting farms, work camps, and study camps that would be populated by eastern urbanites needing a break from the tensions of industrialization.
Mail Drop Mail drops are a method of re-supply while hiking. A mail drop is usually made ahead of time, before the hike starts, and a person not hiking (usually a spouse or relative, but it can be a friend) mails the package according to a pre-arranged schedule so that it arrives on time for the hiker to receive it at the post office.
Mountain Money Toilet paper.
Mouse hanger The cord with can contraption used to discourage mice from entering a pack when hung in a shelter.
Nero Almost a Zero other words, a very short mileage day.
NoBo Northbound thru-hiker, also a GAMEr (Georgia > Maine).
NPS is the abbreviation for National Park Service.
Philosopher's Guide The original guide for thru-hiking the AT, first a few sheets of info passed around in hiking circles, later a book published by the ATC.
Pot Cozy A foam or cloth wrap tokeep a cooking pot warm while it finishes cooking.
Power hiker is a hiker who habitually chooses to cover very long distances each day, often hiking late into the evening.
Privy a trailside outhouse for solid waste. You souldn't pee in the privy.
PUDS is thru-hiker shorthand for "pointless ups and downs", referring to the less interesting sections of mountains thru-hikers encounter from time to time; several PUDS in a row are MUDS, which is shorthand for "mindless ups and downs".
Purist 1. A hiker who wants to pass every white blaze. 2. A hiker who wants others to pass every white blaze.
Register A log book normally found at a trail shelter or a trail head. The original intent was for hikers to sign in so a searcher needing to find a lost hiker could tell where they last were.
Relo A section of trail recently relocated.
Ridge Runner A person paid by a trail-maintaining club or governmental organization to hike back and forth along a certain section of trail to educate hikers, enforce regulations, monitor trail and campsite use, and sometimes perform trail maintenance or construction duties. Such persons are most often found in high-use areas of the trail.
Section hiker is a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler by doing a series of section hikes over a period of time.
Shaffer, Earl Earl Shaffer 1918-2002 "The Crazy One," the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Poet, WW2 veteran, author of 'Walking With Spring,' and 'The Appalachian Trail, Calling Me Back To The Hills,' and three time thru-hiker, northbound in 1948, southbound in 1965, and northbound again at age 79, 50 years after his first hike.
Shelter A three sided wooden or stone building, spaced out a half day's hike apart, near a water source, and with a privy. The AT has many kinds of shelters, from barns to cabins.
Shuttle A ride from town to trailhead, usually for a fee.
Skunked Failing to get a car to stop when hitch hiking.
Slabbing is a hiking term that refers to going around a mountain on a moderately graded footpath, as opposed to going straight up and over the mountain.
Slackpacking is a hiking term coined in 1980 to describe an unhurried and non-goal-oriented manner of long-distance hiking (i.e., slack: "not taut or tense, loose"), but in recent years has been used to refer simply to thru-hiking without a backpack.
Springer Mountain's summit is the southern terminus of the Appalachin Trail.
Stealth a manner of camping where there is no indication that you are there, and no trace of your being there is left when you've left. Sometimes used as a term for camping illegally on public or private land.
Stile Steps constructed over a fence to allow people, but not livestock, to pass.
Switch Back: A turn that takes the hiker 180 degrees in the oposite direction. This trail construction technique is primarily used south of New England on the AT.
Tarp a simple tent with no floor or door.
Thru-hiker is traditionally a person who is attempting to become a 2,000-Miler in a single, continuous journey leaving from one terminus of the Trail, and backpacking to the other terminus.
Trail Angel Someone who provides unexpected help or food to a hiker.
Trailhead Where the trail leaves a road crossing or parking lot.
Trail Magic Unexpected, but welcome, help or food.
Trail Name A nickname adopted by or given to a hiker.
Trail Runners Light weight sneaker style hiking shoes.
Treadway The trail beneath a hiker's boots, constructed for that purpose.
Treeline The point of elevation on a mountain above whice the climate will no longer support tree growth.
Ultra light A style of gear or hiking that focuses on using the lightest gear possible.
USFS is the abbreviation for United States Forest Service.
Vitamin I Ibuprofin an over the counter anti-inflammatory drug that many hikers use while backpacking.
Widowmaker Widowmakers are limbs or whole trees themselves that have partially fallen but remain hung up overhead and so pose a danger to a person below.
Wilderness Area An official designation for public lands set aside to be protected from humans.
Work for stay Some hostels, the AMC Huts in the Whites, and a few other places along the AT allow some hikers to work instead of paying the fee for lodging.
Yogi-ing is the good-natured art of "letting" food be offered cheerfully by strangers without actually asking them directly (If you ask, it's begging!).
YMMV 'Your Mileage May Vary', hiker jargon for 'this worked for me, but your results/opinions might not be the same.'
Yo-yo-ing is the act of completing one A.T. thru-hike, then immediately turning around to begin another in the opposite direction.
Zero day is a day in which no miles are hiked, usually because the hiker is stopping in a town to resupply and/or rest.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Advantages of Flip-Flopping

Flip-flops, leapfrogs, and other alternatives

How can you avoid the crowds and still hike the entire Trail? Increasingly, hikers are choosing to start somewhere in the middle of the Trail. These alternatives to an end-to-end thru-hike are commonly known as "flip-flop" or "leapfrog" hikes. ATC encourages these alternative hikes as a way to even out the flow of hikers and minimize resource damage to the Trail. Review sample alternative itineraries that optimize terrain, weather, and crowd avoidance.
Advantages of an alternative hike include favorable terrain and weather, and crowd avoidance:

  • Terrain. The easiest terrain on the A.T. is not at either end of the Trail, where thru-hikers normally start, but in the middle of the Trail (from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia north through southern Pennsylvania). In both directions, the Trail gradually gets more difficult as you head north or south. If you want to break in gradually to the rigors of long-distance backpacking, avoid starting south of Virginia, and especially avoid starting in New Hampshire and Maine, the two most difficult states on the Trail. Review sample alternative itineraries with starting points located in moderate terrain.
  • Weather. In predicting weather on the Trail, time of year, elevation, and latitude are the most important variables to consider. Of these, the most frequently overlooked is elevation. For example, Blood Mountain, Georgia, at 4461 feet, has colder temperatures and more snow than Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, at about 250 feet, almost a thousand Trail miles to the north.
  • Cold. Because the Trail is often at high elevations, the potential for snow lasts into April in Georgia and the mid-Atlantic states, until early May in the highest mountains of the South and much of New England, and until early June in New Hampshire and Maine. The first snows of autumn fall in late September in Maine and New Hampshire and in October through the rest of New England and highest mountains of the South. In November any part of the Trail can receive snow.
  • Heat. Weather that is uncomfortably hot and humid for backpacking starts to occur intermittently in June in Georgia, Virginia, and the mid-Atlantic states. July and August can be too hot for comfortable backpacking in much of the mid-Atlantic and South, although above five and six thousand feet the temperatures are often pleasant. High temperatures often linger sporadically into September.
  • Avoiding crowds. Leaving Springer in March or early April you will find viewpoints, shelters and campsites crowded, and opportunities for privacy and solitude are substantially reduced. An average of more than 35 thru-hikers a day leave Springer between March 1 and April 1. Northbound thru-hikers create a large, moving group of people, the majority of whom are concentrated over a 300-400 mile stretch of Trail. Georgia especially is crowded, before the attrition process takes its toll. "Spring break" hikers are also drawn to the southern end of the Trail in March and April. Crowded conditions continue well into Virginia. You can avoid these conditions by following any one of the alternative itineraries
According to:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The People We Will Meet

One record down, one to go

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Unofficially Official

Here it is. The unofficial official announcement that we, as in my brother Daniel and I, are going to attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2011. I graduate on April 30, therefore, our hike will begin the first week of May. We are planning to start somewhere about halfway up the trail and hike the northern half first. Then we will return and hike to the southern terminus of Springer Mountain in Georgia, planning to finish sometime in late October. We have a lot of saving and planning to do in the next to buy, shoes to break-in, meals to plan, an itinerary to make. We are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Join us!