What is it you’re doing again?
I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
What is the Appalachian Trail?
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine. [link]
The trail is marked by 2″ x 6″ white blazes painted on trees, rocks, etc, that make following it quite easy.
What is a thru-hike?
It is hiking the entire trail in one go, all 2180+ miles of it.
How long does that take?
It generally takes people five to seven months.
Are you crazy?
No. (But I may be biased.)
Isn’t it dangerous?
Statistically, no. There is risk everywhere but there is a large thru-hiker community that watches out for each other. Hikers just need to be aware of their surroundings and be reasonably cautious but most feel safer on the trail than in a town/city. I’ve taken a couple of self defense seminars, I got my Wilderness First Aid certification last year, and I’ve done a lot of research. I feel pretty prepared. See the ATC’s Health & Safety page.
Are you going to carry?
CARRYING FIREARMS IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED
They are illegal on National Park Service lands (40 percent of the Trail) and in most other areas without a permit. The threat of them being turned against you or an accidental shooting may outweigh the benefit. An increased presence of firearms could also change the culture of the Trail. State laws vary on the carrying of nonlethal weapons, such as pepper spray; the possession and use of a defensive weapon is a big responsibility with potential consequences. A whistle may scare off a potential threat from humans or animals and will serve to alert others in the area to your location. [link]
But you should really carry.
Most experienced A.T. hikers consider them impractical and unnecessary, and encountering an armed stranger makes many people uncomfortable. To legally carry a firearm on the Trail, you must meet the permitting standards of the state and locality in which you are hiking. On national-park lands, discharging a firearm is illegal, even if you have a legal permit to carry it. Extra efforts may be required to secure weapons in towns to abide by local ordinances and private-property owners’ rules. (Firearm rules vary by land ownership. The Trail crosses 14 states and more than 90 state, federal, or local agency lands, with each having its own rules and regulations; you are responsible for knowing and following those rules.) In areas of the Trail corridor where hunting is legal, hikers may see hunters carrying firearms. Hunters must abide by their own set of firearm rules, somewhat separate from firearm-carry rules but also varying by state and county. [link]
What about bears?
Most hikers only see bears’ butts as they run away. My food will be more of a temptation than my person so I will hang my food bag every night to avoid being ransacked.
Who are you going with?
Myself. I don’t know anyone who is willing or able to take six months off from their daily life and is interested in doing the trail. Even if I did know someone, it would be unlikely that we’d end up hiking at the same pace and wanting to do things the same way. However, I am hiking northbound, which is the more popular direction, and I’m leaving around the same time most people leave, so I will only be alone if I make an effort. I’m sure I will have hiking partners along the trail once I get started and see who else is hiking at the same speed as me.
Where will you sleep?
In my tent or in some of the 250+ shelters provided along the trail, and occasionally in a town.
What will you eat/drink?
While foraging for berries will be an option later along the trail, my main food supply will come from groceries in the trail towns I pass through at least once a week. No hunting. I will have a small camp stove for cooking. I will filter water from streams and other sources along the trail before drinking it.
So you’re just not going to shower for six months?
Once a week or so, I will spend a night in town at a hiker hostel or motel in order to shower, do laundry, and resupply. However, I will generally be very smelly.
Where will you go to the bathroom?
There are privies (outhouses) at some shelters but the whole outdoors will be my bathroom.
What are you bringing with you?
What about your job?
Leave of absence approved.
What about your apartment?
I’m giving up the apartment and moving all my stuff into storage.
Are you sure you want to do this?
Are you going to write a book about it when you’re done?
One can dream.