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Trail Season
February 29, 2004 9:24 AM   Subscribe

It's that time of year - time for thru-hikers to start the Appalachian Trail! Last year, over 1700 hikers started the hike with only 352 completing the 2,200 mile walk from Springer Mtn, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine. Given that walking the AT takes about six months, most hikers start in March and April so they can finish before winter sets in. With town spread out along the trail, many hikers keep online journals - probably some of the few blogs where what you had for breakfast and what the weather was like make for interesting topics.
posted by borkus (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Good lord, skimming over those hiking journals were even more boring than the worst livejournal writers.
posted by ericrolph at 9:43 AM on February 29, 2004


I've hiked about 200 miles of the A.T., on and off over the last 30 years; I grew up not far from the 'halfway' town, Duncannon, PA, and now live about 175 miles from Mt. Katahdin, the northern end of the trail in Maine. On July 4, 2001 I climbed up there again to film my friends Cesar and Maud, and help them start off their rigorous13-month expedition north to south. They published a newsletter from each of the 14 states along the way, for subscribers, and their book is anything but boring.

They went so slowly both because the hike was a fund- and consciousness-raising trip for diabetes research, and they kept stopping for publicity purposes, and because Cesar himself had been diagnosed with diabetes. He became (as far as they can tell) the first diabetic to hike the entire A.T., as well as (maybe) the first Cuban-American.

He got so into hiking, in fact, that last month he announced that he was walking around the world. (!) So far he's made it from Key West up into the Miami area, his home town.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:57 AM on February 29, 2004


One of the weird youth group things I did when I was a teen was to backpack this trail. Although, we too didn't do the entire trail. We started in Cherokee, North Carolina and stopped at D.C., where we toured the museums, saw Congress, did all those other school-trip things, then chartered a bus back home...we were really tired of each other and walking by then.

Had some marvelous adventures along the way though, got to see some really beautiful parts of America, met some of the most interesting...and I do mean interesting...people of my life. Was glad when it was over, but more glad to have had the opportunity to do it.
posted by dejah420 at 10:00 AM on February 29, 2004


incidentally, chile is building(?) a path (spanish, i'm afraid) the length of the country - it'll be 8000km or so long. feel free to drop in as you come through santiago or la serena ;o)
posted by andrew cooke at 10:04 AM on February 29, 2004


By the way, if you're into this sort of thing, you should check out the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association. I went to their 2001 'Gathering' (I'm easily spotted, at top left in the group photo) as Cesar and Maud's chauffeur, because they were giving a few presentations, and enjoyed hanging out with people including Earl Shaffer, the first man to hike the whole A.T. end-to-end, in 1948. (He also did it again 50 years later, in 1998.)
posted by LeLiLo at 10:06 AM on February 29, 2004


I started this (if you can start something in the middle) once. I guess I brought a few to many 'amusements' for rest days because I 'rested' up for about a week in the second lean-to before staggering out of the woods to the closest motel.
posted by cedar at 10:09 AM on February 29, 2004


Ericrolph, if you want an emphatically not-boring account of walking [some of] the AT, read Bill Bryson's A Walk In the Woods, an exerpt of which can be here.
posted by mojohand at 10:56 AM on February 29, 2004


I did about half the trail many years ago. If I'd had a blog then it would have been all about food: what I ate, what I planned to eat, what I wanted to eat. Food was just about the only thing the long distance hikers talked about.
posted by maurice at 12:05 PM on February 29, 2004


I enjoyed reading Brian Robinson's account of hiking the Triple Crown, the AT, CDT, and PCT - 7,371 miles in 300 days! Plus, he has good advice about ultralight backpacking.
posted by roboto at 12:27 PM on February 29, 2004


I did about 60 miles of the trail in New Jersey a few years ago. After a rough first day and a lot of rain, it turned out to be a very cool experience. Being able to say you've climbed mountains is a nice feeling.

I also had the most scary encounter of my life on the trail. At the third, deserted shelter my friend and I stopped at, we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a pack of wolves running in circles, barking and howling not fifty feet from our tent. I've never stayed so quiet and motionless for so long in my life.
posted by tomorama at 12:43 PM on February 29, 2004


we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a pack of wolves running in circles

A lot more likely to have been coyotes. The gray wolf's range doesn't include New Jersey (anymore), and the red wolf is only recently being reintroduced into the wild in North Carolina.

Not that a coyote couldn't fuck you up real bad if it wanted to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:35 PM on February 29, 2004


I blogged my AT hike in 1996 (we didn't have the word "blog" then, of course), carrying a laptop and a cellphone with me. It was the first time that had been done.

Technical problems galore, of course.
posted by waldo at 7:05 PM on February 29, 2004


One of the weird youth group things I did when I was a teen was to backpack this trail. Although, we too didn't do the entire trail. We started in Cherokee, North Carolina and stopped at D.C., where we toured the museums, saw Congress, did all those other school-trip things, then chartered a bus back home...we were really tired of each other and walking by then.

Christ almighty, that's one hard-core youth group. My Wingfoot is in storage, but if memory serves, Cherokee/Gatlinburg is around mile 150. If you stopped at D.C., that entailed getting off somewhere between Front Royal (~950 miles) and Harper's Ferry (998 miles). So that's around a 850, 2.5-month youth group hike.

Dang.
posted by waldo at 7:11 PM on February 29, 2004


It's actually really interesting to read the registers at the various campsites along the AT--perhaps moreso than these trailjournals online. The trail registers are little notebooks kept at most of the sites in some rainproof place where everyone who passes through adds a descriptive note, drawing, or plea for less rain/mosquitoes/cold/bad food. And FYI, thru-hikers are some of the most interesting people ever. With the most amazing stories!
posted by superfem at 7:54 PM on February 29, 2004


Are these "online journals" something you need a computer to have heard of?

In all seriousness, it sounds like a great experience; I envy these people the opportunity to do this. I'm just happy to get a weekend off.
posted by subgenius at 9:17 PM on February 29, 2004


I grew up on Paris Mountain in Virginia. The AT ran through our property and I spent a lot of time each spring, summer, and fall hiking the AT. I would also work occasionally at Bear's Den Hostel. The Hostel was a place where hikers could stop and sleep in a bed, have a shower, and cook in a full kitchen. When I covered for the live in operators, I basically checked people in and played the guitar with hikers from all over the world. Bear's Den also had one hell of a view.
Now that I live in Utah, I realize that the AT is a VERY civilized trail. There are three sided shelters about every day's hike, there are many hostels like Bear's Den, and it is standard practice for hikers to mail themselves rations to pick up along the way. Still, hiking the entire AT is an awesome accomplishment and one I hope to achieve one day.
posted by trbrts at 8:00 AM on March 1, 2004


andrew cooke incidentally, chile is building(?) a path (spanish, i'm afraid) the length of the country - it'll be 8000km or so long. feel free to drop in as you come through santiago or la serena

Canada is well on its way to the same thing. The Trans Canada Trail is going to be 18,000 km (~11,000 miles) when completed and probably the longest trail of it's kind in the world at that time. Approximately 9000 km are operational at this point. It'll touch all three oceans boardering Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 8:14 AM on March 1, 2004


Good lord, skimming over those hiking journals were even more boring than the worst livejournal writers.

Well, this is really narrowcasting, not something of the general public interest like the Bryson book (from whose near-unanimous praise I respectfully dissent.) The journals make great hiking-pr0n for either hikers or those who would be hikers if they had money, time, or physical prowess. I, for one, self classify as 2a, 2b, and 2c.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:26 AM on March 1, 2004


realize that the AT is a VERY civilized trail.

Of the 3 long north/south trails in America (AT, PCT, and the central one) the AT is generally seen as the most difficult physically. The reason is the mountains are the oldest and thus the most weathered so there is a lot of up and down. The western trails you can climb up and stay up for days, the AT you climb up then down, up then down many times in a day. This is balanced out by the shade of the canopy and easy access to facilities along the way. In fact some hikers have done the trail with no food drops just buying food along the way from stores. It is still extremely difficult to hike and one reason why so few people complete it.
posted by stbalbach at 8:28 AM on March 1, 2004


Also journals are kept for personal reasons I don't think anyone expects to be reviewed or critiqued. It's a diary.
posted by stbalbach at 8:31 AM on March 1, 2004


Now that I live in Utah, I realize that the AT is a VERY civilized trail.

A friend and I walked the whole damn thing back in 1991, and let me tell you, it was no easy journey. I left looking healthy and fit, and came back months later looking like a prisoner of war.

Loved every minute of it.

To those of you who have already read A Walk in the Woods, (already mentioned above) try Me and the boy : journey of discovery , by Paul Hemphill.
posted by bradth27 at 9:03 AM on March 1, 2004


we woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a pack of wolves running in circles

A lot more likely to have been coyotes. The gray wolf's range doesn't include New Jersey (anymore), and the red wolf is only recently being reintroduced into the wild in North Carolina.

Not that a coyote couldn't fuck you up real bad if it wanted to.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Actually a coyote wouldn't F you up. They're pretty small. In fact, I've never heard of an adult being bitten by one unless they were trying to feed it or something equally dumb and I lived in coyote country for many years.

When I was a teenager we used to go sit in the hills at night. On several occasions coyotes formed a ring around us and yipped and howled back and forth. It was very cool.

I bet some other hikers had fed those coyotes (or left food behind) and that's why they hung around the shelter. They definitely weren't wolves!
posted by maggie at 10:22 AM on March 1, 2004


Actually a coyote wouldn't F you up. They're pretty small.

30--40 pounds or so, AFAIK. Which isn't a big deal, just normal mutt family-dog size...

...but your average mutt *could* F you up but good if it really wanted to -- they mostly just don't want to. Heck, a bunch of dachsunds *could* mess you up pretty good -- if they can take down a badger, they can F you up.

I just meant that even if they were coyotes and not wolves, it wasn't Size Extra Wussy to sit in the tent and be quiet. You wouldn't want to startle a pack of coyotes and accidentally corner one, or run into a rabid one, etc etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:45 AM on March 1, 2004


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