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Appalachian Trail FAQ

2011 February 20
by Elizabeth

Every time we mention to someone we’re preparing for a long trip, we eventually end up getting into all the dirty details of our Appalachian Trail planning. We’ve found we get a lot of the same sorts of questions, so here are the top 10. Feel free to comment with additional questions, but this tends to sate most people’s curiosity.

From Wikitravel, article

Image via Wikipedia

  1. I heard you are taking some time off work, what exactly are you doing? Some sort of long walk or something?
    We are taking extended time off from work and attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT is a long-distance  trail over the backbone of the Appalachian Mountains. It runs about 2185 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Kathadin in Maine.
  2. Holy smokes! Why would you want to do that?
    To be honest, we’re not sure — I think if we finish we get a t-shirt. Maybe it’s the challenge of it, or the idea of getting away from it all; but we’ve been talking about this trip off and on since we were married almost 12 years ago. We’ve been planning and saving more seriously for the last four years or so.
  3. So when do you start?
    We are starting at Springer Moutain in Georgia at the beginning of March, 2011.
  4. March. Uh, it’s still cold in March. Will there be snow?
    There certainly could be snow and there most likely will be in the Smokey Mountains. We’ve got some winter gear, but in the event of an all-out winter storm, our plan is to get off the trail and hole up in town in a cozy B & B. John has already declared no hiking in snow above his shin… or ankle either. (He’s kind of a wuss like that :) )
  5. How do you carry food for that long?
    We won’t. The AT runs through or near towns fairly frequently, so we only plan on carrying 4-6 days of food with us at any give time. Many towns have grocery stores, gas stations or outfitters where we will be able to resupply food and gear. We will probably only carry things like bagels and peanut butter, meat sticks or jerky, and loads of chocolate. Sounds like a gas station run to me.
  6. How long is this going take? How did you get that much time off work?
    We are planning on doing a thru-hike, which means we want to hike from one end to the other, all in one go. Of course the speed with which you hike determines how much time you need, but we are planning on taking five and a half months to hike the trail — March to mid-August. We are both fortunate to work at pretty awesome companies that have been very understanding. John is actually resigning from his job with the understanding (and hope!) that he is welcome back in August. Since Elizabeth is a university instructor, her colleagues are graciously covering for her while she’s gone during the spring semester and she will be back at work for the fall semester next school year.
  7. How many miles will you walk every day to get done in time?
    We plan on walking about 15 miles a day on average. There will be some days that require more and others less, but I think the biggest mile day we have planned is just over 20 miles. That’s certainly more than we have ever walked before, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re praying for flat terrain on those big days.
  8. Are you ever going to shower?
    You bet we are. It just won’t be as frequent as it is here at home. Since we need to be in town every 4-6 days to resupply, we’ll shower and wash our clothes at that time as well. Plus once it warms up there are swimming holes all along the AT! Also, we’re not above the occasional hobo shower.
  9. What about bears?
    Black bears can pretty much be found over the length of the AT and they can be a bit of a problem in the more popular national parks like the Smokey Mountains. We plan on hanging our food in trees, away from bears and other curious critters. No, we’re not taking a gun, a knife, or a bow and arrow. I plan to rely on my ninja skills, and John has been honing his Crocodile Dundee maneuvers. I think I can outrun him anyway.
  10. How can we track your progress?
    You’re in luck! You found the place we plan to post status updates, pictures and stories along the way. New posts will also show up in our Twitter and Facebook feeds.¬†We’re taking a SPOT device with us to update our blog — so from time to time you’ll notice posts of just coordinates — that’s precisely where we are at that point in time! If you find your path crossing ours anywhere, let us know! We’d love to come meet you and walk with friends.
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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Steph Kroll permalink
    February 24, 2011

    Sounds like a lot of fun! can’t wait to read your blog and see photos from your travels!

  2. February 25, 2011

    Hi John and Elizabeth,
    Our son, David, works with John and has been telling us of your planned AT through hike. It will be fun following your blog as you hike the trail. We have section hiked 600 miles, all the way to Woods Hole Hostel in Virginia, which should be one of your must stop places. I understand the “irrational addiction” that you both are suffering from. Good luck on your hike.
    trailnames Always Bonnie and Sometimes Clyde (Dave’s dad)

    • March 4, 2011

      Thanks guys! If you end up having some time and want to meet up and hike with us for a bit, we’d love to meet you face-to-face. We’ll be putting our general location up here, so if a place interests you and you just need a reason to get there, we’d be happy to be that reason.

  3. March 5, 2011

    Aw man, no bow & arrow? I would think twice about that one. How cool would it be to Last of the Mohicans your way thru the trail?

    Best of luck!

  4. Mom and pop hass permalink
    March 6, 2011

    Where is that bow and arrows we got you for Christmas? I think the arrows were equipped with bear points!!

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