Pre-Appalachian Trail Class of 2017 Thru-Hike: The First Step

So here it is: I’m thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2017. There, I said it. I’ve taken the first step. It’s real. And my departure date is less than five months away. This is happening so fast!img_9439

Wait, what IS the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that runs through 14 states, from the top of Springer Mountain in Georgia to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine. According to Time, Brenton MacKaye came up with the idea of the Appalachian Trail in 1921. Inspired volunteer groups built and completed the Trail by the year 1937.

The elevation of the Appalachian Trail spans from about 100 ft. to 6,500 ft., running as a roller coaster of ups and downs throughout. Famous places along the Trail include Massachusetts’ Mt. Greylock’s War Memorial Tower, Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, West Virginia’s Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters, Georgia’s Blood Mountain, North Carolina’s Hot Springs, and New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.

I’ll answer more questions throughout this entry, but if you are still curious, here are 10 Things You Should Know About the Appalachian Trail, according to History.com.

dscn2164

How long is the Appalachian Trail?

I can’t give you an exact mileage count because the Trail is constantly changing! Each source seems to have a different number: Wikipedia estimates the Trail to be 2,200 miles long. The U.S. National Park Service says the trail is 2,180img_9079 miles long. Regardless of the mileage, it is a heck of a long trail!

Who hikes the Appalachian Trail?

An easy answer is that anyone can hike the Appalachian Trail, and many different types of people have done it. People of all ages and backgrounds, with varying levels of physical abilities, have hiked this trail. Here is an interesting article by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that includes statistics, interesting facts, and a list of noteworthy A.T. hikers.

img_8496There are many different types of hikers on the Trail: Day hikers spend hours on the trail, section hikers spend days or weeks on the trail, and thru-hikers spend anywhere from 3 to 7 months on the trail.

Each hiker has a different technique. Some hike from the northernmost point of the Appalachian Trail to the southernmost point. Others hike from South to North. Some carry nothing, and hike with a team that will cart their supplies from point A to point B. Some carry small, light packs, and might stay in towns and resupply as needed. And then there are hikers (like I plan to be) who carry everything from a tent to a toothbrush on their backs.

Note: There is no one way to hike the Appalachian Trail, and a common mantra for hikers is to “hike your own hike”.

The idea

This idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail has been in the back of my mind for a few years now. My wife and I put it on our adventure bucket list a while back. Between then and now, we’ve had many adventures, including:

  • Surviving record-breaking rains and flooding on a camping trip to the Lake District in England
  • Living in the United Kingdom and visiting cities like Manchester, Liverpool, and Edinburgh
  • Spending a year teaching English in China traveling to cities like Hong Kong, Beijing, and Xiamen
  • Walking and eating our way through Manhattan upon our return to the U.S., from China
  • A cross-country train ride, from New York City to Chicago
  • Honeymooning on a camping and hiking trip in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks
  • Camping and hiking all over Wisconsin
  • Vacationing in Northern England, eating mounds of Indian food, trying new beers in Manchester, and hiking the rolling hills of the countryside

Ever since we got into camping and hiking, my wife and I have dreamed of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. In our heads, it was like the epitome of adventures! The dream was fuzzy, though. It never seemed close enough to grab hold of. It’s funny, really. I couldn’t grab hold of it, but the dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail sure grabbed hold of me. 20140719_111232

The reality

It has been a whirlwind of events over the last few years, while living in Wisconsin. When Rhesia and I returned home from traveling, we never imagined we would still be here three years later. We had plans to go off traveling again; plans to maybe spend another year teaching English abroad, or to work on an organic coffee farm. But of course, things don’t always go as planned.

Instead of going off to travel, we stayed home in Wisconsin. In that time, some amazing things happened. Most notably, I got married! What’s even more perfect than marrying the person I love, is the fact that my wife is my travel partner and my hiking companion. So together, we decided that we will embark on the epitome of adventures!

Decision-makingdscn3117

The inspiration came to us last winter. Let me tell you, one winter in Wisconsin is enough to give anyone itchy feet, and I’ve been itching for years. In fact, when I went off to college my dad called me a “rolling stone”. I think he knew I wasn’t the type to stay in one place for too long. Anyway, Rhesia and I have now been in Wisconsin for two consecutive winters, and we are hesitantly heading into the third. We have certainly tried to make the best of the winters here, but after last winter, I think we both knew it was time to go. So that’s how the idea snowballed (You see what I did there?).

img_8655

A pleasant Surprise

The idea snowballed so much that two of our friends decided to drop everything and come with us. I think it started as a twinkle in their eyes. They casually brought up the idea of joining us, in conversation. They started asking us questions about the Appalachian Trail. Then they did their own research, and the dream grabbed hold of them, too.

Here is where they will be documenting their adventure: A Journey of Two Thousand Miles

dscn2806

What have we been up to since making the plan to hike the Appalachian Trail?

Since then, we have been… training. In my mind, training includes hiking, camping, exercising, researching, planning, and buying gear. It pretty much means that we have been obsessing over the Appalachian Trail for at least nine dscn3424months.

I can imagine my friends, family, and coworkers have pretty much had it with me talking about this. But you know what? Zach Davis of Appalachian Trials gave me some great advice, in his book. He said to tell everyone I know that I’m planning a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He said that in doing that, the idea is real and I’m held accountable for my goal. His advice actually worked. The more people I told, the more real it felt, and the more inspired I became.

Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail wasn’t just a dream anymore. That fuzzy image had become perfectly focused, and strikingly spectacular! I’m ready. This is going to happen. I will thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2017.

Further Reading

11 Things I Wish I’d Known before Hiking the Appalachian Trail by Maggie Wallace of the Matador Network

 

Five Myths about hiking the Appalachian Trail By Everett Potter of USA Today

 

Hike the 2000-mile trail that most people never finish by Dina Spector of Business Insider

 

7 Reasons Why Hiking the Appalachian Trail is for Lazy People Too by Megan Maxwell of Appalachian Trials

Until next time…

As always, thank you so much for reading! I look forward to hearing your feedback! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to send me an email: twotentsdown@yahoo.com. Come find me on social media. There, I post my latest blog entries, and articles I find interesting or helpful to fellow campers, hikers, and travelers. Add me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Bloglovin’.

If you need me, I’m Two Tents Down!dscn3180-copy