“What’s the Appalachian Trail?” I hear you muttering in half-interest….
This is what I’m gonna be doing for 6 months of 2012. It’s going to be (already is) a herculean task.
The Appalachian Trail is basically a really long path that starts on Springer Mountain in Georgia in the southern US and then winds its way north over and through the Appalachian mountain range towards the Canadian boarder and finishes on Mount Katahdin in Maine. It’s currently 2181 miles long. Most years it gets a little longer. (The thought of two or three extra miles is putting me off to be frank.) It should take me around 6 months to complete. From around the 21st March until the 21st September. It crosses through 14 states and over a crap load of mountains.
About 3000 people attempt to walk the whole thing in a single walking season. Percentages vary, but between 10 and 20% of those finish. I hope to be one of those guys. They usually walk from south to north and become “northbounders”. Some attempt the southbound route, though this is a lonelier existence and the hardest and most beautiful scenery (and mosquitoes) come first that way. I’m going to be a northbounder. Starting at the bottom of that little red line then strolling up to the top. It’s going to be real busy to start with. Numbers will soon dwindle as large amounts drop out in the first couple hundred miles.
I’ll be known as a Thru-hiker. That means I’m going to do the whole thing in one go, I’ll stink the whole time, will probably get a couple of showers a week (maximum) and I’ll have big legs. But mostly I’ll stink.
You might be wondering where I’ll be staying. I’m going to buy a one-man tent. You know they call them one-person tents now?! Anyway, a one-man tent. There are also shelters along the way that I can stay in if it’s hammering it down. About every 10 miles or so. Here’s one here:
These places are generally infested with mice and filthy stankin fellow hikers. I shall be avoiding staying in these unless there’s heavy rain (it rains a LOT on the AT) . I’ll likely camp next to them on most nights, though. There’s usually a water source nearby and a privvy to drop the kids off. Each shelter also contains a trail register for people to sign, leave messages for hikers behind, tell stories and jokes and so on. I guess they’re the social centres outside of towns.
Ahhh…. mice…. shouldn’t be too much of a problem. There are also rattlers and black bears to be wary of. Though that’ll be a breeze.
It’s been a national trail since 1937. The first person to thru the trail in one year was a WWII veteran, Earl Shaffer. He also hiked it at 80 years old more recently. Though looks like an 88 year old might complete it this year, watch out!
“AHAAAA!”, you cry, “This must be easy if an old geezer can do it!”
I wouldn’t be so sure. This is going to hand me a giant beat down. The Camino de Santiago (500 miles of a lot of flat) was a walk in the park in comparison – walked it in 2007. The Appalachian Trail would only be about 1400 miles if crow were stupid enough to fly it, but it goes up and down every mountain on the way. I still don’t really know how hard it’s going to be. I just know it’s going to be f-ing hard.
The Appalachian Trail is also known as the Green Tunnel. I’m sure I don’t need to explain that, though there are hundreds of beautiful vistas along the way.
So as to not get lost, the whole trail is dotted with white blazes on trees like you can see below. This’ll be my map!
“If we were paid to do this, we would have quit by now.” David Miller (AWOL on the Appalachian Trail.)
That brings me to the next thing. Everyone, like the man above, has a “trail name” (his is AWOL). This is what people call you on the trail. There will be likely a few Daves and a couple of Tarquins all within a couple hundred mile stretch so adopting a nickname helps. It’s also, I suppose, some kind of escape from the real world. Some people name themselves based on their own inflated image of themselves … If you’re not a dick, then you wait to be named. Usually something happens in the first few days or so and you’ll be named by someone. “Dog-Crap-Chin”, “Retina Stick” or “Dude, where’s my backpack” are all likely monikers for myself.
So yeah, that’s what the Appalachian Trail is. Hopefully you now know what I’ll be undertaking, starting in 5 months. I hope you can follow me, or even join me!
Looking forward to walking with my girlfriend on the trail for a while, oh and also my ex-wife, Miguel.
Drop me a line if you fancy it!