I have been thinking a lot about getting back on the AT. Most of my thoughts have been centered around gear changes for the next trip. I wrote about this previously, and with some more research (along with a larger budget and access to incredible deals through work), I have come up with an ambitious goal of eliminating 10 lbs. from the dry weight (before food and water) of my pack.

This requires rethinking (and re-buying) almost everything in the pack, including the pack itself. I can save more than 4 ozs., for example, by buying a nice rain jacket. I have even started comparing the number of grams I can save by going to a watch-battery powered LED headlamp, rather than one that is powered by more powerful, but heavier, AAA batteries.

What will be next, sawing off the end of my toothbrush?

I think 10 lbs. is a reasonable, if ambitious, goal.

For all of the gentle readers out there, though, this is where I appeal to you. I am looking for volunteers to hike with me for short stretches of time. Anywhere from 2/3-day outing all the way up to a week or more would be welcome. One of the things I am reevaluating about the last attempt is that I definitely had issues with loneliness on the trail.

Details: I plan on starting the first week or so of July, 2010 in Maine and hopefully making it to the top of Springer Mountain, Georgia, by Thanksgiving. The trail comes within a few hours of basically every major city on the East Coast. If desired I can give rough dates of when I will be close to places like New York City, Washington, DC and so on.

You will be hiking quite a bit each day - I would say roughly 10-12 miles a day. We may or may not hike together every step; it might work out that we will get up in the morning, agree on a stopping point that day, and meet up at camp that evening. If our paces work out, you are definitely welcome to keep me company during the day, as well.

I will primarily be staying in AT shelters along the way, meaning if you plan it right you would not need to bring a tent with you. I will be carrying a stove, so you would be able to do without that, as well. A pack, some clothes, a sleeping bag and pad and you should be pretty well set. Oh, and your food. Need to bring some of that, obviously.

I plan on keeping about the same schedule as the last time I was on the Trail, hitching into town every 3-4 days to resupply.

Anyway, that is about what I have for now. I will post when I have more details, but contact me if this sounds like something you would be interested in.
So on Tuesday the roommate and I headed up to Amicalola Falls State Park. We got into the park at about 11:00am. We quickly visited the Visitor's Center. I filled up on water and got the pack ready to go out. I left the Visitor's Center at about 11:30am.

After a little bit of initial confusion (the sign behind the Visitor's Center is *very* misleading), I was on my way. The first half mile or so of the trail parallels the park road, and then begins heading up 500+ stairs to the top of the falls. Carrying a full pack up the stairs was not fun, but it was blazed, so I was going to do it. After that the trail meanders a little bit in the park before going by the lodge and then hitting a big sign.

Hike Inn 4.8 Miles
Average Hiking Time
3 Hours One-Way
Springer Mountain
7.3 Miles
Average Hiking Time
6 Hours One-Way

I was headed to Springer, and actually the Springer Mountain Shelter .2 miles beyond. By this time I had already hiked 1.5 miles around in the park (bringing my total for the day to a hopeful 9 miles).

The Approach Trail is a fairly easy, if mostly uphill, trail. The hike to Springer was fairly uneventful. I saw probably about a dozen or so hikers in total after leaving the state park. About half were day hikers (or hikers staying at the Hike Inn), the other half were backpackers that I would guess were out for a night or two at most.

I made it to the top of Springer Mountain, snapped a few pictures, and then headed down to the shelter. I was concerned it would be full - mid-March is a popular time to start the AT. I did not need to be worried; when I got there I learned I was sharing the shelter with one other person. It was 3:30pm at this time, so I had done the entire 9 mile hike in about four hours.

Apparently a lot of the GAMErs (Georgia -> Maine northbound through-hikers) spent the night in their tents. This is different than my experience on my hike in 2005, when the vast majority of northbound (and southbound) hikers spent most nights in shelters.

Anyway, spent a chilly night (got down into the low 30's/high 20's) in the shelter and got up about 8am the next morning to some pretty brisk winds. Took down the bear bag, got packed up, and was back on the trail, headed southbound, by about 8:30am. Going downhill was a bit easier - churned out the first three miles in a little over an hour. Made it down to the visitor's center by about noon.

All in all a good hike. Anyone in the Atlanta area should definitely check out Amicalola Falls. Even if you do not go all the way to the top of Springer in one day, there are plenty of places to camp along the way.
This weekend I spent at Hungry Mother State Park, in western Virginia. While there some friends of mine and I went and did an out-and-back dayhike along a section of the AT near Mount Rogers. We saw the famous wild ponies, and had lunch at the Thomas Knob Shelter. It was a short hike, about 6.5 miles total.

The next day we hiked to the top of Molly's Knob. About 1.5 miles each way, for another out-and-back hike.

Future plans:
My roommate has a conference in early March at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. I think I am going to hitch a ride and then do a simple two-day up-and-back along the 8.5 mile approach trail to Springer Mountain. Nice 17 miles in two days.

Later in March I am going to do the Georgia section of the Benton MacKaye Trail. It is about 92 miles from Springer Mountain to the US Hwy 64 crossing. Should be a nice week out on the trail.

More information about the BMT:Ahh, the sweet freedom of unemployment...
I went back and added some backdated LiveJournal entries about the AT. These were copy-and-pasted from emails I sent out, so if you were receiving emails from me while on the AT you will not find anything new.

All entries tagged as AT.
So one goal of mine is to get back on the Appalachian Trail and through-hike it again. A local outfitter has been having a huge sale, so I have gone in a few times to poke around.

I picked up a book detailing the Benton MacKaye Trail, which runs about 300 miles, roughly parallel to the southernmost part of the AT. The book only covers the first 93 miles of the Trail, basically just the Georgia section. 93 miles is about a week's worth of backpacking, so I am strongly considering doing that as a spring break trip.

One big desire of mine between now and then is to eliminate about five pounds from the dry weight of my pack; that is to say before food and water are stored. While I was on the AT my pack was about 30 lbs. fully loaded. I am guessing it was about 25 lbs. dry. That is significantly heavier than I would want it. Eliminating five pounds is a goal. Eliminating more than that would be even better.

More detail than anyone needs on gear changes )
I am still trying to figure out what to do with this facial hair.

Pictures from the Trail will be up in the next 48 hours.
I am in Hanover, NH. The NH-VT border is just a couple of miles away.

Motivation is having troubles these days. It is nice to spend a day NOT thinking about the Trail (and definitely nice to spend a day NOT hiking, for once).

I hope everyone is doing well!

[Later edit: I just spent a good five minutes cleaning the scroll wheels on the stupid hockey-puck mouse attatched to this old iMac (350 MHz / 320MB / 10.2.8). The two eMacs upstairs are in use by some of the DOC people. The Dartmouth Outdoor Club is doing studient orientation trips. They are doing a great job. It reminds me that twelve years ago I was on a similar trip at Cornell. Insane.]
Woohoo! I made it to New Hampshire!

I am writing this from Gorham, NH, the first town going south in New Hampshire along the AT, and the town at the start of the White Mountains. Woohoo! Finally made it to another state. I am just spending the day here - I hiked in seven miles to town, and later on I will be hitching a ride back to the trail and then hiking in two miles to a shelter just south of town.

The White Mountains have been visible from all of the peaks I have been through recently (well, except for the day it was pouring rain, when I could barely see three feet in front of me). I am really looking forward to the Whites and the huts along the way.

I took my first (minor) spill a couple of days ago, right after the rain stopped. The rain causes the big rocks I am climbing down to get really slick. I banged up my wrist a bit, and scraped up my hand, but I am living. A little triple antibiotic cream and some medical tape and I am on my way!

Reaching New Hampshire was a great psychological achievement. It really picked me up. Maine was a wonderful state with wonderful people, but I was tired of feeling like I was not making any progress along the Trail.

Oh, and coming up is Hanover, NH (for anyone sending stuff to the mail drop). Another 10-14 days or so! I plan on taking a "zero day" and enjoying campus and town.

Anyway, I should get going. I still have some phone calls to make and then get to a grocery store for food resupply.

I hope everyone is doing well, and I apologize for not being able to write everyone back personally who has written me. Rest assured I have read your messages!

Finally, another state!
I am in a hiker hostel in Stratton, Maine. I have about 93 more miles in Maine. Yesterday I passed the line for 2000 miles. It was referring to North-bounders. I wrote in a shelter log that it is a bit disheartening for a southbound hiker like myself - instead of celebrating that I have done 2000 miles (quite an accomplishment), it was reminding me how much more I have left to do.

In the south, you are only in Georgia for about 60 miles. I will be in Maine for over 250 miles. I am really looking forward to my first state line, into New Hampshire. Of course New Hampshire will bring with it some tough mountains (the Whites), but I am feeling up to the challenge.

The blisters have mostly healed. I have changed boots, and while the blisters are still there, they are slowly going away, even though I am doing 15-19 miles a day.

Today was a tough day, though. Bigelow Mountain. 15.9 miles. This was not a lot - the two previous days I did 19 miles and 17.3 miles.

A sign warns you when entering the nature area (for an interesting read, check out the history of Bigelow Mountain in Maine, and see how the residents of Maine prevented it from turning into a "Aspen of the East") that a through-hike involves over 6000 feet of climbing over two mountains. I started at the bottom of the first one, Little Bigelow, climbed that, went down, and then went to both peaks of Bigelow Mountain. One peak was even named after Avery, one of the architects of the Appalachian Trail.

It was a very rough day. I probably should have stopped at a very nice shelter a few miles north of Stratton, but I was really looking forward to getting into a town. The last five miles were very tough. The terrain over them was not terribly difficult, I was just getting frustrated that I was not done yet. I was tired,and I wanted to be done.

The Appalachian Trail never gives up a mile easily.

Some other random thoughts about the AT: The AT is a four month long diet of one foot after another.

Someone asked me what I thought about while hiking. In order of least to most: 1) Everything else. Average: 0.2% of the time. 2) Random songs that get stuck in my head. Where did the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't it be Nice" and The Temptations' "My Girl" come from? Average: 1.8% of the time. 3) The next town I will be getting to, and what I will be doing once I get there. Average: 3% of the time. 4) The milage for that day, how many miles I have done, where the next landmark is, where I will be taking breaks, and where I will be stopping for the night. Average: 10% of the day. 5) Where I will be putting my next foot down. Average: 85% of the day.

There is a saying that the AT requires about five million steps, and each one of them can kill you.

You think a lot about where your foot is going to be coming down.

I am slowly developing a routine for each of my days. I wake up between about 5:30am and 6:00am. Mornings take me almost exactly an hour. Unpack my food bag (hung to make sure animals do not get into it during the night), unpack my pack (filled with nonfood items), pack my sleeping bag, eat 600 or so calories, drink 20 oz. of water, brush my teeth, pack my pack. I get on the trail by 7am at the latest.

I stop about 2-3 miles in for a second breakfast (usually either 420 calories of Pop Tarts, or 230 calories of a Clif Bar) and 8-12 oz. of water. About 5-7 miles in I stop for an early lunch. That is usually a bagel broken into pieces and dipped into peanut butter, as well as a granola bar, also broken into pieces and dipped into peanut butter. Finish off my second 20 oz. of water for the day. Refill water and treat it. I also take my boots off, change my bandages, and possibly put on drink socks, if needed.

By about 10-12 miles I have finished off my liter water bottle that I drink while actually hiking. I stop again for a second lunch, usually just a granola bar and some candy (the current favorite being Gummy Bears) or dried fruit. I also finish off the treated 20 oz. of water. The next time I see a water source I refill and treat again. I get into a shelter at about 4-5pm. I get out of my boots, grab my 2 liter water container and my 20 oz water bottle, head to the water source. First I fill both containers and then I usually get into the water to clean off a bit.

I get back to the shelter and empty my pack, dividing up everything into "Need for dinner", "Need for the night" and "Back into the pack for tomorrow". I eat (trying to break about 1500 calories for the meal), I journal a little bit, I socialize with people if there are any in the shelter, read a little before bed, and usually get to bed sometime between 8pm and 9pm.

Dark=Sleep on the AT.

Lather, rinse, and repeat the next day.

Speaking of which, I need to get going. Tomorrow morning will be breakfast at the diner across the street (7am) and then on to the town general store for resupply. Tomorrow should be an easy day - tough mountains, but only 7 miles. I am hoping to get out of town by mid to late morning.

Good night, and I hope things are going well with everyone.
So here I am, sitting for my assigned 15 minutes at a computer in the library in Bar Harbor, Maine. You might note that Bar Harbor is not exactly on the Appalachian Trail, and it is not Boston, either.

What a long, strange trip its been (and it has only been a couple of weeks!).

While hanging out in Monson, Maine, trying to figure out what I was going to do next, I hung out with a couple of older hikers, one of them a physician's assistant. Always good to have as a friend when you are injured and in the middle of nowhere.

They got back on the trail the day I was to head into Bangor on my way to Boston. A couple of hours before my ride was to leave, though, they returned - an incident involving a completely submerged pack (and two very wet hikers) had brought them back to Monson, and had made them to decide to give up the next week on the trail (their flights out of Boston are not until 10 August).

So they had a week to kill and they had means. They asked if I wanted to tag along. Without too mich consideration I agreed to this lunatic trip.

We have ended up, for now, in Acadia National Park. I have scrounged up some clothes (including a $2 t-shirt from K-Mart and some shorts leftover in a laundrymat).

Our plan for the next week is a little unclear, but it will end up with me being dropped back off in Monson to continue along the trail.

Anyway, more when I get a chance. I hope everyone is doing well and I will send out another update before I get back on the trail.
My first update from the trail. Perhaps my last? Hopefully not...

I made it through the "100 Mile Wilderness". I decided to skip summiting
Kahtahdin, the official start of the Appalachian Trail, for logistical
reasons. I hitchhiked from Medway, Maine to Baxter State Park. I took a
trail that intersected the AT. To my right was the mountain. To my left
was Abol Brige, the 100 Mile Wilderness, and about 2100 more miles of
trail to Georgia. I took a left turn.

The 100 Mile Wilderness is the longest stretch of the AT where you do not
have any easy way of getting off the trail to resupply. There are several
logging roads and other means of entrance, but these roads do not get
regular travel on them, so to resupply using them would require

At the entrance to the Wilderness, the ATC has put up a warning sign,
saying it was strenuous and recommended carrying at least ten days worth
of food. Most people said it took about seven days to get through it. I
was carrying about enough food for eight days.

The first day started off in the rain. I did about 15 miles on the AT, and
hiked for a good chunk of it with a guy named Carl. We ended at a full
shelter right as it was getting dark. As I learned, bedtime on the AT is
"dark", if not a little earlier. It gets too dark to see in Maine at about
9pm in July to give you some idea of when people go to sleep. We quickly
set up our tents and made our respective dinners.

The next day Carl wanted to do an ambitious 19 miles. I was not sure I
wanted to go that far, but figured I would go and see what happened. I
was, in the immortal advice of AT hikers everywhere, going to "hike my own
hike." Carl and I got seperated (I was hiking faster than he) and I ended
up going about 17 miles. I put my tent up at an empty shelter that night,
and I enjoyed the quietness.

The next day I decided to take it easy, and picked out a nice shelter ten
miles away. It was a wonderful day. I slept late (getting up at 6:30am
instead of the normal 5:45 most mornings), and I took my time getting to
my destination. I rolled into the shelter, the first person, at about 3pm.
It had just started drizzling. There was a nice set of rapids in the
stream in front of the shlter. I stripped down and got a little washed
off. I got back to the shelter, got dried off, and got all of my stuff
organized. It began to pour. I did some journaling, and then six people
rolled into the shelter just about the same time, all dripping wet. The
shelter was small, and was normally fitted for six people. We all piled in
anyway. I sat there, clean and dry, while everyone else stuggled with et
clothing and cramped conditions. I met Tater and Alice, who I would later
see in Monson. They told me they were planning on hitting the same goal
the next day - Tappan Campground, 19 miles and four mountains later. It
was an ambitious day, but I wanted to get to Monson by Sunday night, since
the BBQ place there was only open Thursday-Sunday evenings.

The mountains really took it out of me. When I was doing research and
talking to people about the AT, they would tell me that one of the more
frustrating parts of the AT is that you can check out a topo map of the
area the AT goes through. Find the tallest pile of rocks, and the AT will
go over it. It is one thing to be told, another to live it out. Walking on
the trail on the side of a large hill? Rest assured you will walk to the
top of the hill eventually.

My reward for cresting a peak quickly became the wild Maine blueberries to
be found there. I would get to a rocky outcropping and instead of looking
around at the view, my eyes would be on the ground, looking for blueberry
plants. After I had a handfull, I would look around.

I finally rolled into Monson, very happy with the trail, but with a very
hurt foot. Alice, who I had originally met several days previously in the
crowded shelter, is a Physician's Assistant. She took a look at my foot
and quickly made the diagnosis - infected blister. Trying to keep your
feet and footwear dry when crossing creeks, streams, rivers, and then
dealing with long days (no time to dry anything) and early-morning dew is
an impossibility.

So here I am in Monson, with my feet taped up, trying to figure out what
to do next. I shuffle around town, consuming enourmous amounts of food (my
appetite has grown tenfold on the trail, as has my liquid intake), and
trying not to go crazy sitting around. I have been here a little over 24
hours. I am staying at a hiker hostel.

Alice believes I need to take at least two weeks off. I really want to get
back on the Trail. I have fallen in love. I want to get back right now. I
want to finish it. Two weeks seems like forever!

Right now I am considering my options, but the most liekly one is to get
the hell out of Monson tomorrow and make my way to Bangor somehow. From
Bangor I can get a Greyhound to Boston and hopefully crash with someone in
the Boston area. From Boston I will evaluate my feet again, and either get
a flight back to Louisville, calling off this attempt, or I will stay in
Boston until my foot clears up and then get back to Maine.

I am frustrated. My first couple of days on the Trail were spent wondering
if I really wanted to go through with it. The next five days were spent
enjoying every minute of it. Now that I have been in town, I love it even
more. The idea that towns will now be every three or four days (at most)
is great!

Frustrating, to say the least.

Anyway, the library limits people to 30 minutes at a time, and I am
already over my limit. Rest assured that I am safe, I have made it through
on of the most difficult parts, and I am eager for more.

And anyone in the Boston area - willing to put up with me for a few days?
It is so strange to be back in Boston. It feels so familiar, and yet so different. I feel like a lot has changed since I was here just two short months ago. A branch of the Silver Line now goes to the airport? What?

I feel like I am a slightly different person than I was when I left here in June.

Tomorrow I get on a bus for Maine.

This is it.
I got a lot of packing and supply shopping done today. About the only things I still need are a hat (try finding a blaze orange, CoolMax hat!) and some more socks for my mail drops. This weekend is falling into place, as well.

Anyway, I am planning on doing a little emailing while I am on the trail, as well as mailing back handwritten journals to my parents to transcribe and get sent out. My parents are not too LiveJournal savvy, so I am going to create an email list for them to simply send to.

If you want to get onto this email list, either reply to this post with an email address, or send an email to me at nowalmart@gmail.com

Edit: Also - I will be picking up envelopes and paper as I go along. Including your snail mail address might result in a letter.
The current plan:
16/17 July 2005: Head back to Louisville, KY
17-24 July 2005: Pack and supply for the AT.
24/25 July 2005: Head to Maine to begin the AT.
Mid-November 2005: Finish the AT in Georgia.
Mid-November - Thanksgiving: Visit friends in Georgia.
Thanksgiving: Return to Louisville.
December - May: Work somewhere, saving lots of money.

From there, currently there are two options.

Option 1: Move to the Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, or Puerto Rico. Get a job to pay the bills and just enjoy life.

Option 2: Do some traveling with friends for the rest of 2006, including possibly (but not limited to) Japan for 10 days in May, and Europe for a month or so in the fall.

I am happy with either option. Option 1 looks like a more realistic plan (strange to be saying that dropping everything and moving to the Virgin Islands is the more "realistic" thing), but Option 2 would be fun, as well. I could always move to the Virgin Islands later.

[Oh, and ignore the "mood" tag. This afternoon I woke up from a nap in an inexplicable bad mood. I have been grumpy since then. This evening did not help, either.]
A few nights ago:

11:49:45PM nowalmart: My Appalachian Trail library is ever growing.
11:50:27PM Su: are you studying the trail like you studied aquariums?
11:50:41PM nowalmart: Of course. Would you expect anything else?
11:50:49PM Su: no

So I have been reading a bit about hiking the AT. A few thoughts so far:

* Going southbound is difficult. Only about 400 people have completed a southbound AT thru-hike. Of course, only about 10-15% of people ever start in Maine and work south. I cannot completely explain my desire to start in Maine, but it is certainly a strong desire. Of course, my current schedule works such that I will be starting in the middle of July, and that somewhat rules out starting in Georgia.

* The money situation is coming along nicely. I still need to do a little more organizing to get rid of all of my stuff, but it is progressing. Budgeting is coming along nicely. By the end of July I will should have more than enough money to do the Trail, and then hopefully some money to get myself settled somewhere else.

* Maine and New Hampshire are the hardest states on the Trail. This explains the low number of people that ever complete a SOBO hike. Starting off in Maine's infamous "100 Mile Wilderness" is quite an introduction to the Trail.

* From Logue & Logue's "The Appalachian Trail Backpacker" - "I started with the intention of finishing," explained Doug Davis. "I think a lot of the quitters only committed themselves to giving it a try. As I went along I would try to imagine finishing (my thru hike). It was hard. I also tried to imagine not finishing. It was impossible."

That sounds about like me. If I do this, I cannot imagine not finishing.

It is actually beginning to settle in that I am going to do this. Up until last week doing the AT was still a possibility, one of a few different options. Now, though, it is the default plan.

The Virgin Islands will come later.
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