Thinking about the Appalachian Trail


A hiker signs the register at the southern ter...

A hiker signs the register at the southern terminus of the AT on Springer Mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know you’re out there.  You are the ones who, like me, read a book that put the hook in you.  For most of you, it was “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson.   For me, it was “Appalachian Hiker II,” by Ed Garvey, which I read in 1984.  That did it for me.  I already had the boots, the backpack, and gear.  I was avidly hiking in places like the Uwharrie National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Linville Gorge, and Shining Rock Wilderness.  The notion of backpacking the A.T. was a logical next step.  I don’t recall a definite moment when I said to myself, “I’m going to do this.”  It just happened.  I shelved Ed Garvey’s book and drove to an outfitter.  I bought the A.T. trail guide for Georgia and took it home.  I have an obsessive love for maps, and unfolding the ones which came with the guidebook were an exhilaration.   They were known as profile maps, and they showed dramatic ups and down along the miles of trail.  I found them inviting, not daunting.  But, I knew the walk would be a laborious journey and not a sprint.  I spent the next year gathering equipment – rain jacket, backpacking stove, gaiters, and a wool sweater.  I wrestled to compile a food list.  By the time I shouldered my pack at Amicalola Falls, Georgia, and began walking, it weighed 55 pounds.  When I weighed it again on a bone-chilling rainy day in September at Pinkham Notch and it was 40 pounds, food and gear included.   You’d be surprised how few comforts you need to do this trek.  It’s not about the amount of gear.  It’s not about the food.  It’s certainly not about ticking off the most miles in the shortest time.  I remember meeting speed hikers doing 30-mile days who failed to see the beauty I saw which they left in their wake.  Their focus was different from mine.  I let them go their way.  “Hike your own hike,” they say.  That is wisdom.  Personally, I feel that the “secret” to walking this trail – if your goal is the entire length, or even some of it – is no secret at all.  It’s one thing – focus.  It’s one thing – perseverance.  It’s one thing – patience.  Most of those who “washed out” during the first 75 miles were not casualties of injury; they failed for lack of mental preparedness and toughness.  This manifested as loneliness, homesickness, depression, using the Trail to run away from problems, disappointment with how many miles hiked in a day, and inability to endure physical pain.  More to come…

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1 Comment

Filed under The Appalachian Trail

One response to “Thinking about the Appalachian Trail

  1. Reblogged this on Write in Front of Me and commented:

    If there’s ONE THING you can do to dramatically increase your chances of a successful A.T. thru-hike, this is it!

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