Will you hike the Appalachian Trail this year?
When most hikers and backpackers consider hiking the Appalachian Trail, they usually take the “thru-hike” perspective, thinking a legitimate hike must begin in Georgia and end in the state of Maine on Katahdin. This not so, of course. The Appalachian Trail is there to hike as you wish. An overnight
hike or weekend might be ideal for someone just warming up the idea, and should your outing be in the high season spring and summer months, you’ll likely meet thru-hikers you can pepper with questions (don’t say I said to!) about their experiences. This might be the decision point, where you glean enough information to decide whether you want to stretch your legs a bit further. Maybe a week-long trip or two-week walk along the famous footpath comes next. Should time allow, a month-long expedition might be next. The important thing to remember is that you do not need to walk the entire trail end-to-end in one season to spend worthwhile time there.
For example, the journey might be enriched by using the Appalachian Trail as an “axis-trail” for further exploration. Pick one of the famed national parks, like Shenandoah or the Great Smoky Mountains. Plan your trip to include taking time to explore the wonderful side trails (usually blue-blazed) off the high ridge line of the Smokies or rolling Shenandoah National Park slopes. There’s a lot of history and natural wonder to see once you venture from the white blazes of the Appalachian Trail to adventure.
Whatever your backpacking plans for the new year, allow yourself the flexibility to chart your exploration and experience of the Appalachian Trail in a way that fits your abilities, time schedule, and desires. As for the long-haul end-to-end hike? Relax! The Appalachian Trail’s not going anywhere.