Last fall, I started thinking seriously about hiking the Appalachian Trail. I was ready to continue my long-distance hiking cycling adventures. One major consideration was my wife, Betsy’s, feelings about my being gone for 4.5 months. I was grateful that she gave me the go-ahead to attempt a through-hike of the AT in 2016. Betsy rides nearly every weekend when the weather cooperates. Thus, I proposed that we ride the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route from Seattle, Washington, to somewhere in Maine starting in May 2017. Betsy jumped at that.
Once I had the go-ahead, I began planning for the AT. I re-read David Miller’s readable biography, AWOL on the Appalachian Trail and perused a copy of his 2014 AT Guide that I’d previously bought. I communicated with my friend, Art, whim I met on the Colorado Trail and again on the Pacific Crest Trail, about the 2015 through-hike he and his wife, Lyn, completed. My friend, Dad, shared his wisdom of hiking the first 300 miles of the AT. Main lesson: avoid tripping over tree roots and breaking your ankle.
List most erstwhile AT through hikers (those who intend to hike the entire trail in one go), I opted to start in the south at Springer Mountain, Georgia, in April. Starting at the southern end seemed to make more sense to me than starting at Mount Katahdin in the north in May. The prospect of bothersome black flies and malicious mosquitoes in the late spring and early summer in Maine repelled me.
Most AT north-bounders start in March, some even start in January and February. Even if my schedule permitted, I would still have started relatively late, about April 1. Having hiked other long-distance trails )John Muir Trail (twice), Colorado Trail (twice), and Pacific Crest Trail, I have a reasonable idea of how many miles I can comfortably average each day. For the entire AT, I plan to average 16 miles per day. For the first 240 miles (through Great Smoky Mountain National Park), I’ll be content to average 14 mpd. Once I toughened up, I‘ll up my daily mileage to 16 mpd. From what I’ve read and heard, I can average 20 mpd for the middle 1000 miles of the trail. Then, it’ back to 14 mpd through the White Mountains and parts of Maine. At an average of 16 mpd, I’d finish the trail on September 1. But who knows what will actually happen.
My main goal is to live in the moment while I’m on the trail and to savor the experiences.