Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Appalachian Trail Planning Starts ... Finally

Last weekend I finally got some of my act slightly together, or at least in the same vicinity, and started planning my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike.  I should have started this in August but I've been putting it off over and over again.  I think it's subconscious anxiety.

Anyway, I started by pulling out the 2013 northbound edition of "The A.T. Guide".  This was a gift given to me by Gv soon after my second Camino.  The book gives a detailed description of shelter/hut/campsite locations along the AT as well as towns and what services are available.  It shows distances and elevations.  It notes locations of water sources and scenic vistas.  It is a very handy guide to planning your AT hike.

The first thing I started to do is plan out the hiking stages.  My intention is to walk six or seven days then take two nights off, preferably in a town, to rest, recuperate, and resupply.  I put together a spreadsheet - because that is what I do - and started to measure out the stages.  The hardest thing to do here is to figure out how far I will walk each day.  I decided to start out slow and walk around ten miles a day for the first week or two.  After that I upped the distance to twelve miles and upward so after a month I will be doing fifteen to sixteen miles a day.

Next I looked at where to stop for rest and resupply.  This is where I ran into some issues.  Early on it was no problem.  Around six, seven, or eight days in I would hit a town with hotels and hiking outfitters.  Farther north, though, things got more difficult.  Towns were getting smaller.  Outfitters getting harder to find.  For example, one stretch between days forty-two and fifty there was nothing but tiny little towns.  I finally decided to do eight days of hiking/camping (i.e. a very heavy pack full of food) until I arrived to a place called "Trent's Grocery".  You could camp here and there would be some food available in the nearby towns of Bland and Bastian, VA.  Unfortunately these towns are small and resupply appears problematic so ... this will probably be a place to have supplies (i.e. camp food) mailed to me.  Not an ideal situation but it will keep me going.

The longest section between towns (so far) is nine days but there is a town where I can resupply half way in so it won't be so bad.  In all, most of the stages are around 7 days of hiking followed by 2 days of rest.  Not what I originally planned but the terrain and the spacing of towns dictate where I stop and where I don't.  It all gives me a headache.

By Sunday I'd planned out to day 78.  At that point I needed a break.  I will continue later this week and add another month or two of stops.

Now I know a few of you are rolling your eyes.  Is he really planning out this hike to the day?  Yes I am.  You have to.  I know very well that any planned stages will be out the window after the first week or two.  There are too many thing that can go right and wrong along the trail to mess up with your shiney schedules and plans.  But the plans are necessary.  I need to know roughly when and where I'll be so that I can plan supply mail drops.  I will have to have summer clothes mailed to me and I will have to send cold weather gear back home.  For me to do this I need to know where I'll be and when I will be there.  You can't really play the AT by ear - I wish you could.

So it is started ... finally.  I will keep you all posted on how it's going.


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