Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail - First Draft

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Appalachian Trail - First Draft

Warning:  This post has lots of numbers.  I'm a retired engineer.  That's what I do.

Last weekend I finished the first draft of my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike.  I have one criteria really.  I want to do it in no more than 182 days (26 weeks ... 6 months).

I started by using the length of the AT listed in the A.T. Guide - 2,194.7 miles (2185.9 plus the 8.8 miles from the Amicalola Falls State Park to the official start on Springer Mountain) - and broke it down into one week stages which assumed six days of hiking/camping and one full day (two nights) of rest in towns.  This tells me that I will have to walk, on average, 14.1 miles per day.  This seems doable to me.  On my two Caminos I averaged 14.27 and 14.66 miles per day.

I start out slow, doing stages in the ten mile range for the first two weeks.  I slowly start to increase the milage first to twelve then to fifteen and ultimately 17 miles per day.  Around the day seventy my average daily distance reaches my goal.  Since I should be in better physical condition by then, I continue to lengthen my distance and, ultimately, I will have an overall average distance around 14.8 miles per day.  Since I will be walking farther per day than my original requirement, I will finish the hike in 173 days.  So, this means I will have nine days to play with if necessary.

The longest stage is 21.5 miles (slight higher than my 21.4 miles personal best).  This long day is near the end of the hike so I hope I'm in good physical condition by then.  The shortest is 5.8 miles on a day I walk into town for a rest day.

The hardest part of this plan was figuring out where to stop for rest days.  I was hoping to have a rest day every seven days but it didn't work out that way.  The average stage length (hiking + rest  days) will be 6.95 which is pretty close but the stages range from a minimum of three hiking days to a maximum of nine hiking days.  Not very consistent.  This is especially true on the northern half of the AT.

As I chose places to stop for each night I tried also to have a secondary, backup, location.  Again, in the northern half this was nearly impossible as the shelters were far apart and there were few marked campsites in between the shelters.  This is a situation when you just walk off the trail and find a place to put up your tent for the night, rules and laws be damned.

This plan will change quite a bit over the next year for sure.  It will not even resemble what I actually do on the AT ... though the lack of camping and resupply options in the northern half may keep me on plan.  Resupply will be very interesting and will need a lot of flexibility.  Camping outfitters are rare so what is available at the local grocery store may be my only choice on some stages.  Food and supply will be, by far, the hardest thing to prepare for.  A few stops will require a supply by mail.

I will be adding a tab at the top of the blog linking to my Appalachian Trail Stages once I give it a little polish.  I will keep you all posted as I add to my AT preparations.

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