Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail: A Second Try ... A New Plan

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Appalachian Trail: A Second Try ... A New Plan

Some of the more observant readers may have noticed the addition (or re-addition actually) of the Appalachian Trail tab next to the Magnets and Camino tabs.  As soon as I decided I would make a second attempt on the Appalachian Trail (AT) I started making a new plan.

The new plan builds on the first with the addition of lessons learned on my first attempt.  I was only on the AT for six day - I walked off the trail on the seventh day - but I learned a lot about weight in that week.  So, this time around, I looked at ways to shave weight off my pack.

My first planning attempts were zero day centric (a zero day is a rest day with zero miles walked).  I thought I would hike, on average, six or seven days and then have a zero day in a town.  The problem with this is that food weighs a lot.  With up to 15.75 lbs (7 kg) of food, along with a few other things I didn't need, I ended up with a 45 lb (20 kg) pack on my first AT attempt.

A more reasonable amount to pack in the bag.
(See here for first attempt packing)
My new plan is resupply centric first and zero day second.  As I planned I looked for easy towns to stop at that had grocery stores/outfitters where I could buy food.  If there wasn't a convenient place I found a convenient post office where I could resupply by mail.  I managed to get the resupply period down to between three and four days.  This means I will be carrying less food - up to 9 lbs (4 kg) less.  Along with the other things I have scratched from my list I reduced the weight of my pack down to 36.3 lbs (16.5 kg).  I was aiming for 35 lbs but ... I was close and it it definitely better than 45 lbs.

What 'other things' did I get rid off you ask?  Things like packing two shirts instead of three.  Do you really need ten Band-Aids when five would suffice?  Extra carabiners?  Do I need a flint and steel if I have a lighter?  Do I need a fancy nylon zipper bag when a Ziplock baggie would be enough?  All these, among many others, are little things individually but, when I cleaned out my pack at Neels Gap last time I sent nearly 6 lbs (2.7 kg) of unneeded stuff home.  Also these are non-consumable mostly so, while food diminishes in weight as you eat it, these items continue to be dead weight.

A slightly more compact setup this time.
(See here for first attempt packing)
Along with reducing my weight by changing the resupply plan, I also shortened my miles for the first month.  Last time I aimed to average 10 miles (16 km) a day for the first three or four weeks.  This time I am keeping the average below 8 miles (13 km).  This will make my start easier but I will have to pay for this ease with harder (i.e. longer) stages later on.

Less weight and shorter initial stages will make the start of my AT more doable for me.  I'm looking forward to being less exhausted at the end of the day allowing me to be more engaged with the other hikers I encounter along the way because it's not the trail but the people you meet along the trail that makes the AT experience.

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