Welcome to Hiking the Carolinas

Return to the Home Page

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Skill: Advanced 2200 mile hike

Water: At the shelters and other sources

Pros: Lifetime achievement

Cons: Loss of income, injuries

Notes: This is the original "ultimate" hike in the U.S


The Appalachian Trail is a 2200 mile footpath from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Mt. Kathadin, Maine. A group of very dedicated hikers leave Springer in the Spring of every year for a long, interesting and sometimes painful journey to the summit in Baxter State Park, Maine. Along the way friendships are forged and life long memories are created.
There are people from many walks of life as well as many age groups attempting this marathon hike. Most all hike from south to north. Typically the hikers start in March and end in Maine before the New England winter becomes fierce. The oldest to complete the hike was in his 80's, but the average age is in the 20's.

 "Tejas" on the A.T. near Charles Bunion in the Smokies.                                           Tejas.jpg (16665 bytes)

Trail names

There are some customs that are unique to the "Thru Hike". One is the adoption of a trail name. Usually the thru hikers adopt a trail name before the trail leaves Georgia. Many times fellow hikers will assign a trail names. These names may be from physical characteristics, personal habits or beliefs. Another trail custom is "Trail Magic". Trail Magic can occur at any time, and is often referred to as good luck or a good deed by non-hikers. One recent story is of Thru Hikers finding candy placed at a trail head. Another is of hot pizza and cold cokes waiting at a shelter near a road. Probably placed there by a Thru Hiker from another year , returning to create "Trail Magic " for this years crop of hikers.

                                 "Lucky" at a Thru Hikers Hostel getting ready for the trail.         th12.jpg (9929 bytes)

Time off

How are Thru-Hikers able to take 6 months off for this great hike? Some are still living with their parents and don't have many bills. Some such as "Jack-A-Roe and "Passion Flower" are between careers and are taking time off to pursue this dream. It is estimated that expenses for the entire 2200 + miles total 1 dollar per mile. The cost is not great, however, the simple fact of not having any income for half of a year can stop many from pursuing this dream.

                          "Two Step" leaving a low cost hikers hostel in Virginia.th16.jpg (13326 bytes)



The re-supply of food for the thru hikers can sometimes be tricky. Many have food mailed to post offices near  AT trailheads. These "Mail Drops" usually involves another person at a home base to prepare and mail the food. Meals for a thru hiker must be easy to prepare, full of calories, non perishable and lightweight. Favorite foods are peanut butter, Lipton instant noodles, Mac and cheese, canned tuna, bagels and instant potatoes to name a few. 

th11.jpg (9334 bytes) 

"Firelilly" packing food up while doing laundry.


  The trip to town

Because of the lack of shower facilities on the trail, showers are a valued commodity. A trip to town involves a search for a buffet, grocery store and the treasured shower. Many hostels along the way are familiar with this need and offer showers for thru hikers for a small fee. After the needed shower thru hikers often search for a Laundromat.

After sleeping in a tent or a shelter (small cabin) on the trail for many days, a soft bed is also a welcome sight. A stay in a motel is another luxury that a thru hiker may enjoy from time to time. Many luxuries that the average person enjoy every day take on a new meaning during a thru hike. Very few thru hikers refuse a snack or a treat offered to them. They are limited to how much they can carry and appreciate any offer of "Trail Magic"!

  As with "Regular Hikers" hiking styles differ from Thru hiker to Thru Hiker. Some carry bare essentials to minimize their pack weight. Others carry the full compliment of gear that a backpacker would carry. Most will reduce the weight of their pack as the hike progresses into the warm season. Shorts and T-Shirt season is very welcome for Thru-Hikers!


Rich White (Two-Step) 

  th15.jpg (5624 bytes)
Rich White is from Vernon Connecticut and is corresponding with us during his "Thru Hike". He is currently in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail or the "AT" as seasoned hikers call it. He completed the Georgia and North Carolina leg of the hike without any trouble, not even a blister. In a recent conversation with him he spoke of his surprisingly strenuous encounter with the Georgia mountains. Rich said "They're not much different than the mountains back home, in elevation, but they were very difficult to climb". That is a common statement from "Thru Hikers". Some have been known to drop out after the Georgia leg due to the steepness of the 'hills".

"Two Step", like most Thru Hikers, has a philosophical approach to this marathon hike. He believes in the tolerance of other peoples hiking styles. After all, living in shelters and hostels, side by side, with other hikers for many months can make someone very accustomed to other peoples habits. Thru Hiking is very much a social event as well as an individuals achievement.

Two Step is a liberal arts major at the University of Connecticut. He has recently has purchased a small radio to break up the boredom of the long nights in trail shelters. After hearing some horrible news while listening to his radio one night, Rich decided that he didn't want listen to news while Thru Hiking. He told me during a recent conversation that the trail is its own beautiful world and bad news from the outside world is too much of a let down.

His favorite authors are Stephen King and John Grisham and he would like to read the new novel "Cold Mountain". 

  to the page that you came from