Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
2200 mile hike
Water: At the shelters and
Cons: Loss of income, injuries
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.
on the A.T. near Charles Bunion in the Smokies.
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
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.
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.
food up while doing laundry.
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
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)
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
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