Spring has arrived! And for those who wish to try their luck at completing the entire Appalachian Trail – the celebrated 2192 mile white blazed Footpath that links Springer Mountain, Georgia with Maine’s Mount Katahdin – Late March/early April is typically the time that most will set out.
Winter has not yet left the Southern Appalachians by any means, but if you are a Northbound AT Hiker (or Nobo in trail lingo, as opposed to Sobo) you must finish your hike by mid-October at the latest. Baxter State Park closes Mount Katahdin to the public usually by late October, and in some seasons earlier than that. Most Thru Hikers will take at least five months to finish, assuming they don’t simply give up the attempt…and none who start can know exactly how long it will take them to reach the other end.
Those who hike the AT should not neglect the side trip of a third of a mile to the Mount Cammerer Fire Tower, which we consider the best view in GSMNP.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy states that one in four thru hikers who start will finish. This sounds like poor odds…but twenty years ago when Brian had vague ideas of doing a thru hike (he never did) he distinctly remembers this number being closer to one in ten. What changed over that time? Well, in nutshell…Lighter gear, more and better trail planning resources (especially online) and better support services and infrastructure along the trail.
None of this means that hiking the trail is actually any easier than it was twenty years ago. It is still a formidable challenge that will require stamina, endurance, tolerance of (at times) wretched conditions, a sense of humor and the ability to without most of what the majority Americans consider essential for a long period of time. In short, most people aren’t up to it, even if they have the interest.
For those that do believe they are up to it, we recommend three great resources…
Whiteblaze.net is not the most pretty or intuitive site but it is AT specific and has a TON of info…it has been helping hikers finish the trail for years.
The Trek is a slicker and very interesting website that caters to the thru hiking community, not only for the AT but also the PCT and CDT. The Trek is the more professional looking site, but is more of a blog than an information repository. We follow the Trek via WordPress.
Finally don’t neglect the thru hikers section of the AT Conservancy…
You might also want to glance at our three-day hike of the Standing Indian Loop, which includes a lengthy section of the AT in very western North Carolina. It’s a great refresher for the trail.
We have no present designs to hike the entire AT, preferring to concentrate on more focused but epic hikes such as the Tour du Mont Blanc. But if we WERE going to do a thousand plus mile thru hike, we would probably do the PCT. We love the AT but the views out west are simply better and more constant.
In fact…you could do “just” the 200 mile John Muir Trail and correctly claim to have done the best part of the PCT.
As preparation for our trip to Patagonia later this year, Sylvia and Brian will likely be hiking at least one section of the AT. The only question is…what section?
STAY TUNED for details!