**Note: Be proud of me! I resisted the urge to watch the return of The Mindy Project and the newest Survivor episode until I finished this post. That was a big test in self control, but the carrot of the shows as a reward was a great motivator. Can’t wait to watch them tomorrow!

I’ve been answering a lot of the same questions lately as my start date for the Appalachian Trail approaches. I realized that I haven’t given much background on this trail I’m set to spend 4-5 months hiking along. Here are the answers the most asked questions I’ve gotten lately…

How Does The AT Compare to the PCT & CDT?

Thanks to gravitysmith.com for this photo:)

-The Appalachian Trail is arguably the most known trail in the world and
it is vastly different from the other trials (PCT, CDT) I’ve hiked in
the west coast.
-It is 2,185mi from Springer Mtn in northern Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine, which is hundreds of miles shorter than the PCT and CDT.
-It is known as the “green tunnel” because it is mostly forested.
-The highest elevation is at just 6,643ft, but the elevation profile is extremely steep with grueling ups and downs on rocky, rooty, muddy trail.
-It will be very hot, humid, buggy, and rainy.
-Most people don’t even carry maps as the trail is clearly marked with white blazes on the trees.
-There will be A LOT(2,000+) of other hikers on the trail.
-The trail is much less remote with many road crossings and goes directly through towns frequently. 
-Most who hike the AT are first time thru hikers.
-There is an abundance of trail angels, hostels, and trail magic.
-The hiking window is much wider than other trails with many starting in Jan/Feb/March and less of a threat of snow preventing a finish up north.
-On average over the last 10yrs, just 10-30% of hikers who attempt the trail complete it.
-The AT goes through 14 states. Some states for just a day or even a few miles and others states for hundreds of miles.

Doesn’t sound enjoyable, why are you hiking it?
Hahaha, good question! There are many reasons, but the main one is that it feels like the natural progression for me at this point. There is a wonderful build up of momentum and support as I will complete hiking’s Triple Crown if I finish, but that is not the driving force for me. I’m interested in experiencing all types of wilderness trails and I can’t see why I wouldn’t hike on the most known trail of them all. I like challenges and I feel like each long trail I do will challenge me in different ways in which I can learn and grow as a hiker and person.

What will challenge you most on the Appalachian Trial?
hiking is expected to be pretty tough and slow going with lots of ups
and downs, but I think the biggest challenge will definitely be the
PEOPLE! There will be over 2,000 thru hikers and since this trail is so
close to civilization, there is a lot more access for more than just
thru hikers. Those who know me know that I DO NOT function well in a
group. I enjoy overlapping with others one-on-one or small groups when
it happens, but I like to do things on my schedule and with my gut
instincts. When I’m around too many people for extended periods of time,
I tend to get very claustrophobic and downright pissy. I’m
intentionally starting mid week and a couple weeks later than most
starters to hopefully lessen the crowd, but I know I’ll be hiking
through about 2,000 ahead of me as I hike at a faster pace than most. My
friend that started March 18th said he passed 75 people and camped with
50 in one of his first days! I’m not kidding when I say there are lots
of thru hikers, day hikers, weekenders, and section hikers on this
trail. My strategy is to start late and the crowd will have thinned a
bit by the time I catch up as 1/2 drop out in the first half of the
hike. Many already have! I know I’ll have a month or two of working
through the crowd, but it should space out some up north.

What are you looking forward to?
After doing the Continental Divide Trail last year, I can say I’m looking forward to being on a trail that is more developed and signed. Most hikers don’t even carry maps on the AT because the trail is well marked with frequent white blazes on trees. This trail could be done with minimal planning and it’s nice knowing I could show up without having planned anything with my gear and food for the first leg and be fine. It will also be convenient to have towns closer together which means lighter loads of food and more milkshakes and burgers! I am not looking forward to the quantity of people, but I am excited that I don’t know who I may meet each day. It is a social trail and it will be fun to meet a wide range of people. I’m also happy to be hiking with many first time thru hikers. I like experiencing things with people for the first time because it helps me to see it through their eyes and remember how exciting and new it all was for me on my first hike. I think it will help me to appreciate the hike much more.

Will you be sleeping in the shelters?

Two story AT shelter at Gooch Mtn

A unique thing about the AT are the abundance of shelters. These are three walled shelters that sometimes are multi-level and are open to the public on a first come first serve basis. I WILL NOT be using shelters if I can help it. I’m sorry, but the idea of communally sleeping on floors with snoring and stinking hikers while mice run over our faces and Norovirus is passed in the air is just not appealing to me. I am in the minority on this and the shelters are a great safe haven and gathering for most hikers. I may tent nearby shelters as there are usually pit toilets and water sources nearby. I’m hoping my new ZPacks Soloplex tent will give me shelter from the rain and the space I need for a good night of sleep.

How do you plan to hike the AT? Is there a goal?
The main goal is to finish by September 1st as that is the cutoff for each yearly class of triple crowners (PCT, CDT, & AT) and that should be doable. I’d really like to be part of this year’s “class” of triple crowners as I have many friends also accomplishing their triple crown this year. Those that know me know I tend to have some kind of a plan and I like having motivators. If I am energized enough I’d like to finish the AT and still have time to complete Vermont’s Long Trail which overlaps some with the AT before the AT goes into Maine and finishes at the Canadian border. It is the oldest long distance hiking trail in America and would be an additional 175 miles to complete the part that doesn’t overlap with the AT. I think it would be fun to finish the trip at the Canadian border like my other hikes.

I like hiking all day and rising fairly early. The mileage on the AT is much slower as a 20mi day is said to equate to a 25mi day on the other trails I’ve done due to so much elevation change. The ultimate hike would be if I hiked fast enough to complete both trails in time to stop in Chicago over Labor Day weekend when many of my family members will be there for my nephew’s birthday, but I’d have to push for that to happen. I’ll just see how I feel and if I get in a groove to do higher miles. I could have started earlier, but I like the challenge and I like working as much as I can before I leave. I try to strike that balance of work and play.

How do you feel? Excited yet?
Physically, I feel really strong and pumped to start hiking. Emotionally, I think it will hit me next week once I’ve really tied up most of the loose ends. Just the last two days I’ve had brief moments of excitement that wash over me suddenly. I’ve always said that I really enjoy my life here in Portland, so I’m not dying to leave. I’m just happy knowing I have another adventure starting soon.

What are you doing for planning and prep?
Again, a wonderful question!…and one I will be answering soon in my next post, so stay tuned! Two weeks left people!!!

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