Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Appalachian Trail 2016: Introduction

The Appalachian Trail is a 2190 mile hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in Gerogia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  The trail goes through 2 national parks (Great Smokey Mountains and Shenandoah) and 14 states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).  It is one of the most popular hiking trails in the world (both for day hikes and backpacking trips) and draws in visitors from all over the world.

In winter 2013, I attempted to hike the Appalachian Trail.  My journey ended prematurely after I injured my knee and I was left feeling very disappointed and empty.  Deep down I knew that it wouldn't be my only chance to hike the trail, and in 2015 things started to fall into place for me to take a significant amount of time off work.  I ended up being granted a 1 year leave of absence to travel, and I knew I would have another shot at my dream.

For my second attempt of the trail, I've decided to do a lot of things differently.  The biggest change I've made is my start date.  In 2013 I started in the winter, doing an early thru-hike.  That meant dealing with the cold, having things freeze, trudging through snow, and having to carry a lot of extra gear.  This time I am leaving at the end of April, doing a late thru-hike.  My goal is to avoid the cold and make the most of the warm months.  I'll have to hike at a faster pace, but I won't be carrying as much, so it should be manageable.  I've also changed a lot of my gear.  Instead of taking my 80 liter backpack, I will be taking a 50 liter one.  Right away that forces me to take only the bare essentials, dramatically lightening my load.  I'm going to be taking the Big Agnes tent I bought in Neels Gap, a much smaller and more compact tent than the MEC one I started with last time.  As I am not hiking in the winter, I can take my 0 degree summer bag, rather than my bulky -12 degree winter bag.  I'm taking a lot less clothing too, and the clothing I'm taking is lighter overall.

I am optimistic about the hike that is ahead of me, and am looking forward to the experiences it will bring.  I obviously don't know exactly how my hike will go, but I believe I have increased my odds of success.

I will update this blog as often as I can.  Unlike last time, I should have photos in my updates.

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