Tag Archives: thru hiking

Thinking About Thru Hiking? Here Is A Book You Must Read

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“Obstacles are put in your way to see if what you want is really worth fighting for.”

-Anonymous

“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”

-Frank A. Clark

When people start thinking about thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, it is mostly a romantic notion. As you sit on your couch reading book after book and watching the vlogs of thru hikers on YouTube, it doesn’t look that bad. You’re on your own. No work and no job. It’s just you and the trail hiking every day. Right? Not so fast.

I just finished reading Appalachian Trials: The Psychological and Emotional Guide to Successfully Thru-Hiking The Appalachian Trail by Zach Davis. A hiker and backpacker himself, the author thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2011, finishing in five months.

I learned very quickly in Marine Corps basic training that the physical part of the training was going to be the easy part. At 18 years old, I had thought that would be the case. It was the mental aspect of what I was doing that, at times, almost spelled doom for me. But I toughed it out.

Zach Davis pretty much makes the same claim. Getting your “trail legs” and being able to hike 15-20 miles becomes manageable as you make your way to Mt. Katahdin. Unfortunately, the stress of the trail, home, and life in general present obstacles that sometimes become too much for people and they get off of the trail.

Zach identfies these issues and addresses them head on. There is no mamby pampy nonsense here. He tells it like it is and by doing this he hopefully will prevent thru hikers from falling prey to quitting because they listen to much to the negative thoughts flowing through their mind.

I took the following from Amazon:

In Appalachian Trials readers will learn:
• Effective goal setting techniques that will assure you reach Mt. Katahdin
• The common early stage pitfalls and how to avoid them
• How to beat “the Virginia Blues”
• The importance of and meaning behind “hiking your own hike”
• 5 strategies for unwavering mental endurance
• The most common mistake made in the final stretch of the trail
• The top method for staving off stress 
• Tips for enjoying rather than enduring each of the five million steps along the journey

Anyone even remotely thinking about thru hiking the AT should read this book at least once. I know that if I find myself ever getting complacent in my thoughts about the AT, I will re-read this book to get myself grounded and back to reality.

Happy Hiking!!!

Shakedown #1-Ramapo-Dunderberg

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A while back I made a decision that when I retired I would hike the Appalachian Trail. Even though it is almost two years away, I am glad that I have that time to plan for this six month adventure. As I have watched videos of thru hikers, I have come to one conclusion. You have to know what gear you need/want and you have to know whether it works for you or against you.

On Wednesday of next week I will be heading out to Harriman State Park with two friends to backpack the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. Running a little over 21 miles, the trail begins at the Tuxedo RR station and ends on route 9W on the opposite side of the park.

I am considering this my first shakedown hike in preparation for the AT. A shakedown hike is described by Brian Lewis as a “…longish backpacking trip where you try out your gear and associated process to find out if there are things you can improve (in either) before your thru-hike. And hopefully it will also confirm that hiking somewhat longer distances is something you really want to do.” My first shakedown will be three days and two nights.

Will I like the gear that I have? Will I want to do another trip, maybe longer before I make any final decisions? I don’t know. Only time will tell!

Over the next few days I am going to post some of the new gear that I have as well as the tried and true that I am pretty sure I will use on the AT.

Please feel free to leave your comments!

Happy Hiking!!!

Please read more about shakedown hikes here:

https://thetrek.co/why-shakedown-hikes-important-new-backpackers/

https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/shakedown-hike-gear-review/

https://sectionhiker.com/shakedown-hikes-arent-just-for-backpacking-beginners/

Camera Or No Camera?

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Thru hiking the AT has been a bucket list item for me since before I even began thinking about a bucket list. In an effort to be as prepared as I possibly can for a thru hike, I want to use this blog as a way to ask questions and get opinions/advice on whether my thought process is sound. More importantly, it will allow me to continue blogging about what I love to do.

Even though I have read many, many books and articles and watched hundreds of videos about the AT, I feel almost a sense of urgency now to continue to not only keep doing the same, but to also further refine my reading to researching about how to thru hike the AT. I know that sounds odd, but there is so much information out there about every aspect of hiking, that I want time to be able to sift through it all make informed decisions. Or….I might like something from start and go with it!!

One of my first questions/concerns has to do with pack weight. I understand lighter is better, but since this could be a once in a life time adventure,  should I bring my DSLR camera with me? Is the 2-3 pounds of extra weight and the lost space worth it? I am saying yes for a couple of reasons. The first is pretty simple. I know this camera. I know the limitations and what can be done with it and at this point it is pretty much an extension of me whenever I am out hiking.

The second is much simpler. I want to be able to document this endeavor in the best possible way for my family and whoever might want to look at the pictures and follow the blog.

So what do you think? Go with what I like and know or am I missing something??

Any sane ideas will be considered. Insane ones receive priority consideration.

Why The AT? Then Again, Why Not?

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“To travel, to experience and learn: that is to live.” –Tenzing Norgay

In a little under two years I will be eligible to retire from my job as a special educator. In NYS, teachers can retire at the age of 55 if they have 30 years in the system. Directly after high school I spent four years in the Marine Corps, then went to school and worked other jobs for  several years before teaching.

So what does this mean? It means that my time in education is near an end. So what next?

As I mentioned in my previous post, my first goal in retirement is to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. As a matter of course, the first question that everyone always asks anyone with a similar goal is “Why?”

With that said, let’s get the “why” out of the way.

My first adult real life challenge came in October 1983 when I reported to Parris Island, SC for basic training with the USMC. Without a doubt, this was the most difficult thing that I had done in my life, both physically and mentally. To describe it as three months of pure hell would be an understatement!

After being discharged I began hiking more than I ever had and used this as my primary form of exercise during the months that were suitable for hitting the trail. The rest of the year was spent riding a stationary bike in an attempt to try to get and stay in shape. This remains true to this day.

So, when you look at my love of hiking and put that together with a lifelong desire to accomplish difficult tasks, a thru hike almost seems inevitable. Why not?

More on this as I continue my research of the AT and engage in some more self reflection.

Numbers Don’t Lie On The AT

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Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” –Robert F. Kennedy

“No Pain, No Rain, no Maine” – Common Appalachian Trail saying

Since the inception of our great nation, the Appalachian Trail has existed and snaked its way from Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Almost 2,200 miles of grueling mountains and rock covered trails that punish the body as well as the mind. Every year, thousands of people start the pilgrimage north (and some south) to see if they have what it takes,  both mentally and physically, to thru hike the distance.

The statistics for potential thru hikers are sobering. In 2016, 3,377 people started a thru hike of the AT. Compare that to 2010 when only 1,460 hikers began in an attempt to join the ranks of successful thru hikers. With that said, only 685 actually completed the trail in 2016. That represents just a little over a 20% completion rate. You would think that with all of the information out there, the number of folks completing a successful thru hike would be higher.

So then why do so many hikers not finish the thru hike they begin? I suppose that many times you have physical injuries which can be brought on by many factors. Accidents, poor preparation and the constant feeling of  being uncomfortable for long periods of time that some people find to be not worth it. The mental aspect, unseen and mostly unheard, can end a thru hike as quickly as a broken ankle. That nagging voice that is in your head  constantly telling you, “Just quit. The pain, being wet and miserable can all be over.”

My thoughts are this-I am firm believer that if you are properly prepared to thru hike the AT, then the odds of you completing it go up rather than down. To me, this means you need to be realistic during the prep period. Realistic about living outdoors for six months, realistic about the weather, realistic about not being around your family and realistic about your own physical condition, age and medical issues.

So why this post? Why am I researching the failure rate of AT thru hikers? It is my hope and my intention that shortly after my retirement in 2-3 years time I will undertake a thru hike. Northbound from Springer to Katahdin. 5,000,000 (or so) steps.

Let the preparations begin!