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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Posted: February 6, 2018

Hiking the Appalachian Trail: One Mainer’s account of the long journey from Georgia to Maine (part 1)

Written by: Carey Kish

Do you dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, of slipping away from civilization for a while, paring down to only the simple essentials that can be carried in a backpack, and taking on a challenge that is bigger than yourself? It takes about five million steps to hike the AT from end to end, and the real first steps – to decide to do it and then make a solid plan, are perhaps the most difficult.

The Appalachian Trail isn’t the longest footpath in the world, but it is arguably the most famous and certainly the most traveled. The complete 2,189-mile trek is the ultimate backpacking adventure and the hike of a lifetime for many hikers. Several thousand people attempt the trail every year, but only a fraction who start actually finish.

In 2015, this hiker walked the entire AT – for the second time, the first in 1977 – from Springer Mtn. in Georgia to the summit of Katahdin in Maine, taking 189 glorious days to go the distance. From mid-March to early October, I wrote a series of columns for the Maine Sunday Telegram chronicling the long journey, and I have compiled those accounts into a four-part series.

Part 1 presented here covers some of the pre-trip planning and musings, then the actual hiking through Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee and into southern Virginia. I hope you enjoy this armchair adventure and find inspiration through my footsteps enough to maybe tackle the big hike yourself one day. Click on the highlighted links to read each piece. Enjoy!

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After 38 years, a second Appalachian Trail thru-hike. The trail from Georgia to Maine requires about five million steps to cover the grueling 2,189-mile distance through 14 states. The journey will take six months to complete.

This hiker is gearing up to tackle the entire Appalachian Trail, a journey of some 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia to the lofty summit of Katahdin in Baxter State Park deep in Maine’s North Woods. This will be my second end-to-end or “thru-hike” of the trail; the first was in 1977, right out of Bangor High School at age 18. Carey Kish photo.

 

Take Appalachian Trail a step at a time. Good planning makes a major hike like this manageable.

Planning and preparation for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike takes time and effort, but it’s a very manageable task if you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the thought of six months and 2,200 miles of hiking. A big undertaking like this is best taken one step at a time, before and during the journey. Carey Kish photo.

 

Georgia, Georgia, many whole days through… to Carolina. It’s a long, long way to Maine, but it’s worth it.

The 76 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia trace a northeasterly route through the Chattahoochee National Forest, 800,000 acres of jumbled mountain terrain that ranges across the northern part of the state from the Tennessee and North Carolina borders east to South Carolina. Carey Kish photo.

 

Wonderful sights in the Land of the Noonday Sun. The southern Appalachian summits feature a thick vegetation of native grasses and shrubs, and these “balds” reward hikers outstanding panoramic views.

Fellow AT thru-hiker Dave Simcovitz hikes to the summit of Siler Bald in North Carolina. Why some southern balds are treeless up top like this while others are forested remains a mystery, but this hiker certainly appreciated the fine views from the open summits. Carey Kish photo.

 

Entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Our thru-hiker enjoys an Easter feast at the start of the famous mountain range, with features elevations of 5-6,000 feet.

I walked into Fontana Lodge forgetting entirely that it was Easter Sunday. My room wasn’t yet ready, so a hiker friend and I were directed to the dining room, where the only menu available was a lavish Easter buffet. And there we sat, dirty and smelly amongst the well-dressed holiday diners, polishing off as only ravenous thru-hikers can, six plates each of ham, turkey, roast beef and all the fixings, plus salad and desserts. Carey Kish photo.

 

Making some unexpected friends in North Carolina. Having the trail name “Beerman” has its distinct advantages.

Upon check-in at Mountain Harbour B&B in Roan Mountain, Tennessee, I was presented with a surprise package and trail magic of the finest kind, a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Apparently I’d made quite an impression on some of the nighttime visitors a ways back at Rich Mountain fire tower, who’d arranged to have the beer delivered to me at one of my planned stops ahead. Having the trail name “Beerman” has its perks. Carey Kish photo.

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You can also follow my day-to-day progress on the AT through my blog, starting here: Six-Moon Journey: A 2,200-mile adventure on the Appalachian Trail.

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