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 2 presented here covers the long hike through Virginia (some 550 miles or 1/4 of the entire AT), West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the trail’s halfway point, and on to New Jersey. 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!
Virginia is home to 550 miles or roughly one-quarter of the entire Appalachian Trail and takes a month or more to complete. The state’s famed “triple crown” of scenic mountain vistas is found in a single 35-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail west of Roanoke near Catawba, and includes Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob.
Rain dampens gear and spirit, just briefly. The Georgia-to-Maine trek provides freedom and opportunity for reflection.
Landmarks are reminders of the Civil War. After the long pull through Virginia, Harpers Ferry in West Virginia represents the psychological midpoint for thru-hikers. Then its on to Maryland.
These boots ain’t made for Pennsylvania. The endless rocks of the Keystone State are known for tearing up boots – and sometimes hikers. Then there are those really bad motels…
Heading toward New England, one step at a time. With New Jersey done and New York almost, suddenly the home stretch is within reach.
You can also follow my day-to-day progress on the AT through my blog, picking up here in southern Virginia: Six-Moon Journey: Some days I feel like a beast of burden.