The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,181 miles long. The path is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships,and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do traverse towns and roads, and cross rivers. The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Along the way, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

620 Miles - 6/2

Ryan called Wednesday afternoon from the front porch of the Woods Hole Hostel.  He was icing his ankle down and was in a talkative and spirited mood.  He got in there Tuesday night and was taking the day to rest his ankle and resupply in Pearisburg.   He is currently at 619 Miles.  He said the miles are flying by in Virginia. He’s done 3 20’s in a row and that was on a tweaked ankle.  Lemon, Fish, and Beerburger are at the Hostel as well. 

One of the things we talked about was how he was doing relative to a “purist” hike.  Ryan is committed to no shortcuts or blue blazing.  He’s planning on walking every inch of the trail.  Often when hitching into town hikers will pick up the trail on the other end of town cutting off a few miles here and there.  A purist hiker will return to the trail head where they got off.  Throughout the system there are blue blazed side trails that shortcut bends in the AT or work around the sides of a mountains.  These are often day hiker trails.  Ryan said he is noticing more and more hikers that started with a purist mentality taking advantage of these opportunities to trim a few miles here and there.  So far he has not.  He said the volume of thru hikers is falling fast.  Many came off the trail in Damascus. 

He is very satisfied with his progress and timing.  He’s 8 days ahead of the plan he started with.  He’s also decided that the plan is useless and unnecessary pressure.  Hiking  beyond your comfort level for the day only drains you for successive days. He feels that he has finally reached the point where he can read his body and its limits.   He said that learning when to stop and for how long is the key to success.  He said the AT was an unmovable entity that humbles even the most arrogant.  He’s lost his cockiness and learned to respect the trail. He just can’t seem to say enough about Virginia.  He listed several sections that he was sure he’d return to one day to hike again.  He went on for quite a while about Grayson Highlands. 
He talked a lot about some of the people he has met on the trail.  He noticed that the age group for committed hikers met one of two categories.  They are either mid 20’s or over 65.  They are either post college/pre-career or retired.  He was amazed at the diversity of reasons, occupations, motives, and personalities.  They are either seeking a challenge or running from something.  Those seeking challenge talk freely.  Those running from something say little.  With a single exception, he really hasn’t run into anyone that falls into the nut category.  He said they had run into a woman back in Tennessee that appeared to be off her meds. 
Some of the more interesting characters included an 88 year old oriental gentleman that was section hiking and claimed to be one of the original chemists responsible for the develop of ibuprophin.  His trail name was Cimmaron.  He’s crossed paths with several hikers trying to set trail records.  These folks have a back up team and slack pack up to 35 miles per day.  He met a guy last week who was on his third thru hike.  Ryan said he was a Colorado logger who referred to the trail as adult summer day camp.  He also met a guy doing a trail documentary.  He hiked a few days with an ex-FBI agent.  One noticeable exception has been the lack of any type of authority figure.  He said they have not seen one Ranger or official in any capacity.  He said it felt a bit like the old west. 
The trail has it’s own communication system and society.  He said that information travels quickly up and down the trail.  Anyone trying to do anything off base is pegged quickly.  Food and supplies are much like currency on the trail.  There is a lot of swapping and trading that takes place.  Ryan said that you could almost make the trip from Georgia to Maine and not spend a dime just by living off other hikers.  There are those that attempt just that, they are quickly identified as mooches and dealt with much more cautiously.  With the economy the way it is there are a lot of hikers that are on the trail because they are unemployed and took the opportunity to hike.  There are expenses on the trail in equipment, town stays, food and travel back home once you reach the end.  It’s not free and it usually ends up costing a lot more than people expect.  Running out of money is one of the bigger reasons for coming off the trail. 
He’s talking a lot about New England and Maine.  He’s starting to come across southbound hikers and getting a lot of details about the northern part of the trail.  You can tell his mind has worked it’s way to Maine.   In the coming two weeks he will enter Shenandoah State Park which run a good part of the length of Virginia.  His next mail drop is Daleville, VA.  It’s about 120 miles out.  We probably won’t hear much from him until then.

1 comment:

  1. it is so exciting to read the progress the hikers are making! thanks again Spork, & keep up the good work!