Appalachian Trail in the News

Spent a little time google-ing the A.T. today to see if there was any noteworthy news. One was about a man that was found near the trail in Pennsylvania. Why is this noteworthy to me? A HUGE fear of anyone that isn’t hiking the trail, but has family or friends that are is safety. As you can tell by my trailer, friends and family were very fearful that I would be murdered as I was in the middle of the woods alone. In reality, the statistics of that happening were pretty small. That’s why finding out this news is both important and concerning. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost a family member and by the sound of the article he was a hiker. The hiker community is so small, everyone in it is family. The concern I have here is that this news will perpetuate the fear that solo hikers are in danger. The article states that there was no evidence of foul play. To most concerned friends and family, that means nothing. For the most part, on my journey, I felt safer in the woods than I did at road crossings or in towns. Why? Because “normal” society frequented those locations. And “normal” society was unpredictable. Robbery with other thru-hikers was never going to happen because no one wanted to carry extra weight in their pack. Murder or foul play? FORGET IT. Thru-hikers are all about experiencing nature and the other like-minded individuals with all of their personal stories to tell.

I hope that when these stories are in the news, my fabulous followers of Alpine Zone will think positive thoughts for this man’s family and not draw immediate conclusions about the safety of a thru-hike. Believe me, the benefits of my solo thru-hike have greatly outweighed any risk and tough experiences I had along the trail.

If you want to read the article, check it out here

2012 The Gathering

As I continue to go through 200 hours of footage (the normal documentary has around 30 hours after production), I want to draw your attention to The Gathering. An event all Appalachian Trail. From information to presentations. It’s happening this weekend in West Virginia. If you’re in that area, do check it out! Many of my fellow thru-hikers will be attending. Meanwhile, I will dream of trail and trail-life things as I hope to finish reviewing all the footage this weekend. Check out the link for The Gathering here:


As my departure date creeps closer, I find myself being asked a lot of the same questions.  So as not to neglect those that are checking my website (you’re the best), I figured I would answer some of them on here. Enjoy it! (and some of my sarcasm) 😉

Are you bringing a gun?

NO!!!! No one hikes the Appalachian Trail with a gun. Though, I am partial to a .22 rifle.

So, how long are you actually away from civilization?

Besides the 100 mile wilderness, on average, you are a day to three days away from a town where you could resupply. Or so I believe.

Are you afraid?

No, I am completely going into this with the mindset of doing my best (110%) and loving every minute of it.  The only fear about the elements of the trail is the very smart fear (in my humble opinion) of lyme disease.  Due to the warmer weather, the ticks are everywhere and this is supposed to be a bad year for it.

What are you going to eat?

Mostly carbs. Dehydrated food. I have been making little prepared meals full of couscous and dried vegetables. I am REALLY looking forward to the farm stands that I know of at certain points on the trail. There is nothing like fresh and raw fruits and vegetables!

What happens if you fall off a cliff or a bear attacks you?

In the history of the trail, no one thru-hiking has fallen off a cliff and died or been attacked by a bear.  Day hikers have befallen tough situations, but as of now (knock on wood) it has not happened to any thru-hikers.  Yes, there will be bears. No, I will not be hanging off cliffs…..unless I want to capture a gorgeous image…

…the big dangers are injury, illness and my own mental capacity to stick with it!

How About Some Reading?

“We live in an accelerated culture, a world of jump cuts rather than long takes, montage rather than mise en scene.” – Robert Alden Rubin

For some reason, nearly every time I tell someone I am planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail they say, “Have you read A Walk in the Woods?” Oh, you mean the book about an unsuccessful thru-hike attempt? Yeah, I’ve read it, but, I’ve read better trail books.

For instance, my favorite at this time (granted someone I know just came out with a new book and based on their blog, I think I can anticipate the book being well written and entertaining – here’s to you GoodBadger!) is On the Beaten Path: An Appalachian Pilgrimage.  Written by Robert Alden Rubin, the book really delves into a man who seems to have hit a mid-life crisis and decides to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

While Rubin only completes 2,160 miles of the trail, his writing seems more genuine in regards to his experience. He also has this underlying tone of respect for the trail and what it stands for. Besides being a kind of journal of his experience, he offers information about portions of the trail that you could find in some of the best guidebooks.

Another great book with more logistical details, is How To Hike the A.T.: The Nity-Gritty Details of a Long-Distance Trek.  When I first decided to hike the trail, I picked up this book and read quickly from start to finish. It covers a brief history of the trail, physical conditioning, mail drops, weather, culture, pretty much anything you need to know about what you might be embarking on. It even offers a handy section on trail terminology. Such as, did you know what a nero is? Or how about Springer Fever? This is a very comprehensive book that should be read if you want more information on the trail, or plan on hiking a portion, if not all of it.

All my research has pretty much been completed at this point, and the prep for my trip still continues (dehydrating, packing, buying gear). I cannot wait to leave in less than a month and share this experience with you! Feel free to do a little reading before I go, and while I am gone so some of the terminology won’t take you by surprise 🙂


What is a Cairn?

This folks, is a Cairn. What is a cairn? Well it is a mound of rough stones built as a landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline. These are used to mark the way along the trail so that when bad weather sets in, hikers can still find their way to a shelter. This particular one is rather large and is located on Mt. Washington in the White Mountain National Forest.

Appalachian Trail Facts: Part Two

More Appalachian Trail facts to wet your appetite with 😉

So, you’re going North, that’ll mean you won’t see snow, right?

Well a lot of that depends on Mother Nature ( and lately she has been making odd decisions ), snow and ice storms linger through April at higher elevations in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Are you going to sleep outdoors, all the time?

Most of the time, yes.  There are shelters along the trail, or lean-to’s.  The rule is first come, first serve.  So, worst case scenario, you move on to the next shelter, if it is close enough, or you use your tent.  In towns, there are a great deal of hostels set up specifically for thru-hikers.  These are wonderful things because it gives a hiker an opportunity to shower.

How much will your pack weigh?

Ideally, a pack should weigh no more than 35 pounds.  Less weight equals a faster pace.

Where is the halfway point?

Harper’s Ferry is known as the “psychological” halfway point and it is where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s headquarters is located.  The actual halfway point is located in Pennsylvania.

How do you resupply?

Resupplying is mostly done through what is known as a mail drop.  Usually, when planning the hike you pre-package supplies and have them sent down to the post offices in the town’s you will be walking through.  This eliminates the need to carry cash.

So, everyday, that’s all you do, walk?!

Why, YES!  Well, for the most part.  Hiking the trail becomes your job.  You wake up everyday and walk, the reality is, though hiking the Appalachian Trail is an enlightening experience, it isn’t a vacation.  Unless you consider making your body exercise for 8-12 hours a day as a vacation. ( Most people don’t)  The goal is to hike an average of 12 miles a day.  Though sometimes, you need a break and have what is known as a zero miler day.  All sorts of things can come up, bad weather, a swollen knee, or just the need to take a day off and stay in a trail town for an extra bit of time.  But, for the majority of those 6 months, you walk. Everyday.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about the Appalachian Trail.  Obviously, I will be learning more as I undertake this challenge and I look forward to sharing the experience with you.

Appalachian Trail Facts: Part One

Hey Folks,

I am going to give a little information about this 2,180 mile trail I will be walking starting in March of 2012.  Please enjoy the Q&A type format 🙂

How did the Appalachian Trail come about?

Well, there is a long history in regards to the building of the trail and its inception, but the “birth” of the trail occurred in October 1921 in an article entitled An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.

What is a 2,000 miler?

A 2,000 miler is a hiker that completes the Appalachian Trail in one trip.  This is also called a thru-hike.  Yes, it is spelled correctly!

Who was the first 2,000 miler?

In 1936 Myron Avery became the first 2,000 miler.  However, in 1948 Earl Shaffer became the first person to actually report a thru-hike.

How many people actually finish each year?

As of 2006, 29% of the thousands that attempt it actually complete a thru-hike.  25% of the 29% are women.

What kind of animals will be found along the trail?

The most common animal found along the trail are White-Tailed Deer.  Other animals hikers might be lucky enough to see are Beavers, Moose, Feral Ponies and Porcupines.

Wait a minute, What about Bears?

Black Bears are native to the Appalachian Mountains.  They are most commonly found in the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park.  There are many things to do to stave off these omnivore’s.  One thing is to hang a bear bag at night with all your food, this way your food is protected and it isn’t smelling up your tent, where you are sleeping and vulnerable.  However, according to most thru-hikers of the past and the wonderful Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, the most common problem with Black Bears is that no one ever sees one as often as they would like to.

How many states does the trail pass through?

The trail passes through a total of 14 states, from Georgia to Maine. Or Maine to Georgia if you are traveling south 🙂

How is the trail marked?

The trail is marked by what are called a white blaze.  There is also some signage along the trail, indicating distances to the next shelter, town, or even the northern or southern terminus.

Does your direction matter?

Not really, some people choose to travel from Georgia to Maine and are called Northbounders or NoBo, or also GAMEr (Georgia to Maine).  Those going south are called Southbounders, which usually, less people do.  The differences lie in one’s start and finish date. NoBo’s need to start in either March or April to make it to Baxter State Park in Maine before it closes in October.  Southbounders tend to start later because they are contending with snow if they start any earlier than May.

What are the potential hazards?

Blisters, chafing, stress fractures, gastrointestinal illness, dehydration, heat stroke, sunburn, hypothermia, frostbite, allergies and poison ivy, insect bites and Lyme disease, mice, snakes and bears.

Well, that is it for today!  If there are specific questions you want answered, leave a comment and I will make sure to address it in Part Two.