I’m Going to Hike the Appalachian Trail in 2019

My awareness of the Appalachian Trail first came about in my early twenties, after reading Bill Bryson’s book, A Walk in the Woods (cliche, I know). In true ‘me’ fashion, I quickly became obsessed with the idea, but university and other adventures were to come first, and I pushed the fantasy to the back of a lengthy queue, where it quietly faded from consciousness for a little while.

Years; in fact, went by, and it wasn’t until I returned from two years in Australia, that thoughts of the trail began to stir once more in my head; like a bear waking up from a long, dark winter’s slumber, driven by foggy memories and undeniable instinct.

And so once more, I delved deep into the world of the trail. I followed countless hiker’s journeys across social media, re-read Bryson’s book and immersed myself and others in hypothetical conversations, until in 2018, something finally went pop in my head and I found myself scheduling my visa interview down in London.

What is the Appalachian Trail?

Before I lose you in a whirlpool of hiker lingo, I should probably explain a few things: The Appalachian Trail is a marked public hiking trail stretching approximately 2,190 miles across 14 of the Eastern United States of America (the distance can vary from year to year, depending on trail modifications and rerouting). Extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, it takes anywhere from 4 to 7 months to hike.

How I plan to hike the AT

Now, organising a hike of such magnitude takes a great deal of research and planning, and contrary to Bryson’s book title, this will not just be a walk in the woods.

Like many others, I plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail NOBO. In other words, I want to walk continuously north-bound, beginning my journey in Georgia and finishing in Maine. Some hikers choose to begin in Maine and hike SOBO (south-bound), whereas others ‘flip-flop’ and hike a section and then loop back to hike the remainder.

Whatever the method, as long as you hike the entire trail within 12 months or less, you are considered a thru-hiker. It’s worth noting that only one in four thru-hikers actually successfully finish their hike *silently poops pants*.

Being a foreigner is sure to pose a couple of extra hurdles along the way. Some of which I’ve already thrown myself over head first; like going through the rigmarole of obtaining a B-2 visa, for instance.

Why I want to hike the Appalachian Trail

So I guess I should talk about why I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. The majority of people I know have been very supportive in my decision, but can’t really comprehend my motives and desire.

I don’t really have a simple answer. The longest hiking trip I have done thus far was the Three Capes Track in Tasmania, but even then there was a pretty swanky log cabin and attractive park ranger to welcome us at the end of every day.

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The challenge is so appealing to me. I know how difficult I’m going to find certain aspects both mentally and physically; the discomfort, the inconveniences, the bugs! Without a shadow of a doubt, it will be the biggest personal challenge I have ever faced.

I hope to find a little piece of me on the trail that I never knew existed. I want to feel comfort in discomfort. I want to simplify my life and feel gratitude in a way I’ve never felt before.

I also hope to meet some fascinating characters and experience a new environment; from its trees and peaks, to the wildlife that calls it home.

What I fear most

Of course I’m scared of what the trail will throw at me; hungry bears, angry rattlesnakes, ticks riddled with Lyme disease, injury, severe weather, gear failure; my body and mind failing me.

Uprooting my life also gives me mild anxiety; yet not enough to extinguish the need to hike for 6 months in a foreign land. I believe I will adapt, but I’m not an experienced camper by any stretch of the imagination.

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Another worry I have is food. Being unacquainted with American food (having never visited) and the supermarkets available along the trail, I’m unsure of how easy it will be to follow a substantial vegan diet.

As a foreigner, I am unable to send myself re-supply boxes containing specialised foods, like a lot of hikers do. This means I will be relying completely on the food available in the towns along the trail.

Preparations

The very first step after making the decision to hike the trail was to obtain a B-2 visa, which I will talk about in detail in my next blog post.

I’ve also began the lengthy and pricey task of buying my gear, which takes a lot of research. My aim is to have the majority of my gear by late September, so I can test it out on my two week camping trip around Iceland.

It’s super important to test your gear before you embark on an adventure that relies so heavily on the equipment you plan to carry on your back. I can then adjust accordingly; or in hiker terms, ‘dial’ it down. It’s much better to spot weaknesses and add or remove items now, than in the middle of the AT’s vast green tunnel, miles from civilisation.

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Later in the year I will pin down a start date, book flights and accommodation and organise travel insurance.

It’s then just a case of saving as much money as possible and hiking with a full pack as often as I can, until next year rolls around and I set about on an adventure of a lifetime!

Have you hiked the Appalachian Trail or are looking to do so in the future? I’d love to hear from you with any advice or questions, and stay tuned for more about my adventures! 

23 Comments Add yours

  1. mardi says:

    Go for it! I’ll be following your blog posts with interest.

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      1. mardi says:

        Take some inspiration from Greg – https://www.instagram.com/gregmccahon/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Followed 🙂 Really appreciate it!

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      3. paonthetrail says:

        Sounds like you are doing all the right things. If your leaving in March plan on some very cold days and nights the first 300 or so miles. I am starting from the middle of Virginia early April heading North and then finishing Southbound.

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      4. Thank you! That sounds like a very smart idea indeed, I’ve never been to America so I genuinely have very little idea of what to expect climate wise! I’m doing some training in Iceland this September so hoping that will toughen me up a touch!?

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  2. You can cross hungry bears off your list! 🙂 They aren’t hungry for humans and as long as you properly hang your bear bag, they won’t bother you. Good luck! You can plan on lots of rain, chilly in the morning, hotter during the day until you reach July/August and then it will be just hot. Humid. Good luck!!!

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    1. Thank you Jennifer! That’s very good to know! How hot does it get on the trail? Being fair skinned and English I may take a while to adjust!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It varies year to year. This year we have had a ton of rain (I live about 20 mins from a portion of the AT). Like sometimes 4-5 days straight of rain. So the heat hasn’t been unbearable. However, other years it can reach 95-100 degrees. Being in the woods and in elevation helps of course. And taking dips in water. I think preparing to be uncomfortable can help a lot. Also, you may want to read blogs from those hiking it this year to see how they’ve handled the rain. I have only hiked portions of the trail, myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jamie says:

    Best of luck on the trail! I’ve been section hiking the AT for the last five years and it’s one of my most favorite places to be.

    I’ve debated a through hike, but it doesn’t bode well for my hiking style. I’ve earned my trail name, Mosey, because that’s exactly how I hike it.

    I often stop to bird watch, or to read for a while at a spot with a particularly beautiful view, or soak my feet in a river.

    If I were to offer one bit of advice, it would be to avoid Vermont during mud season. They actually call it the fifth season and they aren’t kidding. The mud is awful and the black flies are worse! Mud season typically starts around April and goes through about mid-late June.

    Oh and one more thing, when you get to the top of Mount Killington in Vermont, it’s worth a climb to the actual summit, especially for sunset. And if you are up for it, its even better to camp up there and watch the sunrise!

    Happy Hiking!

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    1. Hi there Mosey!

      Thank you so much for the advice I really appreciate it and will factor it into my plan! I’m definitely not looking forward to experiencing all the creepy crawlies America has to offer… we have it so good here in the UK in that sense!

      Happy Hiking to you too 🙂

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  4. Catdaddyjap says:

    Hello there! Good luck on your hike next March. I’m also hiking the AT next year on March the 15th. I have a YouTube Channel with some videos from hiking on the AT and getting ready for the big hike next year. You can check them out on YouTube under Japheth Hester. Good luck, hope to run into you and can’t wait to read more. Happy Trails!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there! Thanks for getting in touch, I shall definitely check out your videos! Good luck to you too, I look forward to seeing how you are prepping and hopefully we bump into each other!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Catdaddyjap says:

        No worries, and thank you! So far the prepping is going great. That would be great. You know when you are starting?

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      2. Glad to hear! Mines going ok but there’s some things I think I’m just going to have to wing until I’m out there, it is a whole new country for me after all! I’m aiming for late March but don’t have a specific date yet! Will it be very cold when you start?

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      3. Catdaddyjap says:

        Totally understandable. I actually live on the east coast of North Carolina and I just started hiking 2 months ago after I decided to thru hike next year and it feels like a whole new country for me as well lol. They say it can be cold up to May. But it’s like an off an on thing. It will definitely be a little wet in March. Well if you decide to hike closer to the 15th, let me know. Would love to see how someone from across the big pond adapts to this awesome journey.

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      4. Haha that’s awesome! That makes me feel slightly better then! I just watched one of your recent vids where you are walking into spider webs every few steps! Ughhh! Of course! Will keep in touch either way as it will be cool to see how you’re getting on 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Catdaddyjap says:

        Cool deal. That was actually in Ohio. Came up to get away from the Hurricane we had. It can be bad on the trail but not that bad.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Catdaddyjap says:

        Also I was following a girl on YouTube named Martino Martin I think and she just finished in September and she is also Vegan. That might be helpful for you since you have concerns about being vegan on the trail

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      7. Oh amazing thank you so much I’ll check her out too! Much appreciated! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Joe says:

    hey Redhead. You shouldn’t have trouble getting high calorie junk food on the trail i.e. pop-tarts and honey buns. Also high protein like tuna is pretty easy to get. Most thru hikers don’t have food boxes bounced. They might get one or two boxes from family or friends along the way. Good luck.

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    1. Hey Joe! Thanks for the advice and luck! Much appreciated! 🙂

      Like

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