Appalachian Trail

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Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Sun 27 Jan, 2013 10:29 am

(Started due to a suggestion in another thread.)

There are at least 2 forum members out there who are planning thru-hikes of the AT either this year or next. Thought it might be worth starting a thread to help out anyone with questions about the trail. I thru-hiked in 2006 & it was an incredible experience that I would recommend to anyone. I'm very happy to help out anyone who is thinking about thru-hiking. Questions about the trail, gear, visas, food,..... anything.

I'm sure there are probably other forum members lurking out there who have been on the AT also who would be happy to offer advice.

Cheers,

Chris
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Sun 27 Jan, 2013 10:33 am

best sections of the trail?
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Sun 27 Jan, 2013 12:15 pm

best sections.. IMHO

1. All of Maine !
2. White Mountains , New Hampshire
3. Southern Virginia
4. Smoky Mountains NP

If I had a couple of weeks to hike a section of the AT, I would definitely be looking at Maine. it is the most remote part of the trail and has the best scenery. it is a combination of mountains & ponds (we would call them lakes) with the most incredible forest.


06-14 Trail near West Hartford.jpg
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06-27 Speck Pond.jpg
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06-29 Trail near Bates Ledges.jpg
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06-29 Beamis Stream.jpg
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07-02 Summit of Little Bigelow.jpg
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Sun 27 Jan, 2013 1:15 pm

i can see what you mean about Maine, looks great...
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 10:53 am

so what gear choices did you find worked?
what changes in gear did you make along the way?
what gear didnt work?
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 2:46 pm

Good gear choices

Tent - Macpac Microlight - excellent at the start in winter when there was lots of cold rain & wind. Relatively heavy compared to options like tarps etc. but I felt much better knowing I will stay dry, especially in winter. handled snow quite well for a single pole tent.
Sleeping Bag - marmot Helium - light for a winter bag & was good for me down to about -12C. Water repellent coating is something very worthwhile on a down bag
Shoes - Merrell Mesa Ventilators - Awesome shoes ! light, great grip, dry out really fast & super comfortable (for me). I'm lucky my feet do not feel the cold, so they were fine even when slogging through snow & slush (just with wool socks), surprisingly good grip on ice ! Worked well in all terrain - snow, deep mud, loose rock, river crossings, hot dusty trail. Can't think of anything that would make me go back to leather boots.
Poles - Leki Makalu Titanium - had never walked with poles before. Took some getting used to , but would not do a long trip without them now. They probably saved me several times from trip ending falls. Very tough & reliable. Expensive, but you get what you pay for. Still going strong with about 7,000 km on the clock
Water Treatment - Aqua Mira liquid. Great product. Lightweight & easy to use. treated all my water & did not have any gastro problems. Unfortunately not available in Australia

Gear Changes - Started in Winter & walked through Spring into Summer. So most gear changes were due to warmer weather. I had done a lot of walking prior to this trip so I was already happy with my gear. Did not need to change any due to it not working etc.

Swapped tent (Macpac Microlight) for hammock (Hennessy Hyperlight) after about 2 months when the weather got warmer. This also saved about 1000g in weight.
Swapped sleeping bag - Marmot Helium(-9C) for Marmot Atom (+5C) also when weather warmed. Saved about 500g.
Dropped - rain pants, 2nd fleece (200 weight) & windproof fleece gloves in warmer weather (kept fleece hat, & lightweight thermals ...just in case)
Dropped my stove & cooking gear for the last month. Weather was hot & I didn't feel the need for hot food. Not a huge weight saving as I was using a trangia burner (no cap or simmer ring) with a home made pot stand & alfoil windshield with one 800ml titanium pot.

Didn't really have any gear that didn't work for me, but I started the trip with a fairly good idea of what to expect.

The key thing was to prepare for changeable weather........ warm & sunny, cold, windy rain, likely some snow. And go as light as is sensible. it's a long way & it's hard on your body. (and mind)

One thing that did catch me out was that sunscreen was more important in winter than summer !!! In winter the trees are absolutely bare & you are in full sun all day. In summer the leaves on the trees are so thick you are in deep shade most of the time. Deciduous forest takes a bit of getting used to for an Aussie !!!!
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 2:55 pm

thanks for that, what did you do to get fit before the trip?
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 3:13 pm

Nothing special...... I already go to the gym each morning & do about an hour of cardio & weights. Not real high intensity, but enough to keep my base fitness up. I had previously done some pretty long day hikes & had a good understanding of how my body (feet especially) react to abuse. I had done Oxfam Trailwalker a few times & doing 100km in around 24 hours is a good way to learn what to expect.

If i was giving advice to someone who was thinking of doing it, I would certainly recommend doing general fitness work before you start & get plenty of miles on your shoes/boots. Blisters are a big cause of people dropping off the trail in the first few hundred miles and since you need to keep walking they just don't get a chances to heal & infections are common. No need for a specialised training program as the only way to really get good at walking up mountains with a pack is to...walk up mountains with a pack ! and there will be plenty of that...... just be sensible & go into it fit & with tried & tested gear.

Mental preparation is probably more important, as you will get fit on the trail regardless of how you start .... but after the first 1000km, more people probably drop out due to things like homesickness, long stretches of bad weather, inability to cope with the pain & discomfort etc/ etc.
Success is more in the head than the feet......
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 3:29 pm

any point you thought you might quit?
at what point did you think you were likely to be able to complete it?
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby jacko1956 » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 6:31 pm

I start the AT on 22nd March with my 25yo son.
I have researched my a### off and now just need to do it.
My plan is to be on schedule enough with the 6 month visa limit to go slow through New Hampshire and Maine.
Nice pics Turfa!
Late February my trailjournal will be active and I hope to post daily updates and pics about weekly.
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 7:56 pm

Hmmm, Those questions are tougher to answer....

There were many times that I wondered why I was persisting, and had thoughts of just stopping. But I'm pretty stubborn & always managed to push myself on. A couple of specific instances come to mind..... At about the 3/4 mark, after about 2,700km I was really fatigued, both physically & mentally. I had been pushing fairly hard non-stop for about 6 weeks & had covered about 1,200km without a rest day. I hit the White Mountains in New hampshire, which is beautiful, but tough terrain, and I kind of just crashed. I remember edging along this wet, narrow ledge with a 10m sheer drop to rocks below & thinking that if I did fall & break a leg, at least I could stop hiking........ That was pretty much when I decided I needed a day off..... Took a rest day in town 2 days later & it made a world of difference. That was probably the closest I came to actually quitting.

There is always an excuse to quit if you really want one. Just the constant pain that seems to develop could be enough. Knees & feet gave me some grief, just from the constant pounding they get day after day. Pretty much everyone else I spoke to on the trail said that they had the same kind of constant background pain. It did take significant effort to push through it every day

Sometimes the weather gets on top of you.....I had one stretch of wet weather where it rained every day for 3 weeks. Mould started growing on the outside of my pack, my wool socks developed this terrible ammonia stench (I think they were actually rotting on my feet), and my feet looked like this.





06-08 Foot - Bennington VT.jpg


This bit was tough.




So yes, there were plenty of times when I thought about quitting. There is a lot of time to think about it & many 'good' excuses to do it. But I always found better reasons for keeping going........great scenery, great company, the serenity of life on the trail..........although sometimes it was just plain stubborness..........

As to when I thought I might actually complete it.... after 2 weeks I knew that physically I was capable of finishing. Mentally, after the 3/4 point I knew I could push myself to the end. The big unknown was injury. A lot can go wrong in that amount of time & distance...... but the last week was the most nerve-wracking......so close... don't stuff it up now !!!!
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Mon 28 Jan, 2013 8:01 pm

jacko1956 wrote:I start the AT on 22nd March with my 25yo son.
I have researched my a### off and now just need to do it.
My plan is to be on schedule enough with the 6 month visa limit to go slow through New Hampshire and Maine.
Nice pics Turfa!
Late February my trailjournal will be active and I hope to post daily updates and pics about weekly.


Hey Jacko...I'm very envious. I would do it again tomorrow if I had the opportunity. Let me know if there are any questions you still have.

Looking forward to reading your journal (trailjournals.com I assume) make sure you post a link on here so we can follow.
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby russ752 » Tue 29 Jan, 2013 11:13 am

Turfa wrote:Hmmm, Those questions are tougher to answer....

There were many times that I wondered why I was persisting, and had thoughts of just stopping. But I'm pretty stubborn & always managed to push myself on. A couple of specific instances come to mind..... At about the 3/4 mark, after about 2,700km I was really fatigued, both physically & mentally. I had been pushing fairly hard non-stop for about 6 weeks & had covered about 1,200km without a rest day. I hit the White Mountains in New hampshire, which is beautiful, but tough terrain, and I kind of just crashed. I remember edging along this wet, narrow ledge with a 10m sheer drop to rocks below & thinking that if I did fall & break a leg, at least I could stop hiking........ That was pretty much when I decided I needed a day off..... Took a rest day in town 2 days later & it made a world of difference. That was probably the closest I came to actually quitting.

There is always an excuse to quit if you really want one. Just the constant pain that seems to develop could be enough. Knees & feet gave me some grief, just from the constant pounding they get day after day. Pretty much everyone else I spoke to on the trail said that they had the same kind of constant background pain. It did take significant effort to push through it every day

Sometimes the weather gets on top of you.....I had one stretch of wet weather where it rained every day for 3 weeks. Mould started growing on the outside of my pack, my wool socks developed this terrible ammonia stench (I think they were actually rotting on my feet), and my feet looked like this.





The attachment 06-08 Foot - Bennington VT.jpg is no longer available


This bit was tough.




So yes, there were plenty of times when I thought about quitting. There is a lot of time to think about it & many 'good' excuses to do it. But I always found better reasons for keeping going........great scenery, great company, the serenity of life on the trail..........although sometimes it was just plain stubborness..........

As to when I thought I might actually complete it.... after 2 weeks I knew that physically I was capable of finishing. Mentally, after the 3/4 point I knew I could push myself to the end. The big unknown was injury. A lot can go wrong in that amount of time & distance...... but the last week was the most nerve-wracking......so close... don't stuff it up now !!!!


I Know exactly what you mean turfa these were my feet after pennsylvania
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Tue 29 Jan, 2013 1:35 pm

Nice ...!

I think only about 50% of toenails actually make it to the end !

Those PA rocks are certainly special. I don't know how on earth they manage to get all the sharp bits pointing up....... and then they go and fill all the holes with rattlesnakes !

What year did you hike Russ ?
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Pongo » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 9:41 am

Ooh, I'm liking this thread. The AT is at the top of my list, unfortunately as a student, it's a tad out of reach atm. On this side of the world, getting there seems like half the battle.

Jacko, knowing the distances you've done in the past, I'm sure you'll thrive on the AT, GL mate. And please post us the link to your trail journal before you go.

So, questions!

The US visa is only six months, but the AT can take up to 7-8(?) months to do. How long did you take to hike the trail? And are there any ways to stay in the US longer? I have family friends in the states and enough tertiary quals to pull off a BS study tour or something shifty if it helps.

Is there any feasible way to send your own dehy food into the country? I dehydrate a mean meal and have become accustomed to certain standards on the trail :lol: 8)

How much money did you go in with? In retrospect, how much would you recommend someone take? If I'm heading out there for that long, I'd like to make sure I'm comfortable in a financial sense (it's doesn't need to be all hotel rooms at every town, just enough such that I'm not having a heart attack wondering if I can afford things).
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby russ752 » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:13 pm

Turfa, 2011, and I agree with you about the best states in which to hike although I do think Vermont could be added to the list. I however, never want to see a Pennslyvanian rock again!

Pongo, most hikers complete the trail in 5-6 months. it sounds like you're young so you shouldn't have any trouble completing in the time frame. Some of the younger hikers I met were cranking out 30+ mile days once they got their hiking legs. As far as money goes you really need about $6-8K. I've met some who have done it much cheaper( one guy I met in Maine claimed to have spent $1.5k for the whole trip) but when you take into account zero days, hotels, micro breweries, shuttle etc, it does add up. the golden rule seems to be calculate how much you think it will cost then double it.

Anyway here are a few shots of my hike. Feel free to ask any questions
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P1000976.jpg
Trail magic, Georgia
P1010059.jpg
Sheter in the Smokies with bear cage
P1010627.jpg
the trail in Pennsylvania
P1030220.jpg
Sunfish pond, NJ
P1030443.jpg
lake in Vermont
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby russ752 » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:22 pm

And a few more
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P1030588.jpg
Mt Moosilauke in the distance
P1030613.jpg
P1030729.jpg
Storm approaching Mt Washington
P1030756.jpg
P1030779.jpg
Mahoosuc notch, depending on you point of view either the hardest or most fun mile on the whole trail
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby russ752 » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:25 pm

And a couple more
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Mahoosuc arm, maine
P1030999.jpg
Wild river in maine
P1040013.jpg
Final climb up Mt katahdin
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:32 pm

the amonia smell might be from your skin flakes, the protein in teh skin has nitrogen in it which goes into amonia..
in athletics its known you ahve a six to eight week period where you can spike your training and competition, your body adapts to the extra work for that period of time and after that the body will start to pack up if you keep pushing it without break... athletes normally peak at seperate periods of six to eight weeks in teh year and target their hardest competitions for those peaks.
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:48 pm

Great photos Russ !!!........ it still amazes me the vivid memories that are triggered by seeing photos of the trail & how much of it I recognise...


Pongo... I agree with Russ. I would budget for about $8,000 all inclusive. It takes about $2,400 just to get to Georgia. it is possible to do it on the cheap, but you are more limited in your options, especially in case of bad weather or injury. Most people don't get many chances to do something like this, so give yourself the best possible chance of success. i saw quite a few people have to end their hikes due to running out of money... and that sucks as a reason to stop.

The visa is not actually for a fixed period. You get the visa which is valid for either 1 or 5 years (you choose that when you apply). How long you can actually stay in the US depends on the immigration official at LA airport !! he might decide to only give you 2 weeks ! but that is rare & 6 months seems to be their default. You can apply for an extension if you need to. As Russ said, 6 months should be plenty, even at a relaxed pace. I took just over 4 months & I would not consider myself a speed hiker. I averaged 27km a day, which is not a lot once you get your trail legs. I was very consistent with my days & did not take many days off.

regarding food. You could ship dehydrated food to the US, but I don't think it would save you money. the shipping cost would be high & you would probbably waste a lot of it when you decide that you can't face another bowl of oatmeal for breakfast !!! (just for example)... Food in the US is very cheap & if you are not a fussy eater, you will not have any problems re-supplying as you go from local stores & supermarkets.

if you are lookig for information there is a great forum for the AT www.whiteblaze.net pretty much any topic you care to think of has been done to death on there :)


The US visa is only six months, but the AT can take up to 7-8(?) months to do. How long did you take to hike the trail? And are there any ways to stay in the US longer? I have family friends in the states and enough tertiary quals to pull off a BS study tour or something shifty if it helps.

Is there any feasible way to send your own dehy food into the country? I dehydrate a mean meal and have become accustomed to certain standards on the trail

How much money did you go in with? In retrospect, how much would you recommend someone take? If I'm heading out there for that long, I'd like to make sure I'm comfortable in a financial sense (it's doesn't need to be all hotel rooms at every town, just enough such that I'm not having a heart attack wondering if I can afford things
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:53 pm

wayno wrote:the amonia smell might be from your skin flakes, the protein in teh skin has nitrogen in it which goes into amonia..
in athletics its known you ahve a six to eight week period where you can spike your training and competition, your body adapts to the extra work for that period of time and after that the body will start to pack up if you keep pushing it without break... athletes normally peak at seperate periods of six to eight weeks in teh year and target their hardest competitions for those peaks.


You could be right Wayno...... I certainly had a lot of skin sloughing off my feet after being that wet for so long.

interesting point about athletics. That is almost exactly what I found on the AT. For the first 2 months I was getting stronger & faster. I was like a hiking machine. But half way through the 3rd month my body started to break down & by the 4th month it got very tough to keep pushing on......
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Thu 31 Jan, 2013 12:58 pm

yeah its not fully understood, it may be hte normones, growth hormone stimulating the body to be more energetic and get stronger but it demands a lot of nutrients to do that and when you're burning through those nutrients with extra fitness you cnan just suck yourself dry after a while and you ahve to stop to refuel the body properly.
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 5:43 pm

Thanks for all the photos Russ....here are a couple of more of mine. To Jacko...this is what you have to look forward to !

03-22 Trail near Pecks Corner shelter #2.jpg

Great Smokey Mtns National Park



03-28 Big Bald summit #3.jpg

Big Bald, North Carolina



04-08 Grayson Highlands #2.jpg

Grayson Highlands, Virginia



06-05 Trail near Shaker Campsite.jpg

Massachusetts



06-20 Sth Twin Mtn.jpg

Sth Twin Mountain, New Hampshire
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby sef » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 5:57 pm

Some really quick input!

Don't worry too much about logistics or be intimidated by the degree to which Americans love to organise things. If you can get yourself to the start with a B2 visa and shoes that fit, you'll stand a good chance of making it to the end.
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby wayno » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 5:58 pm

any plans to do any more long distance trails?
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby ULWalkingPhil » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 6:56 pm

Referring to a mention that Aquamira are not available in Australia in and earlier post. Aquamira can be purchased in Australia. I recently ordered the liquid drops online here in Australia, arrived in the post the following day.

http://www.extac.com.au/McNett_Aquamira ... n41000.htm
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 7:04 pm

Hoping to do the Bibbulmun Track next year..... then a bit further out, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Turfa » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 7:06 pm

Phillipsart wrote:Referring to a mention that Aquamira are not available in Australia in and earlier post. Aquamira can be purchased in Australia. I recently ordered the liquid drops online here in Australia, arrived in the post the following day.

http://www.extac.com.au/McNett_Aquamira ... n41000.htm


Hey..great find !!! I have never found them before in Oz...Thanks for sharing !!!!
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby jacko1956 » Fri 01 Feb, 2013 7:17 pm

Love the pics Turfa.
Big bald photo reminds me of the track from road to Mt Feathertop Vic.
When you're ready to do the Bib next year let me know.
My son and I are happy to do US style "track magic" for o/seas and out of state people (and others - but they should need it less).
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Re: Appalachian Trail

Postby Gippsmick » Wed 06 Mar, 2013 5:16 pm

I'm loving this thread. Have been planning what I'm calling Project 40 for weeks now and can not stop thinking about about the AT. Project 40 being my goal to thru hike the AT in the year of my 40th birthday, celebrating the big day towards the end of trail. Can not wait.
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