28 days from now I will be setting out to hike the nearly 2200 miles of the Appalachian Trail, northbound from Georgia to Maine. Now that I’m under the 1 month mark it’s starting to feel real finally. In the spirit of Brewed Hope’s founding mission, along the way I plan to champion mental health and explore more than a few breweries and coffee shops. Oh yes, there will be updates.
Statistically only about 1 out of 5 attempting a thru-hike of the AT typically finishes. The average length of a thru-hike being just shy of 6 months makes my goal and plan of hiking the full trail in under 90 days even more audacious. Here Goes Something. Over the last year that I’ve been planning and researching this hike I’ve had a steady frustration with those condemning hikes of this speed as unrealistic. The current record for an unassisted AT thru-hike is under 55 days, as achieved by Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson in 2015. I have no delusions of being anywhere close to Heather’s level, but the fact remains that random people on the internet have no idea of my fitness level or mental fortitude, so their discouraging commentary not only lacks context but serves to further motivate me. I’m stubborn. Don’t tell me I can’t do something, unless your goal is to provoke me into proving you wrong.
I’ve spent considerable time researching gear, and the philosophies behind selection. My in-progress gear list can be found on Lighter Pack. Until I put foot to trail I’m open to suggestions for tweaking gear, although there is a method to the madness of everything listed.
The biggest unanswered question on my gear list is WHAT SOCKS DO I WEAR? While I have some packed currently, there’s also a lingering urge to keep trying more. I have a weird thing about clean socks. Forget concerns about going days without a shower or wearing the same clothes for a week, I’m all about fresh socks. My desk at work typically has a back-up pair of socks so I can refresh in the afternoon. I’m practical enough that I don’t intend to carry a dozen pairs (although the temptation and fantasy remains), which makes it all the more critical that I find just the right ones. Which ones will minimize (surely none will negate) my hiker stench, maximize comfort, and avoid blisters? Guess I’ll have to test them all by the end of the month. Suggestions welcome.
Socks aside, my packing style is not minimalist enough to be considered ultralight, but I am staying mindful to those principles and implementing the strategies wherever I can find balance with my desired comfort level. Originally I planned to go almost strictly by weight, but on trial runs I found that things like a Sea To Summit ultra-light pillow were great on paper at less than 2oz., but in practice sacrificed a good night’s sleep that will be essential for me to maintain the type of high mileage days I have planned. The extra 5oz for an amazing pillow that allows me to sleep like the dead is more than worth it to me. I’ll still shave off a few ounces by cutting off tags and excess straps, wrapping my duct tape around hiking poles, and picking just the right tent (Nemo Hornet 2) to save me some base weight.
I think sometimes people also get too caught up in focusing on gear, and not enough on the fitness and even more important mental aspects of training and planning. A large part of why people drop out is they get depressed from the seeming lack of progress towards their daunting goal. To negate that, I’ve planned in lots of stretch goals, so I’ll never be more than a week from an engaging distraction. I’ve planned at least one brewery per state into my itinerary, each with minimal trail detours that I can also use to re-supply.
Many hikers use getting to the next state as their stretch goal. This becomes challenging in states like Virginia, which is known for being the highest dropout area with its 500 miles of trail that can make it feel like it never ends. To counter that, in addition to looking forward to the hike through my state of origin, I have about half a dozen breweries mapped out for Virginia. I’m also timing my start to make it to Damascus VA just in time for the annual Trail Days festival. To accomplish that, I will need to do 25 miles a day out of the gates to make it there.
That high mileage starting out is cause for concern, as another common drop-out reason is early injury from over-doing it. I do plan to be smart and listen to my body, but current fitness levels lead me to believe the mileage is obtainable. Currently I am capable of a 30 mile jog, and have strung together multiple days of 20-25 mile mountain hikes with my full gear setup. Not quite the same as getting into the reality of truly being immersed in the trail for weeks and months, but a good starting foundation.
Today’s post was very much about putting my intentions out into the universe. Calling my shot, so to speak. This thru-hike is going to happen, and very soon. It’s a bit terrifying, but oh so exciting. Over the next month I plan to do a number of posts on everything from gear to trail books to the breweries I’ll be visiting. I’d love to hear your suggestions for topics or questions you’d like answered. Hit me up at Anthony@brewedhope.com.