What have we gotten ourselves into?
Who was that guy who coined the Appalachian Trail a simple “walk in the woods?” That phrase paints a picture of a beautiful, level, happy-go-lucky, birds-chirping, sun-shining, leisurely stroll through the woods. Not a boulder-climbing, stream-crossing, mountain after mountain, panting, heavy-breathing, can’t talk to your partner, have to watch your feet at all times (so as not to twist your ankle on roots or rocks, or slide down a steep drop off), type of hike. Yea, thanks Mr. Bryson.
The truth is, the Appalachian Trail is HARD. It will, I’m sure, be the hardest thing Greg & I have ever done. And frankly, this is also why we want to do it. It is a mammoth challenge – one of stamina, physical exertion, and most of all – mental fortitude.
Here’s a picture from the AT in Pennsylvania. PA is one of the toughest state’s the trail goes through, we hear walking on these boulders all day can really tear up your feet. Photo by: Ryan Johnson
A lot of our friends are already starting out on their thru-hike this year, and while it’s painful to see their posts and pictures from the comfort of our warm and comfy couch, we have to remind ourselves that this was always our plan. We wanted to wait until the end of March so as to experience as little of a “full” harsh/cold winter as possible, even though we will be starting in the “bubble” of thru-hikers.
A friend of mine recently said to me, when I was talking about my fears, “Hey – remember when you quit your jobs, sold everything, and moved to Costa Rica? If you can do that, you can hike the Appalachian Trail!”
Well, not necessarily. The AT will be SO much harder than quitting our jobs and moving to Costa Rica. Regarding Costa Rica, YES, that was a hard decision to make back then, but after we did our research and got our budget in order, it was actually quite easy to implement our plans. Quitting our jobs went smoothly, and after researching and planning out what would be the hardest things to tackle once we got to Costa Rica, actually living through those things went without a hitch. A positive attitude can go a long way. Maybe I can say all this because I’ve “been there, done that” now, but Greg and I both believe that the AT will be so much harder. Here’s some of our reasoning:
1.Physically, it will be hard. As I mentioned, it is not just a “walk in the woods.” It is a lot of PUD’s – pointless ups and downs. The Appalachian Trail is on a mountain range and goes up and down hills and mountains – a LOT. And not just little mountains. Sometimes the elevation increases rapidly, other times slowly. There will be rocks and roots and leaves and streams. The beginning alone will be hard. We have chosen (foolishly?) to start with the Approach Trail, which isn’t even PART of the Appalachian Trail, but lots of “real” hikers do it. And well, we want to be real hikers. It is 8.8 miles uphill, including a little section of 604 steps to the top Amicalola Falls.
The Approach Trail has a total elevation gain of 3,165 feet:
Everyday will be a bit like this, several up and downs, some days harder than others. There has been a lot of rain and thunderstorms lately, and we are hoping that we can at least start Day 1 with no rain.
Approach trail at Amicalola Falls. Photo by: @TwoCooksTakeAWalk
2. The monotony. Day after day we will be hiking, all day, every day. In Costa Rica we didn’t have to do anything physical if we didn’t want to. On the trail we need to hike almost every day. And we want to end in Maine before Oct. 15th, as they start closing the summit of Mt. Katahdin (the northern terminus) due to the winter season.
3. Mentally, it will be hard. On Costa Rica, I feel like we did our research, and we were prepared for everything that was thrown at us. Sure, some things were hard, but we remained positive and were able to deal with things as they were thrown at us. On the AT, there’s so much that could happen out of our control (well, I guess this was similar to Costa Rica) – injuries, diseases, animals, crazy weather… We could also just get so bored and tired of walking (people quit for this reason all the time). We’ve heard that the trail is 90% mental, which amazes me, because it is so physically challenging. Just goes to show how much your mind and attitude can make or break you. Can you imagine what it takes, mentally, to get through a part of the trail like Mahoosuc Notch? It’s labeled “the most difficult or the most fun mile of the AT.” The guidebook reads simply “make way through jumbled pit of boulders.”
Mahoosuc Notch. Photo by: Ryan Johnson
There’s a reason 25% of the people that attempt the AT each year going NOBO (northbound) quit by the time they even get out of the first state of Georgia. It’s hard, you guys! And Georgia starts out hard right away with a rollercoaster of mountains. And it’s made even harder with cold rain (sometimes snow), blisters and sore feet, heavy packs, and aching knees and hips. No matter how much you train for the AT, you can’t really feel what it’s like until you’re on it and hiking every day. Everyone out there will be in the same boat – getting used to their gear and how everything works.
The most likely reasons people quit are:
- Boredom/loneliness: Believe it or not, it just gets boring for people to hike 10-20 (or more) miles a day and see the “same scenery” day after day. The majority of thru-hikers are in their 20’s, just out of high school or college, and miss their friends and family desperately.
- Injuries: People get inured (knees give out, sprained ankles are common, fractured foot, broken legs even) or they may get a disease (Lyme’s disease, Giardia).
- Money runs out: Lots of thru-hikers are not able to manage their money well, or party too much along the way.
She makes this thigh-high mud look fun, doesn’t she? Photo by: @hikes.camera.adventure
Despite all of the hardships the AT will throw at us, none of this detracts from our desire and dream to hike the whole Appalachian Trail (all 2,189.8 miles of it!). Both Greg & I are determined to do this. In fact, we’ve already pledged to each other that the only way we would quit is if one of us has a severe injury (preventing further hiking) or there is a family emergency. This has been our dream for a couple of years now, and we are doing it! This is not to say that we don’t need help – just knowing you guys are thinking of us and sending us positive thoughts will help us tremendously (especially on the hard days), so please don’t hesitate to like or comment wherever you are following us (here, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook)!
Can we even picture ourselves on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine? Honesty, it’s hard to think about without getting emotional, but yes… YES WE CAN.
We want this feeling! Photo by: Ryan Johnson (who thru-hiked last year):
Looking forward to following your adventure. You’ve got this!!!!!!
Best of luck on the challenge of a lifetime. Besides a lot of hiking, it’s also a lot of camping.
Indeed a LOT of camping. Thanks, Wayne.
GO! I’ll be thinking of the two of you, mi amigos, and cheering you on. You are truly living life and I admire that. Buena suerte!
Thanks so much, Kathy! It’s amazing I’ve only met you once in person, but feel you are a true friend. So glad we’ve connected, and thanks for the luck. 🙂
Love following your adventure! So sorry I did not meet you while you were in Costa Rica. We moved October 2014 to Playa Bejuco & I loved following your journey here. You have this because of,your fierce determination!
Thank you so much, Linda. Glad you are loving Costa Rica, it has a special place in our hearts. 🙂 Thanks for following our next adventure! 🙂
I’m excited to follow you and love the amount of info and detail you are providing. Thanks for sharing with us.
Thank you so much.
My very best to both of you for a successful and enriching AT hike. I’ll be following you …via my IPad ? Be careful out there !
Awesome Mrs. Haines! Thanks for commenting and following us. 🙂
Oh my, yes you have. We are actually doing a Flip-Flop as I wish to bring my dog and avoid the crowds as I feel they detract from the experience given I am an introvert. We are also going slower to start to give the dog a chance to get his trail legs.
So yeah, While the Smokies are a challenge that cause a lot to give up, the Northeast is a killer. Vermont mud is nothing to sneeze at…it’s nuts. The Whites nearly killed me the first time I hiked them and Maine…yeah I recall wading through a boggy water crossing in Western Maine and coming out covering in leeches once, then another time nearly killing myself near the Hermitage in Gulf Hagas. It does not get easier even at the end. The summit of Baxter is a killer, I hate heights and had to muster my way past some who were crying out of fear to go further. I kept going…and saw why. I left my AT gallery in the website section, not much there now…but some interesting ones of what you will face in Maine. 🙂
Thanks for all this scoop Adam, though you’re actually scaring me even more! I will just take one day at a time, that’s all I can do. Good luck with your flip flop and hope your doggie does ok, too! Happy Trails. 🙂
I know — as I’ve read several AT books now, I’m absolutely blown away by just how freakin’ HARD it seems. I think it’s probably really helpful that you guys have really looked at the challenge and know it will be hard — at least then you won’t feel “blindsided” by stuff that happens. And you’ve got a lot of folks rooting for you, for sure! Have enjoyed reading about your preparations and very much looking forward to “following along” as you hike. (Especially since I get to follow along while sitting on my nice comfy sofa!) 😉
I loved this post because it is so REAL. It gave me a whole other perspective of what you are facing. I have increased fear AND admiration for you both. My heart will be with you and my faith strong that you will make it because your faith in each other is unshakable. That’s what will get you through! I look forward to following the journey, as Arden says, from the comfort of my comfy rocking chair! I can’t wait to sent your first package. Love to you both!
Thank you so much Linda, and that is exactly why I wanted to write it. We can’t wait to get our first package (from you!)! You are so sweet, thank you for your endless support in our crazy life! xoxo
That picture of Mahoosuc Notch, though!
I’m so excited for you two, Jen! I’ll be virtually following along on your adventure. Have fun, persevere and be safe!
Thank you so much friend!! xo
I am so proud of both you and Greg for taking this challenge and I know you will stay strong no matter what happens. I will be following your posts and sending you lots of love and positive energy. Love you both.
Thx so much Judy!!
I’ve already watched your YouTube videos 3 times so far! Take you for taking us along with you! Keep strong! Sunsets and Chica you are both living the dream!
Thank you so much!! Have more videos but waiting for wifi.
It sure sounds hard Susie and i are 60 we will 61 when we start the trail maybe i will have her read the page we will train until next march anyway i cant walk a mile yet but She can walk all day, Sound like a lot to invest also but we hope to meet other and encourage them also . Thank you for making it real
Hi there! Good luck to you. Training and seeing what your limits are early is a great idea. The trail is not for everyone. I sure am loving it, though!! Hanks for commenting and good luck!