In the last 10 years I have gotten more and more interested in camping, hiking, and many other outdoor activities of varying difficulty. Since I live right along the Appalachian Trail, I’ve become interested in what it would take to complete the entire trail. The Appalachian Trail is a 2,160 mile hike that runs almost the entire Eastern Seaboard and takes many months to complete in entirety. I plan on spending this entire year preparing and then completing the trail myself starting in early Spring next year. Here are some of the most important things you need to know before hiking the Appalachian Trail or any other multi-state hiking trip.
Expect the Unexpected
With hiking a large amount of miles across many states, in this case over 2,000 miles, you need to be aware that anything can happen. Injuries, theft, extremely bad weather and more can make this a very difficult experience even for the most seasoned hiker. You need to make sure that you bring the supplies you will need, but do not overpack to prevent fatigue and a decrease in hiking speed. In less maintained areas of the trail, you will want to be prepared to deal with trail washout from floods, rock slides, and fallen trees. You never know exactly what to expect when traversing such a large area of land.
Before you start on your adventure you need to get a map of the entire Appalachian Trail and study the entire route from beginning to finish. Know where town and supply places can be found, while also noting the sections where you will be away from civilization for days at a time. Mark your route carefully and try to pinpoint at what spots you will need to take advantage of hiking hostels and local markets or stores to replenish your supplies. Know hazardous areas that you will need to be extra careful on and points where other people before you have had troubles that could apply to you.
Months before you even take your first step on the Appalachian trail you will want to start a strict exercise regimen, if you haven’t already. Hiking this trail could be hazardous to someone who doesn’t keep in shape on a regular basis. Since you will be hiking over 2,000 miles on foot for the majority of the year, you need to make sure your body will be able to keep up with the challenge. Nothing would be worse than breaking an arm, leg, or spraining an ankle in the middle of nowhere and not being able to get the help you need. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can comfortably walk about 20 miles a day with a heavy backpack.
Be aware that on your trek you could encounter many different types of animals. While most of the animals you will encounter are harmless, many are not. While you may not need to worry about rabbits, possum, or foxes other creatures such as bears, snakes, and insects could cause more of a problem. While hiking keep your food sealed appropriately to keep unwanted visitors from entering your camp uninvited. Make sure to keep your food locked tight to avoid attracting bears, raccoons, and other wildlife at night. Learn about the different types of snakes you may encounter, which ones are poisonous and what to do if you are bitten by one of them. Have insect repellant to avoid mosquitoes, flies, and bees on your trip.
Prepare to Eat
Along the Appalachian trail, there are only limited opportunities for replenishing your food and stock of fresh water. It’s important to have a water filtration unit that can refine water that you find along the trail in between filling points. Since you will be constantly active while hiking the amount of calories you need will be dramatically raised, therefore, you will need to compensate with more food than you would normally eat. This will require you to restock your food supply at every town you come too which could be anywhere from three to seven days apart on average. Some people take the pressure off by mailing themselves food at local post offices beforehand to keep from needing money on their journey,
If you are planning on hiking the Appalachian trail, keep these things in mind while planning your trip. You don’t want to get hurt, run out of food, or get lost in the middle of an extremely long thru hike in any part of the country. Remember to pack wisely and stay safe. Good luck!
Appalachian Trail Conservancy- Safety Tips
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