Crossposted from Weekends in Paradelle where I had written about how "Less Is More" thinking had led me to rethink my Appalachian Trail hiking plans.
The "true" Appalachian Trail (AT) hikers are known as "thru-hikers." Those are people who hike the trail from end-to-end, all at once. That was my original plan and inspiration. You read the books about those experiences and see that they are life-changing experiences and you feel inspired.
You also realize that it will cost thousands of dollars in supplies and about five months (on average) away from family and work to accomplish. Of course, you don't just start walking. You need to be a seasoned hiker, in excellent condition and with a wealth of outdoors knowledge.
Realizing that being a thru-hiker was not meant to be for me, I decided on a simpler path. There are several ways to do that.
Day hikers spend an afternoon covering about 2-6 miles. Weekend hikers have their backpacks with several days of provisions. Both approaches are a good way to train and to evaluate whether or not you're ready for a more challenging adventure.
Taking it up a few notches brings you to the section hikers. These hikers will take to the wilderness for weeks. They will take on a portion of the trail piece by piece. This occurs with not only the AT but many other long trails that are done in stages over many years.
It's still my hope to do section hikes, even if I never connect all of them into a completed AT hike.
Most books will tell you that the most important factor is your physical condition. So, I may have to have the long-postponed knee surgery before I get too ambitious. I have done 20-mile hikes, but experienced hikers always say that it's those 50+ mile hikes that will open your eyes to what it's all about mentally and physically.
There are many books on all this including guides to individual states and areas like the Appalachian Trail Guide to New York - New Jersey
I bought a number of the guides, but I would also recommend some of these titles for "armchair hikers" who want to experience the thru hike via someone else's experiences.
- Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers' Companion-2010 (Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association)
- AWOL on the Appalachian Trail
- Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Planner
- The Appalachian Trail : How to Prepare for & Hike It
- Walking the Appalachian Trail
- The Best of the Appalachian Trail Day Hikes
- Appalachian Trail Hiker: Trail-proven Advice for Hikes of Any Length
- A Guide to Car-Hiking The Appalachian Trail
- Solemates: Lessons On Life, Love & Marriage From The Appalachian Trail
- On the Beaten Path: An Appalachian Pilgrimage
- Long-Distance Hiking: Lessons from the Appalachian Trail