Friday, August 05, 2016

Appalachian Trail 2016 section hike -- back on the trail!

As of now, I've completed the portions of the trail highlighted in yellow.

Chipping away

I completed my first AT section hike in 2002 - an epic(?) 58-mile, 4-day/3-night trip from the James River to Reed's Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. That kicked me off towards a goal of finishing the entire trail. The tally so far? 800 miles down, about 1400 to go.

Through the Smokies!

After a one-week jaunt through Pennsylvania and Maryland last fall, I've shifted my gaze for 2016 to the south. I plan is to hike southbound in September, starting in Erwin, TN and finishing in Fontana, NC - a total distance of 177 miles. The hike will pass through some of the highest peaks and most scenic highlands of the AT south of New Hampshire, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the highest point on the entire AT, the 6,643 feet peak at Clingman's Dome.
My plan for 2016.

How far, how fast?

The first thing to consider when planning a section hike is how long it will take. Through hard-won experience, I've found that I'll usually maintain an average speed of 2 to 2.5 miles per hour during the day, including time spent for breaks, eating, etc. So if I plan on hiking about 8 hours a day, I can cover about 16-20 miles. Of course you can't always budget 8 hours of hiking a day, given stops in town for resupply and a night or two off the trail. Planning to cover an average of 15 miles a day seems to work well as a compromise figure. Some days I'll do more, but some less, depending on terrain and other factors. A little quick math gives me a reasonable time frame of 11 days to complete the hike.

Getting there

Section hiking does involve certain logistical challenges. The first is how to get to and from the trail. Neither the start or finish of my hike are served by plane, train, or bus, so I'm dependent on my car. But if I'm walking from point to point, how will I get back to my car when I'm done?

Fortunately, there are some options available. There's a informal cottage industry of shuttle drivers who will pick you up in one location and then drive you to your starting point. So, simply park your car at the trailhead (or other convenient location), ride with your shuttle to where you're starting the hike, and then walk back to your car. Just don't forget your car key - I did that once!

(Next time - Resupplying along the way)

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