Mike H Smith took this picture of Meader Ridge, Wild River Wilderness, White Mountains New Hampshire. Shared with permission.
That is what we will be getting back to in March.
I was interviewed here: https://shaneplays.com/dnd-history-stephen-r-marsh-podcast/
Some of it was on backpacking, the rest on D&D.
https://whiteblaze.net/forum/at-resupply.php —the Whiteblaze list.
An older list with advice: https://appalachiantrailclarity.com/2016/03/15/appalachian-trail-thru-hiker-resupply-points/
Historical averages: http://trailquest.net/weather.html
Current weather forecasts: https://www.atweather.org/
Do not click on anything, just scroll down the page: https://www.summitpost.org/appalachian-trail-mileage-chart/593282
These are the basic links for 90% of the questions people ask as they start to get started looking for the right questions.
Years ago, for one summer vacation, we started on the AT with an Inn to Inn section hike in Virginia. It is a fun four day hike.
We prepared with a trip to REI where the helpful sales guy put us in five pound packs (Gregory Baltoro — a great expedition pack, a lousy backpacking pack) and shoes that are suitable for hotel carpet but let you feel every rock and root on the trail.
We also had a nice four or five pound tent (an REI half dome — we still have it, it is a great tent, just not light enough) and lots of cotton.
A week on the Appalachian Trail and the shoes I had let not only let every possible rock bruise through, they showed significant wear. But, being REI, we were able to return the packs and the shoes. We’ve gotten better gear since.
From that first trip we did more trips. From the North Carolina state line going South to Springer Mountain, Georgia where the trail starts.
We went back to Shenandoah Park and went north to Harpers Ferry. We went from Harpers Ferry to Pennsylvania (just south of Duncannon). Then we went back to Springer Mountain, Georgia and headed north to the NOC or Nantahala Outdoor Center.
We would have made it to Fontana Dam, but there was a hurricane that put us off the trail a couple-three days.
Being on the trail made Win happy as well as happiness being a choice she made. She may have gone through terrible things, including burying three children in five years, but she had made the decision to be happy. Which is how Happy ended up being her trail name.
At work, things started to get rough. I had a boss I really liked. He developed brain cancer. I went to lunch with him twice a week for a long time. He was in denial, but the cancer got worse and worse.
Suddenly he would get upset about innovations in the office — but they were his innovations. Everyone started avoiding him and I was the only person going to lunch with him. He tried to outwork his oncoming death.
Then he died. Parts of work got worse (and parts were great. I loved the work, my co-workers and the company). Win started suggesting that I should retire and we could hike the Appalachian Trail.
After our last section hike, in October or so, doing Springer to the NOC, I started to think more seriously about what she was saying. Then my boss at work brought up that if he could retire, he would and that he thought anyone who did anything else was making a real mistake.
So, after talking it over again, and again, with Happy, I decided to give notice and retire, and do a through hike. I gave work a few months notice so they could have a good lead on replacing me, and the Ides of March (March 15, 2019) were my last day.
We then caught a plane and a shuttle and started on the trail. March 17, 2019 we walked to the airport. We landed and I’d arranged a shuttle and it took us to the NOC (The Natanhala Outdoor Center) where we spent the night in their hiker hostel and both of our pillows died.
The plan was that we could start there, where we left off. That made our last section hike part of the through hike and the last shakedown or preparation hike.
A through hike is where you have done the entire trail in a single 365 day period. Starting at the NOC instead of Springer we would miss some of the crowds (about 25% of the hikers would already have dropped out) and get a flying start, so to speak. The plan was that if we could finish before October 4, then we had a through hike completed and could make use of the distance we had already hiked in October.
In the morning after arriving it was up and we made it to Sassafras Gap. We had planned on a 6.9 mile day and instead did about 17.
We were off to a great start which we needed because we expected to be taking two to three weeks off.
We were planning on a couple weeks off to help out our oldest daughter when her baby was born and a week to spend with our youngest as she settled back from college to work and take some classes. And, of course, to go to NTRPGCON.
That way we could also switch out from winter gear to summer gear.
But, the baby came early (and we got off the mountain in record time and with the best of luck) and it took more like a month or so than two weeks. Then our youngest needed parents for the summer.
She was OK, but just not thriving. So after getting back out, we came home for her, which means we got back on the trail at the end of August (and climbed Katahdin on August 21) instead of when we planned. From there we started south, heading back towards McAfee Knob for the finish.
Heading south we had great weather and a long Indian Summer was forecast. We made it through the 100 mile wilderness.
Briefly we slackpacked and we stopped at Rattle River and then we made it through the Whites (though instead of getting a summit picture on Mt Washington I got blown over by the 80 mph gusts and decided I would catch a summit picture another day).
A friend who had only fifty miles to go took two weeks to cover that fifty miles (when his normal pace on that end of the trail was a hundred miles a week). We decided to head home, have Thanksgiving and Christmas with our kids, and hit the trail again in March of 2020.
If everything goes well we will make it to where we got off in Vermont by August 21. If not, Happy thinks we should keep going and summit Katahdin again, making it a real through hike. I think she wants to climb the summit again anyway.
So, that is our story about how we got started on a through hike and what we are doing right now. This time we hope to string it altogether and finish.
After this, maybe a Camino and then the Pacific Coast Trail. But that is getting ahead of the story. For now we are continuing our relationship with the Appalachian Trail.
As for this blog — it is mostly for our families, especially those members who don’t do Facebook.