Wrapping up this whole Appalachian Trail experience I’ve calculated up some info and thought about things I wish I’d known before I started. So let’s get into it.
Actual miles hiked: 1245, but probably closer to 1300 with all the side trails to shelters and water
National Parks: 2
Zero Days: 32
Weight lost: 22 lbs, 2 inches, and 6 dress sizes
- 100 Mile wilderness
- The Smokies
- Grayson Highlands
- Franconia Ridge
Least Favorite Sections:
- North Carolina – especially Jacobs Ladder
- The Whites
- Tinker Cliffs, VA
- Unaka Mt, TN
- Hot Springs, NC
- The Shuckstack, TN
- McAffes Knob, VA
- Mt Moosilauke, NH
- Jo Mary Lake, ME
- Plum Orchard Shelter, GA
- Dismal Falls, VA
- That Alpaca Farm, VA
Best Hostels: (I think the lesson here is Virginia has a lot of awesome hostels)
- Stanimals in Waynesboro, VA
- The Lakeshore House in Monson, ME
- Bear’s Den in Bluemont, VA
- Angel’s Rest in Pearisburg, VA
- Station @ 19E in Roan Mountain, TN
Favorite Podcasts on the trail:
- And That’s Why We Drink (true crime/paranormal) – I listened to the whole 70ish episodes while walking, don’t listen at night
- How Did This Get Made? (comedy) – kinda of like MST3K but in podcast form, don’t listen while going uphill because you laugh too much
- Harmontown (Dan Harmon) – by the guy who did Community and Rick and Morty, it’s like being part of a conversation you can occasionally tune out, also very funny
- Dude, That’s Fucked Up (random topics that are effed up) – these gals are hilarious and often sounds like conversations I would have with my own friends
- My Dad Wrote A Porno (um, his Dad wrote a porno) – British accents, hilarious erotica written, as advertised, by a Dad, a nice palate cleanser
Things I missed about civilization while on trail:
- Showers – I’ve already been pretty vocal on this one
- Easy access to clean running water
- my kitties
- wearing cotton
- flat dry beds
Things I didn’t miss about civilization
- social media
- having a schedule
As far as advice goes, for most of the general stuff, the internet has a host of websites that are far better than mine. This website is a good example:
You can pick and choose what you want to follow, but know this: everyone is both right and wrong. You’ll figure out your trail life as you go and you’ll find what works for you. Everyone’s experience is different, so don’t take someone else’s advice as the absolute truth. Even me.
But if I may…and this is your first thru hike:
- Figure out your ultimate goal first. Do you want to touch every blaze? Are you set on GA to ME Northbound? Are you open to side trails and sites? Whatever your set goal is informs how fast and far you’ll travel, as well as mentally prepping yourself for the adventure to come.
- Find a pair of shoes that are still comfortable after 15 miles carrying a 30lb pack. Seriously, if your feet hurt you aren’t gonna want to walk.
- Get in shape as much as you can beforehand. A lot of thru hikers will tell you “the trail gets you in shape”, which is true. But if you want to get the most out of your hike, you’ll want to be in the best shape when you start. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t even start if you aren’t, but it sure does help.
- Figure out if you want to go Ultralightweight or Comfort. Neither is better than the other because it is a personal choice (but be prepared for every hiker to discuss and judge your choices). UL is better for your body during the day when you are hiking, but Comfort keeps you going when you are tired and sore. You just have to decide what you are willing to compromise on. For me, I emphatically decided I needed three pairs of socks, which is overkill to some UL purists. Go as lightweight as you can afford, while keeping in mind comfort (and the fact that you’ll want an extra pair of socks when it’s raining for a week straight)!
- Do some shake down hikes. Figuring out what gear you like or don’t is more helpful when you are home and able to return things easier (hello REI!)
- Go and do it. You think you’ll know what it’s like, but you won’t actually know until you do it.
- Regarding chaffing: To prevent it: use Body Glide or Deodorant. When you start to feel the burn, stop right then and there and take care of it. To treat it: Cleanse the affected area first. Apply Zinc Oxide (Desitin). Dry out offending clothing. Apply Neosporin if it doesn’t clear up.
Advice for Females (Guys tread here at your own risk)
So the question I got the most: Where do you use the bathroom? First off: where ever I wanted and it was glorious.
Secondly, there is a Leave No Trace “policy” that most hikers try to follow that states you should carry out all your trash (ALL OF IT) and bury your TP and poop. Women have to carry out any sanitary trash like pads and tampons.
For most women who are used to using TP after peeing, this can present a challenge. Are you going to carry around a whole roll of TP and bury it every time you pee? Are you going to haul out pee soaked TP? Probably not. Well not for 2000 miles anyway.
While the privies are useful for these purposes, sadly they are few and far between. You are gonna have to squat in the woods at some point. What is funny is that no one really talks about it either.
Here’s the real talk: there are two camps women fall into. The first group pees and then air dries. The pro of this is no TP worry, the con: you are squatting around for a minute and you end smelling like pee. *Wash yo pants!
The second group: use a bandana. The pro is no TP worry and a drier downstairs, the cons: you are carrying around a pee rag and you still smell like pee. *Wash yo rag!
You are gonna smell like pee at some point anyway, but what is important here is hygiene. Washing your hands and downstairs bits prevents any issues like UTIs. Essentially it is easier to wash a bandana at camp than pants, but that is your choice. Also you can hang the bandana to dry in between uses so it doesn’t smell so much.
For the menstrual issues, it’s a little more complicated and very dependent your own routine. Be prepared for your cycle to get screwed up because of the strenuous exercise and change in nutrition. You’ll want to bring just a little more supplies than you think you need. You don’t want to be on the trail and run out during such a perilous time. Check hiker boxes to see if some helpful menstruator put some tampons in there, that way you don’t have to buy a whole box.
Pads only? Be prepared to carry around a lot of trash.
Tampons? Be prepared to squat in the woods to apply and carry out the trash.
Cups? Wow! Go you! I could never figure them out, but if you are going to use one, do so before you are in the middle of the woods.
Regarding the trash: put your trash in a small ziplock bag and keep in an opaque shopping bag. Those black bags you get at the gas station are especially good for this, but grocery store bags work too. When you are ready to dispose: throw away the whole thing. No one sees the bloody mess.
And that’s all I’ve got. The rest you’ll figure out as you go.
Next up: Gear Review!