Week One On The Appalachian Trail

It’s only been a week out here on the trail and I’ve already learned so much. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up so far..

Shelters

Pros:

-You can escape the rain and keep your shelter dry, because packing out a wet tent in the morning is less than stellar.

-You can meet new people and make new friends since people tend to congregate at shelters.

-Easy set up and take down limits your time spent in camp if you’re trying to get more miles in.

Cons:

-Mice are annoyingly persistent at finding your food, and will even chew through your gear if it smells like there is something they can eat inside.

-They’re noisy. If shuffling through gear, rolling over on a Thermarest Neoair (seriously how are these so popular), or snoring will keep you awake, consider camping nearby instead.

-They provide zero privacy. You’re in such close quarters with about a dozen other people, and other than a nearby privy, finding time to yourself is in short supply.

-Bears have figured out that where there are hikers, there is food. If you’re around people who don’t properly store their food there’s a good chance a bear will find it.

Gear:

I now understand why so many seasoned thru hikers rely on the Thermarest Z Lite Sol (closed cell foam accordion-like sleeping pad), because I’ve already had to patch my Nemo Tensor. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my sleeping pad, but with so much time spent in shelters it’s exposed to me and a dozen other hikers shuffling around it each night. We’ll see how long I last with it before I trade it in.

I’m so thankful I chose a (almost 100%) waterproof pack. As promised, the AT is wet, and knowing my gear is safe makes me feel a heck of a lot better hiking in the rain.

I really enjoy the ease of my Purinize purifying drops. Watching people struggle with their Sawyer filters (again, how are these so popular) makes me wonder how they got to be so widely used. They’re cumbersome, they malfunction on the regular, and are hard to clean if they get clogged. That’s a big no thank you from me. I switch off between two Smart Water bottles and I’m drinking one as the other is purifying. Works great. Plus it’s a one part system and only takes an hour. I’ve also seen some Katadyn filters and really like the ease of those as well.

Looking back I don’t know why I chose to switch up shoes right before the trail. I’ve exclusively been a Salomon user, and forcing my feet to adjust to Altra’s on the trail was not a good choice. I had to buy inserts when I got to Neels Gap because of the pain in my arches, and when I wear through these Lone Peaks I’m definitely switching back to Salomons.

I love loooooove my quilt. Its versatility alone is worth having a quilt instead of a sleeping bag. I can open it up and use it as a blanket on warm nights, or sinch it up tight when it gets cold. Win win.

I love my polycro footprint for any other trail, but trying to prevent it from getting ripped in shelters is an impossible task. I put it under my sleeping pad, and with all the commotion it’s gotten ripped three times already. I’m thinking about switching to some tyvek for its durability even though it is a bit heavier.

Food

I definitely overestimated how much food I would need. I knew it would take time for my hiker’s metabolism to kick in, but I’m barely eating 2000 calories a day even with hiking anywhere from 8-15 miles with 25 lbs on my back. Here’s to hoping it kicks in soon because it’s no fun carrying food and not eating it.

I don’t know why I thought I’d want to sit down and actually prepare lunch. I packed things like beans and tortillas, and hummus and pretzels, which would make great dinners instead of lunches. When I’m moving trying to get miles in, I’m finding that the last thing I want to do is take time to make lunch. I think I’ll switch to a meal bar, or something else easily consumed, for lunches and save the cooking for dinner.

Community

One of the big reasons I chose to do the AT was because of its reputation for having such a great community. And let me tell you, the rumors are true. I found a trail family (tramily) on day one, and they’ve been such amazing hiking partners. In addition to the hikers, I’m also appreciative of the people who set up trail magic. There are so many people looking out for thru hikers out here and I hope they know it’s not going unnoticed or unappreciated.

Overall I’m having an absolute blast out here, it’s everything I’ve wanted it to be so far and I’m definitely looking forward to the rest.

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