Step by Step. By the staff of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

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1 Step by Step A Itroductio to Walkig the Appalachia Trail By the staff of the Appalachia Trail Coservacy Eighty-five years ago, a dreamer amed Beto MacKaye imagied a footpath ruig alog the easter moutais, from New Eglad to the souther Appalachias. That dream became the Appalachia Trail, America s premier log-distace hikig experiece, stretchig 2,175 miles betwee Maie ad Georgia. Its terrai rages from flat woodlad paths to ear-vertical rock scrambles that challege the fittest wilderess trekker; it ca lead hikers from busy small-tow streets to high moutai ridges where they wo t cross a road for days. The Trail cotiues to ispire dreams. If you pla to visit or walk the Appalachia Trail, this booklet will aswer some of your basic questios about the Trail ad help you prepare for your adveture. What is the Appalachia Trail? The A.T., as it s called by hikers, is much more tha just a path through the woods. It is a atioal sceic trail, part of the same atioal park system that icludes Yellowstoe, Yosemite, ad the Great Smoky Moutais. Its official ame is the Appalachia Natioal Sceic Trail. But, ulike those famous parks, it s ot a cocetrated preserve with campgrouds ad paths withi its boudaries. As the logest, skiiest part of America s atioal park system, the A.T. stretches over 14 differet states ad passes through more tha 60 federal, state, ad local parks ad forests. Hudreds of roads cross it. I some parts, the Trail corridor is oly a few hudred feet wide. I other areas it ecompassess atioally sigificat atural ad cultural resources. Maybe the most importat differece betwee the A.T. ad other a-

2 tioal-park uits, though, is that voluteers make it possible. Ulike other parks, which may be patrolled ad maitaied by hudreds of salaried govermet employees, the A.T. relies o a system kow as cooperative maagemet. Yes, there is a paid rager ad a few staff members assiged to the Natioal Park Service s Appalachia Trail office i Harpers Ferry, West Virgiia, but thousads of the people who maitai, patrol, ad moitor the footpath ad its surroudig lads are outdoor lovers like you. Each year, as members of maitaiig clubs up ad dow the Appalachias, they voluteer hudreds of thousads of hours of their time to takig care of this public treasure. What is the Appalachia Trail Coservacy? The Appalachia Trail Coservacy (ATC) is the oly orgaizatio a cofederatio of 30 local orgaizatios of voluteers focused solely o the protectio ad promotio of the etire Appalachia Trail ad its surroudig lads. Sice 1925, whe Beto MacKaye coveed a gatherig to develop the log-distace trail he evisioed, we have worked to pla the route ad relocate it to better areas; esure that the footpath, shelters, ad bridges are maitaied; care for the lad; ad spearhead a uprecedeted cooperative effort amog hard-workig voluteers, far-sighted govermet agecies, ad geerous beefactors of all sizes to establish ad erich a permaet corridor of protected lads. The efforts of the 5,500 voluteers are today supported by more tha 39,000 idividual members of ATC ad a small professioal staff (about oe per 6,000 acres of corridor lad). We ivite you to joi that membership: Our goal is to provide that special place for your great day! For more iformatio about the Trail, you ca reach ATC at betwee 9 a.m. ad 5 p.m. Easter time, weekdays. Our Visitors Ceter i Harpers Ferry is ope the same hours ad o weekeds ad holidays from April through the last Suday i October. Sed to: Our Web site, offers a wide rage of iformatio about the Trail, curret coditios, ad other sources of useful iformatio. Good luck, ad good hikig! Appalachia Trail Coservacy P.O. Box 807, 799 Washigto Street Harpers Ferry, WV Souther Regioal Office Virgiia Regioal Office Mid-Atlatic Regioal Office New Eglad Regioal Office Plaig 2 What 3 What 4 5 The Cotets Map ad Overview of the Appalachia Trail 4 Your Hike 6 Basic Questios 6 Choosig a Destiatio 7 All Hikers Should Kow 8 Leave No Trace 8 Campig 9 Equipmet 11 Food, Water ad Saitatio 13 to Expect o the Trail 15 Streuous Climbs 15 Fast-Chagig Weather 16 Trail Markigs 16 Wilderess Areas 17 Safety Issues 18 Trail Problems 19 Wildlife 20 Health ad First-Aid Issues 21 Permits ad Fees 22 Special Situatios 22 Thru-Hikig o the A.T. 25 Appalachia Trail: State by State 29

3 Overview of the Appalachia Trail Norther New Eglad Souther New Eglad Mid-Atlatic The Virgiias Souther Appalachias Norther New Eglad Betwee cetral Maie ad wester New Hampshire, this sectio offers some of the most rugged hikig ad most challegig weather coditios of the etire A.T. The path is ofte steep, rough, ad slippery. Parts are above treelie, where weather is especially severe. It icludes Katahdi, the Trail s orther termius i Maie, the wild coutry of the Hudred Miles, the Mahoosuc Rage, ad the White Moutais. Souther New Eglad Betwee easter Vermot ad the New York Coecticut border, much of this sectio rus alog glacierscraped moutai ridges such as the Gree Moutais ad the Berkshires, ad rocky New Eglad river valleys. Though less streuous tha the orther sectio, it offers a challegig hike through deep forests, yet lies withi easy drivig distace of major cities such as Bosto ad New York City. Mid-Atlatic Betwee easter New York ad cetral Marylad, this sectio of the A.T. rus betwee the glacial hills of the Hudso Highlads ad the orther reaches of the Blue Ridge Moutais. It follows log, rocky ridges oly a few thousad feet above sea level ridges that ofte seem like islads of wild coutry above bustlig valleys. Hikig is mostly moderate, but parts ca be very rocky ad streuous. The Virgiias Betwee the easter pahadle of West Virgiia ad the Teessee border, the Trail rus alog the Blue Ridge of Virgiia ad the Great Valley of the Appalachias. This sectio icludes portios of Harpers Ferry Natioal Historical Park, Sheadoah Natioal Park, ad the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hikig is moderate to streuous, ad the souther part offers log, solitary stretches. Souther Appalachias The Trail rus betwee ortheaster Teessee ad the souther termius at Spriger Moutai i Georgia. It peetrates several of the vast atioal forests of the South, ad crosses the Trail s highest moutai, Cligmas Dome, i the Great Smoky Moutais Natioal Park. Though mostly well-graded, the Trail through this sectio is remote, with log, streuous climbs. The high ridges alog the North Carolia Teessee border are proe to witer weather similar to parts of New Eglad. 4 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 5

4 1 Plaig Your Hike Before you commit yourself, kow what you re i for. The A.T. will test you, both physically ad metally. It climbs steep, rocky moutaisides ad ofte leads miles from the earest road or dwellig. Yes, it ca be hard. That s what makes hikig the Appalachia Trail a adveture. Eve so, it eed ot be a ordeal. Proper plaig ad preparatio will make your Trail experiece easier, safer, ad more ejoyable. Basic Questios How far should I go? Start by decidig this. It will affect all your other plas. I geeral, your choices are: A short day-hike Most Trail users are day-hikers, their goal a few miles of hikig or a climb to a overlook. A weeked backpackig trip May hikers pla a two- or three-day campig trip coverig a doze or more liear miles or a loop. This requires more preparatio ad overight equipmet (discussed o pages 11 13). A log-distace hike Sectio-hikers may pla log, liear hikes of a week or more. They eed the same basic equipmet as a weeked backpacker but must carry more supplies or resupply alog the way. Thru-hikers attempt the etire A.T. i oe cotiuous trip, a mammoth physical ad logistical udertakig. Am I ready? Oce you kow where you wat to hike, how much time you pla to sped, ad how prepared you are, ask yourself tough questios. If you ve ever goe backpackig before, are you really ready to head ito the moutais for a week? If you re out of shape, ca you maage a three-thousad-foot climb? Are your goals too ambitious? Are your gear ad clothig adequate for the rage of temperatures you might ecouter? Be realistic about your coditioig ad your eeds. If you have t carried a pack over moutaious, rugged terrai, do t expect it to come aturally. Hikig ad campig o the A.T. ca be a exhilaratig experiece, but it ca also be a sweaty, paiful, ad grimy oe, too. Choosig a Destiatio Where am I goig? First, idetify the regio you ll be hikig i. The map o pages 4 5 shows the five major regios, each of which has differet weather ad hikig coditios. I orther New Eglad, for istace, pla o lower mileage because of the harder terrai. Secod, idetify which state you re goig to start i. Cosult the state-by-state descriptios begiig o page 29. Third, idetify a destiatio or sectio alog the Trail i that state. The Appalachia Trail Coservacy ad its member clubs publish 11 guidebooks with accompayig maps that cover the etire A.T. i detail. Other guidebooks focus o selected day or overight hikes. These publicatios idetify the sceic, historic, ad atural highlights alog the Trail, as well as practical iformatio such as regulatios ad the locatio of campsites, shelters, water sources, parkig, ad access poits. Fourth, study your route. Use guidebooks ad maps to lear as much as you ca about the terrai ad elevatio gai ad loss, so you ca pla your mileage accordigly. Mileage optios are determied by the locatio of road crossigs.if you are parkig a vehicle, be aware that ay remote parkig area may be subject to vadalism. See ATC s website for tips o deterrig vadalism. Whe am I goig? Cosider avoidig parts of the Trail that ted to be crowded, muddy, or isectplagued at various times of the year. See the state-by-state listig o page 29. Do I really eed maps ad guidebooks? All hikers should carry a map ad compass ad kow how to use them. Eve though the A.T. is well-marked i most places, a map is importat for good plaig ad essetial i case of a emergecy. All official A.T. maps also feature elevatio profiles, idicatig at a glace how much up ad dow each sectio cotais. More iformatio o A.T. publicatios ca be foud at the ed of this book. Is my mileage goal realistic? With a appropriate guidebook ad map ad a sese of what to expect i terms of distace ad terrai, you ca itelligetly reassess your origial pla. Begiig backpackers should pla o more tha seve to eight miles a day, ad your first ad last days should be shorter. O your first A.T. backpackig trip, expect to average o more tha a mile a hour, eve o moderate sectios. A goal of big miles makes blisters ad misery much more likely ad may leave you stumblig i the dark or sloggig through the rai whe you are exhausted a recipe for disaster. Rest your feet, ad take time to ejoy the flora, faua, ad views. 6 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 7

5 2 What All Hikers Should Kow Differet hikes require plaig for differet cotigecies, but all A.T. hikers should keep i mid some basics as they prepare for the Trail: how to hike resposibly, where to camp, what basic equipmet to pack, ad how to hadle essetial issues such as food ad saitatio. Leave No Trace As more ad more people use the Trail ad other backcoutry areas, it becomes more importat to lear to ejoy wild places without ruiig them. The best way to do this is to uderstad ad practice the priciples of Leave No Trace, a seve-poit ethic for ejoyig the backcoutry that applies to everythig from a picic outig to a log-distace expeditio. Leave No Trace is also a oprofit orgaizatio dedicated to teachig the priciples of low-impact use. For more iformatio, cotact Leave No Trace at: or call How do I Leave No Trace? 1. Pla ahead ad prepare. Evaluate the risks associated with your outig, idetify campsites ad destiatios i advace, use maps ad guides, ad be ready for bad weather. 2. Travel ad camp o durable surfaces. Stay o trails, ad do t bushwhack shortcuts across switchbacks or other beds i the path. Keep off fragile trailside areas, such as bogs or alpie zoes. Camp i desigated spots, such as shelters ad existig campsites, so that uspoiled areas are t trampled ad deuded. 3. Dispose of waste properly. Bury or pack out excremet ot deposited i privies, icludig pet droppigs. Pack out all trash ad food waste, icludig that left behid by others. Do t bury trash or food, ad do t try to bur packagig materials i campfires. 4. Leave what you fid. Do t take flowers or other sesitive atural resources. Do t disturb artifacts such as ative America arrowheads or the stoe walls ad cellar holes of historical woodlad homesteads. 5. Miimize campfire impacts. Campfires are ejoyable, but they also create the worst visual ad ecological impact of ay backcoutry campig practice. If possible, cook o a backpackig stove istead of a fire. Where fires are permitted, build them oly i established fire rigs, ad do t add rocks to a existig rig. Keep fires small. Bur oly dead ad dowed wood that ca be broke by had leave axes ad saws at home. Never leave your campfire uatteded, ad drow it whe you leave. 6. Respect wildlife. Do t feed or disturb wildlife. Store food properly to avoid attractig bears, varmits, ad rodets. If you brig a pet, keep it leashed. 7. Be cosiderate of other visitors. Limit overight groups to te or fewer; 25 o day trips. Miimize oise ad itrusive behavior. Share shelters ad other facilities. Be cosiderate of Trail eighbors. Carry ad use cell phoes out of sight ad soud of other visitors. Campig If you ve plaed somethig loger tha a day-hike, ow is the time to aticipate where you might sped the ight oce you re o the Trail. O most sectios, you have two basic choices: stayig i a shelter or pitchig a tet. Where ca I fid shelters? More tha 270 backcoutry shelters are located alog the Appalachia Trail at varyig itervals, as a service to all A.T. users. A typical shelter, sometimes called a lea-to, has a shigled or metal roof, a woode floor ad three walls ad is ope to the elemets o oe side. Most are ear a creek or sprig, ad may have a privy earby. Most shelters are available o a first-come, first-served basis. They are iteded for idividual hikers, ot big groups. If you re plaig a group hike, pla to camp out or to yield space to idividual hikers who may ot have the resources you do. May shelters are ear good campsites for tetig. What s the dowside of shelters? Shelters ca be grimy ad rodet-ifested whe hikers do t clea up after themselves, ad they may be crowded. Carry a tet, i case a shelter is ot available. Remember that shelters require cosiderable voluteer effort to build ad maitai. So, why stay at a shelter? First, shelters are the best places to stay dry i wet weather; they fill up fast whe it rais. Secod, they are ofte a good place to meet ad talk with other hikers, ad most have privies ad water sources earby. But, third ad more importatly, stayig at shelters reduces hiker impact o the Trail eviromet ad is a good Leave No Trace practice. It cocetrates use i a relatively small area. A shelter site may seem trampled ad overused, but, sice the vegetatio is already 8 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 9

6 goe, the site will ot deteriorate much more, o matter how may people use it. Meawhile, earby areas stay pristie. To ecourage others to use shelters, please be cosiderate: Keep the grouds litter-free, do t cut dow trees, ad do t vadalize the structures. Should I carry a tet? Yes. You should always carry a tet i case the shelters are full or you fid yourself behid schedule ad ca t make it to the shelter before dusk. Where ca I pitch a tet? Tetig regulatios vary, so you ll eed to check guidebooks for the area where you ll be hikig. I heavily used or fragile areas, you are usually required to use desigated tetsites (ofte associated with shelter sites) i order to cocetrate use ad miimize impacts. I some areas, dispersed campig is allowed, but this method requires a good workig kowledge of Leave No Trace practices. At a miimum, camp out of sight of the trail, if possible, ad at least 200 feet away from ay water sources. O the A.T. i the Smokies, tetig is ot allowed except at the Birch Sprig Gap camp site. (Those who meet the Park s defiitio of thru-hikers may tet i the immediate viciity of the shelters whe they are full.) You are required to have advace reservatios i shelters ad the Birch Sprig site uless you meet certai requiremets (see Special Situatios, p. 22. ) Ca I fid my ow campsite? I may areas, icludig the atioal forests of the Virgiias ad the souther Appalachias, dispersed campig is allowed. Dispersed campig meas you ca choose your ow place to camp, but it carries with it a special resposibility of leavig o trace: You must be more careful to miimize your impact i pristie areas. I pristie areas away from desigated sites, choose a site with o sig of previous use. Avoid places that show the begiigs of frequet use those still have a chace to recover if left aloe. Set up tets o durable surfaces, such as dead leaves or grass, well apart from each other ad at least 70 paces from water. Avoid tramplig plats ad seedligs. Should I build a fire? Campfires create the worst visual ad ecological impact of ay backcoutry campig practice. Buildig fire rigs pockmarks pristie woodlads with blackeed rocks, piles of ash ad charcoal, blackeed cas, ad ubured wood. Vegetatio disappears ad soil packs dow aroud the fire rig. Soil becomes sterile, which retards plat recovery. Hikers trample vegetatio while lookig for wood, ad, whe they fid it, remove woody debris critical to a healthy ecosystem. Leave No Trace priciples ecourage you to go without a fire. Use a backpackig stove istead. If you do ited to build a fire, check your A.T. guidebooks for fire restrictios alog the Trail; some areas do ot permit fires at all. Keep i mid that forest fires are always a potetial hazard alog the A.T. Where fires are permitted, build them oly i established fire rigs. Do t add rocks to a existig rig. Keep fires small. Bur oly dead ad dowed wood that ca be broke by had leave saws ad axes at home. Never leave a fire uatteded, ad ever build a fire o a widy day. Erase your campfire whe you leave. Drow it with water, the stir the ashes. Feel for heat with your had to esure it is out. Remove ubured foil ad plastic ad pack them out. If you used a existig fire rig, scatter the ashes ad camouflage the bured area with orgaic matter. Fially, scatter uused firewood you gathered i the forest. Ca I stay i a hostel or i? Hostels (iexpesive bukhouses caterig to hikers) are available i some tows alog the Trail. Similarly, motels, is, ad B&Bs ted to be clustered i tows ear the Trail. Those tows are typically from 50 to 100 miles apart at the orther ad souther regios of the Trail ad from 30 to 50 miles apart i the middle regios. The oly opportuities for i-to-i hikig o the Trail itself exist i Virgiia s Sheadoah Natioal Park, orthwester Massachusetts, ad i the far more rugged White Moutais of New Hampshire. For up-to-date iformatio about hostels ad other off-trail facilities, cosult the Appalachia Trail Thru-Hikers Compaio, published by ATC ad the Appalachia Log Distace Hikers Associatio (ALDHA). Equipmet What you carry depeds o how far you re goig, where, ad whe. Campig ad backpackig magazies may make it seem as if you re doomed uless you have the latest gear. But, ew equipmet for eve a overight hike ca easily ru $1,000 to $2,000 or more. Do t worry. You ca pla a hike o the Appalachia Trail without bakruptig yourself i the backpackig store. What should a day-hiker pack? Packig for a day-hike is relatively simple. Pack the followig items: Map ad compass (lear to use them first!) Water (at least 1 quart, ad 2 3 o loger hikes i hot weather) Warm clothig ad rai gear ad hat Food (icludig extra high-eergy sacks) Trowel (to bury huma waste), toilet paper, ad had saitizer First-aid kit, with blister treatmets Whistle (three blasts is the iteratioal sigal for help) 10 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 11

7 Garbage bag (to carry out trash) Suglasses ad suscree (especially i sprig before leaf-out) Blaze-orage vest or hat (i hutig seaso) Isect repellet (to deter bitig isects ad ticks which ca carry Lyme disease) O loger hikes, especially i remote or rugged terrai, add: Flashlight (with extra batteries ad bulb) Heavy-duty garbage bag (emergecy tarp or to isulate a hypothermia victim) Sharp kife Fire starter (a cadle, for istace) ad waterproof matches Pe ad paper What should a ovice backpacker pack? If you re backpackig, we suggest you cosult a good book for details about what to carry, or talk to a experieced hiker. We ve listed some books iside the back cover. Remember that retig gear or buyig used equipmet are low-cost optios whe you re first startig out. Although we ca t discuss gear i detail here, most A.T. backpackers carry the followig items, i additio to the day-hike checklist ad some method of treatig water (see page 14). Some items ca be shared with a parter to lighte the load: Shelter (a tet or tarp) Lightweight pot, cookig utesils Stove (a small backpackig model, with fuel) ad widscree Medium-sized backpack (big expeditio-size packs are usually overkill) A pack cover or plastic bag for raiy weather Sleepig pad (to isulate you from the cold groud) Sleepig bag of appropriate warmth for the seaso Food ad clothig Rope or cord (to hag your food at ight) Do I have the right clothig? Hope for the best weather; pack for the worst. Clothig to protect you from cold ad rai is a must eve i midsummer ad especially at higher elevatios. Avoid cotto clothes, particularly i chilly, raiy weather, which ca strike the moutais at ay time of year. Wet cotto ca be worse tha othig ad ca cotribute to hypothermia, a potetially fatal threat. Sythetic fabrics such as polypropylee ad various acrylic bleds will help protect you agaist the dagers of hypothermia. Layer your clothes a polypro shirt, sythetic fleece, ad a coated ylo or breathable waterproof outer shell will keep you both warmer ad drier tha a sigle heavy overcoat i cold, damp weather. Remember, hikig will make you sweat, o matter the weather. Sheddig thi layers eables you to regulate your body temperature more effectively tha choosig betwee keepig a heavy jacket o or takig it off. Is my footwear adequate? Hikig boots are optioal for day-hikes but recommeded for overight ad log-distace hikes over rough terrai. Old-style heavyweight moutai boots are usually uecessary ow that good-quality lightweight boots are widely available. The most importat thig is that boots fit well ad are well broke-i before you hit the Trail: Nothig eds a hike quicker tha blistered feet, ad eve mior blisters ca become ifected ad cause serious trouble. Backpackers ca expect their feet to swell; log-distace hikers should buy boots half a size too big to allow room for this. Should I carry a cell phoe? May hikers carry cell phoes for safety ad emergecies. Be cosiderate of other visitors: carry ad use cell phoes out of sight ad soud of other people. Keep them tured off util eeded or left i a pocket o the vibrate or silet riger settig. Be self-reliat, whether carryig cell phoes or ot. Do t leave ill-prepared or egage i risky actios just because you have a cell phoe to call for rescue. Remember that i may remote areas cell phoe coverage is limited or oexistet. May people go to the out-of-doors to get away from techology. Please respect their desire for solitude ad be discreet whe usig a cell phoe. Food, Water ad Saitatio You should carry some kid of food ad water o eve the shortest A.T. hike, but aythig loger tha a short day-hike presets special cosideratios. What sort of food should I take? If you re out for the day, you ca pack alog whatever foods you like best eve fresh vegetables ad fruits. But sice these spoil quickly ad are heavy (due to their high water cotet), they re ot good for backpackig trips. Whatever food you choose, be sure to pack out all your garbage, icludig items such as apple cores ad orage peels. Do t bur garbage i a campfire; it rarely burs completely. Backpackers geerally carry dried foods such as pasta that they boil ad prepare o their portable stoves. There s o eed to carry more tha a week s food o most parts of the A.T. For hikes loger tha a week, hikers typically leave the Trail 12 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 13

8 periodically to resupply i earby tows. Some ship food parcels ahead to post offices, hostels, ad busiesses ear the Trail; others buy food alog the way. If you pla to do this, cosult oe of the books listed at the back of this booklet for addresses ad locatios. Backpackig burs a lot of eergy. Pla o a tasty diet of 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, icludig high-eergy sacks to eat while you re walkig or durig breaks. Thru-hikers may eed to eat more the typical male thru-hiker burs 5,000 7,000 calories a day. Backpackig food does t have to be expesive or specially prepared; may hikers get everythig they eed at the supermarket. What about water? Stayig hydrated is a importat part of safe hikig because it helps prevet both hypothermia ad heat exhaustio. A.T. guidebooks ad the A.T.Data Book list water sources. Usually these are sprigs or creeks, sice rivers ad pods ted to be polluted. (Except i a emergecy, please do ot disturb earby ladowers with requests for food, water, or shelter.) Some sectios of the Trail ca be very dry durig mid-summer, so pla carefully. Is the water safe? Drikig utreated water makes you vulerable to Giardia lamblia, a commo microscopic orgaism that is carried i the itesties of mammals (icludig humas) ad spread whe they defecate; it ca cotamiate may lakes, streams, ad rivers. Waters may be clear, cold, ad free-ruig ad may look, smell, ad taste good. I spite of all that, giardia may still be preset. Several ways of treatig raw water make it safer. The simplest is boilig it, but that s ot always coveiet. Iodie or chlorie tablets or drops are ot cosidered as reliable as boilig to kill giardia, although these products work well agaist most waterbore bacteria ad viruses. May hikers carry portable water filters that claim to remove giardia. Check the product literature to esure that the filter will remove particles as small as oe micro i diameter ad caot be cotamiated easily by ufiltered water. Graular charcoal filters, of the sort used to make tap water taste better, wo t make backcoutry water safer. Where are the rest rooms? Few ad far betwee. May A.T. shelters have privies, but ofte you will eed to go i the woods. Proper disposal of huma (ad pet) waste is ot oly a courtesy to other hikers, but is a vital Leave No Trace practice for maitaiig healthy water supplies i the backcoutry ad a ejoyable hikig experiece for others. No oe should veture oto the A.T. without a trowel, used for diggig a six- to eight-ichdeep cathole to bury waste. Bury feces at least 200 feet or 70 paces away from water, trails, or shelters. Use a stick to mix dirt with your waste, which hastes decompositio ad discourages aimals from diggig it up. Used toilet paper should either be buried i your cathole or carried out i a sealed plastic bag. Hygiee products such as saitary apkis should always be carried out. What to Expect o the Trail Expect the Trail to test you, both physically ad metally. Kow your limits, ad examie your reasos for strappig o a pack ad tacklig the Appalachia Trail. Part of the joy of hikig the A.T. is learig to deal with ad overcome its challeges, to feel resiliet ad self-sufficiet i a wild, rough place that has few of the ameities of civilized life. Do t uderestimate the Trail s challeges or igore its timeless rewards. Streuous Climbs 3 Because most hikes start at the foot of a moutai, the first ad last few miles of ay hike are ofte the toughest. Ascets challege your wid; descets challege your kees ad feet. Beig i shape ad havig a good metal attitude go had i had. Eve the best-made plas ca be ruied if you re ot i a positio to ejoy where your physical efforts have take you. Prepare yourself both physically ad metally, ad be ready for what the Trail will throw at you. How fit should I be? Ay physical edge you ca brig to your trip will pay hadsome divideds over the first few steep miles ad help your attitude. Take a few traiig hikes, ad get used to your boots ad equipmet. Idetify o-essetial items you ca do without to reduce your pack weight. Work up to carryig a full pack gradually. The best preparatio for A.T. backpackig is carryig a pack o the hilliest terrai you ca fid. If you live i very flat coutry, you re better off doig leg stregtheig ad aerobic traiig exercises. What pace should I set? O the first day of your hike, take it easy. Pace yourself o the first climbs. Hikers who overdo it always regret it the ext morig leg muscles simply will ot stad up to such puishmet. For loger hikes, allow two to three weeks to get ito good shape. Goig too far, too fast makes foot, kee, ad leg problems far more likely. 14 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 15

9 Fast-Chagig Weather Be prepared for sudde weather chages alog the Appalachia Trail. This is particularly true of the higher elevatios of the souther Appalachias, the White Moutais i New Hampshire, ad o Katahdi i Maie. The Whites ad Katahdi may be hit by sow durig ay moth of the year. For ways to deal with weather-related health problems, see page 21. What do I eed to kow about lightig? The odds of beig struck by lightig are low, but you should take precautios. If a storm is comig, immediately leave exposed areas a ope ridge is o place to be durig a thuderstorm. If you caot eter a buildig or car, take shelter i a stad of smaller trees or i the forest. Boulders, rocky overhags, ad shallow caves offer o protectio from lightig, which may actually flow through them alog the groud after a strike. Tets ad three-sided A.T. shelters may keep you dry, but they do ot protect you from lightig. Avoid ski lifts, flagpoles, ad powerlie towers. Avoid clearigs, the tallest trees, ad solitary trees or rocks. If caught i the ope, remove your pack, crouch with your feet close together, ad put your hads over your ears. Do ot hold a potetial lightig rod, such as a fishig pole or metal hikig pole. If you are i water, get out. Disperse groups, so that ot everyoe is struck by a sigle bolt. Ca I expect cold weather? Sudde spells of off-seaso cold weather, hail, ad eve sow are commo alog may parts of the Trail. Witer-like weather ofte occurs i late sprig or early fall i the souther Appalachias, Vermot, New Hampshire, ad Maie. A cold rai ca be the most dagerous weather of all, because it ca cause hypothermia (or exposure ) eve whe coditios are well above freezig. Wid ad rai chill the body so that its core temperature drops, ad death occurs if the coditio is ot caught i time. Avoid hypothermia by dressig i layers of sythetic clothig, eatig well, stayig hydrated, ad kowig whe to hole up i a warm sleepig bag i a tet or shelter. See page 21 for tips o prevetio ad treatmet. Whe is heat a problem? Dry, hot summers are surprisigly commo alog the Trail, particularly i the Virgiias ad the mid-atlatic. Water may be scarce o humid days, sweat does ot evaporate well, ad may hikers face the dager of heat stroke ad heat exhaustio if they have t take proper precautios such as drikig lots of water. Trail Markigs The Appalachia Trail is marked for daytime travel i both directios, usig a system of pait blazes o trees, posts, ad rocks. Above the treelie, ad where sow or fog may obscure pait marks, posts ad rock piles called cairs are used to idetify the route. What is a blaze? A blaze is a two- by six-ich vertical rectagle of pait i a promiet place alog a trail. White-pait blazes mark the Appalachia Trail itself. Side trails ad itersectig trails use blue blazes or other colors. Two blazes, oe above the other, sigal a obscure tur, route chage, icomig side trail, or other situatio that requires you to be especially alert. Where offset double blazes are used, tur i the directio of the top blaze. What if I do t see blazes? Distace betwee blazes varies. I some areas, blazes are frequetly withi sight. I areas maaged as wilderess you may ecouter oly four or five per mile. Historic areas such as Harpers Ferry, West Virgiia, or where the Trail follows the Chesapeake ad Ohio Towpath i Marylad may have eve fewer blazes. If the frequecy of blazig suddely chages ad you have t see a blaze, retrace your steps util you locate a blaze. The, check to make sure you have t missed a tur. Ofte a glace backwards will reveal blazes meat for hikers travelig i the opposite directio. Reroutes (called relocatios ) completed sice the latest editio of the maps ad guidebooks will ot appear i publicatios, but may be refereced o ATC s website. Does the Trail route ever chage? Yes. Although 99 percet of the Trail is located o protected public lads, each year small sectios are rerouted to provide better sceery, better treadway or to move the Trail away from threats. Hece, the Trail s total legth chages each year. Whe blazig differs from your map, follow the blazes. Wilderess Areas These special places, desigated by Cogress, are iteded to be kept i their wild state, where the earth ad its commuity of life are utrammeled by ma, where ma himself is a visitor who does ot remai. (Wilderess Act of 1964) Wilderess desigatio provides the broadest ad most permaet protectio for A.T. lads. To keep these places wild ad pristie, they are maaged so that observable huma ifluece is miimal. That meas that loggig, miig, ad the use of motorized vehicles is prohibited, as well as costructio of roads, power lies, cell towers, ad other itrusive developmets. That also meas that the A.T. itself is itetioally built ad maitaied i a primitive maer i keepig with wilderess values. There are far fewer blazes oly four or five per mile. Sigs are icospicuous ad there are fewer mamade improvemets such as bridges ad privies. Trail maitaiers are required 16 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 17

10 to use had tools to cut dow trees ad clear vegetatio, ad typically must carry their tools log distaces. Safety Issues The Appalachia Trail is safer tha most places, but a few crimes of violece have occurred i the past. Awareess is oe of your best lies of defese. Be aware of what you are doig, where you are, ad to whom you are talkig. How ca I protect myself? Stay aware of what s goig o aroud you ad report all icidets. I this way, hikers ca be a more effective commuity deterret. Be prudet ad cautious without allowig commo sese to slip ito paraoia. Follow these rules of thumb: Do t hike aloe. If you are by yourself ad ecouter a strager who makes you feel ucomfortable, say you are with a group that is behid you. Be creative. If i doubt, move o. Eve a parter is o guaratee of safety; pay attetio to your isticts about other people. Leave your hikig itierary ad timetable with someoe at home. Be sure your cotacts at home kow your Trail ame, if you use oe. Check i regularly ad establish a procedure to follow if you fail to check i. O short hikes, provide your cotacts with the umbers of the lad-maagig agecies for the area of your hike. O exteded hikes, provide ATC s umber. Be wary of stragers. Be friedly, but cautious. Do t tell stragers your plas. Avoid people who act suspiciously, seem hostile, or are itoxicated. Do t camp ear roads. Dress coservatively to avoid uwated attetio. Carryig firearms is strogly discouraged. They are illegal o Natioal Park Service lads ad i most other areas without a permit, they could be tured agaist you or result i a accidetal shootig, ad they are extra weight. Elimiate opportuities for theft. Do t brig jewelry. Keep wallets ad moey o your perso rather tha i your pack or tet. Leavig a pack uatteded at trailheads is risky eve whe it is hidde, ad may attract wildlife i search of food. Eve at shelters, do t leave your gear uless you have a fried who ca look after it. Do t leave valuables or equipmet (especially i sight) i vehicles parked at Trailheads. Use the Trail registers, the otebooks stored at most shelters. Sig i usig your give ame, leave a ote, ad report ay suspicious activities. If someoe eeds to locate you, or if a serious crime has bee committed alog the Trail, the first place authorities will look is i the registers. Report ay crime or harassmet to the local authorities ad ATC. What s the best safety tip? Trust your gut. Is hutig permitted o Trail lads? Hutig is allowed alog more tha half of the Appalachia Trail s legth, icludig some part of each of the 14 Trail states. Durig hutig seaso, make sure you ca be see ad heard. Wear a blaze-orage cap ad vest ad/or backpack cover at all times, icludig i ad aroud camp. Durig deeer seaso, avoid wearig white. Durig turkey seaso, avoid clothig that is blue, red, or white. For more iformatio o whe ad where hutig is allowed, visit our Web site, Trail Problems I the 1990s aloe, Trail relocatios to provide better sceery ad recreatio led to several hudred miles of ew treadway. Every year, thousads of me ad wome cotribute up to 200,000 hours of voluteer work o the Trail or adjacet lads, improvig the route ad dealig with maiteace problems. What should I do whe I ecouter a maiteace problem? If you ecouter a poorly marked or overgrow sectio of trail, or eve a tree that has falle across your path, please do t just gripe. Sed ATC a postcard or a to idetifyig the problem ad the locatio. We will promptly forward your remarks to the maitaiig club for that sectio of the Trail. Better yet, joi your local voluteer Trail club ad help them, or apply to do a week of work with oe of ATC s Trail crews. If you come across excessive litter, please help by carryig as much of this out as you ca. (We suggest packig a extra garbage bag for this purpose.) Is hiker behavior a problem? It ca be. Be cosiderate of fellow hikers ad the people who live alogside the Trail corridor. Behave i such a maer that the ext hiker gets a good receptio. Whe a smelly, arrogat, or rude hiker passes through a tow, store, or hostel, ill-will is geerated toward future hikers. Whe people do you a favor, get their ame ad address. After your trip, drop them a postcard or letter, thakig them for makig it memorable. You would be amazed at the impact such a simple gesture ca have. Try to shower oce i a while, too. Out o the Trail, backpackers quickly become somewhat immue to their ow smell, which pervades clothes, boots, ad backpacks. Shower before goig idoors or ito a public place, especially a restaurat. It makes a real differece i how people will treat you. 18 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 19

11 Ca people ride or drive o the Trail? Motor vehicles are illegal o all off-road sectios of the Appalachia Trail. Bicycles ad moutai bikes are ot permitted except where the A.T. rus alog the C&O Caal towpath i Marylad, the Virgiia Creeper Trail i Virgiia, ad i certai Pesylvaia state gamelads. Horses ad pack aimals are prohibited except i parts of the Smokies ad at a hadful of crossigs by desigated horse trails. Ca I brig my dog? Dogs are prohibited i Great Smoky Moutais Natioal Park ad Baxter State Park ad must be leashed i may other areas. Required or ot, leashig at all times is strogly recommeded to miimize their impacts o wildlife ad people. Keep dogs out of sprigs ad shelters ad away from other hikers, their food, ad their gear. ATC s Web site, offers more details about hikig with dogs. Wildlife Seeig wildlife is oe of the reasos to hike the Trail. It is ot ucommo to see deer, moose, wild turkeys, bears, foxes, ad a wide variety of small mammals, reptiles, ad birds. But, wildlife ca pose problems for hikers, too. Will I ecouter sakes? Poisoous ad opoisoous sakes are widespread alog the Trail i warm weather, but they will usually be passive. Please do t kill them! Watch where you step ad where you put your hads. What other creatures are problems for people? Ticks, which carry Lyme disease, are a risk o ay hike; always check yourself for ticks daily. Mosquitoes ad other stigig isects may also be a problem. Porcupies, skuks, raccoos, ad squirrels are quite commo ad occasioally visit shelters ad well-established campig areas after dark; if they smell your food, they ll eat it if they ca! Mice are permaet residets at most shelters, ad may carry diseases. What about bears? Black bears live alog may parts of the Trail ad are particularly commo i Georgia, the Great Smoky Moutais ad Sheadoah Natioal Parks, ad parts of Pesylvaia ad New Jersey. Black bears are the oly species of bear foud i the easter U.S. While attacks o humas are rare, a startled bear or a female with cubs may react aggressively. The best way to avoid a ecouter while you are hikig is to make oise by whistlig, talkig, etc., to give the bear a chace to move away before you get close eough to make it feel threateed. If you ecouter a bear ad it does ot move away, you should back off, speakig calmly ad firmly, ad avoid makig eye cotact. Do ot ru or play dead eve if a bear makes a bluff charge. The best defese agaist bears i camp is preparig ad storig food properly. Cook ad eat meals away from your tet or shelter, so food odors do ot liger. Hag your food, cookware, toothpaste, persoal hygiee items, ad eve water bottles (if you use drik mixes i them) i a sturdy bag from a strog tree brach at least 12 feet off the groud ad well away from your campsite. Make sure the bag is at least six feet from the truk of the tree; black bears are crafty climbers ad good reachers. Bear caisters also provide a effective alterative for food storage. Where bear boxes, poles, or food hoist cable systems are provided, use them. Never leave trash i bear boxes. Never feed bears or leave food behid for them. That simply icreases the risks to you ad the hikers who follow behid you. I recet years there have bee reports of bears o the A.T. rippig ope tets ad eve grabbig a sleepig bag or bivy sack ad attemptig to drag it off with a hiker iside. A bear that eters a campsite or cookig area should be cosidered predatory. Yellig, makig loud oises, throwig rocks, etc., may frighte it away, however, you should be prepared to fight back if ecessary. If you are actually attacked by a bear, you should fight for all you are worth with aythig at had rocks, sticks, fists. Health ad First-Aid Issues What safety equipmet should I carry? Preparatio is the key for a healthy trip. Choose clothig ad equipmet carefully, ad make sure you have adequate food, water, ad shelter available. Carry a basic first-aid kit that ca treat scrapes, blisters, sprais, ad aches. Always carry first-aid iformatio with you ad make sure someoe i your group has first-aid traiig. How do I prevet blisters? Blisters are oe of the most commo ailmets suffered by hikers. Break i ew boots before you begi your hike. Always keep your feet dry while hikig. Whe you stop for breaks, take your shoes ad socks off to air out your feet; chage socks. Do t wait for a blister to develop. As soo as you feel ay discomfort, place adhesive tape, duct tape, moleski, or a blister-care product over areas of developig soreess. How do I prevet hypothermia? Stay well hydrated, eve whe it s cold. Wear layers of warm, widproof, ad water-repellet clothig i chill, wet weather. Wearig a fleece cap or balaclava coserves valuable body heat lost through your head. Always keep dry, spare clothig i your pack, ad take care to keep your sleepig bag ad matches dry. 20 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 21

12 Remember that wid chill or body wetess, particularly whe aggravated by fatigue, dehydratio, ad huger, ca rapidly drai body heat. Shiverig, lethargy, metal slowig, ad cofusio are early symptoms. Left utreated, hypothermia ca kill you. To treat hypothermia, immediately seek shelter ad warm your etire body, preferably by placig it i a sleepig bag ad cosumig warm liquids. How do I prevet heat emergecies? Durig summer moths, dehydratio ca occur o ay part of the Trail. Be especially careful i low-elevatio areas where temperatures are higher ad areas with cosiderable elevatio gai ad loss. O hot ad humid days, it s best to keep your mileage low, ad take a break durig the warmest part of the day. Remember to drik plety of water throughout the day ad do t wait util you feel thirsty to drik. Make sure your urie stays clear; dark yellow urie is a sig of dehydratio. Also remember that while hydratio is importat, there comes a poit where water aloe may ot be eough. To maitai a proper balace of electrolytes, iclude fruit or fruit juice or a very diluted sports drik i your pack. Permits ad Fees The Appalachia Trail is ope for all to ejoy. No fees, memberships, or paid permits are required for walkig o the Trail. However, the A.T. passes through umerous state ad atioal parks, a few of which require permits ad fees. Where are permits required? Permits are required to camp i the backcoutry i the Great Smoky Moutais Natioal Park ad Sheadoah Natioal Park. Baxter State Park ad the Smokies require reservatios for overight campig; differet regulatios gover thruhikers i these areas. Where are fees charged? Fees are charged to eter may parks by car, i some areas o some atioal forests, ad to stay at certai shelters ad overight sites i heavy-use areas. Special Situatios What are the special situatios i the Great Smoky Moutais Natioal Park? Pets are prohibited i the backcoutry; private keels ca board ad shuttle dogs aroud the park for thru-hikers. Cotact ATC for more iformatio. Backpackers usig the A.T. or its side trails i the Smokies must obtai a permit to stay overight ad are required to reserve space at desigated shelters ad campsites. All except thru-hikers must obtai the permit by mail or i perso from a park rager. A.T. thru-hikers (defied by the park as those begiig at least 50 miles orth or south of the park boudaries ad cotiuig at least 50 miles beyod the other side) eed a permit that allows them seve cosecutive ights ad eight days to traverse the park. Those are available at Fotaa Dam, North Carolia, (souther ed) or from the U.S. Forest Service rager statio i Hot Sprigs, North Carolia, (35 miles orth). Oly three spaces i shelters alog the Trail are geerally reserved for thru-hikers from March 15 through Jue 15. Other thru-hikers must yield their buks ad tet outside the shelters if additioal hikers, with shelter permits, arrive. Oly thru-hikers with permits are allowed to pitch tets outside a shelter. No more tha oe ight may be spet at ay oe shelter. For permits ad additioal iformatio, write to Backcoutry Reservatios Office, Smoky Moutai Natioal Park, Gatliburg, TN 37738, or call betwee 8 a.m ad 6 p.m. Easter time daily. What are the special situatios i Sheadoah Natioal Park? Backcoutry campig permits are required for backpackers. Northboud thruhikers ca obtai permits at the self-registratio kiosk ear the park etrace o Skylie Drive, 0.8 mile orth of Rockfish Gap. Southboud thru-hikers ca obtai permits at the self-registratio statio 0.1 mile south of the sig markig the park s orther boudary. There is o charge for hikers eterig the park via the Appalachia Trail. A $5 fee is charged at some other trailheads, ad a $10 per vehicle fee is charged drivers o Skylie Drive. Write the park superitedet for permits, or call for more iformatio. Dogs are prohibited o certai trails (which are posted by appropriate sigs) ad must be o a leash at all times i all other areas. What are the special situatios i the White Moutai Natioal Forest? The high, exposed peaks of New Hampshire s White Moutai Natioal Forest offer a combiatio of spectacular sceery, difficult terrai, ad severe weather. Because of these factors ad those metioed below, advace plaig is critically importat here. The White Moutais Natioal Forest ad its may miles above treelie cotai some of the most fragile ecosystems alog the etire A.T. Twice as may people visit this area as all the rest of the Trail combied. To limit resource impacts of so may visitors, backcoutry use is cocetrated at developed overight sites (campsites, shelters, ad huts) with adequate water ad saitatio facilities. Campig is prohibited i Forest Protectio Areas (FPAs). They are desigated to protect heavily used areas from overuse. FPAs are foud above treelie, aroud shelters, huts, ad all other places where overcampig could be a problem (roads, pods, fragile ecosystems, etc.). Uique to the White Moutais are a system of eight huts operated by the Appalachia Moutai Club (AMC) alog the A.T., seve of which provide dier, lodgig ad breakfast durig the summer ad fall seaso. Advace reservatios 22 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 23

13 are recommeded; A.T. thru-hikers are give member discouts. A work-for-stay optio is available o limited basis for thru-hikers. There are also shelters ad campsites i the White Moutais, some of which have a fee. A few, especially across the Presidetial rage, are as much as a mile off the A.T., ad require a steep climb off the ridge. Kow your optios ahead of time! For more iformatio, visit AMC s Web site at Thru-hikers should familiarize themselves with AMC s Thru-Hiker s Guide to Facilities i the White Moutais, o AMC s Web site, ad icluded i ATC s free thruhiker packets. What are the special situatios i Baxter State Park? Baxter Park is a wilderess park ope oly from May 15 to October 15. Trails above treelie are frequetly closed durig witer weather i early Jue ad October, ad the park is at capacity i July ad August. Park persoel exercise a high degree of cotrol over the umber of persos eterig the park ad their activities. No dogs are allowed. A.T. hikers should read the park regulatios before comig to the park. Because the gates close whe the park reaches capacity, day users should pla to be at the park etrace by daw to be assured of a parkig spot, especially o weekeds. The A.T. up Katahdi typically opes May 31, later i years of heavy sow. Like other trails above treelie, severe weather ca close it i ay moth of the year, but especially i September ad October. Be forewared: It is the toughest five miles o the etire A.T. ad should ot be attempted uless you are i good health. Those with fear of heights may be uerved above treelie. All persos eterig Baxter Park, by car or o foot, must register at oe of the three etry gates or at the earest campgroud. Overight hikers must have a advace reservatio at a campsite ad pay a fee ($9 per perso/per ight i 2006). Idividual hikers arrivig o foot o a hike of 100 miles or more (icludig orthboud thru-hikers, but geerally ot southboud thru-hikers or flip-flop thru-hikers) may stay at the Birches without advace reservatios, space permittig. For more iformatio, visit Baxter State Park s Web site or cotact Baxter State Park, 64 Balsam Drive, Milliocket, ME 04462; Two of their free publicatios, A Thru-Hiker s Guide to Baxter State Park Regulatios ad Policies ad Katahdi Thru-hiker Alert are available from the park or ATC. What are the special issues facig groups hikig o the A.T.? Groups are welcome o the Trail, but they eed to do a few additioal thigs: Take particular care to Leave No Trace (see page 8); this is vital because groups have a more cocetrated impact o paths, campsites, ad facilities. Pla to use tets ad ot shelters. Shelters are ot desigated for groups. Limit group size to o more tha te, or 25 o day hikes. Thru-Hikig o the A.T. A thru-hike is oe of the most excitig ad demadig outdoor advetures that America has to offer. Although the jourey requires gruelig physical effort, a willigess to edure deprivatio ad sometimes pai for exteded periods, it offers a immesely rewardig ad uforgettable experiece. 4 Who ca attempt a thru-hike? Ayoe i good health who ca walk has the potetial to complete a thru-hike. Beig i good physical shape ad havig well-chose, lightweight gear that you kow how to use are certaily advatages, especially i the critical first few weeks of your hike. Kowig what to expect ad beig prepared is importat, too. But a ability to ejoy the momet, a sese of humor i the face of frequet uexpected challeges, ad a drivig passio to complete the hike are perhaps greater predictors of success. Thru-hikes have bee completed by those ragig from age 6 to age 81, ad by people with a variety of disabilities, from all walks of life. How log does it take? O average, a thru-hike takes just uder six moths. Most thru-hikers take betwee five ad seve moths to walk the trail, although four or eight moths is ot ucommo. Most of the loger hikes belog to flip-floppers. Whe should I start a thru-hike? Most thru-hikers start their trips betwee the ed of February ad early April at Spriger Moutai i Georgia. Most fiish at Katahdi i Maie betwee August ad early October. Northboud thru-hikers should pla to reach Katahdi well before October 15 because of weather coditios ad Baxter Park regulatios. Each year, hikers start earlier ad earlier i a attempt to beat the crowd of more tha a thousad fellow orthbouders. However, may are caught off guard by cold temperatures, sow, ad ice i the high moutais of the souther Appalachias. The high elevatios create coditios comparable to souther New Eglad, with below-freezig temperatures ad sow occurrig well ito April, occasioally eve May. I March, daylight hours are short, ad sow ad ice ca slow or halt your progress. If the sow is deep eough, you may eve have to leave the Trail ad wait for the sow to melt. Beig prepared for these coditios meas carryig a 24 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 25

14 heavier pack. Uless you are ot deterred by several weeks of witer hikig, it s best to wait at least util the ed of March. Leavig the you ll probably still see some sow, especially i the Smokies, but you ll see sprig a lot sooer. What about startig i Maie? A few thru-hikers start i Jue or early July at Katahdi ad fiish i Georgia i November or December. Southboud thru-hikers must wait util the A.T. up Katahdi opes, usually the first week of Jue, but sometimes later. Jue starters ca expect swarms of black flies ad high stream crossigs i Maie, but waitig much loger meas additioal weeks of witer hikig o the souther ed. Hikig southboud is cosidered the toughest way to hike the Trail: you should be i seriously good shape before attemptig this. A southbouder starts with the toughest moutai o the etire Trail o his first day, ad speds his or her first moth i the hardest state o the Trail. What if I wat to avoid crowds, cold weather, ad tough hikig i the begiig? The you might wat to cosider a alterative thru-hike. The most commo variatios are called flip-flops. For example, startig i the middle of the Trail ad hikig orth allows you begi later tha the orthbouders but sooer tha the southbouders. You ca also start i easier terrai, ad set off i sprig weather. A word of advice: Get tips from the early orthbouders who pass you i the begiig, but do t attempt to keep up with them. You ll set yourself up for ijury. Do t overlook the aspects that some cosider major drawbacks, though. You ll be missig out o the dramatic fiish o Katahdi, ad you probably wo t feel as much a part of the A.T. thru-hike commuity. (Couples may mid this less.) Some may ot cosider you a real thru-hiker, but ATC, the body that officially records thru-hike completios, does. I fact, ATC applauds alterative thru-hikers for helpig reduce impacts caused by crowds of orthbouders o the souther ed of the Trail. ATC s Web site ca give you iformatio about this ad other alterative thru-hikes. Do I have to register? No. There s o formal registratio system. But, let frieds ad family kow where you are, what your itierary is, ad your Trail ame. Do I eed to carry maps? The Trail is well-marked, so may thru-hikers are tempted ot to carry maps. I a emergecy, maps are your best source of iformatio o how to get off the Trail ad fid help. Maps also help you get a sese of where you are i relatio to the lad aroud you ad ca be helpful for locatig water sources. What books should I buy or carry? See the list of books ad guidebooks iside the back cover. How detailed should my pla be? Flexibility i your schedule is essetial. Igorig the warig sigs of pai ad forcig yourself to stick to a detailed, overambitious pla ca lead to ijuries that may ed your hike. Lyme disease, if ot treated promptly, ca take you off the Trail for weeks, or worse. Sow or heavy rai ca create coditios that will slow you dow cosiderably. Allow space i your schedule for the uexpected. What are my chaces of fiishig a thru-hike? Each year, may prospective 2,000-milers start at Spriger Moutai i Georgia, oly to quit at the first tow 20 miles up the Trail. Up to 10 percet quit i the first week, but approximately 25 percet make it the whole way. They give up for all kids of reasos. Startig too early, heavy rais or sow, a schedule that is too ambitious ad leads to ijury, uexpectedly rugged terrai, overspedig a meager budget, poor physical shape, ill-fittig boots ad equipmet, or o sese of humor all cotribute to a ill-fated expeditio. Oly you kow best what kid of perso you are. Will you edure days of rai, whe every item you ow becomes soggy, icludig your tet ad sleepig bag? Are you willig to plod up seemigly edless moutais with muscles that ache, oly to see aother grid still to come? Will you still be ispired after every view starts to look the same ad the Trail seems like a edless gree tuel? How ca I kow if I m up for the challege? The smartest thig you ca do is to take a practice hike that icludes at least two ights out o terrai that approximates the part of the Trail you pla to start o. This will help you evaluate gear, physical coditioig, ad metal readiess. How much does it cost? A fair amout of moey typically about $3,000 to $5,000 to udertake a 2,175-mile, five- to seve-moth hike, ot coutig $1,000 to $2,000 or more for gear. May dollars are spet i vai, alog with plaig time ad effort, whe someoe lears too late that a thru-hike is ot for him or her. What costs so much? Most of your moey will be spet i tow. Few thru-hikers ca resist the temptatio of restaurat food, motel beds, ad hot showers after days of deprivatio. You will also eed moey for supplies, laudry, postage, equipmet repair, ad equipmet replacemet. What about maildrops? Maildrops are ot essetial. You ca either buy food alog the way, pick up pre-set packages, or some combiatio of the two. Aother trick is cotiually forwardig 26 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 27

15 a bouce box. Sometimes hostels or busiesses located close to the Trail ad ope seve days a week are more coveiet tha Post Offices for sedig packages. For more details o choosig which method to use ad how to mail packages to yourself alog the Trail, see ATC s Thru-Hike Plaer or ATC s Web site. How do I fid a parter? If you re startig a orthboud thru-hike i March or April, you ll have plety of compaioship from other thru-hikers. But, havig a parter to pla your hike with ad start out with ca make the process more fu ad less itimidatig. Uless you ad your parter are log-time frieds, however, it s best ot to make a commitmet to stay together more tha a few days or weeks. Chaces are, you ll soo fid others whose pace ad tempermet are a better match. Appalachia Trail Coservacy members may place ads for hikig parters i the A.T. Joureys at o charge. The followig Web sites have a parters sectio or a forum where you ca post a parter ad: Trailplace: Are there alteratives to thru-hikig? May hikers, uable to take six moths off from their jobs, families, ad fiacial resposibilities, walk the etire Trail i sectios over a period of years. The advatage of sectio-hikig is that you ca choose the best time of year to be i a particular area fall i New Eglad, sprig i the South, Virgiia whe moutai laurel is bloomig, ad so o. You ca set your ow pace, take time to ejoy the sceery, ad will ot have to be cosumed with makig miles as may thru-hikers are. The disadvatage is that you have to walk yourself ito shape each time. What happes whe I fiish? The greatest rewards are persoal oes the memories, friedships, photographs, the sese of accomplishmet, ad the deeper appreciatio of the easter moutais. Whe you fiish the etire Trail, either i oe seaso or sectios added together over the years, you become a 2,000-miler. Applicatio forms are available o ATC s Web site or by cotactig ATC. Whe you retur the form, ATC will sed you a certificate of recogitio ad a 2,000-Miler rocker for a A.T. patch. Your ame will be added to our roster of 2,000-milers. Forms are also available at Baxter State Park i Maie ad Amicalola Falls State Park i Georgia. Who is eligible to become a 2,000-miler? Ayoe who has walked the etire A.T., whether as a sectio-hiker or thru-hiker, is recogized as a 2,000-miler. Our recogitio policy does ot cosider sequece, directio, speed, or whether oe carries a pack. More iformatio is available o ATC s Web site. The Appalachia Trail: State by State Maie Throughout Maie, the A.T. is kow for both its beauty ad the ruggedess of its terrai. The Trail s orther termius is located atop the spectacular mile-high Katahdi, the A.T. s most challegig moutai. (See Special Situatios i Baxter State Park, p. 24, for more iformatio. Much of Maie is ot recommeded for ovice hikers, especially backpackers; its more tha 280 miles are cosidered the most difficult ad remote of all 14 states. Eve the strogest hiker may average oly oe mile a hour or less i places, where climbig, slidig ad scramblig may be required. Bogs, streams, ad lakes aboud. While that makes moose ad loos commo sights, it also makes for muddy, ueve, ad slippery treadway. Fords of moutai streams ca be difficult ad potetially life-threateig whe water is high. These coditios usually occur ito Jue or after heavy rais. Ofte the oly optios are waitig for them to subside or backtrackig ad fidig a road to follow. At the Keebec River, the widest ubridged river alog the Trail, a free caoe service ferries A.T. users across. Fordig the river is extremely dagerous, because the water level ca rise rapidly ad without warig. Swarms of black flies i Jue ca make hikig almost ubearable; mosquitoes populate wet areas through the summer. The famed 100-mile wilderess i the orther part of the route is crowded i summer moths. Although remote, it is techically ot a wilderess, but does traverse more tha 100 miles betwee paved roads. Over the decades, availability of resupply has waxed ad waed; check the latest editio of the A.T. Thru-Hikers Compaio before plaig a hike here. 5 New Hampshire The highlight of the A.T. i New Hampshire is the beautiful, rugged White Moutai Natioal Forest, the dramatic sceery of which attracts more backcoutry visitors tha ay other part of the Trail. Travel here requires itelliget plaig ad ample time; pla o more tha five to eight miles per day. Be prepared for steep ascets ad descets that require the use of your hads ad, occasioally, the seat of your pats. Much of the Trail is above timberlie, where 28 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 29

16 the temperature may chage very suddely; sow is possible i ay seaso. The same severe weather coditios that prevet trees from growig o the high ridges also require a higher level of preparedess for a safe, successful hikig trip. Sow falls o Mt. Washigto durig every moth of the year. High wids ad dese fog are commo. Most shelters ad campsites charge a fee. Betwee the White Moutais ad the Vermot border, the Trail crosses broke terrai of alteratig moutais ad valleys. This area is oted for its fall foliage ad is a good alterative to the crowds ad steep scrambles of the Whites. Vermot Betwee the Coecticut River ad the Gree Moutai Natioal Forest, the Trail passes through high, rugged coutry with woods ad overgrow farmlads. From Maie Juctio (ear U.S. 4) south, the A.T. follows about 100 miles of the famed Log Trail alog the rugged crest of the Gree Moutais. The Trail approaches treelie at Killigto ad Stratto moutais, ad parts feature streuous ascets. But, i geeral, Vermot hikig crosses varied terrai, at lower to mid-rage elevatios with a fair amout of elevatio gai ad loss. It passes through forests of paper birch ad white pie, wooded moutais, ad farm valleys. Avoid Vermot trails i mud seaso, mid-april through Memorial Day. Hikig there i wet, sloppy coditios leads to serious Trail erosio. Massachusetts The Trail here leads through the Berkshires. Pleasat stretches through wooded hills ad valleys feature such outstadig peaks as Mt. Greylock ad Mt. Everett, ad the Trail passes through several small New Eglad tows. Water is pletiful. Several summits ad ledges provide views, ad there are log, flat sectios atop the Berkshire Plateau quite differet from the dry ridgewalks of the mid-atlatic ad Virgiias. Ascets, though sometimes steep, are seldom sustaied. Coecticut The route through the orthwester corer of Coecticut meaders across the wor-dow remats of a oce-lofty moutai rage. The Housatoic River Valley to the east ad the Tacoic Rage to the west are particularly sceic, ad oe sectio of Trail ear Falls Village is accessible for persos with disabilities. May sectios ru alog the baks of rivers. Hikig is mostly moderate, with steep, fairly challegig sectios that are short i duratio. Views are ofte pastoral. New York ad New Jersey Betwee Coecticut ad the Kittatiy Rage i New Jersey, the Trail is much less secluded you ca see the Mahatta skylie from some spots! The sectio through Harrima Bear Moutai State Park, where i 1923 the very first ew sectio of the Appalachia Trail was completed, gets a lot of visitors. The route alog the Kittatiy Rage i New Jersey is rugged ad more remote, with abudat wildlife, icludig a active bear populatio. Elevatio chages are geerally moderate ad vary from relatively flat ad getle to short, steep, rocky pitches. Other sectios cross bogs ad wetlads, icludig a Natioal Wildlife Refuge that features a wide spectrum of bird species. Natural water sources are scarce ad sometimes polluted. The Trail crosses the Delaware River at the picturesque Delaware Water Gap Natioal Recreatio Area. Pesylvaia The A.T. follows ridges of moutais east of the Allegheies to the Susquehaa River i a log sectio of Trail otorious for its foot-bruisig, boot-destroyig rocks. The Trail orth of the Susquehaa is characterized by log, flat, rocky ridges broke by fairly streuous climbs i ad out of gaps. South of the Susquehaa, may sectios are mostly getle, ad grades are easy, makig it oe of the easiest sectios of the Trail. This sectio crosses may roads, ad some shelters are ear roads, where scattered crime problems make extra safety awareess a good idea. About te miles beyod the Susquehaa, the Trail crosses the Cumberlad Valley. Pesylvaia ca be oppressively hot i summer, ad water may be scarce. ATC has a field office alog the Trail i Boilig Sprigs. Marylad ad West Virgiia The A.T. i Marylad follows a 40-mile route alog the backboe of South Moutai, a orth-south ridge that exteds from Pesylvaia to the Potomac River. This sectio is great for three- or four-day trips ad is easy by A.T. stadards. There are may pretty views ad coveiet access from earby tows ad highways. It s also a favorite with Scouts seekig the merit badge for a 50-mile hike. The A.T. eters West Virgiia at Harpers Ferry by way of a footbridge over the Potomac River. Oly 2.4 miles lie i West Virgiia here, passig withi just a quarter-mile of ATC headquarters, the crossig the Sheadoah River, ascedig the Blue Ridge at Loudou Heights, ad straddlig the Virgiia West Virgiia border for the ext 20 miles. Historic ad sceic, Harpers Ferry is served by Amtrak ad commuter trais that ru ito Washigto, D.C. It makes a ideal locatio to start or ed a hike. (The Trail also straddles the Virgiia West Virgiia border several hudred miles farther south, ear the New River.) Virgiia Oe-fourth of the Appalachia Trail lies i Virgiia. It varies from easy hikig to very difficult rock scramblig, from busy atioal parks to isolated wilderess areas. North of Frot Royal, the Trail follows a log, low ridge, icludig a otoriously streuous roller-coaster sectio south of Sickers Gap. Sheadoah Natioal Park, with 107 miles of well-graded ad well-maitaied trail, is excellet for begiig hikers ad is oted for its may vistas ad abudat wildlife. Side trails provide excellet opportuities for oe- or two -day circuit hikes. Nearby Skylie Drive has may waysides ad cocessios for resupply stops. The park gets very busy durig weekeds ad i late October, durig peak foliage-chagig seaso. Park facilities 30 s t e p b y s t e p s t e p b y s t e p 31

17 close from late November through March; whe sow shuts dow Skylie Drive, the etire park may become iaccessible by car. South of Sheadoah, the A.T. occasioally crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. The treadway is well-graded, but icludes a umber of 2,000- ad 3,000-foot climbs. Mature timber, high summits, ad spectacular wilderess ca be foud i the George Washigto Natioal Forest, orth of Roaoke. The Trail the leaves the parkway ad travels west through the Jefferso Natioal Forest, crossig a series of ridges ad valleys. Throughout the Mt. Rogers Natioal Recreatio area i southwest Virgiia, the floral displays of rhododedro ad azalea i Jue are outstadig. The Mt. Rogers high coutry, a area of spectacular highlad meadows, routiely receives sowfall from October to May, makig it cosiderably colder, wetter, ad sowier tha other areas of Virgiia. At the souther border is the quitessetial Trail tow, Damascus, Virgiia. Teessee ad North Carolia From Damascus, the Trail follows segmets of moutai rages i the Cherokee Natioal Forest, ascedig to the high coutry of the North Carolia Teessee state lie, ad the highest moutais alog the Trail several above 6,000 feet. Here lie the Roa Highlads, oted for their rhododedro gardes ad the paoramic views of the ope grassy balds such as Hump Moutai. The A.T. cotiues southward alog the state lie ad through the Pisgah Natioal Forest. The Great Smoky Moutais Natioal Park, with more tha 70 miles of crestlie Trail, features the highest elevatios of the etire footpath, well above 6,000 feet. Permits are required for overight stays; uless you are thru-hikig, you eed reservatios to use the shelters. South of the Smokies come the log climbs of the Natahala Natioal Forest, with 4,000-foot gaps ad 5,000-foot peaks. Cheoah Bald offers paoramic views of wester North Carolia. The variety of forest growth ad the beauty of the flowerig shrubs, alog with the may spectacular views, make this etire sectio of Trail memorable. Like the White Moutais of New Hampshire, hikers o the high ridges ad balds of the souther Appalachias ca ecouter dagerous weather coditios. Lightig is a particular dager i summer. Sudde sow storms are commo as late as April ad May, ad ca strad hikers. Georgia The A.T. i Georgia traverses the Chattahoochee Natioal Forest. This area features rugged wilderess hikig, ad the Trail s souther termius, Spriger Moutai. Hikig icludes may steep ups ad dows, but the Trail is lower here, mostly alog ridges of betwee 3,000 ad 4,000 feet. Those tempted by the southerly latitude to pla sprig-break hikes i March will ofte be disappoited to fid cold rai, sleet, ad sow. The Georgia sectio is crowded with thru-hikers i March ad April, ad sprig-break crowds make this eve worse. Heat ad humidity ca be oppressive i July ad August. 32 s t e p b y s t e p

18 Resources Appalachia Trail Visitor Ceter The Appalachia Trail Coservacy s A.T. Visitor Ceter i Harpers Ferry, West Virgiia is ope seve days a week from April through October ad o weekdays durig the witer. Fid more iformatio about the ceter at www. Recommeded Publicatios d a y - h i k e s Best of the A.T.: Day Hikes (several hikes i each Trail state, o maps) A.T. Maps o v e r i g h t h i k e s A.T. Maps Explorig the A.T. series (detailed guides for specific regios, with rudimetary maps) Best of the A.T.: Overight Hikes (selected hikes alog the etire A.T., o maps) e x t e d e d h i k e s / s e c t i o - h i k e s Guide sets (guidebook ad maps) A.T. Thru-Hikers Compaio (details o shelters ad services) A.T. Data Book (optioal, hady for mileage calculatios) t h r u - h i k e A.T. Thru-hikers Compaio A.T. Maps A.T. Data Book (optioal, hady for mileage calculatios) p r e p a r a t i o g e e r a l The Appalachia Trail Hiker, by Frak ad Victoria Logue. Trail Safe: Avertig Threateig Huma Behavior i the Outdoors, Michael Bae. p r e p a r a t i o t h r u - h i k e Appalachia Trail Thru-Hike Plaer. David Lauterbor. a t u r e g u i d e s A Visitor s Compaio, Leoard M. Adkis. (A guide to plats ad aimals). Wildflowers of the Appalachia Trail, Leoard M. Adkis. m a g a z i e A.T. Joureys, the magazie of the Appalachia Trail Coservacy, features great articles, stories, photos, ad advice about the A.T., alog with a Public Notices sectio, where members ca post a ad to ATC s membership of 39,000. o t e: All titles above ad may more books, DVDs, ad other A.T.-related parapheralia are available from the ATC s Ultimate Appalachia Trail Store. Shop by catalog, phoe (1-888-AT STORE), o-lie or at ATC s Visitor Ceter i Harpers Ferry, West Virgiia. Useful Web Sites g e e r a l Appalachia Trail Coservacy Appalachia Trail Home Page t h r u - h i k i g Appalachia Log Distace Hikers Associatio Thru-Hikig Papers THP%20top.html

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