I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. Started with a 70lb pack, zero backpacking experience and 70 lbs overweight. Finished with a 21 lb. pack and skinny as a rail. AMA!

Proof: http://imgur.com/diDkjwU

EDIT: Need to hop off for an hr. or so, will be back and I PROMISE to answer nearly everything!

EDIT 2: I did not expect this kind of response. But I will continue to answer. You guys are great.

EDIT 3: OK, I am going to post a long reply to those asking for more general advice. After that, I'll do a few more answers to direct questions, then try to pick it up tomorrow. Thanks everyone!

LAST EDIT: Thanks, all -- so much! Was great fun. If any of y'all have other questions about the AT (or Cairo), feel free to DM. Thanks again!

Comments: 917 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

BigShirtlessRon110 karma

Did you see Mark Sanford?

itsnotacoup92 karma

Ha! This was a fun story for the thru-hiking community. Really anyone with any connection to the trail. I did have sex on the AT, though. So. Story holds.

simplyterrestrial6 karma

Pink blazing, I believe that's called.

itsnotacoup3 karma

The trail is strong with this one.

windintheauri109 karma

Why in God's name did you hike southbound? Only losers hike southbound. Everyone knows that.

itsnotacoup140 karma


SixBiscuit108 karma

You won't find any of us because you can't read a damn map.

itsnotacoup61 karma

Check out the official AT signage. Pay close attention


MarthafreakinStewart99 karma

Did you run into many women solo/in groups? I've hiked solo in NYS, but not for more than a day. What would you recommend for safety on the AT, for both men and women?

I have about 4-6 months off next year and for the life of me can't figure out what to do with it.

Oh and -- Congrats completing the trail. One hell of an accomplishment!

EDIT: I need to clarify that I am a woman and I don't want to rape or kidnap other women and am asking for the sake of my own safety.

Edit 2: Only on Reddit would I have to make my original edit.

itsnotacoup60 karma

I ran into quite a few solo women and female-only groups -- usually duos. I am not really sure what to recommend here, honestly. The trail is one of the safest places I've ever felt, and so my gut says to just do it (you'll also make friends along the way and likely hike in and out of other groups). On the other hand, there has been a marked uptick in violence and kidnappings along the trail. So if you're a streetwise lady with a good sense of humor and hardy skills in the outdoors, yeah go for it. Or bring a lady friend with you. You'll be quite popular on the trail ...

Thanks! It's a great experience. If you have the time, there is really no better way to spend it.

SixBiscuit22 karma

I once ran into a shelter that had 8 women in it. I continued to tell the story of the mythical all woman shelter for the entire trail. It was really something to see. There was one spot left when I got there so I briefly considered being the only guy there. Then they started talking about the 14 state 14 guy challenge. Then they started making lists of the 14 guys. Then I hiked another two miles and camped.

itsnotacoup10 karma

this is a challenge that i did not know existed. i love the AT.

KatherineSour84 karma

Advice for others thinking about doing the same thing? I don't have any backpacking experience either, but it sounds like a really cool thing to do.

itsnotacoup358 karma

Let me see if I can rattle off a few. Let me say first that the people you find on the AT are often not backpacking aficionados or even enthusiasts. They may become them post-AT, but many start the trail because they are looking substance and significance in life -- usually after a major life change (divorce, job change, graduation). Here are a few tips that I think might help:

1) Treat it like a fucking vacation. It is, after all. There are some out there who are bogged down in the physical and mental difficulty of the day-to-day battles. Think how lucky you are. Your job each day is to wake up (whenever you want), walk through the woods over mountains (for as long as you want), eat whatever you want and spend times with some of the most amazing characters you'll ever meet. Don't get upset about the seemingly never-ending line of dirt in front of you; much like college, it's over before you know it.

2) Save money and time. Before you hike, make sure you have at least three or four grand saved (more, if you want to kick back and relax in hotels in town all the time) and no real stringent time restrictions. I met amazing people who I could not spend as much time with as they had serious financial and/or time issues. This also adds stress to the journey. Be free! Frolic amongst the bees! Do a 30+ mile day! Do whatever! No need to think about cash/time.

3) Make lots of adjustments. I changed my entire setup several times while on the trail. I moved from boots to trail runners to running shoes; I went from a two-person tent, to a one-person tent to a plastic tarp to nothing; i carried a propane stove, then no stove then a solo stove. You get the idea. A good plan is to do a lot of research beforehand, determine what you think you'll really want/need, and keep extra things you don't think you absolutely need in a "bounce box." A bounce box is a package you mail ahead a couple hundred miles down the trail, which can be picked up a local post office.

4) Stay away from the competitive hikers. Humans are humans, after all, and on the trail there are often competitive battles over miles hiked, mountains climbed, calories consumed, etc. etc. If you want to partake in this (and you should, from time to time), make sure you do it for fun. The amazing person to douchebag ratio on the trail tips heavily in favor of cool people, but you'll inevitably find the douches in the relentlessly competitive gang.

5) Be generous. And I mean this in the whole sense. Share food and drink if you can, share rides if you have them and share space in shelters or campsites. But more importantly, share yourself. Be a part of the conversations going on around you. Introduce yourself to everyone. It's kind of like camp where normal social norms are suspended, so it's easier - if you're introverted - to fall into conversation and friendships. But actively engage yourself. You will be SO happy you did. The most amazing people on earth are out there.

I'd be happy to share more if you'd like. But this is a good primer.

EDIT: a few more tips in response to HippityLongEars below. Hope it's helpful!

HippityLongEars14 karma

Share more; this is great stuff. I don't think I'll ever do it but I know someone who is always talking about it.

itsnotacoup31 karma

6) Be respectful. The trail is maintained by an army of volunteers who do hard, grueling manual labor to keep the trail erosion-free and up to snuff. Thank them if you see them. In fact, try to volunteer, too. Also, be respectful of people in trail towns. You are reflection of the hiking community, and all those who come after you will be judged based on your behavior. This goes for all hostels, hotels and Trail Angels. Just be a good, happy hiker.

7) Remain humble. I've seen a lot of thru-hikers get a little bit entitled on the trail after walking a thousand miles or so. Don't be rude to day hikers, even if they're giving shit advice. Talk to them. Answer their questions (even though they're all the same questions). Ask them questions about their hikes, interests. Take some time to give them helpful information about trail conditions, water and weather. You are an ambassador. Act like one.

8) Write down experiences. Some journal furiously, and every day. I have all the respect in the world for these people. I simply wrote small notes in the margins of my guidebooks - a helpful reminder of a happy memory, a sweet shelter, an amazing piece of Trail Magic. Take a small amount of time every day to do a bit of reflection and recording. You'll appreciate it.

9) Take pictures of PEOPLE. I have an incredible amount of pictures of mountains. But I have so few pictures of the people I met. I have some, and I cherish them, but I wish they were all of people - trail people, trail angels, hostel owners, townies, those who gave us hitches, randos on the trail, etc. These are the pictures that capture moments. Take some mountain pics, too. But make a serious effort to capture your friends on this glorious journey.

10) Hike your own hike. It's cliche, but it is for a reason. It's pretty much the most important thing you can do. You're gonna run into gear-heads who will try to persuade you to change your setup or try to make you feel small and ignorant about your choices. Listen to all the advice, but do what feels good. You want an eight pound two person tent palace with a lantern? Do it. You want to make beef jerky peanut butter mustard lemon and raisin sandwiches? Hell yes, eat that shit. You want to try to hike 24 hours straight in the pouring rain naked above treeline? Yes, I agree you should do it, too. Don't ever be dissuaded from doing something that feels right or spontaneous or exciting. There are seasoned and well-informed people out there who can help you on this journey - and help you make it so much richer - so it's important to listen and absorb and reflect. But at the end of the day, whatever it is you want to do with your hike is absolutely correct.

Also - call your parents.

ichegoya82 karma

Recommend "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. Hilarious and informative. He was unable to finish the trail.

ETA: Congrats man. It's really amazing, I'd guess, to look at a map of the US and say 'Yup, walked that'.

itsnotacoup15 karma

Yeah, love that book. I read it years before I did the trail, and then I re-read it the night after I finished the trail in a hostel outside of Atlanta, GA. It was really a wonderful read that night. Felt genuinely fulfilling.

Pratchett58 karma

Why did you choose SOBO over NOBO?

itsnotacoup114 karma

I hiked with a buddy of mine and it was the first decision we make. 90 percent of those who attempt the AT go NOBO. 10 percent go SOBO. (Let me just double-check the math on that ...). Also, only around 10 percent of those headed SOBO complete. So we were like, OK, SOBO it is. Harder. Less traveled. What's really funny about SOBO v. NOBO is the faux battle that exists on the trail between the hikers. They pass each other on the trail usually in the New Hampshire area, and smack-talk ensued. God damn NOBOs.

TheBrinyDeep126 karma

10 percent go SOBO. 10 percent of those headed SOBO complete

You are the 1%.

SixBiscuit28 karma

The number of people that drop off is astounding. I got to the halfway point and by then you're feeling kind of badass because the attrition is just ridiculous. You think the people you're with are the people that are going to stick with it. Then my friend comments, "Only a 1/3 of these people will finish." It was quiet the mind fuck.

itsnotacoup17 karma

yeah the attrition rate is pretty high. i mean, we went into it not with a competitive mindset of like YEAH MOTHERFUCKER THE AT IS GUNNA BE MY BITCH but more of like well, we want to be on vacation for 6 months so this seems good. and it was. it was.

TongueDartTheFartBox31 karma

Doing SOBO is harder? Is that because you pretty much start in the Maine Wilderness?

itsnotacoup59 karma

It's incredibly hard to start at either end. I know that because Georgia kicked my ass even after hiking for 2100+ miles. There is no easy way to breeze through it, particularly near each terminus. Some say SOBO is more difficult (and yes, the 100 mile wilderness has a lot to do with that argument, as well as the rugged Maine and NH miles), some say NOBO is more difficult, particularly because it is usually frigid the first 6 weeks. We chose SOBO mainly because we knew there'd be fewer people.

KB3UBW22 karma

Not OP, but I've got experience with the AT, and yes, that's why. If you go NOBO than you start off in a decently flat section for a while, which means you have plenty of time to adjust to the life, and get your trail legs, in the north, not so much

DoxieDoc13 karma

I live in georgia, and hike parts of the AT. If you think that is flat then you must be Paul Bunyan.

How is Blue?

itsnotacoup10 karma

yep. georgia is not flat.

Source: I am not Paul Bunyan.

TurtleSquares18 karma

NOBO 2013 thru hiker here. I would say SOBO is harder, but not because of the terrain of the 100 mile wilderness. That section is actually incredibly flat and kind of a breeze. It is more that, at least in my own experience, i had no real good idea of what the trail was going to be like or exactly what kind of gear i would need (even after doing research). And going SOBO, you cannot really lighten your pack or get different gear if you need to until you get to Monson ME--114 miles into the trip. As a NOBO, i hit two places to exchange gear or mail things home in the first three days. This made all the difference, especially for my friend who started with the 50+ lbs pack.

itsnotacoup12 karma

Yes. I agree with you. There was tons of ish I wanted to dump 1.5 days into the Wilderness (baseball? magnesium firestarter? What?) but couldn't. And we were averaging 5-7 miles a day there, so we didn't get to Monson for quite some time. 17 days.

cyberlich20 karma

I haven't had time to take off to do the trail straight through, so my buddies and I are just doing long sections when we can. We typically do 10 - 14 days after thanksgiving for the past couple of years. We're done with GA and nearly done (less than 40 miles) with NC/TN. We were thinking about flying to Maine and doing the 100 mile wilderness (obviously not during November). What are your thoughts on that section of the trail?

Also, though I'm sure this will get buried - for anyone interested in hiking the AT check out www.whiteblaze.net . It's a very active forum dedicated to nothing but hiking the AT.

itsnotacoup45 karma

Oh man. Much respect for section-hiking. There is a lot of trash-talk on the trail (nearly all in jest) about everything -- miles hiked, NOBOs, SOBOs, and yes, section-hikers. But in reality, section-hikers are the most badass dudes/ladies out on the AT. These are people who surrender nearly all of their vacation each year and with fierce determination go out, year after year, to tackle a new section of the trail. The hardest part of this? Just as you begin to develop your trail legs, your trip is over. It's like breaking in a new baseball glove for each game you play. Only it hurts way more. Thru-hikers ain't got nothin' on section-hikers. Congrats on what you've done so far, and best of luck in the future.

ALSO - www.whiteblaze.net is THE premier source for AT info. Go there if you are at all interest in the AT.

0xdeadf00124 karma

Trash talk... Man, humans are douchebags. Trash talking about how people walk in the woods...

SixBiscuit18 karma

You don't understand the trash talk... It's all in good fun and part of the trail madness. It's like telling the SOBOers that they're going the wrong way. There is no "right" way. It's an arbitrary trail that was carved out of where they could get public lands. There is no "right" and "wrong" way beyond what the US DOI says more or less.

itsnotacoup10 karma

I agree. However, official AT literature and signage clearly states: Maine to Georgia. Just sayin. Haha. (This is excellent ammo for fun trash-talking.)

itsnotacoup18 karma

Oh, 100-mile wilderness. It's a tough, buggy and wet stretch in the summer. If you have the option, try to hit it in the Fall (though Thanksgiving might be too late and cold). It is one of the coolest stretches, though, with amazing old-growth forests. I remember on one of my first days there, I stepped off the trail to go pee, and thought I'd step on a massive downed tree to pee off. It looked like it had fallen like yesterday. When I stepped on it, it crumbed like a sand castle.

cjf447 karma

This may sound stupid but one of the big hangups I have is my irrational fear of snakes, and I've read they are part of the AT. Is it possible to avoid them?

itsnotacoup58 karma

They are there, for sure. Rattlesnakes, too, which I think are the scariest. But I managed to avoid lots of encounters. A tip: stay away from rock outcroppings in the sun. Snakes love that shit. Sun on the back and all.

Oranguthang13 karma

I haven't hiked the AT but I grew up in rural Kentucky, and you occasionally see snakes basking. They will always run from you, there aren't any aggressive snakes in North America. The only way to have a problem is to run through brush piles or fail to make enough noise when settling down for the night. On the AT you'll stay in shelters every night, so no worries.

Black_Hitler36 karma


itsnotacoup25 karma

Word. Good on you for bringing your own shelter.

mozerdozer26 karma

The shelters are frequently full, you cannot always stay in one.

itsnotacoup41 karma

THIS. THIS A LOT. If you want to hike the AT, please do everyone a favor and bring some kind of shelter, even if it's just a tarp. Shelters fill up and this can lead to unnecessary animosity out there. If there is space, sure roll out your bag and cuddle up to your neighbor in the shelter. But be prepared for them to be full, particularly in the high season.

jimibulgin-5 karma

"...you occasionally see snakes basking. They will always run from you..."

"...snakes... they run from you..."

"...snakes... *they run*..."


Oranguthang5 karma

Whaddayawant? "They slither from you?" How about "flee?"

But yeah, I encountered plenty of poisonous snakes, and they also run (ha!) away. The big secret is to be noisy while you move, and not to lunge over logs or through brush piles. Give the snake a chance and they'll make themselves scarce.

itsnotacoup1 karma

yep - make noise. though sometimes being quiet will help to witness wildlife. but make noise in bear country. and snake country.

knightjohannes43 karma

(¡ɐʎ uo poob ˙pıp noʎ ɥɔıɥʍ 'ǝʞıɥ uʍo ɹnoʎ ǝʞıɥ 'ʎןsnoıɹǝs ʇnq) (؛ uoıʇɔǝɹıp buoɹʍ ǝɥʇ uı ʇɐ ǝɥʇ ǝuop ǝʌɐɥ oʇ ɯǝǝs noʎ ʇnq 'ʎɹɹos

itsnotacoup28 karma

i'll hike my own hike all the way to every NOBO's mom's house.

ColdIceZero40 karma

National Geographic has an AT documentary on Netflix. They say that anyone walking the Trail "should" start in the South in Georgia, then go North and finish in Maine. "Some" people chose to start in the North and go South. But it didn't specific why the preference for starting in the South.

Any reason why one would prefer walking from one direction over the other?

Samson_Uppercut42 karma

Because you typically hike the trail from March - Sept/Oct, if you're trying to through-hike. March in Maine is still WAY cold, while Sept/Oct isn't so awful, typically. Basically, it allows you to follow the warm weather as it moves north.

itsnotacoup36 karma

In general, if you are northbound, you start late-Feb. or early March, yes. But if you hike SOBO (like I did), you start early June to late July, depending. We started July 3. You gotta run with the seasons. Basically, SOBO is all about chasing the Fall as hard as you can. NOBO is all about chasing Summer.

ImOnlySuperHuman11 karma

Bouncing off this. When did you start and when did you finish? Sorry if its already been said.

itsnotacoup27 karma

Started July 3 finished Jan. 13. A little over 6 months.

ColdIceZero11 karma

How did you prepare for the outdoor weather? I mean, walking through January must have been pretty chilly.

Also, did you encounter any dangerous issues with animals? Including the kind that want to eat you whole (bears, wolves, etc) to the kind that just want to bite (snakes, spiders, tiny flying insects). How did you prepare / handle these situations?

itsnotacoup29 karma

We changed gear as necessary. In the summer we carried minimal amounts of layers, but we were careful and always had an extra dry layer at all times (we were not ultralight). In the winter, we shipped (or bought) new gloves, hats, mittens, and lots of layers. Bulky coats aren't great to hike with, so during Dec. and Jan. I was usually wearing 6-8 layers at all times. Couple base layers, couple fleece or shirts, sleeveless shirts, vests and an outer shell, usually waterproof.

I never had a serious issue w/ animals. On the AT, you'll only find black bears, which are notoriously skittish. They usually run before you even see them (they smell you), but if you spook them, they'll run for the nearest tree. As most people know, the most dangerous situation is getting between a momma and her cubs, but I never knew anyone in this unfortunate positions. I'm deathly afraid of spiders and so my due diligence in tentwork was off the charts.

itsnotacoup22 karma

We chose SOBO mainly because we knew there would be less people starting. Haven't checked recently, but the percentages then were 90 percent NOBO 10 percent SOBO. It did become very desolate at the end. Folks who want more of a "party trail" experience should go NOBO. I've heard great stories and I honestly would love to do it again NOBO-style.

itsnotacoup20 karma

If you like freedom and America, you go SOBO.

vnoir30 karma

  • Were ticks much of an issue? I've heard they can be brutal on the AT.

  • You mentioned needing three or four grand saved. Can you elaborate? Why would you need so much available for the trip?


itsnotacoup53 karma

Ticks, for me, were never an issue. Also, I don't really recall anyone having much trouble with them. Though we took precautions, particularly in areas where they're rumored to be bad.

Well. Three of four grand is a good cushion of money for 4-6 months of hiking. For example, your shoes will usually die after between 300-500 miles of hiking. The trail is 2200 miles. Great hiking shoes plus insoles is about $150. And this is just shoes. Gear needs to be repaired, sometimes replaced, sometimes you need new gear. Food is usually the biggest expense. Hotels, if you choose to use them, are of course pricey. Don't get me wrong, I know folks who've done the AT on $1500 or less, but it's a pretty primitive and austere hike. If you want to have some beers in town, have ample food, some creature comforts and the occasional bed in town, you'll need at least $2500.

jacquez118161 karma

I agree. I NOBO'd in 2004 and one of my best memories was when I got to Duncannon, PA. I had a 22oz Yuengling and a Bacon Cheeseburger after being out for five days. That was one of the most satisfying meals of my life.

itsnotacoup14 karma

At the Doyle? I heard stories about that place starting on Mt. Kathadin. And jesus it did not disappoint.

vnoir10 karma


itsnotacoup14 karma

No worries!

SixBiscuit19 karma

He was SOBO so his experience is sort of atypical. Ticks are a huge issue and the ticks that carry lymes are ridiculously tiny. You're not going to spot them by just poking around in a tent with a headlamp. By New Jersey I would say that almost a quarter of the people I was hiking with had Lymes.

itsnotacoup10 karma

Damn, really? That is intense.

Doza1326 karma

Did you have sex with other thru hikers?

itsnotacoup22 karma


kirk2entrprise26 karma

I have just started planning a SOBO thu-hike, and was wondering how you get from the airport to the trail head?

kirk2entrprise25 karma

Also the SO wants me ask: What you did when you finished? Like immediately, how did you get back into the swing of life? Did you stay with your family while looking for a job and apartment or what? Not that I want to get right back into the rat race, but I wouldn't want to be a hobo either:P

itsnotacoup35 karma

Really solid question here. Let me start with a little background:

People who do the AT are often looking for something. A change. Inspiration. Desolation. Most people who do the trail are in the midst of a life-changing experience or decision. This is what gives the trail electricity; this feeling that anything at all is possible. Most also begin the trail believing that whatever plan is hatched on the trail will be fully realized once you finish. Many believe that the trail can give you the time to think about, process your issues and make a life decision. In many ways it does do this. But the number of people I know who got on the trail confused and left the trail far, far more confused is staggering. This, I think, is not a negative.

Immediately after the trail I flew home to my parents home in New York. I spent two very confused weeks there (every day I would walk for like 2 hours on the treadmill at an extreme clip at the highest incline possible) and then made a snap decision to drive across the country to San Diego. I spent an additional 6 confusing months there before I finally landed in Portland.

So. Don't let this put you off. This was a life-changing thing for me, no doubt. And nearly every major decision I make is shaped by this experience.

itsnotacoup10 karma

We had a good friend drive us from New York all the way to Baxter State Park, so unfortunately, I'm of no help. Apologies. I'm sure you can find this answer on www.whiteblaze.net. By the way, I do NOT work for white blaze (i imagine it's volunteer-run anyway), but I cannot stress how important a resource they are for the AT.

AlanSmithee9424 karma

Congratulations - that's an awesome accomplishment!

What was your trail name?

itsnotacoup51 karma

Oblivious. Haha. I got it after going through Maine where most people saw between 5-30 moose. I saw zero.

gotemfooled24 karma

I've been thinking about doing the same thing (northbound), and I'm also about 70 lbs overweight. Can you describe the first few days/couple of weeks in terms of the physical impact/effort?

itsnotacoup64 karma

It's gonna hurt. Do your best to pack light (alcohol stove, tarp not tent) and just go slowly. Be not afraid of keeping up. There will be people - particularly in the beginning - who try to make huge miles to either get ahead of the pack (since you're going NOBO, many will be near you) or to try and prove something. We started with 5 mile days. We'd start hiking around 8am, finish at 10:30-11:00am. This was July, too, so we spent a lot of time just camping by pretty lakes and reading. But it saved us. Had we done harder miles, we'd've been off the trail with injuries. And the people who passed us early in Maine (and laughed at our enormous packs and enormous frames) we caught later in New Hampshire. Go easy and stick with it. Your trail legs take at least 6 weeks to develop. Be kind to them in the early days.

dopey_muscovite20 karma

What distances were you walking per day by the end?

itsnotacoup16 karma

It varied depending on weather, muscles and distances between shelters. I'd say that by the end we were capable of doing 25+ miles a day if we needed to. We were in reality probably averaging in the high teens, though, counting "neros" (near-zeros, usually half days when you are getting into a town) and shorter days.

ashes1120 karma

70lb pack is impressive. What is one of the items you discarded that you can now laugh at yourself for bringing?

itsnotacoup14 karma

Yeah. I have pics of myself starting the trail with it on. They are prints, so I'll have to scan, but I'll try to get them up.

Man. Lots of useless shit. One of the worst is just a baseball. No fucking need at all. Also a magnesium firestarter, which is basically useless, unless you are doing serious bushwhacking shit somewhere terrifying. I also carried a massive two-person tent just for me, which was obnoxious and absolutely unnecessary.

dmtri0719 karma

I've been thinking of doing the AT at some point, and possibly bringing my Cattle Dog with me. Did you see many people hiking with their canine friends? Is it at all possible?

itsnotacoup35 karma

I did! Lots! It is definitely possible. Just please be kind to your dog. Not that I assume you wouldn't, just that I saw a lot of folks who relied on the dog to carry TOO much weight (the standard is for the dog to carry its own food and water), and thus the dog was overtired and too skinny. Granted all hikers are skinny, but the dog doesn't have too much free will in the situation. Be kind to the pup, alert other hikers if the dog is at all aggressive (some puppies are afraid of dudes in beards with massive packs on their backs) and let him/her swim all the time!

kirk2entrprise17 karma

I'm no itsnotacoup but i believe some sections don't allow dogs including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

itsnotacoup20 karma

yeah, you're right. there are areas, not many, that forbid dogs. But a lot of AT hostels and Trail Angels (those who support trail hikers from towns) do kenneling for these pups, even driving the dogs to dropoff/pickup points.

RyanMC1219 karma

What was your favorite part, geographically speaking?

itsnotacoup53 karma

There is so much unique beauty in all parts. The northeast is rugged and unforgiving with spectacular, unspoiled wilderness; the midatlantic can be overcrowded and highway-y at times, but has the Shenandoah Park and the Blue Ridge Range; the South is rugged as hell, too (especially Georgia, which, as a Southbounder, was really a kick in the soft stuff), but beautiful and wooded. My fave, though, I think is Maine. So, so much wilderness. I mean, there was like a two-week stretch where we'd come upon a gorgeous lake with zero development EACH DAY. Also, even though it was the first thing we did, Mt. Kathadin is BADASS.

nicheweird13 karma

Southbound is much more isolated too, so kudos. The white mountains are incredible.

I KNEW you'd mention shenandoah's and the blue ridge! Grayson highland's is prob my fav spot on the trail and Carver's Gap may be the site of the proposal to my gf!

itsnotacoup12 karma

Aw man. That's awesome. Congrats to you! Yeah, the Whites are unbelievable. It's fun being in them because you never know when you might get hit with lightning!

DrObotnik18 karma

What did you do before and what are you doing after the hike? I'm always curious about this.

Some subsidiary questions:

  • How long did it take?

  • I've always thought SOBO was the way to go, starting in summer and hiking south through fall. Did SOBO work out agreeably?

  • Hardest moment? I know a LOT of people reach days where they just want to go home. What was your hardest moment, how did you get past it?

itsnotacoup67 karma

Before the hike, I'd been working at a bank - many hrs a week, stress, but pretty good money. I needed a break and I'd often gone traveling with a good friend of mine. We wanted something long. The AT worked well. I hiked the AT in 2007-2008. After I finished, I traveled through Southern California for about 6 months then moved to Portland, OR, where I was a freelance writer and editor. Moved to Kathmandu, Nepal for a stretch, then on to Cairo, Egypt, where I reside today.

We started July 3 2007 and finished January 12 2008. So six months and change, which is on the longer end of things, haha. We went slow at first, took many zero days (no miles), took trips to NYC and Philly and basically had a blast with it. Hiking in Dec. and Jan., even in the South, is still quite cold. We had some brutal days with snow and ice and cold.

SOBO was great, yeah. Some believe it's harder because you start with the real rigorous stuff in Maine and NH. Plus, you immediately begin with the 100-mile wilderness, which is a stretch of 100 miles of trail with very few resupply spots. Those 100 miles took us 17 days. Again, this is unusual, but we prepared for it (took 20 days of food) because we knew our physical limitations in the early stages.

The hardest moment for me was when I got injured. I rolled my ankle badly in Fontana Dam, NC and had to lay up in a hotel for about 10 days on my own. This was through New Years. It was sad because I thought I was going to have to get off the trail. And I had hiked 2,000 miles already. After these days, still injured, I just got back out there and continued. I was slow and careful and I made it.

CAR_1515 karma

Do bears shit in the woods?

itsnotacoup25 karma

I'm pretty sure they just shit all over themselves. Because while a bear might smell you from several football fields away, you can also smell it.

CAR_1513 karma

Serious question time- what was the most enlightening part of your trip?

itsnotacoup47 karma

Easy. The beauty of people. The trail restored my faith in humans like nothing else has or probably ever will. From rides to free food to hospitality (I'm lookin' at you, North Cackalacka) to genuine care; there is a real magic both on and off the trail that is compelling and difficult to leave.

CAR_1511 karma

Awesome. I need to spend more time outside

itsnotacoup20 karma

Haha - you should! It's rewarding. I also have to say that spending time in the Mediterranean area (Greece, Italy, Mideast) will generate similar amounts of faith in people. There is something to be said for selflessness and generosity that America often doesn't understand or embrace.

CAR_1516 karma

I like to believe most people are good people, who would help if needed. But so much promoted hate and fear causes people to isolate themselves to their social groups.

itsnotacoup13 karma

Agreed. 100 percent.

Nekojack8 karma

did you visit TN at all?

itsnotacoup17 karma

I did. A fair bit of the AT runs along the NC/TN border. I also spent christmas eve and christmas day in Gatlinburg. Great hospitality and pancakes. Plus the outfitter there gave us Xmas presents! TRAIL MAGIC!

beanieb7 karma

NC represent!! Any chance you stayed at Standing Bear Hostel on your way down just North of Davenport Gap?

itsnotacoup14 karma

I don't remember, sadly. That is the Smokies, though right? I know for sure that we fucking rocked hard in Gatlinburg on Xmas Eve and Xmas Day. They sure love pancakes there. Plus the Smokies are unreal.

U_got_shat_upon6 karma

Fun fact: bears have 50 times more ability to smell then a dog. That's 250 times better than us.

itsnotacoup9 karma

they can also climb trees faster than they can run

SuitcaseInTow12 karma

Hey, man. Congrats on your hike. I hiked the trail northbound in 09 and had a swell time. I always felt like Katahdin was this epic, lofty goal and always felt like finishing on Springer would be kind of a let down. Did you feel underwhelmed by it or do I just feel like that because I grew up near North Georgia?

itsnotacoup36 karma

Congrats to you, too, you damn dirty NOBO! I know what you mean; Kathadin was so fucking epic to begin things (we had to take two full days off afterward because we were in such pain). But we were never worried about a letdown. Arriving at Springer was just surreal. It was much less about the physical mountain and so much more about the accomplishment, the future and the feeling that is completely unique to that moment only, and specific to each person who finishes. We spent the night before we summited Springer with a boy scout troop. We spent all night around a campfire with 8 yr old boys, giving them inspiration, boosting their spirits (it was cold as shit) and just regaling them with stories. I hope they remember it and pursue that which is significant to them. I certainly remember it.

Revere1211 karma

Did you develop any new relationships on the trail that you think will last many years?

How many snakes did you see?

How often did you get off the trail to get food, do laundry, charge the cell phone ?

How often did you sleep in a hotel while you were on the trip?

itsnotacoup24 karma

I did. The hikers dispersed, of course, post-hike. But I remain in constant touch with many of them. One of my good AT buddies recently hiked the PCT, is a forest firefighter and just refurbished a massive sailboat on which he will soon sail round the world. He's a bit of a badass. And an excellent guitarist. And a lady-killer. But yeah, there is a bond that develops quickly and permanently with AT hikers.

I saw few snakes. But my trail name was "Oblivious" because I rarely saw wildlife and generally I am bad at paying attention. The few encounters I had were scary, though. Once I was coming off the summit of a mountain in Connecticut quite swiftly, came charging down the backside of the mountain when a massive, thick and long black snake (insert dick joke) reared up at me. A solid three feet of his body was off the ground. I screamed super hard and ran, full on, for like 300 yards off the trail. Took me like 20 minutes to compose myself. Another time we were night hiking, like 5 of us, and we all walked over a rattlesnake in the trail without stepping on it.

I got off the trail usually once every 4-5 days, depending on the state and the conditions. Sometimes weather pushed us off, sometimes lack of food did. But we stopped pretty often. Town time is great, and AT townies, for the most part, are incredible and kind people who genuinely love AT hikers.

I slept in hotels pretty frequently because I had the means to do so. Hot showers are quite novel, particularly after you hike 1,000 miles or so. Some preferred to camp, but I love the indoors, too.

benk45 karma

Bear Mountain in CT? I believe that's the only mountain actually in CT. I did it a few weeks ago.

But anyway, I'm doing Mount Washington on Sunday. Any tips?!

itsnotacoup6 karma

Bear Mountain is awesome! I love that thing on the top, whatever it is. Mount Washington is really spectacular. I'd recommend checking the weather beforehand, as a lot of your hike is above treeline and storms move quickly. Do not wear an external frame pack as the metal makes you a lightning rod. And make sure to look for the cairns - sometimes the trail is hard to see! Also, make sure to moon the cog train on the way up. It's a tradition!

moammargaret10 karma

Did you go it alone?

itsnotacoup14 karma

I went with my best friend from high school. We do a lot of traveling together. Aside from a few weeks here and there we did the entire trail together.

YetiTerrorist17 karma

How did you stay in touch with him to meet up with after a few weeks?

itsnotacoup15 karma

There are these journal-like things in all of the shelters along the way called Trail Registers. It's a way of keeping in touch with those both in front of you and behind you. There are people I know a HUGE amount about, but have never physically met, simply because I read all of their trail register entries.

thetexan929 karma

Is there a specific source you used for research before hand? This is something I have been interested in for the past 4 years and finally have the money and am considering it. Thank you for the inspiration!

itsnotacoup15 karma

Oh man. www.whiteblaze.net. I cannot recommend it enough. Please use this.

englishkinnigit9 karma

What was the strangest thing you saw? I've heard that the people on the AT can be pretty odd. My friend saw someone hiking the entire thing in crocs.

itsnotacoup18 karma

Some hike barefoot! Probably the oddest character I saw was a man whose trailname was Goatman. He was indeed thru-hiking with a goat.

HarryBalsonya_8 karma

I have been thinking about doing the AT. What are the supplies you brought and what do you wish you brought

itsnotacoup11 karma

Gear is really person-specific. Just do tons of research and think about what kinds of creature comforts/products/luxuries you can afford to bring, weight-wise. Also, take some day hikes with stuff, see what fees comfortable (and not). This'll help. And be flexible, too. Make room for new gear if you like it; make plans to ditch stuff, too. A great resource is www.whiteblaze.net. For example, I really love baseball and reading. So i brought a baseball and tons of books. Mistake. These are bricks. Also, there are books being passed around from hiker to hiker through the shelters, and there is usually a book you can read there. And then bring with you. And then drop off at another shelter along the way. It's a great system.

thekatzkid6 karma

Did you stop by Asheville, NC?

itsnotacoup9 karma

Yes! Awesome town. A Trail Angel gave us a ride so we could spend a day there.

pherring3 karma

Can you share a moment when you thought distinctly "this would only happen on the trail "

itsnotacoup10 karma

God what a good question. I am racking my brain for a good story but all I can come up with is this, which is not altogether good. But I want to address your question because it's so good.

One time in North Carolina, not sure where, we woke up to -17 degree weather. It took forever to get packed up (everything freezes, including your shoes) and moving. Usually once you get marching, you begin to warm up. But our core temps were so low, it was taking longer than usual and the wind was picking up. It was frigidly cold as we approached the first shelter of the day. I was w/ my buddy at this point. We both gave each other a look, like, "well, we might need to set up the tent, get naked and spoon each other to avoid dying." We decided to push on a bit and soon crossed a small dirt road. Opening our guidebooks, we saw a small hostel (which closed long ago, another disadvantage of SOBO is that trail hostels close when NOBOs have gone through). We decided to risk it and walked down to the place. The woman running it also lived there and happily greeted us, warmed us with tea and cocoa and cookies, set up a cabin outside with a wood-stove and showers and beds, and let us eat everything in her makeshift kitchen. We fell asleep that night toastily inside our cabin next to a fire while the sound of the wind howled until dawn.

thedoorlocker-3 karma

Where do you get your ideas?

itsnotacoup6 karma

I'm not sure what you mean. Can you elaborate?

thedoorlocker1 karma

Like, when you have an idea?

itsnotacoup5 karma

Dude. Ideas are like pizza toppings. Do what you feel.

thedoorlocker-3 karma

This is not an insignificant question.

itsnotacoup2 karma

OK. A real reply? I strive to feel like I am living as best as I can, as often as I can. Sitting at a desk makes me feel terrible. At the moment, living in the Western world makes me feel scared. I love universities, I love traveling, I love backpacking and I love cool people. Therefore, I live in the Middle East, I teach at a university, I travel frequently around the Mideast (and America, most recently a trip to the Tetons), I've hiked other long trails (JMT, most recently), and I love all of my friends, many of whom do similar things. Having cool friends also means that your world opens up - places to stay in Turkey and Greece, free tickets at Aspen resorts, circles of friends which would not be possible without such friends.

SO. I get ideas from these simple feelings and beliefs. Seek a job at Proctor and Gamble? Not likely. Winter hike in northern Lebanon? I'm in.