AT Prep: Mail Drops

March 3, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

With two weeks left before I leave for the Appalachian Trail, I finally packed and labelled all of my resupply packages, a.k.a. mail drops. Most of them are five days of supplies, some six, and a few are seven. For anyone who doesn’t know, you can mail yourself a package to any Post Office and they’ll hold it for two to four weeks. Pick up the package whenever you want by presenting a valid ID. You can also forward an unopened package somewhere else. If you want to mail yourself something, just address the package as follows:

Your Name
c/o General Delivery
City, State Zip

* Hold for AT thru-hiker
Expected arrival: ##/##/####

Unlike most people, I will be mailing myself most of my supplies instead of buying as I go. There are a few towns I plan on buying food, mainly because there is a grocery store within a few miles of the trail whereas the Post Office is probably closer to 10 miles away. Here are the towns I have decided to send mail drops to (towns in bold are directly on or within 1 mile of the trail):

  1. Franklin, NC 28734
  2. Fontana Dam, NC 28733
  3. Hot Springs, NC 28743
  4. Erwin, TN 37650
  5. Damascus, VA 24236
  6. Atkins, VA 24311
  7. Pearisburg, VA 24134
  8. Catawba, VA 24070
  9. Montebello, VA 24464
  10. Elkton, VA 22827
  11. Linden, VA 22642
  12. Smithsburg, MD 21783
  13. Duncannon, PA 17020
  14. Port Clinton, PA 19549
  15. Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327
  16. Southfields, NY 10975
  17. Kent, CT 06757
  18. Tyringham, MA 01264
  19. Bennington, VT 05201
  20. Killington, VT 05751
    Cold weather gear will be mailed here, too.
  21. Glencliff, NH 03238
  22. Gorham, NH 03581
  23. Stratton, ME 04982
  24. Monson, ME 04464
    Last town before the 100-mile wilderness.

For the first 100 miles in Vermont, the AT is the same path as the Long Trail, the oldest long distance hiking trail in the US; it is a total of 272 miles long. After finishing the AT, I want to rent a car and drive to where the Long Trail and AT split, near Rutland, VT, then hike the roughly 170 additional miles North to complete the Long Trail at the Canadian border. I’m hoping this only takes a couple weeks and will be doing mail drops to the following towns:

  1. Rutland, VT 05701
  2. Waitsfield, VT 05673
  3. Johnson, VT 05656

The most annoying part of doing so many mail drops is I’ll have to constantly try to predict when I’ll be in a certain town and have the package shipped there a couple weeks in advance. Although I made a rough itinerary for where I hope to be by each day, I don’t expect to follow it at all. I’m sure some days I won’t make my mileage at all, but I’m hoping other days I’ll have extra miles to make up for it.

I’m also confident I’ll skip or miss a package or two, especially if I arrive in a town late on a Saturday after the Post Office is already closed. I’m not going to wait until Monday morning to get a package, I’ll just buy food in town and keep moving.

It’s unfortunate when people feel they have to stick to a set itinerary and schedule. There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, as long as you’re willing to deviate from your plans. Anything can happen.

And who knows, maybe after a couple weeks of hiking I’ll decide this was all one giant, terrible idea. Whhaaaaaat? Walking 2,000 miles up and down mountains for six straight months ISN’T the best idea in the world?

AT Prep: One Month To Go

February 15, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

With one month left before I start my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I’m becoming more and more impatient for the final day to come. It feels like it’s taking forever to reach my departure date.

I bought my bus ticket this past week, which I’m not too much looking forward to the 24 hour ride across 1,000 miles. Of course, that only get’s me to Atlanta. Then I take another bus the following day, followed by a taxi to get to Amicalola Falls State Park where I will then set off on foot for a 9 mile hike before I finally reach the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It’ll be two or three days of travel just to get to the trail, and I’m honestly not sure if I’ll sleep much during that time.

I’ve begun packing resupply boxes and in doing so, quickly realized how annoying it is trying to cram 7 days of food and supplies into a “Large” Priority Mail box. Trying to cram that same food into my BearVault was another fun task (I’ve decided it can’t be done… at least not without a shrink ray). Thus, I’m now planning on only carrying 5 days of food at a time and just stopping in towns more often, which I was originally trying to avoid to save a few pennies. On the plus side, this will lighten my load by about 4 lbs and makes the supplies much easier to pack/repack.

During this time I’ve also been thinking about what to do next year and/or when I get back. As of today, I have three main ideas to choose from:

I really want to get some wooded land and build a cabin, living old-school with no electricity and a wood stove. I’ve even started looking at land and pricing things out.

If I can sell my Jeep, I’d love to buy an old conversion van and do a 365 day, 50 state road trip across the US trying to visit as many National Parks as possible along the way. I have a timeline and route planned out to hit almost every single park during it’s optimal season, avoiding as many crowds as possible.

If nothing else, I’ll be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

AT Prep: Terrain Analysis

January 28, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

Although the Appalachian Trail is nicknamed “the green tunnel” due to its vastly wooded landscape, there are significant amounts steep, rocky climbs and other obstacles to overcome – you are hiking in the mountains, after all. Some of my bigger concerns are just how steep and rocky it really is, and in the event of snowfall, how slippery and dangerous these areas will become. I’ve done some steep and rocky climbs in Hawaii, to the point of requiring ropes and sliding on my hands and feet to “safely” get back down from muddy ridges during a rainfall, but without the added risk of snow or freezing temperatures.

I’ve been checking out the Appalachian Trail Conservancy‘s (ATC) website to try to get a better idea of what the terrain is like in different sections of the trail and what kind of climate to expect, as I don’t want to carry the weight of cold weather gear in areas I don’t need it.

From what I’ve gathered, the end points of the trail are the most difficult areas due to snow, cold, or pure ruggedness. New Hampshire and Maine are the most difficult areas of the entire trail. I’ve long heard about the 100 mile wilderness in Maine, where there is little or no options to resupply between Monson and Katahdin. The White Mountains in New Hampshire seem to pose as the second biggest obstacle to me.

Even though the western part of Maine is described as the toughest part of the AT, I feel as if the 100 mile wilderness will be more difficult because it’ll last for days. I’m hoping that I can do around 20 mile days in that section, though I have planned closer to an average of 15 miles per day. Being that Katahdin is a steep climb, I don’t want to arrive there tired, hungry, and out of food.

Based on what I’ve found, I’m planning on taking my cold weather gear with me on the bus to Georgia and keeping it likely until halfway through Virginia or at least until the end of May. I’ll then mail it home and have it mailed back to me once I reach New Hampshire to have it for the White Mountains and Maine. Being that I’m from Wisconsin, I’m used to cold weather and I get hot pretty easily, but I imagine it’ll feel chilly once hiking is done for the day.

Continue reading AT Prep: Terrain Analysis

AT Prep: Itinerary

January 27, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

I’ve been working on my Appalachian Trail itinerary for the past few days, trying to figure out just where I’ll be and when. I’m attempting to stop in towns as little as possible to avoid the excess cost and temptation of lodging and fancy meals. Contrary to how most people only do a few mail-drops and rely on towns to resupply, I am doing pretty much 100% mail-drops along the way. The downside of this method is it takes a little more planning to ensure you arrive in each town during Post Office hours and on a day they are open.

If I am making excellent time and somehow get to a town before my mail-drop does, I will suck it up and buy food in town and just ditch my scheduled package – I’m not gonna stop and wait for a package to arrive. I plan on having my packages mailed to me two full weeks before I expect to be somewhere, that way I should never arrive before my package does.

I didn’t include “zero” days (rest days) in the itinerary, but I plan on taking 12 to 14 of them. I’m going to try to take them while in a town or near a food source every two or three weeks.

To get to the trail, I’m taking a Greyhound bus to Atlanta. The next morning I’ll take the bus to Gainesville and from there I’ll take a taxi to Amicalola Falls State Park. I’m gonna camp in the park and start the Approach Trail to the AT the following morning. Four days after leaving home, I’ll finally be at Springer Mountain.

Continue reading AT Prep: Itinerary

AT Prep: Gear List

January 24, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

After two years, I’ve finally decided on what I believe is my final gear list for what I’ll be taking with me on the Appalachian Trail this year. I’ve bought a lot of gear in those two years, including: five different tents, 3 sleeping bags (and two prototype bags that haven’t even been developed yet), multiple camp pillows, stoves, pots, hatchets, foldable saws, knives, etc. What did I learn? Well, mainly that I didn’t and don’t need about 95% of the crap that I bought.
Continue reading AT Prep: Gear List

AT Prep: Meal Planning

January 21, 2015 Categories Appalachian Trail, Backpacking, Hiking

I’ve started testing out the trail foods I plan on taking with me as I hike the Appalachian Trail this year. Although I’m not going to go as in-depth as this, I’ve had a rough idea of what I was going to take for some time now, but haven’t actually taste-tested some of it before and that’s what I’m doing over the next couple weeks.

I don’t plan on buying much food as I go, so I’m getting mail drops roughly every seven days. Some things, like the Beef Jerky, I haven’t bought yet because I want the expiration dates to be as late as possible. And yes, I do plan on eating real food while in towns – even if it costs $20 a plate. Continue reading AT Prep: Meal Planning