Walken’

Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

About the hike

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I am a 27 year old tour guide living in the D.C. area.  The Appalachian Trail is something I have wanted to do for a long, long time. Ever since seeing the movie “Last of the Mohicans” I have had a thing for the Appalachian mountains, and I have been wanting to do the trail “someday” since at least my early college years. Even though I grew up in the finest mountains in the world, the Big Horns, I have long been drawn the the lore and sense of history of the Appalachians.

On April 1 of 2008 I will step off from Springer Mountain, Georgia to make this dream a reality. On my back I will carry everything I will need for the next six months, excepting water and food resupplies and gear replacement. I will walk at least 2,175 miles through 14 states to the northern terminus, Mt. Katahdin in the upper reaches of the Maine back woods. This is called a thru-hike, and because I am northbound I will be known as a NOBO.

I am hiking alone, however this is a relative term on the Trail because as many as 2 thousand people usually attempt a thru-hike each year. From previous year’s statistics I can count on maybe two dozen people starting off the exact same day I do. Each day after that maybe 12 to 30 more people will start from Springer Mountain. Hikers usually spend nights in shelters, which are between 4 and 12 miles apart. The “wave” of hikers going northbound from Springer each year can usually count on each shelter containing many people. In this fashion you catch up with friends who may hike faster or slower, or meet new people. The trail is all about the community of people, who, being hikers are a very interesting bunch indeed. I plan to make lots of friends along the way, probably none of whom will smell very good.

Resupply towns are usually about 5 days apart. When you get to a town, you eat (lots) of restaurant food, (hikers have been known to order two entrees each) take a shower, do laundry, check the post office and go grocery shopping. Many times hikers will stay in a hotel and head out after a 1 or multi day break. These days are known as “zero” days, because you are doing zero miles. When a hiker does go back on the trail, his pack is loaded with as much as 5 days of food to get to the next town.

It is difficult to get lost on the A.T., because the entire trail is marked with white blazes. The blazes are a 2×6 inch rectangle painted on trees, rocks, buildings or the ground. Each blaze is almost always within view of the next, and in some places it seems every other tree has been marked. The ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) claims there are 165,000 blazes along the entire trail. If the blazes are not enough, there are maps and guidebooks which will show you every turn. It requires something like 45 maps to cover the entire trail.

To date there have been slightly less than 10,000 people who have reported as having completed the entire Appalachian Trail. In 2008 they expect to break the 10,000 mark. The ATC claims it takes approximately 5 million footsteps to complete. The total vertical feet a hiker climbs will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 471,151 feet, or some 90 miles. And of course that hiker will also descend roughly that same distance in vertical. This is enough to climb and descend Mt. Everest from sea level 16 times.

Of course not everyone will complete the trail. The ATC has shown a positive trend in thru-hiker completion rates in the past few years, going from 17% in 2001 to 29% in 2006 having completed. Still, 70% attrition rate is pretty high, and of course hikers drop out for any number of reasons.

God willing and with support from you all I hope to be among those who finish this fall! To my family and friends reading this thank you so much for all of your prayers and support that I know I can count on. I cannot succeed without you. I hope you’ll join me on this adventure on this blog, which I will be updating live as I hike. Please feel free to post a comment on any of the posts, as I will be able to read these and look forward to some encouraging words! You can also find my mail drop schedule posted, which has directions for sending me snail mail.

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2 Comments»

  Clare wrote @

Good luck to you!
I am planning on thru hiking next year, but starting next weekend my kids and I are going to be trail angels so maybe we will see you along the way.
Just keep on keeping on and you’ll make it!

  Ellen Sistrunk wrote @

Jeff!
I just talked to Earl Ballard and he told me about your hike! I think it’s great and I’m praying for you. I can only imagine all the historical sites you are looking at on this trip – I am soooo jealous!! Hope all goes well. Finals at school start tomorrow. Be VERY GLAD we didn’t bring this 8th grade to DC this year!! I’ll keep up with your progress – Take care
Ellen


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