Going off road for us usually means an engine burns gasoline and turns tires, propelling us through the world. But truly one of the most rewarding ways to go off-road is under your own power, whether it be paddling a canoe, riding a mountain bike or hiking on your own two feet.
Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.
ALSO SEE: Colorado’s Eighth Update
So follow along with our friend Colorado, as he takes on the trail.
As Colorado and I parted ways in Gettysburg and he is back on the AT, I am the guest writer of this week’s update.
It was so enjoyable to join Colorado on the AT again. Unfortunately, we lost a day on the trail to my checked bag being delivered almost 24 hours after I arrived. In the meantime, although Colorado will deny it, I saw evidence of “hiker hunger” as Colorado ate two full breakfasts in one seating in Duncannon. The AT goes right through the town, so we took the opportunity to walk that part of the trail without packs while we wait for my bag.
The week was without rain, but the heat and humidity was out in full force – temps in the 90s, humidity in the 90s, and dew points in the 70s. As a result, we lost a lot of water weight and two of the days we took a break in the afternoon and finished our day hiking after the sun went behind the hills.
Some of the differences from my first time on the AT were: no NoBo hikers, more section hikers (e.g., Outward Bound and Princeton first year orientation), trail was less hilly, the terrain and woods changed drastically and abruptly as we hike along (we’d be in rather open forest with no undergrowth and then suddenly it seemed we were in a tropical jungle), heard lots of target shooting at night (possibly getting ready for hunting season?), water was more scarce, better cell service, and walked through corn fields (reminded me of the times I spent at my grandparents’ and aunt and uncle’s farms in MN).
The two bibles for AT thru-hikers are The AT Guide “Awol” (https://www.theatguide.com/
product-category/at- guidebooks/) and the Guthook Guide (https://atlasguides.com/ appalachian-trail/). I have Awol at home and it has the entire profile of the AT, landmarks, mileages, elevation, shelters, water sources, and services along the way. Guthook is a mobile app that includes an interactive map. Another source of information is for weather on the AT (https://www.atweather.org).
As Colorado has mentioned previously there are people all along the AT who provide assistance to hikers. Trail Angel Mary of Duncannon is one of those. She picked me at the Harrisburg airport and then at the end of the trip picked me up in Gettysburg to return me to the airport. Around 2000, she was homeless and living in the Duncannon campground and discovered the hikers. She started by bringing them bananas (she thought they needed potassium), eventually she got a home and allowed hikers to stay there, now she shuttles hikers to, from, and along the AT, and she was instrumental in obtaining Duncannon’s designation as an AT Community. As we said good-bye at the airport, she had me sign her register and took my photo. She has a heart of gold.
On Thursday, we reached the halfway point on the AT! Quite a milestone. He’s doing so well. He continues to cut weight by sending back what is not essential (warmer clothing, books). And shaving his beard!
One of the traditions on the AT is after reaching the halfway point is to take the Half Gallon Challenge and eat a half gallon of ice cream (there are several stores that cater to this). Although Colorado did not take on the challenge, during one break, he consumed two milkshakes.
Fortunately the rocks in the southern part of PA were not that bad. In one encounter with a local, he told us the saying around there was “PA, where shoes go to die!”