Saturday morning I hop a train for the first leg of a trip that will get me to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Monday morning. From there I'll start a 2184-mile hike along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, to Mt Katahdin in northern Maine. Along the way I'll pass thru 14 states, climb a total of 629899', make 865 summits, and bag five of the 50 states' highest peaks.
If history predicts anything, I'll be one of 1150-1700 attempting an AT thru hike this year. 28% of us will finish.
To improve my chances, I'll start slow - eight mile days with lots of breaks for the first week, and build up to an average of fourteen mile days. There'll be stretches where I bang out twenty mile days, and others where I'll be lucky to do ten.
I've spent the last year putting my pack together, often changing things to get the best performance at the lightest weight. Of course, nothing's lighter than leaving stuff behind, and I'm still working on that. As it stands, outfitted for the shoulder seasons, my pack weighs 21 lbs without food and water. That will drop to 18 when I swap gear in summer. Food weight will vary between 6 and 14 lbs based on the number of days between resupply. Water will vary between 2 and 4 lbs depending on water conditions. I could be humping as much as 40 lbs, but most of the time it'll be closer to 21-35.
I'll burn 4000-6000 calories a day and will be hard-pressed to consume anything close to that. I've chosen food with the highest calories/oz. I'll be hiking on a diet high in carbohydrates and fat, with foods selected to assure I get complete proteins, and generally eating like a Hobbit. Most everything I eat will be rehydrated, cooked over a butane stove, and eaten out of a pot with a spork. Yum.
I scored a sponsorship from Emergen-C and I'm packing their Joint Health Formula, which provides a mix of antioxidents, B vitamins, electrolytes and other nutrients, along with glucosamine and chondroitin. I'll also be packing fish oil and Vitamin I (ibuprofen).
I'll generally resupply at grocery stores in towns along the way. However, I have 10 boxes of food and supplies that Mary will mail to places along the trail. Most of those boxes just have stuff that I'm unlikely to find along the way, plus Emergen-C, Clif Bars, meds, sections of the trail guide, batteries ... There are four that have a full food resupply that are being mailed to places where resupply is limited or non-existent.
I also have a box filled with summer-weight gear that Mary will mail to me when I get past Mount Rogers in Virginia, when the chance of snow and freezing temps is low. I'll mail the winter stuff home, and she'll mail that back when I'm heading into the White Mountains in the Fall.
There's a list of milestone dates over there in the right column. It's based on past thru-hikers average pace, and is not a schedule I feel compelled to keep. It's a yardstick by which I'll measure progress to make sure I meet my one hard schedule point - to get to Baxter State Park in Maine before they close for the season, around Oct 15. Else, I don't summit Mt Katahdin.
I'm packing a camera and a Droid, so I'll be able to post updates to this blog along the way. Hope you follow along. If you want to be notified when I post something here, put your email addy in that "Follow by Email" block on the right-hand column.