A 2016 Supported NOBO Through Hike – wait, “supported?”


And now for something completely different.

My trail name is Pitchit (I’ll tell the story of how I earned that name later) and I’ve backpacked about 60% of the AT over the last two decades, including the most difficult sections. I have retired early. Now to fulfill a long, simmering dream.  I’ve enjoyed reading the 2015 through hiker posts, and now the 2016s are sharing their plans. Now, at 62, I making plans to join them.

However, there are some complications. The main one: I am married (that’s not a complication, keep reading, Anne!) My wife, Anne can no longer backpack due to foot pain. Short day trips, yes. Day after day with a full pack, no. Five months separated from her is a major drawback. And I have sleep apnea, which means disrupted sleep without a C-PAP machine, which isn’t exactly backpackable. Going without the C-PAP for long periods of time results in sleep deprivation and high blood pressure, not to mention the sleep my snoring deprives in others in the shelters, or even nearby tents. What to do?

Thus the decision to do a supported through hike.  As I’ve read the blogs, very few do this.  Some look down on it as not really through hiking. Two friends of ours did this in 2012 with much success, and some cast aspersions, but he hiked 2,185 miles (plus an 8 mile unintentional blue blaze side trip up Mt Rogers – wasn’t paying attention) and lost 35 pounds doing it. Anne and I joined them for a couple weeks. Felt like real backpacking to me!  This will cost more than the usual four to six thousand, but then I’m not starting out in life; I think I saw the term “platinum through hike” somewhere?  In other words, if we’re careful, we can afford it.

So what does a supported through hike look like for us?  Here are the initial plans:

  • I will hike every step – no yellow or blue blazing.
  • Anne will drop me off in the morning and pick me up in the evening when possible, and we’ll stay in a hostel, our RV, or a hotel, depending on what’s available and fun. And cheapest.
  • Those days I will slackpack, taking whatever is necessary in case the pickup doesn’t work out and I overnight on the trail.
  • This will enable us to do the “AT Pub Crawl,” 29 of the best Pubs along the AT as listed by Jordan Bowman. I want to hit as many as possible.  Everyone needs goals…
  • There are lots of places where the evening pickup will not be possible, so those times I will overnight on the trail, staying in shelters or tent. I’m guessing one-third of the nights will be on the trail?
  • What about the snoring – sleep apnea? I’ve tried several systems. I found a mouthpiece that helps some.  My test hikes have revealed that I can go several nights with it and get a full night’s sleep, and the snoring is alleviated. Mostly. Not all of it, according to my son who just did a six day Roan Highland test hike with me. But it’s better!  So I can do several nights out in a row.  And for you 2016ers out there, I’ll pitch a tent to give some distance from the shelter if I need to.  (That is not where Pitchit comes from.)
  • This requires a lot more planning, so I’ll use Guthook’s AT Guide for Android, and she will use AWOL and other tools so we can plan out a couple days for pickups.
  • I intend to always say I’m on a supported through hike to differentiate from those who carry all their stuff every day, and will have a ready response to any purists who look down their nose and say anything snarky. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m good at snarky, too.
  • And I’ll get to sleep with my wife! That will make any snarky comments more than worth it.
  • An added bonus, my 2012 supported through hiker friend SOS and his support/wife, Trail Mama, will join us for a second supported through hike! And since we have our own shuttlers, lots of friends will join us for a week here and there.
  • Trail Mama and Anne (who has to earn her trail name yet) will also offer a lot of trail magic along the way as they wait to pick us up. All will be welcome, even purist nose snarkers. They can also do some shuttles for other hikers.

So those are the initial plans. Between July (retirement) and next March (take off) I’m making the plans, keeping in mind two key sayings:

“Plans are worthless. But planning is everything.” (Pres. Dwight Eisenhower)

“Everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the face.” (Mike Tyson)


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Comments 6

  • Gadgetlegs : Aug 21st

    Love your plan! Im trying to convince my hubby to support me on a thru hike. He works from home and is warming to the idea of working from the RV (that we don’t have yet!). Would love to chat about your plans and get some ideas. Good Luck!

    • Dave Michel : Aug 22nd

      Keep an eye here. I hope to post regularly as will have a bit more access to data. Where we have a signal along the way. Glad to talk to you mid 2016 when I know more about how it goes.

  • Steve Clark : Aug 24th

    are their phone booths along trail, not carring cell phone.

    • Dave Michel : Aug 24th

      I’m carrying cell. You can probably yogi off others. Towns and stores are frequent, but pay phones are becoming rare. Prepaid, cheap phone?

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  • Andrew Tarver : Oct 9th

    Was wondering if you made your supported hike this year. I hiked almost half last year but want to finish with my wife supporting me along with our RV. Would be interested to see how yours worked out and get some pointers from you.


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