And We’re Off! Days 1-5 on the AT

Well guys, I made it! I’m on the AT! I’m starting at Harper’s Ferry (HF) and working my way north for the first half of my flip flop.

To start, and for those of you who don’t like to read super long posts (cough cough, yes, you know who you are) I’ve decided to start my posts with a quick summary. Then, if you want to know more, by all means, read on! 


  • I started in Harpers Ferry, WV, and hiked through Maryland in four days (although apparently it can be done in three).
  • Took my AT thru-hiker photo and obtained my hangtag at the AT Conservancy
  • On day five I arrived t my first resupply town and consequently my first trail hostel, in Fayetteville, PA.  To get there, I hiked approximately 12, 7, 14, 15, and 12 miles
  • Meet some great folks on the trail, but haven’t formed a Tramily (trail family) or obtained a trail name yet
  • Ran into some unseemly characters in my first few nights but overwhelmingly felt the protection of other thru-hikers. Hiking community is real!
  • Trail Magic: I was gifted a bag of trail mix, given hotdogs, s’mores, a new long spoon, and pizza <3
  • Trail Sadness: I melted my pot cozy and wind stopper, burnt my first trail meal terribly, and snapped my spork in half 🙁


  • Gear I’ve loved: my tent, trekking poles, and HG Quilt
  • Gear I’ve found I am not using so far: my sun gloves, my fleece (my puffy alone seems to do the trick), and my solar panels (I know, I know I’m hiking through the green tunnel. There’s a canopy above me I’m shaded 85% of the time. With a 15% time I’ve had sun it has helped. All likelihood of getting rid of this at some point, but I just haven’t been able to emotionally let go of it yet.)
  • Gear I am likely to trade out: my synthetic hiking shirt (soooo smelly within the first week it almost single-handedly is what drove me to stay in the hostel rather than just resupply and move on), and my camp shoes (they’re great but they offer no support and my tired feet need more after a long day of hiking!)
  • Gear/items that is the bane of my existence: my bear vault (at the last minute I stressed and switched by BV450 for aBV475. The BV475 weighs almost three pounds and is huuugggeeeee), also I way overpacked food and food is h e a v y

Trail Story Time

All right. And for those of you who want the details of my time, here they go:

I flew into Washington DC where I was picked up by an old friend who, after we grabbed dinner with a mutual friend of ours in the city, was kind enough to drive me out to HF (shout out to Claire and Michaela). She even came inside with me to make sure I was all good before leaving me there that night.

I chose HF as my starting point because it is the unofficial midpoint of the AT. It is not actually halfway (it’s located around mile 1,023 of 2,190) but here at HF thru-hikers can stop by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to register, get a hangtag, and have their photo taken in front of the ATC sign. You can read more about HF as a starting point for a flip flop hike here.

I decided to stay at Cross Trails Hostel (CTH) the night before I started on the trail, however, I did not realize when I initially made that decision that CTH was not located in HF… this was 100% my bad… but since my plan for the trail is to take things as they come and play things by ear, this was a great first test! Luckily that night I met someone in the hostel who offered to give me a ride into HF the next morning. I was excited to find out that said ride was on a motorcycle! It was a blast! A great start to my trip!

Day 1

I got to the AT Conservancy in Harper’s Ferry around 9:00, right when they open. When I first walked in, I was the only one in the place, however, it quickly filled up with other thru-hikers stopping by. I got my photo taken, successfully showed that I know the seven principles of Leave No Trace and obtained my hangtag, and weighed my pack (it was 42 pounds!!!! keep in mind most hikers aim for 30lbs and below).

Once the other thru-hikers in that ATC learned that I was just starting off, they started to give me all the advice they could think of (one also gave me a bag of trail mix, which was very much appreciated and kind of my first trail magic!) Well, all the advice was great. It also meant I didn’t leave the Conservancy until around 11:00, which was far later than I planned on starting my day. Luckily, the first couple miles out of Harper’s Ferry are some of the flattest along the entire trail.

That first day I hiked ~12 miles to stop at my first shelter (The AT has shelters built all along the trail. If a hiker wants, they can almost spend every night on trail at a shelter). At this first shelter is where I ran into another dose of spontaneous trail magic. A couple offered me hotdogs and s’mores!

That same night I met Saratonin, another flip-flopper who had started in HF. We got along great however we quickly realized it likely would not work for us to hike together because she had taken three days to hike to the shelter I was at on my first night.

Day 2

The next morning, I got a late start on the trail because I slept in and hung out with Saratonin, totally worth it 🙂 I decided not to stress myself out and I hiked to a nearby campsite with bathrooms, running water, and hot showers!

The one where everything went wrong

That night was my first night making myself dinner on the trail (since the night before I had been gifted hotdogs and s’mores). It was great! Just kidding. About anything and everything that could go wrong, did.

First off, as I set about cooking my dinner (a nice hearty dinner of lentils), I melted my homemade wind stopper… okay… fine, it still mostly works. At least my dinner was done. Or should I say, too done. When I opened my pot I found that I had burned my lentils… terribly.

Despite how terribly burnt they were, I was determined to eat my very first trail dinner, so I took my spork, and went in for a scoop, andddd snap! my spork broke in half.

Then, I set my pot in the pot cozy, my homemade pot cozy that I spent hours collecting the materials for and carefully crafting at home… only for my pot to melt my pot cozy!!!

Here were the remains of my trail kitchen and dinner by the end of this fiasco:

…and how it all got better

Things turned around  when Saratonin informed me that the campsite we were at was close enough to a nearby road/hotel that hikers could order Dominos to the campsite! Seeing as my dinner was a disaster, she did not have to twist my arm very hard for me to agree.

Saratonin and I eating our Domino’s Pizza, Night 2

Then, a fellow thru hiker learned that my spork broke in half so he gave me his extra long spoon! Out here hikers have a saying “The Trail Provides“. Night 2 and I already sensed the truth in this.

As an aside, and because I want my blog to be transparent for anyone in the future reading this in order to decide if they want to hike the AT or not, I did have a not-so-great encounter with someone at this campsite. There was a fellow camper at the site who we all 99% collectively agreed was likely not a thru-hiker. He likely may have been homeless and choosing to crash at a campsite with hot water/showers/ and easy access to food. This man made some inappropriate and unseemly comments towards myself and Saratonin and overall acted rudely. I don’t wanna dive into details, because it’s not worth it, but for those of you reading, I want you to know that my main take away from that experience was how the community of other thru-hikers at the site rallied around Saratonin and I to make sure we were okay and that we felt safe. I learned the following day that many of the other thru-hikers even reported this man to  the appropriate authorities. So instead of this deterring me from my time on the trail, it instead made me feel reassured that other thru-hikers were looking out for me.

(speeding up my storytelling…) Day 3-5

The next day I waved goodbye to Saratonin and I hiked 14 miles to arrive at the next shelter with plenty of time before the sunset. Along the way I saw the Washington Monument and stopped for a lunch at Annapolis Rocks (which was a gorgeous view).

There I ran into a couple who is section hiking Maryland for the weekend and they informed me that I would be out of Maryland by the next day! Honestly, I had no idea it was gonna be that short, but that was exciting. So the following morning I woke up as early as I could manage (7:00 AM) packed up as quickly as I could (it took me two hours) and I was on the trail by 9:00 AM… clearly, I have to work on my time management out here…

I hiked onto Pen Mar park, which is a park directly south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. At Pen Mar park I ran into many people who asked me lots of questions about my time on the trail When you hike the AT you can tell that the towns/communities nearby are really invested in hikers. Two such people were Snowball and her friend (who did not have a trail name). They gave me good advice about some of the upcoming places to check out in Pennsylvania.

Then I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. Four days in and one state down! I was feeling good!

The following day was a great day, and I noticed that the number of thru-hikers on the trail was picking up. You see, the AT yearly Trail Days Festival happened around the time I started on the trail, so most thru-hikers were down in Damascus, VA.  But now the festival was over and they were slowly filtering back onto the trail. One such thru-hiker I ran into was a man who has already hiked all three major trails in the US  southbound (He has completed the Triple Crown), so now he’s aiming to hike all three again, but this time northbound!

That night I walked myself into Fayetteville, to a hostel .7 miles off the trail. The hostel was a church that would host thru-hikers, hence the appropriate name: Thru-It-All Ministries. For $25 I got a shower and a bed (and coincidentally an entire room since no one else was there). For a few extra bucks I did my laundry there and was driven to and from Walmart where I was able to restock.

Fun Fact for anyone in Pennsylvania who wants a kitten, Thru-It-All ministries has kittens they are trying to find homes for!

Overall I had an amazing time my first few days on the trail. My body already is sore, and my feet already ache, but I continue to remain excited about what my journey on the AT will look like.

For fun, here are what some of the shelters look like and the set up of my tent (I often tent even if the shelters are not full because I like the privacy, plus I can fit all my stuff inside with me! I love my tent!)

Other fun tidbits from my time on the trail:

  • Once I tried washing my face and I got my scrubby thing stuck on my nose piercing!
  • There are so many leaves here that if you’re not careful you’ll pile on a bunch onto your hiking poles!

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Comments 4

  • Ray : Jun 2nd

    LOL..The nose incident picture is hilarious

    • Sandi Hall : Jun 2nd

      That tent DOES look amazing! The equipment is so far advanced from my backpacking days! Loved hearing the good & challenging parts of your story. Can’t wait for you to get your trail name …. I picked one out for you and …. we’ll see how close I get!

  • Bloodthirsty Vegan : Jun 2nd

    Don’t do this alone. The AT is historically the most dangerous of America’s popular thru-hiking experiences. Safety is never guaranteed, but to the best of my knowledge, groups of three or more are rarely, if ever, attacked. Sorry, but that’s the world we live in.


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