The Appalachian Trail is harder to some people. This is why.

This is how it´s going to be: today I´ll take an 8 hour flight from my city – Belo Horizonte, in the Southeast of Brazil – to Miami. From there another flight to Orlando, from where I´ll rent a car and drive to Jacksonville, FL. I´ll spend a couple of days with a friend to adapt my body and test my gear and then drive until I get to Atlanta, where the nice people from Hiker Hostel will shuttle me to their place. The next day I will take another shuttle and I´ll start my thru-hike. Sort of: I´ll do the Approach Trail first. It´s going to take me 5 days from my city to the trail. Two flights, 8 hours driving, two shuttles, an eternity at airports. It´s not the worst part of it, believe me. When you are not from the USA and decide to hike the Appalachian Trail, everything is a little bit more difficult and complicated.

For instance, you will certainly need a visa. I´m my case, being Brazilian, I´d need a visa even if I decided to spend just a weekend on the trail. It´s mandatory. And expensive: 160 dollars. No guarantee that you will get that piece of paper, though. In my case, I´m on my third American visa. Even so, I have no guarantee that the person at homeland security will allow me to enter the country.

People complain about the costs of gear and resupply. Let me tell you: if I didn’t get the second prize at the Badger Sponsorship I couldn´t do the AT. Just because I can´t find the appropriate gear in Brazil. Or, when I find, it´s at least twice the price of the USA. Also, because on top of food and equipment, and a few nights in hostels I also have to pay for an international air ticket that costs another US$1000.00. Plus health insurance (another 500 USD). And the visa. Did I mention that the minimum wage in my country is around 300 USD a month? 

Cultural barriers are also a problem. Language, food, habits. Examples? I have no idea what a pop tart is. How will I have this thing for breakfast? I never saw one, never tried one. Same with most of the dehydrated food that people mention. Knorr thai rice? We don´t have it here. Oatmeal? Not common in my diet. Grits? Nope. Instant potatoes? Are you kidding?? 

It´s difficult to get the most basic information about the trail in my language. When I first decided that I´d hike the AT, a year ago, I googled “Appalachian Trail” and selected “pages in Portuguese”. The result came out with a dozen articles, divided equally between Robert Redford´s movie and Geraldine Largay´s terrible death. Numbers of books about the trail in Portuguese? Zero. Nil. Not even Bill Bryson´s book… 

I never saw a bear. Or a moose. I couldn’t tell the difference between a poison ivy and other plants. Now I know. At least in theory. Finally, remember that I live in a tropical country: I’ve never walked on snow, for god’s sake! (if you see a thru-hiker playing with snow at the Smoky Mountains in a couple of weeks, that´s me).

Thru-hikers usually have family and old friends hiking a section of the trail with them. Not me. Thru-hikers have friends and family to help with mail drop boxes. Not me. If they are homesick, thru-hikers can take a week off the trail, go home, talk to friends and family. Not me.

Am I complaining? No way. What I´m saying is that I KNOW how hard it´s going to be. I´m prepared. Bring it on. I´m sure that these extra points are going to make the difference when I raise my arms at the top of Mount Katahdin. 

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Comments 7

  • Eugene Partridge : Apr 11th

    My wife is Brazilian and I plan a thru hike in 2019 at the age of 62. I know your struggles with food and culture but you will truly be taken with your new experience. you are a blessed person to be able to Experience this only wish I could share that experience with you.

  • Lou Eckert : Apr 11th

    Good luck to you, Jeff. You have a great outlook and attitude, and I am sure you will walk up Katahdin! Make some friendss along the way!

  • Kate : Apr 11th

    Hi Brazil aka Jeff! Welcome to the USA, good luck on your AT adventure. I hope to pass you this summer as my daughter and I hike SOBO (Southbound) beginning June 8th. May sunny days, good fortune follow you and that you make many new friends and meet happy hikers!!!

  • Eugene Partridge : Apr 14th

    Oh how I wish I could be there to see you off on this journey of a life time. I have traveled the world and know the struggles you face.
    You will make it and you will have many GREAT memories, that’s something no one can take from you.

    If you run into anything that may cause you a setback or delay to your journey of a life time please reach out to me and my wife. We live in Florida and we have Family in Maine. Jeff we will do our best to help you in any way we can. My wife is Brazilin so you can speak your native language or reply in Portuguese if you prefer.

  • Mark Stanavage : Apr 15th

    I’ve met British, Spaniards, Germans, and one Australian. All good people, all on the trail having the time of their lives. You will be in good company with some of the finest (if eclectic and eccentric) people.
    Good luck and happy trails!

  • Brian Bowden : May 4th

    Good luck on your hike, man. I’m NOBO in March 2018, but I’ll be living in South Carolina at the time so there won’t be much travel to get started.

    I really just wanted to comment because I got a serious laugh out of your sentence: “When I first decided that I´d hike the AT, a year ago, I googled “Appalachian Trail” and selected “pages in Portuguese”. The result came out with a dozen articles, divided equally between Robert Redford´s movie and Geraldine Largay´s terrible death.”

    I probably wouldn’t have wanted to hike it if that’s the only two things I could read about it.

    Anyways, safe travels. You got this.


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