Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike April 2023 – Our Journey Has Already Begun!

Hello Friends! My name is Laura Budde, pronounced “buddy.”

In April of 2023 my husband, Paul and I will embark on a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail! We will start at the southern terminus in Georgia and summit Mount Katahdin prior to its closure in October.

While hiking the AT is epic, our journey’s gestation is progressing nicely. Over the next few posts I will bring you along in our preparations. We will discuss affording our thru-hike, what we are doing about our jobs and what we are sad about leaving behind. You will enjoy the ever popular gear breakdown, get an inside look at our style of backpacking, “The Budde System” and how we plan to maintain a balanced vegetarian diet on the trail. I welcome your feedback!

For now, let me give you a brief history of our progression into backpacking…

Paul and I met in the Pittsburgh area in 2009. We had each arrived separately from different parts of Illinois via varying life circumstances. As we began spending time together we were on the lookout for fun things to do.

The beauty of Penn’s Woods was highlighted by tree-filled hillsides and numerous state parks within driving distance of Pittsburgh. She was calling to us and fortunately we followed her voice.

What began as short jaunts in the woods turned into three or five mile hikes and our mileage slowly progressed.

I had never been a big fan of hiking or camping, since I am deliciously irresistible to mosquitoes and prone to sweating enough to thoroughly soak every item of clothing I am wearing. Still, a small tent was purchased, along with various amenities, including a blow-up mattress and a plastic camping french press that always leaked. On long weekends we camped at our state parks. We would pack some apples, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with liters of water in heavy bottles, and explore the ever-expanding trails. In the evening we relaxed on lawn chairs with games of scrabble and a hot meal, then stowed all of our items in our car and snuggled into our tent. Upon waking we heated water on our propane stove and enjoyed campground walks with a cup of freshly ground coffee.

It was heaven!


As soon as we would get in the car for a camping trip I could feel my nerves begin to settle and my blood pressure lower. In the woods my thoughts would clear, my lungs would expand and my personal evolution seemed to expedite. Sure, there were bugs in the summer, sometimes it was cold and I was sweaty and smelly, but it felt so right.

A few years into this love affair the pandemic arrived and propelled many people outdoors.

For us, who had already discovered the joy of camping, it felt like nature was asking for a deeper commitment.

In October of 2020, after making the most of a summer filled with camping, hiking and just plain fun, Paul stated the obvious, “we should start backpacking.”

This realization required some new preparations. We spent the cold months watching backpacking videos on YouTube and were fascinated with the Appalachian Trail. I discovered The Trek and Paul diligently researched gear. We tried on packs at REI, purchases were made and we could hardly wait for warm weather when we could explore this very different style of camping from what we were used to.

Our first backpacking trip was late April of 2021 at Oil Creek State Park in Venango County, Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania trail tradition dictates, we began the 36 mile loop by hiking straight uphill. The experience was not free from uncertainty or upset. It was physically and mentally challenging, a new experience in endurance and patience, and it felt right.

Since then there have been several backpacking trips of varying lengths, many day hikes, gear upgrades and new hiking experiences in PA. With each trip we find ourselves longing for more. The day finally came in late May of this past year when we both felt certain. We are far from expert but we knew that it is  time for us to hike the Appalachian Trail.

Stay tuned for an answer to the next question: How will we afford a thru-hike and what about our jobs?

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Comments 17

  • Wanda Hale : Nov 19th

    I am also vegetarian and look forward to following your journey.

    • Laura Budde : Nov 20th

      Thanks for your support, Wanda! I’m excited to see how it unfolds as well:)

  • pearwood : Nov 19th

    Sounds good. I will be restarting my NOBO about the same time.
    Steve / pearwood

    • Laura Budde : Nov 20th

      Thanks for your support, Steve! That sounds wonderful and I hope to meet you on the trail!

  • Black eyed Susan : Nov 19th

    How amazing! Looking forward to reading about your thru-hike planning/gear selection/shake down, etc. I’m planning retirement thru-hike 2028/2029 at age 68/69. I’m in great health and fitness at 62 now. I’m vegan. Thanks for showing me the way, young Budde’s! Have fun out there.

    • Laura Budde : Nov 20th

      Thanks for your support, Back eyed Susan! That will be AMAZING! We are all traveling together:)

  • Chris : Nov 20th

    So excited for you folks!!!

    • Laura Budde : Nov 20th

      Thanks for you support, Chris!

  • GroundHog : Nov 23rd

    Why are you “waiting for warm weather” that’s not going to get you to Maine! As a gardener did you ever put starts out to “harden them off”. You have 3 months of beautiful Pa winter coming up so get out there and toughen yourselves up!
    All the best

    • Laura Budde : Nov 23rd

      Thank you for your encouragement, GroundHog!

      We will absolutely take advantage of our beautiful Pa winter to harden off. Might look a bit floppy at first, but don’t you worry, we’ll grow some strong hiking legs;)!

  • Jingle bells : Nov 24th

    I hope you stay strong and safe. If I learned anything when I hicked the AT is weight. The weight you carry is everything.

    • Laura Budde : Nov 26th

      Thanks for your encouragement, Jingle bells! Yes, we are definitely trying to keep our weight down. We invested in some very lightweight packs/tent and plan to exchange our sleeping bags for a quilt in the summer. We are also going stoveless. My current base weight is around 10lbs and Paul’s is at 14-ish.

  • Rolf "Kinnikinnick" Asphaug : Nov 30th

    I’m very happy for both of you! I’m planning to start a LASH (Long Ass Section Hike) of the AT, starting from Amicalola Falls around April 5 or 6. I hope to hike up to 6 weeks and get to or a little beyond Damascus. I plan to go stoneless and with a quilt as well, and hope to keep my base weight around 12-13 pounds. Maybe we’ll meet on the trail! Rolf (Colorado Trail trail name Kinnikinnick)

    • Laura Budde : Nov 30th

      Thank you for your encouragement, Kinnikinnick! We plan to make it to Damascus within 6 weeks of starting as well.
      I hope to meet you on the trail and learn more about your backpacking style!

      • Rolf Asphaug : Jan 27th

        Actually I’m switching to a NOBO Benton MacKaye Trail trek in part to avoid contributing to overcrowding on the AT during “the bubble” season, and in part so that I can do a “complete” thru in similar terrain during the time I’ve allotted. But maybe our trails will still cross. Best wishes to you!

        • Laura Budde : Jan 29th

          That sounds great, Rolf! We were just looking at the path of the Benton MacKaye Trail this morning.

          Have a great thru-hike!


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