Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht (Man Plans, and God Laughs)

Bill Hiked the Trail in ’74- “The Plan”

You are hiking the Appalachian Trail? You should talk to Bill, he hiked it decades ago, so I went to visit Bill. Bill hiked it in 1974 and was one of the first 300 hikers to complete a through hike. In 1974 there were few camping stores but there was one in Columbia SC, so Bill traveled to that store to get some camping gear. 

While he was at that store, he ran into another young man who said he was also planning to do an AT through hike that same year, so they decided to set off together from Springer heading North. After a few days of hiking Bill decided he was going to move on without Joel as the chemistry between the two wasn’t compatible. Turns out that Joel ended up being the first murder on the Appalachian Trail days after that small tramily broke up. 

Bill got dysentery in VA, ran out of water in PA, had 11 straight days of rain in Maine, and almost froze to death near Clingmans Dome. Bill forded Kennebec River where the water got shoulder deep, and he had to carry his pack over his head to avoid it getting soaked (there was not a canoe ferry at the time).  Bill’s top advice to me: “always be able to get dry and warm, take care of your feet, downhill is tough on knees and toes”. 



A la sainte terre– (HYOH)

“I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not ‘hike!’ Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre’, ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”― John Muir

Hike your own hike (HYOH), if you are not familiar with this acronym, is a term in the hiking community that means that you hike the hike that you want to hike not what others think is the hike you should hike.  There are so many different opinions of what it means to hike a long trail like the AT. I have studied most of the philosophies of HYOH including the purists who think you MUST touch every white blaze for the hike to really count as a thru hike.


Photo credit

I do know we will not make it into the ultralight club (for lightest loads on our backs) nor the purist club (for those that think a through hike means touching every white blaze).  We intend to blue blaze the Virginia Creeper section of the trail where the AT supposedly does a bunch of PUDs (pointless ups and downs) while the blue blaze meanders at a nice grade following the bubbling creek. I expect we will creep through the Mahoosuc Notch. We have a reverent respect for the Whites although we have lots of experience above tree line in Colorado. In the odd way that we all are who do this type of thing, I am excited about the 100-mile wilderness challenges. 

I have a set rule that we will hike no more than 8 miles per day for the first 2 weeks as we get our body acclimated and I expect several zeros or neros in the earlier days (basically days off the trail in civilization). Unfortunately, our first week will be in the bougee section of the trail in CT which will challenge us on the zeros and neros. 

Our hike will be a “A la sainte terre”. We will be in no rush and have no set deadlines to meet other than getting to Katahdin before the October closing.



Photo credit



Planes, Trains, and Automobiles -The “Plan”

Our “plan” to thru hike will be a flip flop of the entire Appalachian Trail. We plan to start a bit more North than most flip flops due to our later start in late June. A flip flop is when you start somewhere between Springer and Katahdin and go one direction then return to that starting point and finish in the opposite direction. 

A car will take us to the airport where we will fly to NYC. From NYC Grand Central Station, we will take the Metro-North Railroad line directly to the AT near Pawling NY and begin our hike North. If we are successful to get to Katahdin, we will have hiked 750 miles through the Whites and the 100-mile wilderness. From Katahdin we will commute back to NYC travel back out to Pawling and then head south. That’s the plan.



Bubble Butt

We will most likely be in the bubble as we travel North from Pawling all the way to Katahdin, but we will be the tortoise with the bubble being the rabbit. The Nobo hikers will be kicking out double digit miles per day so we will most likely not see those hikers again as they fly past us.

Heading SOBO we will most likely catch some other SOBOs but I expect we will have the trail (and shelters!) to ourselves except when the leaf peepers hit the woods in the fall.   

Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht (Man Plans, and God Laughs). While the planning was fun and I enjoyed it, at this point I am burned out on planning.  I just want to get started now.

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Comments 1

  • Rick "Quiet Man" : May 22nd

    Seems that Burns is apropos

    The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
    Gang aft agley,


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