My Unconventional AT Plan…
I have taken a less conventional approach to planning for my AT Thru Hike. While I may pickup the AT Guide along the trail, if my system doesn’t work, I kind of like the idea of making my own way on the trail.
I’ve seen a 2013 Thru Hiker’s AT Companion and after reviewing it, I think that much hasn’t changed. I’ll carry a PDF version of this on my phone, but it will be a backup. Also, the ATC has a great little online book called “Step by Step” that gives a lot of good information to potential Thru Hikers.
Then there is the AWOL’s AT Guide. It appears MANY people on the Thru Hike has acquired this as their guide. While I do like this…it cost way too much for all of the cool stuff like the laminated guide cards. While the book is only $20, I think this AWOL has a great racket going. And with the AT Thru Hikers increasing in numbers each year, he’s making some good money.
I found the WikiTrails is an open source repository for hiking data. And since it’s open source, I can use it and manipulate it to no end and that’s exactly what I have done.
First, I downloaded the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) data files for the AT Centerline, Parking Lots and Shelters. I then downloaded the WikiTrails data and uploaded both of these into GoogleMaps. This provided a great start for planning my thru hike. However, while I know I can use GoogleMaps offline, I just wasn’t’ comfortable with this. Therefore, I chose to use Maps.me for my offline navigating while out there on trail.
I also did some web scraping and found lots of cool data about hostels, maildrops, towns, etc. However, the best source of information was OpenStreetMaps.
I opened OpenStreetMaps in my computer’s browser and just virtually walked the trail from Georgia to Maine. As I found cool places like campsites and information in towns like hotels and eateries, I added them to my map. While I’m sure there is a more automated way of doing this with APIs and such, I found just looking at online maps helped me see what was there. I guess I’m just old school!
After creating many spreadsheets with names, addresses, websites, phone numbers and GPS coordinates, I created some pins (or bookmarks in Maps.me). I then downloaded all of the AT map on my phone along with my bookmarks and “Voila”, I have some good data right there in my hands for planning and hiking.
When I really comes down to “Hike your own hike”, I’ve chosen to go with a little less detailed planning than most people. I’ve seen people planning every stop, daily mileage, where to resupply, sending resupply boxes to maildrops, etc. etc. etc. However, I’m NOT doing any of that.
I’ll start my hike with 7 days of food…yeah, I know that way too much food. But I don’t plan on stopping at Suches GA or Hiawassee GA. I will make a pickup of miscellaneous items at the Mountain Crossing, but no big plans to hitch hike into town. My first real resupply will be at Franklin NC.
Another new app I found was Postholer. It allows me to download the various trail section data sheets and use them offline. I can use this to help plan on the fly as I hike to where the next town is or the resupply points or the mileage left.
While I’ve used many tools to prepare for the AT Thru Hike, I find myself looking at “winging it” more than going with a strict plan. While I will be “planning on the go” each night for my next destination, it won’t be too “formal”. The only real planning will be the next food resupply, tomorrow’s campsite and where’s the water!
It’s been said time and again — Hike Your Own Hike and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. It could mean 15 mile days or 4 mile days. It will all depend on how I feel, how the legs and body are holding up, if I feel like sleeping in, how hunger I am, do I have enough food to hang out and how much time do I have remaining to get to Destination Katahdin.
After thinking about this, maybe I need to develop a LarryBoy’s AT Thru Hiker Guide after my hike. I’ve gathered a LOT of data and could easily make an app as well as get it published. Since so much of the data is FREE, it just needs to be compiled and marketed as a new solution. HMMM…looks like I may have a new job doing this next year…but we’ll see since I like the retired nomadic life.
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