We recently discussed a few things that looking back, we may (definitely) would have done differently while getting ready to hike the AT. That’s hard to do and say because at the time, when we were preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail, we made every decision based on research and gut feelings. Before we even had this idea to take this hike we had no real knowledge on hiking, backpacking, camping, or really anything outside for that matter. We keep saying that because we hope that maybe one of these posts will reach someone who is ready to press the reset button on life. There are so many confines that we voluntarily put on ourselves in today’s society – see also distractions. The only true limits are the ones that exist within! There were certainly more things we would change than things we wouldn’t, but we did make some decisions that paid off big time for us. For upcoming thru hikers, this blog post will again be for you! We will be discussing the (few) good things we did and look back with “no ragrets!”
1. Our “Big 3” was spot on.
Almost every piece of gear we started with did not make it to Mount Katahdin. Minus our packs, our Big 3 made it the whole way. The Big 3 for any backpacker is going to be the largest, and arguably the most important, items in your pack. Here is a great article how to focus in and maybe trim some ounces for those that are ultralight. For us, we went for comfort in this area, which seemed like a lot of our peers and fellow thru hikers did not do. Our gear list gives some more detailed information on the rest of the gear we carried and what it weighed. To save you some time and a click, this was our setup:
Tent – North Face Triarch 3
Sleeping Pads – REI Air Rail, Men’s and Women’s
Quilts – Enlightened Equipment Revelation
Backpacks – ULA Circuit
We plan on reviewing all of these pieces of gear eventually, but for now check out our review of our tent! For us, we slept better and more comfortable with a few extra ounces invested into our sleeping pads and into the space of our tent.
2. We saw as many trail towns as possible.
For us, we knew that we wanted to see as many trail towns as possible, and looking back, have no regrets on the time and money we spent in town. That isn’t saying that staying in town is expensive, but it can be. Plenty of towns offer free camping within the city limits. Churches, community centers, and public parks are usually good places to start looking or asking. It certainly adds to the adventure to feel the different cultures of each town the trail passes through and even the total change when comparing the north and south. Every town is unique. We probably would not have stopped in Gatlinburg, Tennessee if the snow did not force us off the trail in early March. We knew that town had recently been damaged from fires a couple months prior but that was really it. Gatlinburg likes to call itself the “Vegas of the South” and it definitely had that vibe walking down the main street/strip. We were blown away at what we saw. Moral of the story: Even in the town that is least expected to provide a good time, a good time is waiting.
3. We listened to our instincts.
This one came with time, after learning that Mother Nature can out-stubborn us any day of the week. There were so many times early on in our hike that we pushed on late in the day knowing that it was not the best idea but decided to anyways for whatever reason. Almost every time, our decision to go against our instincts put us in a bad situation. Don’t be too stubborn to backtrack! We get it, those miles are hard earned and sometimes backtracking simply is not an option. There will be times when you are faced with a decision to backtrack two miles to the campsite you know you should have stopped at, or take your chances and hike three more miles into the night to that kind of flat looking spot in the book. Patience will be learned on this journey. The night we crossed into Vermont was the only time we crossed a state line during the night time. We really enjoyed getting our picture with those signs but we fell behind that day. Instead of calling it a night, we so badly wanted to cross into Vermont that we hiked into the evening hoping we would get a good picture at the sign. Long story short, we didn’t AND it started to pour the second we started to set our tent up and we fell asleep soaked. Trust your instincts.
4. We made (good) food a priority.
We love to eat. Hiking the Appalachian Trail only facilitated our hunger and desire to stuff our face. We joke that we only walked to justify our eating habits. This sort of piggy backs on our point of going into town, but food was really the main reason we pushed to every town we got to. Food is the best reward after a hard day of hiking! There is no feeling like being on the brink of exhaustion and feeling the most satisfied after a good meal. There are so many unique and small “mom and pop” type restaurants along the trail – go eat there. We would have thought the opposite and would have thought that fast food chains were the only thing these really small towns would provide. It was actually the opposite the further north we got. Pretty much after New York McDonalds and Burger King were the only prominent chains in towns which was a bummer for us because Taco Bell is our numero uno. We have a blog post coming up where we discuss the food we ate in a little more depth but here are the top five meals we ate along the entire trail:
1. Vinny’s Deli in Pawling, NY
2. Zia Taqueria in Asheville, NC
3. Smoky Mountain Diner in Hot Springs, NC
4. Migliozzi’s Pizza in Highland Falls, NY
5. Wayne’s Market in Woodstock, NH
5. We hiked OUR hike.
Hiking as a couple is not easy. There is a serious challenge in finding personal freedom when every second of every day is shared with another person. Granted, we have been together for four years before we even decided to do this hike together so our relationship was already strong. We saw so many couples that met on the trail that were struggling to find that balance. We would see them hiking together one day, separate the next, and would go back and forth between wanting personal time vs. together time more. When we set out to do the Appalachian Trail, we quickly learned that Alex’s hike and Amanda’s hike would not exist. Everything is a compromise, even down to the very pace that we walked. There were times we stayed in town when one was ready to go. We ate food only one person was craving because that is what team mates do. We hiked a hike that was best for us as a couple. It was not easy, in fact it was the hardest thing either of us had ever done but we did it together as a team and for that we have no ragrets!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.