The 164 Day Recap of Everything You Wanted To Know, And Maybe Some You Didnt

I’ve said this before but it’s wild to consider your self an expert after doing something for the first time. But when that first time takes over 5 months to complete, you get pretty good at it (or at least moderately proficient). That’s was what thru-hiking the AT was like for me looking back at it. I look at my April start photo, under the archway at the Springer Mountain approach trail and I think, “Oh he was just a baby then.”

My how we’ve grown up since then (probably mostly the beard). But with beards come great wisdom (and responsibility, I think Morgan Freeman said that once). I’m going to share with you an in depth rundown of my thru-hike stats, gear and answer questions some of y’all have submitted. My apologies for the huge delay in getting this one out.

It’s wild to think I finished my hike 95 days ago. I would have been barely out of Maryland by that point on trail. My pace on trail started gradually as you can see by the bar chart.

The first 82 days I averaged 11.59 miles/day, compared to my final 82 days where my average was 15.66 miles/day. My average pace was 13.4 miles/day which includes 14 zero days and 5 Nero’s (under 5 miles hiked in a day). These included 3 days off for Trail Days and 5 days off for 4th of July when Kristen came to visit. My hiking average pace excluding zero days was 14.65 miles/ day. Daily steps on trail are shown by the following chart.

My hardest day on trail coincided with my hardest week on trail. It was the middle of summer and I had just came from nearly a week of zeros with Kristen. I had new shoes to break in and a Rabbit to catch. It was Marathon week. Refer back to those individual days for the details but I finished the week with blisters on my feet, averaged 23 miles/day rather than the goal of 26.2/ day and fell short in my 4-state challenge goal at 36 miles, roughly 8 miles short of the Pennsylvania line. Throughout the entire hike, in total I had 4 marathon days and 22 days where I hiked at least twenty miles. The following chart is my daily average for floors of elevation gain. For reference, the Empire State Building has 102 floors. Can you guess where the Whites were?

I used 5 total pairs of shoes while hiking in the following order:

  1. Nike Wildhorse 5 (137 miles worn)
  2. Altra Lone Peak 7 (798 miles)
  3. Altra Olympus 5 (724 miles)
  4. Hoka Speedgoat 5 (220 miles)
  5. Altra Lone Peak 7 All-Weather (319 miles)

I used hiking insoles with the Altra’s to combat the zero drop which helped spare my feet and achilles during my foray into zero drop shoes for the first time. Shoes 2, 3, and 4 were the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most popular shoes worn on trail according to The Trek’s 2023 Thru-Hiker Survey.

Altra Olympus 5 – Surprisingly my favorite shoe on trail considering I wore them through both Rocksylvania and Vermud.

Other gear changes were switching my Featherstone tent ($160 on Amazon) to the Nemo Hornet 2P ($260-ish at the NOC). The first tent, while it held up awesome in an utter downpour my 2nd night on trail, was more stone than feather weighing in at 5lbs according to a digital hang scale. I shaved 3lbs off my pack weight with that change which was huge. Also I had an Amazon inflatable sleeping pad that failed in Virginia which was replaced with a Sea to Summit pad that made it the rest of the way to Katahdin.

I also switched hiking packs to an Osprey Exos 48 from my Northface Banshee 65 (which had a frame malfunction on trail that needed replacing). Additionally sending home a Kelty 20 down sleeping bag in lieu of an REI 30 dri-down bag saved me some weight, space in my pack, and was still warm enough for cold nights at altitude in the Whites.

All in all, my base weight started around 38 pounds (with 10 days worth of food!) in Georgia and I was able to whittle that down to 21 pounds by the end of trail. Lessons learned on the gear front, get a quality brand with a solid return policy up front and only pack enough food/water to get you to your next resupply.

I did an Inbody scan in January before the AT and 3 days after I returned home. The results were staggering to say the least. I started off at a moderately healthy 15.3% body fat and 196lbs. I “dirty bulked” up to 210 by my official start date. Those extra 20lbs were shed in the first 30 days and (unlike the rest of the walk to Maine) it was a steady decline from there.

I ended up at the frail weight of 165lbs, albeit shredded at 5.8% body fat. The math on that breaks down to 20.4 lbs of bodyfat lost, but also 15.9 lbs of muscle. Presently I’m back to my normal weight distribution again which only took me about a month to regain what I had lost over 5 months. I was in the 18% of thru-hikers that lost more than 30lbs on trail in 2023.

I would posit a guess that my average calorie intake on trail was 4500 calories or so (back of the napkin math, I didn’t track anything besides weight). On trail my calorie expenditure was more in the 5000-6000 calories range depending on the day. Calories deficits were attempted to be reversed in town where food came easy and was readily available. Despite more sodas and candy consumed on trail than I’ve had in the last 20 years, my HbA1C remained unchanged from pre-trail measurements (5.2).

My feet probably grew about a 1/2 inch (after the swelling went down). The shoes I wore on trail were at least a full size bigger than what I normally wear. In fact, the last pair I had on trail were 2 sizes bigger (not by choice, it was the only size they had left), but they ended up working out just fine. I developed calluses upon calluses and only recently have finished molting off the protective skin.

After returning home, I slowly whittled away at my beard over a month or so and am back to my baseline week or so stubble growth. If Kristen had her way the beard would have been gone the day I got back (and she asked daily, believe me). But I hate the feeling of not recognizing myself in the mirror and that beard had been part of my identity all summer long. So every couple of days I would trim a little off and clean it up until it was gone.

The expenditures on trail were as follows:

  • Gear $2600 (includes pre and on trail purchases)
  • Lodging $1838
  • Travel $845 (flights, ubers, shuttles)
  • Food $3522
  • Total: $8805

This was more than I had anticipated but other than the aforementioned gear lessons, I don’t think I would have changed anything. The average AT hiker spent $7,482 while the median number was $10,000. I could have cut corners and eaten more cheap ramen and not prioritized protein in the same way.

But at the end of the day, I think I was as frugal as I wanted to be in the moment. Also included in the total were meals and lodging during my week off and 2 year anniversary celebrations with Kristen in Fredrick MD (by far my most expensive lodging and meals on trail).

Time-wise I had the lofty and unrealistic goal to finish in 100 days. I knew heading into trail that this was not likely to be unattainable. The easy back of the napkin math makes this feat achievable at a pace of 22 miles per day, with zero days off. Now I know many people who would be capable of completing a task like this, alas I am not one of those people. And in all honesty, I’m not sure I would want to be.

Zero/nearo days were a joy and treasure and I wouldn’t have traded them on trail for anything. Zero’s at the Trail Days festival in Damascus, the nearo at Bryant Ridge Shelter with 24 other hikers, waiting out the Hurricane after crossing the Kennebec, and many other memories would have been for not.

Let alone the inability to foster any friendships on trail at a break neck pace like that. I decided a month in, that I wanted to make good time, but not sacrifice the journey and friendships along the way for the sake of a quick finish. More math, but the memories > bragging rights for me.

So what have I been up to since I returned home? I’m back at work, grinding and in the early phases of opening a new solo practice. The Kalalau trail with Kristen in November was epic (my 3rd time and it’s just as beautiful as ever). Stay tuned for that post next.

And earlier this month we had a tramily reunion with Sip, Soda and Rabbit in Mississippi. It was so great to see them all, our friendships picked up where we left it, like no days had passed in between.

So what’s next? I’m looking forward to getting together with them all again at Trail Days next year! There’s some talk of a short, week-long hiking trip sometime next year with some of the crew, and off on the horizon is the CDT and PCT eventually.

Be sure to follow my instagram for more shenanigans @Barkleycharles

Until next time stow aways  😉

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Comments 21

  • thetentman : Dec 30th

    Thx for the update on your epic accomplishment.


  • Elizabeth Pageotte : Dec 30th

    Thanks for the update !! Happy New Year.

  • Holly : Dec 30th

    Wow I’ve been wanting to see data like this. I’m blown away by how much muscle you lost, I have been wondering how much of the weight loss that occurs in the trail is muscle, people look nearly emaciated up top, especially men.
    It’s fascinating that your A1C remained the same in spite of all the crap that you ate.
    Thanks for sharing this data .

    • Derek Witteman : Dec 30th

      Yeah you definitely pare down the muscle that you don’t use. I think my calves were the only muscle group that didn’t shrink. Even my glutes and quads got smaller surprisingly. It’s near impossible to get enough calories and protein out there. Also I think you’re utilizing all the sugar you put in your body so it doesn’t hang around long enough to raise your A1C substantially. Definitely and fun real world experiment 🤓

  • DCAlaneKnits : Dec 30th

    Thanks for posting this on social as well, I don’t always open my trek mail, and might have missed it (shhhh)

    I can imagine this was a very hard post to write, for many different reasons. Thank you for the posting, and letting me stow away. I will enjoy reading about Kalalau.

    I love all the charts and data, thanks for that work. Seeing the picture of the reunion made me happy.


  • Maureen Howard : Dec 30th

    Awesome post! Thanks for letting me enjoy your thru-hike from start to finish! I also loved all the stats which really just keeps all your accomplishments in perspective. I’m certain once you actually do shave off your beard, Kristin will love how young you look! Best of luck to you both in the New Year especially in your new Practice. Life is meant to be lived and you have shared an epic amount of your’s. Be well. Peace…

  • jen l : Dec 30th

    Great to see a post from you again! Not sure I’d recognize you now, but glad the beard has stayed. It’s a tribute for sure. Let me know if you and Kristen are ever up in the VT area. I’d love to connect. Happy New Year and may it bring many new adventures!

    • Derek Witteman : Jan 14th

      I’ll keep you in mind for sure, that’s a very kind offer!

  • Jeff Greene : Dec 30th

    Really interesting post, and I loved the data. I’d have expected the costs to be higher, but that obviously excludes forgone income. Also interested in the physical toll/benefits. All that said, if a woman like that wants you to save that stuff off—you’d best shave it off! You’re a lucky man.

    Looking forward to hearing what’s next!

  • Tom : Dec 30th

    Glad to see you’re doing well. Amazing what hiking 14+ miles a day over mtns. can do to the body. Maybe I should be doing that to shed off my 20 lbs I don’t need. Keep hiking and happy new year.

  • CB : Dec 31st

    Excellent stats! Good to see Rabbit! He looks so much healthier than he did in the woods. Good for him. Did he finish? I watched for his picture but might have missed it. Thanks, Doc!

    • Derek Witteman : Jan 14th

      He did finish in early October. His profile on instagram is Rabbit.prays should you want to follow him. It was really great to see him and everyone in the tramily and catch up. Can’t wait for trail days this year!

  • Hairgypsy : Jan 1st

    Happy New Year to you and yours Derek!
    It’s great to read and see you are doing well! Congratulations again on finishing the trail!!!

    Your information and stats are quite interesting. Thank you for sharing with all of us. Greatly appreciated!

    Will you share whom you met along your journey that was in your blog and if you stayed in contact since, that finished the trail?
    Congratulations to all of them regardless.
    Just taking the time to spend significant time hiking on the AT is an accomplishment!

    Looking forward to hearing and seeing about your hike in Hawaii…and further journeys!

    Thanks so much Derek for posting, it was great to hear from you!
    Have a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Prosperous New Year!

    • Derek Witteman : Jan 14th

      Thanks so much hairgypsy! Happy new year to you too. Most everyone that I spent significant time with on trail is still in contact with in one form or another. Most of them are via messages back and forth on Instagram. Rabbit, Sip and Hatcher and I are all in a group chat together and send each memes frequently. Hot Feet is back in Texas and he may come to visit in a couple months. Feral Goat, Orphan, Hays and maybe more are planning a week long trek along a shorter trail TBD later this summer!

  • Aaron : Jan 4th

    Thanks for putting a big red bow on your 2023 adventure blogs. I read every one and got spoiled by your consistently superb style, content, and photos. The wrap-up metrics are fascinating, particularly weight and muscle loss. Sounds like you’re doing great back in the real world. Sincerely hope you enjoy 2024 and I look forward to any future posts!

  • Gretchen Wood : Jan 10th

    Good to see the wrap up post! I followed your hike from the beginning, and really enjoyed your writing style. Looking forward to hearing about more of your hiking adventures!

    • Derek Witteman : Jan 14th

      Thanks for following Gretchen!

  • Michael Beecher : Jan 10th

    Well done! This was a very interesting look back.
    Keen to learn from your experience and I was wondering why the Nike Wildhorse shoes were abandonned so soon as I was intending to use them.

    • Derek Witteman : Jan 14th

      Thanks Michael! They were a pair I’ve owned for a while and my go-to pair of shoes for the gym and for day hikes. However after 100+ miles of thru-hiking everyday and several blisters I think they were a little small in size and space in the toe box. Perhaps if I had sized up appropriately they would have worked out for me hiking-wise. Alas, lessons learned as a newbie. I still love the shoe, it’s just no longer my preferred tool for a thru-hike.

      • Michael Beecher : Feb 11th

        Sorry for the belated response, I did not get a notification so missed this.
        Yes, that makes sense, and good to know that at least it was not because they fell apart.

  • Rushmore : Jan 14th

    It is fantastic to see your stats and other info. And setting up a solo practice is ambitious! I loved following your hike and happy to see the updates. Best wishes!


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