The Journey to Day 1

Getting to Know Me

Hi, my name is Tom and I intend to flip-flop the Appalachian Trail.  It will actually be a flip-flop with a blip, but I’ll come back to that.  Before I go any further, I want to thank my wonderful wife, Pat, for all she’s done and continues to do.  She has not only been supportive of my hike but has been my training partner, spending countless hours on the local trails keeping me company.  My one regret about hiking multiple months will be the time I’m away from her.

I live in Connecticut and have thought about the AT for a long time.  But having commitments and obligations, in combination with the benefit(?) of having never been unemployed, I never saw a real opportunity to seriously consider a thru-hike until recently.  In 2020, I had been working for a company in the events industry when Covid hit.  As you can imagine, when all events/conferences/conventions were cancelled, the industry was hit particularly hard and company cutbacks followed.  I took that opportunity to retire mid-2021 and began planning my thru-hike in earnest.


Early research taught me that the equipment chosen will make a big difference in comfort and performance.  I started reading about ultralight backpacking, synthetic versus natural materials, single versus double wall tents, yada, yada, yada.  Never having been a camper, my early expectation was a gear list of 15 or 20 items; I’m now around 100 separate pieces of gear.

A lot of equipment was ordered and sent back when the functionality or weight of the product wasn’t as advertised.  It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected when purchasing a wide variety of products and relying the manufacturer’s information.  Let me tell you what really burns my butt – when industry guides like Backpacker Magazine claim to review equipment and rate a product without actually testing it.  My best example is their rating of a fleece top as “lightest” in the category at 5.9 ounces when the true weight is double that.  The manufacturer has been claiming this weight for years, as indicated in many customer reviews of the product.  Nevertheless, the professional reviewer just ran with the manufacturer’s claim.  All he had to do was put it on a scale!

Enough bitching.  I’ll provide a full gear list in a following blog.

Training and Injury

Without going into a lot of detail, a back injury derailed my 2022 thru-hike.  The healing process required two orthopedics and months of failed physical therapy.  Ultimately, a cortisone injection did the trick, but came too late for the 2022 season.  At this time the back feels great.

For 2023, training began in earnest with an unseasonably warm February.  Everything was going great until a pickleball game resulted in a reasonably severe pulled hamstring.  I now had to rehab a 3-8 week injury while only 8 weeks out from launch date.  Fortunately, it’s coming along well and training has resumed.

Look at that bad boy

Flip Flop, with a Blip

My intended hike will be a flip flop, with a blip.  Most hikers begin their thru-hike in Georgia at Springer Mountain and hike north to Mount Katahdin in Maine. This results in a bubble of hikers at the start of the season.  I’ve decided to “flip flop”, that is, start midway and hike north to Maine, then drive back to the midpoint, and hike south to Georgia.  My starting point will be the Shenandoah National Park and my reasons to flip flop are as follows:

  • Avoiding the crowd.  The following chart shows how many hikers start in Georgia and how few flip flop.
  • No strained facilities on the trail
  • Better weather conditions

Weather is my primary reason for flip flopping.  Mid April temperatures are perfect for hiking and (hopefully) much of the early spring rains (and snow) are over.  As mid summer heats up, I’ll be in the higher elevations of the northern part of the country.  Following a brief reprieve in August, I’ll head south in the cooler months of September and October.

The Blip

A lot of blogs discuss the benefits of a shakeout hike – that is, a multi-day hike to dial in gear and work out any remaining kinks.  I haven’t read of others doing this, but why can’t my shakeout be part of my thru-hike?  I plan to spend 4 days hiking the Connecticut section of the AT as my shakeout.  When hiking north and getting to CT, I’m going to take a couple days off at home, then head back to the trail heading into Massachusetts. So, it will be a flip flop, with a blip.


That’s all for now.  I’ll talk about gear and pack weight in my next post.  Thanks for listening.

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Comments 1

  • Larry Keyes : Jul 12th

    Hi…. I absolutely love your posts…especially interested in the section in Maine, as we have a camp on Lake Flagstaff which is visible from the summit of Bigalow Mountain. I have hiked that ridge many times from Stratton (Bigalow Range Trail). Best wishes… —L


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