Thru-Hike Follow Up: Miles and Days and Miles
As Hiking Season 2017 is gearing up, I’ve been in touch with a lot of prospective future hikers who are looking for gear advice, logistic information, and financial planning help. I remember feeling like the planning was overwhelming, and there were too many things I had to prep for. It’s an honor (and a ton of fun) to talk hiking logistics with people as into it as I am (#nerd), and I hope it’s helpful to see some of the nitty-gritty of a thru.
So, without further ado, a detailed look at my mileage and lodging for my 2016 thru-hike. Yes, I have a color-coded Excel. No, you can’t see it.
- Thru-hiked from April 25-September 22; 4 months & 28 days; or 151 days.
- 20 zero days, 131 hiking days.
Average mileage: 14.5/day if you include zeros, 16.7/day if you include only the days I actually hiked.
Longest day: 30.3 trail miles in PA, from the Backpacker’s Campsite in Boiling Springs, to Clark’s Ferry Shelter past Duncannon. This day also included an extra mile of walking to and from a diner in Carlisle for brunch. It was a good day.
Shortest day: 1.8 miles out of Rangeley, ME to Piazza Rock Shelter. Sunshine and Hatmandu and I stayed with wonderful people I knew in Rangeley who just kept feeding us and wouldn’t let us leave. This day included lunch-time G&Ts and a game of Monopoly and we didn’t get on-trail until 6pm. It was also a good day.
By State (not including zeros):
- 78 miles of Georgia: 6 days
- 387 miles of North Carolina & Tennessee (the trail is on the border a lot): 25 days
- 555 miles of Virginia: 31 days
- 4 miles of WV and 40 miles of Maryland: 3 days
- 230 miles of Pennsylvania: 11 days
- 72 miles of New Jersey: 4 days
- 88 miles of New York: 5 days
- 52 miles of Connecticut: 3 days
- 90 miles of Massachusettes: 5 days
- 150 miles of Vermont: 10 days
- 161 miles of New Hampshire: 12 days
- 282 miles of Maine: 19 days
- I took a total of 20 zero days: 6 were on-trail (i.e. at a hostel in a trail town), and 14 were off-trail.
- Most zeros in a row: 5. I fast-hiked into Harper’s Ferry, caught a train to DC, a bus from DC to NYC, and a train home to NJ to surprise my husband for his birthday. I apologize to everyone who had to sit next to me on public transit that day.
- Longest stretch without a zero: 25 days, 412 miles; from the start of Connecticut to Gorham, NH.
- Honorable mention: 22 days, 371 miles; from Franklin, NC to Damascus, VA.
Once I really got into the swing of things, probably around southern VA, I finally developed a sense of what different mileages meant. Before my hike, I’d never done more than 8 or 9 miles in a single day. I had no idea what 12 or 17 or 25 miles would feel like or how long it would take. Once I started dialing in my pace, though, I realized I had created arbitrary cutoffs in my head of what I considered easy vs medium vs challenging. These cutoffs and how many I did were:
- Near-o/short day: anything under 9 miles. I did 21 of these, all of which were either my first 3 days or last day on trail, into or out of towns, or in the Whites.
- Medium day: 9 to 18 miles. I did 59 of these.
- Long day: 18 to 24 miles. I did 42 of these.
- Really long day: 24+ miles. I did 9 of these, mostly in VA and the mid-Atlantic.
One of the coolest parts of thru-hiking is that you don’t always wake up in the morning knowing where you’re going to sleep that night, and you’re almost never in the same place for more than one night.
There were 150 nights of my thru:
- 58 nights in shelters
- 34 nights in paid accommodation ie hostels & motels
- 21 nights in my tent
- 21 nights in private homes
- 10 nights at my home in my own bed
- 6 nights cowboy-camping (I wish I’d done more. It’s amazing.)
I didn’t expect to like staying in the shelters but it turns out I did, so that was always my first choice. Some of the tent nights are at shelters that were full, some are at campsites, some are stealth. Staying in hostels and motels was a nice break and usually quite cheap, if we split a cheap motel room 4 ways. I was also lucky enough to either know people near the trail, or someone in my hiking group did, and we were constantly getting offers to be picked up and taken to someone’s home for a night, which was so kind and generous and wonderful. The 10 nights at my home includes the days I left the trail in the middle of my hike, and also when we were passing through NJ and were able to day-hike the whole state in 4 days. Finally, cowboy camping. I didn’t try it until New England but it quickly became my favorite way to sleep. I wish I’d done it sooner!
This usually goes hand-in-hand with some level of resupply, even if it’s only a few packages of crackers. I discovered my preference was more stops so I could carry less food, letting me stay ultralight and move more quickly despite the stopping. I would recommend all of these places except where noted, and the ones in bold are especially good. These are just the ones that are relevant to most hikers, as some of the places I stayed are far off trail thanks to family coming to visit.
From South to North:
- 2 nights in Franklin, NC, at the Penny Pincher’s Hostel
- 1 night at the Fontana Dam Resort, NC
- 1 night at Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs, NC
- 1 night at Greasy Creek Hostel…not great but it’s the only option for days around.
- 3 nights at Woodchuck’s Hostel in Damascus, VA
- 1 night at the motel in Atkins, VA
- 1 night at Wood’s Hole Hostel, VA
- 1 night at a motel in Pearisburg, VA
- 1 night at the Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
- 1 night at a motel in Buena Vista, VA
- 1 night at a motel in Great Barrington, MA. We didn’t have to pay to stay anywhere between Virginia and Massachusettes thanks to awesome family and friends opening their homes through the mid-Atlantic.
- 1 night at the Green Mountain House Hostel in Manchester, VT
- 1 night at the Inn at the Long Trail in Killington, VT
- 2 nights at the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel in Warren, NH…didn’t like it but it’s the only option for days around and I had to wait for a package.
- 1 night at the Lonesome Lake AMC Hut in the Whites courtesy of Lazarus’ dad, Mark AKA Nussie, a thru-hiker at heart and the best trail angel there is.
- 1 night at the Hiker’s Paradise Hostel in Gorham, NH…everything else in Gorham was full. I do NOT recommend staying here and we left as soon as we could get spots anywhere else. My standards were not high but this place was disgusting.
- 1 night at the White Mountain House Hostel in Gorham, NH
- 1 night at Libby’s Barn Hostel in Gorham, NH
- 1 night at the White Wolf Lodge in Stratton, ME
- 1 night at the Caratunk B&B in Caratunk, ME
- 2 nights at the Lake Shore House in Monson, ME
Hopefully you find this helpful in planning… and remember, the most important thing is, Hike Your Own Hike!
Stay tuned for a similarly broken-down post about finances and how much this thing cost me, and check out my Instagram @nicholeyoung1 for more trail photo goodness.
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