The Thru-Hike Plan, for Now
Over the Hill
I’m Adam and I’ll be coming from Austin, Texas, to hike the Appalachian Trail as part of a carefully planned midlife “crisis.” I’m planning to turn 40 while in the woods, and am treating myself to a new adventure. Life tends to pass quickly and I’m taking time off from “real life” to try something that takes a lot of commitment, will include good days and bad days, and hope to expand my experiences and understanding of the world around me. I’ve always enjoyed hiking and camping, and done some backpacking at the Grand Canyon, Inca Trail, and Big Bend. Nothing to the extent of a thru-hike but definitely looking forward to the challenge and experience. Also, I have not spent much time on the East Coast, so almost all the areas will be new to me.
For my 2020 AT hike, I will be doing a flip-flop hike. Current plan is to start in mid-April on the south end of Shenandoah National Park (Rockfish Gap) and hike north, then flip back and finish at Springer Mountain. Only 7% of 2019 AT thru-hikers selected the flip-flop north and south finish (see Trek article here). We selected a flip-flop hike for all the reasons described by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (link here). The reasons include fewer crowds in shelters and hostels, dispersing the impact of hikers along the trail, starting on easier terrain, hopefully avoiding bug season (though might have mud issues depending on spring weather in New Hampshire), and more flexibility on duration. Plus, Harpers Ferry is such an easy and affordable access point to the Appalachian Trail (Amtrak runs to Harpers Ferry from DC). The negative is missing out on the big finish on the top of Mount Katahdin; however, the daily advantages of a flip-flop outweigh the finishing day.
It’s a Family Trip
My hike includes being in Harpers Ferry for the Flip-Flop Festival at the end of April. That’s also when I’ll meet up with my sister, who is planning on doing a long-ass section hike (LASH) for a couple of months with me. Planning a hike with another person has definitely increased the difficulty factor. As with any long-distance hike, each person has to address time off work, desired start date, desired/expected hiking pace, etc. Now take those factors and try to align with another person. In this case, my sister and I have had to be flexible on all aspects of the plan, which keeps changing. The original plan was that she was going to attempt the entire trail. However, an unexpected issue with getting time off from her employer scuttled that plan and timeline, so we’ve rethought the whole process and came up with a second plan that hopefully will meet both of our goals and time frames. Some of the changes include the staggered start time and location, but not so staggered that our hiking speeds will be completely different. Hopefully things are locked in now, so that the beginning logistics can be planned. Even with all the changes and need to coordinate, I’m looking forward to hiking the AT and also hiking a good section of the AT with my sister. We live far apart and haven’t spent much time together for the past 20 years, so this will be a big change. See you at the Flip-Flop Festival and on the trail.
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