The Timing and Logistics of My Thru-Hike

What is a thru-hike, you might ask?

While some may not agree, I have found the definition of a thru-hike to be a lose term. The definition that I tend to see used the most and the one I chose to define a thru-hike by is: “Hiking the entirety of a long distance trail within a calendar year.”

First, this definition implies that the trail is long enough that it needs to be completed over multiple days or at least an incredible amount of effort to do in a single day. I say this to eliminate the possibility of using the term to define completing a ten-mile trail but to be inclusive of the shorter long-distance trails. For example, one could complete a thru-hike of the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Western Pennsylvania by spending several days and nights backpacking the trail, or someone could do an ultra trail run of this trail in one day if they are able to.

Second, this definition sets a time frame on the completion of  a thru-hike. For trails such as the Appalachian Trail whose mileage is quite significant (2,192.0 miles in 2019), completing the trail within a one-year time frame is quite a challenge, especially considering the limitations of the weather on the Northern Terminus.

Whatever your definition of a thru-hike may be, I simply state this one to inform you of the one that I am using.

“Hiking the entirety of a long distance trail within a calendar year.”

Traditionally, thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail will hike the entire length of the trail without taking more than two consecutive days off, or maybe a week if they need to. My plan for completing my thru-hike is slightly different than most but I wouldn’t call it completely unconventional.

A week from today I will be heading down to Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia to begin my hike at the Southern Terminus of the AT over my college spring break. My official start date is set to be March 10. I plan to hike 52.5 miles of the AT and the 8.8-mile Approach Trail to the summit of Springer Mountain, where the trail begins. I will be with my dad, sister, and two of our friends for this small section. After spring break…. you guessed it… I will be returning to Ohio to finish school.

After I finish the semester at the end of April I will be returning to the point where I left off to continue on the remaining 2,139.5 miles alone. My graduation date from college is set to be on May 5 but I will not be walking at the ceremony. I don’t have a set date for my second part of the trail to begin in April; that is dependent upon if and when my professors let me take an exam early.

Other than town stops and zero days, I only plan to come off trail one other time, which will be for my best friend’s wedding at the end of May.

I anticipate finishing the trail hopefully by the beginning of October.

I have a countdown app on my phone, which I check almost every day. I can’t wait to start. Only eight more days and 16 more hours until I set foot on the Approach Trail!

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