Hiking the AT in 2023 – Getting ready!
Here we go!!
Hi all! This is my first blog EVER! I am hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2023. I say “I am” and not “I am hoping to” or any other phrase because I really plan to do the entire thing, and I think my mindset will make a big difference. After all, why not? I am 59, recently retired, and there are so many things I could never do while working that I can do now. I find I am just as motivated in my retired life as I was in my career. Same kind of energy. So I imagine retired life will be a series of great adventures!!
I owned not a single piece of gear when I made the decision to do this. By then, I was day hiking every week with a group from Meetup in the Atlanta area. I started reading all the books about people’s AT hikes. I started watching YouTube videos about it constantly. There was something about being in the woods that just appealed to me.
And then I made the decision and brought it up to my husband. I had made sure he saw all the books I was reading, the YouTube videos and such so his only question was “Is it safe?”. I let him know that even though I will hike alone I won’t really be alone, especially since I plan to hike NOBO and start in March. He was all in and will support me from time to time as I do this hike. I also promised to get a Garmin InReach Mini and have it send my location once every 10 minutes (plus it has an SOS feature).
Research only goes so far
I did so much research and checked out so many different types of equipment in preparation for this adventure, and it appears that there are so many different opinions on what gear is best, so I did my best, asked my questions, and sometimes just finally picked something. I knew though, that actual hiking, with my gear, and sleeping in the woods, is really the only way to get ready for this.
Dipping my toe in
First, I talked my brother-in-law into going on a 3 day 2 night hike. For this first one, we would be sleeping at the Hike Inn near Amicalola Falls. I highly recommend this inn. This was a 5 mile hike to the inn, a 9 mile loop the next day to Springer Mountain and back to the inn, and then a 5 mile hike out. I did find my 5 mile hikes near Atlanta are not as tough as the Appalachian Trail. On the short part of the AT, I noticed lots of ups and downs, lots of roots, and rocks, leaves. And yes, I already had my first fall! I was fine, but realized, I need to “slow my roll” as my husband says. There’s no time limit on this hike, like I have on my weekly 5 miles, 2 hour hikes but I have developed a default pace that is too fast on the AT for me.
I highly recommend Hike Inn. Food was fantastic, views are great! The walls are thin but I imagine every hostel has thin walls. I fear this inn has spoiled me; it was so nice.
I also just loved the other hikers. So my brother-in-law is quite the snorer. In fact, while talking with the other groups, we mentioned our room number and someone said, “oh, was that you snoring?”. Well, apparently quite a few of the rooms heard him snoring. In fact, the second morning, they guessed that he was in the top bunk, and I was in the bottom bunk, because they could track down the exact location of the snorer. This is how loud he is. And he’s lasted 39 something years married to my sister, she must be a saint!
So they dubbed him Thunder Nose as a trail name, a quite appropriate name for him! No trail name for me yet. My family likes Jabberwocky, or Walkie-Talkie…so I guess you know I talk a lot! Fortunately, I can decided when a trail name fits me (as I understand from all the reading, someone can give me a trail name, but I also get to accept it or not).
Great Hiking Poles – these are black diamond.
Love my backpack – Gregory Jade 63, bought it at REI, after working with the folks there for about 2 hours, of trying them on, walking around with weight, etc. REI has been awesome. This was not a good test of the backpack; since I wasn’t sleeping outside, I had just packed these with stuff to make it full, I didn’t need tent, sleep system, cook system, so I tested those on my next hike and will cover that in my next blog.
Hiking Boots work great! Got these at REI too, tried about 6 while I was there, they have a big rock in the middle of the store to hike up and hike down to see which ones are the best.
Wore my ex-officio underwear three days in a row, no problem, (yes, this had to be tested).
Probably most life changing is the PShield that makes peeing in the woods for women a breeze!! So easy.
The woolx shirts are awesome for hiking, I used sleeveless, have since switched to short sleeve due to having the backpack directly on my shoulders.
Wore my one pair of shorts that I will be taking and loved them. They are Eddie Bauer and just super comfortable even when sweaty.
What didn’t work
Not sure why I brought any face stuff and makeup. Didn’t touch them.
I need an easier way to grab my bottle of water; the SmartWater bottles are far back in the pockets on the two sides of the backpack.
Didn’t get a chance to test any cold weather stuff, second layer on top, rain gear, gloves, puffy coat, etc. so will talk about those in next blog.
We stopped at a shelter, checked it out, saw the privy (ugh!).
How did it go?
It was exactly as I expected, in that short amount of time, with no bad weather. I still have a lot of test hiking to do.
There is something special about being in the woods, the quiet, the time to think. The inability to be on your phone all the time. For a talker like me, it will be a time to be quiet, reflect. I think it will be a very special experience and I’m looking forward to meeting all the other folks doing the same walk.
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I’ll see you out there!!!! I’m also starting in 2023, but considering heading out little earlier. maybe late Feb. I have back issues that will likely slow me up a bit, so i we may cross paths somewhere along the line. well, trail. somewhere along the trail lol.
best of luck and warm wishes to you and us all. Class of ’23!!!
I am a few years older than you and also just retired. I signed up to start the AT about Feb 12th before the crowds get going. I expect the weather to be bad at times. Hiking should be great.
If you start too fast
You will get ahead of yourself and that can lead to hiking too far, too fast, too soon.
The joy you feel now hold it in your arms like a newborn baby… love and protect it!
Trail strong doesn’t start in your head it starts in your feet and it takes time to grow… DO NOT push miles before Damascus!
All the best!