There are numerous hiking trails in the world, and then there is the Appalachian Trail. Running by a length of 2,200+ miles, Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking trail in the world. The road to the longest trail is not at all smooth.
Consisting of innumerable rough patches and smooth trails, the Appalachian Trail traverses through fourteen US states, a wide range of wild forests and farmlands. This piece of America’s footpath is a recreational piece of hiking path that is used by millions of hikers all through the season.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail hosts hiking of all forms throughout the year, offering a wide range of natural beauty and endless stops as it passes through several wildlife parks and forests. You can always plan for a hike through but always carry necessary information in handy before beginning to hit the kickass hike!
Appalachian Trail is also known in other words as America’s Footpath. It traverses through the states of Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, and Vermont. Along with six national parks and eight national forests cover 48% of the Appalachian Trail.
Ownership of the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail has many owners owing to its vast route. The trail is a beloved possession of the United States, and it stretches along the length of the Appalachian Mountains, from the Springer Mountains in northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin in central Maine. The Appalachian Trail has multiple owners who supervise its maintenance, protection, and promotion as it’s a major hikers’ attraction.
This was initially constructed by a group of hiking enthusiasts who have later formed a Non-Profit Organization called Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), currently based in West Virginia.
Since the establishment of ATC, the responsibility of the protection, preservation, and promotion of the Appalachian Trail is shared by the National Park Service, the USDA forest service, seventy-five federal and state-land maintaining agencies (covering forests, land parks, etc.) and other volunteering agencies across states.
The Appalachian Trail Footbridge Image Source: Bing Images
Hikers You Meet At The Appalachian Trail
The most daunting, adventure-loving, and dedicated hikers are found taking the hike through the 2,178 miles long trail. For such a long-distance hike, you will come across thru-hikers. Thru-hikers are those who start hiking and cover the entire length of over 7-8 months.
Another kind of hikers participating in the trail walk is section hikers. These hikers finish the hike in segments over the years. People of all ages participate in this hiking trail. Students, freelancers, and even steady employees leave their jobs to take part in hiking through the Appalachian Trail.
These hikers come with lots of preparation before hitting off the road. It’s essential to prepare yourself mentally for walking the trail. Read and consult with lots of hikers from the Appalachian Trail Hiking Alumni.
Two of the foremost requirements are mental stamina and physical fitness. The constraints usually rear its ugly head while hiking the most challenging route, from Georgia to Maine. Many hikers fail to continue their journey henceforth. It’s always good to prepare oneself for the great walk.
Words of experienced hikers narrate that it’s always advised to carry a planner, according to your convenience, to accomplish your goal. Keep a tab on the weather and develop a complete geographical sense of the path. For that, carry maps and compass to detect route and possible stop locations in the Appalachian Trail.
Learn to build tents! However basic that may sound if you’re hiking through Appalachian Trail, you must carry enough equipment to build yourself a makeshift tent to rest. The path is long and arduous, but you can ace through it once you make minor changes in your motivation plan.
Firstly, start with short routes. Starting with small routes will boost your energy and encouragement to move further, making it a cakewalk for you!
Peeking At The History Of The Appalachian Trail
The idea of constructing this footpath belongs to Benton MacKaye, a forester and conservationist. His idea of constructing a public footpath over a long land consisting of private land occurred after successfully hiking through Vermont’s Green Mountains. MacKaye grew up in the mountains and was quite familiar with the nature of the wild.
Soon after publishing an article titled ‘An Appalachian Trail, A Project In Regional Planning’ in October 1921, another avid hiker, Myron Avery, took to convert this idea into reality. With a group of volunteers to execute, Myron finished the trail in seven years. Not only this, he was the first person to finish hiking the Appalachian Trail over sixteen years!
It is said that despite striking differences in personalities, Myron and MacKaye made a great team in breeding this project into a successful idea. You can learn more about them in the book ‘Blazing Ahead’ that narrates the culmination of the relationship of these men and how this trail has stood like a staunch pillar of success.
Preparation For The Appalachian Trail Hike
There are certain must have-s that you should include in your hike. The goal is to make a perfect package as you’re traveling, and you should neither pack too little nor too more. Pack the essentials and leave out unnecessary things that you can surely live without in your long walk.
- Shelter For Comfort
It is incredibly pertinent to figure out where you are going to take shelter in your adventure trail. It is advisable to carry a tent or a hammock with you. Even though Appalachian Trail provides shelters every eight miles, it is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Hence, a makeshift tent can save you from the trouble of finding shelter or from depriving yourself of one. Consider the weight and longevity of your tent or hammock according to your body weight and duration of your journey.
- A Perfect Sleeping Bag
Figuring out a suitable sleeping bag should be one of your top priorities. Considering the weather you’re starting from and anticipating the upcoming weather conditions, choose temperature friendly and quality insulation material for a sleeping bag.
Go for a bag within a 10-20degree range. If your tent is waterproof, you can opt for any down material. Synthetic provides much comfort in damper environments; otherwise, although down is much lighter and compressible. Choose according to your sustainability and package weight.
Don’t forget to get yourself a comfortable, insulated, properly padded (preferably foam) sleeping pad. Sleep determines your future performance, and it’s necessary to get proper rest.
- Clothing And Footwear
Less is more should be your funda. Pack as little as you can because you can’t overload your backpack with just clothing. Never choose any cotton clothes as they are poor insulators and retain moisture for a very long time, causing difficulty to wear, and you may not find a place or time to dry them.
Go for woolen or synthetic fabrics. Pack at least three pairs of underwear, a jacket to fight the cold, and socks along with a minimal set of wearables. Go for synthetic or woolen materials.
Keep your gears well insulated and prevent your stuff from getting damp. For footwear, go for light trail runners because they dry up quickly and prevent blisters. The less you dump weight on your feet (heavy leather boots), the better.
- First Aid Kitbox
Include tons of bandages, antiseptic wipes, mosquito repellant cream, sunscreen lotion, blister wraps, disinfectants, medicines, biodegradable soaps, toothpaste, toothbrush, sanitizer, and sewing stuff in case of emergency.
- Water Purification
Bust your myths regarding fresh and drinkable water in the trail run and find yourself a reusable water bottle and instant water purifiers to prevent sickness or diarrhea.
Safety Precautions In The Appalachian Trail
The road through Appalachian Trail is long, adventurous, and not entirely safe. Criminal happenings, animal attacks, sickness are quite frequent happenings here. But that does not stop hikers from visiting because all you need is certain preventive measures and an active sixth sense to avoid accidents and unfortunate incidents from taking place.
The concept of building a cult and performing ‘trail magic’ are common. These tactics distract you from your goal and often rob you of your belongings. So, beware of such a group that you may encounter on Appalachian Trail. These groups are hip and seem extremely cool but are dangerous and can leave you stranded.
If any law enforcement officer happens to be nearby, immediately inform him. In case you find nobody nearby, escort yourself out.
It’s always best to carry trail maps. Learn to use these trail maps and find yourself a suitable exit into roads or towns from the Appalachian Trail. In case of emergency, you should figure out safe exit points.
Don’t travel alone. It’s always advisable to travel with somebody or in a group with whom you have the gut feeling that you’re safe. Let one person, at least, be aware of your whereabouts and plans.
There are certain remote areas in the Appalachian Trail, where no network reception is available. If you happen to be in a dangerous situation in any such place, think ahead of routes to escape and immediately contact any Appalachian Trail Caretaker who can help you get in touch with a Law
Enforcement Officer to escort you out.
Prepare yourself mentally for any challenge. Carry safety knives, pepper spray with you. Secure your money or cards in your safest place. Don’t carry jewelry on the hike.
Keep a watch on your fellow hikers. Should you notice any behavioral change in any hikers, immediately contact the Appalachian Trail Caretakers. Stay safe and alert all the time.
Refrain from sharing food or containers with others. Norovirus, an infection that spreads from contamination, can affect you, and you may remain sick for 2-3 days. Remain clean and sanitized and use plenty of soap and alcohol-induced sanitizers.
Do not let anybody stop you on your journey. Make the most out of your hike! If you happen to notice any trouble, don’t forget to inform the Appalachian Trail Authorities.