“What are you guys going to eat out on the trail? Berries and ramps?”
It is a fairly common question and the answer is, “Yes.” At least the berries part. Blueberries are rampant (sorry) along the trail once they come into season. Actually, ramps are too, but I’m not so sure about those. Never had ‘em.
In truth, for most of the trip we will be able to get into town every 3-4 days. When there, we’ll shower (yeah!), do laundry, and resupply our food. We’ll also have the option of sleeping indoors in one of the many hostels and hotels in towns along the trail. Even though there are few grocery stores adjacent to the trail, hostels usually provide shuttle service into town for meals and resupply.
Gavin and I did our initial food trip today. I hope we got everything we need. Actually, I’m sure we did, and then some. So what do we eat? Here is our startup menu:
- Carnation Instant Breakfast
- Coffee/Hot Chocolate
- Cliff Bars
- Powdered Milk
- Tortillas with peanut butter & raisins or pepperoni & cheese
- More protein bars
- Peanut M&Ms
- Dried Fruit
- Slim Jim’s
- Fruit Gummies
- Knorr Pasta or Rice Sides
- Ramen noodles
- Summer Sausage
- Chicken in a pouch
All the above is typical hiker fare which will be heavily supplemented with cheeseburgers and pizza when we get into town.
When on the trail, we’ll be burning 3,000-5,000 calories/day. That averages out to about two pounds of food each day. What I’ve learned about backpacking food
Even though we’ll be eating tons of food that is high in calories and as light in weight as possible, I still expect we’ll lose a bunch of weight. It is not uncommon for a hiker of my stature to lose 40+ pounds along the journey, even while eating and snacking all day long. About a week into our trip, we will develop “hiker hunger,” which is akin to the “see food diet.” For all the demands being placed on our bodies, we will develop an insatiable appetite and will somehow still lose weight. I’m looking forward to that part. I just hope I can turn it off when we get off-trail.
“Are you going to sleep in a tent for the whole six months?”
Yes and no. As I mentioned above, we’ll be able to sleep indoors at least once a week if we want to. Our options in the woods are either our tents or shelters, which are 3-sided structures that are located every 8-15 miles along the trail. They will be a welcome site (see what I did there?) when it is raining or snowing, but my feeling right now is that I’d rather stay in my tent as often as possible. Shelters tend to be crowded, especially in
“How far are you going to hike each day?”
We are intentionally planning to start slowly to mitigate the chance of early injury and to give our bodies time to adjust. Our stop/start locations will be largely dictated by shelter and campsite locations which are spaced fairly closely together early on along the trail. In the first two weeks, most of our planned days are less than 8 miles, but there are a couple that are 11.5ish. Since we usually hike at a pace of around 2 mph, this will mean 4-6 hours hiking each day. This will give us plenty of chance to acclimate ourselves to the trail. We will also be able to stop to rest and enjoy the views without feeling the need to push onward. Most important, we will arrive in camp with plenty of time to set up in the daylight.
Once we get farther up into NC/TN and definitely VA, we’ll develop our “trail legs,” meaning we will be in top physical shape and can do longer days. I expect that through Virginia, we’ll be able to put up 15-20 mile days with regularity. That will keep up until we get into New Hampshire where we will confront the White Mountains. Because of this section’s difficulty, most folk’s mileage is cut in half there. There is even one area, Mahoosuc Notch, which is called, “the most difficult mile on the AT.” Here, we will be climbing over, under, and around house-sized boulders. It takes most folks 1-2 hours to complete this single mile of the trail.
“How will you keep in touch with folks back home?”
Though there will be periods of interruption, we should have cellular service most days while we are on the trail. With luck, Gavin and I will be able to call home and check in, or at least send messages at the end of the day. We are also bringing along a SPOT Personal Locator Beacon which was loaned to us by a friend. It is a satellite-based GPS unit that will ping our location every 30 minutes. Beth will be able to “see” us on a map, and when we don’t have cell service I can have it send a precomposed message such as, “Made it to camp and are doing okay.” It also has an SOS button on it that will summon wilderness rescue personnel should we find ourselves in a dire situation. Hopefully we won’t accidentally hit that one! For that matter, I hope we don’t hit it on purpose either. With luck, we’ll have enough service to update the blog frequently, if not daily.
“What about bears? Are you taking a gun/bear spray?”
No. There is really no need for a gun for protection on the Appalachian Trail. If the bears have read the same books that I have, they know that they’re way more scared of me than I will be of them, though I’m not really sure that’ll be the case if I encounter one on-
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the bottom of another lengthy diatribe where I try to use as many big words as possible! Gavin and I really appreciate you for following us along the trail, and we hope you’ll send us comments with words of encouragement as we hike northward. If you would like to be notified by email when we post, just put your address in the subscribe box in the right margin of the page. Also, please check out our YouTube channel; subscribe if you like. It is linked at the top of this page.