This is my first (but hopefully not last) post to these forums, and I've got a pretty broad question that I hope will focus my very early planning for an AT trip.
I'm not financially in a good place to plan a trip now... life has me waiting to start a job in August, move to a new place, etc., but I am hoping to hit the AT next summer ('10). This gives me plenty of time to prepare, plan, equip, etc., and I'd like to make this one count. Hopefully it will be the first segment hike of many.
My girlfriend and I want to hike a week's worth of trail, if possible. This seems reasonable to do for beginners to the AT. We are not hiking beginners, but by no means experts. We walk 5 miles daily for fun, and have done 10 mile days with loaded packs on easy terrain. I've got lots of outdoor experience camping in no-resource areas. If we spend the next year training up, how far can we expect to get in a week on the trail (mile-wise), and where would you spend that allotted distance and time?
The neurotic in me wants to start at the "beginning" (from one perspective) in GA and walk north for a week, but I want our first segment/week to be a great one... maybe even somewhere worthy of a marriage proposal (Summer '10 is in my plans for that).
I have seen recommendations for Shenandoah NP. Does the AT through the park offer a week's worth of hiking? Any specifics on this stretch?
We live in southern SC, soon to be south GA, so a hike somewhere in the southern to midpoint of the trail would be more reasonable than a long trip up to Maine to hike for just a week.
Please also offer seasonal recommendations for any possible week-long routes. We are both educators, so June-August is our best time to hike, and it could be any given week in that time.