View Full Version : How I planned/am doing my hike

Spiritual Pillgrim
03-21-2006, 08:38
:-? This is an FYI for anybody who might be planning a thru hike. Disclaimer: I'm no expert. This is what I did and how it is working for me.
1. Purchased AT trail mate software from ATC and used it to get a rough estimate of shelters/campsites with 12 mile avg day thru Damascus, 15 mile avg day to the Whites, then back to 12 mile avg day to Katahdin. Compared the results to Thru Hiker Companion and make a "paper plan" intinerary.
2. Accepted the fact that a "paper plan" is subject to change.
3. Looked at towns/hostels to decide on mail drops. Planned mail drops to coincide with periods where I would be on the trail longer than 5-6 days so I would spend less on in town resupply.
4. Estimated # of days needed for resupply in mail drops and began dehydrating like a mad man about 6 weeks before departure. The AT Meal Planner (?) book was great for recipes. Had a few other recipe books on hand too.
5. Prepped mail drops with addresses and contents list for trail support team (my wife), which also were subject to change based on my needs. (a call home from the trail modified the contents with additions and/or removals)
6. Examined and rexamined packing list and shaved ounces wherever possible.
7. Bought a bus ticket to Gainesville and contacted Hikers Hostel for lodging and transport to trailhead.
1. Started real slow! Longest day early in the hike was about 14 miles from Low Gap to Tray Mtn. All other days were about 4 (shortest to Neels Gap) to 10 or 12 miles.
2. Took a zero day at Blueberry Patch because the Poteats were great and my body told me so!
3. Began to feel as if I was getting trail legs about half way thru the Smokies and started to stretch my mileage, doing my 1st 20+ mile day coming out of the park.
4. Got better at packing up and getting an earlier start. Started choosing destinations each morning which might vary from the "paper plan". Sometimes made them, sometimes didn't.
5. Learned that the trail's in charge (TIC).
That's all for may. May add more later.

03-21-2006, 08:45
I'm following your journal, SP. I hope you get what you're looking for out of your journey; I hope to do the same one day! Thanks for sharing! :sun

03-21-2006, 18:42
Good advice on planning. That's basically what I did, except I used the AT Data Book and Wingfoot's Handbook.

To pick out resupply points, I first selected the obvious ones. For example, in New Hampshire, the obvious resupply places are Hanover and Gorham. I also wanted to do a mail drop at Glencliff. But, Glencliff to Gorham is too long for most of us without an intermediate resupply. So, I looked at the books and made a decision.

Next, I had all my mail drops lined up on a table in the basement. Everything was loaded into the boxes that I thought I would want (so many days food, next set of maps, etc.). The boxes were all addressed, but I left them open. So, when I called home, I would update the mailing date, add things, or take things out depending on how my hike progressed.

max patch
03-21-2006, 19:38
I didn't plan.

Thats an exageration. I probably spent 15 minutes planning. And a few nights shopping to update my gear. And maybe an hour or so explaining my bill paying system to my wife.

A thru-hike is basically 20 or so week long weeks done back to back. Since I knew how to pack for a week I didn't have to plan that part.

The only planning I did was to figure out my first 2 resupply points. The remainder I did as I went. When I was in town I would see via reference to the Data Book and the Philosophers Guide where I would resupply in 2 weeks. Based on info in the PG re resupply options I would call home and tell my wife what (if anything) I would want mailed to me at that town.

Making elaborate spreadsheets where you will be on such and such a date is fun but iisnot necessary. They also will be obsolete by 2 or 3 days out.

Don't sweat the planning.

Spiritual Pillgrim
03-31-2006, 08:08
Hiking continued
6. Ended up using a bounce box for things that began to accumulate but weren't needed yet, like iodine tabs, soap suds, extra food.
7. discovered that on long days (15+ miles) I felt better if I ate a meal late in the afternoon then just snacked when I arrived at my final destination.
8. Hostels are hard to resist for the hiker friendships made there. generally spent 2 nights at most, some with a zero day, some with slack pack days
9. all hostels are great and have there own unique memories. none were "better" than any others, but I would try not to miss too many.
10. taking a risk by drinking straight from the water source if I can see its origin. majority have been streams.
11. more later, maybe when I get to Harpers ferry

Spiritual Pillgrim
03-31-2006, 08:09
post 5, #10 should be springs, not streams

03-31-2006, 10:07
I might have been at a slight advantage, having hiked a lot of trail in segments prior to my thru and having been involved in the planning of my wife's thru in 2001. She mapped out her entire hike on a near day-by-day basis. That was her style and I was interested and willing to be involved but I knew I could never go at it that way. Then again ...she had a lot of mail drops so it was more important to plan at a deeper level.

About 6 months before my departure date I sat down and made some basic decisions about maildrops, re-supply and so forth. I laid out my gear and clothing and narrowed down my choices. I knew I would change my mind about some things once I started hiking so I didn't stress too much.

Then I just watched the calendar and counted the days until my departure.
March 29th came and I set foot from Springer. I don't regret my planning (or lack therof) and wouldn't do things any differently if I had it to do all over again. As I hiked I whittled down my clothing a bit, changed to a lighter pack and varied my diet/food supply as my appetite and preferences changed.


Spiritual Pillgrim
04-10-2006, 13:06
12. Sent winter clothing home as it became unsued. Currently (Apr 10th, 2006) the only cold gear I still have is a fleece button shirt and my 20 degree bag. low temps still getting down to the 30's some nights but daytime it is warming up nicely
13. now in VA and with extra daylight it is possible for me to do 20 miles or more a day but I have to eat a lunch, not just a snack, to keep my energy up
14. trying to figure out the best way to get my boots repaired. blew a seam and the cobbler in P-burg is no longer open. getting my other boots at the next maildrop which which be at a campground and not in town.
15. money wise, still spending way more than intended mostly feeding my enormous appetite in town and on piddly crap like newspapers, coffee, gatorade, candy bars, etc.
16. money wise on lodging, guess I am about where I should be but need to seek alternatives to motels at the next several stops. wasn't happy with my last motel stop. should have bypassed the place.
17. an extra zero day in P-burg really helped my knees and ankles recover. i don't quite feel like i'm cripple anymore.

Spiritual Pillgrim
04-26-2006, 08:59
18. failed to accurately budget money for mail drops and bounce boxes. this can be done at the USPS web site
19. am now over budget with lodging/hostels. End up giving more money to hostels that operate on donations because they are so great.
20. bought a hard times hollow shirt from rusty. this is a MUST STAY place if your passing by.
21. sent my sleeping bag home in Waynesboro in exchange for a poncho liner along with the lid of my pack. now have no winter gear at all and my pack is stripped of every possible extra ounce.
22. Biggest advantage to good weather is that I can camp where ever I want and I am not pressed to make it to a shelter.
23. finally got a hold of a piece of tyvek to be used as either a ground cloth or tarp cover.
24. believe Waynsboro should be "known as the friendliest town on the trail". Mr. Maupin at the visitor center hooked me right up with a trail angel who drove me to town, the outfitters, the PO and the Y to camp for free. Ended up in the home of another trail angel with Mrs Gorp and yahtzee for 2 nights.
25. Been blue blazing if I want to. it's my hike and i'll do it how I want to.

Spiritual Pillgrim
06-14-2006, 08:22
A lot has happened since Waynesboro.
26. 15 ZERO days and I'm still about 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Didn't think I would be able to do so many 20 mile days. This has forced me to call home and tell my wife when and where to send my next mail drop.
27. been eating a in town. as a result i've sent bounce boxes with extra food supplies to towns where I expected to do grocery store resupply.
28. have heard yhat some hikers have had "bad experiences" at certain hostels or towns. I believe that most of these bad experiences are a result of their own actions and attitudes. I've had virtually no problems anywhere but some folks are just friendlier than others.
29. It does cost $1 a mile, and a lot more, if you eat too much town food. who can resist?
30. bottom line on Pennsylvania: worst part of the trail in terms of surface, views and locals. There are some hiker friendly individuals here and there, but not many.
31. After walking ridgeline for so long, the hills of NY were a shock. Got used to them by CT.
32. At this point, getting into New England and climbing the small mountains is easy physically. Mentally, however, feel like I'm hitting a wall.

06-14-2006, 08:38
Love your phrase "the trail's in charge". Mind if I "steal" it as a reminder above my desk at work??

Spiritual Pillgrim
06-25-2006, 13:25
33. Pretty much hit the wall entering VT. Section hiked VT from 1996-97 to 2000-01, so once I crossed the state line I decided to get off in Bennington and yellow blaze to Hanover (yeah that's right, those 2 little dirty words, yellow blaze)
34. Also section hiked all of the Whites from Franconia Notch to Pinkham notch, so I decided to blue blaze some areas, mostly to avoid/beat the weather. Its been a game of weather poker since climbing Moosilauke.
34.5 I know all you white blaze purists are gasping because I yellow and blue blazed. Relax, its my hike and I'll hike it the way I want to.
35. Finally had a bounce box MIA for a while (sent to the AMC center in Pinkham Notch) and at the worst possible time within hundreds of miles of Katahdin. Why not 1,000 (or more) miles ago?
36. Whites have done a job on knees. Hope Aleve and glucosamine continues to do the trick.
37. Weather forced me to do "work for stay" at huts. This worked out OK even though I originally planned to try to avoid all pay sites. Imagine work for stay will be harder to get as tourist season builds up and more thru hikers arrive.

06-25-2006, 14:14
I spent a TON of time"Planning" my hike. I ended up burning the paper about a week into it......now my plan is to have no plan.....I just go where the trail takes me!

Johnny Swank
07-15-2006, 09:34
I drove myself nuts with planning for the AT. It was completely useless in hindsight.

When we paddled the Mississippi River last year I spent more time on getting some of the logistics relating to a river trip, but much less on food and the like. Stuff just seems to work out.

-Johnny Swank MEGA 2000