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David S.
05-14-2003, 23:45
Hello everyone! I love reading all these forums! What a wealth of information and great people.

My name is David and I live in Chattanooga. I have a dream of walking the AT someday. Today I came back from photographing a friend at Springer who is headed for Main. It makes me sick that I am not going along.

My first real experience on the AT was back in 1999 when I hiked from Newfound Gap to Tricorner nob and back in two days. It nearly killed me. Thats about 30 miles total...not particularly unusual for the average hiker but...I was not in shape, my pack was to heavy, and on top of that, my feet are as flat as a pancake...thats an understatement. For two weeks afterward it felt like I had sprained both of my ankles; I could barely walk.

(I was pushing myself because I had to catch a plane early the next morning...otherwise, I would have stopped at Pecks Corner and spread it out a bit.)

To make a small story smaller, that little two day experience changed me in ways that are hard to describe. You would think it would make me not want to ever set foot on the trail again but its quite the opposite. Now I truelly admire and envy anyone who even gives the AT a serious go.

Since then I have become completely obsessed with the AT. Reading about the trail, reading journals and collecting gear (in hopes that I might use it on a thru-hike someday) Heading to the mountains on a whim is not unusual for me just to get another taste of the trail....only to be depressed when the light begins to fade, my poor feet begin to ache and I realize I have committements to tend to the next day.

I've already seen two of my friends successfully complete the AT and I am envious and filled with an incredible longing...almost to the point of screaming. I long for a chance to stretch my abilities and comfort zone...to grow and experience new things.

So where am I going with this ramble? For the past few months I have decided to seriously consider if it would be remotely possible for me to complete the AT. I have researched and purchased custom orthodics for my poor feet, become obsessed with lightening my load (now I'm familier with the term "Ray Way") and have walked longer distances with success. Only one huge hurdle stands in the way. I am self employed. I am a photographer and the nature of this business requires a huge committment to customer service. My customers are my financial lifeblood. To leave town for five months would be a serious logistical challenge and most likely a negative blow to my business. I love this craft...its what I do best. I have other dreams though.

Heres my question: What is your experience or advice in this type of situation? Anyone self employed and left the business to hike the trail? How did you do it? What advice or encouragement to you have? I am convinced that I can make this happen if I want it bad enough. Thoughts? Sincerely, David S.

Blue Jay
05-15-2003, 08:24
The AT is almost always a leap of faith. Many people have to leave not only secure money but also priceless relationships for the experience. It's all a matter of your personal priorities. If you are good at what you do (and I bet you are) the joy of walking the trail will only help your future.

Grimace
05-15-2003, 08:48
Someone once told me that just committing to hi9ke the AT is 80% of the journey. It definitely takes many sacrifices, but none of which will go unrewarded.

Why don't you try to use your skills while on the AT. Solicit Backpacker, Outdoors, NAtional Geographic, NAture... tell them of your plans, your work, and how awesome your photo journal is going to be. You never know what doors it could open

RagingHampster
05-15-2003, 11:19
Be honest with your customers. Call everyone of them at home and tell them your plans. I'm sure they'll understand. The worse that could happen is that you would need to find a different job, or work for someone besides yourself :)

JackW
05-15-2003, 17:37
OR, you could do the AT in sections as many do. A through hike is unusual for someone in a stable situation. Of course you would take pictures on the AT and they would make a great display at your Photographers Studio. Perhaps you would even draw certain customers to your business simply because you are an AT hiker. Section Hikers are among the 2000 milers. If it takes 6 months to complete the AT then hiking a month a year for six years would qualify you as someone who has completed the trail. Then again, after a year of section hiking you might decide that it is worth taking the time between Graduation and Weddings (June) and hike the AT SB which might bring you back for the Christmas rush. You will do it when you are ready.

stranger
05-15-2003, 19:04
The age old question continues...and I don't think anyone has the answer between balancing work and hiking...especially a thru-hike. This might help a little:

I used to play music professionally for about 3 years, touring 4-6 months a year and my guitarist was a professional photographer (probably spelled wrong), what he used to do is rack up all the work he could before we left, would do 2 weddings a weekend, extra school pictures and freelance work...basically worked his ass off for about 4 months, then could survive on the road. Look into wedding work if you aren't already doing it...pays Well!

However your business might suffer if you're not around...but I'd rather see that happen than you suffer by not hiking the trail. You can always go back to work, in one shape, way or form, but hiking the trail might not always be an option. Good luck.

MOWGLI
05-16-2003, 07:21
David, I have a little different take on your "dilemma". Sounds to me like you haven't done a backpacking trip of at least 7-14 days in length. Why don't you start there? I too live in Chattanooga having just relocated here recently. There are lots of trails within a couple of hours drive of here. The AT is one of them, but there is also the Bartram Trail, Foothills Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, GA Pinhoti & Alabama Pinoti Trails. I would suggest you take a 7-14 day backpacking trip and see if your orthotics work out for you. Then you can think about thru-hiking the AT. Before you toss your appointments aside for 6 months, see if a lengthy backpacking trip is something you'll really enjoy. Its not for everyone. You might find the pain in your feet is more than you want to endure. Hopefully not though.

If you wanna drop me a note, maybe we can have a cup of coffee in Chattanooga sometime. My email address is jhunter@americanhiking.org

Take care & good luck.

Little Bear
GA-ME 2000
http://www.trailjournals.com/littlebear/

Dirtyoldman
05-17-2003, 04:34
I have to agree with tnjed. A large number of people who drop out in the early stages do so because the trail was a lot different then they expected. Get some trail time in on the shorter runs first and work out your bugs before you decide to commit to a very long hike. This way both you and your gear will be ready.

David S.
05-18-2003, 00:57
Thank you everyone for your advice and encouragement. I really like Little Bears advice about doing a 7-14 day trip. I am definitely still in the early stages of even figuring out if I would be physically able or if I would even enjoy days on end of wet, hungry, and tired...or hot, sweaty, hungry, tired and dirty. All I know is that I want to begin trial runs as you suggest to see if I "can take it".

I am particularly interested in the Benton MacKaye trail. That seems like a good test run and I can have the feeling of completing something. I have packed alot in the Big Frog area and just love it. Is it similar? Is there a need to resupply? Info? Thanks! David S.

P.S. When do you start using a trail name?

Dirtyoldman
05-18-2003, 05:28
When ever your trail names decides you can :}

Youngblood
05-18-2003, 09:36
Originally posted by David S.
I am particularly interested in the Benton MacKaye trail. That seems like a good test run and I can have the feeling of completing something. I have packed alot in the Big Frog area and just love it. Is it similar? Is there a need to resupply? Info?

The Benton MacKaye Trail is 93 miles, has only one shelter and only a couple of places to do a limited resupply. It is not heavily traveled so you would be pretty much on your own. It crosses the Toccoa River twice, and these are spectacular. The southern part of the trail has some grueling climbs, so expect lower daily mileage in that area. The part of the trail in the Big Frog area is not blazed, they use trail signs at junctions and these are sometimes vandalized (were in April) so you need good instructions and have to pay attention to where you are at and at what time you expect to be at the next turn. The longest section between paved roads is around 35 miles.

The Appalachian Trail in Georgia is a little less than 80 miles, is more heavily traveled, very well marked, has shelters about every 8 miles and the longest section between paved roads is about 20 miles (if you start at Springer Mountain). You can also resupply right on the trail and/or get help with equipment problems about 30 miles from Springer Mountain at Neels Gap at the excellent outfitter.

I think the AT in Georgia might make a better choice for a checkout trip, especially if you are traveling solo and/or inexperienced at long distance backpacking. My reasoning is that the Appalachian Trail will be more forgiving to any problems that you run in to.

Best of luck,
Youngblood

JackW
05-18-2003, 10:42
One of the good things about this Forum is the information that one can pick up. Useful information regarding safety and making the right decision.

I never gave a thought to the safety that is part of hiking a trail that is full of people. Even on a slow day in the beginning of the season there are a lot of people on the AT in Georgia. The hills in Georgia are a good indication of what is to be expected in the states to the north. If one decides to abandon the hike there are places to do so. As was stated there are outfitters along the way which can supply items neglected in the planning stage. There are people who can supply lore and history and up to date information and companionship.

MOWGLI
05-18-2003, 11:08
Originally posted by Youngblood


I think the AT in Georgia might make a better choice for a checkout trip, especially if you are traveling solo and/or inexperienced at long distance backpacking. My reasoning is that the Appalachian Trail will be more forgiving to any problems that you run in to.

Best of luck,
Youngblood

I agree with Youngblood 100%, especially having just hiked the Benton MacKaye Trail with him. That is not a trail you want to hike by yourself. If you got hurt on that trail, it might be several days or longer before anyone found you.

The lure of the BMT for me is exactly what makes it unsuitable for a new backpacker to tackle it solo. It is not hiked very much, particularly in some of the northern areas south of Cohutta Wilderness.

One more suggestion David. The Chattanooga Hiking Club does some backpacking trips. I am not yet familar with that club, but regularly read about their activities in the Sunday edition of the Chattanooga daily newspaper. They have a website as follows;

http://www.chattanooga.net/hiking/

Perhaps you are already familiar with them.

stranger
05-19-2003, 04:50
I hiked the Long Trail to prepare for the AT the following year. Granted it's in VT and might be a ways to travel but it's a awesome trail to hike.

I hiked it for the first time in 19 days in 1994, but would recommend taking more time. You can resupply 4 times and 2 out of the 4 are ON the trail. Plenty of shelters, water, other hikers etc...And absolutely beautiful!

If you have the time and will travel consider the Long Trail!

RagingHampster
05-20-2003, 00:49
Hey Stranger, I'm planning on a northbound thru-attempt of the long trail this september. Where do you reccomend doing resupplys/drops/hotels? I was planing on Rutland (off-trail) and Jonesville. I just updated my versions of the GMC Guide, and Thru-Hikers Companion (giving me some ideas), but where would you suggest making stops if you had 4 weeks (what I plan on taking).

stranger
06-10-2003, 21:07
Hey Hampster...if hiking north you can resupply in Manchester Center, about 6 miles off the trail but an easy hitch. Then send a food drop (UPS only) to the Inn At LT, about halfway through the trail you can get into Bristol if you want, but it's not an easy thing to do. You walk by the Jonesville PO, and you can finally resupply in Johnson which is 2 miles off the trail.

Manchester Center, Bristol and Johson used to have large supermarkets...check your guidebook. Jonesville has a decent general store right off the trail. Don't go into Rutland if you can help it...10 miles away and a hard hitch! Cheers!

I resupplied 5 times, but 3 would be enough if you don't mind the weight.

JackW
06-10-2003, 21:16
If you re consideing a re-supply at Manchester you might also consider going into Londonderry , VT where there is a good supermarket. For a small convenience store there is one in Peru, VT (the Hapgood Store in Peru). Peru is walkable but Londonderry requires a hitch.