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    Default Datto's AT Thru-Hiking Tips (Hiker Advice)

    <center>DATTO’S AT THRU-HIKING TIPS

    </center>Addendum Made 12/26/03 -- Added a section up-front in the list on Clothes for a thru-hike that I'd written earlier in 2003 and just re-discovered..<o></o>

    Addendum Made 12/25/03 -- I knew there was some group of thru-hiking tips that I'd forgotten to include in the compilation of tips I'd posted earlier. Finally ran across that set today – it’s the tips I’d sent in on Independence Day. So...I'll put those tips in first below for those of you upcoming AT thru-hikers who've already read the previous compilation.<o></o>


    <hr>For you late-arriving prospective 2004 thru-hikers, here's a compilation of some of the thru-hiking tips I emailed into the AT-L List for discussion during 2003.<o></o>


    Also for you people who are brand spankin' new to computers and the Internet, the links below may wrap depending upon which email program you're using so you may have to cut and paste the link into your browser to get it to work. Ah, someone has shown you how to cut and paste, right?

    Datto's Tip -- Clothes<o></o>

    As some of you prepare for the start of your upcoming AT thru-hike I'll bet you might be in the process of cutting pack weight. Clothes are certainly an area to consider when looking to shed those ounces. Pretty much every single AT thru-hiker that I met in Georgia on the AT during Year 2000 was carrying way too many clothes, including me.<o></o>

    Basically, look at it this way -- if it gets so bitter cold that you'd need big heavy clothes just to stay warm, you'll likely be getting off the Trail for a few days to wait out the weather. Getting off the Trail for a day or two to wait out weather is not unusual, particularly during the early spring and during autumn.<o></o>

    On the other hand, you don't want to cut back on weight so much that you never get warm while you're on the Trail. And that's what your sleeping bag is for. If you are out on the Trail and the temps do drop so far that you get very cold, get into your sleeping bag, take a break and get warm.<o></o>

    If you haven't yet had the chance to be backpacking in colder temps then you may not be aware of how much heat your body generates while carrying that thing called a backpack. It's not uncommon to see AT thru-hikers wearing only a t-shirt and shorts in 40-50* temps. So, while you're hiking it's likely you'll be warm -- it's only when you stop hiking to take a break or set up camp does the cold seem apparent.<o></o>

    Here's a list of what clothes I would be taking with me on an AT thru-hike if I was starting out April 1st of next year:<o></o>

    Raincoat -- something on the order of 18 ounces or less. You can actually find a thru-hiker raincoat for about 13 ounces or less. If you're carrying a raincoat that weighs 30 ounces you have a big opportunity to shed some pack weight. Keep in mind that as an AT thru-hiker, the purpose of the raincoat isn't so much to keep you dry but to keep you warm when it's raining and windy. Right now I'm carrying a Red Ledge Thunderlight raincoat which, for me, would be fine to handle the task on an AT thru-hike. Here's what that raincoat looks like:<o></o>

    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Category___25452024

    All those advertisements you see about Gore-Tex or whatever technology currently being hyped won't apply much to a northbound AT thru-hiker. The temperature window where raincoat 'breathing' technology actually works for a northbound AT thru-hiker is so narrow that regardless of 'breathable' technology, you're likely going to be soaking in your own sweat under your raincoat while you're hiking.. A hood on your raincoat is extremely important as well as closeable/zippered pockets (so your 'stuff' doesn't come jostling out of the pocket while your hiking). Frogg Toggs are popular with AT thru-hikers because of their light weight. Here's what they look like:<o></o>

    http://www.froggtoggs.com/<o></o>

    Insulated Jacket -- Get something at 20 ounces or less with man-made insulation in it (not a down jacket -- a down jacket will be soaked and worthless for insulation). Polarguard 3D insulation or Primaloft -- both are pretty good for insulating when the insulation gets wet. Right now if I was to start a northbound AT thru-hike this spring I'd be taking either my Patagonia Puffball jacket or my Golite Coal jacket. I took the Puffball on my Year 2000 northbound AT thru-hike and it performed admirably. The jacket design from Patagonia for the Puffball isn't the same today though. The Golite Coal jacket has a removable insulating hood and the Puffball doesn't. There were definitely times on the AT in Year 2000 I wished I'd have had that hood. Both of my insulated jackets are insulated with Polarguard 3D, both have DWR finish (either one would be soaked often either due to sweat or by being worn under my raincoat, regardless of the DWR finish). Both are very warm for the ounce weight.<o></o>

    Here's what a Golite Coal insulated jacket looks like -- I paid $59 for mine on-sale:<o></o>

    http://www.golitestore.com/store/pro...item=4&mitem=8<o></o>

    Long-underwear -- one pair at 8 ounces or less (two pair is overkill) -- make sure these are made entirely of man-made materials -- no cotton percentage at all. The one's I wore on my northbound AT Year 2000 thru-hiker were the Ozark brand from Wal-mart and they did well for the weight. I wore one pair for the south end of the AT and then swapped in a new pair for the north end of the AT.<o></o>

    Lightweight Nylon Pants -- one pair, 8-10 ounces (two pairs are overkill) -- these are for warmth and wind resistance. They should have no cotton percentage in them at all. Typically in cold weather if you needed more warmth on your lower body than what you'd have with your long-underwear and outside shorts then wear these nylon pants overtop. If it got colder than that while you're hiking with your backpack, then it's probably too cold to be on the Trail. I only had maybe 4-5 days on the Trail where I'd wished I'd had something warmer on my legs while I was hiking.<o></o>

    Outside Shorts -- one pair (two pairs are overkill) . The liner of these shorts, if you have one, is your underwear -- most men won't need real underwear on the Trail. Some thru-hikers wore bike shorts rather than gym shorts or swim suits. These outside shorts alone are for hiking in warmer weather -- slightly colder temps might have you wearing your long-johns underneath these outside shorts (gives you that chic thru-hiker look). Certainly would be good to have at least one pocket on the outside shorts be a zippered pocket so valuables don't go jangling out of your pockets while you're hiking. Speaking of jangling, some thru-hikers cut out the liner of their shorts and went bo jangles so they didn't get jock rot.<o></o>

    Fleece Balaclava -- definitely the warmest type of hat to have around. I hiked more than a few days on my thru-hike wearing a balaclava during the day.<o></o>

    Baseball Hat -- not only does it keep your head warm and keep the sun out of your eyes (the sun is quite bright in the springtime before the leaves fill the trees) but also, for me anyhow, a way to combat some of the gnats that will be attacking your face while you're hiking (bill down through the gnats -- the gnats are attracted to carbon dioxide from your breathing and the bill of my baseball hat seemed to keep them from getting the full blast of my carbon dioxide).<o></o>

    Gloves -- bring the type of gloves that will keep you warm when your gloves are soaked from being rained on for days on end. For me, the Outdoor Research fleece gloves that I carried on my thru-hike and intended for this purpose were worthless. My hands always seemed to be cold when I wore those OR fleece gloves regardless of whether it was while I was hiking or while I was at the shelter. If I was to go on an AT thru-hike today I'd take my heavier gloves that I know are warm and leave the lightweight fleece gloves at home. Or leave all the gloves at home and just put my hands in my coat pockets if my hands were cold while I was standing around.<o></o>

    Socks -- bring two pair of good hiking socks (and two pairs of man-made fiber liner socks if you're the kind that wears liner socks -- make sure your boots are over-sized if you're going to use thick socks and/or liner socks). On my AT thru-hike I used Smartwool brand Expedition Trekking socks or Thorlo brand Hiker or Light Hiker socks. The Smartwool Expedition Trekking socks definitely held up the best but were also the most expensive. If I was going to start an AT thru-hike this spring I'd probably just get some Smartwool Expedition Trekking socks and swap in a new pair every 400 miles or so.<o></o>

    Insoles -- for me these were very important in making my boots more comfortable. I used several types on my AT thru-hike and eventually settled on Spenco because I thought they were the best value. I'd swap out the insoles about every 500-600 Trail miles or so.<o></o>

    Short sleeve T-shirt -- for the one's you wear on the Trail while you're hiking, make sure they're made of man-made materials -- no cotton in them at all. Most people wore either the less expensive Duofold Coolmax type T-shirts or the more expensive Patagonia lightweight Capilene or silkweight Capilene T-shirts. I wore the Duofold Coolmax T-shirts and swapped in new ones every 700 miles or so. Note the T-shirts you wear on your thru-hike are likely going to be so skanked up that it's likely they'll stink bad after your thru-hike (at least to the people around you who aren't thru-hikers that is -- Ha, probably most thru-hikers won't notice your skank above their own, which they'll be thinking is the normal way things are supposed to smell). During the hot summer months a few thru-hikers wore cotton T-shirts -- I had a cotton T-shirt that I never wore while I was hiking but wore only in town.<o></o>

    Long sleeve T-shirt -- I carried one of these -- only during the colder months. The shirt was a Duofold Coolmax turtleneck type that had the five rings of the Olympic Games on it. Town folk would see the Olympic rings and joke with me asking if I was training for the Olympics. I told them, "Yeah, I'm a downhill skier. That's why I carry these ski poles with me wherever I go." Then I'd make swooshing sounds and move my hips back and forth while slaloming my Leki hiking poles to the left and right..<o></o>

    Lastly, make sure you cut off all of the tags from the shirts -- otherwise you may get a rubbing spot or skin burn from a tag moving back and forth as you hike. <o></o>


    Datto's Top Ten Thru-hiking Tips for Independence Day 2003<o></o>

    Number 10 -- Video. Of the best videos made about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, the one that may come the closest to showing you the peaks and the valleys, the ups and the downs, the joys and disappointments of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is a video by Lynne Whelden entitled, "Five Million Steps". If you enjoy watching videos and are thinking of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, buy this video as a present to yourself. Here's a link to the video:<o></o>

    http://www.lwgear.com/lwp.html<o></o>

    Number 9 -- Hygiene. One of the things I did that I believe caused me to be so healthy on my northbound Year 2000 Appalachian Trail thru-hike was to use hand sanitizer (Purell) liberally. For instance, one of the most popular activities of thru-hikers is to read "shelter registers". These are little notebooks people place in the shelter where hikers can communicate in writing with those behind them on the Trail as well as produce wit and thought for others to enjoy or dispute. I believe they also could be one of the major transmitters of cooties between hikers. So, whatever you do, don't eat while you're leafing through the shelter registers. And after you browse a register, use hand sanitizer liberally on your hands -- fronts and backs. Same thing goes after you shake hands with another thru-hiker. Now don't get out the hand sanitizer and lube yourself with it right in front of the other hiker you just shook hands with. Wait until you can do it discreetly. Otherwise, you may end up getting the trailname of 'Mr. Hughes'.<o></o>

    Number 8 - Protein Supplement. If there is anything I would have done differently on my thru-hike it would have been to have thought enough ahead to have taken along a powdered protein supplement and to use it every night in my hot chocolate. By milepoint 400 I had lost 13 lbs (two other guys I'd met about then had lost 70 and 50 lbs respectively).<o></o>

    One guy I'd started with on Springer was planning to lose 70 lbs by the time he left the north end of the Smoky Mountains. He'd lost about 40 lbs by that point in his hike and when I saw him coming down from Katahdin (yeah, strange that I saw so many people in Baxter State Park that I'd started with on Springer Mountain more than six months earlier) he thought he'd lost the 70 lbs. He sure did look skinny!<o></o>

    In the state of Maine I lost about 10 lbs and I think a good portion of that loss of weight was due to shivering so much day and night. In between the 400 mile point and the state of Maine I'd lost another 17 pounds. In fact, by the time I'd neared the New Jersey line and went to a wedding one weekend, I could slip on my suit pants for the wedding without unbuckling the belt. Ha. Yep, right up over the knees, over the hips and to my waist without unbuckling the belt. By the time I summitted Katahdin I weighed less than I did when I was in high school.<o></o>

    The point is, some of that weight loss by me and others I believe was due to loss of muscle mass could have avoided if I'd have thought ahead a little and carried protein supplement with me. I'd thought enough ahead to have packed up and sent myself loads of boxes of Pop-Tarts (gag!) but I hadn't thought much about a protein supplement. <o></o>

    I saw many thru-hikers between Massachusetts and New Hampshire who'd just lost their energy and eventually much of their will. The looked and felt completely worn out.<o></o>

    So, if you have a great mail drop support person like I had on my thru-hike (have I told you lately Karen how much I appreciated all your work and support?), have them parcel out some powdered protein supplement in your mail drops.<o></o>

    If you want to do it yourself along the Trail you can sometimes buy protein supplement in Wal-mart and grocery stores. If you want to get some cost-effective protein supplement in larger quantities, here's a link to the same stuff that's also sold in Wal-Mart:<o></o>

    http://www.bodybuilding-supplements-...ly-protein.htm<o></o>

    Number 7 -- Shoe Size. Most thru-hikers will find their feet will grow 1.0 to 1.5 sizes above what their shoe size is for their street shoes prior to their thru-hike. Then, you may find that some manufacturers of hiking boots have smaller than normal sizing for their boots (Salomon was like this for me). So, you might want to consider buying your hiking boots or trail runners 1.5 sizes larger than your street shoes in order to avoid blisters.<o></o>

    Prior to my thru-hike I wore a 10.5 street shoe. When I started preparing for my hike and was hiking quite often, I realized that for Salomon boots (which were the most comfortable for me), size 13 was the correct size for me when I was hiking and is still the size I buy today (my feet never came back to normal size after my AT thru-hike). I went through five pairs of those Salomon boots on my thru-hike and all of them were size 13. I had fewer blister problems than most and I attribute that to help I received from a very good friend of mine who coached me on proper thru-hiker shoe size prior to my thru-hike.<o></o>

    Number 6 -- Replacement Insoles. If you want to comfy your feet up a bit, try buying and putting in replacement insoles into your hiking shoes. Two of the most popular insole makers are Spenco and SuperFeet. I can tell you that for me, Spenco inserts make a set of hiking shoes ultra-comfortable.<o></o>

    On my AT thru-hike the Spenco insoles cost about $17 for a pair of insoles and for me, lasted a maximum of about 600 miles (or less depending upon how much it was raining on that stretch of the Trail). After about 600 miles, the insoles had gotten crushed so much that they were flat and useless.<o></o>

    Since I was replacing boots about every 450 miles or so on the average, whenever I replaced boots I tried to replace the insoles at the same time.<o></o>

    Here's a link to Spenco insoles:<o></o>

    http://www.forfeetfirst.com/accessor.htm<o></o>

    Note: don't put the Spenco insoles overtop of the insoles that came with your boots thinking you'll get more padding that way. Bad idea. Instead, make sure you yank out the existing manufacturer's-supplied insoles before putting in the new replacement insoles. That way there's less cubage taken up by the replacement insoles and the new insoles have a better chance to form-fit your feet correctly.<o></o>

    Number 5 -- Blisters. It's highly likely you will get blisters on your feet to some degree on your AT thru-hike. Much of that degree will likely be due to three factors; 1) how well your shoes fit after you've been hiking a while, 2) how rugged the skin on your feet will have become during your thru-hike and 3) how much it rains on your thru-hike (the rain swells up the lining inside your boots and the enlarged lining cuts into your feet as you hike).<o></o>

    In any case, from the outset get yourself some Compeed Blister Patches made by Johnson & Johnson (the retail patches are sold at Wal-mart). In my opinion, Compeed is by far the best treatment for blisters that you can buy. Note that Compeed Blister Patches are very expensive but you may be able to find them heavily discounted in Dollar stores (like Dollar General, Dollar Tree, those kinds of places).<o></o>

    Here's a tip -- the reason why a few people don't have success with Compeed is they don't allow enough time for the glue to set up on their skin before putting on their socks and boots. They put their socks and boots back on and start hiking prior to the glue setting up so the patch falls off. You need to have your sock off and the Compeed blister patch applied to the skin and exposed to the air for a minimum of five minutes (ten would be better) before donning your socks and boots and hiking again. And clean off the blistered area first -- with wet-naps if you have them -- and let the blistered area dry for at least 5 minutes prior to applying the Compeed patch.<o></o>

    Here's a link to see what a Compeed Blister Patch looks like:<o></o>

    http://www.drugstore.com/qxp12929_33...ters.htm&tab=1<o></o>

    Number 4 -- Friends coming out to meet you on the Trail. It wouldn't be unusual for some of you friends to get in their head that they should come out and hike with you for a week in say, Virginia. Woo boy are there a lot of problems with that idea for some people. Here's a few of the problems -- Your normal hiking pace will just about kill your friends, literally. They aren't going to be in trail shape and you are. And believe me, you are not going to wanna slow your pace down while you're hiking. Plus, you will have developed rather close friendships with other thru-hikers along the way and to be honest, you may wanna be with other thru-hikers rather than your friends from home.<o></o>

    In addition, except for a few instances, you'll have no idea where on the Trail you're gonna be a such-and-such a date. You could be 100 miles ahead or 100 miles behind where you planned to be when you're sitting in your living room talking with your friends prior to starting your thru-hike.<o></o>

    Here's one possible way to handle the situation. Have your friends come out and meet you at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia for one day, maybe two days max.<o></o>

    Trail Days is an annual AT hiking event that culminates the first weekend after Mother's Day during the month of May -- it's held in the town of Damascus, Virginia which is right on the AT. Many thru-hikers hitchhike back or jump forward to Damascus just prior to Trail Days weekend and then return to their original place on the Trail after the weekend is over.<o></o>

    You could even meet your friends on a side trip off-trail to say Washington, DC or New York City rather than on the Trail although the logistics might be a little more difficult.<o></o>

    But whatever you do, make the expectation for how much time you're going to spend with your friends from home a maximum of 48 hours. For God's sake, don't let them take a week of vacation to come out and hike with you on the AT. You as a thru-hiker are just not going to wanna hike 8 mile days while they are not going to wanna do 20 mile days for 5 days in a row because see, they don't have miles to make! They're on vacation!<o></o>

    So, just meet them in a town and make it for a maximum of two days. That'll likely be about the maximum amount of time you'll wanna be away from the Trail anyhow. You may even discover that after a few hundred miles, the Trail has become your true home and towns are seen only as resupply points.<o></o>

    Number 3 -- Mileage Planning. If you'll be coming right out of cubicle-land in corporate America and have that usual layer of surface fat on your body, here's what I think is realistic for planning purposes while you're sitting in your living room at home looking at a spreadsheet of your upcoming northbound AT thru-hike.<o></o>

    At the end of each section listing, I've provided the average miles per day that I actually had done from Springer to the end of that particular section. My 2167 mile long northbound AT thru-hike lasted about 195 days (April 10, 2000 to October 21, 2000). I hiked in very cold weather in the state of Maine because of the number of days it took me to get to Maine -- so for you, it might be better if you planned to move a little faster than I did on my thru-hike, particularly in the section of Waynesboro to the CT/Mass state line where the terrain isn't quite so difficult. <o></o>

    Note: MPD = Miles per day average you might expect to do for each of the following sections of Trail, including days off-trail for resupply and town days. The MPD is adjusted to take into account your trailshaped-ness as well as the difficulty of the terrain. Note it is a common misconception by thru-hikers to believe the Trail all of a sudden gets easier once you cross into Virginia. In reality, the terrain is difficult in Virginia for northbound AT thru-hikers until you reach Waynesboro, Virginia where Shenandoah starts.<o></o>

    9-11 MPD for the section of the AT from Springer to Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 10.3 MPD to this point) 10-12 MPD for the section of the AT from NOC to Waynesboro (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 11.1 MPD to this point)<o></o>

    14-16 MPD for the section of the AT from Waynesboro to the CT/Mass Line (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 11.4 MPD to this point)<o></o>

    13-15 MPD for the section of the AT from CT/Mass Line to Glencliff, NH (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 11.6 MPD to this point)<o></o>

    6-8 MPD for the section of the AT from Glencliff, NH to Gorham, NH (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 11.5 MPD to this point)<o></o>

    8-10 MPD for the section of the AT from Gorham, NH to Rangeley, ME (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 11.3 MPD to this point)<o></o>

    10-13 MPD for the section of the AT from Rangeley, ME to Katahdin (My thru-hike average MPD from Springer averaged 11.1 MPD to this point)<o></o>

    Here's a link to a line chart I made showing data from several different actual hru-hiker's mileages during their northbound AT thru-hikes - after I made the chart I lost the data when a hard drive died so all I have is a picture of the chart of the data:<o></o>

    http://friends.backcountry.net/datto/pic/HIKES03.jpg<o></o>

    Number 2 -- Post-thru-hike. God you are not going to believe the changes that will have occurred to you if you complete a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Physical, mental, spiritual changes.<o></o>

    This is something you might want to take into account prior to starting your thru-hike -- like, don't plan to start work the very next day after you finish your thru-hike! It would be best to plan to take a month off between finishing your thru-hike and your first day of work if possible. That'll give you some time to come back to the reality of society and get accustomed to what everyone else thinks is 'daily living'.<o></o>

    Also, be aware that people who know you well prior to you starting your thru-hike may find a different person returning from the Trail. Here are a few changes that I experienced right after my thru-hike -- I think most of these are pretty common changes experienced by thru-hikers:<o></o>

    a) You are considerably skinnier! Ha. Your facial appearance may have changed substantially, you may have grown a beard, your hair may be 6 months longer and it may be difficult for some to recognize you without having to stare for a moment or two at you. The first thing people say to you who weren't aware you went on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is, "How did you get so skinny!" The next thing they might say is, "Why are you always hobbling like you're in pain?"<o></o>

    b) You eat like a horse and don't have any table manners left. Yeah, little pinkies up didn't seem to be all that important to you over the course of the last six months. You'll probably come around to fitting back into table-manner society though.<o></o>

    c) You see clean water running from a sink spigot that doesn't have to be treated with iodine as the most amazing and enjoyable invention of man. For the first few days back from your thru-hike, you may find you still drink from your water bottles and fill them up from that amazing colossal sink spigot.<o></o>

    d) Taking a shower and being clean all the time -- woo boy this whole side of life is such a joy! And people get to do this shower thing every day?? With hot water?? Ha, wait until someone tells you they think it might be a good idea for you to start considering under-arm deoderant. Big ol' pitch of the head to the side as if you heard a high-pitched noise.<o></o>

    e) Cologne and Perfume. You are probably not going to be able to stand the smell of perfume and cologne. Even today, three years after my AT thru-hike, it still gags me. Right off the Trail your sense of smell will likely have become so acute that even the smallest amount of perfume is magnified many times over. But your own natural skanky body odor... yeah, that smell somehow gets filtered out by your brain.<o></o>

    f) You are going to find out just how noisy life back in civilization can be -- the noise level that most people live with every day of their life (and actually think of as being "quiet"!) is annoying to you when you first return from your thru-hike.<o></o>

    g) You may find yourself scared to death riding in a car doing 70mph down the freeway while the driver has their head turned talking to you rather than watching the road ahead. Just keep pumping that imaginary brake pedal and grabbing the dashboard...<o></o>

    h) You may constantly wonder where your backpack is located. You've carried the thing for over 2000 miles and it's become a part of you. Knowing where your backpack is located while your on the Trail had become very important to you and being without it after your thru-hike is going to feel so odd.<o>

    </o>
    i) You are going to be way more relaxed than most non-thru-hiker people you meet right after your thru-hike. You'll find that most non-thru-hikers don't think anything about carrying on two, three or four activities at the same time. It's become the norm to them to maximize the use of time. They're talking on cell phones while they're typing on a laptop while their eating. Woo boy is that gonna seem so strange to see!<o></o>

    j) Sleeping indoors. I know if you're sitting at home right now contemplating your upcoming thru-hike next year, this idea of not getting used to sleeping indoors is gonna seem strange to you. How could you not wanna sleep in a soft bed with warm covers inside a building? For some thru-hikers returning after their thru-hike where they tented all the way the length of the AT, a bed may seem to be too soft and uncomfortable when compared to sleeping in a tent with a sleeping bag. After a few days or weeks most thru-hikers will come around and get used to the idea of sleeping indoors in a regular bed. However, I have heard of past thru-hikers who, 30 days after their hike, continued to sleep outdoors in their sleeping bag on their front porch at night.<o></o>

    k) Sunrise. You may find that once the sun comes up, you can't sleep anymore even if you try to go back to sleep. And all those birds at home that start chirping at sunrise that you'd never heard before...yeah, you're probably going to hear them every morning for say, the first month back in civilization.<o></o>

    l) Fears and worries. Right off the Trail you're probably not going to have too many worries and you're probably not going to have fear of much of anything beyond the speed of cars on the freeway. Fears are things you'll re-acquire to some extent once your back into civilization on a full-time basis.<o></o>

    m) Confidence. Ha, right off the Trail you are probably going to be the most quietly confident person you've ever met. Nothing of importance is going to seem too big a challenge. It'll take a while for society to beat a little of that confidence out of you but in the end, it'll still be a huge net gain of confidence after society is through melding and molding you into the way you end up becoming after your thru-hike.<o></o>

    n) Clothes. Why in the world do people have so many clothes?? Well see, it's this way. People always want to look their best because looking good helps them feel better about themselves and others will remember that you just wore such-and-such sweater two days ago and...<o></o>

    o) Animals. After my thru-hike I found animals had a great attraction to me. I can't explain it much except maybe it was due to animals not sensing fear in me. Or maybe they were attracted like flies to the smell! Ha. <o></o>

    p) Reflexes. If you used hiking poles during your thru-hike you're going to find that your hand reflexes are on the extreme side of fast. Much of that is probably due to constantly having to guide hiking poles with a fine touch without having to think much about the placement of poles while you hiked.<o></o>

    q) Television. If you were a TV hound before your thru-hike you may have a great desire to catch up with all the TV shows you missed while you were on your thru-hike. Then again, you may end up deciding that television is simply a means where Corporate America can sell products interspersed with a little entertainment now and then. In any case, there will likely be an amazement of some kind about the power and/or waste of television.<o></o>

    r) Music. I listened to music almost every day of my AT thru-hike. I'd made it a point to purposely listen to music that I hadn't really encountered much prior to my thru-hike. Particularly country music and classical music. When it rained in Georgia I listened to Chopin because his music sounded much like rain to me. When I passed through Tennessee I listened to country music because, well that's all there was on the radio! Ha. For someone who didn't like country music at all prior to my thru-hike it's become the preferred music I listen to on the radio in the car.<o></o>

    s) Trail Talk. Right after you return to civilization all you are going to talk about, think about and dream about is life on the Appalachian Trail. Your co-workers, your spouse, your kids, your parents are probably not going to want to talk about the Trail *NEAR* as much as you are gonna want to talk about the Trail. Eventually you'll get some additional interests and start talking about other subjects after having been back in society for a while. But talking about the Appalachian Trail will not likely ever leave you completely.<o></o>

    Number 1 -- On and Off-Trail Highlights to see during your AT thru-hike (these are arranged from south to north organized for northbound AT thru-hikers -- reverse it for southbounders) -- hopefully all of these still exist on the AT to some extent:<o></o>

    a) The Approach Trail Well of course you're gonna hike the Approach Trail to get to the top of Springer Mountain! It's tradition to do so and only 8.5 miles long. I started up the Approach Trail at 2:00pm and arrived at the top of Springer Mountain at 6:30pm (for those of you wondering, yes, it was the same day). So it's no big deal to hike the Approach Trail. Besides, you'll get an idea of what to expect in the coming weeks.<o></o>

    b) The top of Springer Mountain You are going to have such fond memories of your time on top of Springer. It was an absolutely gorgeous sunset the night of my arrival on top of Springer Mountain. We were a bunch of us newby thru-hikers sitting on the Springer rock watching the sun go down. Just as the sun barely went under the horizon, one thru-hiker in the crowd jumped up, pointed at the disappearing sun and exclaimed, "There! It did it again!" That's when I knew I'd found my group and this was going to be an adventure to remember.<o></o>

    c) Goose Creek Cabins Will you just take a load off and relax?? You don't have to make it to Katahdin all in one week. Take time and enjoy and recoup at Goose Creek Cabins which should be about your third or forth night on the Trail. Believe me, these people have see it all when it comes to thru-hikers so whatever you present is not going to seem unusual at all. And it's a great place to meet and talk with all the thru-hikers who are in the crowd on the Trail with you. It's likely you'll meet thru-hikers here that'll later become some of your closest friends. So relax, take a load off and enjoy some pizza at Goose Creek Cabins.<o></o>

    d) The Blueberry Patch Best breakfast I had on the Appalachian Trail. This is an inexpensive place where thru-hikers stay for a night and recoup before heading into North Carolina. One of the friendly owners hiked the AT during the early 1990's so they've got a clue about thru-hikers and the Trail. A great place to meet up with other thru-hikers who are in the crowd of thru-hikers you're starting out with too.<o></o>

    e) The tree at Bly Gap As I remember, this distinctive landmark (you can't miss it since it's right in the middle of the AT) is the oldest tree in North Carolina and may have once been used to spot the line between Georgia and North Carolina. In any case, you'll likely have a memory about reaching this point on the Trail because if you're a northbounder, it'll be the first of many state lines you'll cross on your way to Katahdin.

    My memories of this tree...I was hiking with a girl and a guy who were somewhat having a tussle at the time. As I remember, he and she had met on the AT had quickly decided to hike with each other but he found out she didn't hike as fast as he did. Plus, she'd sat in some poison ivy early on and had it all over her privates and that was slowing her down even more. He was 18 and she was 23. Woo between the tree at Bly Gap and Nantahala Outdoor Center, they'd definitely been at odds with each other.<o></o>

    Well they fell in love. By the time we'd all reached Virginia man, they had it bad. I mean bigtime. They were inseparable! They finished the Trail together and after the Trail they got married. Two of the nicest people I met on the Appalachian Trail. I was so elated to have heard later that they got hitched.<o></o>

    f) The Cliffs near Muskrat Creek Shelter Well there's not too much description about this spot in all the guidebooks and there's usually only a little teeny piece of cardboard on a tree telling you The Cliffs are there but...I think this is one of the most quietly fantastic places on the Appalachian Trail. It's about a 1/2 mile hike from Muskrat Creek Shelter so some will never see The Cliffs but there, you can hang your feet out over a 200 foot drop and gaze back at the mountains of Georgia you just crossed and see what an accomplishment it's been to get to this point in your northbound AT thru-hike. The sunset here is fantastic!<o></o>

    g) Camping at the top of Standing Indian Mountain -- this is a short side-trip off-trail. Nice flat tenting spot to be up in the air (for tents and tarps only -- no shelter is at the top of the mountain). Good place to camp if you're close to here at the end of the day's hiking.<o></o>

    h) Nantahala Outdoor Center -- Terrific spot to take a load off. They're thru-hiker friendly and have an outfitters to re-gear if you need to. Stay in one of the bunkhouses and get to know some of your fellow thru-hikers. A couple of good restaurants here too -- one overlooking the river where the kayakers try to travel a slalom route on the river.<o></o>

    i) Camping at the top Cheoah Bald. Coming out of NOC the top of Cheoah Bald is the natural place to stop and camp. The shelter between NOC and the top of Cheoah Bald is likely to be already filled with hikers and the top of Cheoah Bald has nice flat spots for camping. I did a night hike to the top in a driving rainstorm -- almost walked off the cliff on the lee side of the mountaintop trying to get some cover to setup my tent. Woo boy, watch that first step. It's a doozie.<o></o>

    j) Camping at the top of Silar Bald (the first Silar Bald, not the one in the Smoky Mountains) -- As I remember, this is the first southern Bald near the AT that you'll encounter on a northbound thru-hike. It's a 1/2 mile side trail up a hill off the AT (you can see the top from the AT) but you can see many miles from the top of the Bald. This is where I got lost and thought the AT crossed the top of Silar Bald. Eventually I figured it out (I'm embarrassed how many times I climbed Silar Bald looking for the AT before I realized I wasn't even on the AT - Duh!). <o></o>

    k) Fontana Hilton -- it is here, as I remember at about milepoint 135 on a northbound thru-hike, that you may start appreciating the finer points of shelter design as it relates to thru-hiking. The Fontana Hilton is one of the best designed shelters along the AT (one of the largest too -- holds something like 24 hikers) and has nearby fantastic views across Fontana Lake to the upcoming Clingman's Dome (highest point on the AT and you'll cross it three days later up on the Smoky Mountains).<o></o>

    l) Mountain Mama’s -- God, what a place! Ha! If you've ever wondered what rural North Carolina is like, you'll get a huge dose at Mountain Mama's. It's a restaurant, convenience store and bunkhouse that sells what must be 3/4 of all cigarettes manufactured in North Carolina. Well sure there's an attitude there and it's 1.25 miles off-trail down a hill just as you leave the Smoky Mountain National Park but it certainly is a treasured spot of memories of your AT thru-hike. Great place to meet up with your fellow thru-hikers and to resupply before heading on up the Trail again. Hint: whatever you do, don't stand or put your gear in front of, or in the way of, getting to cigarettes for sale on the back wall of the store. Mountain Mama's makes their living from the cigarettes not from thru-hikers and they'll come over and give you an earfull if your body or your stuff gets in the way of paying cigarette customers making their way to the cigarette wall.<o></o>

    m) Hot Springs. North Carolina One of my favorite towns on the Trail. A fantastic place for thru-hikers. I stayed at Elmer's (Sunnyvale Inn as I remember the official name was) for two nights and one night at the Duckett House. Both were terrific and different between themselves. Heck, I spent three nights in Hot Springs because I was having such a good time. One of the best trail outfitters is in Hot Springs and there's a good, fine dining restaurant too (oh yeah, you as a thru-hiker in a fine dining restaurant -- works for me). Loads of convenient stores and grocery stores too. And the Appalachian Trail goes right down the main drag of the town.<o></o>

    n) View. Wow there is a gorgeous view of the countryside to the left of the Trail for a northbound thru-hiker to enjoy after crossing Hump Mountain and about an hour before reaching Laurel Fork. <o></o>

    o) Laurel Fork Campsite This was one of the best hidden campsites I found on the AT. Just a few miles south of Laurel Creek Lodge the AT follows a creek through a pine forest area and turns up a hill to leave the creek. Just down the creek from where the Trail goes up the hill is a flat tent spot for two tents, right next to a small waterfall with a flat rock out in the stream. I wrote my trail journal entry the next morning while lazing on top of that flat rock, the stream roaring past me on either side just a few feet away. Man, what a beautiful spot that was.<o></o>

    p) Laurel Creek Lodge I've stayed here twice -- once on my AT thru-hike and once when I came back later on a section hike with a buddy of mine. Had a good time here both times, food was good, bunk house was comfortable and they're thru-hiker friendly. Nice modern place.<o></o>

    q) Damascus, Virginia Magic Words -- right on the Trail. Trail Days is held here every May and they're the friendliest town on the Trail. A terrific outfitter in Damascus as well as a good restaurant in town that is a tradition for thru-hikers to visit. The local two-story hiker hostel in town is called The Place and it's funded by donations.<o></o>

    r) Sunset at Old Orchard Shelter One of the best spots to watch the sunset on the Appalachian Trail. There's a large tent area in front of the shelter and from the shelter you can look over the flat tent area to sun going down over the distant mountains.<o></o>

    s) Catholic Church Hostel in Pearisburg It's a little out of the way and up a sizeable hill (as if by this time a little ol' hill would stop you) but the people are very friendly to thru-hikers. Nice view from the hostel too. Hopefully they're still taking in thru-hikers.<o></o>

    t) Partnership Shelter One of the best shelters on the Appalachian Trail. Not only does it have a shower in the shelter (The Ritz!) but you can order a pizza from a nearby pay phone and have it delivered! If that isn't thru-hiker paradise I don't know what is.<o></o>

    u) Side trip to Washington, DC If you haven't ever been to the Nation's Capital it's a fantastic side trip. See the Capital Building, the White House and the Smithsonian all in one day. There's a train from Harper's Ferry (Harper's Ferry is on the AT) that gets you to just behind the Capital Building where you can start your DC excursion.<o></o>

    v) Side trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania If you like American History, the famous Gettysburg Battlefield is such an interesting place to visit. It's about a 15 mile hitchhike to the east where the AT crosses US 30 in Pennsylvania. The battle happened July 1-3 1863 to give you an idea about the anniversary timetable -- pretty close to when you might be coming through that area of Pennsylvania on your thru-hike.<o></o>

    w) 501 Shelter One of the most memorable shelters on the AT. It used to be an artists workarea with a big skylight that has been converted to an indoor AT shelter. You can order food from near here and have it delivered. <o></o>

    x) Aqua Green Pond just north of the 501 Shelter -- Has a swing rope that you can swing out over the water with. A gorgeous place. I'm told the aqua green in the water is from the natural minerals of the area.<o></o>

    y) Palmerton, Pennsylvania -- One of the friendliest places on the Appalachian Trail. Great blueberries up on the hill just south of Palmerton (they're likely be bears up there eating them too if you're a northbounder). I mean you can sit right on the AT treadway, butt in the dirt, and eat handfuls of blueberries within reach of where you're sitting. For a thru-hiker this is fantastic! As you come into Palmerton, take a gander at that hike up the 'hill' you have awaiting you when you leave Palmerton. Believe it or not, on my thru-hike at this point I was still saying, "Well the AT can't go up there. It's too steep." Remember, as a thru-hiker, when you look in the distance up ahead of you, find what looks to be the steepest incline and it's guaranteed that's exactly where the AT goes.<o></o>

    z) Secret Shack If this is still in existence, it's a little cabin put up on a farm owned by a past AT thru-hiker. Nice little place to rest up before you start into the swamps. You may only hear about this in a shelter register or see a cardboard sign on a tree.<o></o>

    aa) Episcopal Church Hostel in Vernon, New Jersey I don't know if this place is still taking in thru-hikers but in Year 2000 this was one of the best hostels along the AT. A beautiful basement to an Episcopal Church with a brand new commercial kitchen, shower, laundry facilities, carpeted floor and large patio just outside. Burger King nearby and a grocery store and Dunkin' Donuts just down the street. As I remember, it's about a 3.5 mile hitchhike east off the Trail.<o></o>

    bb) Glimpse of New York City from to AT over 40 miles away I'd been told about this spot ahead of time -- that there was a very small window to see the World Trade Towers in Year 2000 from the AT while looking east down a long distant valley on a clear day.<o></o>

    Well it just so happened that when I arrived at the spot, about 1/2 mile north of the painted mark on the treadway AT rocks denoting the NY/NJ state line, it was a gorgeous clear sunny day and I arrived at the spot at about oh, 2pm or so. Yep, clear as a bell you could see the World Trade Center Towers way off on the horizon. If you moved 50 feet one way or the other down or up the Trail the view to NYC was blocked by the distant terrain. Today I'd imagine you can still see tall buildings in Manhattan from the spot.<o></o>

    cc) Graymoor Friary -- An AT thru-hiker tradition! Hopefully they're still taking in thru-hikers. I camped down at the ball field because there were nuns in the Friary buildings attending a conference. Friar Fred has been the guy who comes and gets the thru-hikers at 5:15pm for dinner. If you attend dinner, look at the painting of the Disciples on the wall and see if you can tell what's so different about the painting. Hint: Elvis has left the building.<o></o>

    dd) Big John at the RPH shelter The nicest guy. Hope he's still there. Comes out and meets thru-hikers and brings them a pizza to the shelter. If, by this time, you haven't realized how nice people are along the Appalachian Trail and how lucky you are to have had the opportunity to become a part of the Trail, you haven't 'gotten it'.<o></o>

    ee) Upper Goose Pond Cabin It's about 1/2 mile off the Trail and one of the most re****l, scenic spots you'll have the chance to encounter along the Appalachian Trail. This is a good place to take the day off and hang out.<o></o>

    ff) Dalton, Massachusetts -- During Year 2000 a guy named Tom Levardi took in thru-hikers and let them camp on his lawn. Such a nice guy and a good place to hang out and rest with your fellow thru-hikers. Laundromat in town too as well as restaurants. Right on the AT too.<o></o>

    gg) Lakes of the Clouds Hut (just below Mount Washington) I think this to be one of the most beautiful and memorable spots on the Appalachian Trail. See if you can arrange your busy thru-hiker schedule (I am cracking myself up here) to stay at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. There's The Dungeon in the basement that can take 4-6 thru-hikers (no civilized person would choose to stay in The Dungeon) for six dollars each. During the day you can hang out in the upper floor dining area for free where the regular people stay. At night, there won't be any question why the door to The Dungeon is made of 1/2" plate steel. Woo boy is the wind loud in The Dungeon. Make sure you have earplugs for The Dungeon so you can get some sleep.<o></o>

    hh) Gorham, New Hampshire -- The small town of Gorham is situated right in the middle of the most difficult terrain on the Appalachian Trail. It's a good spot to take a day or two off to rest up and recuperate. I think I took four days off here because I'd become so exhausted and was a little shell-shocked from trying to cross Mt. Washington in a storm. It's a good place for resupply and filling up in local restaurants (fast food places and regular restaurants). I stayed at the Hiker's Paradise and had a memorable time there on the third floor.<o></o>

    ii) Mahoosuc Notch & Mahoosuc Arm -- Known as the toughest mile on the Appalachian Trail. The combination is longer than a mile -- about 5 miles total. House-sized boulders to scale for mile or two before reaching Mahoosuc Arm, one of the steepest climbs (maybe the steepest) on the Appalachian Trail. Musta looked like 70* updale when I arrived exhausted at the bottom. I'd made a total of 5.1 miles on the day I came through here in the driving rain -- was completely wasted that night but was elated to have found a shelter at the end of the day that didn't show up in the AT Data Book. Man how the simplest things can make you so happy on the Appalachian Trail.<o></o>

    jj) Rangeley. Maine Way off-trail but you'll find pretty much everything in Maine is way off-trail. A small town good for resupply and visiting with your fellow thru-hikers.<o></o>

    kk) Saddleback Mountain It is said from the top of Saddleback Mountain on a clear day you can get your first long, distant glimpse of Katahdin. Again, it was an absolutely gorgeous, cold day when I crossed the top of Saddleback Mountain and I believe I saw Katahdin on the distant horizon once my eyes had normalized for looking off into the distance acutely.<o></o>

    ll) Horns Pond Area One of the most gorgeous spots on the Appalachian Trail. As I remember the pond sits between two very steeply shaped horns (mountains) that you cross on the Appalachian Trail. There's a shelter grouping nearby too with a sidetrail out to the pond.<o></o>

    mm) Pierce Pond Shelter -- there is something mysterious about this place. Hallowed or something. I sensed it right away and don't really know what it is about the place that makes it so. That plus the fact that it is gorgeously sited with the shelter right along the shoreline of Pierce Pond. In the fall this place is absolutely spectacular in color. The next day you'll likely cross the Kennebec River in a canoe livery. After having hiked for so long, to travel and make headway in a canoe was such a treasured luxury!<o></o>

    nn) Shaw’s at Monson -- I'd heard all the hoopla about Shaw’s Boarding House from past thru-hikers and by the time I'd reached Monson I'd been shivering constantly for days. Whatever it turned out to be I'd said to myself that I was going to take a couple days off and get warm again. Well my cohorts and I walked into Shaw’s Boarding House at just after 6pm and dinner was being served. Keith Shaw said, "Would you like a cup of coffee?" Wow, I don't think I've ever had a better tasting cup of coffee in my life. I could barely hold the cup my hands were shaking so badly. Then Keith and his wife brought out serving dishes with the biggest chicken legs and mashed potato spread I'd ever seen. One of my hiking buddies that I'd come into Shaw's with chowed down on that meal so much that he had gravy and mashed potatoes and chicken as a mess all over the beard he'd grown along the Trail. He couldn't stop -- neither could I although I didn't have a beard so I looked like I still had some table manners. Ha. Oh we had a good time there at Shaw’s. I took a couple days off and got warmed up finally on the second day. Found some warmer gloves too and that sure made a difference up-trail later. <o></o>

    oo) Baxter State Park -- you can not believe how beautiful a place is in the world until you are on an Appalachian Trail thru-hike and reach Baxter State Park. I believe it to be one of the truly greatest places on earth. Still wild for the most part too, with Katahdin (the highest spot in Maine) looming over the entire landscape as a mother watches over her child. What is so cool is when Katahdin turns orange and pink in the autumn sunset. Absolutely stark-raving beautiful. <o></o>

    Datto's Tip -- Bugs<o></o>

    On my thru-hike during Year 2000, for the stretch between North Carolina and Glencliff, NH, I carried a bug headnet as well as a bug shirt. You might consider that too since neither weighs very much.<o></o>

    Here's the bug headnet I carried on my thru-hike:<o></o>

    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___21850

    Here's the bug shirt I carried on my thru-hike:<o></o>

    [this link doesn't work because it's wintertime and REI reduces mosquito gear in Winter -- my bug shirt had hand pockets in the front which came in handy to protect the backs of my hands from being attacked by mosquitoes]

    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ory_rn=4500559<o></o>

    Man I was the envy of so many thru-hikers in Virginia and when I came up to the shelter just before Waynesboro. Everyone was being attacked by bugs through that section and people had a lot of questions about where to get a headnet.<o></o>

    Make sure whatever you get is made of no-see-um netting (has to say that in the description) or else it'll be pretty much worthless in gnat country (gnat country being parts of North Carolina and Virginia, Mosquito country being New Jersey particularly and for me, Connecticut).<o></o>

    The bug shirt will only give you some protection from mosquitoes (their proboscis sticker will stick through the netting on the shirt even if it is no-see-um netting). But for me it's better than no protection through some places like New Jersey where you'll be walking through swamps and Connecticut where on my thru-hike the mosquitoes were crazy. Some PCT hikers use the GoLite jacket and pants for mosquito protection but those may be too hot to wear in Virginia on the AT.<o></o>

    I'd say the bug headnet added about 5* to the apparent temps of my head. That doesn't sound like much but when the temps in Virginia are 99*F it seems like it's pretty hot. But for sanity sake, for me I'd rather have the extra heat and not be driven crazy by bugs while I'm hiking.<o></o>

    Note that gnats are attracted to the carbon dioxide you're breathing out. The harder you breath carrying that backpack, the more gnats show up and join the gnat party (oh like you can not breath hard carrying that backpack). I saw several thru-hikers who had gnats fly right into their eyes or sucked into their mouth in North Carolina.<o></o>

    I also carried Deet and use it under the bug shirt when the Mosquitoes got really bad. It kept the most aggressive mosquitoes from remaining oriented enough for an attack through the screen of my bugshirt.<o>

    </o>
    Here's the Deet I carried:<o></o>

    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___82161

    I'd previously tried the Ben's Deet model with a pump spray bottle and it leaked all over so I just stayed with the lotion type of dispenser.<o></o>

    Believe it or not, I was still carrying Deet during a blizzard in Maine. I'm claiming it was for spicing up the Liptons.<o></o>
    <o></o>

    Datto's Tip -- Water Carrier<o></o>

    Many thru-hikers in Year 2000 packed a water carrier so that when they arrived at camp and had to get water down a steep grade, they only had to get water once -- for use in the evening as well as the water to start out the next morning. If you only have a couple of water bottles with you then you might end up having to go down to the water source again in the morning before you start hiking. Some of those water sources are WAY down a steep off-trail incline too. I had two water bottles with me all the time but for me, two bottles of water wasn't usually enough water for dinner and wake up breakfast the next morning before hiking started.<o></o>

    The link below shows what I used on my thru-hike for a water carrier -- a 96 oz wide-mouth Nalgene Canteen. It worked very well and I still carry one -- held up very well too and was popular with thru-hikers. Most nights I would get a full 96 oz and use it all up by the next morning. If you decide to carry a water carrier like this one, make sure you get the wide-mouth 96 ounce Nalgene model (not the small mouth model) so you can get water dribbling out a spring pipe into the container. After I got the water at the spring I'd put my Iodine tablets into the 96 oz Nalgene container and then haul the Nalgene container up the hillside back to the shelter. Note the use of Iodine tablets will turn the Nalgene Canteen container a light brown color over time. Once the iodine tablets kicked in long enough (usually two tablets per liter for 30 minutes or so) I'd put the Vitamin C tablets right into the Nalgene Canteen container afterward too.<o></o>

    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/...ry___7618__252<o></o>

    <o></o>
    Datto's Tip -- Sleep Orientation<o></o>

    If you plan on sleeping in a shelter, you have the choice of sleeping with the head of your sleeping bag facing the outside of the shelter or...with the head of your sleeping bag facing the back wall of the shelter.<o></o>

    For me, the reasoning below was the determining factor on which way I oriented the head of my sleeping bag in a shelter.<o></o>

    I always faced the head of my sleeping bag to the outside unless it was windy and/or very cold. Reason: The animals in the shelter (it's their home) like to run back and forth at the back wall where the floor intersects the back wall. If your head is there too, the animals just might have a go at running overtop of your head for fun. And guess what eats mice? Yep, they're back there too because that's where the prey is at.<o></o>

    For a northbounder, probably through April and after September 15th you're probably gonna be having your head against the back wall of the shelter because it'll be too cold to face out -- during those cold and windy nights of early and late thru-hiker months the wind will blow right up into your sleeping bag if you face the head of your sleeping bag out front.<o></o>

    <o></o>
    Datto's Tip -- Shelter Floors<o></o>

    You know that brand new expensive sleeping bag you just bought? Well people leave the biggest messes on shelter floors. Like...barbeque sauce spilled all over for instance. Makes a nice mark on the outside of your sleeping bag when you arrive at the shelter after dark and sleepily lay out your sleeping bag before going to sleep. You probably wouldn't even see the barbeque sauce until after you woke up in it the next morning.<o></o>

    So...if you think you might be staying in a shelter now and then, it might be best to take a piece of Tyvek with you to lay down on the shelter floor prior to laying out your sleeping bag. You can get kite weight Tyvek (lighter than regular Tyvek) if you're an once weenie although it's not quite as weather-resistant as regular Tyvek.<o></o>

    Here's where you might be able to buy Kite-weight Tyvek if you don't have a local source: [link checked and working as of the date of this email]<o></o>

    http://ecom.citystar.com/hang-em-hig...em&ItemID=IT44<o></o>


    Datto's Top Ten things to take along on your thru-hike<o></o>

    Here's a list of things you might want to take along on your thru-hike:<o></o>

    1) hook screws -- when it gets cold and wet on the Trail you're going to want to setup your tarp or tent to cover the front of the shelter. Also great for hanging up stuff that needs to dry out and there aren't any nails left in the shelter. The hook screws sure did come in handy the times I needed them. I usually carried four hook screws.<o></o>

    2) Extra gizmo batteries -- Mostly I carried lithium AA batteries which last 2-3x the life of Duracell. I always carried a spare set and made sure the gizmos that I carried that needed batteries always required the same size battery so I only needed one size of battery.<o></o>

    3) Extra camera battery -- I kept losing my extra camera battery and at $10 each that seemed quite a loss at the time. When I climbed Katahdin in mid-October my camera battery gave out due to the cold (again). Luckily, Mossy Old Troll was up on Katahdin at the same time and was nice enough to lend me his spare camera battery so I could take photos. My camera battery froze up on the top of Mt. Washington too but heck my hands were so frozen I couldn't have operated my camera much anyhow. A thru-hiker named Chief was at the summit sign on Mt Washington with me in that storm and we used his camera to shoot one or two photos until it and we froze up too.<o></o>

    4) a 4 ounce mylar sleeping bag (this is a bag type, not a mylar blanket). About $8-10 dollars or so. I'm certainly glad I carried that with me and hadn't sent it home. Kept me warm on nights where without it, I would have been so cold. Here's a link to what I carried:<o></o>

    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ory_rn=4500522<o></o>

    5) Mylar Blanket -- I always carried a mylar blanket and set it down on the ground when I took a nap -- kept most of the tick charge from getting to me while I was busy sleeping and I didn't have to waller in the mud like a hog either. When it rains so heavily you're thinking it might be best to stop, you can drape the mylar blanket over you -- but wow is that loud. The mylar blankets are so light you can probably carry a spare since the mylar blankets only last a short while before they start tearing. Here's what I carried on my thru-hike:<o></o>

    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...ory_rn=4500522<o></o>

    6) Head net -- [see above for detail on headnets in previous tip] -- I needed a head net on several areas of the AT on my thru-hike to keep my sanity. The gnats in North Carolina were so annoying and the mosquitoes in New Jersey and Connecticut pounded my face. In North Carolina when I was wearing my headnet I saw a hiker about 100 yards in front of me lose it and start swinging wildly at the gnats for five minutes almost falling down from swinging so wildly. I just stopped and watched, cracking up. Note the headnet adds about 5-10* of temperature inside the headnet so wearing it in central Virginia like I did was a trade-off of sanity versus overwhelming heat.<o></o>

    7) Trash bags -- these are great for putting your wet tent inside before you put your tent back into your backpack. All kinds of uses for a trash bag. I wore a trash bag as a pack cover for 175 miles of Trail until Mrs. Gorp was so kind as to have sewn me a silnylon pack cover and send it to me at Mountain Mamas. I wouldn't recommend wearing a trash bag -- the Trail is so narrow the trash bag easily gets torn. But it certainly does add to your hobo-looking trail image though!<o></o>

    8) Spice -- I used Konriko brand Jalapeno powder in almost every meal (maybe every meal). That certainly adds a kick to a Lipton's Meal.<o></o>

    9) Earplugs -- man is it LOUD in the shelters from all the women snoring. Plus the motels and hostels you'll be staying in don't have the best soundproofing in the walls and you may need the earplugs then too.<o></o>

    10) Your sense of humor.<o></o>


    Datto's Top Ten Trail Etiquette Tips<o></o>

    Here are ten tips on thru-hiker etiquette for the beginning of your thru-hike. By the time you reach Harper's Ferry it's unlikely you'll need to be told much about Trail etiquette -- you'll most likely have figured it out on your own.<o></o>

    1) God, don't bring one of those annoying MSR Dragonfly stoves that sound like a jet engine taking off and drowns out everyone's conversation at the shelter. Most annoying and you should be shunned (or worse!) if you insist on bringing one for something silly like 'simmering' on your thru-hike (Ha, does that make me laugh -- you're just gonna want the chow ready as fast as possible and you won't be a simmerin' nothin' shortly after starting your thru-hike). More than once a hiker woke up in the shelter to find their MSR Dragonfly missing.<o></o>

    2) Don't go sprinkling that Gold Bond powder into your shorts and all over the ground below you at the shelter. Have you not learned one thing from being in the woods?<o></o>

    3) Absolutely, positively, *NO* dogs inside the shelter under any circumstances. Fido sleeps with you inside your tent. You may think ol' Fido is such a nice wee dog but believe me, others are going to think you the most inconsiderate and insensitive of people if you bring a dog of any type, size, breed or personality inside the shelter.<o></o>

    4) If you decide to not carry a tent, tarp or bivy in order to save pack weight then you're a complete idiot. There were a few morons on the Trail when I thru-hiked that didn't carry a tent, tarp or bivy. When it got cold or wet, they actually *expected* to have people leave the shelter and tent so *they* could have room to stay inside the shelter. Ha, it ain't gonna happen. Once people find out you're not carrying a tent, tarp or bivy other thru-hikers are going to go out of their way to make sure you move on up to the next shelter away from them.<o></o>

    5) Talk softly at the shelter. Very important. Think quiet. The ears of thru-hikers quickly adapt to the quiet of the woods and you walking up with a big loud mouth is going to be most annoying to everyone else, particularly at the shelter.<o></o>

    6) Don't rip ANYTHING out of the shelter register. Very bad form to do so, even if you just need a blank piece of paper.<o></o>

    7) Don't go getting caught up in somebody's cause on your thru-hike -- like politics or religion or pole holes along the Trail. You are gonna have your hands so full of just making it up and down the mountainside that you're just not going to have the energy to carry on about some cause or another (and no one is gonna want to hear about it anyhow because they're going to be so beat at the end of the day).<o></o>

    8) God *DO NOT* bring audio speakers with you and set them up inside the shelter so you can hear the music from your Walkman, thinking everyone else is going to love it too.<o></o>

    9) On the other hand, don't go getting on someone just because they brought some piece of technology along with them on their thru-hike. Phones, radio, Palm Pilot, that kind of thing. That assumes they're not abusing your space with it (like making a cell phone call from the shelter -- that's very taboo). In the beginning of a thru-hike people have not yet adapted to being with themselves for long periods of time. Sometimes the technology is a crutch to help them get over their fear of being away from their past life or maybe just fear of being in the woods alone at night. They'll eventually work through it and you verbally harping on them because of your anti-technology views isn't going to do much except brand you as a zealot. If what they are carrying bothers you or if they're abusing your space you always have the option to get up and leave.<o></o>

    10) Roundhouse snorers -- well okay, this is controversial for sure since so many hikers seem to be loud snorers. But -- you know who you are -- it's my opinion that it's not okay for you to keep everyone awake all night with your snoring. Get a tent and get in it every night so you're not bothering everyone else with your snoring. If you haven't tried those anti-snoring strips you could at least get a hold of some of those and give them a go. Maybe some undereye black paint too so you look like a linebacker at night.<o></o><o></o>

    Datto's Tip -- The People Surprise<o></o>

    One of the things thru-hikers remember most at the end of their thru-hike is the people. If you have any qualms about the basic niceness of people before your thru-hike, believe me...your faith in mankind will be freshly renewed.<o></o>

    It's incredible.<o></o>

    I can only attribute it to some kind of magic following the swath of the Appalachian Trail as it climbs the eastern seaboard north toward Katahdin. Some kind of swath maybe 10 miles either side of the AT is my guess. Maybe wider.<o></o>

    There's a mystique and aura that follows a thru-hiker too along the journey -- as seen from the general public that is. You probably don't know it but the further north you go (or south for a southbounder) the more people find even the small parts of your journey to be astounding. There is an outright envy by some you meet, an admiration by others of what you have taken on and accomplished. You're caught up in the daily challenges of thru-hiking so some, who knows, may most thru-hikers might not notice or remember the admiration of people they meet until later.<o></o>

    What you notice is the incredible niceness and friendliness of people toward AT thru-hikers. It's not that you expect it at all either...it just happens! That's the part that's beautiful. As if it is the most natural of inherent intentions.<o></o>

    I can tell you there were literally hundreds, yes hundreds, maybe more, of people along the Trail who went out of their way to help me when I thru-hiked the AT in Year 2000. Just about every day someone -- not a part of the hiking community, many never having heard of the Appalachian Trail -- would be absolutely overjoyed to bend over backwards to help me. I don't really remember asking either -- they helped me voluntarily. The further north I got the more astounded I became at how things seemed to go my way, many times with the help of someone who's path I happened to cross, in a moment of time, simply 'by chance'.<o></o>

    Hiking out of Harper's Ferry, moving way too fast, I'd gotten my foot caught up on a hoop root and did a full-speed face plant -- right into a patch of poison ivy. Took a day or two before whoa! did I have a problem. And not that cut on my chin from the face plant either. <o></o>

    At US 30 in Pennsylvania I'd decided to take a day or two off in Gettysburg to deal with the poison ivy *IF*...I got a ride into Gettysburg within 30 minutes of reaching the intersection of the AT and US 30. If a car didn't stop to give me a ride within 30 minutes then I was going to continue hiking uptrail and just deal with the now-body-covering-rash however I could.<o></o>

    Must have been oh...8 minutes or so...Ha! An 18 wheeler squeals and slams on his brakes crossing this 4 lane divided highway and pulls up in front of me right where I have my thumb out. I didn't even have my backpack off yet. I climbed on up into the cab and wow was that WAY up in the air. I'd never realized how much an 18 wheeler jostles back and forth too. But I got along with the truck driver fabulously -- he was hurrying back to see his wife on the east coast someplace and later told me he didn't pick up hitchhikers because it was against his company's policy. He didn't know why he'd stopped so suddenly and picked me up.<o></o>

    Well we got to talking over the 15 miles east toward Gettysburg. He'd been through Gettysburg several times in the past but hadn't ever stopped to take in the battlefield. He had an interest and the time that afternoon so I gave him a Cook's Tour of the battlefield from the cab of an 18 wheeler. You shoulda seen how an expert truck driver navigates the narrow roads of a town like Gettysburg. This guy had a natural talent for knowing exactly what was needed to make an 18 wheeler move like a gazelle.<o></o>

    After the windshield battlefield tour the truck driver voluntarily dropped me off at a hotel way on the other side of town -- out of his way. What a nice person.<o></o>

    When I walked into the hotel and checked in, the front desk clerk told me I should pull my car around back so I'd be at the closest outside entrance near my room. I told her with a straight face that I didn't have a car. She said, "Well how did you get here?" Oh boy was that funny to see the look on her face...and then the looks on the faces of all the other hotel personnel she called out to the front lobby to meet the guy who'd walked in all the way from Georgia. I ended up getting every single room discount they had to offer plus a coupon for a free all-you-can-eat dinner and a free breakfast. Oh...and a free coupon for the town trolley to take me out for a visit to the battlefield.<o></o>

    You know that magic I mentioned before? Yes, I was going to go out to the confederate side of the battlefield -- I'd never been on that side. I wanted to see what it looked like from the Pickett's Charge standpoint. I stopped by the battlefield visitor's center and guess what...there was a guided walk that did just that. A guided walk following the route of Pickett's Charge across the battlefield. And it was Free! It started in about an hour. How can this be? How can all this luck happen to one person?!<o></o>

    The guide was excellent. Really put a modern day person into the perspective what the men of Pickett's Charge were facing. The guide had the rapt attention of me and the 30 or so people 'hiking' with me across the battlefield.<o></o>

    Well a day or so later I'd treated the poison ivy as best as I could (thanks to the phone guidance and expertise of Nurse Pog) and I had to get back to the Trail. I stopped at the public library in downtown Gettysburg to read some last minute email before leaving town. It was raining cats and dogs and well, I was delaying the whole hitchhike back to the Trail as long as possible. One of the librarians (love those librarians eArTHworm) saw my backpack and wanted to know who's it was. I struck up a conversation with her and well...somehow she was leaving work in about an hour and wanted to know if I needed a ride back to wherever I was heading. Folks, it takes some kind of magic -- especially considering that I'd never mentioned needing a ride!

    It follows you as you continue on your journey.<o></o>

    Sidenote -- A guy named Tim Harvey gave me his truck -- Gave it! -- money on the dashboard, thousands of dollars worth of short wave radios and communication gear inside. I'd just walked out of a blizzard in the boondocks of Maine. Then Tim called the local Sheriff and had him meet up and chauffeur me and two other guys into the town of Millinocket to work off our shell-shockedness from being in the blizzard. And then...he said, "If you boys need a ride back to where you got off the Trail just give me a call when you're ready. Here's my home phone number." I was speechless. I'd just met the guy. Out in the middle of the woods at some logging road. I called Tim a few days later and sure enough he gave us a ride back way out into the boondocks of the woods of Maine at the spot where we came out of the blizzard so we could continue north again from where we'd come off the Trail.<o></o>

    It is magic I tell you.<o>

    </o>
    Datto
    Last edited by attroll; 01-19-2009 at 02:44.

  2. #2
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    um....wow.
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

    amongnature.blogspot.com

  3. #3
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    um....wow.
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

    amongnature.blogspot.com

  4. #4

    Default

    13,512 words in case anybody was wondering.

    That is a very impressive collection of advice and hints.

    I read the whole thing and learned a lot.

    Thanks!

  5. #5

    Default

    13,512 words in case anybody was wondering.

    That is a very impressive collection of advice and hints.

    I read the whole thing and learned a lot.

    Thanks!

  6. #6
    Registered User Nightwalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RITBlake View Post
    13,512 words in case anybody was wondering.

    That is a very impressive collection of advice and hints.

    I read the whole thing and learned a lot.

    Thanks!
    Heck, I put it into a doc file. I'm printing it out, along with Baltimore Jack's resupply tips to help me out on the trail.

    I leave towards Springer Thursday (hitching a ride), I leave on the actual hike Saturday morning.
    Just hike.

  7. #7
    Registered User Nightwalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RITBlake View Post
    13,512 words in case anybody was wondering.

    That is a very impressive collection of advice and hints.

    I read the whole thing and learned a lot.

    Thanks!
    Heck, I put it into a doc file. I'm printing it out, along with Baltimore Jack's resupply tips to help me out on the trail.

    I leave towards Springer Thursday (hitching a ride), I leave on the actual hike Saturday morning.
    Just hike.

  8. #8

    Default

    Great stuff from a hell of a hiker. "Pack your sense of humor," is great every day advice, too!
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

  9. #9

    Default

    Great stuff from a hell of a hiker. "Pack your sense of humor," is great every day advice, too!
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

  10. #10
    Eagle Scout grrickar's Avatar
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    Awesome read. Makes me want to quit my job and thru-hike.
    "If trees could talk, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? Maybe....if they screamed all the time, and for no good reason" - Jack Handey

  11. #11
    Eagle Scout grrickar's Avatar
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    Awesome read. Makes me want to quit my job and thru-hike.
    "If trees could talk, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? Maybe....if they screamed all the time, and for no good reason" - Jack Handey

  12. #12
    Yellow Jacket
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    Not to bash Rock/Troll, but what is really sad is that this article has been on this site for over a year and no one knew it was here until now.

    The new easier to locate article primer really rocks.
    Yellow Jacket -- Words of Wisdom (tm) go here.

  13. #13
    Yellow Jacket
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    Not to bash Rock/Troll, but what is really sad is that this article has been on this site for over a year and no one knew it was here until now.

    The new easier to locate article primer really rocks.
    Yellow Jacket -- Words of Wisdom (tm) go here.

  14. #14
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    That is why I am working on the new article system. There has been some GREAT stuff posted here and writen for here, yet no one seems to know about it. Ms Janet and JAck Tarlin (with some others) cornered me in the kitchen at her hostel to let me know where they thought we could improve. We are trying to be responsive.

    And Kudos to Datto for writing this. I went back and read the whole thing again. I love it.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  15. #15
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    That is why I am working on the new article system. There has been some GREAT stuff posted here and writen for here, yet no one seems to know about it. Ms Janet and JAck Tarlin (with some others) cornered me in the kitchen at her hostel to let me know where they thought we could improve. We are trying to be responsive.

    And Kudos to Datto for writing this. I went back and read the whole thing again. I love it.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  16. #16
    Registered User Nightwalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlbj6142 View Post
    Not to bash Rock/Troll, but what is really sad is that this article has been on this site for over a year and no one knew it was here until now.
    Thou art mistaken. It was talked about last year at Springer time, and it was on the Information drop-down list.

    Disclaimer: I may be mistaken. I often am.
    Just hike.

  17. #17
    Registered User Nightwalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlbj6142 View Post
    Not to bash Rock/Troll, but what is really sad is that this article has been on this site for over a year and no one knew it was here until now.
    Thou art mistaken. It was talked about last year at Springer time, and it was on the Information drop-down list.

    Disclaimer: I may be mistaken. I often am.
    Just hike.

  18. #18
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    It was there, but it wasn't seen a lot. A lot of the information has been here, it just wasn't easy to find. That is the whole new idea here.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  19. #19
    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    It was there, but it wasn't seen a lot. A lot of the information has been here, it just wasn't easy to find. That is the whole new idea here.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

    My 2008 Trail Journal of the BMT/AT

    BMT Thru-Hikers' Guide
    -----------------------------------------

    NO SNIVELING

  20. #20
    Dainon
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    Just to say that I found Datto's thru-hiking tips to be one of the best posts I've read -- VERY helpful advice. Thanks for taking the time and effort to write it.

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