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  1. #1
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    Default Newbie looking for supportive advice

    Guessing I am not the first to start a post this way, but I am new here. New to hiking, new to camping, new to the AT. All I know for sure is that I want to hike it. I have no rules for how I accomplish this, slackpacking some parts sounds great, and I honestly don't care if I finish the entire trail.

    I did hike all of MD! Feel free to laugh. It took me 5 days, and I didn't so much as carry a water bottle as these were all out and back day trips and I drove home after. And came back weeks later for the next section. I will admit that I found it steep and somewhat challenging in parts!

    My only nights in a tent have been at a campground near a river. I prefer to spend my time outdoors in a whitewater kayak. It's just cheaper than a hotel. Beer and campfires and lots of people around have been the focus. Alone sounds terrifying.

    I bought a backpack. I have never worn it, but stopped by REI who told me it was the right size and helped me adjust it. It was a last years model one on sale. I have a sleeping bag and pad and tent, and when I put them in the pack it's full and awkward. Where will everything else go I wonder.

    I have only told one person of my plan. She laughed and told me to pack a gun to shoot the bears. That won't happen.

    I have read a LOT of books on hiking the AT, and they all seem to be written by people who started their journey with the same amount of experience as me, so I do believe this is possible.

    I am a strict vegetarian, don't know a thing about dehydrating food, and am considering not packing a stove. I don't cook a lot at home, so why would I want to start while on the trail?

    I am thinking of starting with hiker hostel's slackpack plan (the shorter day one) in late February. I know that's early, but I will be slow, and plan to sleep inside as much as possible in the first month as my body gets used to hiking and then hiking with a pack.

    Any advice? The kind I won't get from reading a book. Words of wisdom? How do I tell my family - none of them have ever slept in a tent, hiked more than a mile, think I am crazy enough as it is, and WILL laugh in my face.

    Please keep this positive. I will have NO support back home, and am coming on here looking for positive energy only. I don't live unreasonably far (90 min) from Harper's Ferry and have stopped in and chatted a few times.

  2. #2

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    Do as much hiking and backpacking as you can this winter. Don't wait until you leave for Springer. Starting in February will be a lot like hiking now - cold and wet - so it will give you a pretty good idea of what you will be in for when you start the trail. It will also give you a chance to test your gear and make sure you have the right equipment for your hike. Yes, you can buy new gear along the way, but that gets really expensive.

    Staying at hotels and hostels a lot will also be very expensive. Plan your finances accordingly.

    No stove is a better option when it's hot outside than in winter. Soup, chocolate, tea and hot pasta can taste awfully good when it's freezing outside. They may save your life. As a vegetarian, you will need to think about how you will get enough calories to keep hiking. Yes, nuts and peanut butter are good sources of calories, but can you see yourself eating nothing but that? On practice hikes, bring the kinds of meals you plan to eat on the trail. See how they work for you. How does your stomach react to a nut diet? You might start out carrying a stove and small pot but eating cold. If you do well without hot meals, send the stove home. If not, you have the option of picking up pasta, rice etc. to eat along the way.

  3. #3

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    "A thru Hike are you crazy?
    That's what friends and family say
    and though my plans seemed hazy
    They didn't get to see what I saw out here today"

    Old Man River

    Don't overthink your hike and don't buy too much equipment / supplies until you spend a few days on the trail and find out what you really need...

    You will learn 95% of what you need to know in the first week on the trail..

    As far as telling your family ... Why you Hike is personal( for me it is my own personal Biggest Loser challenge and a way to get in great shape) ....so you will never convince them it is a good idea... just tell them it is an adventure you need to pursue and ask for their support

    I suggest you read the journals at Trailjournals.com and see what others went through on the first few days of their hikes...
    My journal is www.trailjournals.com/OMRiver I attempted a thru hike in 2009

    Old Man River
    "the legs feed the wolf gentlemen, the legs feed the wolf" from the movie "Miracle"

  4. #4

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    I'm sorry if I have more questions than answers but I want to understand your situation. Is $$ an issue with you at all? It takes $$.

    You don't cook at home much so you want to carry simple food items or easy to prepare food on the trail? What are your sources of protein now? You can get a lot of help on here in the "food department".

    You are 31. You want to tell your family of your plan, BUT,you don't want a discouraging/dismissive reaction.
    I think once you are confident with your plan, you won't be bothered as much by their reaction. It's nice to have support tho. We have some good ideas on how to tell them. Or you could just say... I know you all think I'm crazy BUT.......
    Knowledge is always helpful!! They might turn out to be an "easy sell" if you "spin it" the right way.

    Just like the tons of advice about what to carry for food, you will be able to get tons of advice on the rest of your gear and clothing... just ask away.

    Are you interested in finding out if you will enjoy getting up and hiking everyday before you leave? Or do you just want to wait and see?

    You have put yourself out there so I wouldn't want to discourage you in anyway. You can totally put together a nice system and hike the trail for as long as you wish. It's a great adventure!!

  5. #5
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    Welcome to WB! ! ! !
    First thing you should know about WB and that is that everyone here knows they have the best gear and they are the bestest hikers and each one here knows that their way is the best and only way to hike. Many here hike cyber trails and rarely get out on the rocky and rooted trail but will offer you advice and make you question your gear and choices.
    Everyone means well, they just have different avenues of projecting it.
    My best and only advice at this time is for you to pack your gear and food and go out to the back yard and see what it will take for you to stay there for a few days before going inside for any reason. If you can do that then hit the trail for a few days. Everyone hikes different and has different needs. You need to find yours. Use the stuff you read as a baseline. Now take what you think you need and what you want and see if it works in the back yard. What ever you dont touch or use for a few days is something you probably should not pack. If you find that there is something you should have brought because you need it, then pack that. Camp out in the back yard for 2 or 3 days and do not enter a building of any sort. If you can do that then you r ready for the trail for a few days.
    Dont be scared, or worried. You will be fine. Do not feel compelled to buy expensive gear. It can be done on the cheap. Just have fun and dont overthink this. WBers tend to overthink way too much and they miss the fun. Plan your attack in the back yard and then just have fun. Remember when we were kids and needed nothing to have fun. You can be that kid again. Go and do it. We will be here for you.

  6. #6
    Registered User brian039's Avatar
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    Experience means nothing, I had very little. If you're the type of person who tends to make the best of things you'll be fine and you'll learn along the way. I would start in late March, even if you're slow you'll still make it and with better weather. You can always start out without a stove and decide to get one somewhere along the way. Just bring enough food to get you to Neel Gap and try to keep your pack weight below 30 lbs unless you do decide to start in Feb then you'll need some extra gear to stay warm. Buy quality gear to start out with or you'll just end up replacing cheap stuff.

  7. #7
    AT 4000+, LT, FHT, ALT Blissful's Avatar
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    It sound like you've already worked out many details on your own. The rest you will figure out in the course of your wander. The AT is 90% mental.







    Hiking Blog
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  8. #8

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    Good luck, have lots of Patience.

  9. #9
    Registered User brian039's Avatar
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    Another thing, if I was going to slackpack in the beginning I would wait until it gets a little tougher. The first part of GA is pretty easy and it would be a waste in my opinion to slack the first part of the trail. I think it is Dick's Creek Gap if my memory serves correctly where it starts to get tougher. Maybe think about slacking through there.

  10. #10
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alwaysa3dognight View Post
    Any advice?
    to WB! And check out my threads: how to hike and some observations.

    Good Luck and Have Fun!

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

  11. #11
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    If you have 5 months, 5 grand and some determination you can do a thru. No experience necessary. Research and preparation will defiantly help though.
    I hike with Bob Grau (Buckeye Flash, GAME '11) last year, he claims to have never hiked a day in his life prior to beginning his thru. Check out his blog at:
    http://grauathiker.blogspot.com/2011....html#comments

    Like others have said it mostly mental and a lot of luck. If you can, go for it!
    "Chainsaw" GA-ME 2011

  12. #12
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    As a resource, I followed several thru hikers video diaries in YouTube this year. You can look up "FM On the AT (hbc 2194)" and “Loner2012AT". There are more. I find that the videos give you a flavour. Of course nothing does the trail justice, really. You just have to go out and find out got yourself.

  13. #13
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    If your sleeping bag and tent fill your pack without room for everything else: Your pack is not big enough or (more likely) your sleeping bag and/or tent are too bulky. Can your tent ride on top? If your climate permits, do get out and practice. I'd definitely bring at least minimal cooking gear. That hot drink can make a big difference. Best of luck.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  14. #14
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    It's been said a couple of times, but it's worth repeating: Practice. Practice. Practice!!! Use your gear at home. Sleep outside a lot, you'll learn how cold you can get and still sleep comfortably. You'll also learn how cold you can get and survive. Set up your tent during a nice evening, set it up after dark, set it up in the rain. Wear your hiking clothes and go for long walks, learn how your layers work. Eat meals at home that you plan to have on the trail. Instead of no stove, google SuperCat stove. It's dead simple and works great for heating water for coffee or tea. You might decide to upgrade stoves, or decide to go stoveless after all, but make an informed decision.

    You don't have to be an experienced hiker, but it'll greatly improve your mental state if you're comfortable when you're using your gear.

  15. #15

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    I started Georgia last year, honestly because the weather was nice, and I live about an hour from 3 different trailheads. I had no gear - just a camelback. I did a section and came home every night. I loved the serenity and the solitude out there. As I started marking off sections I realized I could actually do this - in sections of course. I didn't buy a backpack and gear until this year when I began to get into NC and it would be a much longer drive. I did not research a lot of my first gear purchases and I've sold and replaced a lot of stuff over time and seeing what people are using on the trail and e benefits. To buy the new equipment I sold the old and exchanged stuff at REI when possible.

    When I wasn't on the trail I read a lot of trail journals and books. I highly recommend Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis and AWOL on the AT. Both books helped me understand the trail community. The trail journals helped me learn about the mental aspect (to an extent) of what people go through on the trail, what is normal, and what they do to cope with it.

    My husband is supportive, but my family doesn't understand the symptoms from being bitten by the trail bug. I tell the when I'm going and where I will be and my itinerary I am expecting to follow, but as far as my parents (I'm 40 btw) I tell them as little as possible until I come back. They love the pictures and understand they can't do anything to stop me.

    be proud that you have already knocked out a state. Take your time and hike your own hike. This is a great forum for encouragement and know that everyone has to start somewhere.

  16. #16
    Registered User oldbear's Avatar
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    " I'd definitely bring at least minimal cooking gear. That hot drink can make a big difference"
    Agreed and since you're going to be a solo hiker ;that hot drink can be a lifesaver

  17. #17
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    Wow! Thanks everyone! Going to try to answer some of the questions...

    I have no idea how my stomach would react to a nut diet. They aren't a big part of my diet. How much protein does a person need while hiking? I counted up the protein from my meals today and got a total of about 70g. Cereal with milk, sandwich with soup, pasta with cheese and hot cocoa (the last part was due to all the mentions of it on here!)

    As for trail foods, I have no idea what I would pack! I do survive largely on pasta, so cutting that out would be tough. And hot cocoa is yummy. Beans and cheese are good too and taste much better warm. Sold on the stove. Need to learn how to use and start cooking my meals on it.

    Sadly, I eat like a typical 4 year old - very picky. I bought a few things I thought could be good on the trail. Powdered milk - can't tell the difference on cereal and tastes better in things like mac and cheese, stuffing - I read somewhere it was a good trail food - YUCK, powdered mashed potatoes - tasteless and probably nutrition less, so pointless?, I looked at powdered peanut butter, but left it on the shelf at the grocery store. I love dried fruit, but that's pretty much calorie free. What will I eat other than pasta and beans? Dried lentil soups and things like that would be good. Is a flattened down loaf of bread something that makes sense in a pack? Squishy sandwiches sound good. I can see how many places are close to towns and things like that, but what I want to know more is how many of them have a nearby grocery store where I could grab a thing of spinach for a salad and some fresh fruit. I think I will miss those the most.

    My first sleeping bag was a 20 degree hoodless Marmot. At 50 degrees I shivered to the point that I couldn't sleep. With fleece pajamas on and a sweatshirt. I replaced it with a North Face (probably uncool to say that) 0 degree with a hood. I used it twice so far and it was okay for about 30 degrees. Any colder and I think I will die. Will I get over this and survive cold nights, or do I really need to start out with a crazy arctic sleeping bag? Also, I rolled in my sleep and woke up with the non breathable hood over my face and my arms pinned to my side and I was sure someone was suffocating me and I would die before I got to the zipper. Do you get used to this???

    I read Becoming Odyssa, and I honestly think we have nothing in common based on what I read. While moving, I love people and will be the one people run from because I don't shut up (no worries, I will not catch anyone!) But in the mornings and evenings, I tend to be a loner and enjoy the solitude, so while at camp, I will probably be off on my own not chatting. I get the impression that she didn't have any interest in other people while out there.

    I can set up my tent in the dark and rain without any light. That's the only thing I have down! Need to learn what to wear. While on my MD adventures last Jan, I was amazed to find that at 30 degrees I needed nothing more than a teeshirt and a hat and gloves. But I know at camp I will want so much more. As for stoves, friends sometimes bring the canister ones when we car camp so I have seen how they work. I have never seen an alcohol one used and am a bit fearful of the how to use them. I have read enough to know that discussing stoves on the AT can be fighting words! Seems that is something no one agrees on at all!

    As for money, I think I can make it. The trail money I know I can manage, it's the bills at home that worry me. And the 3 dogs I will leave behind. The plan is to find 2-3 people to stay at my house with an agreement that they care for the dogs and cover the bills. If I can't find someone I already know, I have good people around me who will keep an eye on everything and make sure it's all going as planned. If it doesn't work out, that's a sure trip home.

    Thinking of starting my hike in Waynesboro, VA and going to Duncannon, PA in Feb and Mar the heading down to Springer and then skip that section as I get up to it. That way in the first month I will never be more than 3 hours from home. I know everyone does every sort of hike, but what are the mental games that could come with that? I don't think I will see many people in that first month. After hiking Springer to Waynesboro with a plan of a few 0 days and a jump up to Duncannon be rough? No 4 state challenge. Leaving any people I am hiking with. Running back into people who ran from my chattyness! Will all that make me want to just stay at home?

    You all are amazing! I feel like a lot of this I can figure out on my own or learn by continuing to read and watch videos, but talking it through seems to be a big mental help for me! Thanks for listening and sharing!

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by alwaysa3dognight View Post
    I have no idea how my stomach would react to a nut diet. They aren't a big part of my diet. How much protein does a person need while hiking? I counted up the protein from my meals today and got a total of about 70g. Cereal with milk, sandwich with soup, pasta with cheese and hot cocoa (the last part was due to all the mentions of it on here!)

    A lot, you need a lot of protein. Also, its damn near impossible to avoid a substantial quantity of nuts/seeds, even if you're not a vegetarian. They have very good Cal/oz and a good amount of proteins and fats.

    Sadly, I eat like a typical 4 year old - very picky. I bought a few things I thought could be good on the trail. Powdered milk - can't tell the difference on cereal and tastes better in things like mac and cheese Good, stuffing - I read somewhere it was a good trail food - YUCK Bummer, powdered mashed potatoes - tasteless and probably nutrition less, so pointless? Calories are never pointless, I looked at powdered peanut butter, but left it on the shelf at the grocery store Nuts. I love dried fruit, but that's pretty much calorie free Dried fruit is awesome. What will I eat other than pasta and beans? Rice and beans? Dried lentil soups and things like that would be good Yup. Is a flattened down loaf of bread something that makes sense in a pack?Tortillas, pitas, bagels. Squishy sandwiches sound good. I can see how many places are close to towns and things like that, but what I want to know more is how many of them have a nearby grocery store where I could grab a thing of spinach for a salad and some fresh fruit. I think I will miss those the most. Many "stores" will not have a very good selection or even a produce department.

    My first sleeping bag was a 20 degree hoodless Marmot. At 50 degrees I shivered to the point that I couldn't sleep. With fleece pajamas on and a sweatshirt. I replaced it with a North Face (probably uncool to say that) 0 degree with a hood. I used it twice so far and it was okay for about 30 degrees. Any colder and I think I will die. Will I get over this and survive cold nights, or do I really need to start out with a crazy arctic sleeping bag? Also, I rolled in my sleep and woke up with the non breathable hood over my face and my arms pinned to my side and I was sure someone was suffocating me and I would die before I got to the zipper. Do you get used to this??? Maybe, I still wind up tangled in my bag. Stuff happens.

    I can set up my tent in the dark and rain without any light. That's the only thing I have down! Need to learn what to wear. While on my MD adventures last Jan, I was amazed to find that at 30 degrees I needed nothing more than a teeshirt and a hat and gloves Your body is a stove. But I know at camp I will want so much more Yup. As for stoves, friends sometimes bring the canister ones when we car camp so I have seen how they work. I have never seen an alcohol one used and am a bit fearful of the how to use them So am I. I have read enough to know that discussing stoves on the AT can be fighting words! Seems that is something no one agrees on at all!

    Thinking of starting my hike in Waynesboro, VA and going to Duncannon, PA in Feb and Mar the heading down to Springer and then skip that section as I get up to it. That way in the first month I will never be more than 3 hours from home. I know everyone does every sort of hike, but what are the mental games that could come with that? I don't think I will see many people in that first month. After hiking Springer to Waynesboro with a plan of a few 0 days and a jump up to Duncannon be rough? No 4 state challenge. Leaving any people I am hiking with. Running back into people who ran from my chattyness! Will all that make me want to just stay at home? Full disclosure, I haven't hiked the AT, but I have hike the Colorado Trail. My advice, dive headlong into it. The only thing being only 3 hours from home will make easier is quitting. Not because the distance makes quitting easier, but the mindset that you are ONLY 3 hours from home and therefore not fully committed is not the type of mindset conducive to completing a tough challenge. No matter how far from home you are, you will be about equally away from civilization. Furthermore, if you start at the traditional time in the traditional place you will have more support from fellow hikers. Moreover, there is a reason these are traditional.

    You all are amazing! I feel like a lot of this I can figure out on my own or learn by continuing to read and watch videos, but talking it through seems to be a big mental help for me! Thanks for listening and sharing!
    You will know so much more if you go for a walk this weekend, try not to lose your mind day dreaming on the internet as I have!

  19. #19

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    Also, look forward to seeing you on the trail!

  20. #20
    Registered User jesse's Avatar
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    slackpacking is lame.

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