It took a long time to collect my thoughts and summarize my stats for the AT. In reviewing the details of my journey, it’s striking to me just how many events occurred every day. My experience was not monotonous at all, with plenty of diversions to keep me entertained and on my toes. Some parts held a lot of nostalgia while other parts were quite a surprise in terms of their difficulty and enjoyment. The AT is not much of a wilderness experience but it’s a fun adventure through a diverse region of the US. And the trail itself holds some of the most physically demanding terrain of any I yet hiked. While it doesn’t rank as high in my books as the western trails I’ve done, I’m very glad I hiked the AT and will always remember it with fondness and reverence. Most certainly I will revisit some of my favorite sections. My best state was Virginia (which happens to also be the the longest state, by far). I was in a groove by the time I reached VA and also the weather had finally started to chill out…not so hot and no more bugs. The last few weeks in NC and GA were stunning with the fall colors but also pretty rainy and cool.
Had I to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was very happy with my start date and direction…SOBO for life! I loved going against the flow, experiencing the trail in such a different way compared to most. I had a plan for my timeline and daily distances and pretty much nailed that plan. I kept a fast pace so that I wouldn’t finish too late in the season, which worked out well for me. I like to push myself most days but I also think I found a balance in allowing for a slower pace sometimes, taking in the variety of sights and experiences along the way. I certainly made plenty of stops and side trips…just not many zeros. I never was much into zeros…guess I’m just too anxious and enjoy constant movement. I’m in no way advocating that my schedule, strategies and stats should be representative or replicated, they’re just what worked for me…always HYOH!
Total Distance: let’s call it an even 2200 miles (including some side trips, alt trails, and some walks to and from resupply points…but doesn’t include the walking I did in towns, around camp, collecting water, etc.)
Dates: July 25, 2021 to November 4th, 2021
Time: 103 days (other ways to view it: 3 months & 11 days / 14 weeks and 5 days / 8,899,200 seconds / 148,320 minutes / 2472 hours / 28.22% of 2021
Average Daily Distance: 21.4 miles (22.2 miles not including 4 zeros). My daily averages at the start (ME-CT) were well below 20. Rugged terrain and a lot of half-day town stops accounted for this. I started averaging above 20 miles a day from NY on. My average daily distance for PA was 23 miles. In Virginia, I really started cranking. Even with 2 zeros and all the town stops, my average daily distance for the last 1,025 miles (VA/TN/NC/GA) was around 25 miles.
Longest daily distance: 35 miles
Shortest daily distance: 3 miles
Shortest distance hiked during a full day, no side trips: 16.8 miles…The day I hiked Mahoosuc notch and also the day after a 25 miler in southern Maine. It was a hard day.
Zeros: 4 (Gorham after 17 days, Harpers Ferry/Washington DC after 40 days since last, Woods Hole/ALDHA Gathering 16 days since last, Damascus only after 8 days since last, then another 19 days until the end)
Neros (15 miles or less): 15
Days hiking 1-10 miles: 7
Days hiking 10-20 miles: 24
Days hiking 20-30 miles: 56
Days hiking more than 30 miles: 12
Days I broke direction & slack-packed: 1 (21 miles NOBO through the Wildcats outside of Gorham, NH)
Mt. Everest’s (Effectively) Climbed: 16. The elevation change of the entire AT is 464,500 ft.
Most Elevation Gain in 1 day: 10,377 feet (day 14, distance 25 miles in southern ME)
Earliest start of a day: 05:30 am
Latest finish of a day: 9 pm
Miles and days by state:
ME (282 miles): 14.5 days
NH (161 miles): 10 days (1 zero)
VT (150 miles): 8 (1 nero/hurricane day)
MA (90 miles): 4.5 days
CT (51 miles): 3 days (1 nero/hurricane day)
NY (90 miles): 4 days
NJ (72 miles): 3 days
PA (230 miles): 10 days
MD (41 miles) & WV (4 miles): 4 days (2 neros & 1 zero)
VA (550 miles): 23 days (2 zeros), 26 mile average
TN / NC (389 miles): 16 days
GA (86 miles, including approach trail): 3 days
How I spent my nights:
Total nights in my tent (including stays near shelters and hostels): 49
Nights in my tent near a shelter: 8
Nights in my tent at a campground or hostel: 5
Nights in a shelter on trail: 28
Nights next to a stream or lake: at least 50%
Nights at a friend’s / trail angel’s house: 5
Nights in a hotel/motel: 9 (6 shared w/ other thru-hikers/relatives, 3 by myself including last 2 in Ellijay GA)
Nights in a hostel bunk: 13 (6 by donation)
Total nights indoors (not including shelters): 26
In summary, I spent about half my nights in my tent (as it should be), about 1/4 in shelters on trail and 1/4 in hotels/hostels/friend’s houses.
Solitude & Friends on the Trail: Contrary to most people’s experiences on the AT, I found a lot of solitude, either camping alone or with a small group of 1-2 for half my nights and also hiking by myself for over half the time. Even at the peak of the NOBO bubble, I was able to find solo tentsites easily in ME and NH. Hiker activity died down significantly starting in MA all the way through PA. Activity picked up again in MD & VA, due to the proximity to large population centers and favorable fall weather. It was sometimes very busy throughout TN, NC and GA and other times very quiet, just depending on the time of week and location. Overall I found the trail to be surprisingly peaceful and relatively uncrowded. I highly recommend a SOBO hike if seeking solitude!
Nights camping alone on trail: 18
Nights camping with only 1 or 2 others: 32
Days spent hiking with others: 39 (23 days hiking with Mud Lantern, 16 days hiking with Picky) Others I hiked with for a bit: Yoyo, Sofie, Jinx, Brian, Honeydew, Toejam, Tadpole, Grinder, Ethan, Emily & Gauge
Previous hiking friends met along the way: Smiles, Jetpack, Doubledown, & Smackdown (all thru-hiking NOBO), Cuba, Yoyo, Open, Sofie (the latter 4 all met with me to visit and provide trail magic). I caught up to Pinestick near the end, who I’d met at the CDT trail wedding near the Green River, WY in 2019.
Longest consecutive distance hiked alone: 290 miles from Katahdin to Gorham (aside for a few miles hiked with Tadpole south of Monson and day hikers summiting Katahdin). I also hiked about 400 miles of Virginia solo, relishing in the freedom of the trail in that section.
Most Crowded Experiences: Hostels in Monson, Stratton, Gorham & Mizpah/Nauman hut/tentsite in the Whites (all on account of the NOBO bubble), then 3 shelters that were overly full due to the fall season: Gooch Mountain Shelter (near Springer), Calf Mountain Shelter & Peck’s Corner Shelter (Shenandoah NP and GSMNP, respectively).
Most people passed in a day: Over 140, mostly day hikers, passed along Franconia Ridge
Favorite Mountain Tops & Views: Bigalows, Saddlebacks, Baldpates, Wildcat Mt, The Presidentials, Kinsmans, Mt Moosilauke, Greylock, Bear Mountain NY, Shenandoah, Cole Mountain, Grayson Highlands, Roan Highlands, Big Bald, Max Patch, Smokies, Standing Indian Mountain.
Most times I saw the same mountain: 6 days…Katahdin
Stops /Side trips: I made close to 50 side trips and/or walks straight through a town, either for an overnight stay, resupply or a quick meal. Some of these stops occurred in the same day. For instance, on my birthday I managed to hit a grocery store for breakfast and a restaurant for lunch and dinner, all while still walking 16 miles up and over the top of Mt Greylock!
Towns/resupply points visited, in order: Millinocket/AT Lodge, Abol Bridge general store, Monson/Shaws, Sterling Inn/Caritunk, Stratton/Maine Roadhouse, Rangely/Hiker Hut, Gorham, almost all the huts through the whites plus visitor’s center on top Mt Washington, Lincoln, Hanover, West Hartford, Rutland, Manchester Center, North Adams, Greylock Inn, Cheshire, Dalton, Cookie Lady place, Salisbury, Falls Village, Kent/New Milford, tons of delis in NY/NJ, Warwick, Unionville, Port Clinton, Duncannon, Boiling Springs, Pine Grove Furnace, Harpers Ferry/Washington DC, almost all the waysides and lodges in Shenandoah, Waynesboro, Lexington, Middle Creek Campstore, Daleville, Pearisburg/Woods Hole, Brushy Mt Outpost, I-85 gas stations, Hellbender Cafe, Damascus, Boots Off Hostel, Kincaid Hostel, Mt Harbor B&B at rt 19, Nolichucky Rafting camp outside Erwin, Hot Springs, Standing Bear Hostel, NOC/Donna’s cabin, Franklin, Ellijay.
Gear/Resupply Boxes sent: 5 (Manchester Center VT, Duncannon PA, (bounced extra food to Open’s house, Lexington VA), Woods Hole VA, NOC). These boxes were sent to restock/replace gear, vitamins and prescription meds. I didn’t really need to send boxes for food resupply, as there are plenty of options along the trail.
Longest food carry: 4.5 days through the 100 mile wilderness of ME. Most of the rest of the time I carried 2-3 days worth of food.
Longest I went without a shower: 8 days…all of NY through NJ (but I took daily dunkings in streams, ponds and lakes to help cool off and wash away the sweat and stink)
Precipitation on the trail: There were about 7 days where I hiked in rain for half the day and 14 days where I hiked in rain for only a few hours. There were another 8 days that I timed well by being in a shelter or in town while it rained buckets during the day and/or overnight. There were only 3 days where I put up with rain most all day, and for 2 of those I had a nice hot shower and dry roof over my head at the end of the day.
The longest stretch I went without rain was 24 days through all of PA, MD/WV, and half of VA (just before Daleville). It did rain twice during that stretch, once when I happened to be staying overnight in Duncannon and again while I took a zero in DC…so these instances didn’t really count. This is probably close to a record for no rain on the AT. Don’t worry, a whole lot of rain at the beginning and end of my thru-hike balanced things out.
There were 3 hurricane remnants in the time span of 2 weeks…Fred, Henri, Ida. The last was by far the worst. It dumped 6-8 inches on parts of NY, leaving the trail flooded for about a week. Luckily we arranged to stay in a hotel near New Milford CT the night Ida hit. The worst impact for us were the hordes of mosquitoes that sprang up through NY and NJ.
Campfires made: 0. However, I did share campfires made by others at 5 shelters and 3 hostels. The AT is much more conducive for campfires, given the smaller threat of wildfires on the East Coast and abundance of fire pits at shelters. All the same, I was too tired at the end of most days to make a fire and/or it was too hot.
Injuries: I was really blessed to be mostly injury-free on this thru-hike. My body did suffer the usual aches and pains and I also fell down more times than I ever have on any other trail (I didn’t fall once the entire 2700 miles of the PCT!). My knees were especially achy navigating the steep parts of ME and NH. Whenever my shoes were soaked, which was a lot in the beginning, my right big toe would hurt. Something about the weight and confining feeling of my wet shoes causes the joint to stiffen. This was mostly remedied with my massage ball. An infection from an ingrown toenail, exacerbated by walking in water after Hurricane Ida, also plagued me for a few days. And finally, I felt a weird pain in my butt for a few weeks after falling on a bog bridge in Vermud. I must have bruised my tailbone pretty badly.
Animals sighted: 3 bears (mom w/ 2 cubs), countless deer, 1 bobcat, 1 porcupine, loons, ruffed grouse, Spruce grouse, salamanders, red efts, toads, frogs, lizards, black rat snakes, garter snakes, 2 timber rattlesnakes (NJ & TN), billions of mosquitoes, only 1 tick on a friend’s leg, cows, chickens. A mouse got into my food bag one night in the Smokies, otherwise I had no negative animal encounters.
Times I Wished I Carried a Gun (or big knife or Bear Spray): 0. It’s all about the camo tent folks.
Hitches: due to all the trail angels and hostel shuttles available, I only found the need to stick out my thumb a handful of times. Many towns and side trips are along the trail or less than half a mile. The farther towns often have a hostel willing to shuttle hikers that are utilizing their services. Plus, most towns have a plethora of for-pay and for-donation shuttle drivers and trail angels. Slack-packing is often an option but one I didn’t look into save for one time.
Gear: See my beginning breakdown and list here. Starting (and ending) Baseweight: around 10 lbs. I switched out, added and got rid of some items along the way, but I pretty much stuck with all my same basic items, many of which have been carried on all my previous thru-hikes.
Heaviest Load carried: 15 lbs? Always less than 20 lbs for sure.
Shoes: 2 pairs of Altra Superiors. 1st pair: Katahdin to Duncannon, PA (over 1,050 miles); 2nd pair: Duncannon, PA to Amicalola Falls Visitor Center (about 1,150 miles) and I’m still wearing this pair for local walks
Least used item: PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)…carried the whole way, never used…but that’s a good thing.
Gear lost/failures: The AT was pretty hard on my gear (with the exception of my shoes)…mostly because so much of it already had seen so many miles and was ready to be retired. But also the rough terrain and humid/wet conditions seemed to bring about an end much faster. I began the hike with a sacrifice the very first day: the Katahdin winds ripped my fairly used merino buff right off my head, where it sailed into the abyss. Thankfully I was immediately gifted a spare and I easily replaced it by Gorham.
My Amicus Stove malfunctioned in southern ME and so I quickly ordered a new BRS for Gorham. Soto responded very generously and quickly in sending me a new stove but I decided to stick with the BRS out of convenience and simplicity…a BRS has never failed me.
I broke my first trekking pole (ever) during a hard fall in Vermont, then a second in TN. These poles had thousands of miles on them, so it wasn’t all that surprising. I was able to temporarily repair the poles with an aluminum sleeve and plan to keep using them as backups for hikes in CO. I broke down and purchased new poles when I got home.
My Therm-a-rest Neoair Uberlight had several places where the baffles came apart, eventually rendering the mattress too uncomfortable to sleep on, despite it still holding air. Therm-A-Rest was easy to work with to receive a replacement but for the last few weeks on trail, I went back to using my trusty women’s Neoair XLite for its warmth.
Lastly, my Six Moons Designs Silver Shadow Carbon umbrella bit the dust in southern VA (after 5000 miles of use). One of the stays broke at the hinge but I was still able to deploy it, albeit lopsidedly. Luckily the outfitter in Damascus had a exact replacement.
Other gear (mostly) destroyed through use by the end: my beloved Solplex tent (8 thru-hikes was enough), an Evernew water bladder (de-laminated near top), 1 pair of headphones, 2 pairs of Darn Tough socks (one pair was already very used), 1 pair of Smartwool PHD underwear, my Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca fleece has giant holes in the back…but I will probably keep using it, and my dress…which I will try to repair the holes with patches but large parts of it are worn pretty thin.
I will still be using my Solplex for shorter trips and as a backup. The canopy deflects rain perfectly fine, it’s just that the floor allows too much water to soak through. I will begin using my Zpacks Plexamid for my next thru-hike.
My Zpacks rain skirt is starting to delaminate and is not really waterproof anymore…I’ll probably relegate it to my spares collection.
The gear I was most happy with:
Katabatic Palisades quilt (30 degrees): it was warm enough for the entire thru-hike, even with temps dipping into the 30s in the last few weeks. It was overkill a lot of nights but so lightweight and pack-able that it was worth it.
Purple Rain Adventure Dress: the most perfect garment for the AT. see my review here
Waymark Thru- 40 Pack, review coming soon. This pack worked out great and I’m definitely considering it for upcoming thru-hikes. I can comfortably carry a fair amount of gear & food and it was the perfect pack for the AT.
My AppGearCo All-Paca fleece: I loved wearing this fleece for my thru-hike. Too bad it’s got some pretty big holes in the back from all the wear and tear…but I think I’ll squeeze another few hikes from it.
Lastly, it was great having an umbrella for all the rain, and even some sun!
Perhaps my most talked about item was my foam roller…not sure I would carry one again just because it’s so bulky and a pain to strap to the top of my pack all the time, but it was nice to have and a fun conversation piece.
I’ll be posting a story recognizing all the Trail Angels and Trail Magic on the AT, a summary of my Triple Crown stats, and an update of my plans for 2022 in weeks to come. Thanks for following!