Never Have I Ever… Hiked the Appalachian Trail

I love the outdoors and always have. I was a competitive horseback rider for years and spent my summers floating around the Suwannee River in North Florida. Today, I love gardening, running and being in the fresh air. However, I married a true outdoor adventurer who has caved, hiked, climbed and boated his way all over the country.

When I mentioned to him that tackling a small portion of the Appalachian Trail would be fun, considering I have never even set foot on it, he was full of ideas and tips I thought we could share with you. The Appalachian Trail is over 2000 miles in length and traverses 14 states.

We will wait until fall for our personal trek, but you can never start planning too soon. So, if the A.T. has seemed fun but a little intimidating for you, here are some tips for your first hike:

1. Do a little research. Many resources and helpful vlogs can help you plan your first hike. If you are a hiking beginner, we recommend Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods. It is an oldie but a goodie and an excellent read for anyone interested in thru-hiking, even though we are primarily addressing day or section hiking. An app can also be helpful, and we suggest you check out “FarOut” to access maps and information vital to your success on the trail.

2. Take it easy at first. The A.T. is a challenging trail, so it’s important to start with a route that matches your physical capabilities. Consider the weather forecast when choosing your gear (shoes, layers, pack, etc.) to make your hike more comfortable. Once you’ve built up some stamina with shorter hikes, you can gradually increase your distance.

3. Don’t forget to pack the essentials: nutrient-rich food, plenty of water and some extra cash for emergencies. Remember, you’ll be burning more calories than usual, so plan to snack a bit more than you normally would.

4. Learn and explore the principles of Leave No Trace and familiarize yourself with the correct practices for encountering wildlife. Protecting and preserving the trail is paramount; you must minimize your environmental impact.

5. Recruit a knowledgeable partner when possible. It is okay to be a total newbie and need assistance. The fun in this adventure starts with planning and ends with a safe and successful hike, no matter the distance.

The bottom line for me is simplicity. Starting out small, getting a feel for the trail and testing out my own stamina on shorter distances. If an off-grid kind of experience is calling your name, maybe it is time to try something new. We all know that we grow when we venture out of our comfort zones.