Note: This page is a bit of a time capsule. Except for this paragraph, it's content has not changed since the late 1990s, and no major edits occurred after 1997. Yes, there was a Web then and this is what it (and I) looked like. --Dan
Springer Mtn., Ga.
Pa. Hwy. 34
Pa. Hwy. 34
Mt. Katahdin, Maine
I hiked every mile of the Appalachian Trail over the course of two
summers. This site is mostly a collection of details that may help
others attempting long-distance hikes on the AT. I don't necessarily
recommend anything -- all I can tell you is "this is how I did it
and here's why."
The Web has plenty of general information on the Appalachian Trail and
long-distance hiking. I have repeated almost none of this very useful
information. Kathy Bilton's
Appalachian Trial Homepage is a great place to find links to other
relevant sites. Wingfoot's
Trailplace aims to be an information clearinghouse about
long-distance hiking. I believe strongly that Wingfoot's work
(specifically his planning guide and handbook) made my hike much more
successful and enjoyable.
Things to see here:
I don't do a very good job of explaining what the journey meant to me. The best I can do is the little speech I delivered to my relatives at Katahdin Stream Campground after completing the Trail. The transcript follows:
I did it. After 153 days split over 2 summers, after mountains and valleys and rocks and storms, after hostels and hitchhikes and convenience stores, after a million little adventures, I have hiked the Appalachian Trial from Georgia to Maine. So now, before I rush off to shave my beard, eat a cheeseburger, and return to being a student, I suppose I ought to have something to say.
I will try somehow to encapsulate the meaning of this great journey in just a few words, but this is a job best left to a poet. I am certainly not one, so my attempts to describe my hike are mostly quick retreats to clichßs: "It was a dream come true" or "I just took it one step at a time" or "You can do anything if you set your mind to it." But because we have heard these phrases so many times, they fail to capture the sincerity with which I say them. All I can tell you is that when I stood at that sign at the end and looked back to the South, I could see back over the ponds of Maine, back over the White Mountains, and the Green Mountains, over Southern New England and the ridges of the mid-Atlantics, the rocks of Pennsylvania, the Shenandoahs and the Blue Ridge, Virginia's endless hills, the hot days over the balds of the South, over the early mountains of Georgia, and I could see over all the towns - Monson, Hanover, Duncannon, Harper's Ferry, Damascus, Hot Springs to name just a few, and I could see passed all of the thousands of white blazes that mark a continuous footpath from Springer Mountain, Ga. And there on that distant Georgian peak I saw myself standing there on June 2, 1996 knowing that if I could follow that Trail for 2160 miles, then I would be standing where I am today. I did it.
But I certainly did not do it alone. I relied on countless strangers and a few familiar faces along the way who drove me, fed me, and gave me a place to sleep. I relied on thousands of volunteers who maintain the Trail for no personal gain. I relied on dozens of gear manufacturers who used the latest technology to sell me something a little bit lighter that would last a little bit longer. And most importantly, I relied on Mom and Dad, who not only gave me flawless logistical support, but who also gave me far more encouragement than parents probably should give a kid who intends to spend 22 weeks walking a Trail. Yet while I am truly appreciative of everyone who has made my journey a success, at the end of every day it was my feet, my head, and my pack that had covered the miles. I did it.
And it was a beautiful, trying, wondrous trip I can never forget. But I must move on. Let's go home.