In an attempt to reconnect with the country that I grew up in after a long time abroad I went to meet up with some friends on the Appalachian Trail. My friends Robbie (Below Middle) and Russell (Below Right) have hike over 1200 miles thus far down from Maine while en route to the finish in Georgia.
After spending a 80 miles of terrain with these two mountain men I realize why one would set out on such a journey. Much like my lust for discovering new countries these two pound out miles just as I attempt to add countries to my list, but that is not the only reason one does it.
By pushing one's body past the regular day-to-day routine can only be classified as spartan. The last 3 days of my adventure with these two consisted of 3 days of 20 miles of hiking mountainous and rocky terrain. Needless to say it was all I expected it to be and so much more. The climbs never seemed to end and a simple misstep could injure your ankle, foot, or knee with ease. That being said even the slightest injury could throw off you stride and lead to problems elsewhere.
Luckily for these through-hikers friends and family regularly come and get them off the trail (and drop them off to continue at the exact location of departure) and give them evening or daylong excursions that include copious amounts of food and often some beverages that ease the pain.
The picture below really encapsulates what it is all about. The trail gives one little rest but does give a true sense of accomplishment when one can look out over his surroundings and take it all in.
Also there is the addition of some truly great beard growing opportunities. Granted there are also females on the trail who I am sure compensate with some leg hair of epic lengths. I actually encountered a couple who were doing the entire hike for their honeymoon.
As for the packs that are carried along the trail they range from ultralight to quite heavy. My pack came in about 27 pounds with water (light by through hiker standards) while Robbie and Russell's both came in near or above 40 pounds.
Wildlife is also abundant on the trail. I saw a few snakes, a black bear, and a small mountain lion (or a bobcat) the verdict is still out while on the trail.
There are also huts to stay at in some areas, but these can also be a problematic if problem animals find them. All food has to be hung up away from shelters to keep it away from sleeping hikers in case bears try to find it. Rats living in and around the shelters can also raid the sleeping area and steal stuff. Russell managed to pick this one off with a rock. In his defense the log left at the shelter had numerous reports of it eating through packs and stealing stuff. (For reference it was as large as a nerf football).
The camaraderie on the trail will be remembered for a lifetime. Below is Robbie and Russell and their friend Crash who is also on the same journey.
Not to be left out I also wanted to show off my beard.
Speaking of Crash the issue of trail names should be addressed. Through Hikers are given a trail name by his/her peers. It normally comes organically and comes with a story. Robbie goes by Tumbleweed due to his tendency of falling on a regular basis early on in the adventure and Russell goes by Fisherman's Friend due to his early fits of coughing on the trail. I was given the honorary name of "No Deal" by the guys but that is a story for another time. Looking at the picture below you could see why I might think that Robbie's name be Woodland Ninja.
I don't have any pictures of the truly hard terrain because the thought of taking my camera out or even carrying it in my pocket was an epic chore at those times so I instead have a picture of one of the few easy moments of my adventure.
By the time I was leaving my feet were falling apart and yet I had just completed another 20 miles with a lot of bandages on them. This sign alone came within a mile of the end of my adventure and I was happy to see it, although reluctant to leave.
As for the guys, (Crash, Tumbleweed, and Fisherman's Friend) they were left in a small nearby hotel by my father nearby the trail for one of the rare nights of luxury they will have. Granted it is only luxury for a short time because hours later they would ultimately be hitchhiking back to the spot they departed the trail to continue the long walk to Georgia.
Enjoy the trail guys and I might see you again once my feet heal,