Monday, February 18, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

Hey everybody!  Sorry I’ve been MIA for a little while – I’ve been kind of busy getting my life in order before March 16th…and by that I mean I’ve taken two trips down to my college town to get drunk with my friends.  Well, that’s not the only reason I went.  I’ve actually been procrastinating moving out of my college house since I graduated this past December.  Oops!  I sure am going to miss that house.  It’s been my home for the past 3 ½ years.  It truly is amazing how much crap one can accumulate in that amount of time.  Let’s just say I was quite settled in there.  And then I had to take all my stuff from college and cram it into my childhood bedroom!  That was quite a task.  This consolidation process made me realize that I’m a bit of a hoarder.  I felt even worse about myself when I compared all these possessions to the tiny little rucksack I will be taking along with me on my AT adventure.  Perspective.  It’s happening already and I haven’t even started hiking yet.  Anyways!  I’m rambling on while I have promises to keep!  You guys don’t care what I’ve been doing, you care about the AT.  Listed below are some of the most common questions I have been asked about my trip:

What is the Appalachian Trail (AT)?
                One day I was telling a fellow engineering student about my plans after graduation and he had no idea what the Appalachian Trail even was!  Get out from behind your computer, bro.  But then I realized that if you don’t like hiking, or you live in one of the 36 states that the AT doesn't touch, you may have never heard of it.  Well, the AT is a very well marked footpath that leads from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katadhin, Maine.  The length of the trail varies from year to year, but hangs around the 2,175 mile mark.  This year, the official trail length is 2,185 miles.

How long will the trip take?  How many miles will you walk per day?
                Just ball parking it, I’m going to guess around 6 months –hopefully a little less.  The amount of miles we put in per day really depends on the terrain of the area.  I’m not going to be walking nearly as fast in the White Mountains of New Hampshire as I will be in the rolling cow pastures of Virginia.  That isn’t a very satisfying answer though, so here:  2185mi/180days = 12.14 mi/day.  Boom.  No need to check da math.  I’m an engineer.

How much will the trip cost?
                It really depends on the person and how much time you spend at hotels and restaurants.  The typical range is between 3,000 – 5,000 dollars.  I hope to end up around $4,000.

What all are you taking with you?
                That is a question I will answer extensively in my gear list post.  I can tell you that my gear (everyone’s gear really) breaks down in to 3 categories: sleeping, cooking, and clothes.  My base weight (the weight of all my gear minus the weight of food, water, and stove fuel) is 17 pounds.  With 6 days of food, my fully loaded pack will be around 35 lbs.

 How will you get food? 
                No, I do not know edible plants of the east coast of the United States.  No, I am not going to learn them.  I’m not Bear Grylls and this is not Man vs Wild.  There are two main ways thru-hikers acquire food.  The first way is by getting prepackaged food boxes shipped to you.  This way is nice because you can dehydrate and prepare your own meals. However, it is very difficult to map out your entire trip before you go.  Your food intake may change.  You may have overestimated how fast you would be walking.  You may have grown sick of all the food you thought you liked 4 months ago.  Plus, you have to pay to ship all these packages to yourself.  The second way is by shopping at grocery stores as you go.  In my opinion, the second method is the best option.  I’m choosing this method because it doesn't take as much planning and allows for much more flexibility.  As an added bonus, I don’t have to burden anyone by asking them to mail me packages every 5-7 days for 6 months.  

What kind of food will you eat?
                The most calorie packed foods with the lowest possible weight. basically, a bunch of junk food.  A typical day on the trail would consist of oatmeal and pop tarts for breakfast, peanut butter wraps for lunch, and Lipton instant pasta for dinner.  Throw in a ton of trail mix, snicker bars, and Gatorade powder and you've basically got it.  I’ll interchange some nutella and couscous for variety.  My time in town is a different story.  Although I am sure most times I will pick quantity over quality (all you can eat buffets for the win!), I still have to try and fuel my body.  I am going to do my best to consume as many fruits and leafy vegetables as I can while I can.

How much food will you carry?
                A good rule of thumb is to carry 1.5-2 lbs of food per day.  Past 2 pounds, it becomes a vicious circle. The more weight you carry, the more calories you burn > the more calories you burn, the more food you need > the more food you need, the more weight you carry.  Yes, I am EXTREMELY worried about weight loss on this trip.  In all my research, it seems most thru hikers lose between 15 to 30 pounds.  If you know me at all, you know that I do not have 15 to 30 pounds of weight to lose.  Should be interesting.

How are you getting back?
                I honestly don’t know.  Turn around and walk?  Hope not.

Well, that’s a ton of reading for you, so until next time!


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