Reasons to hike the Appalachian Trail

I’m a grown ass man, and I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail starting March 9, 2014.

Some ask why?

‘Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your soul.  Go quietly, go alone; no harm will befall you’  -John Muir

This is in some ways a childhood dream of mine that I viewed as being on the cusp of reachable.  I grew up hiking in the White Mountains with my Family, mostly my Father.  What an influence he has been!  I started backpacking as young as 7 years old, not carrying most of the weight of course, what a punk I was.  I have always been inspired by the raw beauty of the wilderness.  The smell of the forest, the cool mountain air, the beautiful streams and waterfalls are awe inspiring.

I was 14 when I got sent away on a 2 week Outward Bound program in Maine, backpacking and canoeing, somewhere around Rangeley.  A couple years later I embarked on another Outward Bound program, this time in the humbling Colorado Rockies, for 28 days.  This was pure backpacking.  We summited some 12’s, a couple 13’s and a beautiful 14,000 ft mountain called Mt. Snowmass.  I learned to love the outdoors!  A couple years later I moved to Phoenix and have been here since (11 years now.. time flies), building the yearning to get back out into the woods, and set myself free again.  Plus, I’ve always wanted to grow a beard for 6 months.

It might be the 110 degree summers, the desert landscape, the urban environment, the fact that I am one of those people who are not in a career that they love, or just watching time pass for 11 years wondering when I will get out of AZ, but I am READY!   Everything culminated into a perfect storm, allowing me some freedom with my use of time, and I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail (as much of it as I can).

I’ve decided (like most goals I set) to write a list of why I want to accomplish this goal.  I find this an easy way to reinvigorate myself when the going gets tough, and I lose the excitement I first had.  So without further ado…

Things I am stoked about;

-BEARS!  Image

-Growing a badass beard.

-Waking up in the wilderness.

-Taking work off for 6 months (I am seriously going to do that?).

-Answering to myself, and making up my own schedule each day.

-Being in the best shape of my life.  Adventure.  Image

-Storms that scare the sh*t out of me.

-Incredible views.

-Meeting new best friends.

-Whiskey (I have heard this is a staple among hikers).

-Walking 2000 miles (not the walking part, but the ability to tell people).

-Serenity.

-How amazing everything seems after such deprivation (food, a couch, shelter, all these simple pleasures get lost on us).

-Freedom.

-Being back on the east coast.

-Rain (I WILL regret this, but it can go 120-160 days here in AZ without raining, I miss it).

-Hiking with my parents again (you guys are coming for part of it, like it or not).

-Hiking in the Smokey Mountains Image(“the finest mixed mesophytic forest in the world.”.. The Smokies have 1,500 types of wild flowers, a thousand varieties of shrubs, 530 mosses and lichen and 2,000 types of fungi. They are home to 130 native tree species; whereas all of Europe has 85), Shanendoahs, White Mountains.

-Experiencing the Deliverance­like creep of Hiawassee, Ga.

-I want to check out the Sunrise at Clingmans Dome.

-Waterfalls.

-The half-gallon challenge.  Upon reaching (near) the halfway point, there is an ice cream store, and a challenge.  Pick your flavor and murder a 1/2 gallon of ice cream.  By this point, you have deserved it!   Image

-100 mile wilderness.

Things I am nervous about – Everything!

For an interesting post-thruhike point of view from a 2013 thru-hiker, one of the bloggers I was following this year, visit

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Stoves for a thru-hike

As I collect gear for my upcoming trip, I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of stove to bring into the wilderness.  I have visited various forums, seen arguments for and against all kinds of stoves, even as to not bring one.  However, as I seek adventure, I still remain a coffee drinker, hot tea drinker, and I enjoy the sh*t out of hot food from time to time..  I will be bringing a stove.  From what I read, I decided to buy a Snow Peak Giga Power.  http://www.snowpeak.com/stoves/backpacking/gigapower-auto-stove-gs-100a.html.  Weighing in at 3.75 oz.  (Fuel canister 8 oz.) I have used it on camping trips already and have not been disappointed.  I purchased a mini solo titanium cook set to go with it.  (Another 5.5 oz).  Mass really starts to add up!

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Because of the weight/cost of the fuel canisters (5 oz. roughly when empty) I have been thinking about switching to an alcohol stove.  I have read some blogs of people that have successfully thru hiked with alcohol stoves, and talked with the owner of Lower Gear (also an alcohol advocate).  A past thru-hiker I emailed responded with this message.

“I loved my alcohol stove (fancy feast can). It worked very well, was very light, and very cheap. I used about 1oz of denatured alcohol per meal and I never had difficulty finding denatured alcohol for sale. The fuel costed roughly 20 cents/oz or as much as 35 cents/oz, but many times it was free. I carried a child-proof bottle to seal the fuel inside and carried about 10-15 oz of fuel at a time. (You can carry much less to save weight, but a few ounces of extra fuel will never be regretful.)  You can make your own cat food stove (google the DIY instructions), or you can purchase one online. I think of all my gear, this was the one thing that performed best for the least amount of money.” -Rayo

The alcohol you need to purchase seems to be cheap, and readily available in almost every trail town.  You can carry exactly how much you need in a small plastic container with a lid.  Now I am just thinking out loud here.

I may just end up starting the hike with the Giga Power, (very happy with it’s efficiency).  And I MAY get talked into an alcohol stove at some point.  I am not opposed to feedback (in fact, I love it).  I am trying to go light.  I just wanted to post my ideas as to what I will be taking this upcoming March.

Thoughts welcome,

Will.

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