I grew up along the Appalachian Trail, and as a child I remember my Aunt and Uncle taking long hikes, and coming home to tell me the tales of those journeys. They were also great photographers, and images of them gazing out over hazy mountain ranges, and standing in front of gushing mountain falls could be found throughout my grandmother’s house. My aunt even kept a pair of her leather hiking boots up in the closet of the front bedroom, and I would sneak up there constantly to crack the closet door and gaze in longingly at those magical boots.
In college I yearned to thru-hike the whole trail, and became obsessed with hiking as much of it as I could on the weekends. I even had a Freshman year roommate that had the same obsession, and we would often find ourselves wandering different trails throughout the Carolinas on the weekends. She went on to graduate college in a reasonable amount of time, and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail long before I had the opportunity. But finally I was able to go on my first southbound long distance hike in 1998, returning to do a thru-hike northbound in 2005, and again take a long hike south in 2013.
The Appalachian Trail is approximately 2,190 miles long, but this changes a little every year, due to maintenance, reroutes, etc., so I usually just tell people it is approximately 2,200 miles long, starting in Georgia and ending in Maine. I won’t go into the technical definition (yawn) of this National Scenic Trail, but just tell you that it is probably one of the toughest, physically, of the long distance trails. It may not be the longest of what are commonly referred to as the “Big 3,” but traveling up an over those constant ridgelines, as opposed to walking along them on the Pacific Crest Trail, is definitely an unforgiving workout.
No matter whether you start north or south, this trail will kick your fanny in the beginning, if asked to pick a direction, I always, without a pause, say southbound. I like smaller crowds, completing Maine and New Hampshire in the dead of summer (I like to start in August), and walking with fall is breathtaking in the Appalachians. I’m not anti-social, there are a lot of benefits to hiking solo. I would even suggest that hiking solo allows you to experience more meaningful human interactions with people you meet both on and off the trail.
A blog from my last AT section hike is here on this site, and I’ve also taken a little time to describe some of my favorite towns and locations along the trail. I’ll also provide my own updates for these towns, on my pages, including the following states.