We find ourselves pouring over a map at our dining room table, calculating daily miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia. To be honest we don't know how we got to this point: with 8 weeks of leave in hand, planning a 30 day section hike on the Appalachian Trail and calculating distances – in miles.
We’ve both known about the Appalachian Mountains for a while and have seen pictures of the autumn foliage. We’ve both read ‘A walk in the woods’ where Bill Bryson makes short work of the 3540 kilometre Appalachian Trail. We’ve both dreamt about hiking the Great Smoky Mountains one day. We never thought it would be realised, but somehow we’ve gone from daydreaming to shopping for bear mace online.
In 5 days we start the first leg of our 460 kilometre section hike on the Appalachian Trail. We hope to cover our planned section hike within 30 days. The first 19 days will take us from Springer Mountain in Georgia, the starting point of the trail, to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee.
Our trek will take us along the Appalachian escarpment, which is for the most part covered in Old-growth forest. These ancient woods are made up of tall trees and course woody debris that cover the forest floor below thick canopies with only a few gaps here and there from the deaths of individual trees. Oh, and bears.
The following 11 days we will be hiking a 170 kilometre stretch through the length of the Shenandoah National Park. The park forms part of long thin strip of protected woodland running through the state of Virginia.
Having walked and camped for a full month, we will break trail to do some sightseeing in New York and enjoy all the comforts of a hot shower and warm bed. We will then drive up through New Hampshire to spend the last week of our trip on an island in Maine, just off the Eastern seaboard, called Mount Desert Island. The vast majority of this island makes up Acadia National Park, with an abundance of trails covering an unusual mix of mountains, woodlands, shoreline, freshwater lakes and, yes, more bears.
In three days time we will board a plane to Atlanta, USA. Traveling to a whole other continent to stay in a tiny tent and cook noodles on a gas stove in the forest. Are we ready? Well, we have watched ALL the YouTube videos on ‘bear defense’. We have re-packed our backpacks more than a few times, each time discovering something else we can leave behind. We have a ‘to-do’ list longer than the time we have left and we are solidly buying into the Appalachian folklore that ‘the best way to train for the second half of the trail is by hiking the first half’.
Naturally there isn’t great reception in any of the areas we intend to visit. In fact, cellphones are one of the many reasons we’re running for the hills. But, we love Instagram more than we like to admit, #guiltyascharged, and will post updates whenever we get the chance.
You can follow our Appalachian adventure here. Feel free to send us some words of encouragement from time to time.
A trough-hike of the entire trail is a feat reserved for the unemployed. Unfortunately, we don't have seven months. We do however feel incredibly fortunate to have two months. To have two tickets with our names on them. To have two back packs(that still need to be packed). To have each other as company.