My husband and I just returned from our first section hike on the AT. We've hiked before but not for this amount of time. Our initial plan had us starting at the NH/VT line in Hanover and ending at the VT-103. We would hike for 5 days then take one overnight at the Inn at Long Trail then hike another 4 days. Our actual hike included a 4 day hike, 2 nights stay at the Inn at Long Trail another 2 day hike and another 2 nights stay at the Inn at Long Trail. I researched and planned (and had two back up plans) for this section hike for a year. We spent more money than I want to mention on gear,
travel, etc. I read and re-read advice on this site and others and we only followed some of that advice. So what happened? Here is what we learned...
1. We are slower than everyone else on the trail. See #2 for pack weight. But even when we lightened our packs we were a lot slower than everyone else. Once we remembered the phrase Hike your own Hike we were able to relax and enjoy. You will see everyone from runners, day hikers, thru hikers, section hikers etc. on the trail. Some will be faster than you, most will go farther per day than you but none will be slower than my husband and I !!
2. Pack Weight: Okay everyone said it was the most important thing...I am here to say it is the absolutely most important thing to enjoying your hike. It's not easy. I looked at everything (*which I considered the bare minimum that I would need) and thought okay 38 pounds (after adding all food and clothes) for me shouldn't be bad...46 for my husband...not ideal but we could do it. We were dead wrong. We were carrying 9 days of food, 2 changes of clothes and other items (do a search for my name on this page and you will see my gear list and pics) it was just too much. Within 4 days we were laying out everything in our packs to find stuff to ship home.
3. Food: If you are going for multiple days find a place to ship part of your food for pick up. I was worried I would run out of food...I thought I would be starving every day. I was wrong. There was even a stormy day/night that we didn't even eat dinner we were just too exhausted and passed out. I could not wait to get to the Inn and get rid of some of our food. We dropped about 5 pounds of food total as soon as we got to the Inn.
4. Gear: We bought ENO hammocks and brought a tarp to cover us both. My ENO had a built in bug net and my husband got the doublenest. We tried them out before we left and loved them. 2 days into the trail we both started pointing out the negatives. I'm cloustrophobic so if my bug net line wasn't raised high enough part of the net would fall into my face causing me to have an "episode" . We never could get our hammocks perfectly set up. Our feet or head would be too high, distances between trees is huge. When raining we needed the perfect set of trees to allow us to both lay under the tarp (which worked great when we needed it). I would use the ENO again as a hang out chair at camp or maybe a one night sleeping need...I would personally want a tent for longer trips.
5. Even with Two people it can get lonely: We both said we don't know how the thru hikers do it. We didn't go shelter to shelter each day sometimes we were just in the woods beside the trail. We only had one shelter that we stayed at with other hikers overnight. The Cooper Lodge shelter on top of Killington was empty, spooky and very lonely. We slept near the tent platforms and had an extremely windy and cold night so maybe that is part of the spooky/lonely review.
6. Trail Angels are AMAZING and made our trip: When we decided to get off the trail for a day or
two we were able to catch rides with some of the most interesting and amazing people. Some even gave us tours and told us the history of the areas we were visiting. I can talk to just about anyone (much to my husband's dismay at times) so I couldn't wait to hear more and more from each. Young and old, trucks and small cars, everyone that picked us up was either a hiker or a former hiker with many stories to tell from their experiences.
7. The Inn at Long Trail is a must stop even if it is just for a minute. You won't regret it. My review of this amazing home is too long to include but we loved it. Every minute, every person, every story and every drink/meal we had there.
8. We cannot wait to return. Even though I was most likely the driving force for why we got off the trail earlier than expected I cannot wait to return. My husband laughed at me last night (just 3 days after returning home) as I said I think the next section we should hike is....He said you are missing the trail already? I said...it's all I can think about.
~K-Bar and Loops~