The "hiking" part of the blog

Aside from information security, another passion of mine is hiking and backpacking. Lately I made a trip up to Vermont and spent an overnight on the Appalachian Trail. For those that are heads-down in tech, come on up for a second or two and let me introduce you to something huge and beautiful.

About the AT

The Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail (mostly called simply “AT”) is a 2100+ mile-long trail that travels from Springer Mountain in Georgia up the Appalachian Mountains to Katahdin in Maine. Below is an excerpt from the AT Conservancy site:

“The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine. 

Known as the “A.T.,” it has been estimated that 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life.

The A.T. was completed in 1937 and is a unit of the National Park System. The A.T. is managed under a unique partnership between the public and private sectors that includes, among others, the National Park Service (NPS), the USDA Forest Service (USFS), an array of state agencies, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs.”

The AT and Me

Over the past few years, I’ve walked a very small bit of the AT, spoken with “through hikers” (those walking the entire length of the AT in one continuous journey), and received a large number of bug bites while gazing off into views like the ones you see here.

This is me on the AT on Mount Cube in NH

To date, I’ve walked all of the Maryland and West Virginia sections of the trail (might sound impressive but those are the easiest sections and only account for about 45 miles of the trail), walked all of the Northern Virginia sections and look forward to visiting other sections that present much different views of the eastern United States.

I just got back from a single overnight on the trail. I wanted to get a different feel for the path other than what I’ve experienced in the Mid-Atlantic region. Working with some friends in Vermont, my family and I ventured up north and stayed a single overnight on the AT.

A Quick Vermont Trip

Thistle Hill Shelter in Windsor, VT

My friends and family decided to camp at Thistle Hill Shelter (pictured at right) and walk towards West Hartford, VT. A little background
here: to support hikers on the trail, there are shelters (usually 3-sided structures with roofs) and privies (out-houses) scattered about every 8-15 miles on the trail. Through-hikers and others can save-weight in their backpacks by leaving their tents at home and planning on staying in the shelters. There are pros (save weight in your pack) and cons (snoring of others, mice, bugs…) to staying the night in the shelters. They are very welcome sites in the rain.

So we got on the trail near the shelter and quickly set up camp. We gathered with other hikers that were at the shelter and talked about the trail, the weather, where each had come from and where we were headed. Teeth were brushed and the privy was visited. Time for sleep.

Morning Sun through the Trees

Transitioning from sleeping in a comfy bed in a house to a sleeping bag in a backpacking tent can be a rough one. I never sleep well the first night out on the trail and, unfortunately, due to time constraints I only had one night for this trip. I always look forward to the brilliant sunshine coming through the trees in the morning. In the morning on this day, there was a cool breeze and brilliant sun. Perfect hiking weather.

Happy Hill Shelter, West Hartford, VT

Breakfast was cooked and eaten and packs were re-packed for the 12 mile hike we had before us. Planning trips on the AT is something I love doing. There are so many resources from the AT Conservancy’s Interactive Map to real, waterproof maps and books; it is easy. Our route would take us down from Thistle Hill’s 1954 feet above sea level to West Hartford, VT at 397 feet and then back up to Happy Hill shelter at 1426 feet.

The mosquitoes were voracious and ate us up while we walked. Wild blackberries and blueberries lined the sides of our trail during many of the sections of our hike. A great midway stopping point for us was the West Hartford Village store. We sat at the picnic tables they provided and enjoyed some cold drinks before venturing up the trail to the Happy Hill shelter and the end of our trip. This is typical of the AT. All along the trail are “Trail Towns” and shops set up to help hikers resupply and meet their other needs. An average through-hike of the AT could take 4-7 months. People need to charge cell phones, do laundry, shower, get medical attention, buy food, and do other “normal” things during their trips. These towns and shops are hiker-friendly and extremely important for hiker-health and hiker-morale. Knowing that tomorrow’s lunch could be egg salad with ice tea and 3 Snickers bars can make a 5 mile trip go quickly.

Resting My Feet

We got back on the trail and the day passed quickly. After a short stop at the Happy Hill shelter, our hike was at an end. We reluctantly left the AT and went back to our friend’s home, kicked up our feet and enjoyed a little rest before moving on.

Hiking and backpacking are great exercise and help renew my spirit. They help me put things in perspective and relax. Thanks for letting me share a little bit of my trip with you.

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