Appalachian Trail Jindo

A 2,200 mile hike with my dog Nara.

There were many reasons I thru-hiked the AT. But to put it simply, a sense of adventure as well as doing something out of my comfort zone.

2-3 Million people visit the trail, but only 1,800-2000 attempt a thru-hike. A thru-hike is hiking the entire 2,180 miles in one trip. Most thru-hikers begin in Georgia, but I will travel south-bound in the opposite direction. Approximately 1 in 4 thru-hikers complete the entire trail.

I've heard faster hikers walk the entire Appalachian Trail in 100 days. That would be 20+ miles per day without any rest days! Since I'm bringing Nara, I'm not going to push for such an aggressive pace. Most successful thru-hikers generally complete their hike in 5-7 months.

I'm not sure what I'll be eating later, but my starting menu will look something like this:

Breakfast: oatmeal, dried berries, poptarts, coffee

Lunch: beef jerky, dried fruit, dried squid, candy bars, cheese, chocolate

Dinner: chicken or tuna, mashed potatoes, pasta side or quinoa all mixed together

Most days I will be sleeping in a 2-person tent with Nara. The Appalachian trail has a network of 3-sided shelters spread out about every 10 miles, which are first come first serve. Shelters are built and maintained by trail clubs in every State, so a big thank you to all the volunteers. If vacant or not crowded, I will stay at shelters. I'm going to try and limit my time in towns, but every few weeks, I will likely be staying in motels/hostels from time to time to wash up, recuperate, and to take a break from the woods.

Nara does well on weekend hikes, but we'll see how she does after a few weeks on the trail.

Update (Aug-27,2013):

During our first week in Maine, she did not eat much and lost a lot of weight. When we reached Monson, ME, just outside of the 100 mile wilderness, many hikers said she looked pretty bad (so skinny you could see her ribs). But after reaching Harper's Ferry, WV, I'm happy to report that Nara regained her weight and is doing great on the trail. Her paws are also doing well after hiking across Pennsylvania's notorious rocks.

Update (Nov-30,2013):

Nara completed our thru-hike looking like she was ready for another 2,200 miles. Fortunately, we're back home, and she is also enjoying climate-controlled dwellings and a much more easygoing lifestyle.

I rented a one-way car from Virginia to Maine. The car company has a pet-freindly policy. Buses don't allow dogs, and if I flew, Nara would have to ride in cargo, so the car rental seemed like the best option at the time.
  • Maine and New Hampshire are the hardest states, and I didn't want to worry about how Nara would do in those sections. I wanted to hike the hardest sections at the beginning rather than worrying about it for most of the hike.
  • I'd never been to northeast and wanted to experience the remoteness and wilderness of Maine.
  • My lease ended May 31, which set us up better for a south-bound attempt.

Not everyone needs to thru-hike to enjoy backpacking. What's important is just getting out there. Best thing to do is start gradually. Start with a day hike. When you feel comfortable, go for an overnighter with a friend. Next step would be a multi-day hike. You will learn as you go. Check out my links page to get started.

  • Motels/Hostels: Prior to walking or hitch hiking into towns, I'd always check my guide to see if there were pet-friendy motels/hostels. Sometimes the guide was not always up-to-date, so another good website to search is BringFido.
  • Restaraunts: Since Nara and I were usually by ourselves, I'd first try to find outdoor seating, take-out, or fast food. Otherwise, I'd usually be able to find trees (with good shade) nearby, where I'd leash her with a bowl of water.
  • Grocery Stores: same as restaraunts.

I found it relatively easy to find rides into and out of towns. My longest wait was maybe around 30-40 minutes and that was on a sparsley travelled road. There are a lot of dog-lovers and friendly locals with pickup trucks.

This was a question and answer posted on Appalachian trails subreddit. H/T to user dahvzombie for permission to reprint.

  • Take fewer pictures of scenery and more pictures of people.
  • If your knees start bugging you, slow down, especially in the beginning. I was damn near crippled by trying to push too hard.
  • Always accept trail magic, slack packs, side trips that you are even remotely interested in.
  • Unless the weather is bad, don't stay in motels/hotels. They'll drain your cash really quick and there's generally good tent sites just before or after towns.
  • Pairs seem to have the easiest time hitchhiking. Make sure your bag and poles are readily visible so it's obvious you're a hiker.
  • Nero in, nero out is much cheaper than a zero.