Saturday, November 15, 2008

AT: Conclusion

The long green tunnel in summer
What do I think of the AT now? In the end it was a good hike, although I almost hated it in the beginning. But that was mostly my own fault. I was worried about my low mileage in the New England States and did not realise that the terrain and hiking would gradually get easier. And when that happened (roughly after Mount Moosilauke)  I started having a good time and really enjoyed the AT in the end. But still: I will probably not rehike it in the near future, although I would definitely rehike the PCT or especially the CDT. If I had to do it again, I would go northbound starting very late, like in early May.

The AT was a pleasant hike, but it is not as spectacular as the PCT or CDT. It isn't called "long green tunnel" for nothing. You have more spectacular views in a week on the PCT or CDT than in a 5 month long thruhike of the AT. And if there is a view it something so special that it even gets a signpost... It did not really bother me because I just want to be outside and I don't mind seeing forest all the time. The logistics are easy, so all you have to do is walk. There is not much real danger: You are always in tree cover, so exposure and thunderstorms are not an issue. I did not even get much of a sun tan.

... in fall
The biggest disappointment were probably my fellow hikers. On both PCT and CDT I had met so many interesting people - I can hardly think of any hiker I disliked. On the AT I spent a lot of time trying to avoid other hikers. There were too many college kids out there who just wanted to party. I saw hikers puking into shelters and getting arrested by the police because they were too drunk. I saw ridiculously big backpacks because the hikers had no clue what they were doing. But I also met some interesting people on the AT and I do hope to stay in contact with them. The nicest thing on the AT for me though was visiting old hiker friends and trail angels. I met so many PCT and CDT friends again it is unbelievable. And I stayed with some very kind and interesting trail angels.

It was a good hike after all...

and in winter.
So would I recommend the AT to a friend? That really depends. If you know that this is the only time in your life when you get half a year off and you already have some backpacking experience I would rather hike the PCT which is much more dramatic and scenic and logistically equally easy. If you are rather inexperienced and appreciate a more social experience then go for the AT where loads of other hikers provide more safety in emergencies and company. Choose your start date very carefully though: If you start in the main season you might be just overwhelmed by the masses of hikers - who luckily thin out after a while.

Now the statistics:

Hours I hiked with other people: 8 (Half a day with Timber who had to be protected from the bears and two hours with Silver Potato and Cracker) - that was it - I had a very lonely hike on the most populated National Scenic Trail
Times I stayed in a shelter: 3 (I hate mice and snorers)
Amount of zero days: 6 (including 2 days at the Gathering), but I had a lot of nero days.
Times I was sick: 1 (I had to see a doctor because of my infected finger)
Times I used sun tan lotion: 0 (you are always under tree cover)
Times I used DEET: Several times a day through all of New England - the mosquitoes just did not want to die

Most favourite Lipton side dish: Thai Sesame Noodles and Tomato Parmesan
Most favourite Idahoan Mashed Potatoes: Baby Reds Roasted Garlic
Most favourite Ben & Jerry's ice cream: Cherry Garcia
Most favourite American Snack: Peanut Butter M&M's, Milky Way Midnight, Pringles Sour Cream & Onion
Most favourite maildrop chocolate: Milka Creme de Caramel and Creme de Chocolate (thank you Toek and Wolfgang)

Most exotic wildlife: Turtles on the trail
Most exotic flora: Peach trees on the trail
Most exotic trail angel: Mayor Dick in New York - chain smoking and cursing the hikers he loves so much
Most exotic town food: Gourmet vegetarian meal at Elmer's (a Buddhist running a retreat center and hiker hostel) - even I ate salad with dressing
Most exotic trail food: Toek's wonderful 12 pound chocolate mail drop

Best off-trail event: Unexpected visit of Gettysburg and attending the Gathering
Best on-trail event: The many nights when I went to sleep thinking "This has been a good day!"

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