Friday, July 03, 2020

June 16, 1996

I found this photo from the archive of the Appalachian Trail Conference, where they keep a photo of all hikers who stop at their headquarters in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. We -- me and my then-girlfriend Sharon -- passed through on 6/16/1996, after starting the Appalachian Trail in Georgia on 3/6/1996. 995 miles hiked at this point to get to Harper's Ferry. Wow, I was so thin then. (She was thin from the outset.)

My trail name was "Bronco," because I had a case of bronchitis very early on in the hike; her's was "Puddin'," because she'd gather up everyone's boxes of pudding and make one big pot for a party.

Alas, we didn't make it to Maine. I partially tore two ligaments in my ankle in southern Virginia (though a Dr didn't discover that until many years later; a surgery didn't help), and by Massachusetts I couldn't stand the pain anymore and with the swelling could barely lace up my boot, and we got off the trail after hiking 1,483 miles. Still had 677 miles to go, really tough miles through NH and ME. Not completing the full, 2,160 mile hike to Mt Katahdin is still the biggest heartbreak of my life, but the 2/3rds hike was still an unforgettable adventure. Very bittersweet. My ankle never did heal and still hurts today.


Layzej said...

1,483 miles sounds insane. How many months was this hike?

David Appell said...

We started on 3/6 in 1996.

We left the trail on 8/2, after 1483 miles.

We were actually kind of slow for thru-hikers. The trail's end in Maine, on Mt Katahdin, is closed usually around 10/15. It's not obvious, if we had been able to keep going, that we would have been able to make it in time.

David Appell said...

If we couldn't have finished in time, we would have had to skip ahead, climbed Kathidin, and then hiked south from there to wherever we had left the trail to skip ahead.

Called flip-flopping. Not as satisfying, but not unknown.

Layzej said...

Wow. That is insane. What do you do for food? I don't imagine there are grocery stores and restaurants located conveniently along the trail?

I just looked it up and it seems like you are one of only a few thousand to have attempted this: "As of 2017, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimated that 3,839 hikers set out from Springer Mountain, northbound, 497 from Mount Katahdin, southbound, and reported 1,186 completions of hiking the entire trail"

David Appell said...

Those numbers are only for the year 2017, I'm pretty sure. Hiking the AT has gotten pretty popular, in part due to the book "Into the Woods" by Bill Bryson, who attempted to thru hike in the same year as me, 1996. In fact I met him very briefly in Georgia. He only hiked about 850 miles, skipping around. Then there was a movie based on the book, starring Robert Redford.

There are more restaurants than you might expect, especially in the south, and the trail goes near a lot of small towns or, in a few cases, right down their Main Street. Sometimes you can find a ride in, like from a hostel owner. Otherwise we had packed up boxes of backpacking food that my sister mailed to us every 7-10 days -- lots of oatmeal, Nutri-grain and Granola bars, sturdy crackers, cans of tuna, lots of macaroni and cheese or pasta meals. We'd hike in to post offices near trail crossings and pick them up. But you're burning a lot of calories and can't eat enough to keep up - I lost 30 pounds the first month and 40 pounds by the time we got off the trail. But it went back on within six months.

Layzej said...

Those numbers are only for the year 2017

Ah. So it is. "As of 2018, more than 19,000 people had reported completing the entire trail."

What a fantastic adventure. Thanks for sharing :)

David Appell said...

Thanks for asking. It was a great time (one tends to forget pain as time goes by) that I'm still confused about.