This week I hiked the another 32 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. This brings the total number of miles I’ve hiked on the AT to 840 of the 885 miles from the Mohican Outdoor Center in New Jersey all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Some would say these are the hardest miles of the AT to hike, but they have all been relatively close to home, at least within driving distance. In some ways, I expect that the hiking down south will be much harder.
For one, the commute down south that will be much more difficult to work into the rest of my life. Hiking the northern half of the AT was easy since it is all within a 6 hour drive of my house. That’s made it possible to do lots of shorter sections of trail, sometime as little as two miles a day (with a 10 mile walk in and out).
But commuting to the southern 1,300 miles of the trail I have left between Georgia and Pennsylvania is going to be a lot harder. I’m probably going to have to take planes or trains to get to the trail heads near Roanoke, Washington DC, and Harrisburg and spend 2-4 weeks out at a time to finish off the southern sections I have left. I’ll also have to adopt more of a thru-hiker mentality, which is to stay on the trail until I finish a big section without the luxury of coming back at some later date to make up a few missed miles.
Working those longer sections into one’s schedule is one of the biggest challenges of Section Hiking and what makes it even more difficult than a continuous Thru-hike where you know you have 6 months of vacation ahead of you, with time to spare. But it’s also the norm really, because most people don’t get to backpack for more than 2 0r 3 weeks each year, and section hiking the AT is the only way that many people can even attempt such a journey.
I can’t take eleven weeks off to hike the rest of the AT: that wouldn’t be fair to my wife. I also doubt I’d enjoy it. I can hike three, maybe four weeks max, before it becomes too routine and less of an adventure.
But the trail still calls me and I’m sure I will finish the AT one day.