Last month, I set out to backpack a total of 350 miles on the Appalachian Trail through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The overall goal was to map out those states for my AT Hiker iPhone app, but it’s not like I was forcing myself to do something I wasn’t interested in. I love long-distance backpacking, and no matter how much I try to hold myself back, I almost always hike long days and take few days off. Since my first long-distance backpacking trip, I’ve slowed down for various reasons, but the general trend is still there.
Next week, I begin a two-week trip through Maine to map out another 200 miles of the AT. After sitting down to make a general plan, I realized that I’d done it again– without intending to, I’d laid out an ambitious hiking plan that added up to about 200 miles in thirteen days, including one half-day and one zero-day. So more like 190 miles in twelve days of hiking. I know from past experience that this might be a crazy idea. Maine is no walk in the park (although it is stunningly beautiful for the entire 280 miles on the AT). Can I do it?
Making big plans and sticking to them are two very different things, so I’m pretty sure my itinerary will change along the way. But when I look at some of my previous long backpacking trips, I’m pretty surprised at the consistency.
Trip, Total Miles, Hiking Days, Zero Days, Avg Miles Per Hiking Day
2013 Appalachian Trail (NJ > MA), 356, 20, 1, 17.8
2012 Long Trail, 286, 16, 1, 17.8
2010 Pacific Crest Trail, 2643, 121, 36, 21.8
2009 New England Trail, 517, 32, 3, 16.2
2007 Appalachian Trail, 2174, 120, 7, 18.1
If I manage to stick to my plan for this next trip in Maine, that would mean 200 miles over 12 hiking days, or a daily average of 16.7 miles. That’s actually a little mellower than my Long Trail hike from last year, especially since the Long Trail has fewer flat spots, and the ratio of zero days to hiking days would actually be higher. Still, I have no reason to get cocky. The elevation profiles speak for themselves.
That’s okay by me, though. There are many reasons why Maine is often ranked as the favorite state by hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Being rugged and remote is a big part of the charm. There’s a heck of a lot of gorgeous country on Maine’s AT, and it’s not every year I get to spend this much time enjoying it. Some people might say I should slow down to stop and smell the roses (or pine, as the case may be), but this is how I enjoy the outdoors on my own– a thorough, self-administered ass-kicking mixed in with some of the best scenery on the east coast. I can’t wait.