Appalachian Trail self-supported thru-hike

What an epic trip. The goal was to hike the AT/BMT north loop in four days. Unfortunately I had one slow day and had to leave the trail early to get back to studying. But I managed 138 miles in 3 days, 6 hours and can’t be disappointed with what I learned and accomplished. 42 miles on the first day, 32, 44, then 20 out to the road on Wednesday. I wanted to travel further, faster, and more efficiently than I ever have and I think I accomplished that. Going into the woods with only 7.8 pounds (3.5lb base weight), I managed to sleep decently comfortably through the three nights I was out there despite low temps in the high twenties. I learned a lot about my gear and my body, notably that on the second day when I was moving slow, there was absolutely nothing I could do to press my stubborn legs to move faster. And then on Tuesday I learned about my body’s resilience and easily cruised to a 44 mile day. The next morning I woke up again feeling fresh but unfortunately, with a looming immunology exam this upcoming week, had to abandon my adventure and return to the stressed studying I so desperately had needed a break from.

I am working on compiling my thoughts from the trip. I want to do the trip justice in describing the incredible Benton MacKaye Trail, the people I met along the way, what it takes to cover those miles day after day, some mistakes I made, some things I learned about my gear, and how to survive sub-freezing temperatures while being drastically under equipped for the conditions. For now I have to study but will look to post a full report over the next few days.

As for the real goal behind the trip, I have entertained the idea of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail over the summer with the goal of doing it as quickly as possibly, specifically to see if I can break the self-supported thru-hike record. I have been hesitant to announce this because it is a serious goal that I don’t take lightly. But I would be lying if I said I have not committed my training and gear preparation specifically for that goal. It’s daunting for sure, and what I accomplished over four days certainly cannot speak to what I may or may not be capable of doing for around 60 days. But after a rather tame hike this past week, the 37 mile-a-day benchmark for 58 days seems less illusory and more a real possibility, especially accounting for warmer temperatures, three more months of training, and an additional three hours of daylight to make the hiking a bit easier.

I don’t want to come off as naïve and arrogant that I can just walk up and take down Matt Kirk’s ridiculously fast and respectable record. To accomplish this is going to take an immense amount of preparation over the next three months and then a ridiculous amount of suffering for nearly two months. But the record has thrilled me my entire life and I now have the opportunity in my life to attempt it. I think I have demonstrated that I have pretty decent backcountry expertise and I have shown that I can hike the miles. The only thing in question now is the stamina to be able to commit to that for such an extended hike. In May and early June I’ll look to test my legs even more to see if such a trip is a possibility and in mid-June I’ll head up to Katahdin to begin my hike. I have planned out mail drops and diet for the trip and will be writing posts about those elements soon. First and foremost the goal is to complete the hike so even if the record becomes elusive, I hopefully will be able to continue hiking. But I will say, as long as I am capable of standing and hiking, I have every intention of chasing that 58 day mark.

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