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Wildfire & Wounded Knee          
AT elevations A little chart you might find interesting
AT Definitions, Facts, and FAQ's

Trail Talk:

AT:
The Appalachian Trail, running 2167 miles from Springer Mountain, GA, to Mount Katahdin, Maine.
AYCE: All-you-can-eat - important for the mountainous appetites of hikers.
Bear Bag: A food bag suspended from a branch to deter bears and other animals.
Blaze: A 2"x 6" paint stripe placed on trees, stones, or structures to identify the trail - white for the AT, blue for side trails to shelters, springs, and other attractions. Double blazes indicate a turn or significant landmark ahead.
Flip-flop: A Thru-hike conducted in two sections, such as Springer-Harper's Ferry, then Katahdin back to Harper's Ferry - usually done this way to allow a later start while still avoiding weather limitations in Maine
GORP: Good Ol' Raisins & Peanuts
Hoods in the Woods: Troubled teens on wilderness adventures.
Hundred-Mile Wilderness: The final 100 mile stretch of the AT before Katahdin in Maine - very wild and without public roads, towns, or resupply opportunities.
Katahdin (Ka tah' din): The northern terminus of the AT - located in the remote Baxter Park in northern ME
MUD's: Mindless ups and downs - a greater manifestation of PUDS (see below).
Naked Hiking Day: June 21, the summer solstice, which some AT hikers celebrate by hiking naked.
PUDS: Pointless ups and downs (the trail crosses every hill in sight for no apparent reason)
Register: A spiral-bound notebook left at each shelter for hikers to communicate with each other. There are quite a few hikers we feel we know just from reading their register entries.
Ridge Runner: A paid AT employee who hikes and drives along the Trail to educate and police hikers.
Section hiking: Hiking the AT in portions - may or may not intend to complete the entire trail.
Springer: Southern terminus of the AT, this mountain is about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta
Shelter: Shelters are provided approximately every 10 miles for overnight stays by hikers on a first-come, first-served basis. They usually are three-sided with an open front, but vary widely in features and complexity. (aka Lean-to's)
Slack-packing: Hiking a part of the trail without a pack.
Stealth-camping: Low-profile camping in an area where it is not normally permitted.
Thru-hiker: One who aims to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season.
Trail Angel: A non-hiker who unexpectedly helps out a hiker along the way by feeding the hiker, giving the hiker a ride or even housing the hiker.
Trail Magic: The help that serendipitously comes to ailing or discouraged hikers just when they need it; the serendipitous friendships that blossom on the Trail; the magical "nature" moments on the Trail.
Trail Name: The alias that one dons or is bestowed with by other hikers while on the trail. Hikers communicate via registers at shelters or hostels using these names. The trail name makes it easier to locate hikers in case of emergency, and is also intended as protective anonymity.
Vitamin I: Ibuprofen, a necessary addition to many aching hikers' diets.
Yellow-blazing: A metaphor for hitchiking past sections of the trail.
Yogi (verb): To secure food, beverage, or other conveniences without paying, usually through begging (in the manner of Yogi Bear)

Frequently Asked Questions:

How far do you hike?


We average 12-13 miles per day, more in the summer with longer hours of daylight. Our long-term goal is a section of approximately 70 miles every other month - this takes us about 5 days of hiking, plus transportation to and from the trail.

What do you eat?

Our favorite evening meal is a combination of instant Ramen noodles along with Lipton Rice or Noodles dinners. We boil water and add it to these products right in their own containers, eating the Ramen noodles while waiting for the Lipton dinners to hydrate - no pots or pans to clean, and easily "dressed up" by adding anything from dehydrated meat or veggies to sun-dried tomatoes. For lunch and snacks we eat no-cook food such as granola bars, cheese crackers, peanut butter on crackers, beef jerky, GORP, etc. Coleen likes bagels for breakfast; I started with oatmeal until someone pointed out that oatmeal cookies contain the same basic ingredients. Of course, we'll take any chance to walk or hitch into town for Ben & Jerries.

What about water?

We carry a filter, filtering water from various streams and springs (most shelters are built near a source of water). In the summer when the springs frequently run dry, trail angels (see above) frequently leave jugs of water at road crossings. In New England the trail passes enough towns, roads, and parks that it's often possible to go for weeks without having to filter water. Some hikers use iodine tablets, although these require about 30 minutes to work, and impart a medicinal taste (they also turn starch blue, giving a really weird appearance to meals such as Lipton Noodles or potato flakes).

Where do you sleep?

About 1/3 of the time we sleep in the shelters provided (see definitions above), although they're sometimes full, sometimes mousy, and often include at least one power snorer; so we always carry a tent. We tent out about 1/3 of the time, and the remaining 1/3 is split between the occasional hotel stay, along with hostels, ball fields, monasteries, jailhouses (no kidding), homes, and whatever.

How do you? - well, you know

Most shelters have a privy, although they vary in their allure. For instance, Georgia privies are a very airy 3-sided type, affording a good view and good ventilation - especially appreciated in summer.

Are animals a problem?

They're a mixed blessing - most would love to share your food, including bears, raccoons, and the voracious field mice. Porcupines crave salt and not only gnaw on the floors of shelters, but have been known to eat a pair of boots right down to the soles at night. Snakes require caution, especially when using hands to climb rocky slopes where they may be sunning themselves. And the ungainly appearance of the moose often results in debilitating fits of laughter.

Is it safe?

It's a lot safer than life in Washington, DC, to be sure. A handful of deaths have occurred during the trail's 63 year history, although this is a pretty small number in light of the 4 million tourists that set foot on the trail annually. A greater number of injuries occur, although the majority of hikers that leave the trail do so for lack of motivation or money, rather than injury.

Is it crowded?

The highly-touted 4 million annual visitors figure includes many who barely leave there cars - mostly in Shenandoah and the Smokies National Parks. About 2000 hikers start each year with the intent of hiking the entire trail - only about 200 of these finish. The majority of thru-hikers start from Springer in March heading northbound, and a smaller push begins from Katahdin southbound mid-summer. If not amongst either of these two groups, the trail is often fairly solitary, moreso in the GA and ME sections, especially on weekdays. It's often possible to hike multiple days without seeing a soul, although it's equally possible to pass a dozen hikers in a mile. Of all the national trails, the AT is by far the most social, and we've made many new friends there.
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