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My Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Blog

blogging about the AT

This is my blog about hiking the Appalachian Trail, start to finish, from Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine?

Have I ever hiked the AT from beginning to end?

Nope… But I will!

Do I think it will be difficult?

Yep… nothing worthwhile is ever all that easy, at least that’s how the saying goes but I think this will ultimately be the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I say that mainly because I plan to start my thru hike in March, 2017, which will make me 49 years of age when I get started.

49!

Now, that won’t make me the oldest to ever attempt to hike the 2100+ miles, not by a long-shot. But my knees and ankles hurt me after a tough day’s work, so I can only imagine what they will feel like after the daily grind of walking double-digit miles on extremely hilly terrain.

I learned about the AT many years ago and the first thing I asked was, “Has anybody ever hiked the whole thing at once?” Turns out, that wasn’t an original thought. I pushed the thought of hiking the Appalachian Trail to the back of my mind as I lived my life and it didn’t really surface again until 2007, when I came across some trail journals online of people who were actually doing it!

Trail journals are great because we can follow along as others prepare for and then attempt the thru hike of the AT. I subscribed to a couple of these online journal sites but now I just follow along on YouTube as many hikers now document their progress online with videos and image transcriptions. It truly is a great time to be alive, huh?

Well, shortly after I began obsessing with the trail back in 2007 I quickly got immersed back into my somewhat hectic, but always uneventful life. Thoughts of thru hiking the AT are always on my mind, and I’ve shared these thoughts with many people over the years, but recently I caught the bug again… BIG TIME!!!

A couple friends of mine have also recently discovered the wonders of thru hiking the AT and they have expressed more than a passing interest in attempting it, and now I have to light a proverbial fire under my own ass because if close friends of mine start lapping me on this one… well, it’ll drive me F’ing nutz!

Writing all this down in my Appalachian Trail thru hiking blog will hold me accountable and hopefully others will read this blog and gain a little inspiration from the thoughts that enter their own stream of consciousnesses and we can prepare for this amazing journey together.

I will be setting up a YT channel as well as all the other social media platforms because that’s the way the online world is connected these days and because I dig the social media experience!

By now you’re probably wondering who the hell I even am. My name is Curt Bizovi and I don’t have a trail name as of yet. It would be premature and entitled to start thinking about trail names before I’ve taken my first step on the thru hike so I’ll wait it out, but… if I don’t have one by the time I’ve gone a couple hundred miles then it’ll be time to start putting something together.

You can read more about me on my “about me” page. Just follow the link. Hopefully my Appalachian Trail thru hike blog will cover most of the topics that aspiring hikers are curious about, but feel free to add suggestions for future articles in the comments section.

Let’s get started…

Best Size Backpack For The Appalachian Trail

backpack appalachian trail thruhikeThere are two distinct mindsets in my opinion when it comes to gearing up for a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, or any long distance hike for that matter; do I wanna do things on the cheap, or do I wanna hit the trail looking like I just stepped outta the REI catalog.

That’s the mindset I was in when I decided on my backpack for my upcoming hike, and I’m a minimalist so I decided to do things on the cheap and just go with an old Army rucksack I had laying around.

So I cut off all the straps and gutted things like pouches and frames, etc. My goal was to get the thing as light as possible and then use a closed-cell sleeping mattress as a support liner.

It all sounded good in theory but the more I research the issue the more I realize that I’m just gonna have to break down and buy a backpack with about a 50 liter capacity (50L).

That seems to be the most consistent option with my style, which is to stay as light as possible without becoming some sort of ultralight weirdo guy.

That’s really the mindset I needed to channel; how light do I wanna go? What is the best size backpack for a thru hike of the Appalachian trail and where can I buy the perfect pack for myself?

I always start my search with Amazon and there are no shortage of packs available for purchase, so now I just have to find a pack that doesn’t break my bankroll, and also one that doesn’t weigh a ton.

I want to keep my pack weight (empty, of course) to less than 3 pounds. This goes for all my major gear; sleeping bag, tent, backpacking gear, rain gear, trekking poles, etc.

The video also shows the best way to load a backpack so that the weight is dispersed properly for maximum comfort, which means I would like to avoid discomfort. The guy in the video documented a thru hike on YT and I really enjoyed his series. Maybe I’ll link to it if there is any demand for that sort of thing.

Also, the pack in the video is a Z-Pack, which is a brand I’m leaning towards for my purchase. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of using my old Army ruck, but it’s highly unlikely. One thing that is a possibility is to start cheap on all fronts and then just accrue gear as I go. People leave all sorts of stuff on the side of the trail when they quit, which most hikers do once they realize what they got themselves into, but it seems highly unlikely that I would find just the right size backpack for my 2,000 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail just lying on the side of the road!

My Thru Hike Training For The Appalachian Trail

at thru hike training

Once again we’ve stumbled into a territory that comes under much debate among thru hikers and future thru hikers and it goes something like this… should a person train before starting a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail?

To each his own, I say, mainly because I’ve seen successful thru hikers who swear that they were able to accomplish the feat by staying as fit as possible leading up to the hike as well as those who were able to complete the trip without any training or any prior hiking experience whatsoever.

It is commonly recognized that a person will get their ‘trail legs’ within a few hundred miles of starting the journey, so as far as I’m concerned I’ll just let the trail dictate how far I should hike based on what my body will allow me to do. As I’ve stated many times, I will be in no particular hurry as I walk from Georgia to Maine.

There are plenty of hiking trails near my home, so I can satisfy my craving to hike whenever the fancy strikes, but if I start forcing myself to ‘train’ then I may begin to regard the process as a chore and much of the joy I derive from trekking long distances may begin to wane.

I do think it’s important to give any gear I intend to use a thorough workout though. I’d hate to hit the trail with a janky-ass tent that can’t keep any rain water from seeping into the confines, or a pair of trekking poles that bend or break with any amount of exertion imposed upon them. Rain gear will most certainly need a good going over before heading out, and my sleeping bag and air mattress will need to be tested as well. Will my trash compactor backpack liners make the grade?

So much to do and so little time to get it all done, right?

There is one workout that I’ve been contemplating and it involves trips to the gym. I hate gyms! They are breeding grounds for narcissism and self aggrandizement, but they serve a purpose every now and then…

I have given serious thought to signing up for a low-cost gym membership and then hitting the treadmill with a full pack, putting myself through the paces on various incline and speed levels.

What a sight that would be, huh?

For now, whenever I hear the hiking gods calling out to me, I’ll just load up my current pack with about thirty pounds of stuff and hit the trail behind my house in Reston, Va. It’s not the hilliest of terrain but it’s certainly more productive than sitting in front of my laptop blogging about the virtues of thru hike training for my upcoming Appalachian Trail adventure.

I’d love to hear about your training regimen in the comments section… HINT, HINT!

Appalachian Trail Names List 2017

appalachian trail name generator

One of the most often discussed aspects of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail is the issue of trail names.

A ‘trail name’ for those not ‘in the know’ is a handle that hikers will go by while hiking long distances so they can be known by something other than their real name when meeting complete strangers. I mean, who wants to tell their real name to grubby passersby over and over for 2,000+ miles, am I right?

What is the etiquette involved with choosing a trail name? Should I choose one myself or let a fellow hiker choose one for me?

This should be a non-issue but it’s one that many people are curious about, so I’m gonna put in my 2 cents worth…

First off, there is no Appalachian Trail name generator that I can find and even if there was why would anybody want to use it? This process should be as organic as possible and using a trail name generator that spits out random trail names would take us as far away from organic as we could possibly get.

There was a time when I scoffed at the idea of ‘naming’ myself because I was led to believe that everybody was christened by another hiker nearly immediately upon embarking on a thru hike and that everybody would have this sorted out within the first 25 miles or so…

Wrong!

The more YT vids I watch of thru hikers the more I realize that many go up to 500 miles without ever coming up with a name, and many who let other hikers name them end up with trail names like ‘ding dong’ or ‘Twinkie’ or ‘spoon’ or even something totally inane like… ‘black beard.’

Blech!

A good trail name should be personal without encroaching too much on our lives as civilians off the trail. Hiking the trail is an escape for many, so choosing a name that reminds us of ourselves in the ‘real world’ defeats the purpose of re-branding ourselves for a thru hike.

I’ve started compiling a list of trail names that I’d be interested in using and I’m constantly culling that list as I add to it. Names that sounded just dandy one day will often sound ludicrous the next, so jotting them down has really helped me understand the process a little better.

In the ‘real world’ giving yourself a nickname is nearly the lamest thing a person can do, but in the thru hiking world it shouldn’t be looked down upon all that much, at least in this humble hiker’s opinion.

If you feel embarrassed by having named yourself then you can always answer an origin question about your trail name as such, “I don’t remember exactly how I got it, it’s been so long…”

I won’t jot down any of my choices from the list I’ve been building but only because they could change by the time I publish this post. Eventually I will take my list, pare it down to my absolute favorites, and then run them thru a random name generator to see which one wins.

The name generator is like a lottery ball spinner for the internet. Check it out, it’s a fun little gadget to play around with. I will tell you that the first time I used it the tool spit out my favorite trail name possibility to date: General Ciao

We’ll see if that name sticks or if I’ll change it up before my 2017 Appalachian Trail thru hike.

Leave some comments, I’d love to hear your take on the naming process and about using a hiking trail name generator…

How Long To Hike The Appalachian Trail Walking

how long to thru hike AT

This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get when I tell somebody that I want to thru hike the Appalachian Trail

“How long does it take?”

Well, the short answer is that it takes about 6 months to walk the entire length of the AT from Georgia to Maine, mainly because it is 2100+ miles from start to finish.

Many of you may already be familiar with this answer because like me you’ve been reading up on the subject for many years.

When others start to learn about the AT for the first time this estimate simply blows their minds and many wonder why others would even attempt the feat. In other words, some of us get it and others never will.

The long answer about how much time it takes to hike the AT is that it varies from person to person. Ideally, I will set aside 6 months of my time for the thru hike, but I don’t really care how long it takes. I’m not on a set schedule.

The trail has been hiked in less than 60 days by more motivated (read: younger) people and some hikers take such a leisurely approach to the journey that Baxter State Park closes before they can put themselves in a position to ascend Mt. Katahdin at the finish point. Some don’t care about the ascent, so no worries there I suppose.

The more I read the more I truly care about ascending to the top of the great Katahdin. Heck, one book I just finished reading had me nearly in tears as I finished it because the author really brought the thing home for me.

You can check out some of the best material on the reading list page.

I’m gonna start my hike in late March, just after the first two rounds of the March Madness basketball tournament. A man needs to keep his priorities in order and they go something like this for me… March Madness, AT thru hike, no more working for the man FOREVER, travel the country with my backpack playing poker, hiking, and catching up with friends and family, not necessarily in that order but pretty close.

Well, I’d love to hear your thoughts on your own thru hike timelines. Leave some comments and let’s get the conversation started…

Appalachian Trail Tent Camping Review

lightheart solo thru hiking tent

There are some pieces of gear that are so absolutely essential for a successful thru hike that people like me stress over them so much that we begin to experience a phenomenon known as “paralysis by analysis,” which is to say we just can’t seem to make up our minds so nothing ever gets done and the gear never gets purchased.

I decided to end my paralysis this very day and commit to a tent for my thru hike. I just hope that the company is still manufacturing these tents by the time I come up with the disposable income required to make the purchase.

When choosing a tent for my upcoming thru hike of the Appalachian Trail there were really only two concerns I had; weight and weather resistance.

Weight is a concern with any piece of gear and while I don’t consider myself an ultra-light hiker I definitely like to keep things as light as humanly possible. The tent I chose comes in at… Weight: 27 oz before seam sealing.

Ok, so here are some of the specs:

  • MADE IN AMERICA.
  • Rain fly comes down to one inch off the ground.
  • Color: Cranberry tent with Pewter floor, or
  • Pewter tent with Cranberry floor
  • 3500 mm Hydrostatic head 1.1 oz sil-nylon.
  • Roomy 1+ person tent.
  • Fully double walled tent.
  • 3-Season usage.
  • 1 large side entry door with 2-way zipper.
  • Small vestibule to store your boots.
  • Requires seam sealing prior to use.
  • Utilizes trekking poles for setup. (optional adjustable aluminum tent poles for those who don’t use 2 trekking poles)
  • Reflective tie out cord.
  • Velcro tabs for ridge pole.
  • Matching stuff sack.
  • Made in America

That’s quick overview of this thing and I think it fits in with my simple lifestyle and mantra of ‘less is more.’ I’ve been cultivating a minimalistic lifestyle for many years now, which is why I don’t anticipate any issues when it comes to pack weight. I won’t be carrying a pack stove for one example of how low-maintenance I can be, especially when it comes to food.

Back on point… This tent/shelter/tarp/whatever seems perfect, all reviews have been positive, and the seam sealing option that the company provides is crucial.

The company is Lightheart and the tent is called the Lightheart Solo. The price comes in just under $300 with the seam sealer option and I am happy to spend the cash on a home that I will be living in for 6 months. I plan to spend as little time as possible in the AT shelters because I’m a private person and I have an aversion to mice crawling all over me when I’m trying to sleep. Also, I’m a snorer at the moment but once I lose some weight on the trail that will dissipate.

I hope that helps you to get going on finding the right tent for your adventure. The reason I didn’t focus at all on the hammock option is because it is not an option for me at all. I sleep on my side and I move around a lot during the night so a hammock on the Appalachian Trail would be a living nightmare for me!

Here’s a bit about tent repair from the site… “If you are on a long Thru hike, and your tent needs to be repaired, we can ship a loaner tent to you (for a $200.00 refundable deposit).  Once you get the loaner tent, ship your tent to us, we will repair it and then ship it back.  Once you receive your tent back, you must then return the loaner within 2 weeks of when your tent was returned to you for a refund (minus the cost of shipping only).   If you hold on to the loaner for a longer period of time, you will be charged a rental fee of $15.00/ week.   If we are repairing a cuben fiber tent, your loaner tent will be a silnylon tent.  Loaner tents are slightly used tents, but will be clean when shipped out.”

Why Trash Compactor Bags For Backpacking Are Your Best Option For Waterproofing

trash compactor bags for hiking

How to keep your backpacking gear dry with trash compactor bags (or heavy-duty garbage bags if that’s your thing)…

In the “pack liner vs pack cover” debate that exists in the thru hiking sphere, there is no question that using a pack liner is a more essential consideration.

For me, I’ll be adding trash compactor bags to my thru hiking gear list and I consider this to be one of the most crucial items on my list after all the major components, like shelter, sleeping bag, shoes, trekking poles, etc.

The great thing about using trash compactor bags for backpacking is the lightweight aspect coupled with the cost. These things are cheap and they weigh next to nothing, and compared to the heavy pack liner that I have in my closet that I bought from a military supply store that weighs way too much… well, this option is a huge upgrade.

They are durable as well and that is because they are made to be more durable than regular trash bags, which would be a viable option for shorter hikes.

I’ve also used x-large and xxx-large ziplock bags as pack liners and they work very well, but I can get a package of trash compactor bags that will last me for many years for a better price point.

Keeping your backpacking gear dry on the Appalachian Trail is of the utmost importance because comfort in camp is the one thing that will help a thru hiker to recover from a tough day’s hike and recoup for the next stage of the journey.

What would be more annoying than setting up a wet tent and climbing inside to change into fresh clothing, only to find that everything you thought would be dry is now soaking wet because you settled for some flimsy pack cover that didn’t keep anything dry?

I don’t mind hiking in the rain, never have. but when it’s time to settle in for some quality lay-around time I certainly don’t want to be lounging around in wet stuff!

If you have any other ideas for pack liners or just keeping your backpacking gear dry in general then feel free to leave a comment.

Hey, after watching that video it is clear that the compactor bags now fit into the category of gear that will serve a multi-purpose. Bonus!

Or you can throw money at the problem and pay full price for a pack liner…

*Update – I went to the grocery store today and researched the trash compactor bag situation. I found one brand, and it was store brand, so I bought it. I almost bought the “contractor bags” by accident which were 45 gallon, so that would have been a disaster because the 18 gallon bags I brought home are perfect. There were 4 bags for $3.69 and these should last me many years to come.

Very happy with my purchase…

Appalachian Trail Weight Loss

thru hiking weight loss

There are a lot of reasons why I want to hike the Appalachian trail and the fact that weight loss is part of the program is of particular intrigue to me.

There is no doubt that thru hiking the 2100+ miles from Georgia to Maine will help to increase physical stamina and overall health, even though it can also cause some substantial aches and pains.

When I first learned about the thru hiking aspect of the AT, my first instinct was not to ask about how much weight a person could lose along the way. The more I delved into the project the more I realized that it was just going to be part of the process whether I liked it or not.

Thru hikers can burn up to 9000 calories a day while hiking, depending upon the terrain that each day throws at us. It would be nearly impossible to carry that much food considering that most hikers will carry an average of 5 days worth of food at any given time.

So if we’re burning more than we are taking in we will lose a substantial amount of weight on the trail. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

I’ve seen before and after weight loss pictures of hikers who not only look thinner but also emaciated and unhealthy as well. I’ve also seen pictures of hikers who have lost the those pounds who also look much healthier and no worse for wear.

The key is in the diet. Not all calories are created equally so it’s important to maintain our proteins and whatnot while hiking; in other words we should be eating a robust and well-rounded meal plan.

My thru hiking food list will contain mostly things like peanut butter, jerky, stuff to make tortilla pizzas, energy bars, pop tarts, instant mashed potatoes, etc. Since I won’t be carrying a cook stove like many other trail wanderers all my food will weight much more than things like ramen and Knorr noodles would weigh, so I will need to be very strategic with my calories.

Not carrying a stove and all the pots and pans that others carry will save some weight, but it will also help save time at camp and with cleaning. I eat a lot of my food cold in the real world so I’m not sacrificing anything on this endeavor.

The weight loss on the AT is just a bonus for me. I try to live a paleo lifestyle in general just to keep my weight from getting out of control, but on the trail I won’t have to be so diligent since the calories will just be flying out of me each day. The challenge will be after the journey is over, and there are plenty of horror stories from hikers who have gained copious amounts of weight after their thru hike has ended.

Leave some comments if you have anything to add to the conversation…

5 Reasons Why I Desire To Hike The Whole Appalachian Trail in 2017

i want to hike the appalachian trail
There are probably as many different reasons to hike the Appalachian Trail as there people who decide that they really want to take the journey.

I want to hike the Appalachian Trail for 5 reasons (I could probably ramble on and on about this for days, so I decided to pare the list down to a succinct and curt five items), and it’s important to note that these will appear in no particular order as I am writing this in total spontaneity…

1 – Physical challenge – There is no doubt that the trek from Georgia to Maine will be a physically taxing one but that is part of the intrigue. If it was easy then everybody would do it and then it would lose much of its luster. The fact that only about 10% of those who attempt it each year are able to complete it speaks volumes about the toll it takes on each individual. Maybe I’ll even lose some weight along the way as an added bonus.

2 – Get away from it all – The grind of daily life holds no allure for me these days, so my only goal in life is to turn my online efforts into a passive income so that I can just roam the Earth and enjoy each passing day on my own terms. It just so happens that I enjoy hiking long distances and I live close enough to the AT that it has been something tangible for me to pursue over the years.

3 – Prove something to myself – I’ve made a habit of taking the easy way out of things in life so thru hiking the AT would represent something difficult that I could actually finish. There isn’t much more to it than that, really. I just want to accomplish something that most people wouldn’t dream of trying and even less would attempt. I want to walk into a room and have people say, “Hey, that guy hiked the Appalachian Trail!”

Other than that small thing, I don’t really care what others think about this adventure; I just want to prove to myself that I can do something extraordinary. Otherwise, why not just give up on everything?

4 – Bucket list – I wrote a book a few years back about developing a bucket list and things I would add to mine and thru hiking the AT is definitely in the book. There are a lot of cool things in life that are worth pursuing and for me this thru hike tops my list. I think about it each and every day and the only thing that dominates more of my time in thought is SEO and my online endeavors. These are the only two things I think about enough to warrant a mention on one of my blogs.

5 – Because it’s there – When I first learned about the A.T. I asked if anybody had ever hiked the whole thing in one go. Of course I knew the answer before I asked the question, because the fact that it immediately popped into my head meant that others had already been down that path, quite literally I was sure. There is nothing rarer on this planet than original thought, so I was sure there were pioneers on this subject and I will learn from them and follow their lead all the way to Mt. Katahdin.

That’s it. Like I said there are an infinite number of reasons to hike the trail. What are some of yours? Leave some comments and follow along on all the social platforms as we shoot for a 2017 Appalachian Trail thru hike!

DIY Walking Sticks VS Trekking Poles For Thru Hiking The AT

appalachian trail trekking poles

One of the most controversial topics among thru hikers on the AT is whether or not to use hiking poles (often called trekking poles) or walking sticks for the journey. Many hikers try to go the distance without the aid of any kind in this area and they often fail miserably?

So which is a better choice for a thru hike and how much will they cost me?

First, should I use one pole or two? This is entirely up to each individual hiker, but I plan to start with one walking stick and see where that takes me. The tent I plan to use utilizes trekking poles for the setup so I may opt to use two in the event that I don’t want to carry the extra weight that the tent poles would add to my pack.

My DIY walking stick would consist of a lightweight broom handle that can be purchased at any home goods DIY store or even the local Walmart. I would use an epoxy to seal a rubber cane tip on the end so as to not offend any purists on the trail who often claim that hiking poles tend to do damage to the Appalachian trail. Some people are just looking for a reason to get in your face, if ya know what I mean.

Heck, even a pool cue or billiards stick would work well as the base of a DIY walking stick for hiking the AT, and I’ve even crafted my own from larger sticks I’ve found laying around on the ground on various trails in the Wilmington, DE hiking areas, but they often dried out and invariably snapped at some point because I didn’t treat them and seal them quickly enough, or at all if I’m being honest.

Trekking poles come in a wide price range and I think a decent pair can be had for less than a hundred bucks, but the DIY walking stick I mentioned above would cost less than twenty, even if I decided to craft two for my thru hiking journey.

diy walking sticks appalachian trail

There are plenty of videos on the subject over at YT and they certainly vary in quality and labor intensiveness..