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So you think you want to thru-hike- Part 2
So you think you want to thru hike. Suggested reading
If you've decided to do a thru-hike (besides getting psyched), I would start
by doing some reading. If you have the money, get a couple of videos too. I
bought my books through the both the ATC and the PATC. You should also
become a member of one of the trail conferences to support the trail. Being
a member does get you cheaper shopping too!
Here's what I did to get started... I started with a couple of "getting
psyched" books. They are basically other thru-hikers telling their stories.
I watched "Five Million Steps: The AT Thru-hikers' story" and liked it a lot.
Read "A Woman's Journey" by Cindy Ross. Cindy has some very good insights to
the feelings and emotions you encounter on the trail.
After the getting psyched books, I bought a couple of planning books (I'll
cover planning in the next note). I bought "The AT Workbook for Planning
Thru-hikes" and "The Thru-hikers Planning Guide". I used the second because
of the volume of worksheets Wingfoot included in the workbook. He has
worksheets for everything from food and equipment, to maildrops and daily
mileages... The beginning of the book also is filled with sections helping
you figure out what you need to do the prepare for your trip.
Then I acquired the essential trail books. These are the ones that I had
with me as I hiked. They were my maps and trail guides and lastly what I'll
call the "off trail" guides. The "off trail" guides describe what each trail
town has to offer: goods, services, lodging. Wingfoot's book "The
Thru-hikers Handbook" seems more popular than the "Appalachian Trail
Companion". I think it's because Wingfoot also describes shelters along the
trail, some water sources, has mileage charts, town maps, and includes some
interesting altruisms and other interesting tidbits of information. The
trail guides are books that describe things like where the trail goes, where
the water is, and where the shelters are. They can be very detailed
describing things like "trail turns left at interesting rock". Accompanying
the trail guides is a book called "the AT Data book". It is a small book
with mile markers for water, shelters, roads, and towns.
So, the question is... What do I need to carry for books? I carried
Wingfoot's guide book. I consider that a must. I carried parts of the trail
guides. I wouldn't recommend this for everybody but I liked to know where I
was on the trail as I hiked. They also helped me locate water sources that
were (or weren't) listed in the AT Data book. The Data book only tells of
the mile marker for water, not where it is in relation to the trail. When I
was thirsty and out of water, I wanted to know exactly where it was! I also
carried maps of the trail. But this again is your choice. The maps have
elevation profiles which I liked (and also hated when they were out of date
and inacurate) because I enjoyed knowing what was waiting for me up the
trail. Most thru-hikers carried the AT Data book. It's a small book and
does have the bare minimum, essential information needed in daily hiking.
Have somebody at home keep an "off-trail" guide of their own. That way, they
can track where you are. They'll also have an idea about the kind of place
you're staying and hopefully have a better understanding of your trip.
When my mail drops changed, I had my "supply sargeant" use the guide book to
help change my plans. Without the extra book, it wouldn't have happened.
Lastly, I saw many hikers carrying entire books. This may be OK for a
weekend hike, but remember you will be carrying that weight for 2000 miles.
Forget about what they teach you in school not to damage books. Break up
that guide book and lessen the weight. Carry only the section that you need
and have somebody mail you the pieces.
Well, that's it for now. Hope I'm not too winded and am not boring the pants
off of people.