Within the first hour of walking we reached the first hill. The climb was around the height of the highest hill we had climbed during the entire 1000km trip in the Bibbulmun Track. Welcome to the Appalachian Trail. During the first week we have had climb after climb after climb like that one we had in the first hour and it will be that way till the end!
We had caught a taxi from the train to the junction where we had gotten off the trail in 2000. While we were sorting out our packs we met our first hikers. A husband and wife with a teenage son that were doing a 50 day 'section hike'. They had been doing this for a few years now, moving slowly "around 1 mile an hour" said Whisper, the mother (or wife) They picked up we were kiwis straight away and announced that all Americans were arseholes... Strange conversation to be having with the first hikers we met and we hadn't even taken a step on the trail yet.
What a great day we had. We were back on the trail that had changed our outlook on life 16 years ago. It was the first day of summer and the weather was excellent. No clouds and hot but a nice breeze to keep us cool.
To put you in the frame, the Appalachian mountains run from Florida right up into Canada. (This trail starts in Georgia and stops in Maine.) The mountains are a result of uplift that has long since stopped and over the last few ice ages, the mountains have been warn down by glaciers and erosion so most of it is just rolling hills now. The trail is 1550 miles long and 98% is through forest and park lands. The trail is classed as a 'national scenic pathway' and receives federal funding for upkeep and new land purchases if required. It's very popular and over 1,000,000 people walk on some part of this trail each year with several thousand starting a 'thru hike' from end to end each year also. In 2000 we made it from Georgia to Connecticut, 1550 miles or 3/4 of the trail so only have a small section of around 600 miles to finish.
So, what's the trail like? It's hard actually. From the time we started it has been hill after hill never ending. We climb right to the top and then right back down to the valley floor again only to be looking at another hill in front of you. It's hot too, middle of summer and did I mention the bugs?? They have 'skeeters' (that's mountain talk for mosquitoes) by the billions and they want your blood bad. We can walk about 2 miles per hour, they can fly at 1.85 miles per hour which is all good until we have to go up a darn hill (Can't do 2mph up hills...) they do however have other nice cute things along the trail. Squirrels and chipmunks are everywhere and are a constant distraction at the moment as they bound around near the trail. We have also seen plenty of frogs and toads, snakes, eagles,woodpeckers and a raccoon and we may have had a bear sniffing around the tent while we slept. Fireflies are pretty cool too. They really do glow like a flying LED light especially when you bother or trap them. The biggest change we have noticed though is the people.. lots and lots of people. About 3 x more people thru hike than from our year and at this time of year a lot of people are on vacation hiking a section of the trail. The class of 2016 thru hikers all look strong and light (and young...) as they zoom past us... maybe we looked like that 16 years ago? Although lots of people are now on the trail, we managed to avoid them when we practiced the mid summer tradition of nude hiking on the summer solstice... It's a'thing' so we had to do it OK!!
So as we finish day 7, I am slowly starting to get used to the daily exhaustion and now have a little bit of energy left to write this blog.. I was considering a video blog cause I didn't have the energy to sit up and type on this little screen but here it is. The first week of our America adventure that will see us complete the Appalachian Trail.
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!