I spent most of the last month after returning from the trail relaxing. When I got back, my feet and knees were rebelling, both quite worn out after six months of hiking, and especially the very strenuous final four days, covering 65 miles plus the summit and descent of Katahdin.
Over the past month, my feet and knees have gradually recovered. My feet, I think, are back to “normal”, and though my knees are not yet back at 100%, I can walk down stairs without looking like I’m about to fall over after every step.
Yesterday, I went out for my first actual hike since getting back, hiking a four mile loop in the C&O Canal NHP that included the Billy Goat Trail A, the only section of the Billy Goat Trail I hadn’t already hiked.
Previously, I declined to hike that section of trail due to the 50 foot rock climb near the middle of the trail and the extensive warnings about how strenuous the trail was. Now that I had completed the AT, it seemed a good chance that no matter how strenuous Billy Goat A was, it was going to be trivial compared to the harder sections of the AT.
My knees still didn’t appreciate the slight downhill sections of Billy Goat A (mostly, foot or two drops from one rock to another), and my left ankle (which got rolled the most on the AT) felt somewhat weak. Compared especially to the Whites, though, the “rock climb” was trivial, and the trail not really that strenuous at all.
I’m looking forward to my knees continuing to recover; hopefully they’ll be back to “normal” by the time spring rolls around again. I would really like to get back out for some sort of multi-day hike again in the future. I miss the AT already (even if my knees don't).
I also put together some statistics on my hike, some of which were actually surprising.
|<= 5 mi||4||2.3%|
|5 - 10 mi||25||14.1%|
|10 - 15 mi||56||31.6%|
|15 - 20 mi||56||31.6%|
|20 - 30 mi||15||8.5%|
I zeroed 21 days on the trail. Only three times did I zero more than one day in a stretch: at Harpers Ferry (two days), Culver Gap in New Jersey (three days, for the Fourth of July weekend), and at Stratton (two days).
The longest stretch between zeroes was 19 days: 294.7 miles between US 220 / Daleville VA and Harpers Ferry WV, and 299.2 miles between Harpers Ferry, WV and Culver Gap, NJ.
The four really short days were the hikes to the trailhead at Hiawassee; between the Fontana Dam Shelter and the Fontana Dam Visitor Center (in a failed attempt at ultraslacking the 1.5 miles from the shelter to the entrance to the Smokies); the mile and a half from Niday Shelter to VA 621 after I hurt my leg; and the short day to the RPH Shelter.
My longest day was 25.5 miles from Antlers Campsite to Rainbow Lake Campsite. This was also the only day that deliberately involved hiking after sunset. The next-longest was 25.3 miles, between the Thomas Knob and Trimpi shelters, on the way to Marion, VA.
I met Beast on March 28th. Beast with me about 620 of the 839 miles from the Muskrat Creek Shelter in Georgia to the Pinnacles Picnic Area in Shenandoah on June 6th, 70 days later.
I "officially" met Papa Monkey and Rainbow on July 23, at Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts. We commenced slackpacking together the next day, covering the 336 miles to Grafton Notch in Maine, ending our time together almost exactly a month later on August 22.
Surprisingly, of the 177 days I spent on the trail, only 83 days (47%) were outdoors, and 94 days (53%) were indoors.
The longest stretch without staying in town was the 8 days between Arden Valley Rd, NY and Brassie Brook Shelter, CT.
The longest stretch of only staying indoors was the 24 days between NH 25 and Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps, during an epic-length stretch of slackpacking.
The official distance for the AT this year was 2189.1 miles (though it was actually slightly longer due to several trail relocations made after the official distance was announced). Including the 8.8 mile approach trail, that brings the distance to 2197.9. If side trails to shelters, campsites, and towns were included, the total distance would probably be closer to 2300 miles.
Despite not having heard of the concept of slackpacking prior to my hike, I still managed to slack 26% of the trail, including about 7.5 miles where I carried no pack at all.
As a result of teaming up with Papa Monkey and Rainbow, the longest stretch of slackpacking was the 431.7 miles from the Mt. Greylock summit in Massachusetts to East Flagstaff Rd, after the Bigelows in Maine, covering the entirety of Vermont and New Hampshire. The longest day of slackpacking was the 22.6 miles between VT 9 and Stratton-Arlington Rd.
The longest stretch without slackpacking was 538.8 miles from the Trico Tower Trail in WV to US 7/Sheffield, MA.
I have more thoughts on slackpacking, but those are best saved for another post.
Overall, the weather for my hike was amazing. While some unfortunate hikers just a few days ahead of me were deluged with 20 consecutive days of rain in May, I hardly got any rain.
Excluding days where there was fog, I only got rained on 19 days. Only five of those days was there a downpour; most of the time when it rained, it was a drizzle or light rain. I also had a fair bit of luck: it rained 22 days sometime after I set up camp, and before I set out to hike the next day. Occasionally, this meant I got a little wet while getting water or setting up a tent, but that was pretty rare.
It snowed one day on the trail, in the Smokies. Two or three times, there was small hail.
Next year, I’m hoping to hike one of two long-distance trails that connect with the AT. The Long Trail, which stretches 272 miles from Massachusetts to Canada, the southern 100 of which the AT follows, is the most likely. I’m also considering the Benton MacKaye trail, which runs for just under 300 miles, starting at Springer Mountain, and after briefly joining the AT at Fontana Dam, takes an alternate path through the Smokies to terminate at the AT just south of Davenport Gap (at the north end of the Smokies).
I may attempt the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail, but almost certainly not until 2018.