A MYTH Approach to the AT

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gfbrich
gfbrich Member Posts: 1

A MYTH Approach to the AT

There are many articles, blogs, videos, and stories about thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or any lengthy trail. This article is about a hiking MYTH. One definition of the word myth is “a misrepresentation of the truth.” MYTH, for the purpose of this article, also stands for Multi-Year Thru Hiker, of whom I am one. The frequent misrepresentation is that MYTH hikers are merely section hikers, when, in reality, we are so much more.

I am 68 years old, retired, married for 42 years, father to three adult daughters, grandfather to three grandkids, and I’m currently preparing for my third lash: long ass section hike. In my career with computer software technology, I dealt with many acronyms, so what’s one more? On the trail, hikers like me could be called lashers; however, our multiple lashes over a period of several years serve to achieve our ultimate goal: hiking the entirety of the AT. Hence, MYTH is the term I prefer and feel best describes this type of approach to hiking longer sections.

Taking several years to complete the entire AT is not meant to diminish thru-hikers in any way. I commend and applaud what thru-hikers have accomplished. It takes a lot of mental and physical strength, and commitment, to complete a thru-hike. One thru-hiker wisely commented to me that MYTHs have to prepare and train every year, for multiple years, for their lashes. His observation was so true. When I finally felt I had my trail legs, it was the end of my lash and I left the trail. The next year I had to gain my trail legs all over again. 

I planned to start my first Appalachian Trail lash in 2020, but we all know what happened: COVID. I had purchased my train ticket, prepared my food, and assembled all my equipment, but my lash was over before it could even begin. Luckily Amtrak refunded my ticket and I ate lots of meals out of freezer bags that summer, in the comfort of my home. My AT adventure would have to wait.

I finally started my first lash the summer of 2021 by taking Amtrak from Chicago, IL to Harpers Ferry, WV. It was so convenient. You get off the train and you’re basically on the trail. I enjoy traveling by train. It does take longer, but there is no security line to go through as with flying. Once I get off the train, I hit the trail with a full backpack and start hiking. 

I went NOBO for 725 miles to Hanover, NH. My hike took about 70 days at an average of almost 12 miles a day. I met so many great people – which I believe is the highlight of any hike – there was Half Gear, who walked just a little slow, only in half a gear, and Giddy Up who kept telling us all to “giddy up.” 

My second lash was the summer of 2022. Again, I took Amtrak to Harpers Ferry from Chicago, but this time I went SOBO through the entire state of Virginia, roughly 560 miles in 56 days, averaging 10 miles a day, ending in Damascus, VA. The last day I hiked to the Tennessee state line and then back to Damascus. Both Half Gear and Giddy Up hiked a section of Virginia with me. They are also MYTHs and plan to complete the entire AT over several years.

As a MYTH, I prepare and train all year long. Not only for my hike, but also to stay fit and keep in shape throughout the year. 

I am not a shopper; I don’t like shopping. Instead, I prepare all my food ahead of my hike and box it up so it is ready to be sent to post offices and hostels along the trail. An advantage of shipping to hostels is not being constrained by a post office’s schedule. Some smaller offices have limited days and hours for service. It’s not unusual for a rural office to open for only two hours on Saturdays, and, of course, no office is open on Sunday. Fortunately, my oldest daughter faithfully mails my boxes to me according to the timeline I provide.

For breakfasts, I prepared oatmeal, cereal with powdered milk and protein, and instant rice freezer bag meals that are ready to eat with the addition of hot or cold water. I had protein bars, trail mix, and chocolate bars for lunch and snacks. At dinner, I ate freeze-dried meals I purchased, as well as dehydrated meals I had assembled. Each of my supply boxes contained enough food to last for no more than 7 days. A quick internet search will yield several good articles and videos about food and nutrition, as well as locations along the trail that will receive and hold supply boxes for hikers.

Fuel canisters are essential for my hiking meals. Fortunately, canisters can be sent via USPS ground shipping. The package must display a label indicating that the mode of delivery is ground only. It’s also important to plan ahead when mailing fuel canisters. I allow two weeks for ground shipments and sometimes even that much lead time cuts it a bit close for a timely arrival. 

One huge advantage to being a MYTH is the ability to refine your equipment for the next lash. I had done a lot of research and talked to several experienced hikers before I set foot on the AT for my first lash, so I felt I was well prepared in regard to my equipment choices. But, midway through, I realized some of my choices weren’t the best for me. Currently I am on my third backpack. The first was too heavy, the second was too light – I know, hard to believe – hopefully, the one I have now will be just right. Subsequent lashes have allowed me to switch to a more lightweight sleeping bag and pad. On my first lash I ended up mailing more than a few items home that proved to be unnecessary or not quite right. Last year I didn’t mail home anything; there was no need for a shakedown.

My third lash began on May 1, 2023. After my Amtrak journey, I started at Amicalola Falls State Park on the blue blaze approach trail to Springer Mountain. I got off the trail in Damascus once again. This was my shortest lash thus far, about 480 miles. 

My final AT lash will be from Hanover, NH to Mt. Katahdin, hopefully in the summer of 2024. 

MYTHs are genuine thru-hikers, not “just” section hikers. We prepare and train as thru-hikers. Due to family, work, and other commitments, we often don’t have 5-8 months available to us to complete a thru-hike. As I mentioned before, thru-hikers truly are commendable. It is not my intent to take anything away from their grit, dedication and accomplishments. But I encourage you to think of MYTHs as more than just section hikers. We are truly committed to completing the entire trail, just not in one calendar year. 

To my fellow MYTHs out there: remember, it’s all about the journey. Hang in there and enjoy each day. We’ll reach our ultimate goal; it will just take us a little longer.

Comments

  • MARK SIREK
    MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 296
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    @gfbrich This is an awesome post, and, along with your dedication to the trail, I appreciate you taking the time to share it! Cheers to all the miles ahead!