Hiking along the 2000-mile long Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States is an adventure of a lifetime which attracts thousands of Americans every year. It is estimated that 3 to 4 million people hike the Appalachian Trail every year. Though the hike cannot be defined as dangerous, you need to be a little cautious when planning it. Before you set out or even plan a hike to the Appalachian Trail, you need to be well-versed with facts, like the right time to hike, equipment you require, time taken to complete it, etc.
About Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail, also referred to as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail or AT, is a hiking trail extending over a distance of 2175 miles, between Springer Mountain (Georgia) and Mount Katahdin (Maine). Almost the entire Trail passes through the natural surroundings of the 14 states of the eastern United States. Only at some points, it comes close to human habitation. With river crossings, steep climbing, and forests rich with wild animals, such as the American Black Bear and venomous snakes, to its credit, the trail has something for all. The maintenance of the Appalachian Trail is overlooked by 30 trail clubs, along with several other organizations and locals. In fact, the local people played a major role in building this trail between 1921, when the idea was conceived by Benton MacKaye, to 1937, when the trail was finally completed.
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The foremost thing to do while preparing to hike the Appalachian is to decide what exactly you want: a short hike for a day, a backpacking trip over a weekend, or a long hike. This will, in turn, help you plan the trip accordingly. A short hike will require limited amount of supplies, while a long hike or back packing trip will require more supplies and overnight camping gear along with proper hiking equipment. In order to make sure that your trip is less cumbersome, you can ideally spend some extra money on buying light hiking equipment instead of those heavy ones.
The weather at the Appalachian Trail can change within seconds, especially in particular parts of the trail, and hence, you will have to do some research about the weather of the state you plan to hike in. If you are planning the hike in winter, make sure that you carry enough clothes and safety material. You will also need to make sure that the terrain of the state you choose, is suitable for you, or else you might end up exhausting yourself due to steep climbing, which can turn out to be dangerous at times. Hiking in certain segments, such as the White Mountain National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is relatively risky owing to unpredictable climatic conditions and difficult terrain, and hence, is best avoided unless you have a proper hiking experience.
The other essential things you need to carry along with you on this hike are Appalachian Trail guide or maps, medical aid and packed food in case of emergency, etc. Being enthusiastic is fine, but becoming overenthusiastic and exerting your limits on the very first day will leave your body pleading for rest throughout the rest of the journey. Hiking early morning will not just save you from unnecessary exhaustion, but also increase your chances of seeing nature at its best and spotting animals in the wild. When it comes to hiking on such trails, one needs to remember that it is the journey that matters; not the destination.
Among the other things to keep in mind, you need to also know that the hike to the Appalachian Trail is not actually meant for casual picnickers. It needs a great deal of physical as well as mental strength, along with that never say die attitude, which will help you carry on along this moderate to difficult terrain. After a couple of relatively small hikes, you can go for the big one, wherein like a true Appalachian Trail thru-hiker you can attempt to hike the entire trail in a single season.