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  1. #1
    Registered User EO.'s Avatar
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    Default What to do 2-3 months before hike?

    What did you do in the 2-3 months leading up to your thru hike/attempt/LASH? What should one do in those 2-3 months?


    Iíve spent the last two years consuming information, acquiring gear, and doing overnights/long weekends. Longest trip was completing the Knobstone last November over 4 days. Planning to start at Springer next February. After years of buildup, I expected to have more to do in these last months but feel blank when I try to make a list. What am I missing?

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    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EO. View Post
    What did you do in the 2-3 months leading up to your thru hike/attempt/LASH? What should one do in those 2-3 months?


    Iíve spent the last two years consuming information, acquiring gear, and doing overnights/long weekends. Longest trip was completing the Knobstone last November over 4 days. Planning to start at Springer next February. After years of buildup, I expected to have more to do in these last months but feel blank when I try to make a list. What am I missing?
    I researched the AT starting in February. I bought my equipment in March. I started at Springer April 3, 2016. That year I did a total of 532 miles. I never intended to do a thru-hike and I'm glad I didn't plan on doing a thru-hike. Since 2016, I've done 1,875 miles.

    Don't overthink the whole thing. I went in with no expectations and a high tolerance for pain, wet and cold. I tried the group and partner hike thing and it didn't work. I hike by myself. If you want to talk with someone during your hike, do it at shelters and campsites. When you go at the traditional start time in the late winter or early spring, there will be many people around. Hiking with someone works for some, but remember. You are on their schedule or they on your's. That doesn't always work out.

    Other than that, I really enjoyed Amanda Bess' YouTube daily video blogs. Those blogs and in particular the ones done during the early part of her hike will give you a good idea of what you are facing. You may want to do a search on YouTube for them and watch a few - especially when she summits Katahdin. BTW, she started at Springer in February of this year.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  3. #3

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    Do a lot of walking. The more walking you now, the better off you'll be later. Walk everyday, the colder and nastier the better. You want your body to get used that. Good way to test out your layers too.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  4. #4
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    The number one thing IMO is test your gear in all conditions....especially your shoes/boots. If you start in decent condition, you will get your trail legs in short order.
    .................................................. .................................................. .................................................. ..........
    Travel not for the destination, but for the joy of the journey.

  5. #5

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    We've found that trail running really improves hiking fitness.
    Hiking won't improve your running, however.

  6. #6
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    I section hike. Before the hike I walk local mountain bike trails with 40 lbs of weight. When you can walk around 8 miles up and down ( a bit), you will be ready physically. The AT is more demanding but you will not be overcome with the ups and downs in the South East. Really work to stay light. Take less (other than necessary clothes) and you can add/subtract later.

  7. #7
    Registered User Tennessee Viking's Avatar
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    If you want to break-in hike. You can do the mountain sections for the NC MST. There are portions that are very rugid and get you in check for steep climbs and rocky terrain.
    ''Tennessee Viking'
    Mountains to Sea Trail Maintainer
    Former TEHCC (AT) Maintainer
    Falls Lake Trail: 2011

  8. #8
    Registered User handlebar's Avatar
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    You've already done a short 4-day trip, so you probably have your gear dialed in and are prepared with the skills necessary to set up camp, cook, etc. At 26 years old you will likely be able to adjust to the steep ascents and descents that are at the start of the trail much easier than I did at age 61. Are there any high buildings in Indianapolis where you can carry your fully loaded pack up and down staircases? That should help you prepare for the steep ups and downs on the GA AT. A friend of mine trained by walking the stairs in University of Pittsburgh's 36 story Cathedral of Learning with a full pack.

    Although you've done the Knobstone and weekends, you may not be prepared for the weather the southern Appalachians can throw at you in February and March. You should expect snow and very cold weather. For example I had a blizzard in late March and elected to zero the next day rather than walk thru it. Is there somewhere close to home where you can hike in cold rain and/or snow to be sure you're ready and that your gear, skills and determination are sufficient for a February start? If not and you can make the time, I recommend the Quehanna Trail in North Central PA which starts at Parker Dam SP, about a full days drive from you. It is a 75 mile loop with two cross connectors that can be used to bail out if needed. You can count on rain and cold from now until April there, and there are climbs that are reminiscent of Georgia along with some creek fords (most crossings on the AT are bridged). With my March 15 start, there were more than a few days on the AT when I needed to supplement my 15* sleeping bag by wearing my puffy inside. Even if you don't have a blizzard, you'll probably have rainy days with temperatures in the 40s or 50s which are ideal hypothermia weather. Be sure you know the signs you are becoming overly chilled and have a plan to deal with it (such as, make camp and crawl into your sleeping bag pronto when you start shivering.)

    One thing I find valuable is to prepare a "hike plan" and "data book" for all my hikes. Any of the various guides or apps will serve as a "data book", but you should have a general idea of how you plan to resupply, i.e. the number of days provisions you'll be carrying and where you'll get them. I do my hike plan using an Excel spreadsheet template and plug in miles and hiking days between resupplies as well as planned "Zeroes" and "Nearos" in towns. I can vary the start date and the spreadsheet will calculate the dates/days of week and average miles/day for each resupply section. Be sure to know the Monday holidays if you are using the post office for resupply (Presidents Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day). You don't want to have the expense of hanging around town to wait for the PO to open on Tuesday. For the AT, resupplying en route is a very workable strategy (unless you have special dietary restrictions) and water sources are usually frequent enough that carrying large amounts of water won't be a concern as it is for hikes in the desert (PCT, CDT, AZT, GET, etc.).
    Handlebar
    GA-ME 06; PCT 08; CDT 10,11,12; ALT 11; MSPA 12; CT 13; Sheltowee 14; AZT 14, 15; LT 15;FT 16;NCT-NY&PA 16; GET 17-18

  9. #9
    Registered User handlebar's Avatar
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    P.S. Ticks are perhaps the greatest hazard on the AT. If you haven't yet done so, you might want to consider treating your hiking clothes with Permethrin. Also be sure you understand the symptoms of Lyme Disease. The tell-tale rash is absent in a large percentage of cases as it was in mine where the symptoms in midsummer resembled the flu: slight fever, general lethargy, aches. It's important to get antibiotics early if you have Lyme as failure to due so leads to very serious complications.
    Handlebar
    GA-ME 06; PCT 08; CDT 10,11,12; ALT 11; MSPA 12; CT 13; Sheltowee 14; AZT 14, 15; LT 15;FT 16;NCT-NY&PA 16; GET 17-18

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by EO. View Post
    What did you do in the 2-3 months leading up to your thru hike/attempt/LASH? What should one do in those 2-3 months?


    I’ve spent the last two years consuming information, acquiring gear, and doing overnights/long weekends. Longest trip was completing the Knobstone last November over 4 days. Planning to start at Springer next February. After years of buildup, I expected to have more to do in these last months but feel blank when I try to make a list. What am I missing?
    That's some good prep.

    Here's more:

    1) Get a dental checkup and cleaning. Get any major work needed completed before hitting the thru-hike.

    2) If none of those prep treks involved snow and days of rain experience it, OUTSIDE, hopefully with joy AND as close as possible to what you will be wearing and with your AT thru-hike gear. If you don't you really don't know your kit! You don't know your gear! You really don't know how you will emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually react and appropriately adjust. IMHO prep hikes of your duration without understanding, accounting for, and experiencing these aspects aren't the degree of preparation assumed! It's a de-romanticizing shock not all adjust very well.

    3) About 2 months in start turn down the heat making the house(room) colder...and colder.

    4) In Jan make it more regular to sleep outside in your AT gear.

    5) Ween yourself off that which you've grown accustomed off trail to that which you will not have unlimited access on trail.
    a. motor vehicle usage at your beck and call
    b. expectancy of uninterrupted electronic connectivity

    6) Consume foods with greater regularity at home you will carry on trail. If you're cooking cook it the same way you will on trail. Eat the same amounts that you anticipate eating on trail at home. Eat it outside. This will help having less of a dietary and eating habits shock once on trail. Get your food appetites in check! Many have issues pre, during and post hike as Newbies and quite a few as serial LD hikers.

    7) Learn to quiet your mind. Let anxieties fall away. Learn to be a listener and when it's best not to listen. Foster the most positive connection with your hike. Know it is your thru hike...but it's not just about you...or always about hiking. Thru hiking even when in a group involves personal decision making and management. There are few rules.

    8) Define why and how you want to experience a thru-hike. It's OK as this changes somewhat as you evolve on the journey. Know going in from the get go unforeseen events and situations are going to occur. Lock it in that it's OK to not have all the immediate answers and details.

    9) This goes along with 7) & 8) Give some consideration on how you'll approach evolving on the thru hike... at different stages. Consider working your way into the thru hike. For example, don't go out too fast, too long, too hard even when others push a competition off to the races mindset...particularly in the earliest stages as you're adapting to backpacking AND THEN TO THRU HIKING. You'll find out that fast out of the gate gung ho get er dun typically anxious filled approach doesn't serve most new thru hikers very well.

    10) Invest in navigation and cold weather survival courses. Learn how to follow a trail when it's virgin snow and ice covered and overnight safely should you get lost.

  11. #11
    Registered User methodman's Avatar
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    Default What to do 2-3 months before hike?

    Wow! That's like the bible of what to do and expect. Well said,Dogwood.

  12. #12

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    Run
    Run
    Run
    Get loose ends tied up.

    As soon as step on trail, the trail takes care of itself. Its at home things need to be set up for only sporadic attention. Get things prepaid or on auto-pay. You will forget for weeks at a time.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 11-01-2018 at 21:17.

  13. #13
    Registered User evyck da fleet's Avatar
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    What Dogwood said.

    I read some trail journals from the prior year or two from people who hiked at the pace I thought I would to get an idea of (ease of ) resupply options, trail crowding at certain shelters, obstacles overcome. I then made a spreadsheet of my imaginary through hike for my own peace of mind and to picture the journey. I never did use it.

    I also thought about what I wanted to get out of the hike. One get out of Georgia. Two get through the Smokies. Three go as far as I’m enjoying it.

    Obviously, I got in hiking shape and tested out my gear, tho not as much as I should have. A lot of the prep was mental knowing the only way to be fully prepared for a thru was to have done one, or at least a long distance hike. As DW mentioned I had to slow myself on several occasions to avoid overuse injuries to some success.

    Full disclosure: I was a complete newb when I set off. I’d like to say I chose a late April start but it was based on work. It did work out to be my preferred time to start as I liked the warmer weather and longer days. Early starts mean colder nastier weather and more darkness IMHO.

  14. #14

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    I worked on my cardio. I loaded up my pack and tried to walk as briskly as I could for 2 hours, 6 days a week. I went into the thru hike in good condition.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by methodman View Post
    Wow! That's like the bible of what to do and expect. Well said,Dogwood.
    Ditto! I especially like the part about preparing your mind!

  16. #16
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    Make arrangements for after the trail. I was good for like 3 weeks. I was with my family friends. Then I stopped doing things. Got lazy. Lost motivation. Got a minor stomach bug. And then it turned into serious anxiety which ive never felt before. I had to reach out for help. Exercise and staying busy helps a ton.

    The trail opens your mind to alot of things. The amount of physical activity changes the chemsitry in your brain.

    Post trail anxiety or depression is real and affects alot of people.

    Im still anxious as im figuring it all out now that the trail is over. I wish I had spent more time preparing for life AFTER the trail. Going into the trail with the mindset that ill just figure it out while im out there or deal with it afterwards is a bad plan.

    I was not very estatic about my situation before the trail. I went on the trail to take a needed break, prove to myself i can thru hike, and figure somethings out. There were many hard days on the trail. Many. And i can honestly say that most thru hikers i know get "tired" of the trail. They start to need a break from it. But deep down they want to finish so they do. Lots of hikers even finish out of spite and they actually arent enjoying themselves anymore. Then they get back home and realize even though they started to feel a little down on the trail, they were actually doing something that made them happy.

    I havent been able to hang out with any of my AT friends since ive been home. None live near me. And all my "friends" kept asking me when i was gonna start acting normal again and such. When are you going to readjust. How does it feel to reintegrate? However, most people are just asking the question with no meaning behind it. They expect a short brief answer. They dont get it. It is true that they cannot relate. But you actually see and FEEL this. For me, it was intense.

    I have found the nuisances, pet peeves, and triggers that bothered me before the trail are now 10x worse. Because, before it was part of life and something you just deal with. Till you hike and find out you dont have to be around that kind of stuff.

    The AT brought me up and kicked me down. It let me feel raw and not hold anything back. It didnt give me 100% zen and peace because its normal to have things you dislike/disagree with in life. It just reinforced who I am and my beliefs. It made me a truer person. Therefore a better person.

    Most people I know on the trail were hiking because they needed a break from the stresses in their life. And its a good reason to hike. However, those stressors still exist in the real world and they will be amplified when you return. Not having a plan to deal with them can bring you down.

    Post trail depression is quite common. From longing for trail life to hikers taking their lives. Its serious and it might happen to you. So the best thing to do is not to avoid the "now what" phenomenon walking down Katahdin. Have a plan.

    For me, hiking the AT was the best decison Ive ever made. It really reinforced whats important in my own life. On the other hand it has a tendency to "ruin" you. Because although we all have dreams and aspirations, there will always be life in the way. The AT can help you roll with the hardships of life better though. You can only do your best. And you should. And if you hike the AT, you can do anything once the fog clears.

    I think lots of hikers feel the need to go to the PCT asap not because they love thru hiking, but because they cant deal with a normal life again or whatever they had back home. They didnt plan for AFTER the AT so they go back to what they feel confident and assured in doing. The trail feels like home.

    Mags had written an article on his website about post trail challenges. Its worth a read.

    I hope you take my advice and really spend some time with this. Plan a vacation with family or friends for afterwards. Have a plan.

    Im sure others with a LD hike under them can relate and shed some more light on this.

    The ones who can go out and thru hike and go right back to whatever it was they had left behind with no change or reinforcement in feelings or beliefs or wants are either 100% content with their lives or are 175% clinically insane.

    PS.. have fun. The AT is one hell of a ride








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  17. #17

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    I started a thru hike in 2015, and my biggest regret for pre trail planning/prep was my lack of physical conditioning. I *thought* I was in good enough shape, but it was tougher than expected and I would have been much happier if I had been in better shape. Most people will get in shape on the trail, get their trail legs, and it will all work out. Unfortunately, I got super sick at the NOC and had to get off trail in the Smokies, ending in a 13 day hospital stay, so I never got to the point where I had trail legs.

    If you are starting in February, you need to be very comfortable with your gear in cold, miserable conditions. The AT in the South early in the year can be rough, so be prepared for almost anything. Snow storms, freezing temps, rain...

    Make sure you can set up camp in the rain, in the wind, and with cold/numb fingers. Have a system for your gear, where you know where everything is and how to quickly get to it. It also makes it easier to know if you are forgetting something if you always pack up the same way every time. I always look back after a few steps to see if I left or dropped anything.

    Someone mentioned having short term goals. Those are very useful to keep you motivated. Get to the next state line, or even the next town can be a great goal to keep you going.

    And most importantly, have fun!

  18. #18
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    +++1 on Dogwoods thoughts, esp #9. I found the weather and inability to keep my gear dry in Feb rains to be very stressful. I encountered more anxiety, day to day, than I ever did pre-hike.

    Might lead to a different thread, but the importance of mental prep is paramount IMHO. Also leading to FastFox's comments. Comfort level with your gear and physical conditioning is easily achieved, comfort level when the mind begins playing with you in a way you've never encountered is something different.

    All that to say...it's going to be here soon enough. Be in shape, be patient, be flexible. Semper Gumby.

  19. #19
    Registered User ScottTrip's Avatar
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    When it is pouring rain at your house, go outside and put up your tent in the rain. Now blow up your pad get in sleeping bag and not get soaked. Try until you can do this. When it is snowing, windy, and very cold go outside and spend the night in your sleeping bag with what you are bringing. What not to do. Don't get caught up in sending packages everywhere, you food choices will change.

    Most important, just chill out and get ready to enjoy your life changing adventure.

  20. #20
    wookinpanub
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    Physical conditioning. Stairs, cardio, etc. I ran stadium steps at the local college football stadium. One "off-the-wall" thing I did regarded my feet. I wore the shoes that I intended to hike in and wore them for a day with no socks. I came home and marked the areas on my feet that had hot spots with permanent markers. I would then rub my feet down with alcohol each night and finish by roughing the spots up a little with sandpaper. I can't recall where I heard that technique, but I walked the entirety of the trail with zero blisters, so at a minimum it didn't hurt to try.
    Another thing I did was try to educate my family about what I was getting into. I don't come from a family of backpackers so letting them know the ins and outs helped on their end. I gave my parents a map of the entirety of the AT. They put it on the wall and marked my progress by pins when I would call home. This was back before Guthook and AWOL, but I gave them the set of books that came with my maps. Unbeknownst to me, my mom was reading the books as I was going through the areas and was learning about the areas. All that to say........educate your family members, build support (if possible), and figure out a way for them to track your location and know a little bit about the environment you are in. Support at home is priceless.
    Nothing could have prepared me for the mental challenges. I walked the whole thing alone and the solitude was maddening at times and comforting at others. Just know that a long distance trip like this WILL change you. Expect it. Embrace it.
    Good luck to you.

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