Active + Adventure

The Checklist: Ultimate Adventures

by Sarah Tuff

HIKE THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

The trip: It's a late-summer morning, the air still crisp and redolent of campfire, your belly full of breakfast, and all your belongings (at least the ones that matter) on your back. Time is measured in the metronomic crunch-crunch of your Timberlands; distance, by the tracing of a single line on a crumpled topographic map. You're a few days' walk away from your next shower, cupcake, or click of a keyboard. Welcome to life on the Appalachian Trail, America's most storied footpath. If you can't through-hike all 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine, which usually takes five to seven months, spend a week or two in the most northerly stretch, where you'll find the most rugged terrain and, in summer, the most tolerable weather.

Why go? Nearly 100 years after Benton MacKaye envisioned a path linking towns and wilderness, the A.T. remains an escape from urban life—and a community unto itself.

What to pack: A few Snickers bars or packets of high-fat macadamia nuts to share with northbound through-hikers as they slog through the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, just before taking the last of their five million footsteps at Mount Katahdin. (Most complete their trek by late August or September.)

Difficulty: 9.7 out of 10 for a through-hike. Only a quarter of the folks who start out in Georgia make it to Maine, mostly because of the mental challenge. But for a one-week hike from New Hampshire to Maine, it's only a 6. This section requires agility to squeeze through tight spots and scramble up rocks, plus cardio conditioning to make it up and down 5,267-foot Katahdin.

Your guides: Yourself, and a copy of the "Step by Step" planning guide by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which will point you to requisite maps and gear for following some of the 165,000 white blazes along the A.T.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Tel: 304 535 6331

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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