So what is it?

So what is it?...

For those of you who have stumbled across this, or are just having a quick browse through curiosity; what is the Appalachian Trail? Well, it's a footpath. In North America. Going from Springer Mountain in Georgia, north to Mount Katahdin in Maine, covering a distance of somewhere between 2000 and 2180 miles depending on which source you read. The 30% of aspirational thru-hikers that complete it take 4-6 months, cross 14 states, take 5 million steps, and I've heard somewhere that they climb the equivalent of 16 Everest's. Ok, enough about the manliness of the feat at hand; its basically going to be a cracking walk through some beautiful environments and (I hope) one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences in my life.

For those of you who're interested I'm going to keep this page updated as I plan, prepare, and eventually hike the trail. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Hello folks!

First things first...

I've finished!!!! Summited Katahdin on the 15th August to complete my thru-hike. What an incredible journey! Apologies for not keeping the blog on-go whilst I was out there; I had issues with internet security, blah, blah... so basically I couldn't access my account. I still want to share my adventures with you all, so I kept a good old fashioned paper journal, and will be writing up the story of my hike in a number of weekly posts, along with photos and videos.

I think this will be a pretty good way of doing things. Firstly, it will let me re-live the last 5 months of my life- they have been incredible. Secondly, for the class of 2015 who have been following along with 'real-time' blogs which are now coming to an end; it will hopefully keep you occupied/ mildly entertained until you begin your own journeys next year. I will be able to dig through my journal and pick out the really important aspects of my hike, rather than giving a detailed account of why I decided to swap from Oatmeal to Poptarts... I want my blog to be useful in terms of planning and preparation, but most importantly I want it to give an informative and true insight into what it is like to hike for 2185 miles and 151 days up the Eastern Seaboard of the USA.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hi folks,

It's not Will, unfortunately he's having some issues signing in to the blog to keep it updated. Hopefully this problem shall be resolved soon, although for the next 8/9 day he'll be taking on the Smokies, so this'll have to do for now.

It's going really well, some rather extreme changes in weather, but all in all he's pleased with his kit and how the trail is going. Meeting lots of wonderful people and is in a group of four who have all fallen into the same rhythm. They had a rest day yesterday at Fontana and are hoping to reach Hot Springs in just over a week.

Right, so, some pictures (not in any particular order I'm afraid, no doubt Will'll arrange at a later date)...

                                                          L-R: Will, Wes, Simon, Bri

Hopefully more to come soon first hand from the trail.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Last post before I start!

It is one week until I leave Cornwall and head to London for my flight. One week! Holy Crow. Apart from un-packing and re-packing my kit, consuming copious amounts of tea, and trying to plough through the rest of season 8 of Supernatural, what have I been up to?

I finally chose and paid for my travel insurance. It cost me about £120, so around what I was expecting. It was a backpackers insurance so covers hiking up to 3000m (more than I need), and the medical part of it would foot the bill if I were to be air-lifted for any reason. The chances of this are exceptionally slim, but I know of someone who broke an ankle in an awkward place and ended up with a $90,000 bill, so it’s nice to know my ass is covered anyway.
Plans were finalized with the lovely chaps at the Hiker Hostel. I’ll land in Atlanta and have a few hours in the largest urban space I’ll be in for five months to find fuel and food for the first few days, and get a phone.

I got my passport back with a shiny visa attached inside and filed it away safely (hopefully somewhere I can find it…). This, unfortunately, isn’t the end of the visa saga! Although my visa is provisionally granted, it is up to the US border official as to how long I can stay in their country.
There are a few documents I will be taking along to show as evidence of the nature and duration of my trip, if they are required. First and foremost, a bank statement to show that I have raised sufficient funds for my trip. A B1-B2 visa does not permit work so this is a pretty important one. Second, I will have the address and contact details of the hiker hostel I will be staying in for the first couple of days. The final thing, and hopefully the clincher, is the return flight booking. Good, solid evidence that I have parted with hard earned cash to leave their country once I have completed the trail.

My gear is all prepped and ready to go. Waterproofs, pack and boots have been cleaned and re-proofed and everything is nicely organised into dry bags to throw in the holdall I’ll be transporting my kit over in. My fuel bottle and stove have been thoroughly cleaned and are currently airing out to get rid of all the fuel smells so it will be allowed on the flight. Last thing to do is sort out some music and pick a good book to take with me!

Thoughts like: ‘This time in nine days I’ll be having a brew on top of Springer Mountain’ keep on occurring, and occasionally get voiced, much to the despair of my colleagues who all wish they were coming along. My last day at work was yesterday; it was very strange to finally clock-out for good, having been there pretty much every day for the last couple of years! All the hard work and long hours have paid off; my original budget plan has been absolutely destroyed so I have at least $6000 to hike the trail on.

Woo hoo! Ridiculously excited now! This will more than likely be the last post from home.

A huuuge thanks to my friends, colleagues, family and especially my very patient and incredible girlfriend who have put up with endless AT talk, provided moral support, and told me to shut up when necessary. To everyone who has imparted general advice on gear, logistics, trail wisdom e.t.c: Cheers! I wouldn’t have known where to begin without useful input from folks on and on various blogs. I’ll hopefully catch some of you out there!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Gear list video

In a months time I should be a good 40 miles or so into my Appalachian Trail thru-hike! Crazy times! This month I have been compiling and prepping all of my kit, finalizing travel arrangements, and generally preparing myself to leave Cornwall. I have 11 more days at my job in Cotswold Outdoor Truro. It'll be very strange to leave, having been there for the best part of three years, and I will definitely miss the awesome bunch of people that are my colleagues. I'm feeling a mix of emotions at the minute: my apprehension has given way to excitement and eagerness, It's been a long time since the last substantial trip and I'm looking forward to shouldering my pack and taking those first steps north. Undoubtedly there will be homesickness at times, although I'm confident I'll be able to channel this into propelling me on-wards!

As a final overview/ analysis of my kit list, here's a bit of a video...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Protect your grub from bears!

Today I took a walk down to the local woods and taught myself to tie a bear bag. I believe the method I was learning is the PCT method, so named as it is widely utilized by Pacific Crest Trail hikers. It now seems the favored option for anyone hiking through bear country. The technique was surprisingly quick to pick up, and the only extra piece of equipment you need on top of your gear list is a karabiner, 50-ish foot length of paracord, and a stick about an inch or so thick and 12 inches long.

So this is how I did it..

I first selected a suitable branch. Ideally the bag wants to hang at least 10ft in the air and 4ft away from the tree. Any closer the bear will just admire your stupidity/ misguided optimism, grab it, and enjoy your next three days food!

I took the bag I will be storing my food in (some people use their tent stuff sack, I'll be using a dry bag) and attached it to the end of the cord using a bowline knot. Into the bag I placed a rock to give it a bit of weight and make it easier to throw. Making sure nobody was in the firing line I chucked the bag towards the branch. First attempt made it about half way. Second attempt hit the branch and came whistling back down towards me as I cursed and ran for cover. Third time lucky! With a nice under-arm throw I cleared the bow, keeping hold of the other end of the cord to make sure it didn't pull everything over.

(At this point I would remove the stone from the bag and put in my food). I then clipped the karabiner through the bowline loop and thread the tail of the rope through, before hoisting the bag. When it was almost touching the branch I tied the stick onto the trailing cord just above head height, and slowly let the bag down until it had locked itself against the karabiner. And there we go! My food is now safely out of reach of pesky bears. If they do decide to have a go at the cord, even bite through it, the bag will stay where it is.

To retrieve the bag you simply pull the trailing cord until you can reach the stick to untie it.

First bear bag! Wooo!

Thanks to the contributors to The Ultimate Hang and Backpackinglight for their awesome information:

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Bear bags...

I've never tied a bear bag in my life. The only creature with any potential to steal your food when hiking the South West Coast Path is a seagull; but they can fly so hanging food in a tree wouldn't really be of any benefit. In fact it would probably make life easier for the seagull.

Any how... have a read of this, it's brilliant! Hilariously funny and pretty useful.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Water, water everywhere!..

My experience with water purification is somewhat limited. On the majority of walks I've done I have had good access to tapped water sources so purification was unnecessary. When I started reading into the world of techniques and devices there were a lot of options; boiling, filtering with a muslin cloth or pump, UV pens, purification tablets, purification droplets e.t.c. They each have their own merits, although are seemingly inefficient, time consuming, expensive, or bulky to carry.

After much ummm-ing and err-ing, and mild panicking as my departure date loomed, a solution presented its self! Friday's product training at work was on a new water filter device: the Sawyer Mini Filter.

At 60 grams it is among the lightest options I have seen. It is also versatile; able to be used as a straw, attached onto the included pouch for an instant drinking device or decanter; or as I have opted for. fixed onto the hose of a hydration bladder.

It works by channeling water through a membrane composed of 0.1 micron hollow fibres. This is small enough to remove bacteria, parasites, e.t.c. although not viruses (hence it is a filter, rather than a purifier). Water-borne in North America and Europe are very rare, and additional boiling would remove these if the source looked particularly suspect. The filter can be easily cleaned by back-washing with the included plunger, and the life of the device is given as 100,000 gallons 378,000-ish liters), so it should outlast me. Oh, and it's only £30. Looks good from the reviews so far ( . Looking forward to taking it out for a test run this week; especially interested to see what the flow-rate is like through the hydration bladder tube.

Full product info can be found on Sawyer's website. Review to follow!