By Phil Barnes
As some of you are aware, this past year Randy Ching (an active Oahu Sierra Club member) and I undertook a thru-hike on the 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail running from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The trip took two years to plan, as there are a multitude of details to work out.
On April 13 we left Hampton, Tennessee heading north. To avoid the crowds in Georgia in the spring, we had decided on a ‘flip flop’ hike. The first night on the trail we were hit by a snowstorm, but within a week the snow was long gone with the temperature nudging 80 degrees. There were a few thru-hikers who had left Springer and were already this far north, but they were very fast hikers. We averaged fifteen miles per day, plenty for us. My pack averaged a bit over thirty pounds when heading out of town with six days’ worth of food, which is pretty light.
For those thinking of doing the AT, there is a lean-to shelter about every eight miles or so for the entire length of the trail. We stayed in shelters probably about two-thirds of the time and camped out the rest. We stopped in a town every six days or so, and spent the night in a motel, took showers and picked up one of the eighteen food drops that my brother mailed to us along the trail. On September 8 we summited Mt. Katahdin at the northern end. My daughter, Brooke, met us and drove us back to Hampton, TN, where we started heading south.
Diane, my wife, joined us for the last 400+ miles. Together, we saw the beautiful Southern Appalachians in their fall colors. This southbound section of the trail through North Carolina and Georgia was my favorite part of the hike. We all reached the end of the trail at Springer Mountain in late October.
We had excellent weather on the hike; it was pretty dry and cool much of the way, which is rarely the case. The year before it had rained for thirty straight days in Virginia!
While long distance hiking, you burn up more calories than can possibly be consumed. I lost almost thirty pounds while eating high calorie food non-stop. As soon as you hit a town, the first thing you do is eat a carton of Ben & Jerry’s. Then you go out to dinner. I must admit that I miss eating several Snickers bars a day, but I would like to keep trim and not regain the weight again.
Many generous Sierra Club members made per-mile pledges, allowing me to collect over $1,000 for Moku Loa Group. Thanks to all of you who supported me in this endeavor.
This was such a great trip; I’ll share it with you at a slide show at the Komohana Ag Center upstairs conference room at 7:00 pm, Earth Day, Friday, April 22. There will be a show in Kona scheduled at a later date. Any questions? Contact me (965-9695).