So you want to know how to survive the Appalachian Trail?
Well lucky for you, the support team has a new member (me!) that can walk you through it. So although you will need to save up lots and lots of sabbatical time (it's most likely going to take you at least 4 months), it's never too early to start preparing.
1. Don't just take the first trail name given to you
Every thru-hiker needs an alias. Remembering everyone's real name is way too difficult. Plus, it's fun to have a make-believe name for the summer. You can not pick your trail name though. Someone has to give it to you. But that does not mean you need to take the first suggestion. Somebody tried to throw "New York" on me. As a die hard Boston sports fan, that was not going to fly. The very next day, a much better trail name, "The Fonz", was bestowed upon me. So don't get stuck with "Dirt Face" because you had dirt on your face the first night. Hold out for "Flame Thrower" because you knocked over a campfire two weeks later (both are real people).
2. Get to know this guy
Baltimore Jack is an Appalachian Trail legend. He hiked the trail seven summers in a row and nine times total. Now he hangs out at popular stops along the way, giving hikers advice and wisdom.
3. Get to know this guy too
City Slicka has been hiking the trail since 2012. Non-stop. He hikes to Maine. And then back to Georgia. And then back to Maine...etc. So he knows the way better than just about anyone, making him a great night hiking partner. The former chemist will show you where the closest liquor stores are, as well as give you a lesson on how to save your money (401K!)
4. Be prepared for all types of wildlife
Yes, your going to see bears, poisinous snakes, and moose. But the trail also meanders through some farmland. So don't be shocked to look up and see a heard of cows. Just say hello and watch your step for manure.
5. Perfect the Ramen-Bomb
Ramen Noodle + Instant Mashed Potatoes + Beef Jerky = Gourmet Trail Food
Eating well on the trail can be tricky. You are going to be constantly hungry, but you do not want to carry much weight in food. So the key is to find meals with high caloric value but low weight. The best options are foods that require adding water - like Ramen Noodles or instant mashed potatoes... Check out this classic trail recipe for the "Ramen-Bomb".
1. Boil Ramen Noodle with the beef jerky in the water (The beef jerky is going to rehydrate a bit and get just a little less "jerky")
2. Add instant mashed potatoes.
3. Mix in Ramen flavoring pack and let it inflitrate those delicious chemically processed potatoes.
4. Bon Appetite
6. Let your family know that the bears haven't gotten you
Get in touch with your family every once in a while. Even though, statistically speaking the Appalachian Trail is actually quite safe, loved ones will be constantly worried about you. So tell your mom your doing so good that you've even found time to bathe.
7. Go to the Port Clinton Fire Company & Social Quarters
I heard about this Pennslyvania bar way back in southern Virginia. It is a members only bar in the tiny town of Port Clinton (Pop. 324). That means members pay an annual fee, and in return, drinks and food are insanely cheap. We're talking $1.75 top shelf shots and $2.00 chicken tenders. The beautiful part about the bar is that they will let Appalachian Trail thru-hikers enter and enjoy the prices as well. Just knock twice, get buzzed in, and party with the locals for next to nothing.
8. Cowboy camp with your friends
Sleeping in your tent, hammock or a shelter is awesome. But sleeping directly under the stars is even better. If the weather forecast is calling for clear skies, don't bother setting up or finding shelter. Just lay your sleeping pad and bag down, drink the beer you packed out of town, douse yourself in bug spray, and sleep in the middle of nature. It is an incredible experience.
That's all you really need to know about hiking the AT. I suppose I did not cover things like what to pack, wilderness first aid, or injury prevention, but you'll figure that stuff out as you go... All you need to do now is quit your job, leave your family and friends behind, and fly to Georgia!