Appalachian Trail Prep II: Daily Mileage and Fitness

In the last post we covered the basic logistic scheme for our 160 day, 2,185 mile hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt Katahdin, Maine; Better known as the Appalachian Trail or AT. The next part of the planning process dealt with figuring out how many miles we had to walk each day and making sure it was a realistic number and of course continuing to train and stay as fit as possible so that we don’t get our asses kicked in the first three weeks!

Schedule:

The overall plan is to do the 2,185 miles in 160 days, or13.6 miles/day. Of course it is impossible to walk every day for 160 days and even if you could, terrain, weather and every other environmental factor you could think of would prevent you from walking the ‘average’ distance each day. Because of that we created a daily mileage average for each of the eight segments we broke the trail down into. We did this by using the guide book recommendations, stories from AT memoirs we have read and perhaps most importantly a reasonable amount of hiking experience. For instance, Harper’s Ferry, WV to the New York/Connecticut State Line is 433 miles and we plan on doing it in 25 days at an average of 17.3 miles per day on relatively flat, smooth and open terrain. On the other hand, Rutland, VT to Andover, ME is only 245 miles but we expect it to take 21 days, averaging 11.3 miles per day because of the steep terrain of the Green and White Mountains for Vermont and New Hampshire.

There is a reason we used a dry-erase marker in our planning...
There is a reason we used a dry-erase marker in our planning…

All of these daily mileage goals ignore the fact that we plan on taking one “zero day” for every six days of walking to keep our bodies healthy and prevent getting burned out. So in reality, between Harper’s Ferry and Connecticut we will have to walk 20.1 mi/day if we want to stick with a six days walking, one day resting schedule. For a realistic check on our mileage estimations we bounced them off a guidebook’s recommended pace for a 180 day thru-hike using generally the same waypoints. Based on experience, we knew that we hike a little bit faster than the average hiker so we generally tacked on extra 15% to the daily average on each section.

We’ll post a more detailed schedule prior to starting and you can follow along with our frequently updated mileage tracker.

Training:

It seems pretty self explanatory but fitness will make a massive difference, especially in the first four weeks of the AT. There are stories of successful AT thru-hikers who have never done an overnight hike or trained for their hike prior to starting. Unfortunately, there are a lot more stories about those folks getting hurt or not making Katahdin because they took so long to walk to first couple hundred miles. Since Lindsay owned a personal training business, both of us are athletes and coaches and I am a former Army Ranger, we figured it would be a bit hypocritical to not do a little preparation for the AT.

Lindsay, Becky (Clay's sister-in-law) and Clay at the end of a snowshoe up White Cap Mountain in Andover, Maine
Lindsay, Becky (Clay’s sister-in-law) and Clay at the end of a snowshoe up White Cap Mountain in Andover, Maine
AT Prep
Lindsay and Hunter going for a training walk in Maine

While in NZ we did several hikes, all of them being day hikes but purposefully picking longer hikes, normally in the 15km to 20km range. We hoped this would help us stay out of a lethargic state prior to getting back to Maine for a month, which is when we would start hiking several times a week with Hunter so he could get used to walking with weight in his pack. Well, little did we know that we would come home to three feet of snow in the woods and no hiking paths anywhere around Andover, Maine.

April 9th, 2014. Still 2+ feet of snow in the woods here in Maine!
April 9th, 2014. Still 2+ feet of snow in the woods here in Maine!
Doing the lifting thing again, love the basement gym!
Doing the lifting thing again, love the basement gym!

So for the last few weeks we have been doing the best we could with what we had to work with. Mixing in some snowshoeing, visiting friends in snow-free areas to go hiking in their area, going for walks along the paved road in the afternoon and most importantly “picking things up and putting them down” in our new basement gym. A complete impulse decision that we made in the Dunedin, NZ library, to send about 1,000lbs of Rogue Fitness kettlebells, plates, bars and squat rack to Andover but once we saw the amount of snow we’re glad we did!

Hunter is NOT impressed with his backpack!
Hunter is NOT impressed with his backpack!

As for Hunter, he didn’t get too fat over the winter and seems to be in pretty good shape. We started walking him with just his pack harness on and then added empty saddle bags. He’ll be walking with his “trail weight”, roughly 10lbs, for our training walks until we leave for Georgia and he stays in Maine until he meets us. He isn’t the biggest fan of his pack, mostly because how much it reduces his ability to keep his feet dry by jumping over puddles!

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5 thoughts on “Appalachian Trail Prep II: Daily Mileage and Fitness”

    1. Thanks! I probably spent twice as long as you would’ve done to make it look pretty. We wanted it to be easier to navigate and look a little more professional if we’re trying to grow our audience.

    1. Yeah, he’s getting used to it now. The first time he had one of those “you’ve gotta be kidding me, right?!” attitudes. He has to either carry his pack or be a hungry puppy though!

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