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An Appalachian Trail Thru Hike in Pictures

Updated on May 25, 2016
Though, thanks to thieves, the diamond shaped metal AT signs are rare, the trail is marked with white 2x6 - inch blazes along the way.  I only lost the trail a few times during my journey.
Though, thanks to thieves, the diamond shaped metal AT signs are rare, the trail is marked with white 2x6 - inch blazes along the way. I only lost the trail a few times during my journey. | Source

My Journey

The Appalachian Trail stretches over 2,170 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. In 1998 I had the chance to undertake this journey and it still affects me to this day. I started June 1st of that year in Maine and walked south along the AT until I reached the peak of Springer on October 23rd. In that four and a half months of backpacking I perfected my style, eliminated distractions, and found an unmatched peace in my soul.

The following are pictures I took along my sojourn. I mailed the completed film rolls home (yes, it was before digital); I only regret that I didn't take more pictures than the seven rolls I used. As a solo backpacker, I have gotten quite handy with the timer on my camera and the use of a mini-tripod. Therefore, when you see the pictures with me as the subject, I had painstakingly arranged the camera to try to capture the moment. I will update this page as I continue to scan in pictures from this trip.

The 5,268' Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park,  Maine is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and an imposing mountain.
The 5,268' Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and an imposing mountain. | Source
Here I am, Appalachian Trail day #1 on top of Katahdin.
Here I am, Appalachian Trail day #1 on top of Katahdin. | Source

Quick AT Facts


  • A continuous footpath stretching about 2,160 miles from Maine to Georgia.
  • Highest elevation is 6,625 feet
  • 3 to 4 million people walk some portion each year
  • Travels through 14 states
  • First national scenic trail (1968)

A moose forages in a Maine pond - one of many moose I saw on this trip.
A moose forages in a Maine pond - one of many moose I saw on this trip. | Source

A Close Encounter with a Couple of Moose

I was a few days in on my hike in Maine's 100-Mile Wilderness, staying in a lean-to overlooking a picturesque pond. I hadn't seen anyone in a couple days and had yet to camp with anybody. In fact, I wouldn't camp with anyone until venturing South of Monson. Though Southbound thru-hikes offer peace away from the crowds and time to contemplate in solitude, at times being a lone traveler can be eerie.

Though your senses are heightened during the first few days of a wilderness trip, after that your mind becomes accustomed to the crashes and sounds of the night. However, the noise I heard on this morning was one I wasn't going to sleep through.

It was in the pre-dawn hours where sunlight strives to weave its strands through mountain passes, allowing just enough light to illuminate the shadows of the woods. I was sleeping, nestled in my REI bag from a cool Maine June morning.

Then I was shaken awake! The entire lean-to was rattling; it felt like a bear had hopped into the shelter with me. I pushed my arms through the opening near my head, and reached over for the hiking pole by me. Sitting up quickly, pole in hand, I was ready to fight off whatever had disturbed my slumber.

But nothing was in the shelter, save the mice that hid under the floor boards. Instead, only feet from me a cow moose and her calf ran through my campsite and into the pond below. My heart pounded wildly never having been that close to a moose before.

Of course what really made me think, as I smiled at the experience, was I almost set my tent up where the moose ran the night before to offer some solace from the black flies. I was glad I was too tired to set up the tent and passed out in the lean to. My exhaustion may have saved me a good moose trampling.

Anyway, after experiencing something like that, you can't go back to bed. You have no choice, but to start hiking early.

This sign greets hikers at the southbound entrance to Maine's famous 100-mile Wilderness. I experienced fantastic solitude in this section, only meeting one other hiker.  I was able to do the section in five-days.
This sign greets hikers at the southbound entrance to Maine's famous 100-mile Wilderness. I experienced fantastic solitude in this section, only meeting one other hiker. I was able to do the section in five-days. | Source
The Carrabasset River crossing nearly drowned me, the bridge had been taken out by the ice earlier in the spring.  I ended up bushwhacking several miles to get across this awesome river.
The Carrabasset River crossing nearly drowned me, the bridge had been taken out by the ice earlier in the spring. I ended up bushwhacking several miles to get across this awesome river. | Source
Due to several drownings on the Kennebec River, this ferry service is now provided for hikers.
Due to several drownings on the Kennebec River, this ferry service is now provided for hikers. | Source
As a Southbounder you should be prepared for solitude, I spent many nights alone in lean-tos or in my own camp.
As a Southbounder you should be prepared for solitude, I spent many nights alone in lean-tos or in my own camp. | Source

On Camping

One of the most common questions I hear, is "Where do you sleep?" When I started, I had a one-person Walrus Swift tent that I carried (mostly to provide solace from the Maine black flies). However, I found myself squeezing into lean-tos most of the time. A lean-to is, generally, a three sided structure but some of them are mountain cabins; there is a lean-to about every eight-to-ten miles along the trail.

When I started reducing the weight of my pack, I sent my tent home and bought a nylon poncho at an outfitter along the trail. On the occasion I couldn't squeeze into a lean-to, I'd stretch up my poncho with some parachute cord and shelter myself from the sometimes fierce mountain storms. I'd also find "natural" shelters: under picnic tables in town parks, under bridges, and once in a large culvert pipe.


There is always room for one more in an AT lean-to.  This stormy night in Maine found ten bottlenecked Southbounders in a six person lean-to.  It's okay as long as you sleep head to toe and ignore the smell.
There is always room for one more in an AT lean-to. This stormy night in Maine found ten bottlenecked Southbounders in a six person lean-to. It's okay as long as you sleep head to toe and ignore the smell. | Source
A full pack in the White Mountains.
A full pack in the White Mountains. | Source

What is a Thru-Hiker?


  • A person that walks the entire trail in one continuous journey –versus a 2000 miler that hikes the entire trail over a few seasons.
  • It takes about 5 million steps to complete the journey.
  • The first thru-hiker was Earl Shaffer in 1948 – (1965 and 1998 too).
  • You can walk either direction (Me>Ga) (Ga>Me).

Heat rash is a problem for many thru hikers pushing out twenty-mile days under the hot sun.  I made this kilt out of polyester microfiber that I bought in a craft store in Massachusetts.  It took me about a week to sew in the pleats.
Heat rash is a problem for many thru hikers pushing out twenty-mile days under the hot sun. I made this kilt out of polyester microfiber that I bought in a craft store in Massachusetts. It took me about a week to sew in the pleats. | Source

Wear a Kilt to Protect Yourself from Heat Rash while Hiking

Anyone that has ever walked 20 miles a day for a few months, or heck even a few days, can understand the anguish of heat-rash. Each morning I slathered up my legs with diaper rash ointment, but still that rash took some of the joy out of hiking.

Many of my fellow thru-hikers were wearing sundresses, in fact I contemplated buying one myself. I flipped through the racks in a thrift store trying to figure out what size I was. The lady behind the counter glared at me with pity, curiosity, and displeasure.

I left that store with the intention of making my own kilt; I had done so for reenacting a couple years prior. I was overjoyed when I found polyester microfiber in Stewart plaid - it made the perfect hiking kilt. The good news was - I didn't have to worry about heat rash again - the kilt cured me.

Of course, there was that one time I did a somersault in my kilt near a scenic outlook. I'm sorry if anyone bore witness to that incident.

Thru-Hiker Statistics


  • Average hike is 6 months
  • 10-15% of perspective hikers succeed
  • It will cost on average of about $3,500.00 plus gear
  • 15% of hikers quit in the first week
  • In 2001, 2375 people started from Springer 397 completed
  • In 2001, 275 people started from Katahdin, 57 completed
  • About 8,000 people are 2000-milers
  • Women make up 25% of all completions

One of many bog bridges guides your way through sensitive areas.
One of many bog bridges guides your way through sensitive areas. | Source
What, you mean you can take a train to the AT?
What, you mean you can take a train to the AT? | Source
Hostels, like this one in Delaware Water Gap, offer a place to shower and do laundry while resupplying in town.
Hostels, like this one in Delaware Water Gap, offer a place to shower and do laundry while resupplying in town. | Source
After years of zinc smelting, the Lehigh Ridge in Pennsylvania is now dead - a sobering reminder of man's destructive power over the wilderness.
After years of zinc smelting, the Lehigh Ridge in Pennsylvania is now dead - a sobering reminder of man's destructive power over the wilderness. | Source
Here is "Crawdad" at Pine Grove Park in Pennsylvania undertaking the half-gallon challenge.  I ate a half-gallon of moose tracks for my challenge.
Here is "Crawdad" at Pine Grove Park in Pennsylvania undertaking the half-gallon challenge. I ate a half-gallon of moose tracks for my challenge. | Source

On Food

Another question that thru-hikers are often asked is, "what do you eat?"

Though many people conjure images of eating nuts and berries as we hike merrily through the woods for six months, it would be difficult to consume the massive amount of calories that a thru-hiker requires. Sometimes though, it is fun to play along with people's perceptions of our pastoral playtime.

There are generally two methods of food resupply that long-distance hikers use on the Appalachian Trail: Mail drops and Grocery Stores.

Hikers relying on mail drops have pre-packaged food mailed to them at post offices along the trail. Yes, trail town post offices are well -accustomed to holding packages for hikers. The advantage of this system is that you are guaranteed nutritious food and generally at a reduced cost. The downfall being the boredom you may find eating the same sort of food day after day. Hiker boxes in towns are always full of oatmeal and energy bars. Another downfall to mail drops is arriving in town when the post office is open, you may have to wait a couple days in town if there are no Saturday hours.

Relying on grocery stores is a little more of an adventure and the method upon which I relied for sustenance. Of course the term "grocery store" is used very loosely. Sometimes your resupply point is little more than a gas station. Most places have ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, but sometimes you walk out of town with pork rinds and snicker bars.

Of course it is every hiker's duty to take advantage of restaurants, diners, ice scream stands, outdoor barbeques and whatever else they can find. It isn't off to "eat out" four or five times in an overnight town stay. Of course those places which are ALL YOU CAN EAT are perennial hiker favorites. Don't worry about not knowing where these places are, for all conversations amongst thru-hikers revolve around food.


The historic armory at Harper's Ferry; the ATC headquarters is just down the street.
The historic armory at Harper's Ferry; the ATC headquarters is just down the street. | Source
One of my best lunch sites along the trail in Virginia.
One of my best lunch sites along the trail in Virginia. | Source
The Hungry Tree
The Hungry Tree | Source
Walking into the sunrise over Tinker Ridge, Virginia.
Walking into the sunrise over Tinker Ridge, Virginia. | Source
A fine AT footbridge, thanks to the thousands of dedicated volunteers.
A fine AT footbridge, thanks to the thousands of dedicated volunteers. | Source
A butterfly rests on thistle in Shenandoah National Park.
A butterfly rests on thistle in Shenandoah National Park. | Source
Sunrise behind a simple cross someone erected on a Virginia mountain top.
Sunrise behind a simple cross someone erected on a Virginia mountain top. | Source
The Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia is a welcome escape from the "green tunnel."
The Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia is a welcome escape from the "green tunnel." | Source
The "wild" ponies of Grayson Highlands State Park.
The "wild" ponies of Grayson Highlands State Park. | Source
One of many bears I saw along the trail, this one is in the Tennessee woods.
One of many bears I saw along the trail, this one is in the Tennessee woods. | Source
"Southern Comfort" overlooks the North Carolina Mountains in Fall.
"Southern Comfort" overlooks the North Carolina Mountains in Fall. | Source
A bittersweet end to a fantastic journey on Springer Mountain, Georgia.
A bittersweet end to a fantastic journey on Springer Mountain, Georgia. | Source

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    • irvinetraveller profile image

      irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California

      This is a great hub! Thank you for sharing your pictures of an epic trip.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Awesome!! Just found this hub. But, you gotta write more. :)

      Have you read Bill Bryson's book "A Walk in the Woods?" For AT fans, this is a great read.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      I have indeed read Bryson's book - it came out the year that I hiked. He is one of the great travel writers of our time.

      This hub is a work in progress and yes I will be writing more. Adding photos and piecing together memories has been fun in recalling my adventure.

    • MysticTurtle 5 years ago

      OMG! I want to go do it again! Great pics...I actually had to get a couple of mine out to compare and make sure you hadn't swiped mine (you hadn't). Looks like we stood in the exact same spot to photograph the train station in NY.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Yeah, every time I run into another thru-hiker or start thumbing through my photo album I start getting the fever. Someday, I'll do it again. It's funny, when I look at people's albums, how many times we use the same vantage spots for photos. Thanks for stopping by.

    • scentualhealing profile image

      scentualhealing 4 years ago from Georgia

      Marvelous just to GET OUTSIDE in the wild blue yonder. Traveling the App, trail is on my bucket list. you are fortunate to have been...sweet pics

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Thanks for reading Scentualhealing and hiking the A.T. is a great item to be on your bucket list. Someday I'd like to hike it again.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What an awesome hub! I love the outdoors, and camping, but don't think I am quite tough enough to do what you accomplished. Congratulations on completing your trip. I truly enjoyed reading this and you took some awesome pictures! Voted up, awesome and sharing! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing sgbrown, I'm glad you liked the pictures. As far as being tough enough, with a little training, you'd be surprised what you can accomplish.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Really cool hub Outbound Dan. These places look like where I'd like to be at this moment instead of at the office... LOL

      Voted up

      John

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Yeah, whoever built the first office made a huge mistake. Thanks for stopping by John!

    • luv2hike profile image

      luv2hike 4 years ago

      Great hub, beautiful pics...very envious. Congratulations on completing your journey.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Thanks luv2hike, it was the trip of a lifetime. That said - I'd love to do it again.

      Thanks again for reading!

    • rust profile image

      rust 4 years ago from East Texas Woods

      I have a little "hiking problem" that always drives the family crazy. Anytime we get near a trail I end up going way off on it instead of keeping to our rough schedule. Slows everything down but I just find it hard to turn back around. One time my nephew tried to follow me down a trail in Big Bend National Park here in Texas. After a few hours I looked behind me to see how he was doing and found him nearly passed out flat on his back. Had to give him my Gatorade and stop the trek so I could get him back. The AT is definitely my kind of trail. Someday!

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Ha - it sounds like we have the same problem. About the only time I don't truly meander and pay too much attention to the time is during the winter. That is when I set my watch for a turn around or make camp time. I found it is really tough to put up a tent at night in a snowstorm.

      The great thing about the AT, is that you can spend a lifetime exploring it. Not only do you have 2,100 miles of main branch trail but hundreds of official blue blazed side trails. Plus it links up with other long distance trails like the Great Eastern Trail, ADT, Long Trail, and Long Path.

      Good hiking to you Rust, thanks for reading!

    • rust profile image

      rust 4 years ago from East Texas Woods

      If you were limited to a few days, which section of the trail would you cover?

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      With just a few days head for New Hampshire - Franconia Ridge and Presidential Range for great hiking with fantastic views. Of course you could always hit up the Maryland section - it is only about 39 miles. That way you can say you hiked an entire state.

    • rust profile image

      rust 4 years ago from East Texas Woods

      Thanks - I've written the names down and will research them.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Awesome, if you have any questions just let me know!

    • rust profile image

      rust 4 years ago from East Texas Woods

      A little review I wrote of the RAT-3.

      http://www.viewpoints.com/Ontario-RAT-3-D2-Serrate...

      You need one!

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Nice review! I always had great luck with Ontario knives, having carried one in the Army for years - now it is in the trunk's emergency bag. I've been so impressed with my ESEE Izula though, I think I am going to get the ESEE-4.

    • rust profile image

      rust 4 years ago from East Texas Woods

      I like the ESEE lineup but already have the RAT-3, RAT-5 and two RTAK-II's (for firewood.) Since I'm in the deep south I spend a lot of time outdoors with a machete. The Machete Specialist is a great source for unusual designs. Condor is really ramping up their knife and machete lineup if you're ever in need. Carbon steel, wood. Simple.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Sometimes simpler is better Rust. I've had good luck with my cold steel machete and for the price I couldn't go wrong. Of course, very rarely do I have need of a machete either.

      That RTAK is a monster - but it looks like a pretty useful knife for the kit, especially when doing heavy work.

    • Amy Ginn profile image

      Amy Ginn 4 years ago

      Beautiful pics, interesting facts, and great story!

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 4 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Thanks for reading and for the compliment Amy!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      As opposed to a Thru hiker, i am a section hiker of AT and have completed trail pieces in North Carolina, Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts.

      I loved this article. Great information and great pictures from film roll era. I have several pictures from that era too and I enjoyed every bit of your pictures.

      Voted up and shared.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 3 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Though I've visited parts of the trail since my thru hike, I would like to backpack a few of my favorite sections again.

      Yes, these pictures were taken with one of the original Canon Elphs on Advantix film. I've scanned in most of my pictures digitally. Now that I have a better scanner, I should have another go at it.

      Thanks for the comment Suhail and for sharing!

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      I always wanted to do Thru hike through AT and through Ontario's Bruce Trail. Now that I am past my prime (lol), I guess AT is out of question, but Bruce Trail is still doable.

      Btw, Shenandoah National Park is my personal favorite since 1980s and is my family favorite since early 20o0s.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Amazing story. Great pics. What a special memory to look back on.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 3 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      You never know Suhail, the AT may not be out of the question. I did meet Earl Shaffer when I hiked: he was 80 years old and on his third thru hike.

      The Bruce Trail is close to where I live in Niagara Falls - just across the River. I've day hiked a little bit of it, but haven't backpacked it. I'm one of those guys who doesn't like paying the crown camping permits.

      Shenandoah is definitely up there for me, along with Grayson Highlands in Virginia. I also loved the sheer openness of New Hampshire's White Mountains and the rugged solitude of Maine.

    • Outbound Dan profile image
      Author

      Dan Human 3 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      It is a memory I fondly look back upon. Thanks for the comment truthfornow.

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