I just Hiked the 2189 mile Appalachian Trail from end to end in 6 months and 10 days AMA!

HI I’m Pie!

On the 15th of September 2015 I completed a Thru-Hike of the 2189 mile (3523km) Appalachian Trail, walking from Georgia to Maine. I started on the 5th of March, taking 6 months and 10 days to complete this wonderful adventure. I’d love to share the adventure and answer any questions people have, it was an amazing experience and it would be great to help and encourage any aspiring Thru-Hikers! AMA!

Checkout my blog – {HERE} (https://pieonthetrail.wordpress.com/)

Checkout my youtube page – {HERE} (https://www.youtube.com/c/pieonthetrail?gvnc=1)

Find me on Instagram – {HERE} (https://instagram.com/pieonthetrail/)

Did you ever run in to Bismarck, the fugitive who evaded capture for years by hiking the trail?

Haha actually yes! The night before i started my hike we were all staying at the hiker hostel near springer mountain. He was a really nice guy and we bumped into him a few times before we heard he got arrested at trail days. Crazy!

What was your favorite location on the hike? I’m from Maine, and I’m curious if other parts of the trail are as wonderful as here.

Honestly I’d say the Whites in New Hampshire, they were definitely the hardest section also, I plan on returning there at some point. Maine was awesome as well very different scenery from the rest of the trail, awesome lakes

Did you stop off for a couple nights in. Towns ever or did you stay on trail for the majority? Also did you hike alone?

Yeah every 4-5 days the trail crosses some kind of road, we would hitchhike into town to re-supply on food. Sometimes we would stay in town for a night to shower and do laundry. If we needed to take a break we would take a “Zero” day (zero miles hiked), in which we rested, relaxed and usually drank beer and ate lots of food

I started alone, I flew in from Finland to Atlanta. The night before I started the trail I met two awesome guys and ended up hiking with them for the majority of the trail, we all finished together on the 15th of September. The community on the trail is so awesome, you meet people who will become friends for life

How did you afford to take 6 months off from life to do this? What type of job allows this or how did you raise the money for this?

Good question. I’d been saving up for quite along time to do this and had budgeted around 6000 dollars for the trip. I left home not knowing if my job would still be available to me but luckily it is, i’ll be going back to work in the next few weeks. Trail life can be really cheap if you want it to be, eating ramen noodles and pop tarts is cheap and you can dave a lot of money but not staying in towns and drinking lots of beer

I’ve seen clips on YouTube that showed large amounts of people hanging out and drinking and having fun on the trail. Obviously it’s not like that everywhere, but did you experience any of these random people party’s or was there none of this?

HAHA! There’s actually a lot of that, especially at the start. Generally speaking AT Hikers when they’re not hiking like to rest, eat food and drink beer. Also there’s a phenomenon called “trail magic”, this is where people set up at a trail/road crossing and give food and drinks to Thru Hikers. They’re often former Thru Hikers that want to give something back. It’s just one of the examples of the great community on the trail

How long had you been hiking before starting the trail? Have you made any section hikes on the trail beforehand, or was this your first time on the Appalachian Trail?

Id done two, 4-5 day trips on the AT before. I live in Finland and go hiking pretty regularly here. I’ve also been lucky enough to do some hiking in the National Parks in the US and some more stuff in South America

I’ve heard that the hiking community is still great but the towns are becoming less hiker friendly. Did you find that to be the case?

I’d heard that also before starting the hike. I honestly didn’t experience any real negativity whilst in towns. It’s a difficult social situation when you take a bunch of stinky hikers that want to relax, find free wifi and beer and dump them in a small rural town. The best towns are the ones that embrace the hikers, realising that we are normal (ish) people and that we are a great source of income for the towns

Did you experience a life changing epiphany or a realization of your purpose in life? Or were you just like ‘Hm, that was cool’. How did this change you you as a person?

I wouldn’t say I had a singular life changing experience but the experience did change me in a way you could only know through experience it. It gave me so much time to be with my own thoughts, come to terms with issues from the past, planning for the future and thinking about what I want from life. I feel more confident, motivated to succeed and thankful for the wonderful life I have

Great question

Why did you do it? What lead you to decide that was how you wanted to spend the next 6 months?

Well i’d read the Bill Bryson book which inspired me as a child. In 2010 I did some hiking on the trail whilst working at a summer in New York state and got speaking to some thru hikers, after that experience I knew I had to do it. Also i wanted to do it just to see if i could, if i was capable of it. Plus I love travel and being outdoors, the experience didn’t dissapoint

Why did you wear sneakers instead of boots?

Most people do on the AT. The idea being you carry as little weight as possible on your back therefore you can use lightweight trail runners that are comfortable and dry fast when wet. Boots tend to be heavy and hold water. The only downsize is that they tend to fall apart quicker, i went through 4 pairs of shoes on the trail

Can you describe your gear? What kinds of food did you bring, initially? And what kinds of food were you able to find while hiking? Did you gather any food from edible plants along the trail?

Great questions. First I’d recommend you check out my blog and youtube page in the links above. I go into a lot of detail on food and equipment and am putting out new videos everyday.

The only wild food I felt comfortable eating was wild blueberries because i’m very familiar with them. Are you familiar with wild edibles? If so i m sure there’s a lot to be foraged. I did do a little fishing in Maine with a line and lure but had no luck, I did have friends who caught fish with the exact same setup though.

Did you see any bears?

I did! A lot of people saw bears pretty early on, not me, i guess i was making too much noise shambling through the woods. But eventually, in Vermont (I think) I saw a mother and two cubs, pretty close up. I made noise so they knew I was there and the mother stared at me and let me pass by. I’m from the UK and live in Helsinki, Finland where there are zero bears so it was a great experience for me.

This is on my bucket list. I have a 10-year old son that has grown up hiking and backpacking in Montana. He found out I want to do this and now wants to be included. How feasible is it to plan an extended summer long trip with him? Any specific things I should consider?

Awesome! It’s 100% feasible, the key is to do the research and proper planning. I met several people hiking the whole trail with their kids, some were hiking as a family, mum, dad and kids. I believe the youngest child to ever hike the whole trail was around 7. The AT is very safe, no need to worry about that. Check out the links to my blog and youtube pages above to read more and see videos on all the gear I carried. Go do it, it will be a great experience for you and your son

Any moments where you were in serious trouble?

Nope, not once.

Little cold here and then but thats fine if you’re prepared. Few strange people but 99.9% of people out there are awesome.

I read that you saw a family of bears. What other fauna did you see & have experiences with? Carry fishing tackle? If so, what were caught and best tasting?

Deer, wild turkey, skunk, coyote, various bugs, rattlesnakes and Moose. The most memorable for me was the bear encounter or the moose, we were hiking along and in the middle of the trail is a huge momma moose with a large calf. She didn’t seem to even notice us and we were able to snap photos and video and enjoy being in their company

I didn’t carry any but used a friends line and lure, I didn’t have any luck but he caught several trout. He threw them all back as they were pretty small. The only real fishing to be had was in Maine.

What was your average day hike in miles? And the longest singular day trek?

Average mileage was probably around 12-15 per day, less at the start. My biggest single day was 26 miles and it sucked. HAHA

How many pounds did your pack weigh in at?

My pack was around 20lbs without food and about 25lbs with, checkout my youtube for a breakdown of all my gear.

How did you deal with the blisters?

I had 2 or 3 blisters max. I credit it to good socks, rubbing a thin layer of vaseline on my feet every morning before hiking and some good luck.

How many off-days did you take?

I took around 35 days off total, more than most, less than some. I’m glad I did though, I had a great time and I finished which was the most important part.

Did you reward yourself with a really good meal or a cozy bed every once in a while? What was your favourite reward?

Yeah once every couple of weeks we would share a hotel room amongst a bunch of stinky hikers, we even found some with hot tubs and saunas! Craft beer, real coffee and BBQ were my rewards

Did you ever start going crazy from hunger/thirst?

Thirst – no, hunger yes – being hungry all the time got old especially when all the foods your carrying your kind of sick of already and you just want to eat “real” food.

What was the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part was reaching the sign on the top of katahdin, knowing everything you’d been through to get there and what a personal achievement it is. Very rewarding indeed

I’m a single woman who’s interested in hiking the AT, but I’m curious about the safety of going it by myself. Did you run into any solo women hikers on your trip and if so were you able to get a sense of their experience?

Yes there were MANY solo female hikers on the AT, ranging from 20’s to 60’s. The Appalachian Trail is really a safe place, id be much more afraid walking through a major city in the middle of the night. From spending lots of time with solo female hikers I think they’d agree. The trail also has such a good community spirit, hikers take care of one another. There really isn’t that much to worry about as long as your prepared and sensible. Go do it, you wont regret it

What was the wackiest thing you saw on the hike?

Hmm good one. Honestly for me it was coming up close on a mama bear and cubs. Im from Europe so it was a pretty big moment for me and one I wont forget

Plan on doing the Pacific Coast Trail or other trails sometime?

Hmm i’ve got friends trying to convince me to do the PCT but im not sure yet, maybe one day. I do have plans to hike the Annapurna Trail in Nepal next year though.

You got a before and after pic?

Check out my youtube, I have a pretty fun timelapse video showing the transition

{https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zh7smvMEDo}

What is your experience while travelling and what difficulty you find in your tour?

The experience was an awesome one, I didn’t have any major difficulties on the trip. The only issue I had was Visa issues which were pretty frustrating but it all worked out in the end

Why did you choose to hike the Appalachian trail instead of the Pacific Crest trail or the Continental Divide trail?

The Appalachian Trail was the first long distance trail I’d heard of and had done a few short hikes on the AT already. Although the terrain is considered the hardest of the three on the AT, the logistics are easiest. Those reasons led me to do the AT, but who knows? Maybe the PCT is next…

I am looking to start my hike on March 1st 2016, my main question that no one seems to really answer is… food I saw your video on a 5 day spread but is that how you ended up eating on the trail? What is the longest stretch without resupply?

Yeah the video I have on my youtube page is pretty accurate to how I ate the whole way on the trail, i may do an update to it but its a pretty good representation. Food really takes care of itself, you figure out what you like to eat pretty quickly and resupplying in towns is super straightforward. In theory the longest stretch of trail without resupply is the 100 mile wilderness which takes about 6 days, however you can pay the hostels in the area to meet you half way through and deliver a food drop.

How much weight did you lose?

Not that much actually, around 8-10 pounds. I didn’t have an awful lot of extra weight to lose but still expected to lose more, I blame it o the Snickers bars. I knew of people who lost upwards of fifty pounds on their hikes though

How were your feet affected from the hike, if at all?

Not as much as i would have thought actually. I only got one or two blisters the whole time. I did deal with some foot pain which was worst in the morning but would be fine after they had warmed up hiking. They have pretty much returned to normal now that im home. I owe it to good shoes and good preperation

Any thoughts on Maryland? I live not too far from the trail.

Maryland was short but sweet. Lots of history in the area

For someone planning on doing the hike soon, do you have any protips?

Do it! That would be my pro tip 😉

There’s so much to think about and plan for, take a look at my blog and youtube pages above, there’s a good amount of information on there and i’m adding to it everyday.

Preparation is the biggest thing I think, too many fail because they aren’t prepared

I knew exactly 1 person carrying a cell phone, and maybe 5 people that were keeping some sore of live journal online. Can you talk about how technology has impacted life on the Trail today?

Yeah its huge, everyone has a cell phone and some had ipads! Im not going to lie I loved having my phone with me. Listening to music really helped my experience. Cant imagine how it was without so much tech on the trail.

The funniest thing was to see numerous hikers in a place with free Wi Fi with their faces in their books

I did a week on the trail this year. Every night, someone in my group got their food bag chewed into, presumably by squirrels, while hanging on the bear bag line overnight. How did you deal with this?

Strange. Did you hang you hang your own bear bags? If so maybe they were too close to low hanging branches. The only problems i had like that were with the mice in the shelters, shelters (especially in the south) have mice communities that live off hiker food bags. You just need to hang your food appropriatley

How much of the trail was wilderness? Were there a lot of places where you had to go through towns or if a person somehow never had to resupply could they hike the entire trail without leaving the woods?

It really varied rom one stretch of trail to the next. A lot of the time you would feel very “out there” when in fact you were skirting around a town or road. A few times the trail actually goes through a town. Other area’s such as the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine are pretty remote. The Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail are much more remote hikes.

How old are you?

I’m 28.

I’m currently planning a thru for this coming season, and and interested in doing a flip flop (starting in the middle, hiking north, going back to WV and going to springer ) what are your thoughts on this and do you think it would logistically be easier?

Hey good for you! I was hiking with a number of people that were flip flopping. I cant see how it would logistically that much easier to be honest, maybe you can dodge some of the worst weather that way. However the biggest drawback I can see is the community side. We had a number of flip floppers summit katahdin with us but for them it was only halfway done. They then need to go back to the middle and start hiking alone or with a whole new group of people, the people out on the trail is really what keeps you going and i dont think id want to do it personally. By all means though go thru hike, its an amazing time

What preparations did you make?

Many. I hiked a lot with a full backpack before leaving and did yoga etc to get my body in shape. I read every book i could find on the subject and read blogs and looked at youtube. I went on training hikes nearby to test out gear and experiment. Here’s some more information on my preparations https://pieonthetrail.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/physical-preparations-for-the-at/

Congrats on completing your grand adventure, I’d like to do it as well someday. I’ve done two section hikes, abuout 150 miles in total through South & North Carolina, loved it despite the bad weather. It rained for 3 or 4 days straight on both trips, really makes you appreciate the sunshine when it returns.Did you have any unusual weather problems while thru hiking?

Thank you so much. Yeah long periods of rain can be pretty demoralising, definitely makes you worship the sun 🙂 I think 2015 was a pretty good year for weather, not an awful lot of rain. Definitely had some cold spells at the start and the the smokies but nothing i wasn’t prepared for. The heat and humidity was the real killer for me in the summer, i’m from the UK and am NOT used to that sweltering heat. You should definitely go and thru hike one day, i highly recommend it

Would you talk a bit more about hiker culture on the AT?

The community on the trail is huge, if it wasn’t for the awesome people I would have never made it. At the start you have so many eager people all setting out on this grand adventure, unfortunately a lot of these people don’t realise what they’ve got themselves into and are in over their heads. Also at the start people are partying hard (myself included), people spend too much money too quickly and are forced off the trail. In the middle people start to spread out and really form their “trail families”. At the end of it all you know most people that are around you on the trail and the odds are if their still out there they’re pretty awesome people and you get along like a house on fire. The community is by far the biggest thing i miss from the trail.

Do people have sex on the trail? Aside from couples, obviously. Must be…rather dirty and stinky if they do.

Yeah its pretty common and yes i think its probably dirty and stinky lol. Baby wipes probably help 😉

You mentioned hiking with a couple of guys that you met for the majority of the trail. What’s the etiquette if you just wanted to hike alone for awhile? Or is it a non-issue?

Great question. Of course you needed some alone time here and there so you would just hike at your own speed whether in front or behind the others, maybe listen to some tunes etc. We all got pretty good at sensing when one another needed some space

What was your favorite stretch of the trail and why?

The White Mountains in New Hampshire were my favourite for sure. They were just breathtaking, epic views and extreme terrain. It was also the most difficult part of the trail in my opinion but oh so worth it. I cant wait to return

I’ve heard that the growing popularity of the Appalachian Trail had led to concerns about conserving the natural environments through which the trail passes. In your experience, is the Appalachian Trail at risk of things like habitat destruction or environmental degradation?

Thats a fair statement, i think the trail itself doesn’t present a problem. Camp sights and especially the composting toilets may however, they may need to develop more usable camp sights to prevent the current ones from being damaged beyond repair. i dont think this could result in habitat destruction, i’d be much more worried about housing developments and highways. It feels pretty wild in some areas but you’re never truly that far from a road or town

Did you hike with a weapon? Some pretty scary shit has gone down on the stretch of the AT in my area(psycho killers, belligerent rednecks). My main worry on an adventure like this would be encountering someone who meant me harm.

Nope, I had a small pocket knife that only ever cut cheese. I believe the AT to be a very safe place overall, much safer than the average city

What took you so long?

I was having fun! My main goal was to just finish the hike and have fun. I think that people who rushed the trail as quickly as possible probably missed out on a lot.

Have you ever seen a grown man naked?

Too many times

Why?

I think thats a very valid question

In 2010 I did some hiking on the trail whilst working at a summer in New York state and got speaking to some thru hikers, after that experience I knew I had to do it. Also i wanted to do it just to see if i could, if i was capable of it. Plus I love travel and being outdoors, the experience didn’t dissapoint

Looking back, is there anything you could have done along the way to make the trip faster/more efficient? Kind of wondering what you biggest “lesson learned” was along the way.

Yeah there’s plenty I could have done to go faster and more efficiently but my goal was to finish the hike and have fun, in that order. I was in no rush. If i was on more of a tight schedule I would have hiked longer miles each day, taken less days off and stopped less in towns and at beautiful areas. Really glad i didn’t though as i had an amazing time

My biggest lesson learned is probably that we as humans are capable of way more than we let ourselves believe

What was the strangest thing/person you encountered on the trail?

Strangest thing was getting food poisoning or something similar for about 16 hours whilst on the trail, super miserable and something ill never forget. Strangest person was a guy that was just out for a few days on his own. He had some real issues

What’s the purpose of trail names? Why not share your real name?

Thats a good question. I think its just a fun tradition really,People often do share their real names and exchange facebook and contact info

Hear any unexplained noises while sleeping?

Definitely some creepy animal noises, at least i think they were animals…

What stove do you recommend? I am contemplating a whisper multi fuel, pocket stove and the alcohol stove with denatured alcohol.

For the Appalachian trail i’d highly recommend the Pocket Rocket by MSR. I’ve had that thing for years and its still going strong. Whisperlite stoves are great but only really necessary in the winter time, i don’t like alcohol stoves personally, i think they’re a little dangerous and too slow to boil water.

What is the one thing you really missed while on the trail?

The thing i missed the most is probably good coffee. Im working on a blog post that lists the top 10 things i missed on the trail, checkout my blog and hit follow to see more

I’ve been looking through your videos and I’m wondering what equipment you brought with you to film and edit these along the way? Did you do it all on your phone or did you bring a tablet/laptop as well? I’m always curious about how people keep up blogs/youtube channels in the wilderness!

All photo and video has been recorded on my Iphone 6. I edited the videos together on the phone (whilst on trail) and on my computer now im home. Videos uploaded during the hike could only be done when there was strong Wifi which wasn’t very often, now i’m home though its all a lot easier, stay tuned to the blog to see more new updates. I tought myself and used Youtube to learn editing etc, its not super hard once you get used to it. Thanks

What is one thing, outside of the usual hiking list you wish you had brought or were glad you packed?

My Kindle was my most treasured luxury item, I read voraciously so have a good book was essential.

How often did your cell phone or other devices loose a charge?

0 times. I was carrying an excellent external battery made by Anker. It would charge my Iphone 6 2.5 times and I never run out of battery between towns. I also carried a Kindle Paperwhite which has amazing battery life and i highly reccomend

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