Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Walking the Appalachian Trail

Last night I went to Club Night at our local tramping club, where a couple named Susan Guscott and David Castle gave a presentation about their recent 2,156 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, or AT. This was a Kiwi couple, so they had certain limits, such as a 6-month tourist visa, and having to do all of their prep before flying in.

Considering the challenges, they seem to have done well, and had a pretty good time. They chose an unusual approach to the trail, starting at the north end (Maine) in July, and finishing up at the south end (Georgia) in January. So not only were they going the opposite direction to most of the other hikers, they were also going somewhat off-season.
This meant that they got some snow in the Great Smoky Mountains towards the end of their adventure, but generally the weather was kind and they had the chance to enjoy some amazing fall colours, which we don't really see in New Zealand.

Another thing we don't see in New Zealand is snakes, so they were snapping pictures of those whenever they spotted one. I had to giggle at the idea of stopping to take a picture of a garter snake, having grown up around them in Toronto.

Like many long-distance hikers, they struggled to keep their body weight up throughout the journey. But it seems after the first month, they came up with a very effective way to get their fat and calories in. They made hot chocolate a couple of times per day and added baby formula to it. The formula has a higher fat content, and more added nutrients, than milk powder. Once they added it to their routine, they didn't lose any more weight. (But just to be sure, they ate LOTS of french fries whenever they were re-supplying in a town.)

Susan and David kept an online trail journal during their trip, using the trail names Kea and Weka. You can read about their experiences here. And yes, after spending six months on the trail together they are still a couple!

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