Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Appalachian Trail Costs and Comments----2016

In 22 days I hiked 316.6 miles on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, GA to Sam’s Gap, TN, flew 4,340 air miles—SEA to ATL and TRI to SEA, hitchhiked 4 times to and from gaps and towns, and 4 took shuttles to and from airports and trailheads. My total cost was $957. My average daily cost was $46.

Lodging costs
My 10 nights of lodging costs were $385 for an average of $39 per night. I stayed in private or hotel rooms 6 nights and dorm rooms 3 nights and the remaining 12 nights were “free” at AT shelters or campsites.
Hiker Hostel dorm room with linen for $20 including a FULL breakfast.---0 miles

Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel, Erwin, TN private room $50----342 miles.

Mollies Ridge Shelter, TN---177.3 miles.

Cold Springs Shelter, NC--144 miles.

Creekside Paradise on the AT B & B room with FULL breakfast ---158.4 miles

My food costs were $409 for an average of $19 per day. By comparison my SE Asia trip averaged $25, South American trip averaged $23 per day, Philippines trip $42 per day, my 2014 Trans-Siberian-Asia trip was $28, and my 2012 Brazil trip was $38 per day.
Huddle House,  Erwin, TN.-- eggs, hash browns, biscuits, gravy, toast and toast---342 miles.

Gatlinburg,TN BBQ joint dinner of beef brisket--very tough, hush puppies, Cole slaw, potato salad, fried green tomatoes and sweet tea---207 miles.

Natahala Outdoor Center, River's End Restaurant, NC, Chicken Sherpa Rice lunch---137 miles.

My total Travel costs were $163 along with using 50,000 Delta frequent flyer miles for the flights to and from Seattle. If I would have paid for these same flights, they would have cost me $509. The shuttle rides cost $142 and the remaining costs were for airport fees, and light rail fares.
Atlanta airport.

Hitched in Red Van to Franklin, NC--110 miles.

Hitched with beekeepers Lloyd and Maria dropped me off at Newfound Gap, NC--207 miles.

Hiker Hostel shuttle vans took us from Atlanta airport to hostel and from hostel to Springer Mountain---0 miles.

Costs Before Trip
For greater comfort I bought a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent for $262 and a Neo-Air Regular air mattress for $150 from Moosejaw.com, and a pair of Salomon, X Ultra Prime Trail shoes for $49 at REI with the 20% discount.

I bought the three AT guidebooks on Amazon for $29--you really only need to buy the AT Guide Northbound by "AWOL"--$15--since the information it contains includes the information in the other two books. I put the other two guides in the first hiker box I came to which further lightened my load.

Backpack and Wearables
When I started at Springer Mountain, GA, My total pack weighed 28 lbs rather than the 22 lbs I reported in my planning post—http://rtjhunt.blogspot.mx/2016/05/planning-for-my-appalachian-trail-hike.html . I had added three pocket books and more junk food. I realized that I should have just packed 3 days worth of food instead of 5 to 6 days of food so the pack would have been about 22 lbs which is much more comfortable.
My rain jacket was useful for the occasional heavy rains, however, I lost it along with my prescription glasses on the 2nd day out. Fortunately when we got to Neels Gap, the outfitter, Mountain Crossing, had a lightweight North Face jacket which I bought.
My Soloman trail runners worked well in that they were comfortable and I did not get any blisters and they dried out quickly after the rains or walking through the dewy grasses found on the “Balds”. Unfortunately I super extended my left sole when stepping in a tree root hole so much that it is still sore a month later. That would not have happened if I were wearing stiffer hiking boots---the ever present weight vs safety issue when light weight hiking.

Travel Insurance
Rather than buying individual trip insurance, I buy annual trip insurance from Travelguard for $267 per year. It covers you for trips further than 100 miles from home and for trips from home up to 90 days at a time. This provides for the emergency medical evacuation and care, loss of baggage, theft, trip cancellations, etc.
Unless you have the original receipts for your travel things, they will not accept your claim. They also do not reimburse for lost cash. As a part of the filing process, you have to submit your homeowners insurance declaration sheet that shows what your deductible is. Mine is $250 deductible per loss. They have a $50 deductible on claims and limit electronics claims to $500.
For this trip, I filed a claim totaling $266.24 for lost prescription glasses, OR rain jacket, and a $20 stop check payment for the blank check I had in my glasses case. This claim is still pending.
  • UPDATE ON INSURANCE CLAIM: I got $176.26 reimbursed by Travelguard. They disallowed my claim for my prescription glasses and my $20 stop check---this blank check was in my sun glasses case--but reimbursed me the full amount for the Outdoor Research rain jacket without any $50 deduction like last time.
Potable Water
I used my SteriPen Freedom along with a wide mouth half liter plastic bottle and a second liter plastic bottle as my water supply. Collecting the water from the slowly running or dripping seeps was the biggest challenge. The purification process was quick—-about 1 1/2 minutes of Ultra Violet light and no chemicals. I had no intestinal problems during the trip. Most other hikers used the Sawyer filter system. I thought that most of the places I got water from looked like it would have been safe to drink without treatment, but I did not want to take a chance.

A Walk in the Woods
For me, the AT was truly a walk in the woods—-or more accurately a walk in a long green tunnel—-on a frequent up and down trail strewn with roots and rocks. The views were few and when there were views I would see more rounded hills covered with trees or small towns far below in the valleys. I do not think that I will return to hike any other portions of the AT.  The PCT is my trail of choice.

A bit of the long "Green Tunnel"--Rhodie hedges.

A brighter "green tunnel".

Bigger rocks and roots on the white blazed AT.

Rolling tree covered hills stretching beyond the horizon.

My Pacific Crest Trail experience was so much better and different with a constantly changing views of deserts, steep rocky mountains, rivers, lakes, snowfields, and waterfalls where the trail traveled through many different plant zones that made each day different and exciting. Also the tread was quite a bit easier to travel on because it was designed to accommodate horses as well as hikers. The only part of the AT that had a similar tread to the PCT was in the Great Smoky National Park where horses were allowed.

For anyone thinking about hiking long distance trails, I would strongly recommend starting with the Pacific Crest Trail. For me the most scenic portions would be the Yosemite area in CA, the Timberline area in OR, and the Goat Rocks in WA. I think the Continental Divide Trail would be next with its broad vistas—on top of the world. A shorter but spectacular hike would be a 7 to 12 day— 92 mile hike around Mt. Rainier called the Wonderland Trail.

Me at the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.

At Upper Echo Lake, CA along the PCT near South Lake Tahoe.

Mt. Hood, OR along the PCT. I stayed at the WPA Timberline Lodge.

Goat Rocks, WA with Mt. Rainier in the background.

The northern PCT terminus----2,660 miles completed.

Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier near Indian Bar---90 miles.

For hikes in other parts of the world, I would recommend the Circuit “W” in Patagonia, Chile—75 miles—4-5 days, the Annapurna Circuit—200km—3 weeks, the Journey to Lingshed in the Ladakh Region of India—100km—3 weeks, Choquequirao trek in Peru—75km—5 days, Leaping Tiger Gorge, China—40km—3 days, and Ciudad Perdida trek in Colombia—70km—5 days.

Patagonia, Chile

Annapurna Circuit trek, Nepal

Ladakh Trek to Lingshed, India with our trek guide, Lobsang on one of the 4 mountain passes over 15,000 feet.

Choquequirao Trek in Peru.

Leaping Tiger Gorge trek, China

Ciudad Perdida trek, Colombia

I will be using this blog to describe some of my travels that started before my first blog entry of Brazil in 2012 which will include describing some of these hikes in other parts of the world.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Interesting Images from My AT Adventure

After hiking the first 300 miles of the AT, I was reviewing my photos and found several interesting ones I am now sharing with you.

With the occasional rains, we come across lots of different types of mushrooms and fungus. This one was very large and fairly soft compared to other tree fungus I am use to in the Northwest.

The flame azelea and mountain laurel made hiking the "green tunnel" a lot more enjoyable.

These blue day lilies appeared along the entire trail. Supposedly their blue bloom only lasts a day, but I did not stick around to see if that was true.

I frequently used my cut off gallon jug bowl to collect water from these water seeps found along the trail. I think I only came across three rivers and two creeks during my 300 mile journey. My drinking water almost always came from seeps like this. You can see my Steripen with its ultraviolet light is purifying the water. To me, the water I used probably did not need purification, but I did it just in case.

Another juicy fungus.

A beautiful rocky part of the trail near Albert Mountain---100 miles.

Finally a real creek crossing just past Winding Stair Gap---115 miles



More flaming azaleas.

Nantahala River with the Rivers End Restaurant along the left side---137.3 miles

Near the upper center of the picture below, I am waiting for my bowl to fill with water from a very slow flowing seep so I can fill up my two water bottles.

A lazy butterfly entertains me at a rest stop.

Although I only encountered one black bear, I came across lots of bear scat along the trail. I wonder if bears consider the AT to be one long latrine for them

These signs appeared near most of the shelters.
Three of the shelters like this one at Spence Field Shelter were closed because of bear activity---183 miles.

Orange fungus this time.

Lots of these red Cardinal flowers grow along the AT.

Rock and tree blend together along the AT near Mollies Ridge Shelter---180 miles.

Boardwalk on the AT just past Clingman's Dome---200 miles

Wild Turkey along the road to Gatlinburg, TN

Acres of rhodies in bloom along the AT.

This is not a alien landing pad on top of Snowbird Mountain, but rather an FAA VOR that is a navigational aid for airplanes---245 miles.

Here is the other part of Snowbird Mountain.

Tree eats sign.

Lots of liverwort clinging to the rocks near Hot Springs---273 miles.

Last look at the French Broad River from Lovers Leap Rock---275 miles.

A crispy sign as a reminder of the April 2016 wildfire that burned over 6,000 acres and closed this portion of the AT from Hot Springs---273 miles-- to Hurricane Gap--283 miles.

Here is what the Silver Mine fire looked like overlooking Hot Springs, NC on April 29th. People along the trail told me that they think it was started by a hiker who had overdosed on LSD and gave the Hot Springs people and police problems and allegedly said "I will burn Hot Springs down." I haven't seen any articles about this, but that is what people along the trail and towns people are saying.

This turtle is a fire survivor found along the portion of the AT that was closed because of the Silver Mine fire.

At the AT hostels you can always find hiker boxes like these. They usually have two types of boxes, one for food and one for gear. Hikers leave stuff they no longer need or want to carry. This hiker box area is at the Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel and Outfitters. Since I was leaving the trail here, I left behind a half filled bottle of alcohol for stoves.

During my hike, I have noticed a number of hikers who stay at the various hostels are doing work for stay and many of these guys also dip into the hiker boxes as their primary food source. One fellow at Erwin, TN, was staying here until the end of the month doing chores around the place until his disability check was deposited in his bank at the beginning of July.

End of the Appalachian Trail for these shoes and me.