A.T. length: 2,178 miles (though this depends on who you ask)
65% are "Northbounders" or "NoBos" hiking Georgia to Maine.
10% are "SoBos."
5% are "Flip-floppers" who complete the trail in one trip, but with an alternate itinerary.
20% are "Section-hikers" who complete the trail in more than one trip. [Timothy Denherder Thomas, who graciously lent me his maps, is hiking the A.T. this style.]
562 people celebrated completion of the trail last year (in all manner of hiking approaches).
Then, there are "yo-yos," people who hike the whole thing one way, get to the end, and go back.
Think that's crazy?
Two girls hiked the whole thing barefoot.
And, one blind man is hiking this year, making a documentary of his trip.
To beat all this though, the first man I met fresh off the train station in Harper's Ferry is "Baltimore Jack." He's thru-hiked the A.T. 7 years in a row. You've got to wonder.
I've noticed thru-hikers think about, talk about, dream about food, all the time. A pbj is awesome on top of a mountain, but not 30 days in a row. Ramen, tuna, beans, get boring. Hikers play all sorts of tricks to spice up their food--for instance, I'm carrying button bags of salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and cinnamon--but there's simply no kitchen. Basically, hiking food is good ideas of food processed and put in a bag. Case in point: I had cheesecake for breakfast yesterday. Sounds good, right? But freeze-dried anything is just never going to be all that appetizing.
The most popular A.T. hiker foods:
4. beef jerky
One fellow hiker I met today, Jeff, directed me to his blog. I quote his most recent entry:
"Ah yes. Snickers. THE food of thru hikers. Most likely, one would be hard pressed to find a thru that does not know the nutrition facts of a Snickers bar by heart. (Since you’re wondering: 280 calories, 130 from fat, 4g protein, 14g total fat, 5g sat fat, 140 mg Sodium…)
This magical bar out-shines most energy bars in terms of straight up calories per ounce. AND they are an excellent entertainment source. Mars, Incorporated has developed a series of terms relating to snickers and their goodness in order to better market their product; terms such as substantialicious (noun: The weight of something when you weigh it with your tongue.). I, of course, know these by heart. I strive to use them in my everyday speech. Word-of-the dayers I suggest you add these to your repertoire."
He's right. Even I, in my one month of hiking, know about the grandeur of a Snickers.
Also, a word about my pesco-vegetarian status...
I've rocked beans, nuts, legumes, and fish for 9.5 years. However, the Giardia episode seemed to reset my whole digestive system, and all I wanted was a BLT. So, three days ago, I ordered one. And it was perfect. (I admit I half-expected it was going to start talking to me, though.) I don't think I'll go on a carnivorous rampage--though who knows--but I think we should eat what our bodies ask for. Hence, bacon?
Ok, that's all for now