The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a foot path through the Appalachian Mountains from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine. Over nearly 2200 miles (about 3540.56 km), the AT crosses through 14 different states. The Trail has many wonderful things about it from the community to the views, but it can also suck. Here are 5 things I hate about the Appalachian Trail:
1. The Humidity:
Being on the east coast of the United States, the Trail goes through a temperate environment. With more rain than can evaporate, it is constantly humid. Pair this with the summer heat and it can become infuriating. When I was hiking through Virginia in late June and July, it felt like your skin couldn’t breathe. The sweat would stick to your skin and not be able to move because the moisture in the air was so high. The heat of the Virginian summer paired with the humidity was constantly sapping my energy. On a crazy hike into Damascus Virgina, my tramily and I hiked through the night, hoping the temperature would drop with the sun. Sadly, it did not. The humidity trapped the heat, and we could feel the air we were walking through, even with the sun down.
Ticks on the east coast can pose many health risks with tick-borne illness. The most notorious is Lyme disease. Especially in Connecticut and Massachusetts, where Lyme disease originated, it can be very prevalent. The black legged ticks (formerly known as deer ticks), the tiny black ones, are the carriers. Lyme is not the only tick-borne illness that can cause health problems. Others include Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis. Other diseases that are rare, but still occur, are Tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Borrelia miyamotoi, and Powassan virus. I would recommend treating your clothes and gear with permethrin, a tick and bug repellent and killer. (Experts have found that it takes time for the spirochete of Lyme disease to activate within the tick and be transmitted to the host. If the tick is removed before 24 hours, it is unlikely that Lyme will be transmitted. Some experts say that it can take up to 72 hours to be transmitted.)
3. The green tunnel
The green tunnel refers to the forested landscape of the east coast. The majority of the AT walks underneath the canopy of an oak-hickory forest. It can become very repetitive and monotonous seeing nearly the same scenery every day for miles on end. With many things in life however, there are pros and cons to the green tunnel. Because you don’t need to feel guilty about not taking in the scenery, it also allows you to focus on hiking and let your thoughts run free. The green tunnel can also make the views much more special. The days when you walk through the highlands in Virginia were some of my favorites because it was beautiful and different. (Some of my other favorite views include the rocky topped mountains of the Smokys, New Hampshire, and Maine.)
4. Trail Food
This isn’t particular to the AT and is highly subjective. While I brought this upon myself with cold soaking dinner for 700 miles, I did not have a good experience with trail food. I lost over 15 pounds on the AT, going into it already thin. I burned through all my body fat reserves and started to eat at my muscles, causing all sorts of problems. Mainly a lack of energy, which hit me super hard on the uphills. When I finally picked up a stove,I started to eat more, but it was too late, and the damage was done. On my next go around for a long hike, I will start with a stove and be more creative with meals. The problem is that food gets repetitive, and you lose your appetite for it after a while. Believe it or not, I enjoyed my cold ramen when I started my hike. With the limited options from certain resupply points, food can become boring. Before my next long hike, I am going to try making different trail meals to have a variety of options.
More specifically, I hated seeing rattle snakes. After seeing 13 rattle snakes in the 1000 miles I hiked last summer (almost stepping on a few), I can say that I am not a big fan of running into snakes while hiking. It’s not that I don’t like snakes, I think they are cool creatures and a vital part of the ecosystem. It’s the fact that this danger noodle is camouflaged so well that I almost stepped on it, and that it could cause me some serious damage or kill me with a single bite. Non-venomous snakes are fine, even if they did give me a jump scare because I thought it might be a rattler. Because I started in Georgia in May the snakes were starting to come out as I was hiking north. If you start earlier, you will likely see less, many people go the whole trail without seeing a venomous snake.
Even though there are a few things I don’t like about the AT, I will gladly go back and do it again, and I plan to. (Check back in a year for the announcement of my next big idea.) The negatives are just another challenge to overcome. I look at the trail as a series of challenges, never knowing what the next one might be, but they are all useful learning opportunities. The challenge is the driving force for my interest in long distance hiking. My goal is to experience and to grow. And there are plenty of pros about the trail that far outweigh the cons. Maybe I’ll write my next post on that “5 Things I Love About the Appalachian Trail”.
Well until then, peace!