Book Announcement: Platinum-Blazing the AT!

Platinum-Blazing the Appalachian Trail: How to Thru-hike in 3-Star Luxury

Hello friends and followers!  My hike of the Appalachian Trail last year was one of the most challenging and amazing experiences of my life. Cliché as it sounds, It was everything I always hoped for and more. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my daily walks, my nightly storytelling, or all the friends and adventures in-between. Well, I’m happy to announce that the adventure didn’t really end with my summit of Katahdin on July 22nd.  There’s more!

Over the past few months, a fellow 2018 thru-hiker and I named RTK have been working on a special project, based on our unique personal experiences on the AT. This collaboration is finally complete and I’d like to welcome you to check out our new book, Platinum-Blazing the Appalachian Trail: How to Thru-hike in 5 3-Star Luxury!

It’s not the book I promised in my journal entries last summer (don’t worry, that’s coming too), but I think my readers and any future hikers will enjoy what we put together.  But what is it, you may ask?  What is this Platinum-Blazing thing all about?  Didn’t he always talk about white-blazes, why did they change color??  And when the hell did he have time to write a book?!  First of all, calm down and stop yelling at yourself. Its unhealthy and kind of weird (your dog is staring at you, very confused). Let me tell you what this publication is all about…

Every year, thousands of individuals set out to achieve thru-hiker immortality on an epic 2,200 mile journey along the Appalachian Trail, one of the most iconic and desired long distance hikes in America. Potential hikers know to follow the “white blazes” on painted trees, rocks, and roads to direct their path forward … but we offer this supplemental navigation tool for those hoping to add a little luxury to their thru-hike experience.

    • Where can I find luxury accommodations when I desperately need a day off?
    • Which Hostels provide the most premium hiker services available?
    • Where can I find the best fine-dining for a much needed steak dinner?
    • Where is the most delicious and rewarding ice cream treat?
    • Who has the best burger or pizza? 
    • Which blue-blaze trails are worth the extra side trip?
    • Which towns are on the must-stop list, and which should I avoid?
    • What is the single, greatest destination every hiker should visit?

All the questions and more are answered in this guide to Platinum-Blazing the Appalachian Trail! Written by 2018 thru-hike finishers, this book points future hikers to the very best luxury accommodations, meals, destinations, and experiences available on trail from Georgia to Maine.  For the eager hiker looking to plan ahead, or the tired hiker looking take a break, we hope this guide will help you find the best places to splurge while hiking along the Appalachian Trail.

And that’s it!  This fun guide will give future hikers (and any lingering readers of my blog) a taste of what I loved, what I didn’t, and what made the cut for best destination during my trip.  Sprinkled throughout are personal stories and anecdotes from RTK and me, so it isn’t just a Lonely Planet type guidebook. We hope you enjoy it and welcome your feedback on Amazon.  In addition, you can check out the book’s Platinum-Blazing website and request a signed copy there if so interested!

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

Epilogue Week Video Recap

Hello! I realized the other day that I never created nor posted the video recap of my epilogue week back on the AT in October. My apologies faithful followers, your viewing pleasure shall be neglected no longer!

Above is my final video recap and official end to all things AT in 2018. It’s been an interesting transitional time these past 2 months off the trail, and with every passing day I am more and more thankful and grateful for my experience hiking across America.

During this new phase back in the real world, you may be asking yourself how I’m doing … but not to fear, Sharkbait is quite well! Life is busy and back to normal, and it’s hard to think it was ever different. But during my free time, I remind myself of the memories and stay connected. I look longingly at my AT trinkets and memorabilia collection, peruse through 2019 hiker Facebook group posts, and work on my book.

Actually, 2 books are in the works. One is a reference guide with a hiker friend RTK, and the other a novel chronicling my personal journey. I’d like to finish both in 2019 and think that’s a great New Years resolution to work towards.

Everything reminds of the trail these days, and the romantic allure of the Appalachian Mountains is beginning to creep back. I have a feeling I’ll be out in the woods often this spring to reminisce and meet new hikers on their own adventures. Living in Virginia, it will be impossible to stay away. If anyone wants to join for a day-hike or weekend trip, don’t hesitate to ask.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

Epilogue Day 5: Harriman State Park

Epilogue Day 5. And with that, I’m done (again). Thanks to yesterday’s big day, I was able to easily close out the final 19 miles today and connect the dots of my thruhike. All 2190.2 miles are now officially complete. And it feels good … mostly because I don’t have to go out again tomorrow, but also because I stuck to my promise of finishing what I started. It was a long week in the woods, and a very very wet one, but it was peaceful and lovely all the same. But, oh that rain…

Seriously, weather dictates SO MUCH of one’s experience out here. It’s significantly harder to enjoy myself in the rain, and to enjoy the treasures of the trail while avoiding the wet. Today was supposed to be cloudy and dry all day, but of course it was the opposite. I steady stream of mist and rain from morning to night. It’s not that I dislike rain, it’s just that it makes the trail so frustrating and dangerous. I spend twice the effort desperately trying to avoid puddles, in order to avoid wet socks, in order to avoid blisters. I also take twice as long walking along ridges, rocks, and boulders to keep from slipping, falling, and seriously hurting myself. The moral is lower, the pace is slower, the stops are fewer, and the terrain is tougher. It’s just not as fun.

But, as I said yesterday, attitude is a powerful thing. So I thanked the AT gods for giving me light rain instead of a downpour, and fog instead of snow. I made the most of it, remembering why I’m out here, and wandered through today’s trail in peace. I stopped for a brief snack at Fitzgerald Falls, looked out at a foggy but quietly beautiful view atop Mombasa High Point. I scaled Buchanan Mountain and Arden Mountain, forded a creek, walked through a very well maintained Harriman State Park, and saw the infamous Lemon Squeezer (a tight squeeze between two enormous boulders).

All in all, I had a good day and a good end to the Appalachian Trail. I’m not sure I’ll come back to see 98% of it ever again, but I’ll remember the great moments and memories of the adventure all the same. I hope others were inspired by my story to fulfill some of their own dreams, and others encouraged to seek out this trail in the future. It is a spiritual and emotional walking path that is was a lifeline dream to complete, and I’m forever thankful to be able to experience it.

Side note, for those interested in logistics. From Harriman State Park, I took an Uber to the Tuxedo Train Station, from there the Port-Jervis Line train to Secaucus Junction, then a subway to Penn Station, and finally the Martz bus from Port Authority to Stroudsburg (Delaware Water Gap). All in all, that travel took about 4 hours.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1373.1
  • Start Time: 08:10
  • End Mile: 1392.7
  • End Time: 13:40
  • Miles Hiked: 19.6
  • Miles to Go: 0.0

Epilogue Day 4: Greenwood Lake, NY

Epilogue Day 4. I woke up this morning determined to have an amazing day. Attitude is a choice, and I was choosing the wrong attitude for being out here these last few days. So today, I decided I’d put a positive spin on whatever was bothering me and enjoy this trail for all it’s worth on my penultimate day. And you know what? It worked. I had an AMAZING day today, as I enjoyed the majesty of hiking through America once again.

I wanted to get a very early start on the day, so crawled into bed last night while it was still light out. However, a few hours later (after dark), 3 southbound hikers wandered in from the rain and cold to join me at the “Secret Shelter”. That did not bother me, as the floor of the cabin could easily fit 4 people with room to spare … but the snoring did. It was 2 girls and a guy, the latter of whom spent the whole night loudly sawing wood. It may have been the proximity, or the echo of the empty room, but it was deafeningly loud. I woke many times throughout the night to the sounds of his snores, but eventually did get some good rest.

At 6am, we all crawled out of bed and packed up for the day. I was on the trail by 6:45 with nothing but blue skies to greet me. The ground was still flooded from the week’s rain, but my socks were still wet anyways so I didn’t let it get to me. I hiked for miles before stopping for a break, admiring the wide and soft trail that bordered people’s homes here. It had been pretty rocky in NJ this far, so these miles were a mice treat on my feet to start the day. After not too long, I entered the Wallkill Wildlife Refuge, a gorgeous wetland of marshes that also hosts a bird sanctuary. I saw cranes, geese, swans, ducks, and more as I walked along the sunny path circling the marshy refuge. I decided to throw some John Denver tunes in my ears to really maximize the effect of the beauty … and it did. I’ll remember the hike around that marsh for years to come.

A little while later, I came to another marshland crossing. This time, however, a nice boardwalk offered me a dry path through the bog and creek. The Pochuck Creek Boardwalk was a popular destination for runners, hikers, and dog-walkers, so I had plenty of company as I journeyed across. I chatted with a couple that was section hiking with their RV, and then a group of girls walking their tiny dogs for exercise. It was nice to have conversation and be social after so much time alone that morning.

By midday, I had put in 18 miles and felt confident I could push another 10 before dark. This would put me in the town of Greenwood Lake, which I found had a new trail angel hosting hikers coming off the mountains. It was just a small comment in the Guthooks app, but I decided to give it a try and called the man named Carl to inquire. Carl is a trail angel indeed! He offered to pick me up at the trailhead later and bring me back to his home, where he had converted the basement to a 1 bedroom apartment. Although still under construction (no toilet yet), he was only asking $10 for the night which was too good to pass up. It all sounded perfect, so I threw my pack on and ignored the blisters on my feet as I headed North again.

The trail wasn’t too bad from there, but I did notice a significant shift in terrain once I crossed into NY. Someone painted the state border on a rock, and almost immediately the trail went up. For the next 5 miles it was rock climbing and boulder scrambling along the mountain ridge line. Not what I was hoping for after already putting in 20+ miles, but I made the most out of the situation and enjoyed the fact it was still sunny. My feet are pretty sore now, but they are happy those miles are done and not waiting for us tomorrow morning.

Carl was waiting for me as promised, and his place is as good as he claimed. The shower is still in an unfinished bathroom, but the water was hot and the soap cleansing. There is a bed, couch, table and kitchenette to make anyone feel at home. I made some dinner, and shared a couple cold beers with Carl before calling it a night.

I’m glad I made the decision to enjoy today more, as I truly think it made a difference. Tomorrow is my final day out here … the epilogue and hike in whole will be done. I’m excited to finish this once and for all, and thankful for the experience and opportunity to live out this dream to its fullest.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1344.9
  • Start Time: 06:40
  • End Mile: 1373.1
  • End Time: 18:45
  • Miles Hiked: 28.2
  • Miles to Go: 19.6
  • Lodging: Carl’s House (Greenwood Lake, NY)

Epilogue Day 3: Secret Shelter

Epilogue Day 3. When I looked at the weather for this part of America on Monday, it showed sunny or partly cloudy for 6 days straight. I thought I was going to be blessed with perfect weather to push these miles out. Not too hot, not too cold, not too wet. Nope, wrong again. All 3 of my pairs of socks (including the supposed waterproof ones) or soaked through. The ground has been saturated with rain water all week, and it poured on me yet again today.

I was really hoping I’d get in the 18 miles to this shelter before the thunderstorm hit this evening. Reports were showing 30% chance of rain from 3-6pm, and then worse after sunset. I woke up a bit late, but still tried to push my hiking pace, so as to arrive between 3 and 4. I thought I had a good chance of staying dry until I ended the day, then staying dry in the comfort of a shelter. It was great this morning, with the sun even poking out at times for a quick and warm hello. But then the rain hit at 2pm, and it was a straight downpour until 4pm when I finally arrived at camp. And of course, now as I sit here under this cover of roof, it’s dry skies again. When it comes to weather, I simply can’t catch a break out here this time, and it’s really starting to annoy me. However, I’ll look optimistically to tomorrow, who’s forecast shows clear blue skies and sun. I need that sun. Both to dry out my gear and warm up my spirits.

Side note, how cool is this photo? It looks like the sun is heart-shaped and sending down rays of sunshine like a carebear.

It was a generally nice hike today (before 2pm), and I saw a handful of Sobo hikers again as I traversed my way North. Done we’re chatty, some not so much … but it was great to see people all the same. There were a couple of nice rest areas to kick off my shoes and let my piggies breath, and some not-too-difficult ups and downs in-between. Physically, I could tell that yesterday had taken a toll on me, though not as bad as I feared. I was a bit slower to start, but then found my hiking legs as I made good time trudging through the trail rivers and wet pasturelands of today’s AT.

The shelter I’m staying at, is actually a privately owned cabin on a farm the trail passes through. its called the “Secret Shelter” because it’s not advertised in the printed guidebooks (though is marked on the Guthooks app). A thruhiker from 1989 bought this land and established the cabin as a refuge for hikers in need of shelter along this section of New Jersey, which does not allow stealth camping. It is locked at times during the year, but I was pleased to find it open today and available to me. I hung up some gear, laid out my bed, and ate dinner on the porch while watching a donkey graze nearby. Although I was frustrated from the rain, it was a very tranquil evening. I’m always amazed at the community supporting this trail, and this is yet another example of a past hiker opening his home to future walkers of the path. It’s nothing special, with just a dirty tile floor to put a sleeping pad on, but it’s dry and it’s here. It also has a water spigot and electrical outlet to charge my phone, which is nice.

Tomorrow might have to be a really long day, as it’s 18 miles to a shelter or 26 miles to a town. After the past 3 days, a motel in town sounds like heaven to me. If I cant get that far though, I have a feeling I won’t be able to get all my missed miles in before Sunday. We shall see, but I can always come back another time if I need to.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1326.1
  • Start Time: 08:15
  • End Mile: 1344.9
  • End Time: 18:30
  • Miles Hiked: 18.8
  • Miles to Go: 47.8
  • Lodging: Secret Shelter

Epilogue Day 2: Gren Anderson Shelter

Epilogue Day 2. Wow did last night scare the crap out of me. After I posted my blog, the storm got worse and worse. Apparently there was a tornado watch in Stroudberg, just a few miles away. I spent most of the night crouched under my tarp in full clothing, watching lightning strike all around me, ready to sprint straight down the side of the mountain if needed. The wind was so strong at times, I legitimately thought my hammock tent would be ripped away into the night … with or without me in it!

But it calmed down by 11pm and I eventually got back into bed and fell asleep. I woke around 7am to a calm and mostly dry hilltop, ate my breakfast and packed up my mostly dry bed. And then I hit the trail. I didn’t expect to see anyone today, and especially not someone I know … but an hour later, a familiar face rounded the bend. Atlas, a retiree I hiked in Virginia with, was still trying to finish his flip-flop to Harpers Ferry. I saw him briefly in Maine when he flipped up in July, but did not expect to see him again. It was great to catch up and chat for a bit, and was just the thing I needed to lift my spirits for this journey. But he was headed south and me north, so eventually we said goodbye and went our separate ways.

I then made it to the Mohican Outdoor Center, an AMC-operated facility with a restaurant, store, cabins and showers. I had hoped to make it here last night but started too late in the day. Given what transpired up on Kittatinny Mountain last night, I wish I had pushed to it. The nice 20-something staff were happy to tell me “we close at 5pm” when I called yesterday … but today I was informed “one building remains open all night for emergencies”. Yeah, last night was a tornado watch you jerks, that sounds like an emergency to me! It would have been nice to be informed of this option when I called yesterday!

Oh well, after a short curse under my breath, I ate a snack and moved on. And after that sour morning, the next 8 hours of hiking we’re actually quite nice. I ran into a dozen or so Sobos along the trail, and got to rest my (very) wary feet at some great vistas. The Catfish Lookout Tower, Blue Mountain, and Rattlesnake Mountain were exceptionally beautiful with great views along the cloudy horizon. Then, about 1 mile before stopping for the day, I crossed Culvers Gap and stopped to watch the sun set at the Culver Fire Tower. There was a picnic table up there overlooking Branchville, NJ below, and I just took it all in as the sky began to turn.

Side note, I reflected up there on all the amazing love and support I received from my friends and followers after yesterday’s post. Thank you for being here with me, then and now! I feel like I’m hiking with all of you, and it still helps motivate me forward.

I stayed there for about 20 minutes. Not because I was so enamored by the view or deep in thought, but because my feet refused to move. I hiked 22 miles at this point, and my legs were cramped, sore, and simply done. They called it a day 2 hours earlier, and when given a chance to rest, screamed at any movement thereafter. I thought I’d be able to do 20+ miles every day this week, but I took a beating today and may not have the strength to continue that goal tomorrow. With some more cursing, this time not under my breath, I hiked slowly crawled downhill to the Gren Anderson Shelter. No one else is here, so I can at least lay my gear out to dry in the shelter over night, which is nice. But I’m camping alone for the second night in a row. I’ll reassess the feet situation in the morning, but I have a feeling it will be a late start to the day either way. I need my beauty sleep. Oh, and more thunderstorms are expected tomorrow evening. Great.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1303.3
  • Start Time: 08:10
  • End Mile: 1326.1
  • End Time: 18:30
  • Miles Hiked: 22.8
  • Miles to Go: 66.6
  • Lodging: Gren Anderson Sheltee

Epilogue Day 1: Kittatinny Mountain Tentsite

Epilogue Day 1: And just like that, I’m back on the Appalachian Trail. It’s been two months since I summitted Katahdin and ended my thuhike, but I would never forgive myself if I didn’t go back to finish those 100 miles I skipped between Delaware Water Gap and Harriman State Park. So, here I am. Back again on the trail, in what I am calling the “Epilogue” of my thruhike adventure.

I had hoped to do this earlier, when thruhikers would still be out and about to provide company and camaraderie for my hike. But life has a way of getting in the way, as some personal things took longer to finalize with work and housing in our new Washington DC home. There was also that whole Hurricane Florence thing I wanted to avoid.

But now I’m back, and I will tell you … it feels much different. I could blame it on the 4 hour drive to get here, the onslaught of rain all day, the thunderstorm crashing around me at night as I type this, or the lack of conversation with others at the end of the day. But, I think the real problem is that my heart just isn’t in it this time around. Emotionally, I already feel fulfilled by what I accomplished, and now it seems more like an errand. It’s not much fun, it’s (still) awful trail conditions, and it’s lonely hiking alone. But I have to do this, and I will do this, even if it is only to check the box for the miles I missed. And even if it’s not a fun outing, it’s still hiking in the mountains, which I love to do.

To start off, today I managed to get in just over 8 miles before darkness and the storm hit. I left my car at Delaware Water Gap and crossed the river where the famous ground-sign marks the entrance to New Jersey (photo above). It was a pretty easy slope of trail from there, though it was lined with wet rocks big and small to trip up my progress. I managed to stay on my feet all day (poles!) as I passed the Kittatinny Point Visitor’s Center, Sunfish Pond, and finally a decent view atop Kittatinny Mountain. It’s here that I could see the storm clouds rolling in from all sides, so I quickly made my way down a bit further to a campsite and set up shop for the night. I just barely got my hammock up and dinner cooked before the rain started. And then it really hit. Hard.

Side note, it’s scary to camp alone in the mountains during a thunderstorm. I was in a shelter pretty much any night it rained or stormed last time around. And I only camped alone 1 night during my entire journey … but today I had no choice, and it is a symphony of wind, lights and sounds surrounding my hammock right now. This may be the angriest storm I’ve ever been out in, and I’m of course alone. I’ll be very happy if I get any sleep.

But that’s what it takes right now. I put it off as long as I could, but to say I thruhiked the Appalachian Trail is to say I walked all 2190.2 miles in a 12 month time. If I don’t do these miles before March 1 of next year, then I would never forgive myself. I’m not a purist in that sense, but I’m committed to my goal and now it’s time finish it. If I survive the night, that is.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 1294.7
  • Start Time: 15:00
  • End Mile: 1303.3
  • End Time: 18:05
  • Miles Hiked: 8.6
  • Miles to Go: 89.4
  • Lodging: Kittatinny Mountain Tentsite

Post-Hike Thoughts: Health and Wellness

Can I gloat a bit here? I mean, it’s my blog, so I can do whatever I want, but please don’t judge me too harshly. For years I read about the trail injuries, illnesses, and issues that plagued thruhikers on their journey to Katahdin. Every blogger or biographer I followed had their tale of woe to share … broken bones, sprained ankles, toenails falling off, infected blisters, poison ivy, Lyme disease, hypothermia, norovirus, food poisoning, even one account of West Nile!

But for Sharkbait, not a single health problem occurred while hiking the Appalachian Trail. I did have a couple bad spells of dehydration (one which cost me a zero day lying in bed with a pounding headache and nausea), but we won’t count that. Was it good luck or good planning that helped keep my record clean? To be honest, I’d like to think both. Let’s look closer.

Avoiding Foot and Leg Injuries: I has plenty of luck that the one “bad step” never happened to me. I never had the misplaced foothold on a wet or pointy rock, or snag on an exposed root that caused any serious damage. But besides luck, I believe this was due to good planning up front on realistic mileage per day (including low miles for the first 2 weeks), good evaluation of trail conditions / caution requirements, and HIKING POLES.

If you stop at the Outdoor 76 outfitter in Franklin NC, they will lecture you (at length) about keeping your daily miles under 20 until you hit Virginia. This is because your body needs time to strengthen the muscles around your weaker tendons and ligaments. Too much too fast will cause a rolled ankle to snap something painful. But build up that support and you can roll those ankles all day and bounce back (like I did in Maine, EVERY day).

And I have notoriously weak ankles, so I planned shoes and miles to ensure they were as strong as possible. I have been sidelined for weeks from athletics throughout my life from bad sprains, and I also have a torn ACL that never quite got back to 100% since repaired. I think the fear of re-injuring those areas kept me diligent on watching every step and daily mileage closely. So, although others would rush past me in PA, or log multiple 30-mile days in a row in VT, I took my time. And doing so, I finished injury free … yet still faster than planned. That is because I did not need as many zero days for my knees and feet to recover.

Plus, I massaged my feet with a pickle ball and stretched my legs and ankles notoriously each day for the first month, which helped significantly early on. Lastly, great shoes (and replacing them when necessary) was the final step to well-cared-for-feet. Besides a bad week of rain in northern Virginia, I barely even saw a blister. Even my wife agreed my feet looked great after 5 months of hiking (trust me, that’s saying a lot). Barely a sign of any wear or tear on them. 👍

Avoiding Mosquito/Tick Diseases: Again, part planning, part luck. Like everyone else, I hate ticks and feared Lyme disease most. I even went so far as to bring prescribed antibiotics from my doctor if infected on the trail. To deter these pests in advance, I treated my clothes, hammock, sleeping bags, and tarp with concentrated Permethrin. According to other smarter people, this is harmless to humans and deadly to insects … which proved to be right. I only found 1 tick on me (not in me) in my 2,190 miles of hiking.

And the mosquitos were bad, but I would only find a bite or two on me compared to the dozens I’d see scabbing the arms and legs of other hikers. I used 100% DEET on bad days, donned a head net when needed, and put on my “longs and longs” whenever the temperature allowed it. With this strategy in place, I only recall a couple bad days in MA and VT where the bugs infiltrated my defenses … thus limiting my exposure to insect-borne disease. For mosquito protection, one lesser-known gear item I recommend to future hikers is arm sleeves. The ability to throw on or off protective sleeves without taking my pack off to heat my torso with extra material was a great way to manage bugs vs. heat. 👍

Avoiding Other Issues: Honestly, this last category is just about good backpacking hygiene. I never shared food or water bottles with others, I cleaned and dressed any cuts I found, I used hand sanitizer after every privy and before every meal, I leukotaped hot spots on my feet long before they became blisters, I sponge-bathed and checked myself for ticks nightly … I even used KT tape on early signs of shin splints (which helped tremendously, all hikers would benefit to carry a couple yards of this for the first couple months of a thru). 👍

I realize I am no medical marvel, and had a tremendous amount of good luck while on my thruhike. But I also believe my long preparations greatly aided in my ability to understand and mitigate any potential issues before they became problems. Years of backpacking experience and AT planning helped keep me comfortably safe, not to mention a solid foundation of childhood learning from Happy in the wild woods of Minnesota.

Also, I’m pretty sure I’m among the 15% of Americans that are immune to poison ivy, so that helps too.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

Post-Hike Thoughts: Actual Cost

One of the most common questions among soon-to-be thruhikers is, “how much will it cost me?” Before my hike, I read many first-hand accounts to try and get a good estimate of what to expect. And, as usual, I thought that I’d be different. I’m a responsible 30-something adult that can manage my own family’s finances, not to mention those of multi-million dollar projects at work all the time … I think I know how to plan a hiking budget, right? Wrong again.

The generic advice I gained from former hikers and experts was pretty simple – expect to spend approximately $1000 a month. This estimate was based on the rudimentary costs of $20 a day on food, $100 for every town stop, and $1000 for replacing shoes and miscellaneous gear items. The basic math for a 5-month hike with approximately 1 town stop per week could then be: (20×150)+(100×22)+1000 = 3000+2200+1000 = $6,200.

The Process: That felt high to me, and I’m far too OCD to allow such a high-level estimate to be my budget planning process, so instead I went full crazy on it (as usual). For a guy that planned out every day’s distance and destination, I doubt anyone was surprised that my Hike Plan also included a breakdown of realistic anticipated costs each day as well. Pretty Hello Neiman! of me, if I do say so myself.

Long story short (too late), my initial plan estimated the expected costs each day for food (both my pre-packed boxes and town resupply), hostels/hotels, and meals when in a trail town. After hours upon hours of spreadsheet and data model building (fun for all ages), I came up with the much more detailed and accurate estimate of $5,066. Once I added the $1000 for planned gear/shoes, I came to a grand total of … $6,066.

Oh for f*cks sake! That was a complete waste of time, wasn’t it? Ah, who am I kidding, it was fun. Completely unnecessary, but fun nonetheless. See kids, you can use that high-school math for just as useless problem-solving in the real world too.

The Result:  Ok, so my budget broke down to approximately $1000 a month, just as I was told it would. But how did the actual monthly expenses compare? Let’s look at the results month by month…

  • March: $1,200
  • April: $1,500
  • May: $1,400
  • June: $1,700
  • July: $1,100

The total cost of my thruhike was therefor $6,900. As was also warned by past thruhikers, I went over my budget. There are a lot of reasons for this … the allure of burgers and beer, extra zero days due to cold weather, expensive gear failures, etc. There’s no shortage of excuses, only the reality of my credit card statement. Hiking the Appalachian Trail for 5 months is an expensive endeavor, and every future hiker should be realistic about what it will cost them. Besides injury, the most common reason a hiker quits the AT is that they simply just run out of money. I saw it first hand, and now I understand why.

The Conclusion:  The truth is, I could have spent less. You always can, of course. But at what other cost? Sure, I could have spent more nights camping in the snow, I could have skipped restaurants for ramen, and I could have forced my gear to last with duct tape and thread, padding, and an excellent MacGyver’ability … but that would have made it a much less enjoyable experience. I desperately needed those Yuengs ‘n Wings, that stay at Mountain Garden Hostel, and a backpack that actually fit me.

The good news is, this hike has the magical ability to just let your neuroses go, and just enjoy the experience of walking. It would be a terrible thing to waste the joy of hiking this scenic trail due to fear of spending. Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to have that luxury. My best advice is to be realistic and to do what every good management consultant does … add a contingency of 20% to your budget.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

Week 20 Recap Video

The final video! It Is really is the best video of them all, and worth watching with the sound cranked up. Not only is it packed with emotional Katahdin summit photos with new friends, but I saved the best music for last. I definitely could (and will) watch this video over and over again for years to come.

After posting last night’s video, I stayed up late in to the evening thinking and reflecting on the hike. While I was out there, I was convinced this was a one-time thing, and that I’d never want to thruhike another long distance trail again. The Appalachian Trail was great, but special in its uniqueness as a dream to me for so much of my life.

But now that it’s over, I guess I can’t say I feel that way anymore. The allure of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) began tugging at me almost immediately, as it offers more miles, bigger mountains, and arguably better sights. I’d be lying if I wasn’t daydreaming a bit about hiking that trail some day. Or perhaps even tackle the AT again…

Ok, maybe not the AT again. It could never be as great as it was the first time. But that romanticized thinking is part of the magic these trails create I guess. As soon as it ends, you long for it again.

Lots of life to live for now, but who knows. Maybe the PCT isn’t such a crazy idea some day. Maybe…

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!