Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Approach Trail at Amicalola Falls State Park

Approach Trail to the A.T.

So on April 30th we begin the 8.5 mile approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park where we set off for Springer Mountain on our 2174 mile journey to Maine.

This picture requires a bit of disclaimer, though. We registered at the trail head a day early an snapped this photo, so we'd have something to post back to the site. Our packs are also not loaded with the food we are bringing, so they are filled slightly less than they actually will be. Also, the sign is a bit outdated, so the distance to Katahdin, Maine is a bit slighted.

2007 Thru-Hiker Register

As hopeful thru-hikers, we were #596 and #597 who registered at the Amicalola Falls State Park Approach Trail, the traditional route to the AT's southern terminus. We're told that an approximately equal number of hikers get to the terminus via a .9 mile fire road trail and register at Springer.

That means only about 1200 hikers are registered this year, which seems to be a bit lower than normal.

When registering, we were surprised how many people had ginormous pack weights recorded by their names. Our packs came in at 9 lbs. before food, and in our quick glance of the register, there was only one other hiker whose pack was in the neighborhood at 12 lbs. The rest of the notebook was filled with 25, 40 and 55 pound packs. In the short time we were at the visitor center, we actually met 2 people who were ending their hikes with only a few miles on the trail. It seems like these monster packs can certainly make hiking tough. I can relate since that's exactly what I was carrying until 3 years ago.

Lauren said she thinks most people won't even take us seriously or will think we're not responsibly prepared just because it isn't difficult to walk under our loads. Even though lightweight backpacking gear isn't really all that new, I bet she's right.

Anyway, it's 1:35am on the eve of our hike, and I'm ready to rock! I need some sleep first though.

Green is the New Brown

Spring growth

The new growth in Georgia is vibrant and boasts of new life. I was slightly disappointed to start our hike so late, thinking we might miss the beginnings of spring, but it seems like we're getting started at just the right time.

Georgia Hillside

Due to a cold snap, spring has not arrived to the higher elevations (2000' and up), so we're enjoying the balmy 70 degree temperatures and watching the new growth with each day.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Contributing Sponsors

Every once in a while a company or product comes along that we truly believe in.

Lauren and I have been using these products on the trail since the beginning and after realizing how much we value them, we have contacted them directly to see if they would be interested in partnering with us on our journey.

  • We are proud to announce Valley Fig Growers as our first partner! (Our post about Valley Fig) They have donated enough figs to see Lauren through the duration of our trip!
  • E3 Live is contributing several bottles of their Blue Green Algae supplements.
  • Bear Valley, makers of the excellent Pemmican and Mealpack Natural Energy Bars have donated several cases to us and have offered a discounted price for bulk orders.
  • Just Tomatoes sells the most delicious mixes of dried fruits and veggies, and is sending us surprise mail drops along the way. They are familiar with thru-hikers, and instantly jumped on board with us!

Some Parting Links

We're headed down to Amicalola Falls State Park this morning. We're taking a rest day at the lodge there before we start to regroup and start our hike fresh on Monday morning.

If you're curious about where the AT actually traverses, here is an interactive Google map of the trail shelters to pan and zoom to your heart's content

I posted a rough attempt at an itinerary tonight. If you follow the link to our detailed spreadsheet, it may look well-planned, but we can only assume our summer will barely resemble what is written down.

Not sure when we'll be in touch next.
Peace and Love,
Ben & Lauren

Friday, April 27, 2007

Preparations from Mickleton, NJ

Departure from the Carr's House

Here we our with our packs this morning in Mickleton NJ before our southbound road-trip to Lauren's sister and brother-in-law Amanda and Jason in Virginia.

We spent night with Lauren's parents last night; our third location with family in as many days. After arriving by greyhound, it was an afternoon of last minute shopping details (cash, food items, shipping supplies) with Lauren's dad as our chauffeur.

Due to time constraints in L.A., we brought more hiking gear than we'll need with the intention of sorting it all out in New Jersey. Last night we stayed up late again, paring each of our base packweights(all items before consumable food and water) to below 8.5 pounds or 3.8kg. If you're curious, I've posted spreadsheet with the details.

Basecamp at the Carr's

Oh, and the red jacket I'm wearing is the one I completed from the "$500 jacket" post. It has a hood, fits perfefctly and I'm really happy with how it turned out!

A New Look at Wool

I've worn wool garments before and they remind me of two things: itchy and hot. Recently I was turned on to some manufacturers who are taking a new approach to wool, making clothing that fit neither description. And the benefit of wool is that it does not promote bacteria growth (i.e. armpit funk) unlike polypropylene or synthetic wicking materials.

We purchased some ultra-fine weight wool shirts in hopes that we'll be less offensive in town or ride-hitching situations. Although pricey ($50-80) compared to the button down polyester shirts we were considering, we thought they might be justified over a summer of use.

After some extensive testing -- wearing both ways on my bicycle commute and sleeping in it for a week -- I am a believer in the odor-free reputation of wool. I look forward to seeing how they will perform on the trail.

Some manufacturers include:
Ibex, Icebreaker, Smartwool, Patagonia

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Whirlwind that was Pittsburgh

Mom Altering Lauren's Rain Gear

My mom helped us make some alterations to our lightweight rain gear. Who would have guessed that my mom and I would have sewing as a common interest!?

Zipping Our Quilt Together

My quilts are a bit different than hers, but she did say it was "cool" and that "technically it is a quilt."

We took a break from our busy day of preparations to show my parents and Hannah our tarp shelter and quilt. When she was shopping for s'mores ingredients with my mom, Hannah said that her "bones were excited" to go camping with us in the backyard.

Checking Out Our Shelter

It was fun demonstrating our gear for my family.

Many people we meet have trouble comprehending sleeping in a tent so a summer under our tarp sounds even more extreme. And the best way to let them see the advantages of a tarp is a backyard demonstration. The truth is, our tarp is roomier and drier than because it eliminates condensation. Like most lightweight gear, carrying a tarp can be more functional than the traditional counterpart, but you can only carry less on your back if you carry more in your head.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Map On the Wall

Dad with our Diagonal A.T. Map

We mounted a map of the trail on the kitchen wall of my parent's house. We oriented it diagonally because the trail heads in a more northeasterly direction than it does due north. My dad loves maps and was examining the route we will be hiking.

The maps we gave to family and friends included a sticker with our ugly mugs and the address to our AT 2007 journal.

Bobblehead Hikers

Test Post From State College

(Phone message transcribed by Bethany)

Well, Lauren and I are here in State College, Pennsylvania, visiting my sister Bethany. We are sitting in Saint's Cafe. This is a test post of our message delivery system, to see if it will work.

If everything works correctly, I make a free phone call to (link to our channel), Bethany transcribes the mp3 file, and then she sends the text as an email that posts to this blog.

Alright, over and out!

- - - -


It looks like the posting system works. Cool!

Lauren and I had a great time on campus with Bethany where she showed us here stomping grounds. With the chilly spring rains, we got a chance to try out our lightweight rain jackets that my mom helped finish altering the night before. Thanks for the hospitality and transcription help, Bethany!

On the Bus at Penn State

Monday, April 23, 2007

On the East Coast

It's 2:30AM in Pittsburgh and Lauren and I just finished waterproofing some of our stowbags and rain mitts. We're here enjoying some time with my family, while making final preparations.

After a a nonstop weekend of work fueled by Armenian coffee, Monday morning we wrapped up details in L.A. and moved the last of our things from our apartment. At noon we boarded our plane at LAX, caught a layover in Atlanta (where ironically we'll be starting the trail next weekend) and then were greeted by my dad when we arrived in Pittsburgh.

The last week has been a whirlwind of activity and logistical planning, which I hope to write about soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

McAfee's Knob

Ben on McAfee Knob

Last time I was on Mcafee's Knob was in the fall of 1998, when this picture was taken. The spot is so scenic, it's no coincidence that it appears in just about every pamphlet or book describing the AT.

Back then I slept out under the stars on the massive slab, with my friends Dave and Ben, even though you're not supposed to because it gets so much use. That was one of the most peaceful and balmy nights I've ever spent outdoors.

In the morning we got up at sunrise and snapped a few photos with the self-timer. I wonder what this beautiful spot will have in store this time around.

Extra bonus! Here's are two 360° panoramas from the top: summer time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mail Forwarding Flubbed

In late March, I went to the USPS website and completed the temporary change of address & mail forwarding request form, so that our mail would be redirected to Lauren's parents when we move out.

Although I requested the service to begin April 21st, we became suspicious of an error when on April 10 & 11 we didn't receiving anything, not even the Val-Pack junk stack. On Wednesday the 12th, I called the P.O. and was able to speak directly to our carrier and straighten things out. Sure enough, Phillip had been given the wrong date and was already forwarding our mail.

The situation is a bit unnerving since we're receiving multiple trip-related shipments nearly every day. We hope that whatever items might be lost in the postal vortex either end up back here, or make it to NJ by the time we arrive next week. The only M.I.A. shipment I'm aware of is the maps of the first 3 states that Lauren's mom mailed out for us.

Plan B, of course, will be a mantra we picked up from RJ, "If I don't have it, then I don't need it."

My $500 Jacket

Pieces of my Wind Shell Jacket

Okay, I actually don't know how much it cost me, but after materials and the time-intensive sewing process, it certainly wasn't cheap. So why wouldn't I just pay $30-70 for a brand name shell jacket and be done with it?

Well, the problem is that I fall in between the standard sizes for most manufacturers of long sleeve garments. I'm 6'2", trim, with long arms. So if I buy a Large, most times I'll be swimming in the torso. And If I buy a Medium, the chest will fit well, but the arms will look like I had a post-adolescent growth spurt.

Since I'm making the jacket myself, besides a perfect fit, the other benefits are that it will be better constructed, will have only the features I want and nothing more, and will be lighter weight anything I could buy commercially.

I stayed up until 1:30am last night working on it, and it's almost done. I'll definitely post a picture of it when it's finished.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sadness in Blacksburg This Morning

The fatal shootings in Blacksburg, VA (Latest Headlines) are saddening and disturbing to say the least. Having spent 4 amazing years there, this is weighing heavily on my morning.

- - - -


A convocation from Nikki Giovanni, poet, author and professor at Virginia Tech.

Friday, April 13, 2007

John Pedersen Photography

My brother in law, John (who I still have yet to meet!), has a nice photography portfolio with an emphasis on outdoor sports - including some great ice climbing shots and some beautifully executed light paintings. I understand that he recently took a job at a local airport in Minnesota, so that he can get deeply discounted domestic and international airfare to travel and expand his portfolio. Smart man.

I just heard from him today, wishing us luck on our trek. Thanks, John. I wish you and Maisi the best, and hopefully your summer plans for some miles on the Superior Hiking Trail will come together. I look forward to meeting you when the time arrives.

Walking Northward with Spring

We will be starting in Georgia, feeling the last nips of winter at higher elevations (maybe?), and experiencing the transitions as spring gives way to summer followed by the colors of fall, as we make our way northward to Maine.

One of the things that I am looking forward to is being enveloped by green on our journey. I guess that's good since the AT is also affectionately known as the "green tunnel." I have been spoiled for the last few years with the expansive panoramas of the west, but I think the contrast will help me appreciate the landscape of my earlier years all the more. In particular, I love rhododendron, which is widespread in Virginia and other portions of the trail.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Welcome to BLT Adventure

This is where we will aggregate our thoughts and pictures over the next months while we attempt to walk all 2174 miles of the Appalachian Trail (big map) from Georgia to Maine. Our journey starts on April 30th so it's finally starting to seem real.

A quick tour of this site:

  1. There are several ways that I'll be adding content to this journal, which are explained in this post.
  2. In the right column you'll find the main navigation for ways to contact us, our (not-yet-completed) itinerary, a bit of our connection with and motivation for hiking the trail, some commonly asked questions, and a bit about the lightweight gear we carry.
  3. Below the Main Navigation, you'll see a hopefully-fairly-current stat of where we are and how much of the trail we've completed.
  4. Below that, the photos in the right column will be randomly displayed from our Appalachian Trail 2007 photo gallery over at flickr. (Not much there yet... but we haven't started yet, either!)
  5. And towards the bottom of the right column, you'll find some additional links and ways of searching archived content, which is indexed by category or by posting date and title.

Well, that's it for now. Thank you for your interest and support!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Backbone Trail Shakedown Hike

Much later at Encinal Canyon

On a beautiful 3-day weekend in February, Lauren and I were joined by our friend Matt on a high-mileage hike across the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains. Here is a gallery with commentary of our Backbone Trail trip.

This route is mostly completed and connects the coast at Pt. Mugu near Oxnard, CA back to Will Rogers State Park in Santa Monica. Apparently Tom Harrison makes some great maps of the trail, but we weren't using them and paid price with some navigational errors. The trail is approximately 67 miles, but we ended up hiking more like 74 over the three days.

Along with all of the beautiful views, spring greens and fresh air - we encountered intense sun & heat and long waterless stretches as well as driving rain, howling winds, mud and long days. Needless to say, it made for a great preparatory AT hike! Through all this we remained positive and had an enjoyable experience. Of course 25 mile days were a bit tiring, but due to our lightweight gear, Lauren and I we were pleasantly surprised with no traces of soreness.

Our friend Matt was a great addition to the trip, although he'll admit that he over packed by a bit. The three of us had a great time bonding.

Lauren and I left the trip feeling a new sense of confidence in our outdoor skills, and our lightweight homemade gear. (Thanks Ray!)

Monday, April 9, 2007


That's what my friend, Rob, has been calling it anyway.


Ever since we sold our dinner table, we've transformed our kitchen to an ebay staging area. Last night as our 19 auctions were ending, we hit the 'refresh' button over and over for the last few minutes, watching the flurry of exuberant bidding push our sales higher and higher. I told Lauren it was more fun than watching a movie.

The best part? Things that we've owned for years that were clutter or junk to us were commanding prices close to what we originally paid for them. Sleeping bags, Motorola walkie-talkies, digital drawing tablet, 4 pairs of new-in-box running shoes...

These are tips I've accumulated or developed myself, and they seem to work well. Your mileage may vary, though.

It's all about the Photos

  • Include 4-6 GOOD photos (minimum of 2) of whatever you're selling. Sounds so obvious, but many people won't even look at an item without a picture and a good looking one goes a long way.
  • Photograph it on a bright white background to give a clear image of the item. You can use a window for a cheap light source.
  • Pay the extra $1 to have larger photos, and a photo included in the search listing.
  • Keep it brief. A nice headline, intro sentence and a list of 3-6 bullet points is all you need.
  • Don't write excuses about why you're selling an item. They're unnecessary. If someone wants to know, answer that individual's question.
  • Be honest and accurate about the condition of what you're selling, so people aren't surprised when they open your box.
  • Still don't know what to write? You might try copying and pasting a paragraph from a manufacturer, but editing it way down and converting it to a list of bullet points.
Other Considerations
  • Run a 10-day auction so that people have two weekends to find and become attached to your item.
  • Start your action so it ends at 6pm PST / 9pm EST on a Sunday, so the most people are available to watch your auction end. Ebay has a nice feature allowing you to select the starting time, so my $tart time is almost always Thursday at 6pm.
  • Start bidding at $.01 and run an auction with NO RESERVE. This will get the largest amount of views, allowing people to bookmark your item and watch it end.
  • Include a flat rate shipping amount that covers postage, and a bit extra if possible. People don't tend to "think" about shipping as part of the price and will pay more there.
  • For larger items and furniture, Craigslist is probably the way to go.
  • Pack your boxes ahead of time, so they're ready to ship immediately. But don't seal them completely because you might need answer a bidder's question.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Dinner At Au Lac

It's Lauren here. This is my first post, so let's see how it goes.

As a going away present to myself, It's been my dream to eat at our favorite restaurant each week for the last 4 that we're in LA. Au Lac is a Vietnamese place with an amazing Raw food menu. I thought that it would give us a chance to absorb all of the flavors of our favorite dishes as well as the community vibe in the atmosphere to help us through our 6 months of absence.

Chef Ito is the most creative in the kitchen--his dishes are ones that would be virtually impossible to recreate at home. He's also great with introductions--Ben and I have met so many other interesting people because of him. It's because of these friends we've met, that Ben and I feel such a unique connection to this little restaurant in Orange County.

So, why do Ben and I travel all the way from Hollywood, in L.A.-80 miles round trip- to Fountain Valley? Let's keep it short and sweet: De La Mamma and Chocolate Ecstasy for dessert.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Living with Boxes

Living with Boxes

Today we spent the day continuing our packing, as well as taking calls from Craigslist customers, and answering questions from our ebay auctions. Yes, we're in reduction mode.

Last week we sold our dinner table, since then we've been enjoying our meals on a makeshift table in the living room. Things are coming along, but we sure have a long way to go!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Posting to This Site

This might be "too much information" for most of you, but for the curious few here's an overview about my plans and methods of posting text & photos while we travel:

1) Quick and Easy (for Me) - Messages relayed by Bethany
I call a free 1-800 number provided by Gabcast, leaving a voice mail. The recording is published as an mp3 to the web, sending instant email notification to my sister. Bethany transcribes the mp3, and sends the message out as an email which is published directly to this site. (Thanks Bethany! I'll try to keep them short...)

2) A Bit More Involved - If I have a chance in town
From any computer with web connection I can send an email that will post text directly to site. If I have more time, I can log onto blogger and create a post with pictures or make changes to the site.

If I'm able to connect my camera to the computer I can also upload a couple photos from my Nikon D70 (I shoot in RAW+JPEG format) to my flickr account. Once uploaded to flickr, they will randomly be added to the sidebar of the site, or if I click "blog this" I can create a quick post directly in flickr that will post here.

3) Photo Archiving and Posting - With help from Kevin
When I fill up my memory card (two 4GB, two 1GB) I will mail to Kevin for him to back them up, upload them to my flickr account and mail the cards to a resupply town. If he has time, he may even choose a few photos to post directly to this site.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Footwear for the Trail

Backpacking in running shoes might seem like an odd idea. It certainly was for me when I first considered it. Ray Jardine promoted the idea that if one carries a light enough load, then the extra weight, bulk and support offered by traditional hiking boots is unnecessary. He calculated that over the course of a long day hiking, every ounce removed from the feet is equal to 6 pounds on the back. Ray's argument was persuasive enough to get me to try it, and I'm convinced I'll never go back.

The benefits continue beyond weight, since on a long hike, your feet WILL get wet. With boots, the moisture stays inside, even more dramatically with waterproof ones. Running shoes allow the moisture to escape immediately and can dry overnight or while being worn.

Until last night, we were unsure of which shoes we'll start with, but now this question has been resolved. Eastbay offers a good selection of shoes at reasonable prices and we outfitted ourselves with these ones last night. Somewhat disturbingly, out of their entire inventory, Lauren and I independently settled on the same brand and model (Asics Gel-1110) based on our criteria below.

  • Lightweight (less than 11oz for one shoe)
  • Breathable (lots of mesh)
  • Little or no motion control (not relevant when going off-road)
  • Inexpensive (we'll need 3-5 pairs each)
  • Style (not sure how we did on this one, but they'll be muddy soon enough!)

One of the trade offs with lightweight running shoes is that they will most certainly wear out. We expect they may last about 500-700 miles, which would put us somewhere past Damascus, VA. These pairs cost us $49 each, so we expect to be able to finish the trail at around $250-300 if we go through 5 pairs. We'll probably get by with less, but either way, we're spending about the same amount as a "good pair" of traditional boots, but are traveling with significantly more comfort and ease.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Gear We're Carrying

We've been working on our gear up to the very last minute, and no doubt it will be evolving during our journey as well.

With 3 days until our launch at the Springer Mountain Approach Trail, it looks like our base packweights will each be around 8.5lbs (3.8kg), before consumables food and water. (Consumables are not included because they fluctuate based on resupply points, and average about 2 additional pounds per person per day).

Here is a more detailed spreadsheet of what we're carrying.

Huge a thanks to Ray and Jenny Jardine for all of your innovation sewing inspiration and kits, to AYCE for your fantastic hiker resources at, thanks to Adrian and the crow for your helpful input, thanks to fellow seamsters Will L. and the JF crew and to Patch for your inspiration with the rain mitts.


We're still working out our trail itinerary...

Here's a link to a much-too-detailed itinerary. It's impossible to predict where we'll be any particular day, but being our first journey, Lauren found this method to be the easiest for planning sake.

Here's a quick version of our best guess:

  • April 30 - Start the Trail in Georgia
  • May 10 - Enter Great Smokie Mountain NP
  • May 18-20 - Trail Days in Damascus VA (contingent on ride from/back to our trail location in N.C.)
  • June 1 - Enter Virginia
  • June 10-15 - Somewhere near Blacksburg, VA
  • June 25-30 - Shenandoah NP
  • July 4 - Harpers Ferry, WV
  • July 11 - Halfway Point! Pine Grove Furnace, PA
  • July 22 - Delaware Water Gap
  • August 1 - Train to NYC for a short visit
  • August 19 - Hanover, NH
  • September 5 - Maine
  • September 18 - Finish at Katahdin!

    Predicting the Future

    Packing all of our earthly possessions has been a time consuming and mentally demanding affair. As I look into my crystal ball, I've been trying to determine:

    1. the items I never need to see again
    2. the items we won't need this next month but would like to see once we return
    3. the items we might want access to at "basecamp" (Lauren's parents' in NJ)
    4. the items we want to carry on our backs every step of every day for 4-5 months.
    It's a trial and error learning process and hopefully we're getting most of it right. It's rare for me to look back after I've gotten rid of something and wish I still had it. In fact, I can only think of one two. Last summer when I threw out Lauren's bubble bath soaps without her permission. (update: Michael Jordan's rookie card).

    We'll see how we did this time.

    Get out the GoreTex

    The Miami Herald said today that a 'very active' hurricane season is predicted for 2007. It looks like this year might be a wet one on the trail.

    NEW ORLEANS -- Taking another toss at the tropical weather dart board, a group of university forecasters Tuesday predicted ''a very active'' hurricane season. They expect 17 named tropical storms that grow into nine hurricanes, in cluding five intense hurricanes with winds above 110 mph.
    I'm not sure how this will play out, but I suspect that every bit as important as the rain gear will be remembering to bring along our positive attitudes.

    Sunday, April 1, 2007

    The Moving Begins

    Today officially marked the start of our long-goodbye with our beloved apartment. Sure, we've been trimming down for a while now, with trips to Goodwill and the like, but today we overloaded the wagon and headed over to see Kevin and Annie and their new bundle of joy, Luke.

    Not only has Kevin has gone out of his way to set up some of the technical aspects of this site, he has generously provided a place for some of our belongings in their attic. What an amazing friend.

    A.T. Map

    Appalachian Trail Map

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Appalachian Trail Map

    What exactly is this "A.T." you refer to?

    The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, or A. T. for short, is a continuous footpath that extends 2174 miles (3498 km) from Georgia to Maine.

    Although sometimes mis-labeled as an old Native American trail or pioneer trade route, the A.T. was constructed in the 1920-30s by volunteers purely for recreational use.

    Plenty more information is available at Wikipedia.

    You're kidding, right? You're walking the entire way? How long will that take?
    A typical thru-hike takes from 5-7 months. Lauren and will be carrying lightweight gear and have been preparing in advance, so we expect our thru-hike to take about 4-5 months.

    Sounds like a lot of work... Are you crazy?
    No doubt. To complete the trail, we will each take nearly 5 million steps (less for me, more for Lauren!), and vertically climb 144.5km (90 miles). That will be like climbing Mt. Everest from sea level to summit over 16 times.

    How do you carry that much food?
    A thru-hiker may consume 4,000-6,000 calories per day depending on the load he or she carries and the distance covered. Every week or so, we'll be stopping in towns to buy groceries or pick up supplies that we've mailed ahead.

    Are you going to be all alone out there?
    Well, not exactly. The first thru-hiker completed the trail in 1948. Currently each year about 2,000 people attempt to hike the entire trail, however, only about 400 finish. Many will drop out very early, plenty before we even begin.

    We certainly enjoy solitude and the wilderness, but don't know that the A.T. will provide a great deal of either. As might be imagined, we hear that a typical thru-hike experience might be quite social. However, by staying off trail under our tarp instead of in the crowded lean-to shelters, we will create a few more opportunities for peace & quiet.

    How far will you hike each day?
    We plan to pace ourselves and ease into it, but we will be hiking 20-24 miles per day (32-38km) before too long.

    Where will you sleep?
    We plan to stay most nights in our tarp shelter, and spend the occasional night in town for a hot shower and an all-you-can-eat buffet.

    Aren't you afraid of bears?
    No. Do we respect them? Of course. We hear that the mice in the shelters are more of a problem, though.

    What will you carry? For a trip so long, won't that be heavy?
    Actually a trip that long requires less than you might think.

    Most hikers carry 25-35 pounds of gear (11-16 kg) before food and water, which are constantly fluctuating.

    I have created much of my gear from lightweight materials and have learned how to use them. The total equipment we will carry before food and water weighs about 8 pounds (3.6 kg). Knowledge doesn't weight anything!

    See our Gear List page for some more specifics on what we're bringing.

    Big Thanks

    We are especially grateful and indebted to:

    • Bethany for volunteering to be our communication lifeline.
    • Pastor Ed for always being there as a mentor, business adviser, marriage counselor, travel agent, EMT, chauffeur, pastor, coach, referee...
    • Kevin and Annie for technical support and for opening your steamy attic to us, to store our furniture and boxes of chocolate.
    • Christine for opening up your apartment to us and adding us as tenants.

    Huge Thanks to:

    The Thompson and Carr families for introducing us to the outdoors and for supporting us as we explore and pursue our dreams, the great people at LADC, the crew at Vermont and Prospect, our family at Hope, our Israel Family, Ito & Mai and the fine folks at Au Lac.

    Additional thanks from Ben:

    Will L, Ray and Jenny, The JF 2005, Matt, Tim, Rob, G-man, Nate, DW, Hays, Craig, Boswell, Brian, Craig Wollack, Dan Patton and OSU VTS, The Anderson Family, Scott S., Ryan L., Mitzi & Ed, Troop 207 (Cedro, Tidal-weave, Dan-Right, Bossart... what up!), Dar, Gage, Gmail,, Vita-Mix Blenders, Andrew Skurka, Trailcast, Kouki & Maki, Funako-san, Reagan, The Crow...

    Additional thanks from Lauren to:

    Ben-beyond thank you, Storm & Jinjee, Victoria, Emili, Lou, Lucy, Lena, Nadine, Pilar, Teal, Michelle K, Duffy and Angela, Dr. Belsky, Mrs Steelman, Debbie Bradley, Fred Bisci, Miwa Yoshida, Dr Aftergood, Sum Yu & Allen, Oprah, Ellen, Delanco Camp, and Organic Farmers around the world!

    Why the A.T.?

    Are you out of your mind?

    Most people we meet have a hard time understanding why we're giving up jobs that we genuinely enjoy, moving out of an apartment that we love in a neighborhood that we're fond of, and digging deep into our savings... to go sleep on the ground, forsake customary hygiene, eat dried food and walk nearly a marathon each day. Then do it all over again for 4 or 5 months?

    Well, the answer is difficult to pin down, but to us, there is something so deeply satisfying about living simply; waking up with the sunrise and going to bed when it gets dark. Breathing fresh air, drinking clear water from its source, seeing something beautiful, eating because we're hungry, and falling aleep at night with a glow of exhaustion. In a context like this we are truly able to distinguish between our needs and our wants which transforms into greater appreciation for everything we are blessed with.

    Why the A.T.?

    Living in California, we're so spoiled by the rugged and natural beauty that abounds closeby in our local San Gabriel, Santa Monica, and San Bernardino Mountains. And without question places like the Sierra Nevada of Yosemite and Kings Canyon NP, Joshua Tree NP, Anza Borrego - all of which are linked by the spectacular Pacific Crest Trail. So then from the handful of people we meet who have heard of thru-hiking or enjoy long distance hiking themselves, we often get another question: "Why the A.T.?"

    Why would we want to hike a trail with less views, less wildlife, less wilderness, and less solitude, when the PCT is right here in our backyard?

    Well, that answer is a bit clearer to us. Although we have a deep love for the Pacific Crest Trail and hope to hike it someday (and hopefully the Continental Divide Trail too!), it is our roots in the east coast and connection to the Appalachian Trail that made this an appealing journey.

    We developed a connection with the A.T. while students at Virginia Tech, spending many weekends hiking in the area around Blacksburg. I actually surprised Lauren by arranging a candlelight dinner on Tinker Cliffs served on fine china, followed by my marriage proposal - with the help of some loyal friends. (Thanks Tim, Nathan, Dave, & Ben!)

    On a logistical side, Lauren has type 1 diabetes and for our first major journey we feel the AT offers flexibility of resupply options and town stops to adjust as we figure out what works best.

    From an emotional consideration, I am very into the wilderness solitude thing, but knowing Lauren's personality, I think the social aspect of the AT will be a good initiation to thru-hiking.

    And from a friends and family perspective, we grew up on the east coast and haven't been back there in a while, and are looking forward to reconnecting at a few points along the way.

    Contact Us




    thompson.ben {at} gmail {dot} com
    laur.thompson {at} gmail {dot} com

    Ben and Lauren Thompson
    Durango, CO

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