The Appalachian Trail – a giant of the hiking world

Have backpack will travel? At BCH Camping we have many customers who venture far and wide to get their hiking fix, but how about popping over the pond for a mooch along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, USA? If you think the travel may not be worth it, you may want to think again!
The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180 mile trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It winds its way through the wild, wooded terrain of the Appalachian Mountains, passes through 14 states, eight different national forests, six national park units and numerous state parks, forests, and game lands. In Massachusetts, ninety miles of this trail run along the ridges and across the beautiful valleys of the Berkshires, the southern continuation of the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Founded in 1921 by Benton MacKaye of Massachusetts, the trail was intended as a place for city dwellers to spend time surrounded by nature in the forests and ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. In 1968 the path was designated a National Scenic Trail, and a year later was subjected to a protection order by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail provides hiking opportunities for both the long-distance hiker and the day hiker. A cabin, shelters, tent platforms and campsites with outhouses are found along the trail for overnight and extended trips.
Considered to be the best long-distance hiking route in the world by many, each year three million people trek at least a portion of the Appalachian Trail, with just a fraction of those, known as “thru-hikers” walking its entire length.
Most thru-hikers start at the southernmost trailhead, located on Springer Mountain in Georgia because the northernmost section, which ends on Mt. Katahdin in Maine, is widely considered to be the toughest part of the trek.
On average, thru-hikers take approximately six months to get from end to end. The record for the fastest time is just 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes, set by ultrarunner Karl Meltzer in 2016, which is an average of about 48 miles per day.
With a climb of 6,625 feet, the highest point along the Appalachian Trail is near Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The route has a lot of ascents and descents so walkers shouldn’t expect many flat sections. The total amount of climbing for the entire route is roughly 515,000 feet, or the equivalent of going to the summit of Everest more than 17 times!

Lions, tigers and bears?

Not quite, but there are black bears that live along the route. They don’t pose much of a threat to your life, just your stomach! They are more likely to want to steal your food than they are to eat you alive (unless, perhaps, you’re in possession of a tasty ham sandwich!).
The Appalachian Mountain range is one of the richest temperate areas in the world and home to over 200 species of birds. Other wildlife that can be found along the Appalachian Trail are moose, white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes and beavers.
Smaller animals like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and opossums are found in abundance, alongside more rare species such as porcupines, minks and muskrats. As well as a variety of salamanders and lizards, poisonous and non-poisonous snakes inhabit the woods and rocky areas of the mountains.

A Walk in the Woods

As with many places that become the location or subject of a Hollywood film, the Appalachian Trail has seen an increase in hikers since Robert Redford’s movie, A Walk in the Woods was released in 2015.
The increase of “flip-flop thru-hikers” was anticipated before the film’s release with the New York Times stating that there had been a 49% increase in hikers in 1999 following publication of the book on which the film was based.
In 2016, the increase was stated to be 22% on the previous year. Any sudden increase is a concern to Baxter State Park, a large wilderness area, although the scene focussing on burying human waste was welcomed. Robert Redford with toilet paper in hand may have been added for shock value, but more likely, the potty trowel scenes were a subliminal “Leave No Trace” message. Guidelines state that you must “move at least 50 feet from the trail and 200 feet from water to bury human waste for proper decomposition; or use a privy where available.” So, take note – be like Robert!

What should you take for a hike along the Appalachian Trail?

BCH Camping supply a wide range of World Travel Gear that would be needed for a hike of this magnitude, including travel accessories from brands such as Lifesystems, Lifeventure, Aquapac and Jack Wolfskin. 
The Jack Wolfskin Gadgetary keeps all your electronic gadgets safe and sound in a stylish shoulder bag. It has a 10” padded compartment for your tablet or laptop, and pouches for your smartphone or MP3 Player, along with five further pockets.
Lifesystems’ Expedition Plus 50+ 50ml Insect Repellent Spray has a dual action formula which combines natural pyrethroids with DEET to provide a high level of protection against biting insects in all environments. Should you fall foul of a hungry beastie, however, the Bite Relief Click, also from Lifesystems, instantly soothes the discomfort and itching of bites. It uses a piezo-electric pulse to reduce irritation and can be used as and when required, providing over 10,000 clicks.
Protect yourself from mosquitos with a Lifesystems MicroNet Mosquito Net. There are singles and doubles, and nets just for your head.
For hygiene while you’re so far away from home we stock Lifeventure products such as all-purpose soap, dry wash gel and trek towels in various sizes.
Security is always a concern when travelling, so we stock Lifeventure body wallets that can be worn across the chest or the waist. Lifeventure combi-locks and cable locks provide added security for your belongings.
There are many small practical items that we supply for the travelling hiker that may not otherwise be thought of, such as a bath or sink plug, a clothes line, ear plugs, travel mirror, the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow and the Sea to Summit pocket trowel.

Happy holidays!

If you decide to venture to the Appalachian Mountains and take on the trail, you should make sure you’re fully prepared. If there are any products that you can’t find on our website, get in touch and we’ll be happy to advise you further. And don’t forget the toilet paper!