I am just back Monday evening from my annual section on the Appalachian Trail. We did 76 miles, which is a bit shorter than our hoped-for 100 mile yearly mileage. I am no more ravaged than usual. The trail is grueling, but I've learned my lessons over the years and do some amount of training yearround and so can walk without pain today, which has not always been the case when I've completed a section. It helps that Virginia has more forgiving trail than North Carolina (extremely hard) and North Georgia (brutal).

I've been hiking the AT with a friend of mine (also a historian, in South Carolina) for 10 years this summer. We've made it up from Springer Mountain in Georgia to the northern reaches of the Shenandoah National Park. It would have been nice to get half way at the end of a decade(Harper's Ferry is considered the traditional halfway point though I think it is not fully half way) but that will not be the case. But I'd still like to finish by age fifty, if possible.

(I will not dwell here on the reality that I'll be 50 in a decade...)

This year we plugged the one section we had missed a couple of years ago, when our trip was truncated and we didn't get to do this part. Last year, for a variety of reasons, we did a more northerly section north of Waynesboro. We have both had a nagging feeling about this undone 76 mile section, so it feels good to have knocked it out. It ended up being some of the nicest trail we've hiked. Of particular note was the 1 mile or so stretch down into Buena Vista along the James River, really a nice little piece of walking with the wide river on your left and some rocky bluffs on your right. (In Virginia, "Buena" is pronounced to rhyme with "Moon-a"). Perhaps the nicest view were just out side of Salem on McAfee Knob (which, as you might expect, is pronounced in the mountains 'MAC-afee'). This is a steep little mountain with stunning views from steep cliffs. Several miles along from that were the Tinker Cliffs, which also had amazing views. I don't hike the AT with a camera so I can't post pictures of myself up there (though my friend is supposed to send me some), but here is one I swiped from the interschnitzel:

Beautiful spot. We had some reasonably good mileage days, and on that day we did 21 miles, so topped a bunch of mountains only to end up in Daleville Virginia in the evening, eating Mexican food. Or what passed for Mexican food in Daleville.

Next year we'll continue on toward Maine.


Granola Girl said…
My son's father through-hiked the AT when he graduated highschool. He went from Maine to Georgia due to starting out late and then was a buyer for Neel's Gap.

I grew up hiking the PCT with my father and did a third of it as a family when I was about 12.

We are currently preparing to take our son and through hike the AT when he is about 10. Currently he is five and doing quite well with skills and miles per day.

You could do the same with your daughter as she gets bigger if you still haven't hiked it all by 50.

I am personally amazed at the fortitude children have and think they are dramatically under-appreciated in this matter.

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