I have made it to what everyone touts as the halfway point. I hike into Harper’s Ferry, WV with my boot being held together with duck tape. I have to watch every other step I take because the sole of my boot is still kind of flapping at the toe and catches on roots, rocks or any others obstacles in the trail. If I manage to avoid the toe of the sole flapping I sometimes end up stumbling anyway because the slippery duck tape that now comprises most of the bottom of my shoe shoots off whatever surface it comes into contact with faster than I can compensate for, causing me to lose my balance anyway. I think to myself, “only halfway, huh” knowing full well the actual halfway point is ahead of me in Pennsylvania.
The next half will be easier I tell myself, I have a lighter backpack, hiking shoes with a sole, a tarp and hammock and I also decided to go stove less to save time. The pack I chose was the Osprey 50 liter Atmos pack. I would go through multiple shoes and boots deciding on a pair I liked. I got a cheaper off brand Harmony hammock with a Kelty tarp. I literally survived of Cliff Bars when I went stove less.
The Atmos pack had enough room for the rest of the trail to fit everything in the pack except for the time when I decided to skip a resupply and carry 11 days of food. I had to strap some things to the outside to accommodate the extra food. The pack still remained comfortable when overloaded. It is still usable, but did not quite hold up as well as my Gossamer Gear pack I used on the PCT.
I preferred the trail running shoes to the different types of footwear I had used so far. It took me until my second set of footwear on the PCT years later before I found the shoe I love, the Salomon X-Mission. A close second are the Vasque Mindbenders. They got wet in the constant stream crossings, but dried relatively fast and had no brake in time.
The hammock and tarp allow me to keep stuff dry by setting the tarp first in the rain for shelter then doing everything else under the cover of the tarp. I had ample room to hang up the clothes I was wearing before I went to sleep and do everything else I need for the night. On only one occasion did it rain hard enough for the ropes to wick water down the length of the hammock. This system also allowed me to set up camp on uneven ground. The hammock is by far my favorite sleep system, however I did not use it on the PCT.
In order to save time, I decided to not cook anything else or carry a stove for the rest of the hike. Town stops were so frequent I figured I’d supplement my nutrition with salads and well any type of food other than a Cliff Bar in town. This method did save me time by being able to eat while walking and not having to filter as much water for cooking purposes, but to be honest it wasn’t worth eating 20 Cliff Bars a day for sustenance. I used a stove on the PCT, however I am thinking about experimenting with going stove less again when I hike the CDT.
With this new plan and gear for hiking the AT I leave the “halfway point” and hike to the actual halfway point feeling energized and not hating Cliff Bars yet!