Last September when we visited the Smoky Mountains, we stopped at Clingman’s Dome. Off the paved trail there was a trailhead leading to a section of the AT. That was the very first time I thought to myself that I wanted to walk on it. I even took a picture with the sign like a dorky tourist.
After we stood around admiring the views that day, headed home a few days later to even now, I feel like a magnet is pulling my thoughts and my body back. I have AT brain. I would absolutely love to drop everything and attempt a thru, but it’s just not doable right now with my business. I doubt B, who just recently graciously gave in to years of my pleading and begging to try a taste of the outdoors (which he now greatly enjoys) would be into hiking for 6 months straight. We have compromised and decided to tackle one or more sections every year. This year we are doing 40+ miles combined of the Shenandoah section and then a few days in Grayson Highlands and Damascus to relish in the culture.
To say I’m excited is an understatement. I requested our Shenandoah backcountry permit by mail 8 months early! I know that this is so small in the grand scheme of things compared to what most people do but for me…for us, it’s scratching the itch.
Another compromise between me and my dear husband is alternating backcountry camping with inn to inn hiking. B is unbelievably uncomfortable with the thought of being in bear territory. Rightfully so, although I understand to have an incident is incredibly rare I respect his anxieties and worries and agreed to spend the extra money to stay at inns along the way as long as we can get a couple nights in of tent camping. All of our lodging is booked!
We will have a long drive ahead of us; about 12 hours to Swift Run Gap where we will park our car and catch a ride up to Luray. We’ll sleep in a hotel or hostel and then get shuttled to Thornton Gap where we will begin heading SOBO!
Day 1 we are planning on hiking only about 4 miles, as I’ve read the hike from Thornton Gap to Mary’s Rock is a good workout. We will camp that night.
Day 2 we hike to Skyland Resort, spending the day and night there.
Day 3 we trek to Big Meadows.
Day 4 to Lewis Mountain and finally spend the last day hiking to the car at Swift Run. It’s not a typical backpacking trip but I think it will be a super fun experience while working for each of us.
After we get back to the car we are going to drive toward Grayson Highlands to camp for a couple nights while also checking the Mount Rogers summit (and wild ponies!) off of our list.
We have already talked and decided next year we’d like to do sections in either New Hampshire or New York (or both!) but with much more confidence and backpacking experience under our belts at that time.
I thought I would just share our plans in case anyone else is on the hunt for a laid back, fun route. I would absolutely call us intermediate hikers, but still beginner backpackers. Our first AT experience will be a learning one, and that’s great. We will have the convenience of lodging and restaurants but still get the feel of the trail, meeting people and taking our time to enjoy it.
I would LOVE some advice and to hear about your first AT experiences! Any other section hikers please comment and let me know! =)