Long Distance Hiking -
our primary experience is with the John Muir Trail and Camino de Santiago,
and we are section hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. These
tips apply to all long distance walking, Appalachian Trail and others included:
My definition is hiking
trips that are three or more weeks. The amount of preparation, and the
mindset seems to change around that point. We covered the Pacific
Crest Trail, the John Muir
Trail and the Camino de Santiago on other pages of this site. On this page we have
the Appalachian Trail, the American Discovery Trail, the Tahoe Rim Trail the Bruce Trail
and the TransPanama Trail. PCT
is on its own page. Also some tips we
have learned along the way.
The best preventative I've found by far is breathable first aid tape.
Put it on hot spots before something more serious starts. Johnson&Johnson
makes 1/2 in and 3/4 in cloth tape, but best product we found is Hartmann
Omnifix in 2 inch by 10yd rolls - enough to wrap entire ball of foot. Google
for medco omnifix for the only U.S. source I've found. Once you get
a blister, Spenco 2nd Skin dressing works, but it is bulky to carry, hard to
find, and you may need a lot. 2003 Update - on grueling 8 day trip, got
blister with new boots, used Compeed to cover blister. Worked
well. The Johnson & Johnson product sold in US but licensed from Compeed is
not the same as the original.
Susan got hot spot on ankle, used Spyroflex Skinsaver - no more problems. Better not to get blisters - use
preventative measures, socks off every stop, soak in cold streams every
chance, lots of tape. There are many ideas on foot fixing - all in
John Vonhof's Fixing Your Feet which we got before doing the Camino. John's new edition (4th) is out and you can order from Amazon
However, a French pilgrim who had already walked hundreds of
miles, told us about taping, when she saw Susan's feet, and it worked.
Elevation Gain conversion to miles:
Wilderness Press's rule of thumb is that a gain of 500 feet is
equivalent to an additional mile of hiking, so if a ten mile
trail has a gain of 2500 feet, it's equivalent to 15 miles on
My Blog entry on planning for long distance hiking
I monitor the Yahoo BackpackingLight
forum, as well as the PCT-L, AT-L and CDT-L listservs. Backpacking
Light is very useful - a lot of good comments. PCT-L has frequent
activity, but usually good info. AT-L has lots of activity, more than half
of it off topic, so you have to sift thru a lot if you get the daily digest.
CDT-L low activity, usually on topic. I recommend the BackpackingLight
for all backpackers. If you are planning to thru-hike or section hike
one of the others, join the appropriate listserv. (CDT is Continental Divide
www.trailjournals.com is an excellent place to follow current thru-hiker journals on all the major trails. In addition it has a set of forums on the major trails with a lot of active members. This website can also be reached with another domain name: www.trailforums.com .
www.postholer.com also has a good
Backpacker Magazine's website
www.backpacker.com, click on
community and there are a variety of good forums - the southwest destination
forum would include the southern PCT.
Long Distance Trails: (in addition to John Muir, PCT and the Camino de
Appalachian Trail -
This 2160 mile trail runs
North South along the East coast of the United States, from Maine to
Georgia. It was first visualized as a regional planning project in 1921.
The Appalachian Trail Conference
came into being in 1925. We don't have personal experience on this
trail, though as part of her We're in the Mountains book, Susan interviewed
several women who have done the trail. Anther good site is the
Appalachian Long Distance Hikers
Association. They publish the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Companion.
In addition to the links above, there are a couple of
others that are useful.
The Appalachian Home Trail Page has a lot of information that can be
reached in one click from a useful home page.
is an excellent site dedicated to the AT, and has good planning info, including
a list of shuttle services. It also has a hiker forum, and updates to the
Appalachian Trail Handbook below.
www.whiteblaze.net has an active AT forum and is a good place for ride
Go here to see all 198
books on the Appalachian Trail sorted in popularity order.
I've also pulled out the books below based on my own reading or comments I
have picked up from the backpacking forums and other reviews.
From reading trail accounts, these seem essential: Thru-hikers Handbook and the Data Book, or possibly AWOL's guide instead:
Dan 'Wingfoot' Bruce,
the owner of Trailplace.com, is the author of The Thru-hiker's Handbook. An Amazon
reviewer, who completed the AT said that he used it daily, and 90% of the
people he met were using it. There were four great reviews, and one that
said he got lost using it. This seems to be the primary guide used in
addition to the Data Book below. Order the current version
from the author's website
Daniel Chazin - Appalachian
Trail Data Book - a must - one line entries on all the
critical information, water location, shelter location,
mileage, stores, off trail facilities, etc. Be sure to
get the current edition.
David Miller - The A. T. Guide - a contender, possibly better than the above two.
Useful, possibly not
Laurence Gonzales's Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies
and Why. This should be mandatory reading for anyone
doing moderate risk activities, let alone thru-hikers,
backpackers, mountain climbers, etc. It certainly made me
rethink the things we do when backpacking. It makes
fascinating reading, but to summarize what I got out of it: Be
sure that what you are thinking of as many years of
experience, is not really many years of being very lucky.
The person who got lost recommended The Appalachian
Trail Thru-Hikers Companion. This guide is prepared and updated annually
by the Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hikers Association (ATLDHA).
You can get this thru either the Appalachian Trail Conference
or ATLDHA sites above. Again, be sure to get the current
edition. There is a pdf version available at the ATLDHA
Good reading but not
In Beauty May She Walk, Hiking the Appalachian Trail at 60 by
Leslie Mass. Hard to put down. An excellent account of Leslie's 2001 hike of the AT, including being on the trail during 9/11. Will give anyone with age or gender reservations new hope.
Awol on the Appalachian
Trail by David Miller. This is an account of
David's 2003 thru-hike, and is an excellent look into a
thru-hiker's daily life. One quote: "too much work, too much
pain, too much time away from my family ..." but he keeps on.
Good reading, especially if you are planning on doing the AT.
Beverly Hugo hiked the
complete AT in 1995 at the age of 48. She has written
Women & Thru-Hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I
enjoyed reading this collection of stories that was done as
part of a book project that Wingfoot was involved in. Some of
the comments, particularly in the "after the trail" section
were very insightful. This is a very helpful book and one of the
few directed towards women backpackers
Walking Home: A Woman's Pilgrimage on the
Appalachian Trail by Kelly Winters - a good story of walking
White Blaze Fever - by William Schuette (Mountain Slayer). I just finished reading this day by
day journal of Bill's 2000 AT thru-hike. I hated to put it
down each night. For the first time, I think I really
understand what it's like to walk the Appalachian Trail.
In addition to the daily journal entries, trail tips are
scattered throughout the book. Recommended reading several
months before you do the AT.
Zeroes by Dennis Blanchard. A good account of the day to
day on the AT. This book has given me a better feel for the
hiker community and the impact of the shelters.
A Walk in the
Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail - by
Bill Bryson. The best selling book on the AT, by quite
a wide margin, due to the fact that many non hikers enjoy
anything written by this prolific travel writer. He had just
returned to the U.S. from England after a 20 year absence, and
happened to settle almost right on the Appalachian Trail. The
signs pointing to Maine North and Georgia South caught his
interest and resulted in this tale of two out of shape hiking
novices and their adventures on the AT.
Off Topic but of interest to long distance hikers
Grand Obsession, Harvey
Butchart and the Exploration of Grand CanyonbyElias Butler and Tom Myers. Butchart was
the first person to thoroughly explore the Grand Canyon on
foot, and the first person to walk the length of the park
below the rim. His tips were what enabled Colin Fletcher to
walk it in one season. Also a story of hiking obsession, a
story known to all long distance hikers.
The Man Who Walked Through
Time - Colin Fletcher. The classic story of
Fletcher's walk through the Grand Canyon.
Spark Your Dream
by Candelaria & Herman Zapp. Not an AT hiker story, or
even a walker's story, but an incredible long distance
adventure. Cande is from Argentina. They drove their 1928
Graham-Paige sedan from Argentina to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, having a child in
the process. We met this couple and their car while they were
selling their book outside of a local harvest festival in
2008. Still a young couple, they now have three children, are
expecting their fourth, and are planning to drive their car
Good viewing on DVD or VHS:
Trek - A Journey on
the Appalachian Trail - VHS - a documentary of four young
men attempting the Appalachian trail - reviewers say it is an
excellent representation of the real life on the trail.
2000 Miles to Maine - actually the background music on this DVD hooked me before I even got to know the hikers. Some similarity to the Walk DVD about the PCT in that Douglas Morse and Heide
Estes are going in at various points on the AT filming and
interviewing hikers. Some of them you continue to see as they
progress from raw beginners to confident finishers. Jessie's
eye roll on all the trees is one of my favorites. If you have
walked any long distance trail you are going to like this DVD.
I'll put in the Amazon link, but you can also get it directly from Douglas Morse's site.
Southbounders - I haven't seen this, but looks like a good
DVD on an Appalachian Trail Southbound thruhike - more info on
Appalachian Impressions - I haven't
seen this one either, but watched the preview on their website
http://www.flaglerfilms.com/# . A very professional
production, with beautiful filming. Appears to be directed
towards a non hiker audience, telling them what it is like to
hike the AT.
Pacific Crest Trail
runs for 2650 miles from
Mexico to 12 kilometers inside the Canadian border. Go to our
PCT page for lots more info.
for this trail was a proposal from the American Hiking Society and
Backpacker magazine in 1989. It goes from the San Francisco Bay area
to Washington D.C., splitting in Denver into two routes, one going thru
Chicago, and the other thru Kansas City, rejoining at Cincinnati. Most
people do it in segments, and walk some parts, bicycle others. for more
info, check the American Discovery
We got interested in this trail when Susan interviewed
Laurie Foot, who walked and bicycled it with her husband Bill. Some of
Laurie's comments appear in We're in the
Mountains - Not Over the Hill, but they are not specific to the ADT.
Laurie and Bill wrote the ADT Data Book which you can order through
the ADT website above.
Ellen Dudley and Eric Seaborg wrote American Discoveries:Scouting the
First coast-to-coast Recreational Trail. This got great reviews in
Amazon as an adventure story. It's on my list of things I have to
From the ADT website, you can also order American Discovery
Trail — an Explorers Guide by Reese Lukei.
This 165 mile trail circles Lake Tahoe in California's northern Sierras. A beautiful hike on its own, and a great way to check out your gear and get into condition for one of the major long distance trails. There is an active association at http://tahoerimtrail.org/ - They describe many day hikes and have a guided hike program where you can complete the trail over the course of the summer.
Tim Hauserman'sThe Tahoe Rim Trail. He clearly knows and loves the area; a good thing because The Tahoe Rim Trail is the only guide out on this trail completed in 2001. Both planning and take with you information are in the book. When you are ready to go, just cut out the trail descriptions to take with you. I would also buy a Tom Harrison Lake Tahoe Recreation Map. The book's maps are good, but not convenient for map and compass work.
Sierra Crest Route
This is an entirely off trail route envisioned
by Leonard Daughenbaugh in his book Sierra Crest Route.
I've described the book on our PCT and John Muir Trail pages.
You can also go to
A 500-mile trail running from Niagara Falls
to the tip of the Bruce peninsula in Ontario, Canada, along the Niagara Escarpment. Read all about it
in a book published by
www.footprintpress.com. Check their site for other books
and a good long distance food, etc. article in their Articles
Bruce Trail - An Adventure Along the Niagara
Escarpment by Rich and Sue Freeman
This is a trail in making. The first half
opened in 2009, and now (2011) the first ever thruhike of the
trail is in progress, mapping the second part of the trail as
part of the thruhike. For more information look at the
TranPanama Trail map and website. In addition, follow
Morale's blog. Scroll down the blog. It is not all in
Helgy Estby: An extraordinary long distance walker:
Bold Spirt by
Linda Hunt is about the extraordinary journey of Helga Estby who in June of 1896, went out her door in Boise,
Idaho and walked across the continent with her daughter,
arriving in New York City seven months later.
Brandon & Cheryl Wilson - Trekkers:
1000 km on foot across Tibet, 10,000 miles across Africa,
twice across the Camino de Santiago are just some of this
remarkable couple's accomplishments. More on their website:
http://www.pilgrimstales.com/ I haven't read all of their
books yet, but they have outstanding reviews.
Dead Men Don't
Leave Tips: Adventures X Africa by Brandon Wilson. The
story of their African trip.
Blues by Brandon Wilson. The story of their trek
the Templar Trail - Brandon
Brandon has walked the Camino, but this book is about his
walk from France To Jerusalem. I assume he gets there, I'm
still reading it!
Was the first woman to walk the Appalachian Trail in one
season (1952). In 1953 she started walking for peace, and continued until
her death in 1981. She stopped counting miles after reaching 25,000. A free
book of her life and writings is available online or can be ordered.
Their website www.backpacker.com
is an excellent resource - far beyond the normal retail outlet site.
Look in the community section and you can find useful forums that I check at
least weekly - broken out by topic. Several on regions such as
international, northwest, book reports, backpacking with kids, just for
women, etc.. The magazine is published by Rodale Press -
publisher of Organic Gardening, etc., and has strong environmental roots.
Ray and Jenny Jardine have a lot of interests beyond
long distance hiking. As of Oct 2005 they are closing down their business ventures: kits, books, etc., but check
www.rayjardine.com for comments on ultralight hiking, among other
things. They run Adventure Lore Press, and you can might be able to get an
autographed copy of Beyond Backpacking from
Gatewood first hiked the entire 2160 mile Appalachian
Trail at the age of 67.
She last hiked it at the age of 76.