My aspiration to thru-hike the Great Eastern Trail fell far short of being accomplished in 2015. Ending that hike early meant my bank account was not as empty as I thought it would be upon returning to the real world, and being back to work at the end of August meant a grand plan for 2016 came into mind. I decided I would pursue a common goal for a thru-hiker after completing the Appalachian Trail as their first long hike – a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
I began planning for a hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in the fall, though there was not really much to do. For the Great Eastern Trail I spent the better part of three months researching the route, gathering all the information I could find so I could assemble my own map and guide for that hike. For the Pacific Crest Trail, I downloaded the 2015 Halfmile maps of the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as finding some other maps covering side trails I was interested in. Not content with simply possessing the maps, I exhaustively reviewed these maps and, like I did with the Great Eastern Trail, built my own Google Map highlighting the route. I used this process to familiarize myself with the route and make a resupply plan. I never did this with the Appalachian Trail on account of the greater proximity to towns and the excellent ‘AWOL’ AT Guide telling me what available for resupply on the entire trail corridor.
Altogether I assembled a plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Wonderland Trail, and possibly even the Sierra High Route all in one fell swoop. I planned on starting the Pacific Crest Trail early in the season, putting myself ahead of the crowd and into more snow than most would face on this thru-hike. To further prepare myself for this snow I acquired some more cold-weather gear, which I would also use for winter hikes while working in Vermont. (I have barely touched this cold-weather gear, since as of early February there still has not been a winter in southern Vermont!) By December 2015 I was ready to hit the Pacific Crest Trail. A plan for the thru-hike had been completed. I had acquired of a few pieces of kit I needed for that thru-hike. I’d even upgraded a few older pieces of gear with newer and better items, changes I had put off because the older and heavier items could still do their job.
A change of mind
With all the preparations for the Pacific Crest Trail finished months in advance of the beginning of the hike, I started having other thoughts for 2016. I was in all respects ready and able to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but the need to thru-hike this trail began to feel less urgent. I still wanted to experience this trail, but I felt like I could put it off for another year. Part of this was an increase in stability in semi-civilized life. I was working at a stable job, hiking some, and dancing some and I could do all these things while gradually improving my finances. I was even starting to think about some of the domestic things I had been putting off while I had been chronically hiking across 2013, 2014, and 2015. An idea began creeping into my head, that I could enjoy this newfound stability for a while. If I left this behind in March for six months of hiking, who knows how long it would be until I found any stability again? It could snap back into place immediately, or it could be like the afterword to my 2013 thru-hike and take two years for me to find some stability again.
Some ideas for 2016
Ever since finishing the Appalachian Trail and deciding I would probably thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and other really long trails I envisioned something like a “clean up” year. This would be a year where I would not hike a very long trail but would do plenty of smaller hikes and maybe even do some things that aren’t hiking. It looks like this year is shaping up to be this “clean up” year. I’m based in southern Vermont and there is plenty of hiking for me to do close at hand. Here are some nearby ideas, in no particular order:
- [Vermont] I can hike the rest of the Long Trail, extending north to Canada from its split with the Appalachian Trail.
- [Vermont] There is a project called the Cross-Vermont Trail which runs east-west across Vermont from Burlington to Wells River.
- [Massachusetts] The Massachusetts Midstate Trail runs north-south across Massachusetts, running from New Hampshire to Rhode Island.
- [VT/MA/NY] The South Taconic Trail is a short trail flirting with the Massachusetts-New York border, as well as the southwest corner of Vermont. There is plenty more trail in this area, sandwiched between the New York Long Path on the west and the Appalachian Trail on the east.
- [CT/MA/NH] The New England Trail runs north-south across Connecticut and Massachusetts, aligning itself with many local trails and continuing north into New Hampshire as the Monadnock-Metacomet Trail.
- [New York] The New York Long Path extends north from near New York City to near Albany.
- [New York] The Finger Lakes Trail runs east-west across New York, with several long spur trails. I had a taste of this while attempting the Great Eastern Trail, and would be curious to see more of it.
- [New York] I don’t think the Shawangunk Ridge Trail is mentioned in any Appalachian Trail guides, but it splits off from the Appalachian Trail near High Point, NJ and runs north, largely coinciding with the Long Path and before splitting off to terminate near New Paltz.
- [NY/PA/OH/etc.] The North Country Trail is a very long trail, but its eastern terminus is at the Vermont-New York border. It coincides in part with the Finger Lakes Trail, so pieces of this trail are just as accessible.
- [New Hampshire] I’ve only hiked a small portion of the White Mountains – the Appalachian Trail and a few trails used to access the Appalachian Trail. There is much more to see here, and there is the activity of peak bagging which thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail gives me a head start on.
- [Georgia to Maine] I have approximately 1/4 of the Appalachian Trail which I need to hike to complete it for the second time, and 3/4 of it to complete for the third time. Much of this is away from New England, but some of it is close at hand!
There are some ideas that are farther-flung than New England and New York, but I’ll limit my ideas here to these ones. The list could grow immensely if I started to list trails in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and further south and west. In addition to hiking and contra dancing there are other things I may get myself into this year, but I’ll get to those things if and when they develop further.