The Appalachian Trail has hundreds of points of entry along the way and the path is within a few hours’ drive of millions of Americans. With civilization so close by, the A.T. is a popular destination for day-hikers and weekend excursions. From scout troops to college students to retired folks the appeal of the trail is strong indeed.
If you like numbers, here are some interesting and even crazy thoughts. First, it is estimated that 5 million steps are required to complete the trail! It is no wonder that most hikers go through several pairs of boots along the way. Here is a nice word problem: if I hope to hike the trail in 120 days, how many steps do I need to average per day?
Second, the total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times! I may never climb the tallest mountain in the world and I know comparing these two accomplishments is like finding similarities between apples and saxophones, but at the same time 16 trips up Mt. Everest is a lot of elevation!
The trail is marked by more than 160,000 “white blazes” (6 inches by 2 inches in size). I wonder how much paint it takes to refresh them and I can’t help but wonder how many dedicated volunteer painters there are dotted along the 14 states. The “blazes” are primarily displayed on trees, but they are also found on fence posts, rocks, and light poles in the towns. The trail is extremely well marked and the thru-hiker can literally follow the path of blazes all the way from Georgia to Maine.
More than 250 shelters can be found along the trail. Sometimes called a “lean-to” or “huts”, the shelters are generally a three-walled structure with a wooden floor and roof. Some hikers even travel without tents, preferring to hike shelter to shelter. My goal is to use them as a place to have lunch, a respite and opportunity to sign the register found at each location, and a wonderful refuge in times of lightning and heavy storms.