So much has happened since our last adventure. On a global scale, we have all endured the pandemic and associated lockdowns, with the complete up-ending of everything that we once considered normal; on the personal side, an encounter with cancer certainly made me re-assess what I wanted to do and how much time I might have to achieve that.
With these two things, covid and cancer, both of which threatened everything in my life and both of which were beyond my control, it seemed pointless to make big plans. But most bad things eventually recede into the rear view mirror before disappearing from sight (touch wood), and now I’m ready to take on my next challenge – the Appalachian Trail, my third and final hike of the “Triple Crown” of American hikes, after the Pacific Crest Trail, which we completed in 2012, and the Continental Divide Trail which we did in 2018.
Stretching from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the Appalachian Trail (AT) runs 2190 miles along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains through the eastern US, passing through 14 states on the way (see map). Ranging in elevation from 38m above sea level in New York state to the high point of 2025m at Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee, much of the trail is through forests, hence the name of Bill Bryson’s bestselling book “A Walk in the Woods” about his attempt to hike the AT.
Although the AT is the shortest of the Triple Crown hikes, it has a reputation for being physically the toughest. With over 152,000m of ascent, steep gradients and rough and rocky footway, daily mileage is more likely to be around 15 miles than the 20 to 25 miles which became routine on our previous hikes. Starting in Georgia in March I will need to be prepared for sub zero temperatures and snow; by the time I’m planning to be in New England, heat, humidity and mosquitoes will be amongst the challenges.
Sadly Neil is not at a point in his life where he is ready to abandon his job to go hiking, so this will be a solo adventure for me. It will be the longest hike I’ve ever undertaken on my own – a challenge in its own right. Although I’m confident that I’m capable enough, I will certainly miss his company – not least his weird enjoyment of the most miserable of trail conditions (especially if it involves mud) and his ability to flush out snakes and clear cobwebs ahead of me on the trail!
Another thing which will be a bit different about this hike is that I am hoping that by doing it, I can raise some money for Cancer Research UK. When I was being treated for breast cancer in 2021, I was amazed at the depth of understanding of the different forms of this all-too-common disease, and the tailored treatment available. By raising funds for Cancer Research we can help them to continue their research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of cancer.
If you would like to follow my progress, please check in on this blog over the next few months. If you enjoy following my progress, please consider making a donation to Cancer Research UK, using the JustGiving link which can be found on our blog’s homepage.