I think we are now sufficiently recovered from our hike to talk about it.
I have long wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I would REALLY like to take a few months and do the whole thing, but alas, it is not in the cards right now. Perhaps someday, I'll do it all on my own.
Before Lilyanna was born, I'd come up with a plan to take the boys "in a few years" and do big sections of the trail. One state at a time. Then I got pregnant. And the timeline shifted a little bit.
Last year, though, I read an article by some hardcore backpacker who discussed backpacking with his 5 year old son, and I realized that Lilyanna was about to be 5 and maybe we COULD do it! I did crazy amounts of research to make sure that while we would have lightweight, yet economical items. Outfitting 5 backpackers could easily have broken the bank, so I took 6 months to purchase all necessary items to help spread out the cost.
I also researched which state we would be able to complete in the 5 days we had during spring break AND that would be easy enough for my 5 year old. The Maryland section of the trail seemed to fit the bill, so that made it easier for me to narrow my research for the trip and make plans for that specific section.
The day before we left, I assembled all the food we would need for our 5 days. I will say, we probably could have gotten away with less. Even though we were hungry, we were more tired than anything else. However, it did make it so I was able to easily share with fellow hikers without worrying that we wouldn't have enough.
And that is when I started to panic. For nearly a year, I'd been telling everyone that our trip would be fine! That there was nothing to worry about! And then all of a sudden the night before I realized that I had no bear bags or even rope with which to tie food up in a tree. Also, I noticed that right before we got there, ALL the shelters in MD had been closed for tree trimming near the shelters. This was particularly problematic because we didn't have tents. In an effort to cut our weight, and since on the MD section of the trail, you're required to sleep at shelter areas only, we didn't bring any. Because we were so early in the season, I was counting on the shelters being available. After about 30 minutes of research, I was finally able to determine that shelters had reopened the day before, so we were fine.
Still, it was a mini-panic attack in the making.
The next morning, we got dressed in our outfits, ate breakfast and did the final prep on our packs. We drove to Harpers Ferry where a shuttle picked us up and drove us to the PA/MD border about 45 miles north. He dropped us off on the PA side, so we were able to hike 1 mile and then hit the Mason-Dixon line.
Notable things from day 1:
1.We had to cross a swollen stream about midway through the hike, which required some creativity on my part to first get my pack across and then my daughter.
2. We hiked 10 miles the first day. The last 2 in the dark. I don't recommend it.
3. We arrived at the shelter after dark, and were too tired to eat, so we all just went immediately to sleep.
4. I was reduced to tears only once that first day when all of the kids expressed their extreme dislike of my plans for our spring break AND then I banged my head hard on a rafter in the shelter. The rafter put me over the edge.
5. Our gear choices were excellent, and I was very pleased with how all of that turned out, specifically our clothing.
6. Our maps did not seem to accurately reflect the mileage. It's possible we went further than 10 miles. If it was only 10 miles, it was the longest 10 miles EVER.
7. Fellow hikers of the AT are generally good people who are happy to chat, and swap stories. There's a real sense of community among the trail hikers.