Tomorrow I leave Seattle on the Delta red-eye flight to Atlanta, GA and arrive on the 6th of June, just after 7am. I plan to use a United Air Board Room coupon to relax during the day waiting for my hiking buddy, Gary Holliday, to arrive from Austin, TX. He is scheduled to arrive at 2:35 PM on Sunday. After picking up his pack, we will make our way to meet up with the Hiker Hostel folks at the MARTA North Springs metro stop who will shuttle us to their place for the night and then on to Mt. Springer on the morning of June 7th,
My full pack now weighs in at 27 lbs. I added a few more things, like three pocket books, bag of sunflower seeds, and a bag of steak jerky—-if I hadn’t taken my daughterr to Costco, I would not have gotten it. I should have only packed three days worth of food instead of 5-6 days of food, but it is done now. This will be the heaviest pack I will be carrying during my entire hike. I am looking forward to eating down my pack weight.
Here is a picture of my full pack and my hiking clothes.
Of the 307,250,000 annual visitors to National Parks, less than 2,000 plan to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail this year. Since we are doing a half thru-hike to Harpers Ferry, WV—1,026 miles of the 2,180 miles of the AT—-we are leaving later than those who are doing the entire trail so the crowding along the trail and at the shelters should be a lot less. The downside of leaving later is that it will be hotter and more humid.
Visitors have increased by over 12% over the past 15 years while Park Service employment has increase by 9% with about 30% of those either term or temporary employees. Since this is the Centennial year of the Park Service, they expect even greater increases in visitors this year.
I just paid $20 online for my Smoky Mountains National Park thru hiker permit which is good for the next 30 days. We expect to pass through there around mid June. It is ironic that cars can pass through this park without any fees as a result of the negotiations between the states and US Government that concerned with free road access for commerce. There is no fee for the other National Parks the AT passes through. Still, just in case, I have my Golden Senior Pass that cost just $10 for all Parks and National Forests access for life---what a bargain if you are 62 years plus.
While in the National Parks, we must camp only in or near the shelters and hang our food bags on their bear cable system. Not looking forward to staying at some of these shelters based on hiker reports of hordes of rodents that search for food and crawl all over the sleeping campers.