Saturday, April 26, 2014


It is good to be back! Bart and I are speaking in Wellsboro today but spent a night in Woolrich. We had to get up the road before the store opened but we really appreciate their Woolrich car. Bart says, "It's bad to be plaid!" That's a compliment.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Northbound vs. Southbound on the GET

On most long-distance north-to-south trails, northbound has been the traditional direction to hike. That does not have to apply to the Great Eastern Trail.  The two biggest considerations are:
  1. When is your free time?  
  2. Do you want to tackle the most mentally-challenging section (the south) when you are fresh and enthusiastic?  Or do you want to tackle it when you are tired but experienced?  

For me, I really wanted to get the southern gaps out of the way, because I wasn't 100% sure that the trail could be successfully (or enjoyably) connected by foot.  As it turns out, linking the trail by foot is actually pretty easy with a couple small exceptions.  That being said, next time I want to hike southbound so I can experience Pennsylvania in particular when I am fresh and end where it all began.

So, for the next hikers, northbound or southbound?  Here is a summary of what you might consider:

Hiking northbound (presumably beginning in mid-spring)

On the bright side:
  • A meaningful mountain (Flagg) to mark your beginning
  • A gentle start (with shelters!) on the Alabama Pinhoti Trail
  • Relatively easy terrain throughout Georgia makes for faster miles and high morale
  • Chattanooga provides a needed rest prior to tackling the challenging Cumberland Trail
  • Reaching the halfway point in southern West Virginia and knowing that well over half the mental work is done
  • Reaching Pearisburg, Virginia where the rest of the trail (over 700 miles) is dependably blazed and/or (mostly "and") has really great guides
  • Greater feeling of trail cohesion as the trail heads north
  • Some tricky resupply points in Virginia and Pennsylvania, but at this point you've been hiking long enough so you should be able to figure it out without much of a problem 
  • Just a personal preference, but I was glad that I was heading UP the Thousand Steps
  • Hiking north, Pennsylvania becomes less rocky
  • A quiet finish to the hike with a shelter; a good place to take a day and reflect upon the journey
  • Significant road walking/unblazed route in Georgia and on the Alabama incursion which could be mentally challenging so early in the hike
  • Great guides available but not for the entire south - challenging gaps to figure out
  • The first outfitter on trail is in Chattanooga, a few hundred miles from Flagg Mountain
  • Significant roadwalking/linking of trail sections in Tennessee and on either end of Kentucky, still early-on in trip when you're figuring it all out.
  • Catoosa WMA may be closed, requiring additional planning
  • Potential for late-spring storms that could drop snow on higher elevations in Tennessee or Kentucky
  • Spring flooding in Bluestone WMA may make the recommended route impassable.
  • Challenging rocky sections of Pennsylvania when you're already exhausted 
  • Intense heat on very dry ridges of Pennsylvania 

Hiking southbound (presumably beginning in late summer)

On the bright side:
  • Beginning your hike at an intersection connecting 10,000 miles of hiking trails
  • Dependable blazing for the first 700ish miles - less thinking involved in the beginning
  • Reliable guides available for the first half of the hike
  • A gentle, rolling beginning through New York and northern Pennsylvania
  • Completing your first state in just a few days, which can be a big morale boost
  • Hitting the tough rocky sections of Pennsylvania when you're fresh (and not making big miles each day anyway)
  • First outfitter of the trail is in Wellsboro in northern Pennsylvania (about 100 miles into the journey); another is located in State College and there are shoes and socks available in Woolrich.  Pennsylvania has the most outfitters and they are more useful to southbound hikers who encounter troubles with gear they thought would work.
  • Challenges of the south (unblazed sections, roadwalks, areas without guides) may be easier to overcome with all the experience accumulated in the northern half of the trail - at any rate, you'll be too stubborn to give up once you've come that far!
  • Chattanooga is a welcome rest after one of the longest states on the trail
  • Ending your hike at the end of the Appalachians
  • Potentially tricky resupply points in Pennsylvania before you really settle into the trail
  • Some water sources flowing for northbounders probably would have dried up by late summer
  • Hunting season on several stretches of public land would have to be taken into consideration
  • Reaching Pearisburg, Virginia and knowing that you have the hardest part ahead of you and that you're not yet halfway done
  • Shorter hiking days on very challenging sections (night-hiking not recommended in many areas)
  • Potential for autumn storms that could drop snow on higher elevations
  • Significant roadwalking/linking of trail sections on either end of Kentucky, in Tennessee, in Georgia and on the Alabama incursion - these could be both physically and mentally challenging at a time when many hikers feel "done" with their journey already
Your mileage may vary, hike your own hike, and have fun no matter which way you go!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

GET Board Meeting

I was lucky to get the chance to attend the 2014 Great Eastern Trail Board Meeting near Corning, New York last weekend.  It was a reunion of wonderful people who made last year's hike possible.  The people on the left are those who make the GET happen.  I wish I could download their wisdom into my own brain.

Especially huge thanks to Pat, who not only retrieved me from the airport (and got me back there) but hosted the event at the lovely Watson Homestead. What a perfect weekend.

While out for a hike, we were able to visit the Great Eastern Trail rock.  I used to think people who hiked the same long trail twice were crazy, but I see wisdom in it now: both Bart and I walked past this rock on June 18, 2013 and didn't notice it.  I guess we were too excited to get to Moss Hill Lean To!  What else did we not see?  Maybe I'll get Bart to hike the GET with me again someday.  He already was silly enough to say yes once . . . .

There is lots of forward momentum on the GET.  I'm excited about all the discussions that took place last weekend and I look forward to watching this trail "grow up" and get better every year.

The morning before I flew back to Minnesota we all hiked to Moss Hill Lean To, the northern terminus of the GET.  It couldn't have been a more beautiful morning to be out and about.  While there, I got to see Strider's note in the register (North Country Trail thruhiker) and I left a note for current GET hikers Taylor and Gramps. 

But the highlight of the hike may have been finding the Pennsylvania rock that Bart carried to New York.