How To Thruhike the GET

I just thruhiked the GET and I hope to hike it again in the next ten years.  Hopefully this page can tie together a lot of the resources and information Bart and I gathered along the way. Keep in mind that things change out there, sometimes quickly.  Be prepared, and don’t use this page as your only resource.  Also check out the Guides page for information regarding planning resources and the Resupply page.  There's also a post about the GET Weather Window that may be useful.

General Tips for Thruhiking the GET:
  • Find a hiking buddy.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  This trail is not the AT.  You are not going to meet anyone else out there right now.  Are you prepared to be alone for 4 months?  How will your family feel about your safety?  How do you feel about a trail disappearing under your feet and not knowing which way to go?  What about river crossings?  What about running into a family of bears? These are adventures if you share them with someone, and harrowing if you don't. Find a hiking buddy!
  • Get some experience.  Can you hike the GET as your first-ever thru-hike?  Yup - after all, Bart did.  But this is not recommended.  If this is your first long hike, get a friend or outfitter to do a pack shakedown prior to leaving and make sure you are comfortable with your gear choices - know how everything works.  Make sure you have backpacked in the rain at least once.  Make sure you have broken camp in the rain at least once.  Otherwise, trail life will come as a huge shock to you.  The more experience you and your hiking buddy have on trails before setting out, the more fun you will have on the GET.
  • Order business cards.  Having cheap business cards (Vistaprint offers a good deal) is a great way to help people keep in touch with you.  Bonus: you instantly get credibility when an authority figure starts questioning you - and yes, that will probably happen at some point.  Include your blog address and a way to get in touch with you.  In retrospect, I would have put my phone number on my cards, but I wanted to keep that private.  Your call.
  • Consider a GPS.  Bart and I did not carry a GPS.  Having a GPS to use as a backup would have eliminated a lot of headaches and made the journey a lot easier.  We survived without one, but we also had each other and a lot of friends along the way.
    •  If you plan to hike the GET alone, I would definitely carry one - not so much because you'll be lost in the wilderness, but rather for situations where turns aren't marked or Forest Service roads intersect.  Stuff like that.
    • Also, there are a couple of sections of public land where no official trail exists yet but one could follow flagging or other dubious landmarks, so if you have a GPS it may open up some of these sections and eliminate some roadwalking.
    • Your phone might be able to do all of this, if your phone is smart enough.  Mine was not and Bart's probably was, but we didn't have the right apps loaded, which brings me to:
  • Have a smartphone: We found smartphones to be worth their weight and cost.  I carried a somewhat-smart phone with Verizon network and Bart had an Iphone with AT&T.  
    • The networks were about equal in coverage, unlike the AT where Verizon reigns.  AT&T was much better in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maryland and marginally better in southern Pennsylvania (west route) but Verizon was more dependable in most every other state.  If you are traveling with a buddy, I highly recommend you divide and conquer the networks like we did.  It worked very well.  
    • We kept our phones off unless we were using them.  I bought an incredibly cheap and light 2nd battery for my phone which I used a couple of times in between access to electricity.  It weighs under an ounce and cost $2.50. Bart carried a Mophie charger.  You can probably do without either of these, but it was really nice to not stress about the batteries getting low.
  • Love your tent.  A few sections of trail have shelters, but mostly you will be in your tent.  Make sure it works for you.  Find the phone number for the tent company and put it in your phone.  Do it now.  That way, when it suddenly breaks, you don't have to freak out about finding the company's telephone number.
  • Know how your camera works.  Really.
  • Give yourself time to plan. I started planning the trip six months before we left, and I could have used more time.  Or maybe I just should have been more diligent during the six months!  One thing that took a long time was finding the resources that I needed.  I've created a Guides page so that should significantly reduce your time spent scrounging the internet for information.  (In lieu of flowers or thank-you cards, I accept chocolate and rides to town.)
    • You are going to drop at least a hundred dollars on maps and guides - know them well.  Print out the free resources online.  
    • Make boxes of these so you can get them along the way - you absolutely cannot carry all the maps you'll need for the whole trip.  Double check post office hours and know how long they will hold a package for you (generally just a couple weeks).  Bribe someone at home to mail these out to you.  Whenever possible, mail to a business or friend along the way so you're not tied to post office hours - but check with the business to make sure it's okay.
    • Email clubs to see what changes have been made.  
    • Spend some time on GoogleMaps with the towns you'll encounter.  Print a town map if you can and highlight where the groceries are.  A general idea of town layout will help you a lot when you go into resupply.  This is really important in larger towns like LaFollette, TN.
  • Figure out what "thru-hiking" means to you.  The Great Eastern Trail Association has not yet given a definition of what a thru-hike is on the GET.  Here are two trail organizations' definitions:
    • A thru-hiker is a hiker or backpacker who has completed or is attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail in one uninterrupted journey. (Appalachian Trail)
    • You must walk the entire trail as it exists at the time of your hike. This includes all roadwalks, if that is where the trail is routed at the time. (Florida Trail)
      •  I picked these two organizations because one has few roadwalks; the other has considerable roadwalks.  The GET is a trail with considerable roadwalks, yet it can all be linked by foot, with perhaps one exception (see example below).  Do not be afraid of roadwalks, for they are more pleasant than you'd think and they added a lot of joy to our hike.  Roadwalking on the GET has some information on what it is like to hike a young trail.
    • Make sure that your definition of "thru-hiking" has enough wiggle room to keep you safe in case you get into a remarkably unsafe roadwalking situation, high water situation, or other unforeseen circumstance. Taking an alternate route around unsafe situations is always okay!  The GET is pretty awesome, but it isn't worth dying for.  Don't die.
      • Example: There is one short stretch of GET that I believe needs to be shuttled until a different route is found.  Whatever you do, don't walk what we did.  Maybe there's a way we didn't know about.  We were warned, and we didn't listen.  Be smarter than us. There are volunteers on each end of that stretch who can probably help.  Please consider the official route in this instance a shuttle, like the canoe ferry on the AT's Kennebec River.
  • Contact us.  If you're going to hike the GET, contact us.  We'll try our best to answer your questions. We were helped by so many people even before we set foot onto the trail.  The only way we can repay the kindness shown to us is to help the next hikers.  What confuses you about the GET?  What section can't you figure out?  What are you nervous about?  Drop us a line.  No question is too big or too small.  

3 comments:

  1. I would like to hike from I80 in Pennsylvania north to the New York line in sections. What maps do I need? Also, can I get away with just the guide or do I also need the maps to go with it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's Sections 12 through 20 of Mid State Trail http://www.hike-mst.org/index.php/guide-and-maps covers from I-80 north to NY border. Only one map (Map 311-316) and 4 pages of download and print maps. Check http://www.hike-mst.org/index.php/guide-and-maps/section-updates to download the maps for sections 17 through 20. Although both guide and map may be helpful you probably could do one or the other based on personal preference. The guide has the elevation profiles.

      Delete
  2. Even if you are planning on camping in a motor home, you may want to think about brining a tent, just incase. camping plates

    ReplyDelete