Hiking is a passion worth pursuing. You get to enjoy nature, unburden yourself, and get your body the exercise it needs. However, it is not always entirely safe. If you are planning to take on the Appalachian Trail, there are some things you must know in advance! This is actually not entirely due to the safety concerns, either. If you are knowledgeable enough about the trail, you will enhance the experience, appreciate it more, and better engage with other hikers. So, here are 8 things you don’t know about the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
1. There are traditions to follow
You are expected to do several things if you take on the trail, and they have nothing to do with practical preparations or concerns. First, you should come up with a nickname you will be using! The nickname can be meaningful to you or a silly, endearing name, as long as you stick to one. Secondly, if you reach the midpoint of the Pine Grove Furnace State Park, you are expected to devour half a gallon of Hershey’s ice cream in one sitting! They can be purchased in the general store of the park.
2. It is nearly impossible to finish in one go
Most trails you would attempt to finish in one go. However, because this one stretches over fourteen states, it is clear why this would be a challenging undertaking. Further complicating the task is the fact that most of the terrain is highly treacherous, dangerous, and difficult to hike over. Even if you have the most powerful e-bike and decide to use it for parts of the trail, it would still be a very physically demanding endeavor. In fact, the average completion time stretches to five or six months.
3. There are many little shelters
One advantage of the trail is that there are little three-sided shelters roughly every eight miles. They offer enough space to hide from the rain or other elements if the weather sours, and it likely will, considering the time the trail’s completion requires. Sadly, they are neither very large nor overly comfortable, so you cannot count on them as actual shelter. You must prepare for a safe hiking experience!
4. The trail can be nice for beginners
While it is true that most of the trail is demanding and that completing all of it is very difficult, some parts of it are rather suitable for beginners. Of course, they would be confined to stretches of the trail. However, they can still get some essential experience and even try parts of the more treacherous terrain without committing to the trail.
Unfortunately, this worrisome feature is shared by some of the settlements near the trail. So if you fall in love with this part of the world so much that you want to move here, know that trained professionals should deal with this. There are many reasons to hire movers for a long-distance move, but safety is the most important one.
5. The trail is in constant danger
Interestingly enough, the trail itself is in constant danger of being destroyed. As we have mentioned already, much of it is comprised of complex geological features. This also makes most of the trail susceptible to heavy rains, landslides, and similar. There is practically nothing of the original trail left. It had to be rebuilt, remodeled, and even partially redirected over the years because of the damage.
6. Going unprepared almost guarantees injury
Again, the dangerous parts of the trail are not recommended for anyone but those with extensive preparations and experience. Even if you plan to stick to the safer routes and use vehicles, make sure to get an electric bike you can trust. If you have already undertaken several shorter and less dangerous trails, do not relax regardless. The weather and insects can all take their toll due to the arduousness of hard travel and prolonged periods without any rest. You can easily get sick or grow tired enough to slip and sustain serious injuries. Take along enough medicine, an emergency aid kit, and as comfortable and durable a sleeping bag and tent as you can.
7. Maintaining the trail is an exhaustive effort of a lot of clubs
The task of maintaining the trail would be impossible for any one organization or club alone. In fact, it takes the current thirty-one clubs tasked with maintenance a lot of effort and resources to perform the duty. It is only due to their constant attempts to make the trail safe and well-suited for hiking that it is even possible to still attempt to brave the Appalachian Trail today.
8. There is really no ‘best time of the year’ to hit the trail
Some trails offer the best times of the year, down to a specific few weeks, to tackle their challenges. Unfortunately, since the Appalachian Trail is so long and complex, it is difficult to guarantee that one time of the year is better to start your journey than any other. If you are planning to traverse the entire trail, you are likely to experience at least one period of extreme weather. So, carefully consider which extremes you are better able to deal with! Regardless, our suggestion is to start your journey after the passing of winter since the ice would make some sections of it even more treacherous.
This marks the ending of our list of 8 things you don’t know about the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania! We hope that we have helped better acquaint you with the path and prepare you for the journey ahead. Just remember to always be careful and to do your best to prepare!