Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hiking the Appalachian Trail: About 21 percent through the hike

Posted by Joe Allen-Black
 March 25, 2011 06:03 PM
MIT student Gabe Blanchet is hiking the Appalachian Trail and blogging about his experience. Here is his latest entry.


Gabe Blanchet is a 20-year-old MIT sophomore who is taking his spring term off from classes to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

He is raising money for charity on a per-mile basis. Half of the proceeds will benefit the JuvenileDiabetes Research Foundation, and the other half will go to the charity or non-profit of the highest donor's choice. He is keeping a blog where you you can get involved.

We'll be keeping track of his journey on
Hi everybody! Thank you to those of you who sent letters to the Damascus Post Office!

I really loved reading them. I used my jackknife this morning to cut out the parts I really enjoyed and I’m keeping them in my journal to read when I’m feeling low on the Trail. Since my last post I’ve walked ~190 miles and passed into my 4th state — Virginia! I’ve ticked off 463.5 miles (About 21% through the trip!) in 25 days, which makes for an 18.5 mile/day average.

Now that I’ve been on the trail for close to a month, I’ve picked up a fair amount of trail ‘lingo’. Two of the most used expressions:
PUDs: Pointless ups and downs. The trail could very easily go around a hill but instead goes right up and over it. (One thru-hiker will say “Man, that 20 mile stretch was just filled with PUDS!”)
PCBs: Pointless curve and bends. Similar to a PUD but instead of going up and down, the Trail winds around in what seems like needless circles.
Another aspect unique to the AT are the trail logs found in all the shelters. A journal and a pen are kept zip-locked in each shelter along the trail. Every thru-hiker (and some day/section hikers) stops at shelters and signs in with a short note and the date. It’s fun tracking the thru-hikers ahead of us by reading their notes and seeing when they stopped by the shelter. Through a combination of the notes and stories from hostel owners and other hikers, we piece together notions of what the hikers ahead of us are like.

One of our most epic chases ended about 5 days ago when we finally caught ‘Dust’ in Erwin, TN — we had been following his entries in the trail logs for weeks and had heard many rumors from hostel owners and hikers. Dust is well known for toting a 2 gallon bucket of ‘goo’ (some kind of very thick electrolyte mix) in one hand and shouldering his 40 lb pack on his opposite shoulder while he hikes. We heard rumors that he hikes for 30 straight hours followed by 6 hours of sleep.
Needless to say, we were excited to meet the legend. We finally caught up to him and I snapped a photo with him holding his ‘goo-bucket’- see above. He doesn’t actually hike for 30 hours straight, but he does have an interesting sleep schedule— only 3-4 hours a night and a nap “somewhere flat” during the day.

We are far ahead of most northbound thru-hikers already and have heard that there are likely only 12-15 in front of us. We’re currently hot in pursuit (through the trail logs) of Indiana Jones, Rockhound, and 2Marines.

While the majority of days are enjoyable, this is certainly the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted in my life. Last night after hiking a long 26.1 mile day I was slightly hypothermic and perhaps dehydrated. For the last 3.5 miles, I felt weak in every joint and couldn’t focus. It had rained and hailed all day (see the picture of the hail— it felt like I was getting pelted by paint balls and if they had gotten any bigger I could have been knocked out), and we were just at the end of this tough 190 mile, 8 day stretch. One foot in front of the other, I reminded myself. As I walked slowly into Damascus at 5pm, I locked eyes on the hostel sign. I checked in, payed $10 for a bunk, and curled up in my sleeping bag.

I was close to crying and was seriously considering catching a bus then a plane for Boston in the morning. I woke up sore but had a great cheap French Toast breakfast with Bundy and Whitefang at Dairy King. I hobbled to the Post Office and found a bunch of letters and a resupply from my Parents. I sat on my bed and read through the notes. They gave me the strength I needed to write this post and to leave town for an easy 8 mile hike this afternoon. Thanks for all your support as I continue on my journey.

Much love from Damascus, VA.

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