I found a park not too far away with an 8.4 mile loop similar to the conditions that’ll be on our 4-day AT section, and decided to head over with a loaded pack and typical kit to give it a try out.
I packed some of the equipment I’d be taking in October into my hiking pack, including my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and hammock (gonna try to hammock it; seems like it’ll be nicer than sleeping on the cold hard ground, not to mention lighter to carry than a tent). I also threw a bunch of random stuff in there, like a second pair of shoes (just in case), food (2 peanut butter sandwiches and a couple granola bars) and as much water as I had containers to carry. Completely impractical pack weight turned out to be about 25 pounds (mostly water, so it got lighter as I drank it). As far as clothes, I wore a pair of sturdy ripstop long pants, a tech tee, wool socks and the hiking boots I bought last year.
The good: physically I could handle it. The elevation gain was almost 1000′, and the direction I hiked it, it was immediately and unrelentingly up. It was a little bit brutal (I kept saying to myself “did I really sign myself up for 8 miles of this??”) but once that was over the strenuous bits were much shorter. However, the terrain was rough:
Most of the trail looked like this. (“Trail? What trail?)
The bad: While my hiking boots are amazing on flattish, smoothish terrain, descending on this rocky stuff quickly made me realize that they are too short. Right now I’ve got 50/50 odds on keeping my big toenails. The last couple miles were steep descents over large and pointy rocks and it was officially no fun, though I was thankful for the sturdy soles. I’ll probably replace them with just a bigger size.
As far as my pack, I liked it overall. It took me a bit to get it adjusted right, but once I did the waist belt picked up the weight like it was supposed to and it was pretty comfy to carry. I was the only person carrying anything larger than a daypack– which makes sense, since it was a dayhike site– but I may have mentally cussed out a few people who passed me on the trail with just fanny packs or Camelbacks. “Sure you’re fast! You’re not carrying anything!”
I might have occasionally been grumpy but I ran across lots of people on the trail and everyone was very nice. And seriously, it’s hard to be too grumpy when you’ve got views like this: