In an initial armchair approach to preparing for some longer and tougher hiking trails (I’m starting to train for Mount Whitney), I’ve been reading some great books on people tackling the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The popular book “Wild” was fun, but I am really enjoying “Awol on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller.
David’s 2003 hike is documented in this beautifully written story that really brings the trail to life. He also goes into details about his “homes” along the trail since he rarely used a tent: the AT shelters that dot the 2,172 mile long passage across the mountain range. There are around 250 backcountry shelters along the trail where both section and thru-hikers can stay for free. Most of them are basic and open to the elements, but some are actually beautifully constructed and take advantage of views, light and airflow. Most of the shelters are near a creek or a stream and some have a privy or basic toilet nearby. They are kept clean and in shape by hikers and trail volunteers.
Most of the shelters have basic sleeping platforms, but no cots or beds. Food is either kept away from bears and other critters in boxes or hung from strings on the ceilings. Some shelters have picnic tables and food prep areas and most of them do not allow open campfires.
Top photo: William Penn Shelter. Photo by White Blaze.net.