We hope you’re having a great time on the trails this season! Check out some of our recent trip reports, including:
- The Yosemite High Route (August 2022)
- The Loyalsock Link Loop (September 2022)
- Living Off the Land in Shenandoah National Park (October 2022)
- Appalachian Trail Over Apple Orchard Mountain (October 2022)
In our Fall Newsletter, we’ll hear from two long-time DC ULers, Sophie and Chandler. Would you like to feature a trip or a story in one of our upcoming newsletters? Email us at email@example.com!
Hiker Profile: Sophie
You may have met Sophie if you’ve been out on the trail. Her trail name is “Scrapple” and she’s been on almost 100 trips since 2013! We asked her a couple of questions recently.
How did you get involved in DC UL?
I always liked hiking and backpacking was a natural transition for me. Holger introduced me to DC UL group when I was with Washington Backpackers.
What was your first trip?
The Black Forest trail in June 2013, boy it was hot and humid.
What has been your favorite trip so far?
Every trip is unique and good in their own ways.
What’s a trip – anywhere in the world – that you’d like to do someday?
There are too many to list. 🙂
Any “lessons learned the hard way” that you’d like to share?
Winter trips are challenging, my first winter trip was a real challenge even though it was end of March, the lesson was you never know what Mountain has in store for us. Now I always carry hand warmer and emergency blanket except for summer.
Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail: Chandler
- AT NOBO 2022
- Start date: May 8th
- End date: August 5th
- 90 Days
Editor’s Note: As Chandler pointed out, “Never ask a thru hiker for a short recap of their journey AHAHAHAHA.”
Favorite Parts of My Appalachian Trail Thru Hike
If I were to repeat any section it would have to be from Fontana Dam to the Grayson Highlands. This was hands-down my favorite section on trail as I journeyed through the best parts of the South. The beautiful Smoky Mountains, Max Patch, Hot Springs, the unfortunately foggy Roan Highlands, Damascus, and the ponies of Grayson made for a memorable section. I should also include that the town food was amazing through here (North Carolina pulled pork!). Massachusetts was also a pretty state and ranks high on my list. Mt. Greylock was stunning, and I was lucky to catch it on a clear day. I even stayed at the lodge and treated myself with a 3-course meal (this was the fanciest meal I ever had in my life. I will say I stood out like a sore thumb as I was the only hiker in the lodge and ate dinner at an empty table alongside well groomed dinner guests). And of course Mt. Katahdin—for obvious reasons.
Hiking alone was difficult mentally. In DC UL, I often will hike by myself, but I know that I will have others to talk to when I get to camp. On trail I honestly wasn’t lucky enough to see many people. If I did, they were often taking a break, and I didn’t have the time to stop and eat with them. Most of my interactions with people were swift if I was lucky to have them in the first place. In the DC UL fashion, I woke up early and started the trail before 7:00AM, often at 6:30. This meant that I was up before most. Because I had a goal of pushing miles, I didn’t stop to eat lunch for a long time. My lunch mostly consisted of bars, crackers, or other snacks. Additionally, I would also eat those while moving. My day usually ended around 8:30-9:00PM, in other words, hiker midnight. So if there were people at the shelter or campsite, they were already asleep. I loved and hated the state of Virginia. I loved how I could do more miles in this state. I hated how long and boring it was. The towns, aside from Damascus, didn’t elicit anything special to me. I had a bad experience in Waynesboro in fact. But I will add that the trail intersection of Compton Peak in Shenandoah National Park stands out in my head as significant. I took a moment to cry here because this marked the descent out of Shenandoah, inching me closer to Harper’s Ferry where I knew I would see some friends from DC. The state of Virginia was the toughest state for me mentally so seeing friends at Harper’s Ferry rejuvenated my pretty low spirits. Also, dieting was hard. I lost 40 pounds on this trail.
The only things I prepared for was dialing in my kit and relative fitness. I wanted to have a light setup, so I did extensive research and testing before I started. I knew that because I was starting in May, I wouldn’t need cold weather gear. This helped lighten my pack. I also skimped out on rain gear and opted for an umbrella and a poncho. I only carried what I needed. Base weight was about 14 pounds. If I had to guess, 90% of things I started with on the trail made it to Katahdin. Fitness wise, I just backpacked and ran a lot. I wanted to hike the AT in 90 days or less from the very beginning. When asked, I always said 100 days because although ambitious, 100 days isn’t nearly as ambitious as a sub 90 thru hike. Most people were kind of hesitant about me completing the trail in general (I had a deadline to get back to school), so I didn’t want to sound even more ridiculous when I said 90 day thru hike. And I also didn’t want to slackpack because I ultimately wanted to prove to myself I could carry the pack the whole way. Because of my goal, I knew I would have to take limited days off and push miles from the very beginning. I thought I would plan every town stop along the trail, but I realized that the FarOut app would allow me to make decisions on the fly. Additionally, I didn’t have a single bounce box, although I tried coordinating a drop twice early on in the South but forgot to stop at the post offices! I carried no more than 4 days worth of food between resupply points and as my trail legs developed I eventually only carried three days food. Aside from basic gear decisions, I do think the AT can be easily done with little preparation. If one were to plan on hiking fast, then yes, maybe a fitness regimen would be needed. But for most people who take their time, fitness is a natural product of the hike.
I would like to thank DC UL members who accompanied me on trips throughout the year. Every trip was a training hike for my thru hike, and I enjoyed learning from everyone I backpacked with. I feel comfortable, often too comfortable, and I don’t take myself that seriously on trips which I think contributed to people’s worry of me on trail this summer. I also need to thank Karan and Kylie who frequently carpool me to trailheads with them and almost serve as my hiking “mom” and “dad” (I’m sorry if that makes you sound old). My first two trips with DC UL were with them, and I have learned so much from them in such a short period of time. I started backpacking with the club, got the bug, and Kylie and Karan have continually provided me with opportunities to go on more adventures—and for that I’m very privileged and grateful.