As you hike on the 2,189-mile long Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, you may focus entirely on reaching on your destination at Mount Katahdin within six months. But what makes hiking on the A.T. more interesting and fulfilling are the many opportunities to take a side trail to a scenic pool for a swim, visit a museum, and join other hikers in a food contest at a famous restaurant. The following activities will add a lot of excitement to your hike and help you to forget about the pain you experience from trekking for so many miles daily.
Participate in a food competition
The Appalachian Trail Café in Millinocket is arguably one of the best along the entire trail. Located very close to the end of the trail, this cafe has served thousands of successful but terribly hungry thru-hikers. Trail victors are permitted to sign on the ceiling tiles so other hikers can honour them for their accomplishment.
But the extremely friendly Millinocket café staff will allow you to be part of their ice cream competition called the Summit Sundae Challenge. Starting with one banana, you are supposed to consume 14 scoops of ice cream (one to represent each state that is traversed by the A.T.), plus the café’s doughnut, garnished with cherries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. If you can eat it all by yourself, you get rewarded with a place on their pole of fame, a T-shirt, and a bumper sticker. The faster you finish this delicious ice-cream, the higher up the pole your name appears.
Explore the ATC headquarters
The headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy at 799 Washington Street, Harpers Ferry in West Virginia is one of the most popular spots on the A.T. Here all hikers and visitors enjoy the benefits of the guiding philosophy of the A.T., which is: the spirit of cooperation. The ATC headquarters is commonly used to resupply, check email, check weather forecasts, eat and drink at the snack bar.
Here, you can also see the pictures of hikers who completed the trail, known as 2000+ milers. Looking at the board containing pictures of successful thru-hikers can be very inspiring. It motivates you to complete the hike so you can become a source of inspiration to other thru-hikers. Before you leave, you can go to the hikers’ swap boxes and leave something you will like to share with other hikers. You should buy at least one souvenir or book at the ATC store.
Take some history lessons
Various historic monuments are available on the A.T. One of the ones you’d love to visit is the Byron Herbert Reece Farm and Heritage Centre – a truly fascinating treasure-house located on Route 129 in Northern Georgia, not far from the Vogel State Park. The Centre was set up in honour of a respected farmer, novelist and poet – Byron Reece who was a prolific writer between 1938 and 1955.
Recently, the custodians of the centre improved the seating in the pavilion and enhanced the literary and agricultural exhibits in the barns to showcase the life of Reece. You can also find handcrafted and homemade items including books, written by Reece and others on the Appalachian region, in the gift shop.
Visit a pristine nature conservation park
The A.T. was created to allow city dwellers to explore the wilderness and see nature in an unpolluted and well preserved form. That is why it passes through many national and state owned parks. Vogel State Park is a perfect example of a magnificent pristine environment.
Hikers can branch at this park, maintained by very friendly folks, take a shower, and sit down, eat, drink and relax right in front of the scenic Lake Trahlyta, at the base of the Blood Mountains in Georgia. If you have sufficient energy to have more fun, you can visit the museum, go fishing, hike in the park and play on their miniature golf course.
Enjoy a refreshing swim
As the climate gets warmer in summer, in the northern part of the trail, you will appreciate the opportunity to swim in some of the beautiful pools on your way to Maine. In fact, you will come across so many places where you can have a warm dip in the sun that you may end up swimming every other day.
Sage’s Ravine on the Connecticut/Massachusetts border is a beautiful place to swim in a natural pool. At the Fahnestock State Park, in Putnam Valley, NY, you should go off the A.T. for 0.2 miles to see this spectacular body of water with a clean sandy beach. You can enjoy free showers and eat at the snack bar. If you are interested, you can even rent rowboats.
Anytime you hike the Appalachian Trail, don’t focus only on completing the 2000+ miles at a stretch. Spend a little time off the trail. The activities discussed here will refresh your mind and body.