Next Chapter: the Appalachian Trail!

The Appalachian Trail near my place in Virginia

Those of you who know me as a Teardrop-towing road warrior may be surprised to hear that driving isn’t my favorite mode of transportation. I much prefer to see the world on foot. After a summer on the road from New Mexico to Alaska, I’m ready for a new phase: the Appalachian Trail!

This fall, I’ll be in rural Virginia, mere steps from the Appalachian Trail. I walk out my back door, bushwhack through the woods for about half a mile and emerge on one of the world’s most celebrated foot paths! Right now I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Becky & an Acrobatic Black Snake on the AT in Shenandoah

Thus far, have hiked bits of the AT in every state that it passes through: ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA, MD, WV, VA, NC, TN, and GA. Most of my AT miles have been spent in Virginia. In fact, my very first backpacking trip was in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.

Rainy AT Day at Tinker Cliffs in southern Virginia

This fall won’t be about ticking off sections of the AT in any kind of methodical way. It’s just going to be about seeing as much of the world as possible. I can’t wait to get to know these woods, to watch the seasons change, to photograph the same bends of the trail in late summer, fall and winter. I will probably hike certain sections of the AT repeatedly; I’ve already scouted a couple of regular morning loops near my house – a 7-miler and a 5-miler – that I will probably hike a few times a week, with longer overnight and multi-night treks further afield on the weekends.

My Brother Crossing Stratton Pond in Vermont on the AT

Last weekend, over a tableful of Appalachian Trail maps, I got a friend of mine, a former AT-hiker turned stressed out urbanite, to pledge to hike 100 miles before his 30th birthday in January. My goal is to raise the bar and hike 500 miles by New Year’s. Anybody want to join us? Set your own mileage, something challenging but attainable, say 5 to 10 miles a week. I usually average 25 miles a week, or 100 a month. If you outhike me, I’ll send you a print! Happy trails!

Bowie & Dio on the AT in Vermont

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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22 Responses to Next Chapter: the Appalachian Trail!

  1. nutsfortreasure says:

    Will you start at the bottom and work North or from the North and head south you better hurry across the states if you are to stat in the north for our fall color then miss all the SNOW lol or did you mean NEXT YEAR? lo

    • Nope, neither! You don’t have to through-hike the AT to enjoy it! I’ve already logged 30-some miles on the section that runs near my place in Virginia. My goal is 500 miles by New Year’s!

      • nutsfortreasure says:

        🙂 OK good idea I need a great pair of hiking shoes I think then I will start recording my walks as well Thanks

  2. ritaroberts says:

    Hi Mary, I am looking forward to joining you (Online) on your next journey,sounds exciting Take care.

  3. Don West says:

    I used to hike the Georgia section often in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Had a little cabin about seven miles from the highway crossings near NC. People out here in Colorado think they are hikers…the AT will whip you…up down up down up down…with 80-90% humidity lol!

    Looking forward to photos as reminders of the lush forest and solitude. Say hello to the bears for me 🙂

    • Haha yeah I was just saying yesterday that a summer hiking in the Rockies has only partially prepared me for the AT. I definitely need some more conditioning on these rocky trails! The mountains here aren’t big but they are relentless! Haven’t seen any bears yet, just some fairly fresh scat. I’m sure there will be one around the next bend soon enough!

  4. Alice says:

    Oh, I want to come too. Thank goodness for your blog, so I can do some vicarious trail hiking on the AT.

  5. Joni says:

    I’ve been in love with the AT since my kids and I discovered it in National Geo while I homeschooled them in the 80’s. We hiked a lot of trails in Georgia and actually made it to the beginning of the trail in North GA but they were too young and we were not prepared for that type of hike. But it was exciting to see the beginning of it. Enjoy and take lots of pics and lots of posts.
    Take Care,

  6. Starting in January, my husband and I are going to walk/hike 500 miles in a year. Good luck with your challenge!

    • How’s your 100 hikes quest going Linda? Fall is my favorite hiking season so I’m stoked!

      • I did #94 yesterday; I need to finish 6 more by the end of September, so I’m golden.

        Your AT activities have me thinking about a neighbor who attempted to hike the whole trail continguously –but died 2 weeks in of a heart attack. Makes me realize how precious life is. You are very lucky to have such clarity at a young age – it’s very rare. Keep moving forward! Enjoy!

  7. We have never hiked or backpacked in the eastern part of the US, so it will be especially fun to see your photos from the AT. Guess you are not living in Cerrrillos any more. Quite a change of scenery to be in Virginia. Carol

    • I’ll be back in Cerrillos in January! Fall in the eastern hardwoods is exquisite. Just wait until the leaves start changing!

      • Fantastic! Will look forward to photos of the hardwoods in fall. Would love to see them in person someday. Maybe after you are back in January, we could join forces for a shorter winter hike. Have you been to Raven’s Ridge or Chasm Falls? I’ve hiked to these places recently, for the first time, with a friend of ours. He has hiked to both places in the winter and says that is great time to do these hikes. In the meantime, have a great time on the trail and I look forward to your blogs and photos.

  8. Love the misty shot

    • Me too! The fog was so thick that morning I felt like I swimming through it. I ran into some hikers who pointed at my camera and said too bad about the views. True there was nothing to see from the overlooks, but the clouds in the woods were beautiful.

  9. Pingback: Crossing Paths: AT Critters « Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  10. What is on your dogs(I”m assuming they are yours)back? Great photos, especially the first one of the Appalachian Trail. You have such a beautiful country to explore.

    • Yep, those are my boys. On multi-day trips they sometimes carry their own dog food. Bowie is now 10 and retired from carrying a pack. He doesn’t need any extra weight on his hips and shoulders!

  11. dieta says:

    Roland is the author of several books, and his articles have appeared in Appalachia, the Colorado Mountain Club magazine T&T, and other outdoor journals. A retired physicist, Roland is a former member of the engineering research faculty at Harvard University and Pennsylvania State University and was a research scientist for Bell Laboratories. After retiring, he thru-hiked the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail in 1989.

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