A few years ago I was considering hiking around Lake Superior. It's been done now (Full Circle) by an elderly couple who took 145 days to hike the 1,555 miles in 2010. While it's still tempting to try this hike in the future a new target has come up that seems more feasible: the Appalachian Trail.
Passing through fourteen states on a 2,184 mile stretch, this trail follows the Appalachian range from Georgia to Maine. From the research I've done so far it appears to be a marked, well-maintained and busy route. I'm most interested in doing a thru-hike, which generally takes five to seven months. One disheartening thing that I've learned is that the completion rate is about one in four… the vast majority of people who prepare and attempt a thru-hike don't finish it.
There are several reasons why the Appalachian Trail is appealing. It's safer than a Lake Superior hike, with plenty of other hikers and regularly stops along the way. The Canadian shore of Lake Superior can be pretty vacant. Also, the question of legality comes up. I've heard that lakeshore is technically public land but the thought of walking over docks and in front of cabins doesn't really excite me. The Appalachian Trail is a national park with established trails.
This isn't something I'm going to attempt tomorrow. Getting everything in order will take a while, both in terms of life and physical fitness. I'm already running again and planning on staying active throughout this winter. Next year I could start doing some backpacking in the Upper Peninsula. I have several long-distance trips I've been delaying that could serve as great tests, including the tip of the Keweenaw, meandering around the McCormick Tract, and the Porcupine Mountains. The final test would be a ten-day fall trip in Minnesota along the Superior Hiking Trail. If I can walk 275 miles along Lake Superior in two weeks, I feel that I'd be in great shape to tackle the Appalachian Trail next spring.
It won't be easy, but a big adventure like this is something I want to do before I hit 30. Hiking is something that started as a means to find waterfalls and has grown to be something I truly enjoy. Accomplishing an undertaking like this, doing something that I love, would be pretty darn awesome. Of course, I'll need to fit this in with being a dad, something which may be a little difficult.