Trade 280 for 550? You Bet!

As I make ready for a day hike on the Appalachian Trail this weekend, the urgency to cover more of the 280+ miles of the AT here in Maine has become greater as of late. Reason? A potential move to Virginia, the state that boasts the highest number of AT miles (550) of the fourteen states through which the trail passes.

And it’s not just the actual AT miles that intrigue me. It’s the dozens and dozens of other trails that cross over and run up to (and sometimes along) the big walk. Gotta love all those blue blaze trails that dump you on the granddaddy. Now, I’ve never hiked the AT in Virginia, and have only done a handful of miles here. Thru-hikers sing the praises of the rugged beauty of the trip through Maine, and talk in less-than-glowing terms about the seemingly endless roller coaster that is the length of trail in Virginia. Still, I’d trade the first for the latter, for lots of reasons.

First, as an aspiring section hiker, I’ll be able to knock off a pretty significant chunk of the overall trail without the logistical travel nightmares that I would encounter by staying here. Maine is on one end of the AT. Virginia is more in the middle.

Then there’s the weather. The non-snowshoe hiking season is longer in Virginia, which lends itself to more spontaneous weekend hikes to gather up a few more miles. As a corollary to this, imagine doing the water crossings on the Maine AT in November. Uh huh. Not only is Virginia lacking those knee-to-waist deep crossings, but the trail would be much more hiking-friendly (as a general rule) in November in Virginia than in Maine. Especially during overnights. BRRR!

And there’s more. The ability to go to Hiker Days in Damascus every year by simply driving a couple of hours, or by hiking southbound to the event from any number of trailheads, if I have the time. Bouncing over to one of the remote roads through which the Trail passes to impart some trail magic, or offer rides to hikers who dread hitching or who lack cell coverage to call a shuttle. I’ll also be just 90 minutes from McAfee Knob, so I can update my profile picture on Facebook every couple of months (okay, I was joking about that last one).

Will I miss the Appalachian Trail here? Of course. But I’ll have one distinct advantage when I’m ready to finish my section hike of Maine: I’m from here, so I’ll have any number of friends and family I can bother for rides, lodging and resupplying.

So it’s off to Virginia. As soon as I locate some gainful employment there…

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