The Bearfinder and I just got back from this year's two week section hike on the AT. This year we went from the Shenandoah Park to Boonsboro MD. The Bearfinder did the whole run barefoot even though his little 10 year old toes got knocked around a bit on the rocks. He has lost two toenails, but he could not be happier. We spent a few days in Harpers Ferry and had the weather go from 80 degrees to 103! Hikers were dropping like flies. We even met people who were actually heading back to Harpers Ferry to wait out the heatwave in the hotel.
Our water pump busted on us so for a while we had to use iodine pills or trust the springs when they were coming right from the ground. We ended up with Aqua Mira (which I think I can still taste), but it was fine. We had no trouble from the water--but Bearfinder got food poisoning in a Harpers Ferry restaurant making our stay a bit longer that we planned on. The lesson is--better off in the woods! I made and posted a few videos of our various hammock camps and here are the links. Great trip!
I found that a larger than normal DIY black bishop bag was a great friend. I ditched my thermarest prolite this trip and just stuck to my DIY 3 season under quilt which I usually slung sort of loose. The larger bag though let me keep my WBBB and the UQ together which I found a huge convenience when setting up camp.
More and more serious hikers are using hammocks and we saw that evidence a lot. We even met a nice pair of guys (Six String and Disco) who each carried an Eno SN for afternoon naps. Nice to see! We met a few through hikers who were carrying hammocks for nights not in shelters. Speaking of shelters--The Bearfinder slung his hammock in the loft of the Ed "Marcus" Garvey Shelter in MD. He loved it up there and would recommend it to others.
Huge sheets of tyvek were INVALUABLE! Cannot recommend them enough. so many uses--I even used it as a bed sheet on a sofa on the porch of the Blackburn trail center. Get some before your next hike and wash it once or twice to make it soft. Amazing stuff.
We adjusted our hiking schedule quite a bit this year and it paid off big time. I hike with a 10 year old, so your miles might vary--but, we woke early, ate cliff bars, packed and set off for two hours (for us that is about three miles). We then ate oatmeal and rested an hour, Then we did another 2-3 hours before a long break. Then after 3:00 pm generally we did another 2-3 hours. A few times we stayed out after dark and used head lamps--awesome. This way we had no trouble getting between 9 and 12 miles a day, but never felt like we were killing ourselves. Plus, we got to frolic or nap in some nice places. I kept my WBBB at the bottom of my pack, but we kept The Bearfinder's HH near the top of his. That way, it was out and on trees for most of our longer breaks. I totally recommend the staggered schedule. As his legs get longer we will be at 18-20 miles per day in no time.
Tie outs on my Maccat Ultra resisted a huge mountain top wind that blew on me all night long. Watching the tarp bend and press and knowing that I was totally covered made that one of most fun nights. The only problem was that the best spot had a tree that was a bit on the thin side. The wind shook it pretty bad all night. That gave me an odd queazy feeling until I adjusted to it. It is the best feeling know that your gear is up to the challenge it is facing.
No wildlife. One deer (who cares). Two squirrels (we have a pet one, who cares), a cute mouse (some interest), and a chipmunk (who cares).
The Bear's Nest hostel is a must visit. There are not too many usable trees in the yard, but even so--a great place and a totally welcome evening with great people.