1. What is the Appalachian Trail?


"The Appalachian Trail is a root-canal. The Camino de Santiago is a series of hard days work." - Bill Walker, author of Skywalker--Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail 

The more you know about the Appalachian Trail and about backpacking, the more you will enjoy your time on the trail. This section of the course provides an overview of the Appalachian Trail, its wildlife and general safety precautions and tips. In later sections, we'll expand on this knowledge with specific advice on food, lodging and gear selection.

1_1. About the Appalachian Trail
As Julie Andrew's character Maria says in the Sound of Music, let's start at the very beginning. Even if you think you know what the Appalachian Trail is like, you should watch the Appalachian Impressions trailer below and note the hikers comments. While "about 2 to 3 million visitors walk a portion of the A.T. each year," hiking significant portions of the trail is difficult. There are very good reasons why more than 75% of thru-hiking attempts are unsuccessful.


1_2. About Through and Section Hiking


1_3. Wildlife
While hiking the A.T. you will encounter wildlife, from annoying bugs, hungry mice, and snakes seeking those same well fed mice to larger mammals like deer and bears. Your knowledge of and response to the wildlife you will encounter will have a direct impact on your enjoyment and successful completion of a long distance hike.



1_4. Safety
Your family and friends first reaction to your desire to hike the Appalachian Trail was likely one of fear for your safety. You were probably advised to carry a handgun. While there have been some murders and accidental deaths on the A.T., by and large hiking the A.T. is probably safer than most daily activities. As you will most likely suffer small injuries like blisters, scrapes, and small cuts, your best expense of time and money is to take a first aid course, ideally one on wilderness first aid and environmental emergencies. Until then, here's some resources to build your safety knowledge:

  • 1-4g. Exercise: Visit and explore the Trail Note service.
  • 1-4h. Exercise: Visit and explore the Trail Phone service.


Congratulations! You've completed the first section of the
Appalachian Trail Online Course.

Now that you know a bit about the Appalachian Trail and still want to go, let's explore some options for getting ourself and our gear to a trailhead.

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