The A.T. Guide – Navigating for Dummies

Yippee! Yippee! I found a guide book made for people just like me.  I’m guessing, upon hearing about my impending trip, some of you pictured me wandering in circles staring at the sky and scratching my head.  In fact, despite the white blazes that mark the entire 2,184 mile route, more than one friend has referred to checking into my blog as a way to make sure that I found my way out alive.  I love the confidence.  Really I do.  But never you fear!  Mr. David “Awol” Miller, a prior thru-hiker himself, saw me coming from a hundred miles away and (along with a list of noteworthy contributors) put together The A.T. Guide.

Having scanned the A.T. -related blogs and websites, I discovered that two books are considered reliable: the Thru-Hiker’s Companion – published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – and The A.T. Guide, as referenced above.  All fingers pointed to the latter as a better resource, so I purchased a copy of the 2012 Northbound edition on Amazon and checked out a copy of the former from the library, ya know, for good measure.

The blogosphere was definitely right.  While the A.T. Conservancy definitely provides relevant information regarding the physical elements of the trail as well as resources available in the surrounding towns, Miller’s Guide presents the information in a visually well organized way for a luddite like me.  Some of the features I find helpful include:

  • Despite the fact that the trail winds its way through a region, the book presents each section of trail in a Data Spread as though it were virtually linear.
  • There is so much detail that at times the features of the trail are described down to the tenth of a mile.
  • Every shelter marking on the Data Spread indicates how many miles one must hike to reach each of the next three shelters.
  • There is an extensive list of easy-to-understand icons (such as a tent to indicate a campsite or a shopping cart to indicate a town with a grocery store) marking every Data Spread and town map.
  • It includes a list for each town describing relevant hiker resources, such as shuttle services, hostels, and laundries.
  • Every Data Spread has a watermark indicating the elevation change as one progresses through the elements of that page’s hike, which provides an idea of how strenuous that leg of hike might be (important for deciding whether to continue or stay put for the night).

Last but certainly not least, the absolute best reason for anyone like me to LOVE this book is that…

It provides direction in “left/right” terms instead of “east/west” terms.  I am an absolute wreck when it comes to cardinal directions.  It was oh so easy when I was a kid.  My sense of direction in Virginia Beach was “the ocean is to the east.”  I used it as my grounding point.  Well, I started to lose it when I went to college in the foothills of the Shenandoahs.  And don’t even get me started about the year I spent on the west coast; I was all kinds of turned around.  What to do you mean the ocean is to the WEST?!  So I beg you – and many friends (men in particular for some reason) have found this out the hard way – when giving me directions somewhere, please never tell me to come to an intersection and go northwest; it won’t get us anywhere fast.

So thank you, A.T. Guide. Thank you for framing everything for me in terms of north = Maine and south = Georgia, which means east = right and west = left.  I think you and I are going to get along just fine.

Meandering on,