From Main to the northern tip of Georgia, the Appalachian Trail wanders across the misty, rolling ridges of more than a dozen mountain ranges. The trail spans roughly 2,200 meandering miles. My trail began just east of the northern face of the high peaks of the cold mountain country in the Northeastern United States. The countryside along the way is studded with deciduous and coniferous forests from start to finish. The sheer idea of traveling from peak to peak in this transformative landscape was mind-boggling before I started.
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Getting 7000 calories per day
After doing all the research that I could, I came up with a diet of 7000 calories per day. As a Vegetarian, this calorie intake was no small challenge.
Resources like the Hiking Life were very helpful to pick out food on the Appalachian Trail. I had to think about what I needed every day for a month. I knew that there would be supermarkets and restaurants but not many.
My four go-to’s were:
- Granola – 650 calories per day.
- Trail Mix – 2,000 per day.
- Energy Bars – 500 calories for each bar. 2 per day.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Hard to say but 500 to 1000 calories per day
Some Recommendations On Eating On The Appalachian Trail
You are not going to get a lot of brands from the blog post. I get my granola and trail mix from a bunch of stores and brands. My tendency is to buy the most expensive extra virgin olive oil that I can find. These items were easy to buy in advance and ship to my hotel along with a reservation.
Then I put my foot on the Appalachian Trail in a solid container to take for each leg of the journey. Many people use sealed bags to conserve weight. That is fine. But, all it takes is that one time waking up and seeing your bag covered in critters to make you wish you had a solid container.
Below are some of the hotels to which I reserved rooms and sent supplies.
If you do decide to flow from the natural north to south as the birds do I would recommend starting in the epic White Mountains of New Hampshire. This mostly protected landscape gives the edgy feel of being thoroughly in the wilderness.
Mount Washington is the highest peak along the mountains of the eastern seaboard peaking in at 6228.2 feet high. The most powerful winds on earth have been recorded here.
Alpine Resort Refreshment
When I bike up to Mittersill Resort in Franconia, New Hampshire I feel like an Austrian Baron. Nestled in Franconia Notch in the White Mountains the style of the resort is like an Austrian Estate. There are enough amenities and it still feels homey. Built like a lodge with thick wooden beams it still has the coziness of an Alpine Resort. There is a medium-sized pool that is treated and heated. For about 8 months of the year, the glass around the pool attracts gentle snow covering.
Brown Bears – Trail Mix Lovers Too
Behind the resort is a beautiful sloping mountain which is the romping ground of the brown bear. Cousin to the larger more ominous grizzly, the brown bear is still dangerous when encountered but naturally less aggressive. The bears have been eating on the Appalachian Trail for hundreds of years, so they have a well-developed pallet. Almost anything and the landscape here provides them with a healthy diet including nuts, fruits, wild berries, and seeds of many varieties.
The bears love to scratch their backs on the rough bark of the trees and they make a lingering moaning grunt as they do so. This can paralyze a hiker or biker with fear. The trick is to stay still and allow them to enjoy the endeavor without interruption. We all feel vulnerable while we do something to relax, so why should bears feel any different?
Franconia Notch New Hampshire
Aside from the rather jagged peaks of Mount Washington, many beautiful natural surprises are within biking distance. Old Man in the mountain is a fully natural rock formation that lives facing the hills of Franconia Notch. The gravity-defiant structure is angular and in profile looks like the face of an old man. The huge geometric rock formation rests in sharp contrast with the soft curves of the mountain tops surrounding it. The silhouette is a perfect monument to the ancestors who have lived and died here. Feather headdress and all, the proud chief surveys his kingdom eternally. No carving is needed. He is the steady reminder that nothing fake or manmade can cloud his vision.
Echo Lake nearby resounds with the stillness and joy of a millennium. It is a sacred place. It feels like I am close to heaven. The friendly hills and meadows high up the mountain surround the lake.
I hiked onto a little mountain stream nearby in the forest. The coolness of early spring trickles from the mountains through the mineral-rich rock beds. The sound is pure serenity and the virgin forest smells like the sweetest moss on earth. I am humbled by the peace that anybody can achieve here.
A History of Conservancy
Franconia Notch State Park was privately owned until about 1900 when the owners decided to log the property. Subsequently, they were met with resistance from the conservation community. There is approximately 6000 acres of maple, oak, and birch trees growing in the rocky terrain. Each tree was sold into conservancy tree by tree. It is now protected land under federal law. New Hampshirites are very serious about protecting the forest.
There is even a popular series show about the conservation enforcement rangers of New Hampshire called North Woods Law. In addition, make sure you look up the rules of the park before visiting. Though I have never seen a ranger while hiking or biking myself. Importantly, I wouldn’t want to get on their bad side.
If I was actually a bird I would be commencing my journey in the fall. These hills of the White Mountains become a bright array of colorfully painted patchwork woven against a grey or bright blue sky. The multiple species of trees create a stunning palette of greens, crimson, and orange with every color in between. The color changing of the leaves on these steep, rolling mountainsides is one of the most breathtaking sights of its kind in the country.
A Toasty Surprise At Days End
As I arrive back from a long day hiking and rock jumping along the cool ridges I pick up my box of fresh, crunchy toasted, and lightly salted almonds from Wholesale Nuts and Dried Fruit. My favorite! I ordered these to arrive upon my stay and there they are. Right now I feel at one with Brown Bear as I pop some crunchy almonds into my mouth. Equally important, I will be eating on the Appalachian Trail for the next several days until I find the next supermarket. I make my way further south through Connecticut.
My next main stop is in Boston for a few days of R&R in the city. For now, the way down the mountain is slightly treacherous as I descend. The morning light casts a muted silvery glow that extends shadowless down the mountain. Partway down at about 4000 feet the sky seems to slip farther away. Light, slippery snow billows around my bicycle as I sway down the massive ancient hills. It flows right through me with the crisp wind and I know I am alive.
Make your best effort not to linger your gaze on the steep mountain slope that descends on your left. I know that there may be precarious moments ahead. Nevertheless, there are stretches of highway and private land to traverse before hitting the next main road. My supplies and food on the Appalachian Trail will allow me to stay away from civilization as long as I can.
Wish me luck and see you in Boston!
By Dana Witengier