Hard Climbs &  Tough Trail

It's hard. Literally. Most of the Appalachian Trail is strewn with rocks. That makes sense, since the Appalachian Trail, for the most part, follows the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Still, it seems there are more rocks on the trail than off the trail. A running joke among our hiking group was that if you lose the trail, look for rocks; it'll be there. There are rocks you must climb over, rocks that stick out from the ground to slam your toes into or trip over, irregular rocks that force you to use foot and leg muscles to maintain balance with each step and rocks covered with mud or muck that are as slick as ice. It's a good idea to stow anything breakable, like a smartphone, at the top or to the back of your pack to keep it from breaking when you fall on your rear end.



Downhill is worse than uphill. Hiking uphill carrying 20-30 pounds is strenuous, especially when it's a half-mile climb up large rocks. You've sweated out so much salt and potassium that you're experiencing the onset of hyponatremia, a condition in which you have difficulty using your muscles and may even experience some confusion (different from "Why am I doing this? What was I thinking?" which are coherent thoughts). Resting and a salty snack with water help. But on a steep downhill, your knee takes more impact. After some distance, each step is painful. Trekking poles and walking slowly can ease some of the discomfort. But knee damage is possible.