It makes the world go round. It takes quite a bit of preparation and expense to hike the Appalachian Trail. When I decided I wanted to hike the Trail I arbitrarily decided that I wanted a certain amount of money as a safety net. I have not reached that goal, which was quite high, though I have a comfortable amount, I think.
Money makes the world go 'round,
Money leads hikers to town.
I have read many many many ad nauseum posts on White Blaze of someone asking how much money one needs to bring on the Trail. This is a very important question. And I can understand querying the masses.... if there weren't many easily searchable threads already pertaining to the very topic! All the threads on WhiteBlaze range from $3000 to $8000 for on-Trail expenses. And each past or future thru-hiker is very adamant and expressive as to why that is their number, mingled with the folks that remind everyone to HYOH (hike you own hike). With all that in mind I set a dollar amount, and additionally I have some rules for myself and some money saving methods I am going to try out.
If Money is the root of all evil,
then Roots in the Trail are Money.
I will reflect heavily on these pre-Trail thoughts after I'm done. I may find all these to be completely ridiculous and lackadaisically simple minded. But it's not from senselessness that I spout these opines. I have thought and re-thought and these are the logically thought-out methods I have concluded, I am hoping logic has clouded my delusions! Of course, rose-colored lenses and the romance of the Trail may have clouded my conclusions instead.
I am doing this pre-Trail as well to get into the habit. Go to an ATM on a certain day and withdraw a certain amount, and X amount must last X days. Anything left over is a bonus for next time. If you are short, then either you get that much less next time, or just have some lean moneyless days. While driving back and forth to work it is more difficult to just have a moneyless day when the car demands fuel. On the Trail I will be allowing myself a certain amount every 2 weeks. Much of that time I will be in the woods with no one to exchange for services my hard won monies. In town's I want to limit myself the ability to splurge just for spending sake. It is very easy to swipe the card, but to have the cash in hand and see the pile dwindle makes it more real. I am looking for reality on this trip!
Tried an True Gear
The gear I have I have tried to test and use as much as possible. I also have purchased much of the gear from REI with an REI dividends credit card. REI allows you to return without question gear you can't use or don't like or begins to smell funny. While REI isn't the cheapest place in town, getting 5% back as well as being able to return anything for store credit forever saves money and space in my supply closet at home. Friends and family have been very accommodating and have really hooked me up with things I would not have otherwise thought that I could afford, such as boots, the Packa, SPOT, and good clothing. I would've "suffered" thru with more basic stuff - which would of had a chance of making me uncomfortable at the very least, or injured at the worst.
I have made all of the dinners for the entire trip in advance. I have nearly all of my lunches and breakfasts also made and ready to ship. Not only does this allow me to control my caloric intake, but I also have been able to buy in bulk and find deals on good quality highly nutritional meals. Not going into a grocery store in a small town while in the throes of the Hiker Hunger will save me money, and my meal diversity is substantial as well.
I have heard of others, including thru-hikers that are adamantly against mail-drops. Then I have also heard thru's just as loud for drops. So it is obviously a personal choice. Whether it's to spend a full day in town searching for food, re-packaging it into bags and then heading out, or my choice of hopefully grabbing what I need from the Post Office and tossing it in my bag before scooting out of town - it is a preference, not a necessity one way or the other.
Limit sleeping indoors
I am trying to stay out of towns as much as possible. Much of the adventure is the camaraderie one finds on the Trail and in the Trail towns, I will participate to the fullest extent, but I will be sleeping in my comfortable secluded little tent 13 of 14 days. If there is a hostel on the Trail that has that magic allure I will stay. I have some mail drops scheduled for deposit at Trail hostels, and I will be staying at those places for comfort, recuperation, and of all the stories I've heard of these places. But I don't have plans to stay in hotels often! My drop stops are in towns either on the Trail or in towns that are as close as possible to the Trail. I want the ability to get places without relying on taxis, shuttles, or my thumb!
The AYCE. Once the hunger sets in, I've heard these joints are hard, neigh impossible, to pass by! My budget will cover eating meals from towns whenever I want, however I want to control my urges, and stick to my prepared meals. This goes back to staying out of town! This goes for beer too. I will definitely want to have a tall cold one from time to time! But even the cheap beers add up quick! Six later and you've spent as much as you had the past week in food.
Very Good News, indeed!
I was asked last week to write a letter of intent to the President of the company for which I work. With a bit of trepidation I wrote several paragraphs outlining why I wanted to take off for 6 months of unpaid leave. Would he understand? Would he go with my supervisors recommendation of allowing me to go? Or would this be alien to him?
I received word today that the Prez has followed my bosses advice (THANK YOU MIKE!) and he is OK with me going.
I am reassured that I will have a job when I get back, that I have not done all this planning to have a final and unassailable road-block within sight of the start date, the Day of Ascension of Springer's Approach Trail. I will not be paid to be gone, obviously, but I have enough in savings to carry me. This does give me a "finish by" date. I gave myself a full 6 months to do the Appalachian Trail, though I have every intention of doing it in a maximum of 5 months. I really needed to add some cushion into the dates so I didn't hear a ticking throughout the trip. If I am injured or there is a family emergency or whatever the case may be, I have a window that is slightly longer than I need it to be. Additionally I will be able to use my accrued leave at the beginning of the trip, about a week and a half, to give me a boost monetarily.