AT 1988 Trip Plan

“No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.”

Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard von Moltke

No trip itinerary survives more than a few weeks on The Trail, either, but make one anyway.

Behold one page of my 1988 thru-hike trip plan.

AT 1988 Trip Plan page 1

The complete itinerary is included below in searchable text format. Soon my 1988 trail journal will be posted, so you can see how closely I followed the plan.

(miles from Springer)
Springer Mountain 0.0 6/6 M
Gooch Gap 16.7 6/7 T
Neaes Gap 31.6 6/8 W
Rocky Knob 49.4 6/9 R
Addis Gap 63.4 6/10 F
Muskrat Creek 80.7 6/11 S
Rock Gap 109.6 6/12 S
(Buried drop)
Cold Spring 125.7 6/13 M
Sassafras Gap 144.1 6/14 T
BOX 1 164.4 Fontana Dam, NC PO 28733 2mW
Fontana Dam S 165.7 6/15 W
(miles from Fontana Dam)
Derrick Knob 20.4 6/16 R
Ice Water Spring 40.7 6/17 F
Cosby Knob 60.7 6/18 S
Groundhog Cr 78.3 6/19 S
Deer Park Mtn 100.7 6/20 M
Box 2 103.9 Hot Springs, NC 28743 0m G
Little Laurel 123.2 6/21 T
Hogback Ridge 144 6/22 W
No Business Knob 162 6/23 R
Cherry Gap 185 6/24 F
Roan Highlands 203.3 6/25 S
Apple House 212.8 6/26 S
Box 3 213.3 Elk Park, NC 28622 2.5mE G
Laurel Fork 234.4 6/27 M
Vandeventer 251.2 6/28 T
Abingdon Gap 274.1 6/29 W
Box 4 283.9 Damascus, VA 24236 0m GLM
(miles from Damascus)
campsite 11.8 6/30 R
Grayson Highlands Park 33.7 c1.2mE 7/1 F
Trimpi Shelter 53.6 7/2 S
Chatfield 70.9 74.9 G 7/3 S
Knot Mole Branch 89.7 7/4 M
Jenkins 109.6 7/5 T
(121.2 Bland, VA 1.8mW GM)
Helvey’s Mill 123.5 7/6 W
Wapiti II 146.6 7/7 R
Box 5 162.8 Pearisburg, VA 21334 1mE GM 7/8 F
Pine Swamp 181.5 7/9 S
Sarver Cabin 205.9 7/10 S
Catawba 226.3 c G 7/11 M
Lamberts Meadow 239.0 7/12 T
Box 6 248.8 Cloverdale, VA 24077
Wilson Creek 261.4 7/13 W
Cove Mtn 274.3 7/14 R
Thunder Hill 290.2 7/15 F
Johns Hollow 307.5 7/16 S
Brown Mtn Creek 325 7/17 S
The Priest 347 7/18 M
Box 7 351.7 Tyro, VA 22976 1.2mE G
Maupin Field 360 7/19 T
Waynesboro motel 377.7 7/20 W
(miles from Rockfish Gap)
Blackrock Hut 20.1 7/21 R
Hightop Hut 41.5 7/22 F
(Lewis Mtn Campground 53.1 GLC .1mW)
Rock Springs Hut 65.4 7/23 S
Pass Mtn Hut 80.4 7/24 S
Tom Floyd Wayside 103.5 7/25 M
(miles from Front Royal, VA)
Box 8 6.8 Linden, VA 22642 0m
Manassas Gap 10.6 7/26 T
Rod Hollow 24.2 7/27 W
Keys Gap 47.8 7/28 R
(Harpers Ferry, WV, ATC HQ)
Crampton Gap 64.6 7/29 F
Box 9 64.2 Burkittsville, MD 21718 1.2mE G
Hemlock Hill 7/30 S
(PA-MD line 94.7)
(miles from PA-MD line)
Tumbling Run 7.8 7/31 S
Birch Run 27.0 8/1 M
Moyers Campground 47.6 8/2 T
Darlington 70.3 8/3 W
Box 10 82.1 Duncannon, PA 17020 0m GLM
Peters Mtn 92.5 8/4 R
Rausch Gap 109.8 8/5 F
Hertzlein Campsite 129.9 8/6 S
Port Clinton 148.4 8/7 S
Box 11 148.4 Port Clinton, PA 19549
Allentown Hiking Club 172.8 8/8 M
George Outerbridge 191.4 8/9 T
Leroy Smith 208.1 8/10 W
Box 12 227.9 Delaware Water Gap, PA 18327 0m RGLM
(miles from DW Gap)
*** *** motel 8/11 R
Brink Rd 24.5 8/12 F
High Point 44.1 8/13 S
campsite 67.6 8/14 S
Box 13 (motel) 89.5 8/15 M
William Brien Mem. 101.2 8/16 T
Dennytown Rd campsite 124.6 8/17 W
Morgan Stewart 144.1 8/18 R
Webstuck 160.5 8/19 F
(CT-NY line) 161.4)
(miles from CT-NY line)
Mt Algo Lean-to 11.0 8/20 S
Box 14 11.3 Kent, CT 06757 .5mE GLM
Dark Entry 24.3 8/21 S
Pine Knoll Lean-to 41.8 8/22 M
Bond Lean-to 58.4 8/23 T
Glen Brook 67 8/24 W
Mt Wilcox Lean-to 86.1 8/25 R
Box 15 93.0 Tyringham, MA 01264 0.0m L
October Mtn Lean-to 108.1 8/26 F
Bassett Brook campsites 132.1 8/27 S
(VT-MA state line) 145.9
(miles from VT-MA state line)
Congdon Camp 10.0 8/28 S
Story Spring 32.9 8/29 M
Mad Tom 52.4 8/30 T
Greenwall 73.3 8/31 W
Box 16 75.2 Wallingford, VT 05773 3.5mW GLM
Governor Clement 87.1 9/1 R
Stony Brook 104.7 9/2 F
Cloudland 122.5 9/3 S
Box 17 137.5 Hanover, MA 03755 0.0m GLM
Velvet Rocks 139 9/4 S
Smarts Mtn 161.7 9/5 M
Jeffers Brook 184 9/6 T
Kinsman Pond 202.7 9/7 W
Mt Guyot 223 9/8 R
Box 18 (motel) 246.6 Mt Washington, NM 03589 9/9 F
Osgood tentsite 255.2 9/10 S
Rattle River 277.9 9/11 S
(Gorham, NH) 279.5 G 1mE 9/12 M
(ME-NH line 0.0)
(miles from ME-NH line)
Carlo Col 0.5 9/13 T
Frye Notch 19.9 9/14 W
Elephant Mtn 39.9 9/15 R
Piazza Rock Lean-to 62.2 9/16 F
Spaulding Mtn Lean-to 78.5 9/17 S
Box 19 91.1 Stratton, ME 04982 5mW GLM
Horns Pond Lean-to 96.4 9/18 S
Jerome Brook Lean-to 109.9 9/19 M
Pleasant Pond Lean-to 133.4 9/20 T
Breakneck Ridge Lean-to 153.9 9/21 W
Box 20 162.9
Old Stage Road Lean-to 167.1 9/22 R
Cloud Pond Lean-to 185.5 9/23 F
Logan Brook Lean-to 208.8 9/24 S
Potaywadjo Sp Lean-to 231.5 9/25 S
(Abol Bridge 264.5 G 0m)
Daicey Pond 271.8 9/26 M
Baxter Peak 279.0 9/27 T

For my 2012 long section hike to attempt Trail Completion, I am using a spreadsheet with some useful features for revisions. I’ll cover that in a later post.


  • Trip plan was composed on a text editor running on a home-brew PC compatible with 8088 CPU, printed on an Epson MX80 dot matrix printer, and then reduced to half-size on a copier. Editor was see.exe (bundled with the Desmet C compiler) which I still sometimes use today.
  • Trail miles are given from state borders and other landmarks as noted because the Appalachian Trail Data Book 1987 presented miles that way, not cumulative miles from Springer.
  • When depending on mail drops, as I was, be certain to add day-of-week to your trip plan. Arriving at a post office on Sunday may result in disappointment. Now with some post offices having reduced hours on Saturday this is even more of a factor. On the other hand, you will diverge from your original schedule eventually, so be aware.
  • Although I didn’t get as far as New Hampshire, I now realize that I over-estimated how far I could walk each day on that section of the trail. Pay attention to large daily elevation changes.


AT 1988 Equipment List

Here is what I took on my 1988 hike from Springer Mountain GA to Harpers Ferry WV.

1988 AT Equipment

. Category Item Notes Weight in oz
. worn/carried
. t-shirt medium weight cotton, sleeves removed 7.2
. running shorts synthetic, Nike 4.3
. hiking boots Danner leather/cordura/Gore-Tex 50.0
. hiking socks wool 3.2
. wrist watch Timex cheap 1.0
. compass Silva 1.0
. hiking stick shovel handle found on trail 17.0
. Total 83.7
. Total weight carried 5.2 lbs
. pack external frame pack Jansport 80.0
. pack cover nylon water repellent 2.0
. Cook/water water bottle 1 liter wide mouth 6.5
. camp water container gallon milk jug 2.0
. wash bowl bottom of milk jug 1.0
. cook stove Scorpion Model 1 w/stuff sack 8.2
. fuel propane cartridge small 10.6
. mini butane lighter 0.3
. cook pot Al 3cup pot from Coleman cook set with heat-shrink tubing added to handle 3.5
. spoon lexan 0.2
. iodine tablets Potable Aqua 1.0
. oil liquid margarine in squeeze tube 4.2
. potato flakes for thickening dinners if needed 0.3
. food bag nylon stuff sack 3.0
. Shelter bivy sack Goretex, infrequently used 16.5
. Sleeping down bag North Face with stuff sack 40.0
. sleeping pad Ridge-rest 3/4 length 8.5
. Clothes camp shirt button-up short sleeve green 8.5
. camp sweat-pants fleece Russell 16.2
. rain coat Gore-tex Campmor blue with hood 15.5
. cap useful during rain or with headnet 3.0
. spare socks wool 3.2
. clothes bag garbage bag 1.0
. Misc
. no-see-um head net from Campmor 0.6
. snake bite kit Sawyer Extractor 4.0
. first aid kit band-aids, mole foam, aspirin, sudafed in band-aid tin 1.1
. sewing kit 0.7
. toothbrush/toothpaste paste stores in handle 1.7
. soap Dr Bonner liquid 2.5
. toiletries comb, razor, deoderant, floss 2.4
. bandana purple 0.7
. spare mini butane lighter 0.3
. knife stainless keychain pen knife 0.7
. wallet with id 3.4
. camera Olympus Infinity 10.1
. repair kit 1.4
. guide Appalachian Trail Data Book + itinerary 2.2
. journal Daytimer Jr size 1.0
. pen retractable flat mini ballpoint 0.3
. flashlight Duracell 2AA battery small 2.5
. insect repellent 2 oz bottle DEET 2.8
. razor disposable plastic 0.2
. cord 50 feet for hanging food bag 0.8
. scat shovel plastic orange 1.8
. toilet paper in zip bag partial roll, remove cardboard tube 1.4
. Total 277.8
. Total base pack weight 17.4 lbs

Total weight with five days of food and one liter of water was about 30 pounds. That was pretty typical of max pack weights that summer for thru-hikers, and possibly on the low side. My 2012 attempt to complete The Trail will use ultralight techniques, and so will be very different. More about that in later posts.

AT 1988 equipment assembled

Protein Carbohydrate Goulash

In 1986-ish, while a grad student at Georgia Tech, I happened to take a class in backpacking presented for Outdoor Recreation Georgia Tech (ORGT) by Miller Templeton, who had recently thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. The instructor had a lot of useful advice about the Trail, and I was eventually inspired to attempt my own thru-hike (though I did not manage to complete the Trail… yet).

One particularly handy bit of knowledge was the no-cleanup backpacking dinner system ORGT called “PCG III”, where PCG stands for “Protein Carbohydrate Goulash”. Rather than compile a whole stack of individual recipes for backpacking meals, as presented by some books on trail menus, PCG III is a “one from column A, one from column B, etc” method that produces a potentially large variety of different meals without having to repeat a recipe once on an entire thru-hike. PCG isn’t the only such backpacking meal system– but in my judgement these combinatorial recipe systems could be more widely known on the Net.

This system uses inexpensive ingredients commonly found in the grocery store, so packaging several weeks of food won’t require a bank loan like commercial backpacking meals. PCG also has a very long shelf-life, which is important for long distance hikers like myself that prefer to package up all meals ahead of time have them mailed to myself along the trail, instead of stopping every few days to purchase and assemble meals from nearby grocery stores. Assuming I was going to complete the entire trail, I had twenty boxes packed ready to mail to post offices on or near the Trail, and I know from personal experience that PCG has a shelf life of three months and likely much longer.

I don’t see PCG III on the ORGT web site, so I present my para-phrasing borrowed from class notes, while giving full credit for the original ideas to the Georgia Tech student group.

Select one item in each group:

1 ounce instant chicken TVP and 1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
1 ounce instant ham TVP (note 1) and 1/2 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
small (3 ounce or less) can or foil packet of tuna, boned chicken, chunk ham, sardines, etc (note 2)
2 ounce packaged low-moisture shelf-stable meat such as jerky, small packet of pepperoni slices, or beef stick

1/2 teaspoon onion powder plus 1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper plus 1/4 cup skim milk powder

1 package instant gravy mix, such as mushroom, herb, beef, …
1 envelope instant cup-of-soup mix, such as beef broth, onion, tomato, cream of mushroom

1 cup minute rice
1 package ramen noodles (broken into small pieces, easier to spoon)
2 ounces (1 cup) instant potato flakes
1 cup croutons or bread crumbs from stuffing mix
2 packages instant grits (My class was in Georgia, after all.)
2 packages instant cream of wheat
(2 ounces of any other carbohydrate that will cook or rehydrate in 5 minutes: couscous, thin rice noodles, etc)

GROUP E (optional)
2 tablespoons cheese sauce mix
1-2 ounces of sour cream sauce mix (salty, omit salt from other ingredients if used)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

GROUP F (optional)
dashes of spices to taste: oregano, basil, thyme, curry powder, etc.

You may simply package everything up into a 1 quart zip bag, but I was taught the following technique: Take a 1 quart freezer zip bag and cut off the zip. A regular zip bag is too thin and won’t work well with boiling water. Cut a 3inch by 4inch rectangle of corrugated cardboard. Push side seams and bottom seams together to form triangles as shown in the photo.

Form triangles

Bend a corner over the cardboard and tape.

Tape corner to cardboard

Do the same to the other corner and tape.

Tape other corner

You should have a bag that will stand up by itself. The cardboard bottom acts as a thermal insulator to make the meal easier to hold in one hand.

Square-bottomed container

Place the ingredients inside and secure with a twist-tie.

PCG packaged
PCG packaged

Along with your packaged meals, you will keep handy:

  • a small packet of instant potato flakes to add in case you accidentally put in too much water.
  • A small plastic container of squeeze margarine (or clarified butter or olive oil), for adding fat calories needed by long-distance hikers.

Boil 1 1/4 cup of water, pour into bag, stir gently until mixture is uniform. Add more water if needed, or add a little instant mashed potatoes if too watery. Seal bag with twist tie, allow to re-hydrate for 5 minutes. Add a squirt of squeeze margarine (or clarified butter or olive oil). Stir and enjoy.

When finished, seal bag with twist-tie, now ready to pack out. Nothing to clean except your spoon.

As an example, if you want to make a spaghetti meal, then choose ramen+pepperoni slices+tomato soup mix+dash of Italian seasoning+grated Parmesan cheese+group b.

1) Ham TVP is marketed as imitation bacon bits for a salad topping. Pretty convincing as ham when rehydrated.
2) If using a can or foil packet of meat, try for packed in oil instead of packed in water. You want the extra calories. Leave the meat in the original container until ready to cook. Add to the goulash after rehydrating, not before.

I rarely used grits or cream of wheat. Rice was a favorite. Stuffing was also pretty good. Items with more moisture, such a small can of tuna, were used early after a mail drop to shed pack weight faster. If using now, I might try my own dehydrated soup instead of instant soup mixes, and add some dehydrated peas, peppers, or dehydrated cooked beans/lentils. Or I might reduce the GroupD portion and replace with dehydrated cooked beans or lentils. Will experiment with those in a later post. Might also try dehydrating my own cooked rice, so I could try wild rice, pink rice, brown rice, or (yum!) basmati.