As Spring 2011 approached I found myself looking for something to do during the summer which didn’t involve working or camping beneath a local underpass. One of my sisters suggested that I thru hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed, so I did some research (I found to have useful information). The AT is a popular long-distance hiking trail which extends about 2,184 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Thru hiking, loosely defined, means hiking the entire trail length in one year. It takes an average thru hiker 5 to 7 months to complete. I’d never done any backpacking before, but it sounded fun to me.

Because of schedule constraints, I decided I might not be able to complete the typical northbound thru hike before Baxter State Park in Maine closed for the winter. Instead, I began planning what is called a “Flip-flop,” starting midway in the trail (I started in Harpers Ferry at the WV-MD border) and walking to the northern terminus, then flipping back to my starting point and walking to the southern terminus.

It took me 3 months of walking, from May 16 to August 19, to get from Harpers Ferry to the end of the trail on Mt. Katahdin. I had a great time and met lots of nice people along the way. After summiting Katahdin I decided that it was a good enough walk and I’d rather do something else for the rest of the summer, so I returned home to Colorado instead of walking the southern half.

A year later, when my Katahdin anniversary was approaching, I got the urge to go back and hike the second half of the trail. I started in Harpers Ferry again on August 23, and sumitted Springer Mountain in Georgia on October 25. In total I spent about five months walking on the trail.

The Louis C. Burkhardt Memorial Hike

Grandad Burkhardt

My thru-hike plans coincided with my dad’s plans to take my four sisters and me on a vacation in memory of our Granddad (August 4, 1925 - August 19, 2010). So we all flew out to West Virginia and hiked and camped for five days through Maryland on the Appalachian Trail together! They all then returned home as I set out on my solo hike. I summited Mt. Katahdin on the one-year anniversary of his passing.

My Trail Name

I adopted the trail name
[This list of trail jargon might be helpful:]
Diode early on my hike. While I was planning on flip-flopping, Diode contained some inherent irony; when I decided not to flip but instead to only walk on direction, I effectively rectified the trail by clipping the southern half. (In 2012 I reversed polarity and will do the same in the other direction!)

Trail Reports


Annotated Interactive Map

Some notes on the various shelters and towns I stayed at.

The trail and shelter locations on this map are taken from Guy Mott’s GPS and Google Earth Data for the Appalachian Trail. The subset of the data I used, with my comments: in GeoRSS format.

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