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My experiences on the Appalachian Trail Versus Te Araroa Trail

I've been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to trek not just one, but two of the world's most renowned long-distance trails.


My journey began in 2017 with the iconic Appalachian Trail, followed by my most recent adventure hiking the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand.


As I reflect on my experiences, I find myself drawn to compare and contrast the two trails, each offering its own set of challenges, rewards, and unforgettable moments.


Below, I've compiled a table with detailed insights into my experiences on both trails, shedding light on the unique aspects of each journey.



 

Trail

Appalachian Trail 

Te Araroa Trail

Country 

USA

New Zealand 

Nick name/trail name

The Green Tunnel

The long pathway (in Maori)

Direction 

NOBO - North Bound

SOBO - South Bound

Start Point

Springer Mountain, Georgia

Cape Reinga, North Island

End Point 

Mt. Katahdin, Maine

Stirling Point, Bluff, South Island

Founded

1937

2011

Distance KM

3,500

3,028

Distance Miles

2,190

1,864

Year 

2017

2023/24

Method

Hiking

Tramping

Permit 

None that I remember.

Only for Queen Charlotte Track

Number of hikers 

As of 2017, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimated that 3,839 hikers set out from Springer Mountain, northbound, 497 from Mount Katahdin, southbound, and reported 1,186 completions of hiking the entire trail, which includes those by both section and through hikers.

During the 2022/23 season, more than 4000 people walked the trail and it’s believed numbers could continue to grow by 10 per cent each year. * I can’t find the info for 2023/2024

Started

2nd June 2017 

1st November 2023

Finished 

10th September 2017

3rd March 2024

My age

35

42

Sponsored 

No

Yes

Days on Trail 

100

114

Number of walking days

98

100

Days off / Rest Days 

2

20

Beach Walking

0

Multiple 

River Crossings

1

Multiple 

Total elevation gain 

520,000 ft

273,285 ft

Mt Everest equivalent 

16 times

9.5 times 

Highest Point 

Clingmans Dome 

6,643 feet (2,025 m)

Stag Saddle 

6,315ft (1,925m)

Scenery

Mostly forests - with occasionally view points

Average in the North island (apart from a few sections e.g.  Timber Trail, Tongariro Alpine Crossing). Majestic in the South Island - views, on views on views. 

GPS used for navigation

No

Yes

Satellite communication

No

Yes - ZOLEO

App?

No

Yes - TA App

Well marked

Yes

No

Trail Markers

White Blazes on trees

Orange Triangle and poles

Guidebook

Yes

No

Road walking 

No

Yes

Wild Animals 

Yes - bears, snakes.

No

Cows

No

Yes

Trail Magic

Trail Angels 

Trail Entrepreneurs 

Kindness of Strangers 

EPIC

EPIC

Total Costs

£4,625

£7,000

Cost break down blog post 

Total cost per mile 

£1.34

£3.75

Logistics

Easy

Hard

Dangers

Not really

Many - weather, roads, hitching, rivers.

Number of trainers

4

2

Filmed on Go Pro

Go Pro 6

Go Pro Hero 11

Tent

Terra Nova - Laser 

2 Person Tent

MSR - Carbon Fibre Reflex  

2 person tent 

Hiking Poles

Black Diamond

Fizan

Down Jacket

REI CO-OP. 

Down Jacket - Women's

PHD Yukon Down Jacket from the K Series

Backpack 

Osprey Auro 50

Osprey EJA 

Sleeping Bag

Raidlight

Thermarest Hyperion

Phone 

iPhone 6

iPhone 13

Stove 

No

No

Favourite Chocolate

Snickers

Whittaker's Double Caramel

Recovery After Trail

1 Year, 9 months

2 weeks

Injury after the trail

Left Ankle ligament and tendon damage, knees, glutes, not able to straighten my left leg, unable to walk any distance. Underweight, needed to work with a PT, physio, see the Dr. Have X-rays on my knee.

None

IG/FB Stats and updates

Not really 

Daily 

Vlogs - Youtube 

Yes

Not yet

Short Film - Youtube

Yes

Not yet

Next walking challenge

Camino Portuguese - 

Sept 2019

Camino via de la plata - 

April 2024


 

As I scan through the comparison table, a few things really catch my eye. It's tough to directly compare these two trails, I'll admit. But digging into the nitty-gritty is always fascinating. Sure, they're similar in distance, with just a 500 km or 300 miles difference. But they are worlds apart in experiences.


Looking back at my Appalachian Trail stint, clocking it in 100 days seems almost ludicrous now. And the aftermath of that 2017 trek? It took me until 2019 to get back on my feet properly. Sandwiched in between, I tackled a mammoth 4,000km cycling challenge from Vancouver, Canada down to Cabo San Lucos, in Mexico. Why? Because walking any considerable distance was out of the question for me.


Fast forward to today, and here I am, having hiked over 3,000 km on the Te Araroa Trail feeling really good to be honest. Well, okay, maybe a bit tired initially, but now I'm raring to go for another challenge. 1,000km on the Camino Vía de la Plata starting in April. I will also be sharing this journey on my socials. So please follow along on Instagram @toughgirlchallenges


 

Reflecting on the tech front, it's like night and day between the two trails. On the Appalachian Trail, I was practically living in the Stone Age – no GPS on my phone, no satellite communication, not even an SOS button for emergencies. It was just me and my trusty guidebook. Cut to the Te Araroa, where I'm navigating with GPS, using the TA app, and staying connected with ZOLEO for weather updates and communication, plus allowing my family to track me and follow my journey.


The first 2 images are screen shots from the TA App showing the last day. The last image is a screen shot from my ZOLEO showing the hourly check in done automatically. So my family can track me and see exactly where I am .



 



Multiple orange triangles pointing in different directions.
Which way to go? Who knows!

Regarding navigation. The Appalachian Trail was a breeze with its clear markers, maybe getting lost once or twice, but nothing serious. But the Te Araroa?


It's like a puzzle, with its sporadic orange triangles and poles – GPS became my best friend, guiding me through the wilderness and the unmarked routes in the mountains.


When it comes to encounters with wildlife, it's a toss-up between the Appalachian Trail and the Te Araroa Trail. While the Appalachian Trail boasts its fair share of bears and snakes, the Te Araroa Trail introduces a different kind of adversary: sandflies and cows. Personally, I have an aversion to cows—I find them to be perilous creatures and do my utmost to avoid them. Plus the sandflies were horrendous. I’ve got so many scars around my ankles from them.


Moreover, the concept of trail magic takes on distinct forms along each trail. On the Appalachian Trail, in 2017, there was lots of trail magic which is due to to a few factors, it is a well established trail. There are also more easily accessible trail heads where people can set up BBQ, and provide food and drinks, as thru-hikers are walking through.



Conversely, the Te Araroa Trail's remote stretches make trail magic a rare occurrence. Although I was fortunate to encounter it twice. A can of coke - after a hard stretch of tramping was just what I needed and gave me a real sugar and caffeine boost.  Additionally, there's a noteworthy distinction between trail angels and what I'd term as "trail entrepreneurs" on the Te Araroa Trail—individuals who provide services for a fee, be it accommodation, meals, or other amenities. 


Comparing the costs of the trail, is a little more difficult to do, due to inflation, cost of living crises etc. For me, without a doubt the Te Araroa Trail proving considerably more expensive, I felt like I was burning through the cash especially paying for food resupply and accommodation. Plus flights etc are so much more expensive as it is literally on the other side of the world from the UK - 24hrs of flying. So the costs are due in part to its remote location. I underestimated how much it would cost. You will need more money than you think you will. 


 

Sleeping Bag


Upgrading my sleeping bag from a Raidlight (bought in 2016 for the Marathon des Sables) to a Thermarest Hyperion 20F/-6C Sleeping Bag (weight  1 lb. 4 oz) marked significant improvements.


Info from the website: - "Built to provide a featherlight pack weight and high-performance warmth, the Hyperion 20F/-6C is among the lightest in its class without sacrificing an ounce of performance. The bag uses thermally-efficient box baffled construction in key areas to ensure warmth and comfort in an ultralight package. Designed with high-quality materials and Therm-a-Rest performance features, the Hyperion keeps your pack light, giving you the freedom to move quickly in the backcountry."


Pictures to show the comparison of my Raidlight Sleeping bag to my Thermarest Hyperion Sleeping bag.



A few things I really liked about the Raidlight sleeping bag; it was lightweight, I could have my arms out or in, there were zips on the side and it could also be tuned into a down jacket and I really liked the small pocked on the front which was really useful . Which I think is amazing functionality! It just wasn't warm enough for me. I did use it for many years, and do recommend the brand.



My Raidlight sleeping bag turned into a jacket.



 

Down Jacket


Reflecting on my original black down jacket which I got from REI in America, I don’t know how it kept me warm. It probably didn’t and with my weight being so low, no wonder I was always cold. When I compare that down jacket to my newer, warmer purple PHD down jacket. There is no comparison - the difference is 10 fold. My PHD jacket is amazing, but also super expensive (£530). I invested in a quality jacket as I do hike on a regular basis and I don’t like being cold. 


A comparison of the 2 down jackets - front, side and back view.


 

It’s so difficult to really compare these trails, as in which one was better or more superior. They are very different trails, as hopefully you can see. The Appalachian Trail, which I did in just 100 days and the lingering recovery that followed, certainly left its mark on me. Even taking that into account, I still think the Te Araroa Trail was harder overall, even though it’s less elevation gain and loss and shorter in distance. Its terrain; the beaches, the forest, the mud, roads, river crossing etc, and the difficulty of planing and sorting out logistics. It all adds to the challenge, especially mentally. I found it a lot harder to switch off and just hike and be in nature. It felt like I was always in planning mode and looking to the future. 


For novice hikers, I'd recommend tackling the Appalachian Trail first, given its relatively straightforward nature. However, this isn't to discount the Te Araroa Trail's accessibility, especially for those from Australia or New Zealand. Conversely, if you're based in the UK, venturing to America might be a more cost-effective option. But you would still need to get a visa for America and you don’t need one for New Zealand.  


I think experienced thru hikers might by more disappointed by the Te Araroa trail as it’s not a thru-hike as such. The road walking is also soul destroying. My advice would be to only do the South Island. However, there is something about hiking the full length of a country. 


Wrapping up, comparing the Appalachian Trail with the Te Araroa Trail is like comparing apples and oranges—it's not easy to declare one better than the other. Each trail brings its own set of challenges and delights, making it a personal journey for every hiker.


Whether you're enticed by the Appalachian Trail's well-established paths and abundance of trail magic or drawn to the rugged beauty and remote wilderness of the Te Araroa Trail, both offer experiences that can profoundly impact and transform you.


The true essence of adventure lies not in comparing trails, but in embracing the journey itself—wherever it may take you.


 


Solo Episodes about Appalachian Trail and Te Araroa Trail















 


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