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AI and the Appalachian Trail
What does the ChatGPT know about through-hiking the AT?
I single-handedly sailed over 5000 miles last year. I travel and live on a sailboat, and I wake up to warm weather and sunshine every morning, or at least that’s the goal. I’m currently in Florida.
Madison, my niece, wakes up in the mountains of Tennessee and backpacks almost every weekend.
I’m going hiking. I have one pair of long pants – Levi’s 501’s. I don’t have any shoes that weren’t meant for water or aren’t sandals. Every day I wear shorts and occasionally a t-shirt. I’m going to be cold.
On with the story. It’s not about hiking. It’s about artificial intelligence!
I’m going to climb the 604 steps of the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain and begin hiking the Appalachian Trail with my niece, a #ATClassOf2023 NOBO through-hiker, in mid-March.
I’m prepping for a through-hike, and I’ll stay on the trail for as long as possible, but having a job and living on a sailboat that would be docked in the Florida hurricane zone (according to my boat insurance policy) “may” curtail a through-hike for me.
Madison and I (separately, for the most part) have spent days and nights camping, hiking, playing, and fishing on and around “The Trail” over the years. We can see the Appalachian Trail from our family's property near Damascus, Virginia.
The AT is in our blood. The ‘Coming Soon” blog post when I began this site was not about sailing. It was about my family hiking the Appalachian Trail.
If you read that post, you’ll understand why my dad (my niece’s grandpa) always talked about a NOBO through-hike. He ran dozens of marathons worldwide, including all of the World Majors. Just before he passed away unexpectedly in 2012, he was talking about hiking to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the world. (I’ve forgotten the mountain's name, but if you said it, I’d remember it!)
That family spirit is a big factor in why a through-hike of the AT is on both my niece's and my bucket lists. She’ll surely check it off of hers this year, and I’ll have a good long shakedown if I don’t complete the whole thing this year.
On a somewhat different topic… over the past few months, I’ve been working and playing around with AI machines creating avatars, art, documents, and NFTs.
This morning, while having coffee and catching up with my YouTube subscriptions. I started with The Modern Investor, my daily cryptocurrency news vlog then checked to see if Sam Holmes sailed anywhere interesting. I ended my morning wake-up by watching @MyLifeOutdoor’s excellent YouTube video, where he asked Chat GPT to tell him what he needed for backpacking and then gathered all of the recommended gear and set off for a night in the woods.
The hiking video was so interesting that I fired up the same AI machine and tried to figure out what it knew about the Appalachian Trail.
Here is a transcript of that chat:
SailorBill: What is the best date to start through-hiking the Appalachian Trail northbound in 2023?
ChatGPT: The best time to start a northbound through-hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT) is typically
in late March to early April, as this allows you to arrive at the northern terminus in Maine before the summer crowds and before the black fly season. Starting any earlier may result in icy and snowy trail conditions, while starting later may result in hot and buggy weather in the mid-Atlantic and New England. It is important to note that trail conditions and weather can vary greatly from year to year, and it is always advisable to be prepared for all types of weather and to adjust your itinerary as necessary.
SailorBill: What will the low temperatures be for 30 days starting in mid-March from Springer Mountain?
ChatGPT: I'm sorry, I cannot provide specific low temperature forecasts for a specific location for a specific 30-day period, as weather conditions are subject to change and can vary greatly from year to year. It's important to check for current weather forecasts closer to your start date and to be prepared for a range of temperatures and weather conditions. When hiking the Appalachian Trail, it's always a good idea to bring warm, waterproof gear and to be prepared for changing weather conditions, even in the spring.
SailorBill: How many hikers will be through-hiking starting in mid-March?
ChatGPT: It's difficult to predict the exact number of through-hikers starting on the Appalachian Trail in mid-March as it can vary greatly from year to year and is dependent on many factors such as weather conditions, trail conditions, personal schedules, and more. However, it is common for the number of through-hikers starting on the AT to increase as the weather warms up and more hikers begin their journeys in late March and April.
It's important to keep in mind that the number of hikers on the trail can have an impact on the trail and its surrounding areas, as well as on the experiences of individual hikers. It's important to be respectful of the trail, the environment, and other hikers, and to practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize the impact of increased traffic.
SailorBill: When should I expect rattlesnakes to be active near the trail?
ChatGPT: Rattlesnakes are generally most active during the warmer months of the year, typically from late spring through early fall. On the Appalachian Trail, this would be from approximately May to October. However, it is important to note that the exact timing and activity level of rattlesnakes can vary based on many factors, including location, elevation, weather conditions, and more.
While encounters with rattlesnakes are relatively rare on the AT, it is still a good idea to be aware of their presence and to take necessary precautions, such as staying on the trail, being cautious when reaching into crevices or under rocks, and wearing sturdy hiking boots. If you do encounter a rattlesnake, it is important to give it plenty of space and to avoid agitating it.
SailorBill: Did the length of the trail change this year?
ChatGPT: I'm sorry, as I was last trained on data until 2021, I cannot confirm if the length of the Appalachian Trail (AT) has changed in the current year as I don't have updated information. However, it's important to note that the AT is maintained by volunteer organizations and changes, such as reroutes or trail relocations, can occur from time to time. Before starting a through-hike of the AT, it's always a good idea to check for any updates or changes to the trail and to be familiar with the latest trail conditions and information.
SailorBill: What are the best apps to get information about hiking the trail instead of paper maps?
ChatGPT: There are several popular apps that provide information and navigation tools for hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), including:
Guthook Guides: This app provides detailed trail information, including elevation profiles, campsite and water sources, and points of interest along the AT.
Atlas Guides: This app provides up-to-date trail information, including mile markers, campsites, water sources, and trailhead information, and also allows you to download maps for offline use.
Halfmile's AT App: This app provides detailed information about the AT, including elevation profiles, trail descriptions, and GPS data, and also allows you to download maps for offline use.
Gaia GPS: This app provides comprehensive mapping and GPS tracking capabilities, and includes topographic maps and satellite imagery for the AT and surrounding areas.
It is important to note that cell coverage on the AT can be limited, and relying solely on an app for navigation and information is not recommended. Carrying a paper map and a physical guidebook, as well as a backup battery for your device, is always a good idea when hiking the AT.
SailorBill: What should I take with me for a NOBO through-hike?
ChatGPT: A northbound (NOBO) through-hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT) requires a significant amount of planning and preparation, and the specific gear and supplies you take will depend on your personal preferences, your itinerary, and the weather conditions you are likely to encounter. Some items that are commonly recommended for a NOBO through-hike of the AT include:
Shelter: A tent, tarp, or bivy sack for camping overnight, along with a sleeping bag and sleeping pad.
Backpack: A sturdy, comfortable backpack to carry all of your gear and supplies.
Clothing: Layers of clothing, including a waterproof and breathable rain jacket, warm insulation, and quick-drying synthetic or wool clothing, as well as sun protection and insect protection.
Footwear: Durable, supportive hiking boots or shoes, along with extra socks, insoles, and a blister kit.
Food and Water: A water filter or purification system, a hydration system or water bottles, a stove and fuel for cooking, and a variety of non-perishable food items.
Navigation: A paper map and guidebook, as well as a compass or GPS device, to help you stay on the trail and find your way.
First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit with items such as blister dressings, pain relievers, and personal medications.
Headlamp or flashlight: For hiking in the early morning or late evening, as well as for navigating in your tent or shelter.
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and that you may need to adjust your gear and supplies based on your personal needs, the weather conditions, and other factors. Before starting your through-hike, it is a good idea to research gear recommendations and to talk to other experienced hikers to get their advice and recommendations.
SailorBill: Can you suggest specific products for me to buy from your list?
ChatGPT: Sure, here are some specific product suggestions based on the items on the list:
Shelter: The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent is a lightweight and spacious option.
Backpack: The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is a popular and highly rated backpack for long-distance hiking.
Clothing: For rain protection, the Marmot PreCip Jacket is a reliable option, and for insulation, the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket is a popular choice. For quick-drying synthetic or wool clothing, brands like Columbia, REI, and Icebreaker offer a range of options.
Footwear: The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX Hiking Boots are a popular and well-reviewed option for hiking boots.
Food and Water: The MSR Guardian Purifier is a high-quality water filter, and the Jetboil MiniMo Stove is a compact and efficient stove for cooking. For food, consider energy bars, dried fruits, nuts, and dehydrated meals, depending on your preferences.
Navigation: The DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer is a comprehensive paper map and guidebook, and the Garmin eTrex 30x GPS is a highly rated GPS device.
First Aid Kit: The Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight and Watertight .7 First Aid Kit is a comprehensive and lightweight option.
Headlamp or flashlight: The Black Diamond Spot Headlamp is a popular and reliable headlamp for hiking.
Please keep in mind that these are just suggestions, and the specific products that will work best for you may depend on your individual needs and preferences. I recommend reading reviews and doing additional research to determine the best products for you.
SailorBill: Thank you.
ChatGPT: You're welcome! Good luck with your through-hike and happy trails! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
What do you think? What would you ask a machine that uses artificial intelligence to give you answers? Please reply with your questions below; at some point down the trail, I’ll make a new post with your answers!
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