Compared to the CDT the Trail is easy.However Compared to hiking in the Ozarks the AT is difficult. It is not technically challenging except for the rock scramble through Mahoosuc Notch even that one isn't that bad. Some sections like the Mahoosuc Range in ME is quite rugged while the Shenandoah National Park section in VA is relatively flat wityh lots of long ridgelines. The AT never gets easier but never easy. Don't worry about being lonely out there. You'll met lots of wonderful folks out there.Like I said we're a family everyone watches out for each other. The Challenge of hiking the AT is only 10 % physical and 90 % mental. All the distarations and bullsh*t of society is stripped away and you many times left alone with you thoughts. Eventually you come face to face with who and what you truly are. Some folks can't handle this and end up going home. Those that stick it out end up being changed for life. Before the Trail I was an unhappy, bitter, insecure person that hated life.All of those negative things slowly melted away and I became happy,confident and contented with life. All the hikers I've met experienced a positive change in their lives. check out www.whiteblaze.net Some the folks on there are close firends of mine from years back. You can purchase maps from the Appalachian Trail Conference or ask around on www.whiteblaze.net if your looking for free maps.i'd send you mine but they are really out of date. Comne to think of it I think my brother has them. You really don't need maps for most of the Trail but you will need a guidebook and Data Book which you can purchase from the ATC. for great deals on gear wwww.campmor.com also check out www.trailjournals.com Backpacker magizine can be handy but I usually only get the annual gear review issue. The ALDHA (Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association) will hold The Gathering at Concord College in WVA in Oct. They have workshops an clinics on hiking plus you'll met many highly experienced hikers that can give you tons of advice. Feel free to pm me if you'd like to know more. Happy Hikin' BooBoo Georgia to Maine 1998 (Hence my screename) October 13, 1998 Yours truly at The Baxter Peak of Katahdin. Northern Terminus of The Appalachian Trail.