The Appalachian Trail is a long and winding road.
For those of you who don’t know what the Appalachian Trail is, allow me to give you a quick background.
The trail — officially known as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail — is a marked hiking trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. The starting and ending points depend on where you start (northbound or southbound), but the points are Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The trail is about 2,180 miles long (give or take a few with any trail changes) and it covers 14 states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine).
According to Wikipedia, the trail is maintained by some 30 trail clubs and other partnerships. It’s managed by the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a non-profit organization.
Much of the trail is through the great wilderness of the East Coast, going up and over mountains and through amazing scenery. The trail also goes through towns, follows a few roads and crosses a few rivers.
Though it’s likely the most famous of the long-distance hiking trails in the United States, it is also part of the “Triple Crown” with the Pacific Crest Trail (West Coast) and the Continental Divide Trail (goes from Mexico to Canada through more Midwestern-area states).
Thru-hiking, to many, is a lifestyle. It’s not easy, either. Don’t think of thru-hiking as a walk in the woods. It’s much more than that. Not everyone can hike 2,180 miles. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates that just 1 in every 4 who attempt the AT thru-hike will complete it.
It takes a lot of planning, endurance, patience and time to tackle one of these trails. Someone hiking the AT could take upward of six months to do it.
The speed record for the AT, which was set this year by Jennifer Pharr Davis (trail name: Odyssa) is 46 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes. She beat the previous record of 47 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes, which was set by Andrew Thompson in 2005.
Now, take into account, too, that Pharr Davis was doing a lot of power days in excess of 30, 40 and 50 miles per day. One day, she did 60 miles.
But for us mere mortals, those types of days aren’t the easiest things to accomplish. No, the reality is that many people start out doing 10-mile days (or about) and work their way up. 20-mile days are good, strong days.
The journey is what it’s about to many.
So, in this series, I am going to bring you the tales of four people. Three who have completed the trail and one who had to pull off from the trail.
Each story is different.
Take Bill Walker, a nearly seven-foot tall hiker who has completed the AT, the PCT and the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He’s gone from the crazy world of Wall Street to realizing what life is about and hiking is a major part of it for him.
Take Emily Harper, a 19-year-old from Lancaster, Pa., who hiked the trail solo this past summer. Think of being a young female, alone, on a trail like this. It’s a different perspective to see if from those eyes.
Then there’s Chris Nadeau, who hiked 815 miles of the trail before deciding he had to attend to things going on in his personal life. It’s a different view of the trail from someone who still has plans to thru-hike the AT, but for now is among the 75 percent who start the trail and don’t finish.
You’ll also meet Tyler Bedick, a chemist from Morgantown, WV, who completed the trail this year in 139 days.
Each of these people has a story with their hiking. From personal sacrifice to the difficulties and triumphs on the trail.
Their story will be told as part of this series.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll bring you these stories to the best of my ability. The dates below show the dates each will run.
I hope you enjoy the series and it’s my hope that this won’t be my last in-depth series of stories or journalistic-style posts (I have others in the works).
Enjoy and I welcome any feedback!
The schedule of the series is as follows (links will be provided for the days that have already passed):
- October 16: Win an autographed copy of Bill Walker’s book about his Appalachian Trail hike
- Today: Preview
- October 19: Emily Harper
- October 21: Chris Nadeau
- October 24: Tyler Bedick
- October 26: Bill Walker
- October 28: Wrap and contest winner announced
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook by clicking the button on the right side of the page!