April 2-October 2, 2016
At the end of my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike in 2016, I wrote, “The depth, impact, fun and experience of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (AT) is immense during one’s hike; but then again, it is your life everyday when you are thru-hiking.”
The pride, the emotions and the value of climbing mountains, living outside, living simply and among so many wonderful hikers seems to grow in pride, fondness and connection more each day after summiting Katahdin. I summited Mount Katahdin (the trail’s northern terminus) six months to the day of the beginning of my 2,189.1 mile thru-hike.
Hiking the AT has been one of the great experiences of my life because of the miles walked, the incredible people and friends I met along and on the trail, half a year living among the woods and the changes I have experienced. If you have spent time thru-hiking or even section hiking the AT this is obvious. It is a unique and wonderful world and an incredible trail that is maintained almost entirely by volunteers. It is a great American treasure to be seen on foot.
The kindness, adventure and heart among fellow hikers and the towns and trail angels that support hikers is immense, unending and unmatched. There is time to greet everyone with a smile, a quietness to forget and leave stress for another time and a chance to get to know yourself as the person you are and want to be.
I have found the surest and purest things in life are time in nature, companionship with kind people and taking and using only what you need, rather than all that we want.
Life is short and the trail is truly a place to live as your best self and to grow. It was a long and wonderful journey and I will always remember the hikers and trail angels that made my thru-hike so special. I will also always be grateful for the encouragement and support of family, friends, colleagues and strangers that encouraged me…And here’s to the next hike!”
Why I thru-hiked: I was introduced to the Appalachian Trail over a decade ago as a college student at Virginia Tech where the trail passes through. After working in environmental conservation for the last eight years, I decided it was time to chase my big dream to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. My journey along this natural scenic trail from Georgia to Maine beginning on April 2, 2016 and ended on Mt. Katahdin on October 2, 2016.
The AT was the idea of conservationist, planner and forester Benton McKaye. He was an advocate of balancing human needs and those of nature. McKaye is best known as the visionary for the AT, an idea he presented in his 1921 article titled An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.
McKaye envisioned the AT as a trail to cross the Appalachian Mountain ridge across the East Coast for two purposes: 1) recreation and 2) conservation. Building the trail took 15 years and thousands of volunteers. Thank you Mr. McKaye!
The trail is hiked year round in a variety of ways, as day hikes, section hikes (portions or sections of the trail) and thru-hikes (all 2,190 miles). Earl Shaffer became the first thru-hiker to complete the trail in 1948.
The trail is maintained and cared for by dedicated outdoor, environmental and hiking clubs around the country.
Some quick facts & stats about the AT.:
Total Length of the A.T. (in 2016): 2,189.1 MILES
Number of States the A.T. Crosses: 14 STATES
Approximate Gain/Loss in Elevation: 464,500 Feet
Approximate Number of Visitors Per Year: 3 MILLION
Average time to complete a thru-hike: 4-6 months
These resources are helpful for readers, day hikers, section hikers and thru-hikers.