I took a semester off from school at ASU in 2001 to afford time for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. After making plans thru the Fall of 2000, we spent our first night on the AT on February 17, 2001. My close friend Spencer (aka The Brain) and I (aka Pinky) had been talking about the idea for a few years and it was great to see things happen.
I had grown up hiking but had done only a limited amount of backpacking. However, I had very realistic expectations for the AT: it will kick your butt until you’re in shape, and then it’s only a mental challenge for perseverance from there on. It took about 4-5 weeks for us to get in shape, and then we were able to make consistent 20-30 mile days, depending on terrain.
Being familiar with the Southeast’s terrain, I actually enjoyed the terrain up North more (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) since it was a change of scenery. I am one of few people I’m aware of that loves to hike and backpack on rocky terrain, and there’s plenty in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maine.
We had a mild winter season to start so early in. There were days of hiking thru snow, which is in my opinion the most taxing type of hiking or backpacking possible. It rained a bit but never longer than we could handle. So, the weather was great in comparison to some of the stories I’ve heard about other years.
My girlfriend (now my wife) Edyth hiked a few sections with me which was great. I also made so many great connections with other thru hikers which was so fulfilling. The experience of the trail is not the hiking in my opinion; it is the community found in fellow hikers, it is the culture of hiking lifestyle, and it is the experience of being confident and comfortable living outside for months at a time.
I finished my hike on July 29, 2001. My family and Edyth came up to Maine to hike the final miles with me.
I have been among several other thru-hikers of the AT that have worked at Footsloggers since I joined the team in 1999. We enjoy working with those new to hiking, as well as those that are planning a long-distance backpacking adventure. What we do best is problem solve, and help folks to think through the most versatile possible assortment of gear for their purpose. Sometimes that means the lightest option on the market, and sometimes it means the most innovative.
It’s now been 10 years since my thru hike, and gear is drastically improved and innovated now from the options I had then. Be on the lookout for our “Appalachian Trail” assortment of gear coming to the website next week, which we feel is among the best options in their category for this type of adventure. We are happy to work with you if you’re ready to get more experience in the woods!