I started the trail on June 16 on Mount Katahdin in Maine with Lucas Zeller '17 and Brian Beaty '17.
When I first started the trail, I saw it as a physical challenge, but it didn't take long for me to realize that the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is actually a test of mental toughness.
Our first challenge was Katahdin, just before we started our 2,190-mile "thru-hike." (Thru-hiking is the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's term for completing Trail in one trip). We were met at the top with a hail storm and 60-mph winds. We stayed at the top just long enough to get a picture before scrambling down.
All three of us had been thinking about hiking the A.T. since before Amherst; we became friends freshman year and did outing club trips together. (One noteworthy trip was during our sophomore year when Brian and I went on Amherst's spring break trip to Zion National Park and backpacked for a week.) We started to make plans for the A.T. in the fall of our senior year.
After the first few weeks, my blisters had turned into calluses, the swelling in my knees had gone down, and my body was used to hiking long days. For the rest of the trail, the challenge became staying motivated, especially when every day is so similar. We would wake up every morning in our warm, dry tents, change into our cold, wet clothes, and hike 20+ miles over mountains. Some days we got views, but other days were just spent walking through a green tunnel of trees. We also had to learn to cope with feeling powerless to nature. Consecutive days of rain drenched all of our clothes and gear. Several weeks of drought caused streams, marked as reliable, to be parched dirt.
We got hit with a snowstorm the day after pouring rain in the Smoky Mountains, so when we woke up, all of our clothes were frozen solid. This was definitely the scariest day for us on the trail. We were 6,000 feet up on a windy ridge covered in snow with no dry clothes.
Of the 148 days, we probably took around 15 rest days where we didn't hike any miles. Hikers call these "zero days." We also took some "nearo days" (near zero days) when we had to hitchhike into town to resupply on food. We ate around 4,000 calories a day and still lost weight. On days when we hiked all day, we typically did 20-25 miles.
We are all so thankful to our friends, our family, and the tons of random strangers who helped us out along the way. We know we are lucky to have had this opportunity and to not have been stopped by something like a sprained ankle, tick bite, or sickness from infected water.
We finished on November 10, 148 days later, on Springer Mountain in Georgia.
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