On September 11th, 2017, I climbed to the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine and fulfilled my lifelong dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. During my six-month, 2,189-mile journey, there wasn’t a single step in which I wasn’t keenly aware that there were thousands of people working behind the scenes to make my hike possible. I would like to now publicly thank these people for their support in making my thru-hike dream come true.
Of course, I could not have done this without the loving support of my wife, Kate, because she gave me permission to go. She also worked tirelessly in the background supplementing and mailing my resupply packages while providing me with moral support. She was able to do this while singlehandedly running our business and home because she is Wonder Woman. I cannot thank her enough.
My mom was thoroughly convinced that my Appalachian Trail journey would tragically end when I was eaten by a bear or bitten by a rattlesnake, so she prayed daily for those things not to occur. Because of her prayers, I became one of the first thru-hikers in history not to see a wild bear or rattlesnake during a thru-hike. Thank you, Mom, for taking good care of me.
For those of you that followed along with my journey by reading my daily entries while I was on the trail, you and I have my daughter, Caroline, to thank for that. Whenever I had sufficient cell phone service, she and I were in contact regarding content, edits, and photo uploads. She spent countless hours proof-reading, formatting, and publishing blog entries and I am in her debt.
Finally, I want to thank the rest of my family for following along with my adventure. My children, aunt, cousins, and sisters were all reading along and it meant a lot to me that they were taking an interest in my hike. I knew that they would be there for me at any time if I needed them.
Friends & Followers
I initially decided to keep a daily journal of my thru-hike for two reasons. First, I wanted to keep my friends and family informed of my whereabouts, but that fell by the wayside as I fell further and further behind in my journals. I also intended the journal to be a “trap” that would keep me from quitting because I would be embarrassed in front of anyone who might be reading along. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect so many people to be interested in reading about my adventures. From a third-grade class in Montana to complete strangers from foreign lands, my website averaged over one-hundred clicks per day during my hike and over five-hundred clicks on several days.
While it was gratifying to know so many people were reading about my hike, it was even more gratifying to have readers leave comments. I would like to especially single out and thank Larry, Karen, James, and Sonny who were my top commenters. On many occasions, I would be struggling to make it another mile when I would get a comment notice on my phone and, invariably, your comments would inspire me to continue for a while longer.
I also want to thank the many friends that I made along the way. Sharing the A.T. experience with other hikers is what makes the adventure so special. The hike would not have been the same without my interactions with Boo Boo, Rockhopper, Mandrake, Bee, Captain, Grey Wolf, Scar, Batman, BR, O2, Big John, Rabbit, Maple, Groceries, Blaze, Naps, Fake News, Princess, Bear Belle, and numerous others. Thank you for not only motivating me to keep moving and continue hiking, but for providing so many great memories after the hike.
Trail magic is defined as an unexpected act of kindness or gift bestowed on hikers by an individual (trail angel) without the expectation of receiving anything in return. I was completely unprepared for the level of kindness that was bestowed on me throughout my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, from hot chocolate in Georgia through fresh water in New York to a cooked-to-order omelet in Maine. Trail angels offered me food, help, rides, and supplies dozens of times throughout my trip and their level of generosity was just amazing.
In addition to total strangers, some friends and family became trail angels as well. My daughter Rachel was the first to visit me on the trail and we had a wonderful visit in Franklin, NC. Both of my sisters caught up with me on separate occasions during my hike and provided me with much-appreciated food, showers, and a room in which to sleep. It was wonderful to see them both and enjoy some sightseeing time away from the trail. It was also good to catch up with my cousin David who met me in Pearisburg, VA. Thank you for the dinner! Additionally, a 2016 thru-hiker who I had been corresponding with prior to the hike caught up with me in Hanover, NH. Travis “BevoHi” and his boss Steve treated me to a town dinner, a pizza on the trail, and a night in a hotel room over the course of a couple of days and I had the pleasure to get to meet them both in person.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, I would also like to include many of the hostel owners in this group. The folks that provide services to hikers along to trail are doing so to make a living but, for the most part, the support that they provide goes far beyond any remuneration that they may get in return. With a few exceptions, these folks love the A.T. and the hiker community (many are former thru-hikers) and are not doing this to get rich. Woods Hole, Greasy Creek Friendly, Opens Arms, and Lakeshore House are but a few of the places where I met owners whose kindness and enthusiasm went way beyond the call of duty and meeting them greatly enriched my A.T. experience.
The Appalachian Trail didn’t magically appear one day for my amusement. The trail exists because of the vision of Benton MacKaye and the drive of Myron H Avery which combined to make the Appalachian Trail a 2,000-mile long contiguous footpath in 1937. The trail survives, however, because of the efforts of 31 Trail Maintaining Clubs, coordinated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, staffed by over 6,000 volunteers who contribute over 250,000 hours annually, working to keep the trail safe and clear. I had the fortunate opportunity to meet some of these folks along the way, and their love of the A.T. and their dedication to maintaining the trail is awe inspiring.
I know that this list will be incomplete and that I will inevitably and inadvertently fail to recognize someone or some group that made it possible for me to complete my thru-hike. To each and every person who played a role in allowing me to achieve my lifelong dream, I want to give you my sincere and heartfelt thanks. I could not have completed the journey without you.