Most people are skeptical when I tell them I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in five hours and fifty-five minutes.
“Yeah right,” they say, as they roll their eyes. “Isn’t the trail, like, 2,200 miles?”
It’s 2,180 miles, to be exact, and it was a beautiful experience. Every grueling step of it.
When the doubters ask me what I ate on the trip, I tell them, “Beer and complimentary peanuts.” When they ask how fast I went, I tell them, “About 500 miles per hour.” When they ask how the terrain was, I say, “A steep climb coming out of Maine, but quite level the rest of the way.” When they ask how much I packed, I tell them, “Just a carry-on.” Believe me, the main reason people quit the trail is because they pack too much stuff.
“You flew over the trail, you idiot!” they say. “You didn’t walk anything!”
I beg to differ. The motto of thru-hikers is to “hike your own hike.” So, that’s what I did. I hiked my own hike—in under 6 hours. Haters hate because they’re jealous and upset that they didn’t think of it first. Besides, the best way to experience the beauty and the grandeur of the trail is by going over it, not through it. Going through it would be hard.
Think about it: My way, you get all the sense of accomplishment without the sweat and Lyme disease. The only losers in my scenario are the deer ticks.
The worst part of doing a thru hike this way? Those annoying TSA agents and the lack of clarity regarding whether I needed to take off my hiking boots and remove my laptop from its case. One TSA guy told me no, another guy told me yes. All we thru-hikers seek when beginning an adventure of this magnitude is a little bit of consistency.
“How can you experience in six hours what it takes people six months to accomplish?” people ask.
Easy. You just cram it in.
Trail Names: Thru-hikers are given trail names while they are out on their hikes. Many of you assume that I hiked my hike with such efficiency that there simply wasn’t enough time for me to be given a trail name. As usual, you would be wrong.
The rule of trail names is that the name must be given to you by someone else and the name should reflect your personality. It’s considered bad form to assign yourself a trail name. So, my fellow thru-hiker, the gentleman in the middle seat (Seat B) of our row on the plane, gave me a name. He called me Economy, and the name totally made sense because there was no way I was going to thru-hike this adventure from First Class! It was imperative that I “rough it” in coach. I’m all about the adventure of the thing. No creature comforts!
In return for his creativity and depth in naming me, I returned the favor by calling him Water Landing. He had an unsubstantiated fear of crashing into the ocean, even though we were only over water for about five minutes.
Had I gone rogue and named myself, the name would’ve been far manlier. Bone Crusher, probably. I’m a penny-pincher though, so Economy works.
Trail Magic: Trail magic is the phenomenon that occurs when you find yourself at a low point out on the trail and something happens to reinvigorate you. It could be as small as finding a cooler full of cold sodas after a hot day on the trail, or as big as a free ride into town for resupply.
Trail magic happened to me on my thru-hike. At my absolute hungriest, somewhere over Southern Pennsylvania, the flight attendant gave me a complimentary bag of mini pretzels, and winked at me. This bit of trail magic gave me the stamina to get through the rest of the hike. Also, my favorite episode of Everybody Loves Raymond came on right before the descent into Georgia, and it too was complimentary!
There is a lot of disagreement in thru-hiking circles about which is the more impressive feat: hiking northbound from Georgia or southbound from Maine. In my opinion, it’s more challenging, from a terrain perspective, to start in Maine. That’s what I did because I am quite manly—and because the conference I was attending was in Georgia.
Anyway, I’m planning another thru-hike, northbound this time, when the conference concludes in a couple of days. The idea of two thru-hikes in less than a week is appealing. Pretty sure it will be some kind of speed record too.