That Bearded Hiker Meets the Appalachian Trail

Yep, that’s right. We are leaving our jobs to hike the Appalachian Trail. What? Yeah, we are crazy. Where do we go to the bathroom? Same place as the bears.

The Great Smoky Mountains.

“A man in love is not complete until he is married. Then he is finished.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor

So, my wife (Kaci) and I are out to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2020. But, how did this happen? Several years ago Kaci and I were looking for different outdoor activities to do as a couple. We had run some 5ks and a few half-marathons, but the truth is that I despise running. So, during one of my many rants about how running sucked, Kaci mentioned that we could start hiking. She read about a lodge (LeConte Lodge) near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Gatlinburg is eight hours from our home near Jackson, Mississippi. “We could day-hike up to Mount LeConte, stay the night in a cabin and then hike back down the next day,” she said.

Hooked on Hiking

Now, being from Mississippi, hunting, fishing, and being in the outdoors is very common for most people, but hiking is not. Walk in the woods, you may get shot. At least that is what my grandfather told me when I disappeared into the woods to smoke cigarettes as a teenager. The words stuck with me but luckily the smoking didn’t. And that was the first idea that came to my mind. We might get shot. Looking back, I was so wrong.  When I said, “We might get shot,”  she hit me with the look that all husbands know. Ultimately, Kaci knew that this was something that we would enjoy so she persisted. I agreed to hike and I did not get shot. I did get hooked on hiking.

Leconte Lodge.

Meeting the Appalachian Trail

My first experience on the AT came on the day after we stayed at LeConte Lodge. But Kaci had started to pound information into my head about the Smokies (Great Smoky Mountains) weeks before. Like a good husband, I acted interested. Kaci mentioned a trail that piqued my interest, though. We would cross it on our descent down the mountain. “It’s the Appalachian Trail,” she said. She said that the AT stretches from Maine to Georgia and people walk the entire thing. People hike the trail in sections or continuously. I remember thinking and saying that, if we could hike it, I want to hike it all the way through.

“We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still.” -Carl Sagan

Humans Are Born to Walk

So we hiked up Mount LeConte via the Trillium Gap Trail, stayed the night at LeConte Lodge and hiked down the Boulevard Trail on the other side of the mountain the next morning. The day before the hike up we planted a car in Newfound Gap parking lot. We did this so we could drive back to our hotel. As we came down LeConte we reached the fork where the Boulevard Trail meets the AT. Here we decided we would turn north and walk to Ice Water Spring Shelter and check it out. We could at least say that we did a few miles on the AT and had lunch at a shelter. With these first steps on the AT I knew I wanted to attempt a thru-hike. I realized, like all humans, I had been born to walk and the Appalachian Trail can be my pilgrimage.

Could We Actually Thru-Hike the AT?

After our first trip to Mount LeConte, we came back talking about what our next adventure would be. Kaci brought up the possibility of us doing a section hike of the AT.  “Do you think we could ever be in a position to attempt a thru-hike instead of section hiking the AT?” I asked. To preface Kaci’s answer, let me say this. Kaci has a financial mind and is, in my opinion, a type A personality. Anyone who knows someone like this knows that they are usually very methodical in their approach to anything. I am the opposite. My approach to most things is usually not near as organized. Kaci would probably say I approach things before thinking all the angles through. In short, though, her answer was yes, we can thru-hike the AT.

Beginning a New Adventure

Ultimately I knew how Kaci would tackle my question. Kaci would create a budget (she is the Picasso of budgeting). In reality, the budget would let us know if a thru-hike was possible or just a dream. Some weeks later Kaci told me that she ran some numbers on us attempting a thru-hike and it looked like with enough preparation and planning we could do this. Now, sometime later we started thinking about which way would we hike; NOBO, SOBO, or flip-flop. So, my career is the biggest influence on our choice. Being a teacher, a summer start is the best time to begin this new adventure because the school year ends in late May. After school ends, we could head to Maine and walk south, back home.

Rock formation in the Smokies.

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Comments 2

  • Turtle : Oct 17th

    My husband and I are NOBO in 2020 see you in the middle somewhere!

    • Kristopher McDill : Oct 17th

      Looking forward to it!!!


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