From Georgia to Maine: Five Months with Six Kids on the AT

When I tell people I am hiking the AT this year, some people are interested in finding out more about the hike, while others think it’s a little crazy. When I tell them that I am hiking it with my six kids, nearly everyone thinks I am off my rocker. Totally bonkers, completely nutso. They cannot fathom walking that far with that many kids, and to be honest with you, sometimes I can’t either. But here I am planning meals, surveying trail towns, and gathering gear for what I hope is an adventure of a lifetime.

For my first post as a Trek blogger, I wanted to do an FAQ to explain why I am hiking with my kids, what benefits I foresee, and what hurdles I expect. If there are any questions you want answered, leave them in the comments and I will follow up in another post.

We Are Family

Many people wonder why I am bringing a gaggle of kids and not hiking the AT alone. The best answer is inspired by Sister Sledge—“We are family; I got all my children with me; We are family; Get up everybody and hike!”  My kids are I do a lot of hiking together, and it’s become a shared experience. We have so many good memories and funny stories to tell. The AT is just another chapter in that book. Yes, I could do it alone, but it would be so much more meaningful if all my kids were all there for the experience. By the way, my kids range in age from 8 to 18, so all of them are good ages for long-distance hiking.

What About Your Husband?

He’s not a hiker so he won’t be on the trail with us. If all goes as planned, he will follow us in a camper from Virginia to Maine, providing trailhead support. The best part is I won’t have to shuttle six kids from the trailhead to town.

Why the AT? Isn’t a Weeklong Trip Enough?

We’ve done day hikes and overnights, but it would be fun to do something more. When we’ve hiked sections of the AT in Maine, we’ve talked about not stopping at the end of the day and continuing on to Georgia. Now we finally get the chance to try.

What’s the Hardest Part of Planning?

I’m not much of a planner and prefer just to wing it, but I can’t do it this time. It can be a bit overwhelming when I think about all the food we will need. I just can’t wrap my head around it. How many Snickers will we need for a week? I am trying to break the planning up into smaller, more manageable tasks, but it’s challenging. There are wedding planners. Does anyone want to be my thru-hike planner?

What Are You Most Concerned About?

I can deal with bad moods and bad weather, but injuries could stop us in our tracks. I am hoping that we can keep blisters, chafing, and sprained ankles to a minimum. I’m also a little leery of getting separated on the trail.  We all hike at different paces and I don’t want to get too far apart. If we do spread out too much, we may end up with some people waiting at the trailhead for the group to arrive and others hanging out the shelter wondering where everyone went.

What Do You Look Forward to the Most?

I look forward to not hiking on a strict timetable. I can’t wait to linger at beautiful views, meet lots of new people, and spend the evening together as a family when we break for the day. A fellow hiker family also will be joining us for the first 350 miles and that has the kids (and me) over-the-moon excited. The camaraderie and support during those few months will get us started on a positive note. P.S. I am secretly hoping this family won’t stop in North Carolina and will continue with us most of the way to Maine.

What Are You Dreading?

The rain. We’ve hiked in the cold, in the snow, and in the wind, but we haven’t done a lot in the rain. But as they say—No rain, no pain, no Maine.

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Comments 16

  • Russ : Jan 18th

    Kelly ought to get a medal. Managing 6 kids at home had got to be a chore. Planning and executing an AT expedition; bravery, determination and lots of heart. Husband running support, yes, always and forever a family memory

    Reply
  • Bruce Hall : Jan 18th

    It sounds like you are really on top of this with a family that is prepared, both physically and emotionally to do this.
    About hiking at different paces. May I suggest – Impress upon the faster one(s) that is is absolutely critical to wait at trail junctions. Even if they are positive they know which trail to take, WAIT. Someone else could get it wrong and that could be a disaster.
    Leukotape for blisters. Apply as soon as a hot spot becomes noticeable.
    No matter how this goes – It will be an experience that each kid will talk about for the rest of their life. We took our early teens (only 2) on a 5-day backpack across the Presidentials (WMNP) in New Hampshire. 20 years later they still hike, camp and love the outdoors.

    Reply
    • Kelly Hodgkins : Jan 27th

      Great advice! We hike in the Presidentials in NH and the Mahoosucs of Maine. We know the presi ridgeline very well.

      Reply
  • Julia : Jan 18th

    Oh I’ll be following and cheering you on for sure! I DO second what Bruce said. The AT is well marked and most everyone is great. Most. This will such a great memory for them as well as the rest of your family. Your husband will prove valuable!!
    HoneyBadger 2018and2021

    Reply
    • Kelly Hodgkins : Jan 27th

      My husband will be very valuable! I am not sure how I could shuttle all 7 of us to and from town. Not just the logistics, but also the cost if we had to pay for a shuttle. I can’t imagine too many drivers can pick up seven hitchhikers at once!

      Reply
  • Pete Buak : Jan 19th

    I hiked parts of the trail with the Garland family in 2004. Kids were 13, 11 and 9 are the start. The kids were allowed to hike out of sight of the parents. They had a firm rule – no one goes through a trail intersection nor cross a road until the family was all together. This was taken seriously by the kids.

    Reply
  • Theresa Sitko : Jan 20th

    I came from a family of 6 kiddos.You develop a special bond amongst each other. This trip will be great . So exciting. We hiked with our 2 kids now we go with our grandkids. Hoping to do a 2025 thru-hike with my Grandson and Cousin. I will be following.

    Reply
    • Kelly Hodgkins : Jan 27th

      They do have a close bond … I have four girls who are best friends. My two youngest boys also are best buddies.That’s one of the incentives to do this hike. They are getting older fast and I want them to have this shared experience before they head off to college. I’ve wanted to hike the AT since I was in my 20s. I had planned to do it alone, but I think it will be so meaningful to do it as a family. So many good memories we will create. 🙂

      Reply
  • Krys C. : Jan 24th

    Rock on! As a mom and a Wilderness Search and Rescue Canine handler, I second the advice about waiting for the group at decision points (trail intersections, crossroads, etc). A lot of the hikers we look for get separated or left behind at these points or along the trail. I also vote for having a map (paper, cause electronics will puke out on you at the worst times), a compass and being proficient in both. I hike with my oldest (who is almost ten) and although it’s slower, I try to get her to notice where she is (look behind and around as well as in front) and to have a simple plan on what to do if one of us gets hurt (where to go, etc). With your range in ages, it seems like you’ve got come competent older, experienced kids with you— fantastic! Major good wishes and happy vibes for you all—can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    Reply
    • Kelly Hodgkins : Jan 27th

      We have worked on many of those skills, including looking at your surroundings both in front and behind. I taught a wilderness survival class, and I made my kids take it. I also learned to wear visible and unique clothing. My daughter got separated from us on one hike and everyone we passed remembered her because of her unique shirt. And I do have some older teens who can help a lot with sharing the burden of carrying gear and helping with the younger ones. It will be an adventure for sure!

      Reply
  • mindi bennett : Jan 24th

    Kelly! I was so excited to see this post! My family and I are also hiking the AT this year (our kids are 17, 15, 13, and 10). We are going SOBO starting June 19th. Can’t wait to cross paths with your family!! We hiked the PCT together last year and have learned a lot (especially about all the kids wanting to hike different paces!). I’m excited to follow along with your posts :). Are you using social media at all?
    -mindi

    Reply
    • Kim Greene : Jan 25th

      Mindi my youngest, a 6 year old is on a mission to hike the PCT, but my 8 year old doesn’t seem so interested… I’m more worried about food. Can I carry enough for them to not be hungry as they are smaller and I don’t want to overload them? Any help or thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Also I may figure it out myself as we will be doing some shorter trips this year. Thanks for any advice! Happy hiking.

      Reply
      • Mindi Bennett : Jan 30th

        Hi Kim! So cool to hear that your 6 year old wants to hike the PCT! My (at the time) 14 year old was convinced that she didn’t want to do it, but after a few days she was the one having the most fun :). Food and weight is tricky for sure. It does take a lot of experimenting. We ending up having everyone carry their own breakfast bar (1st, 2nd, and a snack) each morning to eat when ever they needed. This was particularly important for the 9 year old, she needed to feel in control of at least when she was eating and how much. It was something we had to learn on the trail and adjust our meals accordingly. It sounds scary while you are planning it, but it all fell into place.

        Reply
    • Kelly Hodgkins : Jan 27th

      Awesome! We hope to hike part of the PCT in the next few years. My daughter wants to hike in the desert, and I want to do the Sierra Nevadas. We’ve learned the hard way about kids walking at different paces. We’ve had scary moments when we thought they were lost and times when they were freezing at the top, waiting for us in the slower group to arrive. I’ve gotten smarter about meeting up, but the AT will be all new to us. I am glad there are other families out there hiking that I can learn from! I hope what we learn can help others, too.

      Reply
  • Kim Greene : Jan 25th

    Kelly you’re awesome! I have only two younger boys to try these treks with and am also worried about the food portion. Have a great time!

    Reply
  • Erina : Jan 28th

    It will change you in ways you can’t prepare for. Ways you can’t undo. I through hiked the Heysen Trail in Australia in 2015 with my 3 kids (aged 9, 10 and 12 at the time). It took us 10 weeks to hike it. It’s 1200km (745 miles). The trail we hiked was incredibly remote for most of the way and so our food and water had to be carefully planned. My advice regarding food prep is to count calories and make sure everyone gets enough. My kids ate a minimum of 2100 calories a day and still lost weight. You can see our journey on Facebook @5ordinarypeople. Go you! Do it because you can. 😊

    Reply

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