Quiet Man Hikes the AT: Who, What, Where, When

“Rays and beams of incredible dreams. And I am a quiet man.” Quiet Man – John Prine

Off-trail, people my age usually identify ourselves by what we do for a living. In a past life, I would always introduce myself by name, rank, and duty position title. Details like where you live, relationship status, family, education, or who you know might be added to the verbal resume. A conversation could ensue that draws upon shared experiences and acquaintances. Ultimately, little of it mattered because that level of detail about someone was forgotten quicker than their name. Life on-trail is significantly less complicated. On-trail people are less concerned with how you make money than they are with what gear you bought with that money and are now carrying on your back. Someone with whom you cross paths on-trail might glean from your pack if you are an ultralighter or a pack mule. They might guess your age, or at least your generation, from your weather-worn face. If you exchange words, it probably starts with sharing trail names and ends with what you each know about trail conditions, water sources, or rumored trail magic. Not much else matters in this first introduction on the trail.

Who is Quiet Man?

So, I am Quiet Man. Right now what I know about the trail comes from the few hundred miles I have section hiked over the past years, from trail guides like the AWOL guide and Farout, or from reading a few books and the journals of other hikers on The Trek. My trail name, “Quiet Man,” is the title of one of my favorite movies set in Ireland starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. It is a tradition for me to watch this movie every St. Patrick’s Day. My trail name also suggests what I envision for my hike; to seek a bit of solitude and get back to a simpler life, not unlike Sean Thornton, John Wayne’s character in the movie. However, I do not shy away from the social aspects of the trail. After all, meeting and interacting with other hikers is a tremendous part of the AT experience, but my hike is more of a quiet hike. From my weather-worn face, you will see that I am not a spring cub. At 63 years old, the amount of time I need to complete the AT’s 2000+ miles is a factor. Starting now and completing an AT section hike is certainly achievable. However, the journey will require strategic focus.

Section Hiking the AT

Of course, “what” and “where” may not need stating. I have pondered a thru hike. For now, I will simply say that my personal circumstances have steered me toward being a section hiker. This is my introduction as an AT section hiker. “When” is a bit more complicated. Unlike a thru hiker attempting to complete the AT in a single calendar year with a clear start date and typically a relatively continuous five to six month period, a section hiker’s timeline is more open ended and may take years or even decades to complete. I started this long journey on 5 August 2019 at Harper’s Ferry, WV. Since then, I have completed a bit over 200 miles of the AT, hopscotching between sections in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. I am mostly a traditionalist and generally hike NOBO, but will hike SOBO if the logistics of getting to the trail work better. The intended future end-point is Katahdin, but when that summit hike will occur is still anyone’s guess.

Shenandoah River, Harper’s Ferry, WV

Blogging a Section Hike

Sound advice for aspiring thru hikers from Zach Davis’ book, Appalachian Trials, is publicly sharing your goal to hike the AT with everyone and anyone who will listen. That is perhaps even more important to section hikers. Even section hikers daydream daily about their hike, but their hike is not always front and center in their daily lives. It is just as important, if not more important, for section hikers to establish clear goals and share those goals with their family, friends, and other well-wishers in order to maintain focus. Thru hikers frequently build strong relationships with other thru hikers and are motivated by an on-trail family. Section hikers are only on trail for short periods; so, it is very difficult to build a supportive trail family. Therefore, the point of this blog is to focus my section hiking strategy, up my yearly mileage, build an online trail family and share my vision to complete the entire Appalachian Trail.

Annapolis Rocks, MD


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Comments 2

  • Sridhar “Lucky Dog” Saraf : May 5th

    Rick, your intro article was fantastic! As a fellow section hiker, I resonated deeply with many points you made. I’m cheering for your upcoming hikes and eagerly anticipating your next articles.

    • Rick "Quiet Man" : May 6th

      Srid, thank you! I hope I will represent we section hikers well.


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