To The Treeline: The Crawford Family’s Documentary

If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, maybe you missed hearing about the Crawfords, the family of eight that successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2018. Or maybe you were just off hiking somewhere far-off and isolated and totally internet-and-other-human-less and just got back yesterday. Good for you. For that very specific subset of you, Ben and Kami Crawford set off from Springer Mountain on March 1 with their six children, Dove (16), Eden (15), Seven (13), Memory (11), Filia (7), and Rainier (2). They finished their thru-hike on Aug. 9, 161 days later, likely becoming the largest family to hike the Appalachian Trail (“likely” because it’s always hard to know for sure with these things. But very, very likely). They vlogged extensively as they hiked, allowing other thru-hikers (and armchair internet commentators) to follow along with interest. They recently came out with an hour-long documentary covering their entire thru-hike.

Photo courtesy of Ben Crawford

There is redundant footage for those who watched every vlog, but for those who haven’t—or who only checked in once or twice—it’s a pretty fantastic overview of their hike. Multiple family members do reflective voice-overs throughout, providing some post-hike perspective on earlier events. Like the vlogs, the documentary has spectacularly high production values for footage that was filmed and edited by thru-hikers on trail. (Did they carry a drone with them the whole way? I spent an inordinate time debating that with myself.)

If you’ve watched just five minutes of one of their vlogs, you know the most fascinating thing about the Crawford family is how much they empower and entrust responsibility to their kids. Everyone, no matter the age, gets a say in the decisions that have to be made and everyone, no matter the age, has to pitch in on thru-hiking tasks to support the family. Equal voice, equal responsibility. They approached the documentary in the same way, clearly striving to make sure all the kids had a hand in it so it could best reflect all of their perspectives.

As a whole, the documentary doesn’t dwell on some of the controversies the family experienced while hiking, like having CPS called on them in the Smokies and Baxter State Park’s decision not to make an exception for two-year-old Rainier to go above treeline and summit Katahdin. Instead, it opts to focus on the family, the other hikers they met on trail, and the incredible support from people along the way. It’s a heartwarming watch in that it’s always amazing to see people complete a feat like the Appalachian Trail, but it’s also heartwarming to watch a family that so clearly has each other’s backs and sticks together through it all. And for nothing else, it’s worth watching for all the footage of Rainier eating things.


Featured image courtesy of Ben Crawford

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