After 2,190 miles, thousands of hikers this fall are summiting Mt. Katahdin, their final assent of the Appalachian Trail (Davis). In order to celebrate the victory of these dedicated hikers, we should take note of what the Appalachian Trail or A.T. is all about. You will learn about the A.T., the effect nature has, and even local places that you can hike.
Nature is an amazing part of God’s creation that is designed for our enjoyment. The A.T. is one of the most notorious wonders of nature. “Just like the Appalachian Trail, our history is long” (Conservancy). Exactly how long? The A.T. is 2,190 miles long and started in 1925. The A.T. follows the Appalachian mountain range starting in Georgia, ending on Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Hiking the trail you will cross through 14 states. The average through-hike takes 5-7 months to complete, starting early spring and finishing in early fall. A thru-hiker can decide to spend any of their 165 nights on the trail in one of the 262 three walled shelters, in hostels, hotels, or volunteer homes. 5,500 calories are needed each day in order to maintain body weight (Davis). No hiker could carry enough food for the entire trip, so hikers will have food packages delivered to post offices along the route or eat at restaurants. Even with the immense amount of food consumed, a hiker will lose about 30 lbs over the trip considering they walk 20 miles a day. You can imagine just how much of a toll this expedition has on your body, which is why only 25% of thru hikers are actually able to complete the hike from beginning to end (Conservancy). Reasons for quitting could be sickness, being home sick, injury, or lack of food and money.
If people know how hard it is to accomplish this great feat why would they do it? Last year I read a book called “Hiking Through” written by Paul Stutzman. The entire story is him trying to find peace and freedom by spending months on the Appalachian Trail. Paul lost his peace when his wife tragically passed away from breast cancer. After years of mourning he decide to quit his job, sell his restaurant and drive to Georgia for a hike. Paul shares stories of the miracles he saw and how the journey brought him closer to God. He claimed “God not only hiked with me, He had much to teach me along the way” (Paul). When Paul was asked if he ever wanted to walk away from life he responded “I did; and in the process, I walked to new life” (Paul). Paul’s story is just like many other peoples. Most of the people he met while hiking were there looking for peace after losing a loved one, or some other hardship. People do not hike 2,190 miles just to get injured, sick, and tired. They hike to find something, for each person it may be different. For most Hikers, they have never felt closer to God then when they hiked the Appalachian Trail. Walking in the midst of God’s creation may tear you down physically, but it sure can repair your walk with God.
If you are inspired at all like I was after reading “Hiking Through” you might want to get out and start hiking. Sadly as students, parents, or teachers, we can not afford to leave everything behind and spend 5-7 months in the woods, but there are many other options. Some hikers are what you call section hikers. They will hike sections of the A.T. over time until they have completed the entire trail, just not all at once. You could hike sections that are close to you in Pennsylvania. For day hikes you may want to check out Monocacy Hill or even Hawk Mountain. French Creek and Antietam Lake have beautiful walking trails as well. You could also visit the more popular locations on the A.T. such as Ring Rocks boulder field, after all Pennsylvania is one of the most popular states of the Appalachian Trail due to the amount of boulders.
The next time you go through something difficult it may be a good idea to spend time talking with God while on a short hike. Now that you understand more about the A.T., know the effects and reasons for hiking, and where you can hike, you may one day want to be one of the 25% to be at the finish line on top of Mt. Katahdin. Happy hiking!